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RULES, OBSERVATIONS, AND EXERCISES,
PRONUNCIATION, PAUSES, INFLECTIONS, ACCENT,
In Prose and Poetry,
CALCULATED TO ASSIST THE TEACHER, AND TO IMPROVE THE PUPIL,
IN READING AND RECITATION.
BY THOMAS EWING,
The English Learner, &c.
THOROUGHLY REVISED AND GREATLY IMPROVED
By F. B. CALVERT, A. M., Of the New College, Edinburgh, and the Edinburgh Academy.
[Price Three Shillings and Sixpence bound.]
THIRTIETH AND REVISED EDITION.
The attention paid to the art of Composition, and the comparative neglect of the sister art of Elocution or Delivery, form a singular anomaly in the system of modern education. That this anomaly should exist in an era so remarkable for refinement and expansion of intellect as the nineteenth century,—that it should exist in a nation among the most enlightened and refined of this refined era, in a nation, too, more systematically employing and relying more on the art of oratory than any other people of modern times,-is not less extraordinary, than at first sight it appears unaccountable. But whatever causes may have contributed to the neglect of an art which formed so prominent a feature in ancient education, they cannot account for the vicious and unnatural style of delivery which so generally prevails, resulting not merely from inattention to the art, but apparently from some other cause of deep and almost universal operation.
There is perhaps no principle more powerful for good or evil than the principle of association. In some cases, in the very familiar one of fashion in dress, for example, its effect is almost immediate. A few days suffice to reconcile the eye to costumes which not only disguise but actually mar the symmetry of the human figure; and we soon dwell, not only without dissatisfaction, but with positive pleasure, upon a style of dress, which at first sight shocks us as unnatural and absurd. And this is purely the work of association. It is with much that we value and admire, with wealth and rank, with youth, beauty, and fashion, that these innovations in costume originate, and, however ridiculous in themselves, they soon become respectable by their connexion with objects, which have a natural or conventional claim to our admiration and esteem. If it were possible for these caprices of fashion to take their rise from the opposite extreme of society, if they were associated in their origin with the squalor and degradation and all the revolting attributes of abject poverty, no length of time would conciliate the eye, or strip-them of any portion of their native deformity. Applying this
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principle, then, to the art of Elocution, it is evident that the style of reading and delivery to which we have been most accustomed from infancy, and which is at the same time recommended to us by the most powerful and imposing associations, will exercise a decisive influence upon our taste and practice as readers and speakers; and what style is this ? Almost before we can articulate we are conducted to a place of weekly worship. There we hear the Scriptures read and expounded, and discourses addressed to us by men for whose character and attainments we are very properly trained to entertain the highest respect, and of any error in whose taste or practice we cannot at that early age even conceive the possibility. Week after week, month after month, and year after year, we listen to the same style of inflection, intonation, and delivery, till at length it becomes familiar to our taste and hallowed to our associations; and yet, after all, this style unfortunately is not always the purest and the best.
Although preaching, as a vehicle of religious instruction, dates its origin from the foundation of Christianity, yet there is no doubt that since the Reformation it has been much more systematically employed by every religious denomination. In England, owing to the decided contrast in character, education, and feeling which formerly existed between the dissenting and the Episcopal divine, their respective styles early assumed an antagonistic form, and by mutual repulsion were thrown into the opposite extremes of fervour and frigidity. The nonconformist, heated with sectarian zeal, and despising that learning and refinement to which he was a stranger, indulged in fervid appeals to the feelings and the conscience of his hearers. His discourses were conceived in a high strain of enthusiasm, and, with much unction and honest earnestness, displayed little taste and less erudition. Conscious of superior attainments, and shocked by the vulgar vehemence of the dissenter, the Church of England divine took refuge in the opposite extreme : studiously suppressing every indication of feeling, he addressed himself to the understanding only, and opposed the weapon of frigid and erudite dissertation to the unlettered enthusiasm of the conventicle; and hence came to be established the opinion with many, that it is gentlemanly to be passive and indifferent, and consequently ungentlemanly to invest language, either in public or private, with any degree of vivacity. It is doubtless the part of the Christian to repress all improper emotion, as it is the part of the gentleman to moderate and refine even the most praiseworthy and allowable; but that the orator should be expected to move and influence others, by showing that he is himself uninfluenced and unmoved, is as absurd in theory as it must infallibly prove abortive in practice.
The perfect model of this gentlemanly indifference is the North American Indian-he carries the pride of passive grandeur beyond the most fastidious inmate of a court; but he knows its character too well to apply it to his oratory. He is at the same time the most impassioned of speakers, and the most passive and imperturbable of men. Who can bear or forbear like him? When it is necessary to be silent, or unnecessary to speak, no one can exercise more perfect self-control. He listens to language most repugnant to his sentiments or most galling to his feelings without the slightest indication of dissatisfaction or dissent. His passions, however deeply stirred or stung, are mute and motionless. The tempest raging below sends not even a ripple to the surface. He sits in seeming apathy, the statue of himself. But let the time for action arrive, he becomes a totally different being. As rising to speak he casts aside his blanket or buffalo robe to allow freedom to his movements, with it he casts aside the reserve which has hitherto enveloped him. His voice gradually rises into the shrill tones of passion, his eye lightens, the muscles of his countenance quiver with emotion, and his action is wild and energetic in a degree which, to an audience not wrought up to perfect sympathy with the speaker, would appear extravagant and unnatural. But in all this there is no departure from character. There is meaning and method in his vehemence as in his quietude. His object is no longer to control his own feelings, but to rouse the feelings of others, and to effect this he knows that his own must have unfettered scope; and there is no question that in the degree that we feel, and that we ought to feel, expression must be given to that feeling if we intend to make any impression.
These opposite extremes of apathy and overstrained energy have tended to vitiate oratory in England; while other causes, too numerous to specify, have had an injurious effect in the northern part of the island. Owing to a variety of circumstances, much of the