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ELOCUTION, as a department of ornamental education, is the art of speaking and reading according to a certain established standard of elegance. Instruction in the art may be said to have two objects, good colloquial or conversational speech, and the power of reading aloud and making formal addresses with effect. The greater number of those who speak the English language are distinguished by various peculiarities of pronunciation and modulation, which a cultivated taste has no difficulty in condemning as ungraceful; while in the speech of the more educated classes, especially in England, the same taste at once recognises something not only suitable and proper to the sense, but in itself beautiful. In the one case the voice produces mean and ridiculous sounds; in the other, it appears to utter the finest music. It is also to be observed that some persons, when called upon to read or speak before a considerable multitude, deliver themselves in an ungainly manner, while others charm all who are present. It must be obvious that to bring out the best powers of the voice, and extend the gift of agreeable speaking beyond the comparatively small circle in which it is usually found, are objects of considerable importance. Elocution is divided into
I. ARTICULATION and PRONUNCIATION; under which are comprehended, distinctness, force, and freedom from provincial
II. INFLEXION and MODULATION, which have a regard to the slides, shifts, and pauses of the voice, natural to certain constructions of language, and suited, with other modifications of the voice, as to force, height, and time, to the expression of certain sentiments and passions.
III. EMPHASIS, which is to be guided by the comparative importance of words in a sentence.
IV. GESTURE, comprehending those attitudes, motions, and looks, which are suitable to certain passions, and lend force or embellishment to the meaning of the speaker.
1. ARTICULATION AND PRONUNCIATION.
Pronunciation points out the proper sounds of vowels and consonants, and the distribution of accent on syllables. Articulation has a reference to the positions and movements of the organs which are necessary to the production of those sounds with purity and distinctness; it also regulates the proportion of the sounds of letters in words, and of words in sentences. Articulation and pronunciation may thus be said to form the basis of elocution. If we compare the pure, distinct, and forcible articulation habitual to the refined part of a nation, with the slurred, drawling, and awkward enunciation of the rude and ignorant, we shall scarcely resist the conclusion that this department of elocution depends, in regard to communities, upon the general advancement of the intellectual character. An elegance of ideas seems to be naturally attended with an adroit and elegant mode of expressing them, while, on the contrary, the coarser mind betrays itself in what is very properly termed a vulgar kind of speech. The pronunciation in each particular district and sphere of life, thus fixed at a level corresponding with the general refinement, is inherited by all who are reared within that particular district and sphere, and fixed in the course of years by the influence of habit, so that the language of an individual, when his character has been considerably improved by education, and even after he has spent many years in foreign lands, will often be found to retain its original peculiarities.* The influence of imitation and habit are, indeed, so very great, that the highest intellectual eminence may be reached, without any alteration taking place in those modes of articulation which are usually held to mark the homely and illiterate. The readiest means by which individuals exposed to the constant hearing of erroneous pronunciation may escape contracting the same peculiarities, or get quit of them after they have been contracted, are to be found in the instructions of a sound teacher of elocution, aided by as much intercourse as may be attainable with those who speak purely. The more early that these instructions are obtained, there will be the greater facility in the acquisition of correct habits. If postponed till an advanced period of youth, as is too frequently the case, the inveteracy of the original habits is often such as nearly to baffle the most strenuous efforts of both teacher and pupil. And, even after something like correct articulation has been attained, the organs are sometimes so reluctant to accommodate themselves to the will, that the improved elocution is of a stiff and pedantic kind, and very apt to be replaced ere long by the original habits. In order to overcome these difficulties, the teacher cannot give his pupil too much
* It was observed with surprise by the early associates of Mungo Park, that, after returning from his African travels, he still pronounced many words in the peculiar manner of his native valley.
exercise in the repetition of words, according to their correct sounds. Such lessons are often complained of, especially by adult pupils, as irksome, and great impatience is expressed to advance to something in which there is sense as well as sound. But sound constitutes the primary business of the elocutionist, as much as it does that of the teacher of music; and it would be as unreasonable in one learning the notes of the violin to complain that he was not made acquainted with the practice of the finest airs, as for the elocutionary pupil to expect to arrive at once at the practice of the higher branches of rhetorical speaking. While it is chiefly to EXERCISE that the teacher of elocution is to look for the means of creating new and correct habits, he will likewise explain those modifications of the vocal organs by which correct and clear articulation are to be produced. By giving his pupils some knowledge of the physiology of the voice, and tracing the philosophical connection between thought and expression, he will elevate elocution above the character of a merely imitative art, and engage the highest faculties of his pupils in the study.
FORMATION OF THE VOICE.
