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I shall finish these general remarks, by laying down a plain distinction between the two sorts of reading, the grammatical, and the rhetorical.
Grammatical reading, as I have just intimated, respects merely the sense of what is read. When performed audibly, for the benefit of others, it is still only the same sort of process which one performs silently, for his own benefit, when he casts his eye along the page, to ascertain the meaning of its author. The chief purpose of the correct reader is to be intelligible; and this requires an accurate perception of grammatical relation in the structure of sentences; a due regard to accent and pauses, to strength of voice, and clearness of utterance. This manner is generally adopted in reading plain, unimpassioned style. The character and purpose of a composition may be such, that it would be as preposterous to read it with tones of emotion, as it would to announce a proposition in grammar or geometry, in the language of metaphor. But though merely the correct manner, suits many purposes of reading, it is dry and inanimate, and is the lowest department in the province of delivery. Still the great majority, not to say of respectable men, but of bookish men, go nothing beyond this in their attainments or attempts.
Rhetorical reading has a higher object, and calls into action higher powers. It is not applicable to a composition destitute of emotion, for it supposes feeling. It does not barely express the thoughts of an author, but expresses them with the force, variety, and beauty, which feeling demands.
To this latter sort of reading would I bend all my efforts in forming the habits of the young. To this, almost exclusively, would I apply precepts respecting management of the voice. And with a view to prevent the formation of bad habits, or to cure them before they become established, I would take off children, just so soon as they can read with
tolerable readiness, from lessons which belong to the grammatical class, and put them upon those which contain some rhetorical principles. These lessons should, at first, be chiefly narrative; or narrative and colloquial combined;by which I mean, dialogue proper, or rhetorical dialogue; in which the same voice must represent two speakers or
It has been well said, that a good articulation is to the ear, what a fair hand-writing, or a fair type is to the eye. Who has not felt the perplexity of supplying a word, torn away by the seal of a letter; or a dozen syllables of a book, in as many lines, cut off by the carelessness of a binder? The same inconvenience is felt from a similar omission in spoken language; with this additional disadvantage, that we are not at liberty to stop, and spell out the meaning by construction.
A man of indistinct utterance reads this sentence; “ The magistrates ought to prove a declaration so publicly made.” When I perceive that his habit is to strike only the accented syllable clearly, sliding over others, I do not know whether it is meant, that they ought to prove the declaration, or to approve it, or reprove it,--for in either case he would speak only the syllable prove. Nor do I know, whether the magistrates ought to do it, or the magistrate sought to do it.
Defective articulation arises from bad organs, or bad habits, or sounds of difficult utterance.
Every one knows how the loss of a tooth, or a contusión on the lip, affects the formation of oral sounds. When there is an essential fault in the structure of the mouth; when the tongue is disproportionate in length or width, or sluggish in its movements; or the palate is too high, or too low; or the teeth badly set, or decayed, art may diminish, but cannot fully remove the difficulty. In nine cases out of ten, however, imperfect articulation comes not so much from bad organs, as from the abuse of good ones.
The animal and intellectual temperament doubtless has some connexion with this subject. A sluggish action of the mind, imparts a correspondent character to the action of the vocal organs, and makes speech only a succession of indolent, half-formed sounds, more resembling the muttering of a dream, than the clear articulation, which we ought to expect in one who knows what he is saying. Excess of vivacity, on the other hand, or excess of sensibility, often produce a hasty, confused utterance. Delicacy speaks in a timid, feeble voice; and the fault of indistinctness is often aggravated in a bashful child, by the indiscreet chidings of his teacher, designed to push him into greater speed in spelling out his early lessons; while he has little familiarity with the form and sound, and less with the meaning of words.
The way is now prepared to notice some of those difficulties in articulation, which arise from the sounds to be spoken.
The first and chief difficulty lies in the fact that articulation consists essentially in the consonant sounds, and that many of these are difficult of utterance. My limits do not allow me to illustrate this by a minute analysis of the elements of speech.
It is evident to the slightest observation that the open vowels are uttered with ease and strength. On these, public criers swell their notes to so great à compass. On these too, the loudest notes of music are formed. Hence the great skill which is requisite to
distinct articulation in music; for the stream of voice, which flows 80 easily on the vowels and half vowels, is interrupted by the occurrence of a harsh consonant; and not only the sound, but the breath, is entirely stopped by a mute. In singing, for example, any syllable which ends with p, k, d, or t, all the sound must be uttered on the preceding vowel; for when the organs come to the proper position for speaking the mute, the voice instantly ceases. This explains what has sometimes been thought a mystery, that stammering persons find little difficulty in reading poetry, and none in singing ; whereas they stop at once in speaking, when they come to certain consonants. Any one who would practically understand this subject, should recollect that the distinction between human speech, and the inarticulate sounds of brutes, lies not in the vowels, but in the consonants; and that in a defective utterance of these, bad articulation primarily consists.
A second difficulty arises from the immediate succession of the same or similar sounds : as in the recurrence of the aspirates;
Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone. or the collision of open vowels;
Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire. But a greater difficulty still is occasioned by the immediate recurrence of the same consonant sound, without the intervention of a vowel or a pause. The following are examples; « For Christ's sake. The hosts still stood. • The battle lasts still.” The illustration will be more intelligible from examples in which bad articulation affects
Wastes and deserts ;—Waste sand deserts.
He could pay nobody ;-He could pain nobody. Two successive sounds are to be formed here, with the organs in the same position; so that, without a pause between, only one of the single sounds is spoken; and the difficulty is much increased when sense or grammatical relation forbids such a pause.
* This is partly owing also to a deliberate, metrical movement.
A third difficulty arises from the influence of accent. The importance which this stress attaches to syllables on which it falls, requires them to be spoken in a more full and deliberate manner than others. Hence, if the recurrence of this stress is too close, it occasions heaviness in utterance; if too remote, indistinctness. In the example;
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line, the poet compels us, in spite of metrical harmony, to lay an accent on each syllable.
But the remoteness of accent in other cases involves a greater difficulty still; because the intervening syllables are liable to be spoken with a rapidity inconsistent with distinctness, especially if they abound with jarring consonants. Combinations of this kind we have in the words communicatively, authoritatively, terrestrial, reasonableness, disinterestedness. And the case is worse still where we preposterously throw back the accent, so as to be followed by four or five syllables, as Walker directs in these words réceptacle, pèremptorily, ačceptableness. While these combinations almost defy the best organs of speech, no one finds any difficulty in uttering words combined with a due proportion of liquids, and a happy arrangement of vowels and accents.
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
Flies o'er the unbending corn, and skims along the main. A fourth difficulty arises from a tendency of the organs to slide over unaccented vowels. There is a large class of words beginning with pre, and pro, in which this seldom fails to appear. In prevent, prevail, predict, a bad articulation sinks e of the first syllable so as to make pr-vent, pr-vail, pr-dict. The case is the same with o in proceed, profane, promote; spoken pr-ceed, &c. So e is confounded with short u in event, omil, &c. spoken wvvent, ummit. In the same manner u is transformed into e, as in populous,