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Follow nature, is certainly the fundamental lawof Oratory, without a 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 destory 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, or argumentative, oratorial, coloquial, descritive, or pathetic ; must be the result of much attention and labor. 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 unexperienced 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 proceed to lay before my readers, in a plain didactic form, such rules respecing 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 these sounds, therefore, ought to be well understood; and much pains should be taken to discover and correct those faults in articulation, which, though often aseribed to some defect in the organs of speech, are generally the consequence of inattention or bad example. Many of these respect the sounding of the consonants. Some cannot pronounce the letter l, and others the simple! sounds expressed by r, s, th, sh'; others generally omit the aspirate h. These faults may be corrected; by reading sentences; So contrived as of ten to repeat the faulty sounds, and by guard ing against them in familiar conversation.
OTHER defects in articulation regard the com. plex 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 that 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 abso-lutely impossible that there should be strong emphasis, natural tones, or any just elocution.
AIM at nothing higher, till you can read dis. tinctly and deliberately.
LEARN to speak slow, all other graces
AN insipid flatness and languor is an almost universal fault in reading, and 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 or 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.
In order to acquire a forcible manner of pronouncing your words, inure yourself while reading to draw in as much air as your lungs can contain with ease, and to expel it with vehemence in uttering those sounds which require an emphatical pronunciation ; read aloud in the open air, and with all the exertion you can command ; preserve your body in an erect attitude while you are speaking ; let all the consonant sounds be expressed with a full impulse or percussion of the breath, and, a forcible action of the orgáns employed in forming them; and let all the vowel sounds have a full and bold utterance. Practise these rules with
perseverance, till you have acquired strength and energy of speech.
But in observing this rule, beware of running into the extreme of vociferation. We find this fault chiefly among those, who, in contempt and despite of all rule and propriety, are determined to command the attention of the vulgar. These are the speakers, who, in Shakspeare's phrase, “ offend the judicious hearer to the soul, by tearing a passion to rags, to very tatters, to split the ears of the groundlings." Cicero compares such speakers to cripples who get on horseback because they cannot walk : they bellow, because they cannot speak.
Acquire a compass and variety in the height of
THE monotony so much complained of in public speakers, is chiefly owing to the neglect of this rule. They generally content themselves with one certain key, which they employ on all occasions and on every subject : or if they attempt variety, it is only in proportion to the number of their hearers, and the extent of the place in which they speak; imagining, that speaking in a high key is the same thing as speading loud ; and not observing, that whether a speaker shall be heard or not, depends more upon the distinctness and force with which he utters his words, than upon the height at which he pitches his voice.
But it is an essential qualification of a good speaker, to be able to alter the height, as well as the strength and the tone of his voice, as OCcasion requires. Different species of speaking require different heights of voice. Nature in