Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

value. No books for education, indeed, are so generally popular, at this day, as those which promise the learner that they can be understood without any mental effort. Simplifications, abridgements, and epitomes, in which nothing is condensed, but almost every thing of value is left out, in which much is promised, and very little or nothing accomplished, are the books which are chiefly recommended to the use of scholars. In attempting and promising to bring every thing down to the comprehension of learners, it seems to be forgotten that the proper object of education is to elevate the human mind, not to depress it, nor to keep it stationary. But if a child is not to be taught any thing except what he knows already, if every thing must be so simplified as to retain the child in his simplicity, it is not easy to conceive how his mind is to be elevated and improved. It is a truth which ought not to be concealed, that there is no branch of education in this country at a lower ebb than that of elocution at large. How few tolerably good readers are to be found in any class of people among us—from him who reads a portion of Scripture or a hymn from the pulpit, or some document in a public assembly, to him or her who reads for the entertainment of a social circle, or of a family fireside. What perversion of taste, what distortion of thoughts and of sentiment, what mangling of authors, is every where, and every day, witnessed. Shall this state of things be suffered to continue, or shall some effort at reform be ventured? If the latter, what shall it be? Shall we give our youth the means of reform and improvement, or withhold them? Will the evil be remedied by continuing to give learners nothing but such meager instructions as have heretofore been given, and from which so little benefit has been derived, or shall we attempt to do something adequate to the purpose? If the old practice has brought us to our present state, will a continuance of it deliver us?_If more than enough to accomplish what is desirable is here contained, will objectors inform us what part is superfluous ? Let us know what this superfluity, this redundancy is. It is always easier to make a vague, random declaration, than it is to support it; and to surmise, than to substantiate. If any thing here contained is incorrect, there is then, indeed, so much that is superfluous; if there is any thing useless, there is too much ; but if none of it could be omitted without materially lessening the attainments of the learner, there cannot be more than is useful and desirable.

Should the instructions contained in the book, if not excessive in amount, be thought too difficult for the learner to

master, it may be remarked that they are incomparably easier than the rudiments of singing, which persons of all ages and capacities nevertheless learn. If the proper modulations of the voice in reading are to be acquired at all, I do not perceive that they could be made plainer and more in. telligible than they are here presented. I am not apprized that any real difficulties lie in the way of learning any thing which is here offered; but, allowing that some time and attention are required for this object, who that adequately estimates the importance of reading well, would grudge the expense of a little time and labor for its attainment? How much money, time, and labor are continually expended on other acquisitions of inferior value.

After all, these apprehensions of prolixity and of difficulties may be laid aside, as entirely groundless, for a still different reason.—Neither of the first three parts was designed for universal use. Either, or all of them, may be omitted by teachers, whenever they deem the use of them inexpedient on account of the age or other circumstances of their pupils. They are introduced for the benefit of all who may wish to avail themselves of the assistance which they offer. It is believed that there are very many who will be so disposed; and where such a disposition exists, the means for its gratification should be furnished. These several parts, especially the second and third, are designed for exercises in reading, as well as the lessons which follow in Part fourth. When these shall be frequently read in school, although the preceptive portions should never be studied and recited in form, much would nevertheless be learned from them, and retained in mind. The pupils would become familiarized with first principles, and could hardly fail to derive advantage from them. Again, although his scholars should never make use, directly, of the instructions here offered, the teacher will have them at hand for his own guidance and benefit, and they will serve as a key to explain the correct reading of the lessons. They will enable him to teach better, and thus, through him, they will prove useful to his pupils. They are not, therefore, in any view of the case, to be considered a useless appendage, but important auxiliaries to both teaehers and scholars.

