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them: without rules, showing their relation and government: in short, without any guide whatever to a knowledge of its facts and laws, except a vague reference to the conflicting practice of those who speak and write the English language : does not every one perceive that, with such means of study, it would be all but impossible to obtain a clear insight into the mysteries of the science ? or that, if some inquirer, more ardent than usual, should persist in the pursuit until success crowned at length his diligence, the work would consume a large proportion of his life? Yet there is no difficulty here which does not meet the student in learning to read and speak by the same process; the scene is changed, but the actor and his part remain as before. He must grope his way in the dark in the same manner : with uncertain footing, and at a venture. He can never be sure of his position, and he is as likely to move in a circle as to advance.
Nor will it materially avail him, in the absence of a nomenclature and of rules, that he possesses in his teacher the very best model of elocution. From such a teacher he may acquire a good articulation, for this in some measure is subject to rule ; but beyond this, which though important is yet subordinate, he can derive no more aid from such a teacher than from any other immeasurably his inferior. Indeed, he will derive less, if the latter, with his imperfect qualifications as a reader, should happen to possess the superior tact as a disciplinarian : greater facility in winning the regard of his pupils ; in commanding their attention; in exciting their emulation. In other respects the more and the less gifted teacher occupy, in relation to him, the same level. · Neither of them can do more than superintend his exercises : neither of them can add any thing to the benefit he derives from the practice those exercises afford. Whatever may be his faults of modulation, no correction of theirs, however just, can, from the very nature of the case, be followed by improvement. To have ocular and auricular demonstration of this, we have only to enter one of our schools in city or country, when a class, containing perhaps a dozen pupils, is called up to read. Observe. The lesson, distributed among them, gives to each scarcely more than a single sentence for rehearsal. One of the pupils, reading his sentence, fails in the judgment of the teacher, to employ the proper delivery. He is now shown how it should be read, (that is, the teacher reads it for him, with, what he deems, the proper modulation) and is commanded to read it again; and this time, we may presume, he will read it correctly. But what then? If this was the only sentence he ever expected to read, the correction might answer a good purpose. He would probably remember it; and at the next reading, and still more certainly at the next, he would make no mistake. But when called up again, he has the infinitesimal portion of another lesson, to which no correction of the one previously read, is applicable; or if it is, neither he nor his teacher is aware of it. His reading is again faulty, and is again corrected ; and so on with every successive lesson, day after day, the year through. Each correction is an independent one. Having its root in no settled principle, illustrated by examples ; falling under no general law, confirmed by reason and obvious facts ; it neither borrows light from the past, nor reflects light on the future. It guards the pupil against nothing but the specific error corrected : its whole force is exhausted on a single sentence which may never be read again, or if read, recognised as having been read before. It is therefore manifestly of no use, then or thenceforward. In any
other branch of study, it would be the stepping-stone of a continually accelerating progress; here it terminates with itself : elsewhere a quickening spirit; here a dead letter.
These obvious defects of the prevailing method of instruction, and the . enormous waste both of money and of time it occasions, have led a number of ingenious and able men, during the last sixty or seventy years, to inquire whether a better one could not be devised : whether, in other words, the facts and principles of. elocution could not be systematized like those of grammar, arithmetic, &c., and hence taught in the same manner. Their works, which are before the public, and well known, propose for our consideration, two distinct systems : the one formed on sentential construction; the other, variously modified, on a theory of Dr. Rush. Of these, the first is unquestionably the system of nature; and that it should not have made its way into public favor, and become the basis of elementary instruction wherever the English language is spoken, must be imputed, not to any thing wrong in the plan, but simply to the imperfect manner in which, hitherto, it has been developed; for, unfortunately, Mr. Walker, by, whom it was first broached in his “ Elements of Elocution,' and by whom it was carried to a point not yet passed, and scarcely reached, by those who have followed him, stopped short with an extremely imperfect account of one or two sentences only, and arbitrarily applied, or expected the student to apply, the laws derived from these to every other, however unlike in structure. Hence his failure: acknowledged by himself in the Rhetorical Grammar which he published subsequently to the “ Elements.” His work, therefore, sustains the same relation to a complete system of Elocution, that would be sustained by a defective map of the state of New York to a universal Atlas; and, carrying the illustration a little farther, to expect it, with whatever diligence studied, to form a good reader or speaker, would be equivalent to expecting that a man, by looking at such a map of this state, should be qualified to describe the boundaries, towns, rivers, lakes and mountains, of every other state and empire on the surface of the globe.
