Page images



THE essential rules of elocution are few and simple. Nothing can be more unprofitable and useless than most of the complicate treatises that have been written on the subject. As well might we manufacture a great poet through the aid of the rules of Aristotle, as an accomplished speaker by initiation into the mysteries of "intensive slides," "absolute emphatic stress," "penultimate pauses," and the whole arbitrary nomenclature, which has been introduced into some of our rhetorical school-books Goethe says:

"Reason and honest feeling want no arts
Of utterance-ask no toil of elocution;

If feeling does not prompt, in vain you strive;

If from the soul the language does not come,

By its own impulse, to impel the hearts

Of hearers, with communicated power,

In vain you strive-in vain you study earnestly!"

How true is all this! And yet, in some of our books of selections for reading in schools, we have "a key of thetorical notation" attached to the pieces, informing the reader when to raise his voice and when to lower it


when to enunciate quickly and when slowly-when to assume a severe and when a plaintive tone. The effect of a slavish adherence to such instructions, must be fatal to the development of all original power in the pupil; and the system itself cannot but often seem tedious and im pertinent to the teacher.

"I am convinced," says Mr. Knowles, "that a nice at tention to rhetorical punctuation, has an extremely mischievous tendency, and is totally inconsistent with nature. Give the sense of what you read-MIND is the thing. Pauses are essential only where the omission would obscure the sense. The orator, who, in the act of delivering himself, is studiously solicitous about parcelling his words, is sure to leave the best part of his work undone. He delivers words, not thoughts. Deliver thoughts, and words will take care enough of themselves."

In the present work we have given the Principles of Elocution and the Theory of Inflection, simplified and divested of all unnecessary complexity. In addition to our obligations to Mr. Knowles, in the preparation of this introductory matter, we owe a debt of acknowledgment to Mr. Alexander Bell, of London, Professor of Elocution, from whose Practical Elocutionist, recently published, we have borrowed many useful hints. An excellent work from the press of W. and R. Chambers, of Edinburgh, entitled "Principles of Elocution, by William Graham, Teacher of Elocution," has also supplied us with many judicious suggestions. Indeed, all the available instruction in the art of reading and speaking, which, in the opinion of the best elocutionary teachers of the present day in Europe, it is deemed possible to convey by means of written rules, has been compressed into our introductory analysis.


When we originally selected Mr. Knowles's "Elocu tionist" for re-publication, it was with the intention of putting it forth with but few additions and alterations of our own. But, on a more mature examination, we found that so much that was more appropriate to the tastes and wants of American youth might be substituted, that we determined to remodel the work entirely, retaining the name, the general plan, and such a portion of the selec tions, as were of universal interest and perpetual value. If the reader therefore finds many of those unsurpassed and ever-favourite, though familiar models of elocution, interspersed through the volume, he will also find, that more than two-thirds of the contents consist of pieces, that have never before enriched any elocutionary collection.

The work is now respectfully submitted to the attention of teachers throughout the United States, in the confident belief that it will be found a useful and congenial auxiliary in the task of elocutionary instruction—that the moral character of the pieces is throughout blameless and pure -and that the essential Principles of Elocution are explained in a manner at once simple, concise and explicit.

We cannot more appropriately conclude our observations than in the language of Mr. Knowles: "Having thus briefly stated the grounds upon which the superiority of this edition is founded, the compiler remarks, that, notwithstanding the attention which he has bestowed upon the Introduction, he would be far from recommending to the student a slavish attention to system. Nothing should be allowed to supersede Nature. Let her, therefore, stand in the foreground. The reader abuses his art, who betrays, by his delivery, that he enunciates by rule. Emotion is the thing. One flush of passion upon the cheek-one beam of feeling from the eye-one thrilling note of sensi


bility from the tongue-one stroke of hearty emphasis from the arm-have a thousand times the value of the most masterly exemplification of all the rules, that all the rhetori cians, of both ancient and modern times, have given us, for the government of the voice-when that exemplification is unaccompanied by such adjuncts.

"The compiler has not attached to this collection any system of pronunciation; as pronunciation is better, because more amply, taught in dictionaries.


'He has also differed from all his predecessors, in not attempting to give a description of the principal passions; and for this plain reason—) -No man who really feels a passion can err in his delineation of it; and he concludes these few preliminary remarks, with one brief recommendation, which he conceives to include all that is essential in delivery-BE IN EARNEST."

NEW-YORK, 1844.

« EelmineJätka »