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After practicing for a time all the varieties of keys of which he is capable, let the pupil cultivate an easy transition from one to the other.
§ 45. Insufficiency of Rules. "Reading fails of half its proper effect, and of its highest and noblest purpose," says Bell, "if it do not furnish, besides a vocal transcript of the written language, a moral commentary upon its sentiment, and a judgment upon its reasoning. Were man a mere machine, it might be enough that his voice in reading transcribed the words only; but being, as he is, a sensitive and sympathetic agent, the language of emotion must accompany every utterance that he naturally delivers.
"Yet how many merely mechanical speakers there are, whose voices know no thrill of feeling, and who throw off their tame, monotonous oratory, 'coldly correct, and regularly dull,' nerveless and passionless as automata. Nothing can be more unnatural than this insipidity. It is altogether incompatible with heartfelt earnestness."
Archbishop Whately objects to all systems of instruction in elocution, except that presented in the living example of an accomplished teacher; and maintains that to the adoption of any artificial scheme there are three weighty objections: "first, that the proposed system must necessarily be imperfect; secondly, that if it were perfect, it would be a circuitous path to the object in view; and, thirdly, that even if both these objections were removed, the object would not be effectually obtained."
"It is certainly a circuitous path," he adds, "when the learner is directed first to consider how each passage ought to be read (that is, what mode of delivering each part of it would spontaneously occur to him, if he were attending exclusively to the matter of it); then to observe all the modulations, &c., of voice, which take place in such a delivery; then to note these down, by established marks, in writing; and, lastly, to pronounce according to these marks."
A faithful, sympathetic attention to the full meaning, sentiment, and feeling of what we are reading is the one great rule that will best guide us in a right disposition of modulation, emphasis, force, time, and inflection. Make the language your own by sympathy, and be in carnest. If you are so languid and torpid in your attention, that you cannot distinguish between the language or sentiment that requires an animated, cmotional delivery, and that which would be best expressed by a tame, moderate utterance (as in repeating the multiplication table), then it is very certain that no rules can help you to be a reader.
§ 46. The Three Stages of Reading. Words uttered without attention to their meaning may be said to be uttered mechanically; and when the sole immediate object is to improve the act itself of articu lation, it will be well to confine the attention as much as possible to the mere act. A course of practice in Elocution ought to begin with exercises thus limited in purpose.
To make Reading significant, not only must the words be articulate, and those meant to join in sense be completely joined in pronunciation, but the various relations of clause to clause, and of sentence to sentence, must be made manifest by the inflections of the voice. We must know
these relations beforehand, or as we proceed in reading, in order to convey their full significance to the hearer.
To become an expressive Reader, the student must cease to think himself a reader, and be a speaker; for the principles of reading and speaking are the same, though the latter may allow more action and emotion than the former.
If it be asked, In what does expression consist, over and above the modulation which conveys the sense?— the answer is, that it consists in the quality of the tone imparted by passion or emotion, and that it cannot be genuine unless the passion or emotion is real. Expression therefore cannot be taught, like articulation and modulation, but it may be drawn out, where nature has furnished the material, by the force of example and the exercise of the imagination.
With a voice flexible, capable of transition, resonant, and sympathetic, the facile speaker finds that words serve him, as colors do the painter. His voice, charged with the execution of the picture he would present, will by turns be sweet, harsh, lively, severe, insinuating, cold, fervent, humble, arrogant, majestic, simple, wrathful, affectionate, — expressing all the various sentiments of the human heart, and illustrating all ages and conditions.
To teach this highest order of reading — expressive reading — by any system of rule, sign, or notation, is, we have seen, an unphilosophical and hopeless attempt, likely to defeat the very object it would aid.* Still there are certain considerations, a habit of applying which may guide the reader in his task; and these considerations address themselves to the resolving of the simple inquiry, What is the character of the piece or passage to be read? It is the business of the reader to consider this question, and answer it in his own mind, either before beginning to read, or while he is reading, at sight.
