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Élements of Elceution. By J. Walker. Two Volumes. 8vo. 1250
Robinson. THIS work is the substance of a course of le&ures on the
art of reading, delivered at several colleges in the unia versity of Oxford.
It is not merely a collection of fenterices, and independent obfervations ; but a regular system, founded on certain prin: ciples, which the author has illustrated and supported with great industry, modefty, and ingenuity.
The elocution, which is the object of this essay, is the pronunciation, which is given to words, when they are arranged into sentences, and form a discourse. The mode of pronouncing single words, independently on one another, is no part of his plan.
As the sense of an author is the first object of reading, he finds it necessary to enquire into those divisions and subdivisions of a sentence, which are employed to fix and ascertain its meaning. This leads him to consider the doctrine of punctuation. The use of the comma, being perhaps attended with more difficulty, than that of the other points, he has considered it with particular attention, and laid down a great variety of rules for its proper application. The greatest part of these directions are undoubtedly right; but, we apprehend, that if certain general rules could be adopted, the business of punctuation, or, which is the same thing, that of pausing in reading, would be more easily understood, and more regularly observed.
Sentences, in general, require a comina, or a pause, where there is a connective particle, or a word, iniroducing a new member, which may be separated from the preceding part.
1. All conjunctions are, as it were, the joints, where the body of a sentence ought to be divided. For instance :
I am convinced, that it is a mistake. I am informed, that you are the author. I wish to know, whether you intend to go to Italy, or not. I shall be satisfied, when I have seen the original. I shall keep it, if you please. I shall stay, but you may return. He has finished it, as you directed. I will set ont immediately, left I should be too late. He will continue there, till the end of August, &c.
2. Personal pronouns may generally admit a comma, or a fmall pause, before them: as, the author, who wrote on that subject. The tree, which grows in the garden. The lady, whom I saw at Paris. The fruit of that forbidden tree, whole mortal tafte. The folio volume, that lies on the table, &c.
3. If a prepofition is prefixed to the pronoun, the pause is before the preposition. For instance : the room, in which I am fitting. The gentleman, with whom I am acquainted. The country, from which he came. The prize, for which he contends, &c.
There are many rules, mentioned by this writer, which deserve attention, and to which we must refer those readers, who wish to form a competent idea of punctuation. We have suggested these three as hints only, which may open the way to a farther investigation of the subject.
Besides the pauses, which indicate a greater or less feparation of the parts of a sentence, and a conclusion of the whole, there are certain inflections of voice, accompanying those pauses, which are as necessary to the sense of the sentence, as the pauses themselves. Any method therefore, which can afcertain those inflections, and convey them to the understanding of the reader, by certain written marks and distinctions, cannot fail of being acceptable to those, who wish to become proficients in the art of elocution.
A laudable attempt to discover something of this nature has led our author into a distinction of the voice, which, though often mentioned by musicians, has been but little noticed by teachers of reading ; which is, that distinction of the voice into the upward and downward slide, into which all speaking sounds may be resolved. The moment, says he, I admitted this distinction I found I had possession of the quality of the voice I wanted.
These two slides, or inflexions of voice are the axes, as it were, on which the force, variety, and harmony of speaking turns. They may be considered as the great outlines of pro nunciation ; and if these outlines can be tolerably conveyed to reader, they must be of nearly the same use to him, as the rough draught of a picture is to a pupil in painting. This then we shall attempt to accomplish, by adducing some of the most familiar phrases in the language, and pointing out the inflexions which every ear, however unpractised, will naturally adopt in pronouncing them. These phrases, which are in every body's mouth, will become a kind of data, or principles, to which the reader must constantly be referred, when he is at a loss for the precise found, that is understood by these different inflexions ; and these familiar sounds, it is presumed, will sufficiently instruct him.'
Much of that force, variety, and harmony which we hear in speaking arises from two different modes of uttering the words of which a sentence is composed; the one, that which terminates the word with an inflexion of voice that rises, and the other, that which terminates the word with an inflexion of voice VOL. LII. Aug. 1781.
that falls. by rising, or falling, is not meant the pitch of voice in which the whole word is pronounced, or that loudness or softnefs which may accompany any pitch'; but that upward or downward ilide which the voice makes when the pronunciation of a word is finishing; and which nray, therefore, not improperly. be called the rising and falling inflexion.
• So iinportant is a just mixture of these two inflexions, that the moment they are neglected, our pronunciation becomes forceless and monotonous ; if the sense of a sentence requires the voice to adopt the rising inflexion, on any particular word, either in the middle, or at the end of a phrafe, variety and harmony demand the falling inflexion on one of the preceding words; and on the other hand, if emphasis, harmony, or a completion of sense requires the falling inflexion on any word, the word immediately preceding, almost always demands the rising inflexion ; so that these inflexions of voice are in an order nearly alternate.