Part I., which contains an analysis of all the simple sounds in the English language, and the position of the organs of speech in pronouncing them severally, I have introduced on account of the assistance which it may afford in correcting a faulty pronunciation. Faults of this kind are often originated and made perpetual from ignorance of the right position of the organs for framing certain sounds. No one, for instance, would ever lisp were he duly apprized of that which causes the fault, and of the remedy which would cure it, unless he should continue in his error from choice. Sɔ it is with many other faults of utterance. I do not know that a correct analysis of all the elementary sounds in our language was ever before given, nor that the true position of the organs in forming them has ever been attempted. If I have been successful in the attempt now made, this part of the book, alone, will more than compensate for the cost and examination of the whole.

In Part II., under Inflections, Cadence, Interrogative Sentences, and Emphasis, I have ventured on a pretty wide departure from what is generally laid down in books on these respective topics. Much of what is here advanced is entirely new, and, it is hoped, better calculated to throw light on these different subjects than the methods of considering them to which we have been accustomed.

Part III., on Prosody, has been inserted, because, in modern days, it is seldom to be met with, and is so much abridged, and so seldom taught, even when it is furnished. Heretofore, this has been considered a part of Grammar; but few grammars now contain it, and it is excluded from other books. There seems to be a special propriety in attaching this subject to a treatise on elocution which teaches the reading of poetry as well as of prose. Without some knowledge of prosody, it is difficult to conceive how poetry can be read with correctness; and it is a fact that it hardly ever is read with decency, and much less, with propriety. But the ability to read poetry with grace is too important a part of a refined education to be neglected; it contributes to a correct poetical taste, and adds to the sources of innocent enjoyment. How many of our well educated young ladies have been taught, at great expense of time and money, to become proficients in vocal and instrumental music, when they cannot read, with any grace, the very words to which their music is adapted! How preposterous is an education so conducted.

The reading Lessons in Part IV. have been selected with a view to the object for which they are wanted—for practical exercises of the voice. Most compilers of reading-books seem to think that they have done enough, if the pieces which they select have a good moral or religious tendency, or give instructions in other matters, though they contain

[ocr errors]

nothing which is suited to illustrate the peculiar principles of elocution. They seem to have forgotten that a book may have an excellent moral or religious character, or be instructive on other subjects, and yet be wholly unsuited to the purpose of a reading-book. Too many books now in use are of this description-faultless in their moral tendency; containing selections from the best authors ; and sufficiently instructive about every thing except elocution. Some of these do not even profess to give instructions in this department; that is, they are books which teach, without teaching : others do indeed profess to give something under the name and form of rules, or instructions, but these are so few, so brief, and so general in their character, as to be altogether useless. The pieces selected for reading, are, generally, too dry and monotonous either to interest learners, or to teach them the various modulations of the voice. This defect, along with others, I have endeavored to remedy by selections which will interest all classes of readers, and call into exercise a great variety of vocal modulations ; at the same time, care has been taken to admit nothing which can be offensive to the nicest sense of decency and religion.

As this is designed for a reading-book, and nothing more, such instructions and exercises as belong peculiarly to declamation and public speaking are excluded. To a great extent, indeed, the same principles are involved, and the same exercises are required, in both reading and speaking; and a good foundation for the latter is always best laid in the due cultivation of the former; yet I have chosen not to transcend the obvious boundaries between them.

To those who think that this work contains too much instruction, I would again remark, that what is here contained is but an epitome of what belongs to this department of learning. It has been my wish to say enough to do some good; if more than that is said, I shall regret the loss of so much superfluous labor. To have said less than enough to do some good, for the sake of cheapening the work, and of conciliating public favor by specious pretenses, I am not able to reconcile with a good conscience.

No merit is claimed for this work on the ground of my personal experience, for many years, in the subject of which it treats, although many precedents could be found to sanction such a resort. I am content that the book shall rest on its own merits, independent of their source. If it has defects, the experience of its author cannot correct them; if it has merit, it is of little consequence to the public how it was

obtained. It is not claimed that the work is perfect; yet a hope is indulged that it embraces several important improvements, which will render it a useful and acceptable offering to the cause of public education.

« PředchozíPokračovat »