§ 47. Considerations in Expressive Reading. An analysis of the character of the piece or passage to be read involves two important considerations :
1. To what style of discourse does it belong?
Nearly all forms of speech may be classed, in respect to style, under some one of the following heads :
1. Narrative; 2. Argumentative; 3. Meditative; 4. Didactic; 5. Colloquial; 6. Dramatic; 7. Poetic.
Speech may also be divided into the Emotional or Impassioned and the
* No better authority than that of David Garrick ean be cited on this subject. Of Joshua Steele's attempt, in his Prosodia Rationalis, to do what many succeeding writers on elocution have also vainly essayed, Garrick writes: "I can easily believe Mr. Steele may imitate a speech he has heard, with great exactness; but I cannot persuade myself that one who did not hear it can do the like from any notes or symbols_whatever." The example and the drill of a good elocutionary teacher are the only practical help in the attainment of an expressive elocution.
Unemotional or Unimpassioned; and the characteristics of Emotional discourse may be considered under the following heads :
1. Lively, Pleasing, Joyous.
6. Serious, Grave, Indignant.
These characteristics of style, sentiment, and passion may vary with every sentence, or they may extend through an entire composition; and the reader's business is to detect them and adapt his elocution to their fitting expression. Let him therefore begin by putting himself questions like the following: Under what head may the piece or passage I am to read be classed? and what is the Prevalent Force, Time, or Pitch appropriate in the delivery?
And here, let us admit that he is met by an embarrassment at the outWhat may seem to him to belong to the Emotional class may not seem so to another. Some elocutionists classify under this head what others refer to its opposite. A felicitous epithet may excite, in an imaginative, sympathetic mind, emotions which another mind can neither respond to nor comprehend. One person may see life and beauty where another sees only a dead word. We can only answer this objection by remarking that the reader must do his best to penetrate to the inner life of what he reads, and to put himself in full sympathy with its intent.
Having answered the question as to the character of the subject, as he best may, let him consider what mode of utterance is most appropriate for its delivery.
We have seen that the elements of vocal expression include considerations of Inflection, Emphasis, Modulation, Force, Time, and Quality. In the right application and distribution of these lies the whole secret of expressive reading.
§ 48. THE NARRATIVE STYLE. Even when the subjects are not of a nature to call for any marked expression of feeling, a difference of manner should distinguish Narration or Description from Argument, and. Meditation from both.
When we describe or narrate, our tones and general address, if there is nothing to raise emotion, indicate little more than a desire to be clearly understood, and the delivery does not differ from mere significant reading, except in a certain reality of manner, which shows the speaker to be interested in what he utters.
The Narrative style generally requires a pure Quality of Tone, moderate Force, the middle Pitch, varied Inflections, and moderate Pauses.
§ 49. THE ARGUMENTATIVE STYLE. Much more than this will be required when the reader's business is, not merely to inform, but to convince. Argument implies opinions or contrary feelings to be combated: the voice becomes louder, and generally higher; the accents are of a more marked character; and the Time, or rate of pronunciation, is sometimes slow, sometimes rapid.
$ 50. THE MEDITATIVE STYLE. Different both from the Narrative and the Argumentative manner is that which may be called the Meditative. This takes place when the reader seems to follow, not to guide, the train of thought; that is to say, when he does not seek to convey information of which he is previously convinced, but reflects for his own information or pleasure, and pursues his reflections aloud.
In Meditative reading, the tone of voice is generally low, the pauses frequent, an the rate of utte ance moderate or slow. The Pitch varies with the sentiment, but is generally on the middle key; and the Force is gentle, inasmuch as the reader may be supposed to be addressing himself.
§ 51. THE DIDACTIC STYLE. This may include the Narrative, Argumentative, and Colloquial styles, and should be changed accordingly. Generally it requires the pure Quality of tone, moderate Force, frequent Emphasis, the middle Pitch, varied Inflections, and short Pauses.
§ 52. THE COLLOQUIAL STYLE. The Colloquial style is that of ordinary conversation, to the tone of which the delivery should conform as nearly as possible. In well-bred society this tone is that of the middle Pitch, the Quality is pure, and the Time between moderate and rapid.
