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the same narrative, will each of them adopt a peculiar mode of expression, suitable to the ideas that occupy his mind and to the language he has been accustomed to speak and hear; and if a poet who had occasion to introduce these characters in a comedy were to give the same uniform color of language to them all, the style of that comedy, however elegant, would be unnatural. Our language is also affected by the very thoughts we utter. When these are lofty or groveling, there is a correspondent elevation or meanness in the language. The style of a great man is generally simple, but seldom fails to partake of the dignity and energy of his sentiments. In Greece and Rome, the corruption of literature was a consequence of the corruption of manners, and the manly simplicity of the old writers disappeared as the nation became effeminate and servile. Horace and Longinus scruple not to ascribe the decline of eloquence in their days to a littleness of mind, the effect of avarice and luxury. The words of Longinus are remarkable: «The truly eloquent,» says he, “must possess an exalted and noble mind, for it is not possible for those who have all their lives been employed in servile pursuits to produce anything worthy of immortal renown or general admiration.” In fact, our words not only are the signs but may be considered as the pictures of our thoughts. The same glow or faintness of coloring, the same consistency or incoherence, the same proportions of great and little, the same degrees of elevation, the same light and shade that distinguish the one will be found to characterize the other; and from such a character as Achilles or Othello we as naturally expect a bold, nervous, and animated phraseology as a manly voice and commanding gesture
May we not infer from what has been said, that « Language is, then, according to nature, when it is suitable to the supposed condition of the speaker»?meaning by the word (condition” not only the outward circumstances of fortune, rank, employment, sex, age, and nation, but also the internal temperature of the understanding and passions, as well as the peculiar nature of the thoughts that may happen to occupy the mind. Horace seems to have had this in view, when he said, that if what is spoken on the stage shall be unsuitable to the fortunes of the speaker, both the learned and unlearned part of the audience will be sensible of the impropriety. For that it is of great importance to the poet to consider, whether the person speaking be a slave or a hero; a man of mature age, or warm with the passions of youth; a lady of rank, or a bustling nurse; a luxurious Assyrian, or a cruel native of Colchis; a mercantile traveler, or a stationary husbandman; an acute Argive, or a dull Boeotian.”
But Horace's remark, it may be said, refers more immediately to the style of the drama; whereas we would extend it to poetry, and even to composition in general. And it may be thought, that in those writings wherein the imitation of human life is less perfect, as in the epic poem, or wherein the style is uniformly elevated and pure, as in history and tragedy, this rule of language is not attended to. In what respect, for example, can the style of Livy or Homer be said to be suitable to the condition of the speaker ? Have we not, in each author, a great variety of speeches, ascribed to men of different nations, ranks, and characters, who are all, notwithstanding, made to utter a language that is not only grammatical, but elegant and harmonious ? Yet no reader is offended; and no critic ever said that the style of Homer and Livy is unnatural.
The objection is plausible. But a right examination of it will be found not to weaken, but to confirm and illustrate the present doctrine. I say, then, that language is natural, when it is suited to the supposed condition and circumstances of the speaker. Now, in history, the speaker is no other than the historian himself, who claims the privilege of telling his tale in is own way, and of expressing the thoughts of other men, where he has occasion to record them, in his own language. All this we must allow to be natural, if we suppose him to be serious. For every man who speaks without affectation, has a style and a manner peculiar to himself. A person of learning and eloquence, recapitulating on any solemn occasion the speech of a clown, would not be thought in earnest if he did not express himself with his wonted propriety. It would be difficult, perhaps he would find it impossible, to imitate the hesitation, barbarisms, and broad accent of the poor man; and if he were to do so, he would affront his audience, and, instead of being thought a natural speaker, or capable of conducting important business, would prove himself a mere buffoon. Now, an historian is a person who assumes a character of great dignity, and addresses himself to a most respectable audience. He undertakes to communicate information, not to his equals only, or inferiors, but to the greatest and most learned men upon earth. He wishes them to listen to him, and to listen with pleasure; to believe his testimony, and treasure up his sayings as lessons of wisdom to direct them in the conduct of life, and in the government of kingdoms. In so awful a presence, and with views so elevated, what style is it natural for him to assume? A style uniformly serious and elegant, clear, orderly, and emphatical, set off with modest ornaments to render it pleasing, yet plain and simple, and such as becomes a man whose chief concern it is to know and deliver the truth. The moralist and the preacher are in familiar circumstances, and will naturally adopt a familiar style; only a more sublime and more pathetic energy, and language still plainer than that of the historian, though not less pure, will with reason be expected from those ho pronounce the dictates of divine wisdom, and profess to instruct the meapest as well the greatest of mankind in matters of everlasting importance.
