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 defire 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 organs employed in forming them; and let all the vowel founds 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 extreine of vociferation. We find this fault chiefy 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 Shakespear's phrase, “ offend the judicious hearer to the soul, by tearing a passion to rags, to very tatters, to fplit the ears of the groundlings.” Cicero compares such speakers to cripples who get on horse-back because they cannot walk: they bellow, because they cannot speak.


[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Acquire a compass and variety in the height of

your voice.

THE monotony so much complained of in

1 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 speaking Joud; 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 bis 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 instructs us to relate a story, to support an argument, to command a servant, to utter exclamations of anger or rage, and to pour forth lamentations and forrows, not only with different tones, but different elevations of voice. Men at different ages of life, and in different situations, speak in very different keys. The vagrant, when he begs; the soldier, when he gives the word of command; the watchman, when he announces the hour of the night; the sovereigp, when he issues his edict; the fenator, when he harangues; the lover, when he whispers his tender tale; do not differ more in the tones which they use, than in the key in which they fpeak. Reading and speaking, therefore, in which all the variations of expression in real life are copied, must have continual variations in the height of the voice.


To acquire the power of changing the key on Which you speak at pleasure, accustom yourself to pitch your voice in different keys, from the lowest to the highest notes you can command. Many of these would neither be proper nor agreeable in speaking ; but the exercise will give you Such a command of voice, as is scarcely to be acquired by any other method. Having repeated this experiment till you can speak with ease at several heights of the voice; read, as exercises on this rule, such compositions as have a variety of speakers, or such as relate dialogues, obferv. ing the height of voice which is proper to each, and endeavouring to change them as natune directs.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

In the same composition there may be frequent occasion to alter the height of the voice, in pairing from one part to another, without any change, of person. Shakespear's “ All the world's aftage, "* &c. and his description of the Queen of the Fair ries, afford examples of this. Indeed every sen- . tence which is read or spoken, will admit of: different elevations of the voice in different parts of it; and on this chiefly, perhaps entirely, depends the melody of pronunciation.


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

TT is not easy to fix upon any standard, by

which the propriety of pronunciation is to be determined. "Mere men of learning, in attempting to make the etymology of words the rule of pronunciation, often pronounce words in a manner, which brings upon them the charge of affectation and pedantry. Mere men of the world, notwithstanding all their politeness, often retain so much of their provincial dialect, or commit fuch errors both in speaking and writing, as to exclude them from the honour of being the standard of accurate pronunciation. We should perhaps look for this standard only among those who unite these two characters, and with the correctness and precision of true learning, combine the ease and elegance of genteel life. An attention to such models, and a free intercourse with the polite world, are the best guards against the peculiarities and vulgarisms of provincial dialects. Those which respect the pronunciation of words are innumerable. Some of the principal of them

are :

« ForrigeFortsett »