The other system, that derived from Dr. Rush, and confined, I believe, to this country, however ingenious, and though ably and fully developed, is rather, it must be admitted, a system of vocal exercises than of elocution: as such, its utility in the schoolroom is not readily seen.
Should a person become thoroughly versed in its various movements, which is no easy attainment, he has not taken as yet one step toward a correct and graceful delivery of a single sentence in the English language. Suppose a sentence presented: the question is, with what vocal movements, or more generally, with what modulation, shall it be read or spoken? To this question the system gives no reply: the appropriate delivery is yet to be ascertained. These authors end, therefore, just where Walker and others begin; or if they proceed farther, and prescribe a delivery for a given passage, they are governed in so doing by no broad general principles authorized by induction, but by the caprices
of individual tastes, or like the writers just mentioned, by questionable laws derived from a few isolated cases.- I may add, that this system is exposed to the serious objection of having a strong tendency to form an artificial and mechanical delivery. I have met with several individuals, whose voices, trained by its processes, very distinctly betrayed it.
Such are the exceptions which may be taken to the most systematic and elaborate writers on elocution : writers of the higher aim, and the more solid worth. Of others, it is scarcely necessary to speak; for they attempt rather to mitigate the evils of the existing method of instruction, than lo remove them by introducing another. Their observations are local, isolated, special: not without value in the particular instances to which they apply; but apart as they are from principles, and incapable of generalization, they merely supersede the incidental and arbitrary dogmas of the instructor.
On the whole, it must be acknowledged that the desideratum in the department of elocution; the work which seizes, generalizes and arranges its facts, develops its principles, and declares its laws; the work in which the public may universally confide as an exposition of true science; the . work on which the professor, the academical and common-school teacher, can lay their hands, assured that in it they have a safe guide in all that relates to reading and speaking ; the work, finally, which shall displace the prevailing inefficient and clumsy method, and banish it forever from our schools ;-such a work is yet to appear; and when it does appear, it will doubtless bear upon its face the evidence of its mission, and compel assent to its revelations, and the man who produces it, there can be as little doubt, will be hailed as the benefactor of the young.
That the following work, which I have now the honor of submitting to the public, possesses this high and decisive character, I am of course far from believing. Yet, I confess, I am not entirely without hope, (founded on long and patient investigation, unbiassed by received theories or preconceived opinions, and still more on having tested its utility, during the past two years, in the institution with which I am professionally connected,) that it may prove to be at least the herald of the morning: the day-star to such a sun. If it should, I shall be content; though merely gliminering for a space, where my successor will pour full-orbed effulgence.
It will be seen, on examination, that the leading idea of Mr. Walker is mine; namely, that the law of delivery must be derived from the structure of the sentence. Mr. Walker, however, either because that idea was not a very clear one, or because he wanted leisure or patience for a wide, comprehensive and exact induction, satisfied himself, as I have already observed, with an extremely imperfect development of it. What he left undone, I have attempted to do: to give a complete enumeration of the different sentences in the English language, and a description of their distinctive peculiarities of structure. This part of my work, which forms its base, is comprised in chapter fourth. Chapter second, on Punctuation; chapter third, on Modulation; and chapter sixt] containing the Laws of Delivery, with a long train of examples under each for exercise, are merely derivations from chapter fourth.
