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where you is without accent or emphasis, and is, according to the foregoing rule, pronounced ye, we sometimes hear the to sounded as if written te; as, "I spoke te ye about it long ago," &c. But it may be observed, that though the you may very properly in this situation be sounded like ye, yet to must always preserve its true sound, as if written two, at least when we are reading, however it may be suffered to approach to te when we are speaking; for it must ever be kept in mind, that there will always be a slight difference between easy or cursory conversation, and reading or oratorical speaking; or, in other words, between speaking and talking: the one will admit of many contractions and slightnesses in pronunciation, which would be wholly inexcusable in the other. Writers on this subject commonly content themselves with referring us to the practice of the best speakers; and without all question, this is the principal object of attention; but with the same advice that others give, I have attempted to add a few rules by way of rendering the advice more useful.
Having premised these observations on words, we shall next proceed to sentences; as words, arranged into sentences, may be properly called the subject matter of the art of reading.
Reading defined. Its relation to speaking.
Reading is not ill defined by a late writer on the subject, where he calls it artificial speaking.* It is an imitative art, which has eloquent speaking for its model, as eloquent speaking is an imitation of beautiful nature. Reading, therefore, is to speaking
* Rice's Introduction to the Art of Reading.
what a copy is to an original picture; both of them have beautiful nature for their object: and as a taste for beautiful nature can scarcely be better acquired, than by a view of the most elegant copies of it, speaking, it is presumed, cannot be more successfully taught, than by referring us to such rules as instruct us in the art of reading.
The art of reading is that system of rules, which teaches us to pronounce written composition with justness, energy, variety, and ease. Agreeably to this definition, reading may be considered as that species of delivery, which not only expresses the sense of an author, so as barely to be understood, but which, at the same time, gives it all that force, beauty, and variety, of which it is susceptible: the first of these considerations belongs to grammar, and the last to rhetoric.
The sense of an author being the first object of reading, it will be necessary to inquire into those divisions and subdivisions of a sentence, which are employed to fix and ascertain its meaning: this leads us to a consideration of the doctrine of punctuation.
Punctuation may be considered in two different lights; first, as it clears and preserves the sense of a sentence, by combining those words together that are united in sense, and separating those which are distinct; and, secondly, as it directs to such pauses, elevations, and depressions of the voice, as not only mark the sense of the sentence, but give it a variety and beauty which recommend it to the ear; for in speaking, as in other arts, the useful and the agreeable are almost always found to coincide, and every real embellishment promotes and perfects the principal design.
In order, therefore, to have as clear an idea of punctuation as possible, it will be necessary to consider it as related to grammar and rhetoric distinctly. A system of punctuation may be sufficient for the purposes of grammar; or, in other words, it may be sufficient to clear and preserve the sense of an author, and at the same time be but a very imperfect guide to the pronunciation of it. The art of speaking, though founded on grammar, has principles of its own: principles that arisc from the nature of the living voice, from the perception of harmony in the ear, and from a certain superaddition to the sense of language, of which grammar takes no account. These principles necessarily influence our pronunciation, and direct us to pauses, which are entirely unknown to every system of punctuation in use.
But though the punctuation in use does not answer all the purposes of reading and speaking, it must, nevertheless, be allowed to be of considerable advantage. It does not indeed give us half the pauses which a just pronunciation seems to require; and those pauses it does give are seldom such as precisely mark the sense of a sentence; but still it directs the eye to intervals proper for some pauses, and serves to keep members from running into each other, and confounding the sense of the sentence: and if a few simple rules,* founded on the nature of a sentence, were adopted by writers and printers, there is not the least doubt but the art of reading might be greatly facilitated and improved.
But the business of this essay is not so much to construct a new system of punctuation, as to endeav
For these Rules, see Elements of Elocution, Boston Edition, 1810, p. 46.
our to make the best use of that which is already established; an attempt to reduce the whole doctrine of rhetorical punctuation to a few plain, simple principles, which may enable the reader, in some measure, to point for himself: for this purpose, it will, in the first place, be necessary to exhibit a general idea of the punctuation in use, that we may be better enabled to see how far it will assist us in the practice of pronunciation, and where we must have recourse to principles more permanent and systematical.
General idea of the common doctrine of punctuation.
Dr. Lowth defines punctuation to be, "the art of marking in writing the several pauses, or rests, between sentences, and the parts of sentences, according to their proper quantity or proportion, as they are expressed in a just and accurate pronunciation." Others, as Sir James Burrow and Dr. Bowles, besides considering the points as marks of rest and pauses, suppose them to be hints for a different modulation of voice, or rules for regulating the accent of the voice, in reading; but whether this modulation of voice relates to all the points, or to the interrogation, exclamation, and parenthesis only, we are not informed. Grammarians are pretty generally agreed in distinguishing the pauses into
and those pauses which are accompanied with an alteration in the tone of voice into
The period is supposed to be a pause double the time of the colon; the colon, double that of the semicolon; and the semicolon, double that of the comma, or smallest pause; the interrogation and exclamation points are said to be indefinite as to their quantity of time, and to mark an elevation of voice; and the parenthesis to mark a moderate depression of the voice, with a pause greater than the comma.
The use of the Comma.
A simple sentence, that is, a sentence having but one subject, or nominative, and one finite verb, admits of no pause. Thus in the following sentence; The passion for praise produces excellent effects in women of sense. The passion for praise is the subject, or nominative case, to the verb produces, and excellent effects in women of sense is the object or accusative case, with its concomitant circumstances or adjuncts of specification, as Dr. Lowth very properly terms them; and this sentence, says the learned bishop, admits of no pause between any of its parts, but when a new verb is added to the sentence, as in the following: The passion for praise, which is so very vehement in the fair sex, produces excellent effects in women of sense. Here a new verb is introdueed, accompanied with adjuncts of its own, and the subject is repeated by the relative pronoun which: it now becomes a compounded sentence, made up of two simple sentences, one of which is inserted in the middle of the other;