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ANY selections of excellent matter have lately been made for the benefit of young persons. Performances of this kind are of so great utility, that fresh productions of them, and new attempts to improve the young mind, will scarcely be deemed superfluous, if the writer make his compilation instructive and interesting, and sufficiently distinct from others.
The present work, as the title expresses, aims at the attainment of three objects: to improve youth in the art of reading; to meliorate their language and sentiments; and to inculcate some of the most important principles of piety and virtue.
The pieces selected, not only give exercise to great variety of emotions, and the correspondent tones and variations of voice, but contain sentences and members of sentences, which are diversified, proportioned, and pointed with accuracy. Exercises of this nature are, it is presumed, well calculated to teach youth to read with propriety and effect. A selection of sentences, in which variety and proportion, with exact punctuation, have been carefully observed in all their parts, as well as with respect to one another, will probably have a much greater effect, in properly teaching the art of reading, than is commonly imagined. In such constructions, every thing is accommodated to the understanding and the voice; and the common difficulties in learning to read well, are obviated. When the learner has acquired a habit of reading such sentences, with justness and facility, he will readily apply that habit, and the improvements he has made, to sentences more complicated and irregular, and of a construction entirely different.
The language of the pieces chosen for this collection, has been carefully regarded. Purity, propriety, perspicuity, and, in many instances, elegance of diction, distinguish them. They are extracted from the works of the most correct and elegan writers. From the sources whence the sentiments are drawn, the reader may expect to find them connected and regular, sufficiently important and impressive, and divested of every thing that is either trite or eccentric. The frequent perusal of such composition, naturally tends to infuse a taste for this species of excellence; and to produce a habit of thinking, and of composing, with judgment and accuracy.*
That this collection may also serve the purpose of promoting piety and virtue, the Compiler has introduced many extracts, which place religion in the most amiable light; and which re
*The Grammatical Student, in his progress through this work, will meet with numerous instances of composition, in strict conformity to the rules for promoting per spicuous and elegant writing, contained in the Appendix to the Author's English Grammar. By occasionally examining this conformity, he will be confirmed in the u. tility of those rules; and be enabled to apply them with ease and dexterity.
commend a great variety of moral duties, by the excellence of their nature, and the happy effects which they produce. These subjects are exhibited in a style and manner, which are calculated to arrest the attention of youth; and to make strong and durable impressions on their minds.*
The Compiler has been careful to avoid every expression and sentiment, that might gratify a corrupt mind, or, in the least degree, offend the eye or ear of innocence. This he conceives to be peculiarly incumbent on every person who writes for the benefit of youth. It would, indeed, be a great and happy improvement in education, if no writings were allowed to come under their notice, but such as are perfectly innocent; and if, on all proper occasions they were encouraged to peruse those which tend to inspire a due reverence for virtue, and an abhorrence of vice, as well as to animate them with sentiments of piety and goodness. Such impressions deeply engraven on their minds, and connected with all their attainments, could scarcely fail of attending them through life; and of producing a solidity of principle and character, that would be able to resist the danger arising from future intercourse with the world.
The author has endeavored to relieve the grave and serious parts of his collection, by the occasional admission of pieces which amuse as well as instruct. If, however, any of his readers should think it contains too great a proportion of the former, it may be some apology, to observe that, in the existing publications, designed for the perusal of young persons, the preponderance is greatly on the side of gay and amusing productions. Too much attention may be paid to this medium of improvement. When the imagination, of youth especially, is much entertained, the sober dictates of the understanding are regarded with indifference; and the influence of the good affections, is either feeble or transient. A temperate use of such entertainment seems therefore requisite, to afford proper scope for the operations of the understanding and the heart.
The reader will perceive, that the Compiler has been solicitous to recommend to young persons, the perusal of the sacred Scriptures, by interspersing through his work some of the most beauti. ful and interesting passages of those invaluable writings. To excite an early taste and veneration for this great rule of life, is a point of so high importance, as to warrant the attempt to promote it on every proper occasion.
To improve the young mind, and to afford some assistance to tutors, in the arduous and important work of education, were the motives which led to this production. If the Author should be so successful as to accomplish these ends, even in a small degree, he will think his time and pains well employed, and himself amply rewarded.
*In some of the pieces, the Compiler has made a few alterations, chiefly verbal, t adapt them the better to the design of his work.
Observations on the Principles of Good Reading.
O READ with propriety is a pleasing and important attainment; productive of improvement both to the understanding and the heart. It is essential to a complete reader that he minutely perceive the ideas, and enter into the feelings of the author, whose sentiments he professes to repeat: for how is it possible to represent clearly to others, what we have but faint or inaccurate conceptions of ourselves? If there were no other benefits resulting from the art of reading well, than the necessity it lays us under, of precisely ascertaining the meaning of what we read; and the habit thence acquired, of doing this with facility, both when reading silently and aloud, they would constitute a sufficient compensation for all the labor we can bestow upon the subject. But the pleasure derived to ourselves and others, from a clear communication of ideas and feeling; and the strong and durable impressions made thereby on the minds of the reader and the audience, are considerations, which give additional importance to the study of this necessary and useful art. The perfect attainment of it doubtless requires great attention and practice, joined to extraordinary natural powers but as there are many degrees of excellence in the art, the student whose aims fall short of perfection will find himself amply rewarded for every exertion he may think proper to make.
