« PreviousContinue »
ART OF ELOCUTION.
JAMES L. OHLSON, F.R.S.L.,
Lecturer in English Literature and Elocution to the Birkbeck
"WHAT SPELLS OF INFINITE CHOICE,
AND LEND TO THE RHYME OF THE POET
ART OF ELOCUTION.
RHETORIC—like Music, Painting, Sculpture—is a great department of the universal Art of Expression. It concerns the clothing of a thought in the most appropriate and effective language; the statement of fact, the construction of argument, the selection and use of imagery, the play of sentiment, and the appeal to passion.
Elocution is a department of Rhetoric, and yet is a special Art complete in itself, being governed by special rules to produce a given result. It concerns the management of the voice in reading and speaking correctly and expressively.
The practical importance of this branch of education is becoming more generally recognized.
It seems strange that it should have been so long neglected by those whose principal duty it is to read and speak in public. The immediate effect of speaking depends quite as much upon manner as upon matter.
Unless manner is effective the thought is not readily apprehended in its fulness, but is obscure, distorted, or otherwise imperfect. In church, good and ex
pressive reading is not inconsistent with true devotional feeling. To read a Scripture lesson in monotone, or in a dull, unimpressive style, is burlesque and not devotion. Burlesque is simply incongruity between thought or sentiment and its expression. A Scripture lesson contains force and music of language, dramatic incidents, poetic imagery, philosophic and doctrinal statement, pathetic appeal and terrible warning. To deal with these, without variety of expression and change of voice, as if they were all of exactly the same value and intended to produce but one impression, is to miss their meaning and effect. But the benefits of elocutionary training are of universal application. Our representative institutions have made us a debating people ; and a man's influence greatly depends upon his capability of expressing his thoughts with clearness, precision, and effect. Elevated thought and earnest sentiment are comparatively useless, unless there is also the command of the machinery of Expression.
It has been objected that an artificial system places the speaker under a certain restraint by preventing the free play of his natural qualities; but where these natural qualities are bad, improvement by means of any system is a desirable thing. There is, however, no ground for the objection, which might just as well be brought against the systematic study of music or painting. A thorough training in the Art of Elocution is calculated to render practically available each good quality which the student naturally possesses, whilst it enables him to discover and get rid of those defects of which he is thus, probably for the first time, made sensible. Of course a slavish adherence to every
rule of detail is not recommended ; but the fact that a speaker has undergone previous training in Elocution will be displayed not so much by his attention to technicalities as by the general improvement of his style. His speaking becomes more confident, his voice has a wider range,
and he finds that it has become as easy and natural to speak correctly and expressively as it was before to speak incorrectly and without effect.
PRODUCTION OF VOICE.
Mr. Hullah, in his “ Cultivation of the Speaking Voice,” quotes the following from Professor Willis : “ The vocal mechanism may be considered as consisting of lungs or bellows, capable of transmitting by means of the connecting windpipe a current of air through an apparatus contained in the upper part of the windpipe which is termed the larynx. This apparatus is capable of producing various musical (and other) sounds which are heard after passing through a variable cavity consisting of the pharynx (the cavity behind the tongue), mouth, and nose." The force of the voicethat is, the extent of the vibrations in the air—depends upon the healthy state of the lungs, the capacity of which may be increased by practice in uttering the open vowel sounds, frequently taking breath. The larynx is described as "a cartilaginous box, the encompassing parts or walls of which (susceptible of very various though not very extensive motion) regulate the tension of certain ligaments called the vocal cords, which under the influence of the breath are the immediate causes of the voice." The vowels, or pure