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FIRST CLASS READER.
PRINCIPLES OF ELOCUTION
The art of reading well is one of those rare accomplish ments which all wish to possess, a few think they have, and others, who see and believe that it is not the unacquired gift of genius, labor to obtain. But it will be found that excellence in this, as in every thing else of value, is the result of well-directed effort, and the reward of unremitting industry.
To read or speak so as at once to convey intelligence to the mind and pleasure to the ear; to give utterance to thoughts and sentiments with such force and effect as to quicken the pulse, to flush the cheek, to warm the heart, to expand the soul, and to make the hearer feel as though he were holding converse with the mighty spirit that conceived the thought and composed the sentence, is, it is true, no ordinary at tainment; but it is far from being either above the power or beyond the reach of art.
To breathe life through the language; to give coloring and force to the thoughts; to present to the ear the solemn musings of Young, to the eye the lofty descriptions of Milton; to unfold to the understanding, to display to the fancy, and to picture to the imagination, the characters and passions which Shakspeare has portrayed with an unparalleled force of feeling, - is not merely an accomplishment; it is an acquisition of priceless value, - a power of omnipotent agency, when wisely and skilfully used.
But this degree of excellence is to be attained only through the influence of sure and multiplied principles; principles that are universal; principles that are founded in nature; principles that are discovered by analyzing the frame of spirit in which the sentiment, whatever it be, was spoken or written, and by consequence the natural expressions of that frame of spirit.
A particular and well-defined principle, then, becomes inseparably associated with each emotion, in every state of feeling, and in every condition of mind; and it is by a correct understanding and a skilful application of this, that the reader is able to give a true and vivid coloring to every shade of thought, and a just force of expression to the intended meaning of the writer.
The art of speaking well is a mark of distinction between the elevated and the low.conditions of life, and it seems strange, and somewhat humiliating, that the world should be satisfied with the mere instinctive exercise of an art, and with only an occasional example of perfection, without adopting some system of instruction, founded on principles which will be productive of multiplied instances of success.
Let no one, therefore, but the ignorant, who knows what will please himself in his ignorance, question the efficacy of principles, or the taste which directs their application. To the ignorant, principles are stumbling-blocks; to the indolent and uncultivated, they seem foolishness. With the single exception of reason, is there any thing of such intrinsic value as language, which despatches swift-winged thoughts in the fleeting vehicle of oral communication, or imbodies them in the more lasting forms of written productions? What an influence does speech exert upon our judgment in the affairs of active life! How far do the powers of expression mould our actions, sway our determinations, and affect our feelings
in all our social relations! Could nature have conferred on us a more precious gift than that of the human voice, which possesses sounds for the expression of every feeling, and is capable of distinctions as minute, and combinations as intricate, as the most complex musical instrument?
Reason and language, thought and speech, sentiment and expression, feeling and utterance, seem, indeed, to be so identically one and the same in every variety of application, that the former can hardly be said to operate without the intervention of the latter ; and, although we must hold reason as the distinguishing characteristic and higher attribute of man, yet, on account of its original object, the dignity of its functions, and the value of its offices, we must hold language as one of the most glorious endowments which Deity has conferred upon us. It is through this medium that He has revealed Himself to us. Language, then, is a high endowment, a precious gift; but, like other talents, it was given to us to be cultivated and improved; and he who would teach it, has a high, a signal, and a holy purpose to accomplish. If determined to make the best use of his powers; if zealous in his purpose; if qualified for his position, and, consequently, capable of holding such intercourse with the most gifted minds, as to become in some degree a partaker of their inspiration, the teacher cannot fail to excite the mind of the scholar to a state of healthful activity, and call, as it were, into existence the highest faculties of his nature.
For, in giving utterance to whatever is lofty in conception, pure in thought, and refined in sentiment, to whatever excites the fancy, moves the affections, and touches the heart, - he must of necessity be developing, strengthening, and cultivating the highest and holiest affections; and at the same time he must be creating a just relish for, and a proper appreciation of, whatever can refine the taste, improve the understanding, ennoble the feelings, or elevate the soul.
But what use can a teacher of high accomplishments, of deep and earnest purpose, make of a book containing selections recommended on the ground that they are adapted to