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Observations on the Principles of good Reading. 1o
an productive of improvement, both to the understanding and the heart. It is essential to a complete reader, that he minutely per@eive the ideas, and enter into the feelings of the author, whose sentiments he professes to repeai-for how is it possible to represent clearly to others, what we have but saint or inaccurate conceptions of ourselves? If there were no other beneôts resulting from the art of reading well, than the necessits it lays us under, of precisely ascere, taining the meaning of what we read and the habit thence acquired, of doing this with facility, both when reading silently and aloud, they would constitute a sufficient compensation for all the labor we ean bestow upon the subject. But the pleasure derived to ourselves and others, from a clear communication of ideas and feelings, and the strong and durable impressions made thereby on the miuds of the reader and the audience, are considerations, which give additional importance to the study of this necessary and useful art. The perfect attainment of it doubtless requires great attention and practice, joined to extraordinary natural powers; but as there are many degrees of excellence in the art, the student whose aims fall short of perfecdion, will find himself amply rewarded for every exertion he may think proper to make.
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. Some rules and principles on these heads will, however, be found useful, to prevent erroneous and vicious modes of utterance; to give the young reader some taste of the subject; and to assist him in acquiring a just and accurate mode of delivery. The observations which we have to make, for these purposes, may be comprised under the following heads :
NOTE. For many of the observations contained in this preliminary tract, the Anthor is indebted to the writings of Dr. Blair, and to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Proper Loudness of Voice; Distinctness ; Slowness ; Propriety of Pronunciation ; Emphasis ; Tones ! Pauses ; and Mode nf Reading Verse,
SECTION 1.-PROPER LOUDNESS OF VOICE.
The first attention of every person who reads to others, doubtless must be, to make himself be heard by all those 10 whom he reads.He must endeavor to fill with his voice the space occupied by the company. This power of voice, it may be thought, is wholly a natvral talent. It is, in a good measure, the gift of nature : but it may receive considerable assistance from art. Much depends, for this purpose, or 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 on 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. Whereas, by setting out on our highest pitch or key, we certainly allow ourselves less compass, and are likely to strain our voice before we have done. We shall fatigue ourselves, and read with pain ; and whenever a person speaks with pain to himself, he is always heard with pain by bis audience. Let us therefore give the voice full strength and swell of sound ; but always pitch it on our ordinary speaking key. It should be a constant rule, never to utter a greater quantity of voice, ikan we can afford without pain to ourselves, and without any extraordinary effort. As long as we keep within these bounds, the other organs of speech will be at liberty to discharge their several offices with ease ; and we shall always have our voice under eommand. But whenever we transgress these bounds, we give up the reins, and have no longer any management of it. It is a useful rule too, in order to be well beard, to cast our eye on some of the most distant persons in the company, and consider ourselves as reading to them. We naturally and mechanically utter our words with such a degree of strength, as to make ourselves be heard by the person whom we address, provided he is within the reach of our voice. As this is the case in conversation, it will hold also in reading to others.. But let us remember, that in reading, as well as conversation, it is possible to offend by speaking too loud. This extreme hurts the ear by making the voice come upon it in rumbling, indistinct masses.
By the babit of reading, when young, in a loud and vehement manner, the voice becomes fixed in a strained and unnatural keyand is rendered incapable of that variety of elevation and depressione,
graces and enlirens but does not fix, the meaning of any pageags-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 this distinction. The following passage will serve to exemplify the superior emphasis.
6 of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Sing heav'nly Muse !" Supposing that originally other beings beside men, had disobeyed the commands of the Almighty, and that the circumstances were well known to us, there would fall an emphasis upon the word man's in the first line and hence it would be read thus :
“ Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit,” &c. But if it were a notorious truth, that mankind had transgressed in a a peculiar mander more than once, the emphasis would fall on first and the line be read,
Oi mau's first disobedience," &c. Again, admitting death (as was really the case) to have been an i unheard of and dreadful punishmeni, brought upon man in conse. " quence of his transgression ; on that supposition the tbird line would read,
Brought death into the world," &c. But if we were to suppose, that mankind knew there was such an evil ar death in other regions, though the place they inhabited had been free from it till their transgression, the line wouid run thus :
Brought death into the worúd," &c. The superior emphasis finds place in the following short centence, which admits of four distinct meanings, each of which is necertained by the emphasis only.
" Do you ride to town to-day ?" The following examples illustrate the nature and use of the inferior emphasis :
“ Many persons mistake the love, for the practice of virtue." " Shall I reward his services with falsehood ? Shell I forget him who cannot forget me ?"
“ If his principles are false, no apology from himself can make them right; if founded in truth, no censure from others can make them wrong."
“ Though deep yet clear--though genlle, yet not dull
Slong without rage ; without o'crfinuing full.” " A friend exaggreates a man's virlues ; an enemy, his crimes.".
6. The wise man is happy, when he gains his own. approbation ; the fool, when he gains that of others."
The superior emphasis, in reading as in speaking, must be determined entirely by he sense of the passage, and always made alıke but as to the inferior emphasis, tasie alone seems to have the right of fixing its situation and quantity.
