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MUCH declamation has been employed to convince the world of a very plain truth, that to be able to speak well is an ornamental and useful accomplishment. Without the laboured panegyrics of ancient or modern orators, the importance of a good elocution is sufficiently obvious. Every one will acknowledge it to be of some consequence, that what a man has hourly occasion to do, should be done well. Every private company, and almost every public assembly, afford opportunities of remarking the difference between a just and graceful, and a faulty and unnatural elocution; and there are few persons who do not daily experience the advantages of the former, and the inconveniences of the latter. The great difficulty is, not to prove that it is a desirable thing to be able to read and speak with propriety, but to point out a practicable and easy method by which this accomplishment may be acquired.
Follow Nature, is certainly the fundamental law of Oratory, without regard to which, all other rules will only produce affected declamation, not just elocution. And some accurate 'observers, judging, perhaps, from a few unlucky specimens of modern eloquence, have concluded that this is the only law which ought to be prescribed; that all artificial rules are useless; and that good sense, and a cultivated taste, are the only requisites to form a good
public speaker. But it is true in the art of speaking, as well as in the art of living, that general precepts are of little use till they are unfolded, and applied to particular cases. To observe the various ways by which nature expresses the several perceptions, emotions, and passions of the human mind, and to distinguish these from the mere effect of arbitrary custom or false taste: to discover and correct those tones, and habits of speaking, which are gross deviations from nature, and as far as they prevail must destroy all propriety and grace of utterance: and to make choice of such a course of practical lessons, as shall give the speaker an opportunity of exercising himself in each branch of elocution: all this must be the effect of attention and labour; and in all this much assistance may certainly be derived from instruction. What are rules or lessons for acquiring this or any other art, but the obser- vations of others, collected into a narrow compass, and digested in a natural order, for the direction of the unexperienced and unpractised learner? And what is there in the art of speaking, which should render it incapable of receiving aid from precepts?
Presuming, then, that the acquisition of the art of speaking, like all other practical arts, may be facilitated by rules, I proceed to lay before my readers, in a plain didactic. form, such rules respecting elocution, as appear best adapted to form a correct and graceful speaker.
LET YOUR ARTICULATION BE DISTINCT AND DELIBERATE.
A GOOD articulation consists in giving a clear and full utterance to the several simple and complex sounds. The nature of these sounds, therefore, ought to be well understood; and much pains should be taken to discover and correct those faults in articulation, which, though often ascribed to some defect in the organs of speech, are generally the consequence of inattention or bad example.
Many of these respect the sounding of the consonants. Some cannot pronounce the letter 1, and others the simple sounds expressed by r, s, th, sh; others generally omit the aspirate h. These faults may be corrected, by reading sentences, so contrived as often to repeat the faulty sounds; and by guarding against them in familiar conversation.
Other defects in articulation regard the complex sounds, and consist in a confused and cluttering pronunciation of words. The most effectual methods of conquering this habit, are, to read aloud passages chosen for that purpose, (such for instance as abound with long and unusual words, or in which many short syllables come together,) and to read, at certain stated times, much slower than the sense and just speaking would require. Almost all persons, who have not studied the art of speaking, have a habit of uttering their words so rapidly, that this latter exercise ought generally to be made use of for a considerable time at first for where there is an uniformly rapid utterance, it is absolutely impossible that there should be strong emphasis, natural tones, or any just elocation.
Aim at nothing higher, till you can read distinctly and deliberately.
Learn to speak slow, all other graces
LET YOUR PRONUNCIATION BE BOLD AND FOrcible.
An insipid flatness and languor is almost an universal fault in reading, and even public speakers often suffer their words to drop from their lips with such a faint and feeble utterance, that they appear neither to understand or feel what they say themselves, nor to have any desire that it should be understood or felt by their audience. This is a fundamental fault: a speaker without energy, is a lifeless
In order to acquire a forcible manner of pronouncing your words, inure yourself while reading to draw in as