« PreviousContinue »
of respiration, and to the general system. As exercises in reading aloud, public speaking, and lecturing, require some exertion, they ought to be indulged in with prudence, and constant reference to the constitution and health of the indi. vidual.
3. When early resorted to, and steadily persevered in, they are instrumental in warding off disease, and communicating strength to an important function. But when begun suddenly, and carried to excess by persons with weak lungs, they are more directly injurious than almost any other cause. It is not uncommon for young divines to give themselves up to preaching, without any previous preparation for the effort which it requires; and to experience, in consequence, pains in the chest, spitting of blood, and other dangerous forms of disease, which often extinguish their brightest prospects in the morning of life.
4. Sacrifices of this kind, are the more to be lamented, because it is probable, that, by a well planned system of gradual preparation, many who fall victims, might find in their profession, even a source of safety. The celebrated and lamented Cuvier is considered to have been saved from an early death, by engaging in the moderate and regular exercise of his lungs in lecturing. Other examples of the same kind, might be mentioned.
5. But it is important to observe, that in all of them, the exercise was, at all times, accurately proportioned to the existing state of the lungs. Had active disease existed, or the exertion required, been beyond what the lungs were fully able to bear, the effect would have been, not to improve health, but to destroy life; and this condition of accurate relation between the amount of exercise and the state of the organization, must never, for a moment, be overlooked.
6. With a little care, however, the point at which direct exercise of the lungs ought to stop, may easily be determined by observing its effects. The loud and distinct speaking, en. forced in many public schools, is productive of much good to
7. Let any one who doubts its efficacy as an exercise of the lungs, attend to what passes in his own body on reading aloud a single paragraph, and he will find, not only that deep inspirations and full expirations are encouraged; but that a considerable impulse is communicated to the bowels, affording a
marked contrast to the slight breathing, and quiescent posture of those whose voices never rise above a whisper.
The above article, from Dr. Combe, is worthy of attention. That we all ought to be careful of our health, is too plain to require argument. Our duty and happiness alike prompt us to preserve it. Some of the ancients used to employ physicians to prevent their becoming sick. If we are temperate and prudent, and occasionally engage in invigorating exercises, we shall seldom need medical aid. The beneficial effects of vocal gymnastics, judiciously conducted, are not yet fully appreciated; but there is a probability that elocutionary exercises will, ere long, form a part of every liberal course of instruction in all our literary institutions, including certainly common schools. A knowledge of Phonology is no less essential to ladies, than to gentle
The earlier in life both sexes become familiar with its principles, the better.
4. THE VOICE.—Journal of Health. 1. The preservation of the voice, and the means of improving its tone and compass, are subjects of no little interest
, especially to the public speaker. Even though it be exerted only in ordinary conversation, in reading aloud, or in singingwhether as a part of religious worship or in the social circle; a full, clear, and pleasing voice, must be considered as no mean accomplishment.
2. The first and most important rule for the preservation of the voice, supported equally by ancient authorities and modern experience, is, that the public speaker should, if he “strive for the mastery," be habitually temperate in all things, moderate in the indulgence of the table, and not given to any personal excess.
3. The voice should not be exerted after a full meal. It should never be urged beyond its strength, nor strained to its utmost pitch, without intermission. Frequent change of pitch is the best preservative. The voice, when hoarse, should not be exerted, if it can possibly be avoided.
4. To speak well with any thing in the mouth, is scarcely possible. Few things are so injurious to the voice as tobacco. By the use of it, the voice becomes dry, and is rendered harsh and broken. Snuffing is even more objectionable than chewing; by causing the breathing to be carried on solely through the mouth, the use of snuff produces very nearly the same change in the tone of the voice, as occurs in an individual laboring under a cold.
5. The voice, as well as the health of a speaker, suffers materially, unless the chest is allowed to expand freely. Hence, all compression or restraint should be carefully removed from this portion of the body; for the same reason, an erect position should be assumed, as well in speaking and reading aloud, as in singing
6. The tone of the voice is also considerably impaired and its strength diminished, by a tightly drawn or large cravat. The neck should, therefore, be free from compression, and but lightly covered.
The great means of improving the voice, as well as all other improvements, is constant and daily practice.
7. The ancients were in the daily practice of preparatory declamation. Their rule was, after proper bodily exercise, to begin at the lowest tones of their voice, and proceed gradually to the highest. They are said to have produced about five hundred lines in this manner, which were committed to memory, in order that the exertions of the voice might be less embarrassed.
8. In order to strengthen the voice, Mr. Sheridan advises that such persons as have weak utterance, should daily practise to read and repeat in a large room, in the hearing of a friend. The latter should be placed at the farthest point at which he can hear distinctly, without the voice of the speaker being strained. There he should remain during his declamation.