The chapter on Emphasis, (ch. 5th,) is the result of discovering, that the laws of delivery, derived from structure, are limited to termination and direction: to the former, in declarative, and to the latter, in interrogative sentences. In other words, I found that structure determined the module lation at the end of declarative sentences, and of their parts, and the general direction of the voice, through interrogative; but not the modulation of the intermediate portions. This I subsequently traced to the nature, position and influence of emphasis ; my discussion of which, the fruit of laborious and protracted examination, will be deemed, I trust, satisfactory: few subjects have been treated hitherto with less precision : why, it would be difficult to explain.
Having now made the student thoroughly acquainted with every variety of sentential structure, and the laws of delivery as derived from structure and emphasis combined, I introduce him, in chapter seventh, to the common reading book; where he is mainly left to apply for himself
, the information obtained from the previous portions of the work. As a reading-book, I think it will be found inferior to none in use. In some respects, it is peculiar. The selections comprise sentences of every variety of construction, and in every degree of expansion, both in prose and verse. With most of the reading-books in use this is not the case. I have introduced colloquial pieces, as well as the more sustained composition of books; and also several other species of reading, not usually met with in school-books : such as epigrams, anecdotes, preambles and resolutions of deliberative assemblies, advertisements, legal notices, letters, &c., &c. These are all written to be read, and I cannot perceive why we should not learn to read them; but I have inserted them more particularly, to show that the construction of sentences is the same in every species of composition; and that these sentences are subject to the same laws of delivery, wherever found: whether in low life, or high life; in conversation or in writing; and in one kind of writing as well as in another; in prose or verse. (See note at the end of this preface.)
The chapter on Pronunciation, the latest written and perhaps the least studied of the series, though occupying the first place, is introduced not so much on account of its value, as to mark my sense of the importance of the subject. Distinct, easy, accurate utterance of elementary sounds, syllables, and words, is a fundamental and indispensable quality of good reading and speaking; and yet how sadly is it neglected, beyond a few unmeaning and inefficient common-places, by a majority of the teachers of the present day! However, better habits are forming. There are a few instructors certainly who seem, in this respect, apprised of their responsibility; and we may reasonably hope that the time is not distant, when the elements of the English language will be expressed with Attic elegance.
In bringing these prefatory observations to a close, it may be proper for me to say, that, although I have endeavored to confirm every position taken in the following work, by a sufficient number of examples, or where examples were inadmissible, which is seldom the case, with sufficient reasons, it may appear notwithstanding, that I have sometimes spoken unadvisedly: if so, I trust that I have, at the same time, placed at the disposal of the reader, all that can be requisite for my correction. It may appear also, after more extended and searching examination, that some things I have advanced need additions, abridgment or modification. As I do not profess to have produced a perfect work, but merely to have laid the foundations for one, I hope such deficiencies may be regarded with some degree of indulgence. I should state that what may be deemed one of these, my silence on the subject of gesture, is the result of design: my plan, in the present work, limiting me to those “ elements” which are common to “ Reading and Oratory.”
Something I wished to say, before concluding, on the bearing of what I have advanced, if acknowledged to be just, on the art of composition : something on its relation to the general subject of style: something also on its application to elementary instruction in other languages, both ancient and modern; soon, probably, to be tested by one of the most finished classical scholars in the country; but having already extended my
observations to an unusual length, I reluctantly suppress what I might add on these points, and submit my work without further ceremony to the judgment of an intelligent and candid public: being very sure that, if it possesses value, it will receive proportionate approbation; and that it can fail to be approved only because, in the opinion of discerning and just men less interested than myself, it fails to deserve it.
HAMILTON COLLEGE, Sept. 1st, 1845.
NOTE.The paragraph which refers to this note, declares what was true of the first edition of this work alone. When that edition was published, the author contemplated nothing beyond it: content to have provided for the more advanced class of students the means to acquire a knowledge of, at least, the elements of elocution. Having subsequently extended his views to a series of elementary reading-books, by the advice of those whom he deemed competent to estimate the value of his theory and practice, the reading-book portion of the “ Elements” was transferred to the "Course of Reading,” No. 5 of the
and in the preceding edition of the former work, and in the present, only a few pieces, sufficient to illustrate the application of the author's principles to consecutive discourse, have been retained.