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READING & SPEAKING;
TO IMPROVE THE MINDS AND REFINE
TO WHICH IS PREFIXED,
RULES IN ELOCUTION,
DIRECTIONS FOR EXPRESSING THE PRINCIPAL
BY NOAH WEBSTER, Esq.
Hogan's Seventh improved Edition, carefully corrected.
PUBLISHED AND SOLD BY DAVID HOGAN,
THOMAS T. STILES, PRINTER.
TO THE FIRST REVISED EDITION.
THE "AMERICAN SELECTION," though well received and much used in schools, has been thought susceptible of improvement; the compiler has therefore made some alterations, omitting some pieces, which are believed to be less adapted to interest young minds, and substituting others, which cannot fail to be as interesting as useful. The present edition comprehends a great variety of sentiment, morality, history, elocution, anecdote and description; and it is believed, will be found to contain as much interesting matter, as any compilation of the size and price.
New-Haven, Sept. 1804.
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT, ss.
BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the thirteenth day of January, in the twenty-eighth year of the Independence of the United States of America, NOAH WEBSTER, Jun. of said District, Esq. hath deposited in this office the Title of a Book, the right whereof he claims as author, in the words following, viz. "An American Selection of Lessons in Reading and Speaking, calculated to improve the minds and refine the taste of youth; to which are prefixed, Rules in Elocution, and directions for expressing the principal passions of the mind. By NOAH WEBSTER, Jun. Author of Dissertions on the English Language, Collection of Essays and Fugitive Writings, The Prompter, &c." In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled "An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned."
Clerk of the District of Connecticut.
A GOOD articulation consists in giving every letter and syllable its proper proportion of sound.
Let each syllable, and the letters which compose it, be pronounced with a clear voice, without whining, drawling, lisping, stammering, mumbling in the throat, or speaking through the nose. Avoid equally a dull drawling habit, and too much rapidity of pronunciation; for each of these faults destroys a distinct articulation.
Observe the Stops, and mark the proper Pauses; but make no pause where the sense requires none.
The characters we use as stops are extremely arbitrary, and do not always mark a suspension of the voice. On the contrary they are often employed to separate the several members of a period, and show the grammatical construction. Nor when they are designed to mark pauses, do they always determine the length of those pauses, for this depends much on the sense and nature of the subject. A semicolon, for example, requires a longer pause in a grave discourse than in lively and spirited declamation. However, as children are incapable of nice distinctions, it may be best to adopt, at first, some general rule with respect to the pauses, and teach them to pay the same attention to these characters as they do to the words. They should be cautioned likewise against pausing in the midst of a member of a sen tence, where the sense requires the words to be closely cor neeted in pronunciation.
*See my American Spelling book, in which the pauses of the comma, semicolon, colon, and period, are fixed at one, two, four, six
Pay the strictest attention to Accent, Emphasis, and Cadence. Let the accented syllables be pronounced with a proper stress of voice; the unaccented, with little stress of voice, but distinctly.
The important words of a sentence, which I call naturally emphatical, have a claim to a considerable force of voice; but particles, such as of, to, as, and, &c. require no force of utterance, unless they happen to be emphatical, which is rarely the case. No person can read or speak well, unless he understands what he reads; and the sense will always determine what words are emphatical. It is a matter of the highest consequence, therefore, that a speaker should clearly comprehend the meaning of what he delivers, that he may know where to lay the emphasis. This may be illustrated by a single example. This short question, Will you ride to town to-day? is capable of four different meanings, and consequently of four different answers, according to the placing of the emphasis. If the emphasis is laid upon you, the question is whether you will ride to town or another person. If the emphasis is laid on ride, the question is whether you will ride or go on foot. If the emphasis is laid on town, the question is, whether you will ride to town or to another place. If the emphasis is laid on to-day, the question is, whether you will ride to-day or some other day. Thus the whole meaning of a phrase often depends on the emphasis; and it is absolutely necessary that it should be laid on the proper words.
Cadence is a falling of the voice in pronouncing the closing syllable of a period. This ought not to be uniform, but different at the close of different sentences.*
But in interrogative sentences, the sense often requires the closing words or syllables to be pronounced with an elevated voice. This however, is only when the last word is emphatical; as in this question, "Betrayest thou the Son of
* We may observe, that good speakers always pronounce upon a certain key; for altho' they modulate the voice according to the various ideas they express, yet they retain the same pitch of voice.-Accent and Emphasis require no elevation of the voice, but a more forcible expression on the same key. Cadence respects the last syllable only of the sen tence, which syllable is actually pronounced with a lower tone of voice; but when words of several syllables close a period, all the syllables but the last are pronounced on the same key as the rest of the sentence.
Man with a kiss ?" Here the subject of enquiry is, whether the common token of love and benevolence is prostituted to the purpose of treachery! the force of the question depends on the last word, which is therefore pronounced with an elevation of voice. But in this question "Where is boasting then?" The emphatical word is boasting, which of course requires an elevation of voice.
The most natural pitch of voice is that in which we speak in common conversation. When the voice is raised above this key, pronunciation is difficult and fatiguing. There is a difference between a loud and a high voice. A person may speak much louder than he does in ordinary discourse, without any elevation of voice; and he may be heard distinctly, upon the same key, either in a private room, or in a large assembly.
Let the sentiments you express be accompanied with proper Tones, Looks and Gestures.
By tones are meant the various modulations of voice by which we naturally express the emotions and passions. By looks we mean the expression of the emotions and passions in the countenance.
Gestures are the various motions of the hands or body, which correspond to the several sentiments and passions which the speaker designs to express.
All these should be perfectly natural. They should be the same which we use in common conversation. A speaker should endeavour to feel what he speaks; for the perfection of reading and speaking is to pronounce the words as if the sentiments were our own.
If a person is rehearsing the words of an angry man, he should assume the same furious looks; his eyes should flash with rage, his gestures should be violent, and the tone of his voice threatening. If kindness is to be expressed, the countenance should be calm and placid, and wear a smile; the tone should be mild, and the motion of the hand inviting. An example of the first, we have in these words, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." An example of the last, in these words, "Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." A man who should repeat these different passages with the