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IN presenting to the public the second edition of the Academical Reader, revised and improved, the compiler cannot repress the expression of his sincere acknowledgements of gratitude for the general and unequivocal marks of approbation by which the first edition has been characterized.
The respectable recommendations forwarded to the publisher by Principals of Seminaries, male and female, and others of distinguished literary attainments; have imparted an interest to this work which will, no doubt, be highly appreciated by the public.
Whilst this edition has been much improved by increasing the number of sections, and marking them in regular numerical order, the pages of the matter contained in the second edition will. be found to correspond with the same matter in the first edition. A few pieces have been introduced in place of others of less general interest, in the former edition.
The very rapid sale of the first edition induces the expectation that a third edition will be demanded in a short time.
December 8th, 1830.
Observations on the Principles of Good Reading and Elocution, from Murray, Walker and others.
TO read with propriety is a pleasing and important attainment; productive of improvement both to the understanding and the heart. It is essential to a complete reader, that he minutely perceive the ideas, and enter into the feelings of the author, whose sentiments he professes to repeat: for how is it possible to represent clearly to others, what we have but faint or inaccurate conceptions of ourselves?
To give rules for the management of the voice in reading, by which the necessary pauses, emphasis, and tones, may be discovered and put in practice, is not possible. After all the directions that can be offered on these points, much will remain to be taught by the living instructor; much will be attainable by no other means, than the force of example, influencing the imitative powers of the learner. The observations which we have to make, for these purposes, may be comprised under the following heads: Proper Loudness of Voice; Distinctness; Slowness; Propriety of Pronunciation; Emphasis; Tones; Pauses; and Mode of Reading Verse.
PROPER LOUDNESS OF VOICE.
The first attention of every person who reads to others, doubtless, must be to make himself heard by all those to whom he reads. He must endeavour to fill with his voice the space occupied by the company. This power of voice, it may be thought, is wholly a natural talent. It is, in a good measure, the gift of nature; but it may receive considerable assistance from art. Much depends, for this pur pose, on the proper pitch and management of the voice. Every person has three pitches in his voice; the high, the middle, and the low one. The high, is that which he uses in calling aloud to some person at a distance. The low, is when he approaches to a whisper, The middle, is that which he employs in common conversation, and which he should generally use in reading to others. For it is a great mistake, to imagine that one must take the highest pitch of his voice, in order to be well heard in a large company. This is confounding two things which are different, loudness or strength of sound, with the key or note in which we speak. There is a variety of sound within the compass of each key. A speaker may therefore render his voice louder, without altering the key: and we shall always be able to give most body, most persevering force of sound, to that pitch of voice to which in conversation we are accustomed.
By the habit of reading, when young, in a loud and vehement manner, the voice becomes fixed in a strained and unnatural key; and is rendered incapable of that variety of elevation and depression
waich constitutes the true harmony of utterance, and affords ease to the reader, and pleasure to the audience. This unnatural pitch of the voice, and disagreeable monotony, are most observable in persons who are taught to read in large rooms; who were accustomed to stand at too great a distance when reading to their teachers; whose instructors were very imperfect in their hearing; or who were taught by persons who considered loud expression as the chief requisite in forming a good reader. These are circumstances, which demand the serious attention of every one to whom the education of youth is
In the next place to being well heard and clearly understood, distinctness of articulation contributes more than mere loudness of sound. The quantity of sound necessary to fill even a large space; is smaller than is commonly imagined; and, with distinct articulation, a person with a weak voice will make it reach further than the strongest voice can reach without it: To this, therefore, every reader ought to pay great attention. He must give every sound which he utters, its due proportion; and make every syllable, and even every letter in the word which he pronounces, be heard distinctly; without slurring, whispering, or suppressing, any of the propc sounds.
An accurate knowledge of the simple, elementary sounds of the language, and a facility in expressing them, are so necessary to distinctness of expression, that if the learner's attainments are, in this respect, imperfect, (and many there are in this situation,) it will be incumbent on his teacher to carry him back to these primary articulations; and to suspend his progress, till he become perfectly master of them. It will be in vain to press him forward, with the hope of forming a good reader, if he cannot completely articulate every elementary sound of the language.
DUE DEGREE OF SLOWNESS.
In order to express ourselves distinctly, moderation is requisite with regard to the speed of pronouncing. Precipitancy of speech confounds all articulation, and all meaning. It is scarcely necessary to observe, that there may be also an extreme on the opposite side. It is obvious that a lifeless, drawling manner of reading, which allows the minds of the hearers to be always outrunning the speaker, must render every such performance insipid and fatiguing. But the extreme of reading too fast is much more common; and requires the more to be guarded against, because, when it has grown into a habit, few errors are more difficult to be corrected. To pronounce with a proper degree of slowness, and with full and clear articulation, is necessary to be studied by all who wish to become good readers; and it cannot be too much recommended to them. Such a pronunciation gives weight and dignity to the subject. It is a great assistance to the voice, by the pauses and rests which it allows the reader more easily to make; and it enables the reader to swell all his sound, both with more force and more harmony.
