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That this collection may also serve the purpose of promoting piety and virtue, the Compiler has introduced many extracts, which place religion in the most amiable light; and which recommend a great variety of moral duties, by the excellence of their nature, and the happy effects they produce. These subjects are exhibited in a style and manner which are calculated to arrest the attention of youth; and to make strong and durable impressions on their minds.*
The Cumpiler has been careful to avoid every expression and sentiment, that might gratify a corrupt mind, or, in the least degree, offend the eye or ear of innocence. This he conceives to be peculiarly incumbent on every person who writes for the benetit of youth. It would, indeed, be a great and happy improvement in education, if no writings were allowed to come under their notice, but such as are perfectly innocent; and if, on all proper occasions, they were encouraged to peruse those which tend to inspire a due reverence for virtue, and an abhorrence of vice, as well as to animate them with sentiments of piety and goodness. Such impressions deeply engraven on their minds, and connected with all their attainments, could scarcely fail of attending them through life, and of producing a solidity of principle and character, that would be able to resist the danger arising, from future intercourse with the world.
l'he Author has endeavoured to relieve the grave and serious parts of his collection, by the occasional admission of pieces which amuse as well as instruct. If, however, any of his readers should think it contains too great a proportion of the former, it may be some apology, to observe that, in the existing publications designed for the perusal of young persons, the preponderance is greatly on the side of gay and amusing productions. Too much attention may
be paid to this medium of improvement. When the imagination, of youth especially, is much entertained, the sober dictates of the understanding are regarded with indifference; and the influence of good affections is either feeble, or transient. A temperate use of such entertainment seems therefore requisite, to afford proper scope for the operations of the understanding and the heart.
The reader will perceive, that the Compiler has been solicitous to recommend to young persons, the perusal of the sacred Scriptures, by interspersing through his work some of the most beautiful and interesting passages of those invaluable writings. To excite an early taste and veneration for this great rule of life, is a point of so high importanee, as to warrant the attempt to promote it on every proper occasion.
To improve the young mind, and to afford some assistance to tutors, in the arduous and important work of education, were the motives which led to this production. If the Author should be so successful as to accomplish these ends, even in a small degree, he will think that his time and pains have been well employed, and will deem himself amply rewarded.
* In some of the pieces, the Compiler has made a few alterations, chiefly Ferbal, to adapt them the better to the design of his work,
OBSERVATIONS ON THE PRINCIPLES OF GOOD
READING TO read with propriety is a pleasing and important attainment; productive of improvement both to the understanding and the heart. It is essential to a complete reader, that he minutely perceive the ideas. and enter into the feelings of the author, whose sentiments he professes to repeat : for how is it possible to represent clearly to others, what we have but faint or inaccurate conceptions of ourselves ? If there were no other benefits resulting from the art of reading well, than the necessity it lays us under, of precisely ascertaining the meaning of what we read; and the habit thence acquired, of doing this with facility, both when reading silently and aloud, they would constitute a sufficient compensation for all the labour we can bestow upon the subject. But the pleasure derived to ourselves and others, from a clear communication of ideas and feelings; and the strong and durable impressions made thereby on the minds of the reader and the audience, are considerations, which give addi. tional importance to the study of this necessary and useful art. The perfect attainment of it doubtless requires great attention and practice, joined to extraordinary natural powers : but as there are many degrees of excellence in the art, the student whose aims fall short of perfection will find himself amply rewarded for every exertion he may think proper to make.
To give rules for the management of the voice in reading, by which the necessary pauses, emphasis, and tones, may be discovered and put in practice, is not possible. After all the directions that can be offered on these points, much will remain to be taught by the living instructer: much will be attainable by no other means, than the force of example influencing the imitative powers of the learner. Some rules and principles on these heads will, however, be found useful, to prevent erroneous and vicious modes of utterance; to give the young reader some taste of the subject; and to assist him in acquiring a just and accurate mode of delivery. The observations which we have to make, for these purposes, may be comprised under the following heads : PROPER LOUDNESS OF VOICE; DISTINCTNESS; SLOWNESS; PROPRIETY OF PRONUNCIATION; EMPHASIS; TONES; PAUSES; and MODE OF READING VERSE.