53. DRAMATIC AND POETIC STYLES. These belong generally to the Emotional class, and receive the impress of the passions of which they are the vehicle. The Dramatic form of speech differs essentially from the Narrative: for an occurrence that is merely described by the latter is represented in action by the former. Instead of speaking in his own character, the reader is called on to speak in an assumed one. He should therefore acquaint himself with the peculiarities of the character whose words he is supposed to utter, place himself by an imaginative effort in the same circumstances, and utter the language as the spontaneous prompt, ings of his assumed position.
Metrical language, or language that is measured in its flow and succession of syllables, is that generally employed for lofty dramatic expression as well as for poetry. By blank verse we mean any verse without rhyme; but the term is particularly applied to what is called heroic verse, consisting of ten syllables, with sometimes an unaccented eleventh.
In reading metrical language, we must not sacrifice the spirit and meaning of a sentence to a mechanical adherence to pauses of structure. The parise at the end of a line, which the measure may seem to require, should never be so decided as to distract attention from the sense to the rhythm; and yet an accomplished reader of verse will indicate by delicate pauses, easily detected by a nice ear, the measure of every line.
54. EMOTIONAL READING. Impassioned or Emotional Reading can be acquired only by the cultivation of a quick, intelligent sympathy with the thoughts and emotions to be orally interpreted; but the example of an accomplished teacher may do much in the way of help.
Among the passions which generally require vehemence of utterance are courage, fierceness, triumph, pride, indignation, anger, rage, hatred, fear, remorse, despair, envy, malice. In expressing confidence, courage, determination, pride, a pure, strong Orotund Quality of voice is appro
priate, pitched firmly on the middle key, with suitable transitions to the high.
In remorse, envy, hatred, malice, the Quality of the voice is generally guttural or aspirate; the Time, moderate; the Force either suppressed or loud. Anger, rage, scorn, have the same harshness, but usually the tone is higher. Remonstrance makes the tone lower and smoother. In despair, the voice is low and sullen, or startlingly loud and shrill.
Fear, when it leads to action, resembles other vehement passions in many of its effects; but when it entirely relaxes the frame and takes away the power of action, or when it is excited by the contemplation rather than the presence of danger, it comes in either case under a different description. Extraordinary vehemence in any of the passions generally accelerates the rate of utterance; though in hatred and malice it will often be slow and drawling.
Opposite to vehemence of manner is the Plaintive, which takes place when the subjects of narration or meditation excite grief in a moderate degree, pity, regret, a soft and tender melancholy, or any kindred feeling. The Quality of voice is here smooth, pure, and melodious; the Time even and moderate; the Pitch inclining to low, but sometimes middle; the Force gentle and subdued.
The expression proper for Lively or Joyous subjects is distinguished from the last by requiring a more varied tone of voice and a brisker rate of utterance. It is not always, however, that delight, joy, enthusi asm, rapture, as they are embodied in poetry, demand an expression altogether opposite to the Plaintive; something of tenderness may still discover itself in the tones of the voice, and the manner may be said to be lively rather than gay. But in expressing mirth and raillery, or conveying the Ludicrous, the manner is quite opposite to the Plaintive. Directly opposed to the last mentioned expression is the Solemn, the Lofty, or Sublime. It embraces such ons and affections as awe, deep melancholy, dread, sublime contemplation, and devotion to a Being infinitely superior. The tone of voice is low, and occasionally tremulous; the rate of utterance is slow and weighty; and the Force subdued and gentle.
It should be remarked, that the mode and degree of any particular passion depend almost entirely on the predominant expression of the piece in which it occurs. Thus when any of the passions which require vehemence occur in a piece whose predominant expression is Plaintive, they must be so qualified as to harmonize with the general tone of the whole. On the other hand, the softer passions acquire a degree of vehemence when they occur in a piece whose general expression is of that character; and so of all other cases.
In Unimpassioned Reading, the Force is gentle, the Time moderate, the Pitch middle, and the Quality pure and even. The object being to convey the sense as clearly as possible, untinged by feeling, a calm and level utterance is here appropriate. In reading a catalogue or an advertisement, or any merely statistical passage, those earnest intona. tions which add to the meaning in emotional discourse are ludicrously out of place.