Page images

SECTION VII is devoted to the improvement of the voice with reference to Force. In practice, great force of voice is generally connected with elevation of pitch; and thus these elements though entirely distinct are often confounded with each other. The terms piano and forte, in music, have no reference to key or pitch, but refer to force alone. Neither great force nor a high pitch are at all times demanded in delivery; indeed these are never required at the opening of any ordinary address. The best practical rule for the speaker as to force, is—to commence as though addressing a person occupying about the middle of his audience; thus avoiding the consequences of excessive efforts of the voice too long continued, and at the same time leaving room for such increase of force as sentiment

may demand.

Force of voice is the principal element in what is called Ranting. It is however generally accompanied by other excesses—violence in the use of the radical or vanishing stress, or too high a pitch. And when from such causes, the utterance of the speaker becomes obviously difficult, the interest of his audience will soon become that of sympathy for himself, when they can be expected to have little feeling but that of anxiety for his relief and their own.

In SECTION VIII, the learner is presented with the voice in which conversation is usually carried on, under the designation of the Natural Voice. The full development of the vocal powers essential to the higher displays of a perfect oratory, and which is acquired only by a system of training, constitutes what is called the Orotund,—the kind of voice, it may be remarked, by the aid of which some of the masters of song charm and astonish an admiring audi

The other kinds of voice occasionally used and with great effect are the Tremor, the Aspiration, the Guttural, the Falsette, and the Whisper.


It is seen in SECTION IX, that by a careful analysis of the speaking voice, its movements can be measured and set to the musical scale; and that however various the combinations of these vocal movements may at first appear, they may readily be reduced to six, called Phrases of Melody. These are the Monotone, the Rising and Falling Ditone, the Rising and Falling Tritone, and the Alternate Phrase. By a more careful analysis, we ascertain that some of the simpler styles of delivery take their character from the predominance of some one of these phrases of melody. Thus we have the Diatonic Melody, the Melody of the Monotone, of the Alternate Phrase, and of the Cadence; and to these are added the Chromatic Melody which arises from the predominance of the Semitone, and the Broken Melody.

The Mechanical Variety in the employment of the Phrases of Melody, referred to in this section, is often rendered still more offensive, by being combined with a corresponding variety in pitch and force. Thus, sentences are sometimes successively commenced on a high note and with a full voice, which however gradually falls and dies away in force, till it becomes nearly inaudible; and at the same time the melody will almost necessarily be mechanically varied.The learner will infer from this, that errors and faults of delivery, not less than excellences, admit of combination; and indeed he may at this point be reminded, that such faults as these rarely, occur single. These faults thus occurring both single and in combination, how varied are the means of deforming the beautiful simplicity of nature's workmanship!

We close this enumeration of the elements of the speaking voice with the single remark, that whatever of intricacy or of complexity has appeared in this chapter, it has not been produced by us.

Speech is the characteristic of man. Nature has been profuse in those gifts which are connected with this divine power. The learner can find nothing here of our own, or of invention. If indeed he finds here delineated all the resources which nature has placed at man's command, it is perhaps more than we ought to hope. We shall see however, as we proceed with the next chapter, that even with these resources the power and variety of human expression may become almost infinite.





We have now presented to the reader what we deem to be the most important functions of the speaking voice. These are not matters of invention, nor can any of the elements of effective delivery be properly such. They must be dictated by nature herself, and must be drawn out from her great store-house. When by analysis we have discovered and examined them, and by practice and familiarity have made them our own, we then ourselves become masters of the resources of nature.

The exercises of the foregoing chapter have had reference chiefly to the mechanical part of the orator's art; still we have as yet little more than presented the learner with the implements of his future trade. The principal office of Elocution remains, which is, to teach their use—to teach the application of these principles to practice. And then, if the organs of speech, or indeed any of the vocal organs, are defective, even the mechanical part cannot be performed ; but if they are perfect, and yet there is a defective intellect, a bad taste, or a feeble will, they cannot make a perfect orator. Great excellence in oratory must doubtless have as a basis a well-balanced mind:-an intellect capable of a full development, sensibilities lively and susceptible of powerful action, and the elements of a will adequate to the control and regulation of all the powers of the mind. The possession of these must be accompanied with judicious and various exercise: the mind must be stored with knowledge, the reasoning power improved, the judgment matured and perfected, the powers of invention and memory strengthened, and the imagination cultivated and chastened; the original susceptibility of emotion must be kept alive and a good taste grafted thereon; and the will must be trained to a perfect self-possession. If to these natural powers, thus trained, we add a knowledge of human nature, a command of language, a sound body and a good moral character, little can be wanting—but the power of mechanical execution.

The lessons of this chapter, it is believed, will have a tendency further to discipline the voice, at the same time that they improve the judgment, and chasten and correct the taste. The attention of the learner will be successively called to Accent, Emphasis, Expression, the Drifts of Melody, Transition, and Cadence.



ACCENT consists in distinguishing one or more syllables of a word from the others, by some peculiarity in the utterance; and such are the laws of the English language, that every word which consists of more than one syllable, has at least one to be thus characterized, whether uttered singly or in current discourse. Accent then must be given irrespective of feeling or expression; and hence may be defined the inexpressive distinction made between the syllables

« PreviousContinue »