Voice is the sound which is produced in the larynx when the air traverses this organ, either to enter or to pass out from the windpipe. Many other parts assist in the production or modification of voice; but, properly speaking, it is the larynx only which ought to be considered as the organ of voice. This chief agent is situated in the anterior part of the neck, and mounted on the top of the trachea or windpipe. Its external part consists of five cartilages, which have received their names from their resemblance to different bodies. The most conspicuous is called the thyroid or shield-shaped cartilage: it is also called, from being more protuberant in men, pomum Adami, or Adam's apple. The second, from its resemblance to a ring, is called the cricoïd or ringshaped cartilage. Two others are called arytænoïd or ewer-shaped cartilages; and the fifth is called the epiglottis, because it covers the glottis while we swallow, to prevent any thing from getting into it. All these are connected together by ligaments and muscles. The internal opening of the larynx is called the glottis, and consists chiefly of several membranes, which are so situated and connected with the external cartilages and with numerous muscles, as to pro duce an incalculable variety of tones by regulating the quantity and velocity of the air which is made to pass through them in a given time. Two of these membranes have the appearance of fibrous bands. The space between them, constituting the rima, or chink, of the glottis, is capable of various degrees of contraction and dilatation, according as the arytenoïd cartilages are made to approach each other by the action of the contiguous muscles, or recede from each other by their own elasticity. When, by the contraction of these and other ligamentous membranes, the chink of the glottis is diminished, sound or voice is produced; and this is more or less shrill, according to the contraction of the aperture, and more or less loud, according to the quantity of air forced
through it in a given time. But by this alternate contraction and dilatation of the glottis, only inarticulate sound is produced; audible voice is rendered articulate by the disposition of the throat, palate, teeth, tongue, lips, and nostrils. The ascertainment of this contraction of the glottis is of consequence to one commencing elocution, as, by sensibly contracting it and giving it tenseness, he is enabled to inflect and to speak with force. If the breath pass through the larynx without affecting it much, we produce what is called a whisper.
Thus we see that variety of tune is dependent on the dilatation or contraction of the glottis, and that the various vowel-sounds are produced by the different formations of the mouth. We may sing, then, without articulating; we may give the notes without giving the words. In speaking, we articulate, giving at the same time that gradual contraction and enlargement of the glottis which produces inflexion, or that sudden contraction or enlargement which produces change of tone.
A good idea of the process by which the human voice is enunciated may be had from the following operation:* Take the reed of a hautboy, put it between your lips, and blow into it, and a distinct sound is heard; press it a little with your lips, blowing as before, and the sound becomes more acute or shrill; press it still more, that is, bring the two sides of the reed still closer, and the sound is still more acute. From this example, we may partly conceive in what manner the human voice is varied with respect to the acuteness or gravity of its tones. The glottis is found to be narrower in women and young persons than in men; and hence men's voices are deeper or graver than those of boys and women. And we can at pleasure dilate or contract this aperture, and so fashion the tones of our voice into every variety of the musical scale.
VOWELS-THEIR FORMATION AND PURE SOUNDS.
A vowel is a simple articulate sound, produced by a certain conformation of the opened mouth, and capable of being continued as long as the breath acts on the larynx. The teacher, in making his pupils practise the vowel-sounds, should, if they are children, show the rounding or contracting of the mouth in pronouncing them, and the imitative faculty of children will soon enable them to produce the same sounds. In cases, however, where the child is shy or obstinate, the teacher should insist on the child's making these formations, and should apply his fingers to the mouth to give it the proper set or formation. With pupils more advanced in age, when the pronunciation is indistinct or impure, it should be one of the first lessons to give them the knowledge of the formation of the vowels. By this, a pupil will often be enabled to pronounce at once a sound, which, when guided by the ear alone, he might spend months in acquiring. There is a beautiful arrangement in the production of the vowel-sounds which the pupil can be made sensible of at once
* Dr Beattie.
by pronouncing them in succession, as they are exhibited in the fol lowing words:
Hall, art, hate, here, note, prove.
These vowels," says Mr Sheridan, “should be ranged, not by chance, as has hitherto been done, but according to a just grada. tion, like a musical scale, marking the regular process of the instrument in forming them, from its greatest aperture to its smallest, proceeding from its fullest to its most slender sounds, and ranking the long before the short. Thus, in pronouncing the long vowels, as in the words above, we show a just and regular scale, by which the voice proceeds in marking those sounds. The a in hall is the fullest sound, made by the greatest aperture of the mouth, and the voice strikes upon that part of the palate which is nearest to the passage by which the voice issues; the a in art is formed by a gra dually less aperture, and the stroke of the voice more advanced; the a in hate, in like proportion, still more so; and in sounding e, as in here, the mouth is almost closed, and the stroke of the voice near the teeth. These are the only long vowels formed within the mouth. After that, the seat of articulation is advanced to the lips; the o, as in note, being formed by a small pushing out of the lips, in a figure resembling the circular character which represents that sound; and o, as in prove, by advancing the lips still more, and pushing the sound out through a chink or foramen more of the oblong kind. So that, whoever will give but a slight attention in repeating these vowels in this order, will perceive a regular and gradual progression of the voice from the first seat of articulation to the extreme."
This account is perhaps not strictly correct, nor is it so minute as might be expected. Mr Sheridan has not noticed particularly the important office which the tongue performs in the various conformations of the mouth. In the sounding of the first a, as in hall, the tongue is rounded, the lips protruded, and the mouth has a wider compass than in any other vowel sound. Mr Knowles states that the mouth is opened wider in sounding the second a, as în art, than in the first; but I would say that it is not so wide internally, and that even the teeth are not so far asunder, the smallness of the mouth being accounted for by that protrusion of the lips, which is necessary to produce a complete hollowness in the mouth. In the second a, the lips are relaxed, the tongue is unbent, and the teeth a very little nearer. In the third a, as in hate, and in e, as in here, the tongue is raised considerably, the teeth advance nearer, and the horizontal aperture of the mouth increases. In sounding o, as in note, and o in prove, the lips are protruded, and the tongue is again drawn back, but not in my opinion to the same position as in the first a, as Mr Knowles has given it, the tongue not being so much hollowed.'
If, to the sounds enumerated, we add the e in bet, the i in bit, and the u in but, we have, according to some, all the vowel sounds of the English language; the i in fine being merely the sound of a in art joined to the e in here; and the u in pure, the sound of e in