Among the number of persons, who have had proper opportunities of learning to read, in the best manner it is now taught, very few could be selected, who in a given instance, would use the interior en
phasis alike, either as to place or quantity. Some persons, indeed, use scarcely apy degree of it-and others do not scruple to carry it far beyond any thing to be found in commou discourse; and even sometimes throw it upon words so very triding in themselves, that it is evidently cione with no other view, than to give greater variety to the modulation.* Notwithstanding this diversity of practice, there are certainly proper boundaries, within which this epiphasis mu-t be restrained, in order to make it meet the approbation of sound judg. ment and correct taste. It will donbtless have different degrees of exertion, according to the greater or less degree of importance of the words upon which it operates : and there may be very properly some variety in the use of it; but its application is not arbitrary, depending op the caprice of readers.
As emphasis often falls op words in different parts of the same sentence, so it is frequently required to be continued, with a little variarion, on two, and sometimes more words together. The following sentences exemplifv both the parts of this position :- If you seek to make one rich study not to increase his stores, but to diminish hus desires."
The Mexican fignres, or picture writing, represent things, pot words>they exbibit images to the eye, not ideas lo the understanding."
Some sentences are so full and comprehensive, t hat almost every word is emphatical-as, “ Ye bills and dales, ye rivere, woods and plains !” or as that pathetic expostulation in the prophecy of Esokiel,
Why will ye die !59 Emptiasis, besides its other offices, is the great regulator of quantity. Though the quantity of our syllables is fixed in words separately proBounced, get it is mutable. when these words are ranged in sentences - the long being changed into short, the short into long, according to the importance of the word with regard to the meaning. Emphasis also, in particular cases, alters the seat of the accent. This is de monstrable from the following samples. " He shall increase, but I shall decrease." 4 There is a difference between giving and for
“ In this species of composition, plauiability is mon essenrtial than probability": In these examples, the emphasis reqnires the accent to be placed on syllables to which it does not commonly belong.
To order to acquire the proper management of the emphasis, the great rule to be given, is, that the reader study to attain a just con. Reption of the force and spirit of the sentiments which he is to pro
For to lay the emphasis with exact propriety, is a constant cxercise of good sense and attention. It is far from being an incon. siderable attainment. It is one of the most decisive trials of a true
'By modulation is meant that pleasing variety of voice, which is terceived in uttering a sentence, and which, in its nature, is perfect. I distinct from emphasis, and the tones or emotion and passion. de young reader should be careful to render his modulation correct and easy-and, for this purpose, should form it upou the model bile most judicious and accurate speakers,
and just taste--and must arise from feeling delicately ourselves, and from judging accurately of what is fittest to strike the feelings of others.
There is one error, against which it is particularly proper to caution the learner ; namely, that of multiplying emphatical words too much, and using the emphasis indiscriminately. It is only by a pru. dent reserve and distinction in the use of them, that we can give them any weight. If they recur too often, -if a reader attempts to render every thing he expresses of high importance, by a multitude of strong emphasis, we soon learn to pay little regard to them. То crowd every sentence with emphatical words, is like crowding all the pages of a book with Italic characters : Which, as to the effect, is just the same as to use no such distioction at all.
Tones are different both from emphasis and pauses ; consisting in the notes or variations of sound which are employed, in the expression of our sentiments. Emphasis affects particular words and phra. Kho ses, with a degree of tone or infection of voice; but tones peculiarly as so called, affect sentences, paragraphs and sometimes even the whole of a discourse.
To show the use and necessity of torres, we need only observe, that the mind in communicating its ideas, is in a constant state of activity, emotion, or agitation, from the different efftcts which tħose ideas produce in the speaker. Now the end of such communicatjon being, not merely to lay open the ideas, but the different feelings which they excite to himn who utlers there, there must be other signs than words, to manifest those feelings; as words uttered in a monotoDous manner, can represent only a similar state of mind, perfectly free from all activity and emotion. As the communication of these internal feelings was of much more consequence in our social intercourse, than the mere conveyance of ideas, the Author of our being did not, as in that conveyance, leave the invention of the language of emotion to man; but impressed it himself upon our nature, u the same manner as he has done with regard to the west of the animal world; all of which express their various feelings, by various tones. Ours indeed from the superior rank that we hold, are in a high degree more comprehensive; as there is not an act of the mind an exertion of the fancy, or an emotion of the heart, which has not its ptcu iar tone, or note of the voice, by which it is to be expressed ; and whicha, is suited exactly to the degree of internal feeling. It is chiefly in the proper use of these tones, that the life, spirit, beauty, and harmony of delivery consists.
The limits of this introduction do not admit of examples, to illustrate the variety of tones belonging to the different passions and emotions. We shal, however, select one, which is extracted from the beautiful lamentation of David over Saul and Jonathan, and which will, in some degree, elucidate what has been said on this subject. “ The beauty of Israel is siain upon thy high places : How are the mighaty fallen : Tell it not in Gath ; publish it not in the streets of