« PreviousContinue »
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE PRINCIPLES
READING AND PUBLIC SPEAKING.
A SELECTION OF THE BEST PIECES FROM ANCIENT AND MODERN
AUTHORS, ACCOMPANIED BY EXPLANATORY NOTES.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight hundred and forty-six, by SAMUEL N. SWEBT, in the clerk's office of the district court of the northern district of New York.
JOEL MUNSELL, Printer,
Albany. N. Y.
No branch of education can be more successfully and advantageously applied to the great and practical purposes of life, than Elocution. It is in the most frequent use of any faculty with which our nature is endowed. Whenever we exercise the organs of speech, whether in conversation, reading, or public speaking, wiem, loy some of our powers of elocution. Throughout all the diversities of rank and sex, including kings and beggars, every individual begins to practise it, the second, if not the first year of his existence. It is but another word for the faculty of speech--a faculty which elevates man above the brute creation, and which should not be permitted to
“ rust out unused," and unimproved. That the reading or speaking voice, as well as the singing voice, is susceptible of almost an unlimited degree of cultivation, is a truth, with a conviction of which, men have been deeply impressed, in all ages of the world. Especially is this true of the citizens of Greece and Rome. They paid great attention to the art of eloquence, as it was called in ancient times; now, clocution ; which is," the rose by another name;" and we learn from history, that their labors were rewarded with very beneficial results.
Passing over in silence, other great and immortal names, let us direct our attention for a moment, to Demosthenes, Cicero, and Pericles. Nature did not very liberally provide Demosthenes with power of speech. He, however, possessed genius in an eminent degree. And yet, without industry, his name would have been lost in oblivion. By undying perseverance in the pursuit of oratory, and by unremitting attention to the principles upon which good speaking is founded; he acquired an eloquence which " astonished all Greece.” We may say of him without any poetical license, he spoke,
“ Confusion heard his voice, and wild uproar stood ruled." Cicero, by close application, reading, and declaiming, rendered his voice so melodious, powerful, and thrilling that it hushed the Roman senate into silence, and made "great Cæsar” himself tremble on his seat Pericles so successfully cultivated the whole art of elocution, that with him, manner was almost matter. An incident is related in history, which may serve to give us an idea of the power of his eloquence. Thucydides, although an enemy to Pericles, when asked which was the best wrestler answered: “Whenever I have given him a fall, he affirms the contrary, in such strong and forcible terms, that he persuades all the spectators that I did not throw him, though they themselves saw him on the ground.” Those three renowned orators adopted in early life, the excellent motto, that nothing is given to mortals, without indefatigable labor.” Discarding the absurd notion, that orators are born such, they acted upon the true principle, that however much or little nature had done for them, they would rely exclu
sively and entirely upon their own exertions. The docility of Demosthenes, Cicero, and Pericles, through life, and the care and success with which they cultivated the science of speaking well, afford examples worthy of universal imitation, from the president of the United States, members of congress, and of state legislatures, lawyers, clergymen, conductors of literary institutions, and other gentlemen of public consideration, down to the humblest citizen of our republic. Those peerless orators immortalized their names by "patient labor, and patient labor only." If they excelled the orators of all other countries, either ancient or modern, it is because they devoted time, money, and labor, to the improvement of their manner of speaking.
Who does not know that inattention to a subject is tantamount to ignorance of it? Knowledge is not intuitive. The infant grasps alike the near flame, which would burn him, and the bright orb of day which he cannot reach. It is a truism, but, nevertheless, one which is too often practically disregarded, that we know little or nothing, except what we learn. Why then talk so much of a nature's orators ?" Cicero says, that the “poet is born, but the orator is made.” Nature, doubtless, makes a great difference in the capacities with which she endows her children; but art makes a still greater difference. It is an excellent letter addressed to a young man engaged in the study of law, the late Hon. William Wirt, truly observes, that it is a fiat of fate, from which no genius can absolve youth, that there is no excellence without great labor."