Proper Loudness of Voice. THE first attention of every person who reads to others, doubtless, must be, to make himself be heard hy all those to whom he reads. He must endeavour to fill with his voice the space occupied by the company. This power of voice, it may be thought, is wholly a natural talent. It is, in a good measure, the gift of nature ; but it may receive considerable assistance from art. Much depends, for this purpose, on the proper pitch and management of the voice. Every person has three pitches in his voice; the High, the MIDDLE, and the low one. The high, is that which he uses in calling aloud to some person at a distance. The low is, when he approaches to a whisper. The middle is, that which he employs in common conversation, and which he should generally use in reading to others. For it is a great mistake, to imagine that one must take the highest pitch of his voice, in order to be well heard in a large company. This is confounding two things which are different, loudness or strength of sound, with the key or note on which we speak. There is a variety of sound within the compass of each key. A speaker may there, fore render his voice lour'er, without altering the key: and we shall always be able to give most bod, most persevering force of sound, to that pitch of voice, to which in conversation we are accustomed. Whereas by setting out
NOTE. For many of the observations contained in this preliminary tract, the Author is indebted to the writings of Dr. Blair, and to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
on our highest pitch or key, we certainly allow ourselves less compass, and are likely to strain our voice before we have done. We shall fatigue ourselves, and red with pain; and whenever a person speaks with pain to himself, he is always heard with pain by his audience. Let us therefore give the voice full strength and swell of sound; but always pitch it on our ordinary speaking key. It should be a constant rule never to utter a greater quantity of voice than we can afford without pain to ourselves, and without any extraordinary effort. As long as we keep within these bounds, the other organs of speech will be at liberty to discharge their several offices with ease, and we shall always have our voice under command. But whenever we transgress these bounds, we give up the reins, and have no longer any management of it. It is a useful rule too, in order to be well heard, to cast our eye on some of the most distant persons in the company, and to consider ourselves as reading to them. We naturally and mechanically utter our words with such a degree of strength, as to make ourselves be heard by the person whom we address, provided he is within the reach of our voice. As this is the case in conversation, it will hold also in reading to others. But let us remember, that in reading, as well as in conversation, it is possible to offend by speaking too loud. This extreme hurts the ear, by making the voice come upon it in rum bling, indistinct masses.
By the habit of reading, when young, in a loud and vehement manner, the voice becomes fixed in a strained and unnatural key; and is rendered inca pable of that variety of elevation and depression which constitutes the true harmony of utterance, and affords ease to the reader, and pleasure to the audi
This unnatural pitch of the voice, and disagreeable monotony, are most observable in persons who were taught to read in large rooms; who were accustomed to stand at too great a distance, when reading to their teachers; whose instructers were very imperfect in their hearing; or who were taught by persons, that considered loud expression as the chief requisite in forming a good reader. These are circumstances which demand the serious attention of every one to whom the education of youth is committed,
Distinctness. In the next place, to being well heard and clearly anderstood, distinctness of articulation contributes more than mere loudness of sound. The quantity of sound necessary to fill even a large space, is smaller than is commonly imagined; and, with distinct articulation, a person with a weak voice will make it reach farther, than the strongest voice can reach without it. To this, therefore, every reader ought to pay great attention. He must give every sound which he utters, its due proportion; and make every syllable, and even every letter in the word which he pronounces, be heard distinctly; without slurring, whispering, or suppressing any of the
An accurate knowledge of the simple, elementary sounds of the language, and a facility in expressing them, are so necessary to distinctness of expression, that if the learner's attainments are, in this respect, imperfect, (and many there are in this situation,) it will be incumbent on his teacher, to carry him back to these primary articulations; and to suspend his progress, till he become perfectly master of them. It will be in vain to press him forward, with the hope of forming a good reader, if he cannot completely articulate every elementary sound of the language.
Due Degree of Slowness. In order to express ourselves distinctly, moderation is requisite with regard to the speed of pronouncing. Precipitancy of speech confounds all articulation, and all meaning. It is scarcely necessary to observe, that there may be also an extreme on the opposite side. It is obvious that a lifeless, drawling manner of reading, which allows the minds of the hearers to be always outrunning the speaker, must render every such performance insipid and fatiguing. But the extreme of reading too fast is much more common, and requires the
more to be guarded against, because, when it has grown into a habit, few errours are mcre difficult to be corrected. To pronounce with a proper degree of slowness, and with full and clear articulation, is necessary to be studied by all, who wish to become good readers; and it cannot be too much recommended to them. Such a pronunciation gives weight and dignity to the subject. It is a great assistance to the voice, by the pauses and rests which it allows the reader more easily to make; and it enables the reader to swell all his sounds, both with more force and more harmony.