We may, therefore, repeat, and lay it down as a maxim, “That language is natural when it is suited to the speaker's condition, character, and circumstances.” And as, for the most part, the images and sentiments of serious poetry are copied from the images and sentiments, not of real, but of improved, nature ; so the language of serious poetry must (as hinted already) be a transcript, not of the real language of nature, which is often dissonant and rude, but of natural language improved as far as may be consistent with probability, and with the supposed character of the speaker. If this be not the case, if the language of poetry be such only as we hear in conversation, or read in history, it will, instead of delight, bring disappointment; because it will fall short of what we expect from an art which is recommended rather by its pleasurable qualities, than by its intrinsic utility; and to which, in order to render it pleasing, we grant higher privileges than to any other kind of literary composition, or any other mode of human language.
From his “Essays.) Dublin, 1778.
ILLIAM ENFIELD was born at Sudbury, England, March 29th, 1741,
and educated for the ministry of the Unitarian Church.
celebrated as a pulpit orator and teacher, and the University of Edinburgh gave him the honorary degree of LL.D. He wrote (Institutes of Natural Philosophy, Theoretical and Experimental» (1783), and published other works which added to his reputation. It is, however by virtue of his modest little “Speaker,” published in 1775, that he survives his century. It passed through many editions, and is still bought by collectors of works on oratory and rhetoric. The taste it shows is of a high order, and in the essay on Elocution,” prefixed to it, Enfield may be said to have founded the modern science of voice culture. He died at Nor. wich, November 3d, 1797.
AN ESSAY ON ELOCUTION
-ald affert ratio, docent litera, confirmat consuetudo legendi et loquendi.”
uch declamation has been employed to convince the world of a very plain
truth, that to be able to speak well is an ornamental and useful accomplish
ment. Without the labored panegyrics of ancient or modern orators, the importance of a good elocution is sufficiently obvious. Everyone will acknowledge it to be of some consequence, that what man has hourly occasion to do, should be done well. Every private company, and almost every public assembly, afford opportunities of remarking the difference between a just and graceful, and a faulty and unnatural, elocution; and there are few persons who do not daily experience the advantages of the former and the inconveniences of the latter. The great difficulty is, not to prove that it is a desirable thing to be able to read and speak with propriety, but to point out a practicable and easy method by which this accomplishment may be acquired.
Follow nature, is certainly the fundamental law of oratory, without regard to which all other rules will only produce affected declamation, not just elocution. And some accurate observers, judging, perhaps, from a few unlucky specimens of modern eloquence, have concluded that this is the only law which ought to be prescribed; that all artificial rules are useless; and that good sense and a cultivated taste are the only requisites to form a good public speaker. But it is true in the art of speaking, as well as in the art of living, that general precepts are of little use till they are unfolded and applied to particular cases. To discover and correct those tones and habits of speaking which are gross deviations from nature,
and, as far as they prevail, must destroy all propriety and grace of utterance; and to acquire a habit of reading, or speaking, upon every occasion, in a manner suited to the nature of the subject, and the kind of discourse or writing to be delivered, whether it be narrative, didactic, argumentative, oratorical, colloquial, descriptive, or pathetic, must be the result of much attention and labor. And there can be no reason to doubt that, in passing through that course of exercise which is necessary in order to attain this end, much assistance may be derived from instruction. What are rules or lessons for acquiring this or any other art, but the observations of others, collected into a narrow compass, and digested in a natural order, for the direction of the inexperienced and unpracticed learner ? And what is there in the art of speaking which should render it incapable of receiving aid from precepts ?