To give rules for the management of the voice in reading, by which the necessary pauses, emphasis, and tones, may be discovered and put in practice, is not possible. After all the directions that can be offered on these points, much will remain to be taught by the living instructor: much will be attainable by no other means, than the force of example influencing the imitative powers of the learner. Some rules and principles on these heads will, however, be found useful to prevent erroneous and vicious modes of utterance; to give the young reader some taste of the subject; and to assist him in acquiring a just and accurate mode of delivery. The obser⚫ vations which we have to make, for these purposes, may be comprised under the following heads: PROPER LOUDNESS OF VOICE: TINCTNESS; SLOWNESS; PROPRIETY OF PRONUNCIATION; EMPHASIS; TONES; PAUSES; and MODE OF READING VERSE,
For many of the observations contained in this preliminary tract, the Author is indebted to the writings of Dr. Blair, and to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Proper Loudness of Voice.
THE first attention of every person who reads to others, doubtless, must be, to make himself be heard by all those to whom he reads. He must endeavor to fill with his voice the space occupied by the company. This power of voice, it may be thought, is wholly a natural talent. It is in a good measure, the gift of nature; but it may receive considerable assistance from art. Much depends, for this purpose, on the proper pitch and management of the voice. Every person has three pitches in his voice; the HIGH, the MIDDLE, and the Low one. The high is that which he uses in calling aloud to some person at a distance. The low is when he approaches to a whisper. The middle is that which he employs in common conversation, and which be should generally use in reading to others. For it is a great mistake to imagine that one must take the highest pitch of his voice, in order to be well heard in a large company. This is confounding two things which are different, loudness or strength of sound, with the key or note on which we speak. There is a variety of sound within the compass of each key. A speaker may therefore render his voice louder, without altering the key; and we shall always be able to give most body, most persevering force of sound, to that pitch of voice, to which in conversation we are accustomed. Whereas by setting out on our highest pitch or key, we certainly allow ourselves less compass, and are likely to strain our voice before we have done. We shall fatigue ourselves, and read with pain; and whenever a person speaks with pain to himself, he is always heard with pain by his audience. Let us therefore give the voice full strength and swell of sound; but always pitch it on our ordinary speaking key. It should be a constant rule, never to utter a greater quantity of voice, than we can afford without pain to ourselves, and without any extraordinary effort. As long as we keep within these bounds, the other organs of speech will be at liberty to discharge their several offices with ease; and we shall always have our voice under "command. But whenever we transgress these bounds we give up the reins, and have no longer any management of it. It is a useful rule too, in order to be well heard, to cast our eye on some of the most distant per sons in the company, and to consider ourselves as reading to them. We naturally and mechanically utter our words with such a degree of strength, as to make ourselves be heard by the person whom we address, provided he is within the reach of our voice. As this is the case in conversation, it will hold also in reading to others. But let us remember that in reading, as well as in conversation, it is possible to offend by speaking too loud. This extreme hurts the ear, by making the voice come upon it in rumbling indistinct masses..
By the habit of reading, when young, in a loud and vehement manner, the voice becomes fixed in a strained and unnatural key; and is rendered incapable of that variety of elevation and depression which constitutes the true harmony of utterance, and affords ease to the reader, and pleasure to the audience. This unnatural pitch of the voice, and disagreeable monotony, are most observable in persons who were taught to read in large rooms; who were accustomed to stand at too great distance, when reading to their teachers; whose instructors were very imperfect in their hearing; or who were taught by persons, that consider loud expressions as the chief requisite in forming a good reader. These are circumstances which demand the serious attention of every one to whom the education of youth is committed.
In the next place, to being well heard and clearly understood, distinctness of articulation contributes more than mere loudness of sound. The quantity of sound necessary to fill even a large space is smaller than is commonly imagined; and, with distinct articulation, a person with a weak voice will make it reach farther, than the strongest voice can reach without it. To this, therefore, every reader ought to pay great attention. He must give every sound which he utters, its due proportion; and make every syllable, and even every letter in the word which hepronounces, be heard distinctly; without slurring, whispering, or suppressing any of the proper sounds.
An accurate knowledge of the simple, elementary sounds of the language, and a facility in expressing them, are so necessary to distinctness of expression, that if the learner's attainments are, in this respect, imperfect, (and many there are in this situation,) it will be incumbent on his teacher, to carry him back to these primary articulations; and to suspend his progress, till he become perfectly master of them. It will be in vain to press him forward, with the hope of forming a good reader, if he cannot completely articulate every elementary sound of the language.
Due Degree of Slowness.
In order to express ourselves distinctly, moderation is requisite with regard to the speed of pronouncing. Precipitancy of speech confounds all articulation, and all meaning. It is scarcely necessary to observe, that there may be also an extreme on the opposite side. It is obvious that a lifeless drawling manner of reading, which allows the minds of the hearers to be always outrunning the speaker, must render every such performance insipid and fatiguing. But the extreme of reading too fast is much more common, and requires the more to be guarded against, because, when it has grown up into a habit, a few errors