Propriety of Pronunciation. AFTER the fundamental attentions to the pitch and management of the voice, to distinct articulation, and to a proper degree of slowness of speech, what the young reader must, in the next place, study, is propriety of pronun. ciation; or, giving to every word which he utters, that sound which the best usage of the language appropriates to it; in opposition to broad, vulgar, or provincial pronunciation. This is requisite both for reading intelligibly, and for reading with correctness and ease. Instructions concerning this article may be best given by the living teacher. But there is one observation, which it may not be improper here to make. In the English language, every word which consists of more syllables than one, has one accented syllable. The accents rest sometimes on the vowel, sometimes on the consonant. The ge. nius of the language requires the voice to mark that syllable by a stronger percussion, and to pass more slightly over the rest. Now, after we have learned the proper seats of these accents, it is an important rule, to give every word just the same accent in reading, as in common discourse. Many persons err in this respect. When they read to others, and with solemnity, they pronounce the syllables in a different manner from what they do at other times. They dwell upon them and protract thein; they multiply accents on the same word; from a mistaken notion, that it gives gravity and importance to their subject, and adds to the energy of their delivery. Whereas this is one of the greatest faults that can be committed in pronunciation : it makes what is called a pompous or mouthing manner; and gives an artificial, affected air to read ing, which detracts greatly both from its agreeableness and its impression.
Sheridan and Walker have published Dictionaries, for ascertaining the true and best pronunciation of the words of our language. By attentively consulting them, particularly “ Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary," the young reader will be much assisted, his endeavours to attain a correct pronunciation of the words belonging to the English language.
Emphasis. By Emphasis is meant a stronger and fuller sound of voice, by which we dis tinguish some word or words, on which we design to lay particular stress, and to show how they affect the rest of the sentence. Sometimes the emphatick words must be distinguished by a particular tone of voice, as well as by a particular stress. On the right management of the emphasis depends the life of pronunciation. If no emphasis be placed on any words, not only is discourse rendered heavy and lifeless, but the meaning left often ambiguous. If the emphasis be placed wrong, we pervert and confound the meaning wholly.
Emphasis may be divided into the Superiour and the Inferiour emphasis. The superiour emphasis determines the meaning of a sentence, with reference to something said before, presupposed by the author as general knowledge, or removes an ambiguity, where a passage may have more senses than one. The inferiour emphasis enforces, graces, and enlivens, but does not fix, the meaning of any passage. The words to which this latter emphasis is given, are, in general, such as seem the most important in the sentence, or, on other accounts, to merit this distinction. The following passage will serve to ex. emplify the superiour emphasis :
“Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
"Brought death into the world, and all our wo," &n.
“Sing heavenly Muse!" Supposing that originally other beings, besides men, had disobeyed the commands of the Almighty, and that the circumstance were well known to us, there would fall an emphasis upon the word man's in the first line; and hence it would read thus :
“Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit," &c. But if it were a notorious truth, that mankind had transgressed in a peculiar manuer more than once, the emphasis would fall on first; and the line be read,
"Of man's first disobedience," &c. Again, admitting death (as was really the case) to have been an unheard of and dreadful punishment, brought upon man in consequence of bis transgression; on that supposition the third line would be read,
“ Brought death into the world,” &c. But if we were to suppose that mankind knew there was such an evil as death in other regions, though the place they inhabited had been free from it till their transgression, the line would run thus :
“ Brought death into the world," &c. The superiour emphasis finds place in the following short sentence, which admits of four distinct meanings, each of which is ascertained by the empha.
“ Do you ride to town to-day?" The following examples illustrate the nature and use of the inferiour emphasis :
“Many persons mistake the love for the practice of virtue."
“Shall I reward his services with falsehood? Shall I forget him who canpot forget me?"
"I his principles are false, no apology from himself can make them right; if founded in truth, no censure from others can make them wrong."
“Though deep, yet clear ; though gentle, yet not dull;
Strong without rage: without verflowing, full." “A friend exaggerates a man's virtues ; an enemy, his crimes.”
“ The wise man is happy, when he gains his own approbation; the fool, when he gains that of others.”
The superiour emphasis, in reading as in speaking, must be determined entirely by the sense of the passage, and always made alike : but as to the inseriour emphasis, taste alone seems to have the right of fixing its situation and quantity.
Among the number of persons, who have had proper opportunities of learn. ing to read, in the best manner it is now taught, very few could be selected, who, in a given instance, would use the inferiour emphasis alike, either as to place or quantity. Some persons, indeed, use scarcely any degree of it: and others do not scruple to carry it far beyond any thing to be found in common discourse, and even sometimes thrrow it upon words so very trifling in themselves, that it is evidently done with no other view, than to give greater variety to the modulation.* Notwithstanding this diversity of practice, there are certainly proper boundaries, within which this emphasis must be restrained, in order to make it meet the approbation of sound judgement and correct taste. It will doubtless have different degrees of exertion, according to the greater or less degrees of importance of the words upon which it operates ; and there may be very properly some variety in the use of it: but its application is not arbitrary, depending on the caprice of readers.
* By modulation is meant that pleasing variety of voice, which is perceived in uttering a sentence, and which, in its nature, is perfectly distinct from emphasis. and the tones of emotion and passion. The young reader should be careful to render his modulation correct and easy; and, for this purpose, should form it upon the model of the most judicious and accurate speakers.