Presuming, then, that the acquisition of the art of speaking, like all other practical arts, may be facilitated by rules, I shall lay before my readers, in a plain, didactic form, such rules respecting elocution as appear best adapted to form a correct and graceful speaker.
LET YOUR ARTICULATION BE DISTINCT AND DELIBERATE
GOOD articulation consists in giving a clear and full utterance to the several
simple and complex sounds. The nature of the sounds, therefore, ought to be well understood; and much pains should be taken to discover and correct those faults in articulation, which, though often ascribed to to some defect in the organs of speech, are generally the consequence of inattention or bad example.
Some persons find it difficult to articulate the letter l; others, the simple sounds expressed by r, s, th, sh; but the instance of defective articulation which is most common, and, therefore, requires particular notice, is the omission of the aspirate, h. Through several counties in England this defect almost universally prevails, and sometimes occasions ludicrous, and even serious mistakes. This is an omission which materially affects the energy of pronunciation; the expression of emotions and passions often depending, in a great measure, upon the vehemence with which the aspirate is uttered. The h is sometimes perversely enough omitted where it ought to be sounded, and sounded where it ought to be omitted ; the effect of which will be easily perceived in the following examples: «He had learned the whole art of angling by heart;» «Heat the soup.» These and other similar faults
may be corrected by daily reading sentences so contrived as frequently to repeat the sounds which are incorrectly uttered; and especially by remarking them whenever they occur in conversation.
Other defects in articulation regard the complex sounds, and consist in a confused and cluttering pronunciation of words. The most effectual methods of conquering this habit are: to read aloud passages chosen for the purpose, such, for instance, as abound with long and unusual words, or in which many short syllables come together; and to read, at certain stated times, much slower than the sense and just speaking would require. Almost all persons who have not studied the art of speaking have a habit of uttering their words so rapidly that this latter exercise ought generally to be made use of for a considerable time at first; for where there is a uniformly rapid utterance it is absolutely impossible that there should be strong emphasis, natural tones, or any just elocution.
Aim at nothing higher till you can read distinctly and deliberately.
Learn to speak slow; all other graces
LET YOUR PRONUNCIATION BE BOLD AND FORCIBLE
public speakers often suffer their words to drop from their lips with such a faint and feeble utterance that they appear neither to understand nor feel what they say themselves, nor to have any desire 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 sounds have a full and bold utterance. Continue these exercises with perseverance till you have acquired strength and energy of speech.
But, in observing this rule, beware of running into the extreme of vociferation. This fault is chiefly found 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 Shakespeare's phrase, "offend the judicious hearer to the soul, by tearing a passion to rags, to very tatters, to split the ears of the groundlings.” Cicero compares such speakers to cripples, who get on horseback because they cannot walk; they bellow because they cannot speak.
ACQUIRE COMPASS AND VarieTY IN
THE HEIGHT OF YOUR VOICE
the neglect of this rule. They commonly content themselves with one certain key, which they employ on all occasions, and upon 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 loud; 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 of the key in which he speaks.
Within a certain compass of notes, above or below which articulation would be difficult, propriety of speaking requires variety in the height, as well as in the strength and tone of the voice. Different kinds 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 rage or anger, and to pour forth lamentations and sorrows, not only with different tones, but with 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 sover. eign, when he issues his edict; the senator, 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 speak. 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 in which you speak at pleasure, accustom yourself to pitch your voice in different keys, from the lowest to the highest