• This is very observable in reading a sentence, when we have mistaken the connexion between the members, either by supposing the sense is to be continued, when it finishes, or fupposing it finished when it is really to be continued : for in either of these cases, before we have pronounced the last word, we find it ncccffary to return pretty far back to some of the preceding words, in order to give them such inflexions as are suitable to those which the sense requires on the succeeding words. Thus, in pronouncing the speech of Portius in Cato, which is generally milpointed, as in the following example :
" Remember what our father oft has told us,
Nor where the regular confufion ends." * If, I say, froin not having considered this passage, we IVT the second line into the third, by suspending the voice at intricate, and dropping it-at errors, we find a very improper meaning conveyed; and if in recovering ourselves from this improper pronunciation, we take notice of the different manner in which we pronounce the second and third lines, we shall find, that not only the last word of these lines, but that every word alters its' intiesion: for, when we perceive, that by mistaking the pause, ve have inisconceived the fente; we find it necessary to begin the line again, and pronounce every word differently, in order to make it harmonious,
• Butt though there two inflexions of voice run through almost every word of which a sentence is composed, they are no where fo perceptible as at a long pause, or where the sense of the words requires an emphasis : in this ease; if we do "but attend
niceiy to that turn of the voice, which finishes this emphatical word, or that member of a sentence where we pause, we shall Yoon perceive the different inflexion with which ihese words are pronounced.
• In order to make this different inflexion of voice more easily apprehended ; it may not, perhaps, be useless to attend to the following directions. Let us suppose we are to pronounce the following sentence :
• Does Cæsar deferve fame or blame? « This sentence, it is presumed, will, at first fight, be pronounced with the proper inflexions of voice, by every cne that can barely read; and if the reader will but narrowly watch the sounds of the words fame and blame, he will have an example of the two inflexions here fpoken of: fame will have the rising, and blame the falling inflexion : but to make this distinction still clearer, if instead of pronouncing the word fame slightly, he does but give it a strong emphatic force, and let it drawl off the tongue for some time before the sound finishes, he will find it slide upwards and end in a rising tone; if he makes the same experiment on the word blame, he will find the sound slide downwards, and end in a falling tone ; and this drawling pronunciation, though it lengthens the founds beyond their proper duration, does not alter them essentially; the same inflexions are preserved as in the common pronunciation; and the distinction is as real in one mode of pronouncing as in the other, though not so perceptible.
• Every pause, of whatever kind, must necessarily adopt one of these two inflexions, or continue in a monotone : thus when we ask a question without the interrogatire words, we naturally adopt the rising inflexion on the last word : as,
Can Cæfar deserve blame ? Impotlible ! Here blame, the last word of the question, has the rising inflexion, and imposible, with the note of admiration, the falling : the comma, or that suspension of voice generally annexed to it, which marks a continuation of the sense, is most frequently accompanied by the rising inflexion, as in the following sentence :
• If Cæsar deserves blame, he ought to have no fame. Here we find the word blame, marked with the comma, has exactly the same inflexion of voice as the same word in the interrogative fentence immediately preceding; the only difference is, that the rising inflexion slides higher at the interrogation than at the comma; especially if it is pronounced with emphalis.
• The three other points, namely, the semicolon, colon, and period, adopt either the rising or falling inflexion as the sense or harmony requires, though in different degrees of elevation and deprellion.'
The author proceeds to illustrate these principles by a great variety of examples, faewing, what flide or inflexion of the voice is suited to express the several pauses and distinctions of punctuation, with clearness, strength, and propriety; and what pronunciation is required by emphafis, variety, harmony, and passion.
This subject leads him infenfibly into intricacies and diftinctions, whither perhaps few of his readers will be able to follow him ; they who are able will undoùbtedly profit by his ingenious fpeculations.
The following observation concerning the modulation of the voice in public speaking; is just and important.
• The safest rule is to begin, as it were, with those of the afsembly that are neareft to us ; and if the voice be but articulate, however low the key may be, it will still be audible; and those who have a fufficient strength of voice for a public auditory, find it so much more difficult to bring down. than to raise the pitch, that they will not wonder I employ my chief care to guard against an error by far the most common, as well as the most dangerous.
• Few speakers have a voice 'roo weak for the public, if properly managed ; as audibility depends much more on a proper pitch of voice, accompanied with distinctness of articulation, than on a boisterous and fonorous loudness; this is evident from the distinctness with which we hear a good actress in the easy chit chat of genteel comedy ; nay, even a speech aside, which is little more than a whisper, though uttered in a lower tone of voice, is so articulated by a judicious actor, as to be equally audible with the loudest burls of paflion. A voice, therefore, is seldom inaudible from its want of force, so much as from its want of ma dulation ; and this modulation depends so much on not suffering the voice to begin above its natural pitch, that too much care cannot be taken to guard against it.
• Much, undoubtedly, will depend on the size and structure of the place we speak in : fome are so immensely large, as many of our churches and cathedrals, that the voice is nearly as inuch dissipated as in the open air; and often with the additional inconvenience of a thousand confused echos and re-echos. Here a loud and vociferous speaker will render himself unintelligible in proportion to his exertion of voice: as departing and commencing lounds will encounter each other, and defeat every intention of distinctness and harmony.
· Nothing but good articulation will make a speaker audible in this situation; and a judicious attention to that tone of voice which is most suitable to the size and imperfections of the place.
As an essay towards reducing to practice the system of inflexions, laid down in the present work, the author has at