9. It will be found, perhaps, that the same practice will be more easily and effectually pursued in the open air, particularly as every speaker cannot conveniently obtain the use of a room of the requisite dimensions.
The ideas promulgated in the above article from the " Journal of Health," published at Philadelphia, are perfectly correct.
Health is certainly promoted, and the powers of the voice greatly developed, by reading, conversing, reciting, or giving the elements, aloud. It is equally true, that all stimulating drinks and things are prejudicial to health, and particularly so, to the voice. Especially, do ardent spirits, wine, tobacco, and snuff, injure the voice, as well as the general health. The consumption, to which so many fall victims among us, may, in some instances, be avoided by rhetorical and gymnastic exercises. The Latin writers put it upon that ground Seneca advises his friend Lucilius, who was of a consumptive habit, to engage in reading and declamation. Such exercises strengthen the chest. and fortify the lungs against disease. The learned Armstrong says:
* Read aloud resounding, Homer's strains,
And wield the thunder of Demosthenes :-
6. DEMOSTHENES.-Charles Rollin.
1. Demosthenes had a weak voice, a thick way of speaking, and a very short breath, in consequence of which, he was often obliged to stop in the midst of his sentences for respiration. This occasioned his being hissed by the whole audience. As he withdrew, hanging down his head, and in the utmost confusion, Satyrus, one of the most excellent actors of those times, who was his friend, met him; and having learned from himself the cause of his being so much dejected, he assured him that the evil was not without remedy, and that the case was not so desperate as he imagined.
2. He desired him to repeat some of the verses of Sophocles or Euripides to him, which he accordingly did. Satyrus spoke them after him, and gave them such a tone, gesture, and spirit, that Demosthenes himself found them to be quite different from what they were in his own manner of speaking. He perceived plainly what he wanted, and applied himself to acquiring it.
3. His efforts to correct his natural defect of utterance, and to perfect himself in pronunciation, of which his friend' had made him understand the value, seem almost incredible; and prove that an industrious
perseverance can surmount all things. He stammered to such a degree, that he could not pronounce some letters; among others, the letter R, with which the art he studied begins; and he was so short-breathed, that he could not utter a whole period without stopping:
4. He overcame these obstacles at length, by putting pebblestones into his mouth, and pronouncing several verses in that manner without interruption, and by walking and going up steep and difficult places; so that at last, no letter made him hesitate, and his breath held out through the longest periods. He went also to the sea shore ; and, while the waves were in the most violent agitation, he pronounced harangues, to accustom himself, by the confased noise of the waters, to the roar of the people, and the tumultuous cries of public assemblies.
5. Demosthenes took no less care of his action than his voice. He had a large looking-glass in his house, which served to teach him gesture, and at which he used to declaim, before he spoke in public. To correct an ill habit which he had contracted, of shrugging up his shoulders, he practised standing upright in a very narrow pulpit, over which hung a sword, in such a manner, that if, in the heat of the action, that motion escaped him, the point of the weapon might serve at the same time, to admonish and correct him.
6. His application to studies was no less surprising. To be the more removed from noise, and less subject to distraction, he caused a small room to be made for him under ground, in which he shut himself up, sometimes for whole months, shaving on purpose half his head and face, that he might not be in a condition to go abroad. It was there, by the help of a small lamp, he composed his admirable orations, which were said by those who envied him, to smell of the oil, to imply they were too elaborate.
7. His pains were well bestowed; for it was by these means, that he carried the art of declaiming to the highest degree of perfection of which it was capable;
whence it is plain, he well knew its value and importance. When he was asked three several times, which quality he thought most necessary in an orator, he answered each time,“ Pronunciation !".
8. By making the reply three times successively, he insinuated, that pronunciation is the only qualification, of which the want could least be concealed, and which is the most capable of concealing other defects; and, that that alone could give considerable weight, even to an indifferent orator, when without it, the most excellent could not hope for the least suc.
As to Demosthenes, Cicero tells us that his success was so great, that all Greece came in crowds to Athens to hear him speak; and he adds, that merit so great as his, could not but have the desired effect.
Demosthenes the famous Grecian orator was born at Athens, then the rival of Rome, 381 years anterior to the Christian era. He was a pupil of Plato; and so great was the ardor and diligence with which he entered on the study of elocution, under the tuition of that celebrated philosopher and traveller, that almost in defance of nature herself, we see him “ drag op drowned 'honor by the locks,” by the power of that eloquence which prompted his hearers to cry out as one man: “Let us march against Phil