PROPRIETY OF PRONUNCIATION.
After the fundamental attentions to the pitch and management of the voice, to distinct articulation, and to a proper degree of slowness of speech, what the young reader must, in the next place, study, is propriety of pronunciation; or, giving to every word which he utters, that sound which the best usage of the language appropriates to it; in opposition to broad, vulgar, or provincial pronunciation. This is requisite both for reading intelligibly, and for reading with correctness and ease. Instructions concerning this article may be best given by the living teacher. But there is one observation, which it may not be improper here to make. In the English language, every word which consists of more syllables thanne, has one accented syllable. The accents rest sometimes on the vowel, sometimes on the consonant. The genius of the language requires the voice to mark that syllable by a stronger percussion, and to pass more slightly over the rest. Now, after we have learned the proper seats of these accents, it is an important rule, to give every word just the same accent in reading, as in common discourse. Many persons err in this respect. When they read to others, and with solemnity, they pronounce the syllables in a different manner from what they do at other times. They dwell upon them, and protract them; they multiply accents on the same words; from a mistaken notion that it gives gravity and importance to their subject, and adds to the energy of their delivery.
By emphasis is meant a stronger and fuller sound of voice, by which we distinguish some word or words, on which we design to lay particular stress, and to show how they affect the rest of the sentence. Sometimes the emphatic words must be distinguished by a particular tone of voice, as well as by a particular stress. On the right management of the emphasis depends the life of pronunciation. If no emphasis be placed on any words, not only is discourse rendered heavy and lifeless, but the meaning left often ambiguous. If the emphasis be placed wrong, we pervert and confound the meaning wholly.
Emphasis may be divided into the superior and the inferior empha sis. The superior emphasis determines the meaning of a sentence, with reference to something said before, presupposed by the author as general knowledge, or it removes an ambiguity, where a passage may have more senses than one. The inferior emphasis enforces, graces, and enlivens, but does not fix, the meaning of any passage. The words to which this latter emphasis is given, are in general, such as seem the most important in the sentence, or on other accounts, to merit the distinction. The following passage will serve to exemplify the superior emphasis:
"Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
"Brought death into the world, and all our wo," &c.
Supposing that originally other beings besides men, had disobeyed the commands of the Almighty, and that the circumstance were
well known to us, there would fall an emphasis upon the word man's in the first line; and hence, it would read thus:
"Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit," &c
But if it were a notorious truth, that mankind had transgressed in a peculiar manner, more than once, the emphasis would fall on first; and the line be read,
"Of man's first disobedience," &c.
Again, admitting death (as was really the case) to have been an unheard of and dreadful punishment, brought upon man in consequence of his transgression; on that supposition the third line would be read,
"Brought death into the world," &c.
But if we were to suppose, that mankind knew there was such an evil as death in other regions, though the place they inhabited had been free from it till their transgression, the line would run thus:
"Brought death into the world," &c.
The superior emphasis finds place in the following short sentence, which admits of four distinct meanings, each of which is ascertained by the emphasis only,
"Do you ride to town to-day?"
The superior emphasis, in reading as in speaking, must be deter mined entirely by the sense of the passage, and always made alike; but as to the inferior emphasis, taste alone seems to have the right of fixing its situation and quantity.
As emphasis often falls on words in different parts of the same sentence, so it is frequently required to be continued, with a little variation, on two, and sometimes more words together. The following sentences exemplify both the parts of this position: "If you seek to make one "rich, study not to increase his stores, but to diminish his desires." "The Mexican figures, or picture-writing, represent things not words; " they exhibit images to the eye, not ideas to the understanding.'
Some sentences are so full and comprehensive, that almost every word is emphatical: as, "Ye hills and dales, ye rivers, woods, and plains!" or as the pathetic expostulation in the prophecy of Ezekiel, "Why will ye die!"
Emphasis, besides its other offices, is the great regulator of quantity. Though the quantity of our syllables is fixed, in words sepa rately pronounced, yet it is mutable, when these words are arranged in sentences; the long being changed into short, the short into long, according to the importance of the word with regard to meaning. Emphasis also, in particular cases, alters the seat of the accent. This is demonstrable from the following examples: "He shall increase, but I shall decrease." "There is a difference between giving and forgiving." "In this species of composition, plausibility is much more essential than probability." In these examples, the emphasis requires the accent to be placed on syllables to which it does not commonly belong.