Vocal music is more pleasing than instrumental, because the human voice, whether its notes are heard in song or speech, is the sweetest and noblest of all instruments. It, however, differs from a musical instrument in this respect, among others: it is capable of producing an infinite variety of sounds. By the tones of the voice, may be expressed, not only all the operations of the mind, but every emotion implanted by the God of nature in the soul of man. The best readers and speakers are not governed by particular rules. They read and speak “right on.” They do not stop to give a rising inflection of voice, here; a falling, there; and a circumflex, elsewhere. Dr. Goldsmith says, that “ to feel our subject thoroughly, and to speak without fear, are the only rules of eloquence.' It is certain, that in order to be eloquent, we must surrender ourselves to the spirit that stirs within us, and the "mouth” must speak “from the abundance of the heart.”. Being perfectly satisfied with NATURE's system of elocution, the author has not presumed to lay down a series of artificial rules in the shape, either of marks of inflection or rhetorical notation, in the vain hope of making a better. Those extraordinary endowments of intellect, of imagination, and of sensibility, which are derived from nature, and without which preëminence in oratory is unattainable, are possessed by few men in any age or country. But all may learn to read and speak correctly and impressively, by becoming familiar with the elementary sounds of our language, and the
other important principles of elocution, and by engaging in practical elocutionary exercises.
This work contains a great variety of pieces, all of which are suitable, both for reading, and for exercises in recitation. There is no good reason for drawing a line of demarcation between reading and speaking. To excel in either, requires a cultivated voice, and a knowledge of elocution. In both, and in one as much as the other, the principles upon which this science is founded, are involved. Similar exercises, therefore, if not the same, are required to become either a good reader or an acconsplished
speaker. The introductory part of this work, comprises suggestions on elocution, and specimens illustrative of its principles, and of the powers of the voice, which it is believed, will be serviceable to all who wish to acquire a correct and graceful style of reading and speaking the English languages
The pieces for exercises in reading and declamation, are selected indiscriminately, from ancient and inodern authors; and also from foreigners, and from Americans. The object has been to embody the best pieces in our language, for elocutionary purposes. If a piece be well written, it is not material whether its author is an ancient or a modern, a foreigner or an American. The notes with which almost every piece is accompanied, contain generally brief biographical sketches of their several authors, and of the circumstances under which they wrote. The notes, however, are intended chiefly to explain the manner in which the several pieces should be read or recited. Before reading a piece, it may not be altogether unprofitable to look at the note which accompanies it. This work, being designed as a reading-book for schools, academies, theological seminaries, and colleges, the pieces are divided into verses. More pieces will be found in it, on elocution itself, than in any other book before the public. The dialogues are in a cluster. To avoid monotony, the prose and poetry are intermixed. All the selections and the notes accompanying them, are calculated to inspire the reader with the love of freedom, of virtue, and of the Christian religion. For the benefit of seminaries of learning, a number of dialogues are inserted.
It is gratifying to know, that elocution is beginning to secure a portion of attention, corresponding, in some degree, with its importance. But still it is too much neglected, not only by community generally, but even by public speakers and teachers of youth. There are, as yet, few or no distinct professorships of elocution in our literary institutions. The bishop of Cloyne says, " that probably half the learning of these kingdoms is lost, for want of having a proper delivery taught in the schools and colleges." Is not half the learning of these United States, “lost for want of having!! elocution properly and thoroughly taught in our “schools and colleges ?" Does not religion suffer in the hands of those who, owing to their ignorance of elocution, and their want of those feelings of love to God and love to man with which the gospel inspires all who believe and practise its precepts, present that solemn and surpassingly important subject to the world, in a cold, lifeless, and bungling manner? It is, as Dr. Blair observes,
a poor compliment, that one is an accurate reasoner, if he be not a persuasive speaker.” Why may not the people of the United States, become as much distinguished for their eloquence, as for their free and glorious institutions ? Is not eloquence as valuable now as it was in ancient times? Is not freedom's soil adapted to its growth ? And would it not be “glorious to excel” other nations, as well as other individuals, " in that article in which men excel the brute ?"
The Supreme Being has kindly allotted to us our portion of human existence, in a country, the constitution and laws of which, recognize in every citizen, the right to form, to cherish, and to express his opinions on all subjects interesting to our common welfare,-a country where the opinion of a majority prevails, and where eloquence creates public opinion. Here, as in the free states of antiquity, "every man's opinion should be written on his forehead.” Here, too, the noble science and art of elocution should receive, at least attention enough to elevate the standard of public speaking, particularly among our representatives and senators in congress. Then,