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In ordinary works on Elocution, the inflections of the voice are given, but not the changes of pitch, which constitute melody. In this work, however, not only are the inflections and the melody given, but also those transitions in pitch, called modulation, or a change of key My method of representing the melody and modula tions of the speaking voice, is original; and, I feel confident, it will prove of singular advantage to the Student in Elocution.
The part on gesture is extracted, principally, from Austin's Chironomia, a work which is extremely rare, and one whose great size and expense are insuperable obstacles to its general introduction. All, however, that is particularly valuable, which the Chironomia contains on the subject of gesture, is here presented to the reader in the compass of a few pages. Austin's system of notation of gesture is of great practical utility. This will appear evident to the reader when he shall have learned that, by its application, all the gestures which an orator makes, in the delivery of a discourse, may be accurately recorded for his own practice and improvement, as well as for the benefit of posterity.
In the practical part of this work, are Exercises in Articulation, Pitch, Force, Time, and Gesture. These are important, not only to the Student in Elocution, but also to the Stammerer. In training the muscles of speech, as well as those of gesticulation, I begin with exercises of the most energetic kind; because these only will produce the desired effect: by diligently practising energetic exercises, the Student soon acquires a strength and compass of voice, a distinctness of utterance, and a freedom and gracefulness of action, which he could not attain by practising those of an opposite character.
The Exercises in Reading and Declamation have been taken from some of the best ancient and modern authors; and they are well adapted to the purposes of the Student in Elocution. They are divided into paragraphs, and subdivided into sections. The latter division is marked by vertical bars. In concert reading, as soon as a section is pronounced by the teacher, the members of the class should repeat it together, in the proper pitch and time, and with the requisite degree of force. When a paragraph shall have been pronounced in this way, it should be read singly by each member of the class. Sometimes it will be found advantageous to let each pupil, in turn, give out a piece, and the other members of the class repeat it after him; the teacher, meanwhile, making the necessary corrections. In fine, the exercise of reading should be practised in a variety of ways according to circumstances. When a piece is given out with gesticulation, the members of the class should rise simultaneously, immediately after the first section is pronounced, and repeat the words and gesture. As the organs of speech require much training to enable them to perform their functions properly, the pupil should repeat the same exercise till he can articulate every element, and give to each syllable the pitch, force, and time which the sentiment demands.
The art of reading and speaking is not inferior in importance to any branch of learning; yet there is none more generally neglected. While many of the merely ornamental branches are cultivated with zealous assiduity, Elocution is allowed, at best, but a feeble support. Among the numerous colleges with which our country abounds, there is not, perhaps, a single one endowed with a professorship of Elocution! And among our numerous public speakers, how small a number can deliver a discourse without having half the body concealed by a desk or table! The orators of classic Greece never ensconced themselves behind elevated desks, nor “ stood upon all fours," as some of our public speakers do :* they were masters of their art. Hence they needed no screen to conceal uncouth attitudes and awkward gestures from the scrutinizing eye of criticism; nor had occasion to present the crown of the head, instead of the face, to the audience, to hide the blush of ignorance : they exposed the whole person to the audience; they stood erect, in all the dignity of conscious worth; their attitudes were fit models for the statuary; their gestures were replete with grace and expression; their elocution defied criticism.
Let us endeavour to restore Elocution to its former place in the department of useful instruction. Nothing is wanted but a correct medium, laudable ambition, and common industry, to enable our American youth to rival those ancient orators whose eloquence, it is said, “ shook distant thrones, and made the extremities of the earth tremble."
ANDREW COMSTOCK. Philadelphia, November 20, 1841.
* See Figure 1, page 70.
Note. - The Figures which illustrate the subject of this work, were drawn and engraved by Croome and Minot; the Diagrams were engraved by Mumford.
Pustures of the Body
Postures unfavourable to Vocal Delivery..