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3. On Criticism
Sterne, 168 12. Archbishop of Canterbury
4. The Man of Ross Pope, 214 20. The Entry of Bolingbroke and
Richard into London 16. 253
12. Ode to Content
Ib. 234 29, The Pleasures of Retirement
3. The Beggar's Petition 297 21. Othello and Iago Ib. 331
Mother's Marriage Ib. 335
Cardinal Beaufort . Ib. 316 32. Destruction of Sennacherib
ESSAY ON ELOCUTION.
-Id affert ratio, docent literæ, confirmat consuetudo legendi et loquendi.-Cicero.
Much declamation has been employed to convince the world of a very plain truth, that to be able to speak well is an ornamental and useful accomplishment. Without the laboured panegyrics of ancient or modern orators, the importance of a good elocution is sufficiently obvious. Every one will acknowledge it to be of some consequence, that what man has hourly occasion to do, should be done well. Every private company, and almost every public assembly, afford opportunities of remarking the difference between a just and graceful, and a faulty and unnatural, elocution; and there are few persons who do not daily experience the advantages of the former, and the inconveniences of the latter. The great difficulty is, not to prove that it is a desirable thing to be able to read and speak with propriety, but to point out a practicable and easy method by which this accomplishment may be acquired.
Follow Nature, is certainly the fundamental law of Oratory, without regard to which, all other rules will only produce affected declamation, not just elocution. And some accurate observers, judging, perhaps, from a few unlucky specimens of modern eloquence, have concluded that this is the only law which ought to be prescribed ; that all artificial rules are useless ; and that good sense and a cultivated taste are the only requisites to form a good public speaker. But it is true in the art of speaking, as well as in the art of living, that general precepts are of little use till they are unfolded, and applied to particular cases. To discover and correct those tones and habits of speaking which are gross deviations from Nature, and, as far as they prevail, must destroy all propriety and grace of utterance; and to acquire a habit of reading, or speaking, upon every occasion, in a manner suited to the nature of the subject, and the kind of discourse or writing to be delivered, whether it be narrative, didactic, argumentative, oratorical, colloquial, descriptive, or pathetic, must be the result of much attention and labour. And there can be no reason to doubt, that, in passing through that course of exercise which is necessary in order to attain this end, much assistance may be derived from instruction. What are rules or lessons for acquiring this or any other art, but the observations of others, collected into a narrow compass, and digested in a natural order, for the direction of the inexperienced and unpractised learner? And what is there in the art of speaking which should render it incapable of receiving aid from precepts?
Presuming, then, that the acquisition of the art of speaking, like all other practical arts, may be facilitated by rules, I shall lay before my readers, in a plain didactic form, such Rules respecting Elocution as appear best adapted to form a correct and graceful speaker.
Let your Articulation be distinct and deliberate.
A GOOD Articulation consists in giving a clear and full utterance to the several simple and complex sounds. The nature of the sounds, therefore, ought to be well understood : and much pains should be taken to discover and correct those faults in articulation, which, though often ascribed to some defect in the organs of speech, are generally the consequence of inattention or bad example.
Some persons find it difficult to articulate the letter l; others, the simple sounds expressed by r, s, th, sh ; but the instance of defective articulation which is most common, and therefore requires particular notice, is the omission of the aspirate; h. Through several counties in England this defect almost universally prevails, and sometimes occasions ludicrous, and even serious mistakes. This is an omission which materially affects the energy of pronunciation ; the expression of emotions and passions often depending, in a great measure, upon the vehemence with which the aspirate is uttered. The h is sometimes perversely enough omitted where it ought to be sounded, and sounded where it ought to be omitted ; the effect of which will be easily perceived in the following examples : He had learned the ichole art of angling by heart : heat the soup.—These and other similar faults may be corrected by daily reading sentences so contrived as frequently to repeat the sounds which are incorrectly uttered ; and especially, by remarking them whenever they occur in conversation.
Other defects in articulation regard the complex sounds, and consist in a confused and cluttering pronunciation of words. The most effectual methods of conquering this habit are, to read aloud passages chosen for the purpose, such, for instance, as abound with long and unusual words, or in which many short syllables come together; and to read, at certain stated times, much slower than the sense and just speaking would require. Almost all persons, who have not studied the art of speaking, have a habit of uttering their words so rapidly, that this latter exercise ought generally to be made use of for a considerable time at first : for where there is a uniformly rapid utterance, it is absolutely impossible that there should be strong emphasis, natural tones, or any just elocution.
Aim at nothing higher till you can read distinctly and deliberately.
Learn to speak slow: all other graces
Pronunciation be bold and forcible. An insipid fatness and languor are almost universal faults in reading. Even public speakers often suffer their words to drop from their lips with such a faint and feeble utterance, that they appear neither to understand nor feel what they say themselves, nor to have any desire that it should be understood or felt by their audience. This is a fundamental fault; a speaker without energy is a lifeless statue.