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The principles adopted as the basis of this Manual, and which are developed in its successive pages, it is believed, do not differ materially from those views of the subject which have already received the stamp of public approbation. But this concession is not intended to prejudice the claim of this book to all the originality, as regards either arrangement, method of illustration, or matter, which experience in the business of teaching could be expected to suggest on such a subject.
The work of Dr. Rush, just referred to, relates to a single branch only; and neither this nor the Chironomia professes to be a practical manual. Several practical works, both on the Voice and on Gesture, are, however, before the public. From the merits of these I would not wish to detract one tittle. Had they fewer faults and greater excellences, the future authors of text-books in this interesting but neglected branch of science would find less formidable prejudices to contend with. I have, as I trust, too just a sense of the responsibility involved in the preparation of a Text-Book for Learners, to dare to assume it with any feeling of carelessness or indifference. He who prepares a popular textbook becomes the benefactor or the curse of the age in which he lives; and, in the last case, may be held answerable even to posterity for the injury inflicted on the world. All these elementary works, also, which were within my reach, have therefore been consulted; and from them some useful suggestions have been adopted. They possess very different degrees of excellence; but it is sufficient to authorize another attempt at setting forth this difficult subject, that no one of them presumes to bring in a claim to perfection. Neither does the present work; though it has at least one advantage over others that of presenting both branches of the subject in the same volume, which must prove a great convenience to the teacher, as well as to the learner.
Though some new technical terms will present themselves to the student of this Manual, as few such have been used as the objects and nature of the work would possibly allow; and from among those employed by different writers, such have been selected as were judged best fitted to express the ideas embraced in them. So far as the nomenclature of this science is concerned, the authors before named have left little for future writers to supply; and to their works the faithful teacher will not fail to make frequent reference, till he shall have fully imbibed their spirit.*
I am aware of the difficulty of setting forth with perfect clearness a subject which is new; and such will this be to many into whose hands this book will fall. Yet I flatter myself that I have succeeded in rendering the entire subject so simple that any person of ordinary resolution and perseverance can master it, even without an instructor. This object I have had constantly in view, with the hope that many a young man, already engaged in the duties of the holy ministry, may be induced to subject himself to a course of private training, which may both prolong his life, and make every portion of it more useful. Still, a few lessons from a good teacher, when access can be had to one, will greatly facilitate the progress of the learner.
* In describing the vocal phenomena, I have but rarely found occasion to deviate from the technical forms of expression used by Dr. Rush; and still less frequently to dissent from the principles established in his masterly work on the Human Voice. In setting forth the elementary sounds of the English language, however, I have chosen to retain the old distinction into vowels and consonants, as well adapted to a popular text-book; and have used the term tonic, to designate a portion of the consonants,a term which he applies only to the vowel elements. The term Slide also, is not employed by Dr. Rush, which proves that it is not indispensable even in a full discussion of the functions of the voice. It is used in this work merely as a matter of convenience, being both a short and expressive designation of one of the most important functions of the speaking voice.
To the intelligent and observing, the remark will appear trite, that in our age, and particularly in our country, a good delivery is one of the most important acquisitions to the scholar. To the man who wishes to produce a strong impression on the present age, what other acquisition promises so much? But the truth that a good delivery can be acquired by study and practice, is now almost as generally admitted by the intelligent as is the fact of its importance; and this Manual is presented but as a more perfect development of the same system which has produced nearly all the accomplished orators of our day.. This is but a system of principles, by which the learner is to be led into the very arcana of the orator's art, instead of acquiring by mere imitation the power of mimicking some of his tones and ges
The section on Expression, it is believed, is a more full attempt to present the vocal "language of the passions," in intelligible terms, than has ever before been made. In this it is not proposed to furnish a substitute for real feeling. In oratory there can be no substitute for this. The object of this section is, First, to do for the learner what is done for the student in many other branches of science-to give him a theoretical knowledge of that, the practice of which nature may perhaps have taught him; Secondly, to enable him, by the use of the appropriate symbols of feeling, to awaken within himself emotion, when perhaps it may not exist to the extent he desires, for the natural language of any passion tends to excite that passion, as directly as the existence of the passion prompts to its natural expression; Thirdly, to assist him in overcoming bad habits, whether of extravagance or of feebleness, in the vocal expression of the passions; and, Fourthly, to furnish what appears to me the best system of training for the voice that can be devised,—one that will best develop all its powers, at the
same time that it makes the learner familiar with their practical uses.
The art of engraving was little understood by the ancients. In modern works on elocution much advantage has been taken of the improvements in this art; and in regard to gesture, abundant illustrations have been furnished, which addressing the eye, make a stronger as well as a more definite impression on the mind than could well be made by words. The Chironomia, in particular, contains a very full set of excellent illustrations of the principles of gesture, which most of the later writers on elocution have very judiciously used, instead of attempting to furnish new and inferior drawings. From these I have selected such as would fully answer my purpose; but have added whatever I judged necessary to a complete set of illustrations for my work.*
While examples have been selected for illustrating all the principles of vocal modulation and expression, the book has not been encumbered with extracts from other authors merely for practice. This part of the business has been well done by others; and there are books enough before the public containing selections, both for reading and speaking. Perhaps a book of selections might be made better suited to improve the higher powers of elocution than any we now have; it was not, however, any part of the object of this Manual to supply such defect. Without any such matter, the pages of my book have multiplied beyond what was contemplated when it was undertaken,-and that, though brevity has been most assiduously studied.
If the objects proposed in this Manual have been accom
* The Diagrams and Figures which illustrate the subject of this Manual have been engraved by J. Spittall, of Philadelphia. Most of them have also been drawn by him; though several of the Figures have been drawn by C. Burton, of Carlisle, Pa.
plished, the work now submitted to the public may be studied with advantage by every class of public speakers; and the practice it suggests is especially adapted to train the future speaker for his responsible work. But many of the principles of reading and speaking are the same; so that he, also, who would become a good reader must study some such work as this, to render him familiar with these principles. Aside, however, from all these considerations, there are reasons why elocution should be studied. The natural sciences are taught in all our schools, that those who study them may be able to classify and give names to the various objects of nature. Even the young lady studies Botany and the Geography of the heavens, that she may be able to name the plants and the stars. And is it a matter of no interest to her to be able to speak intelligibly of the excellences and defects of those whom from time to time she hears speak?— to give names to the qualities of the voice and of the action which they employ? It is not, perhaps, too much to say, that the time will come, when the power to criticise a speech shall be considered as essential to the scholar as is now the ability to criticise a written composition,—when Elocution and Rhetoric shall be studied as constituting sister departments, even in a common English education. Then would every professed speaker cultivate his natural powers, so that a failure in the management of his voice or in gesture would be as rare as such a failure now is among professed singers or performers on musical instruments. On the same principle that men can learn to sing, or to handle the bow, or touch the keys of an instrument for the production of harmonious sounds, they can learn to manage the voice in speaking, or the arms and hands in gesture.
DICKINSON COLLEGE, November, 1844.