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OF THE VOICE.
The voice is the organ of cloquence, and has the entire dominion over one sense. The necessity for its proper management must be obvious to even the least reflective mind; for no one can fail to perceive that the understanding is more vividly impressed and influenced by language and tones, than by the countenance or gesture, as the ear is more easily interested than the eye.
The qualities and management of the voice are therefore of the greatest advantage to the public speaker, as upon them depends his success in the practice of eloquence. The qualities of the voice being the gift of nature, are, as are all of nature's gifts, bestowed to be improved, subjected to the training of art. The majority of our public speakers pay too little attention to the cultivation of the voice. Often when we look to hear their sentiments delivered in a bold, sonorous tone, we are, instead, stunned by vociferation, or compelled to tax our hearing in order to comprehend their whispers. Vociferation often carries the day, for all men are not judges of fine composition, nor are all capable of estimating the just weight of argument; therefore it is that superficial speakers make up in loudness of voice for lack of matter in the compositions they utter. Like the Roman Novius, they bawl themselves into credit.
The sound of a powerful human voice carries with it an imperiousness that often terrifies as well as convinces. Homer in speaking of Achilles, attributes to the voice of his hero an irresistible effect:
"He stood and shouted: Pallas also raised
But the shout of Milton's rebel angels is still more magnificent than that of all Homer's heroes and gods:
"At which the universal host up sent
A shout, that tore hell's concave, and beyond
The voice is considered first, as to its nature; secondly, as to the management of it. The nature of the voice is again divided into quantity and quality.
In the quantity of the voice are considered
That a voice decidedly imperfect can, by any art, be improved so as to answer every effort of oratory, is altogether hopeless; but if the ear be not wholly depraved, the power and qualities of the voice, if they be moderately good, may be much improved. Though there are some methods by which the nature of the voice itself may be improved, yet it is to the management of the voice, such as it may be, which he possesses, that the orator should chiefly direct his attention. By due exertions in this way, though he may not absolutely improve the natural qualities of his voice, he will give them the
highest effect of which they are capable. With certain management, few voices are so bad as not to be rendered capable of discharging tolerably well the functions of public speaking in our assemblies; and few, perhaps, are to be found so perfect as not to require some alteration; or which may not derive benefit from the observation of some of the general rules for the management of that organ. These rules, in the order of their importance, may be considered under the following heads:
2. Pronunciation and accent.
7. Modulation and variety. 8. Tones.
The first point in the management of the voice, and that of the most indispensable necessity, is articulation; because imperfection in this respect, would obscure every other talent in a public speaker. According to Sheridan, "good articulation consists in giving every letter in a syllable its due proportion of sound, according to the most approved custom of pronouncing it, and in making such a distinction between the syllables of which words are composed, that the ear shall, without difficulty, acknowledge their number, and perceive at once to which syllable each letter belongs. Where these points are not observed, the articulation is proportionally defective."
The importance of a correct articulation will be recognized, when we consider that a public speaker, possessed of only a moderate voice, if he articulates correctly, will be better understood, and heard with greater pleasure, than one who vociferates without judgment. The voice of the latter may, indeed, extend to a considerable distance, but the sound is
dissipated in confusion: of the former voice, not the smallest vibration is wasted, every stroke is perceived even at the utmost distance to which it reaches; d hence it often has the appearance of penetrating even further than one which is loud, but badly articulated.
Good articulation is not only conducive to the improvement of the voice in clearness and strength, but it is the criterion of a speaker's knowledge of his language; hence the almost unconquerable imperfections in the utterance of those who, in their infancy, have been given up to the care of vulgar speakers. As the difficulty of acquiring a correct articulation. is unusually great in the English language, the foundation must be laid at that age when the organs are most tractable. Would parents and instructors direct their attention to this matter, a manifest improvement would quickly follow; yet to acquire a correct articulation, is not so difficult as to defy the assaults of labor, where nature has not placed a barrier in the form of an impediment, such as lisping or stammering.
Impediments, Stammering, etc., with infallible Rules for Cure.
As connected with the subject of articulation, it appears necessary to say a few words concerning impediment of speech. In cases where a small degree of hesitation breaks the fluent tenor of discourse, much may be done by due attention. In seeking for a remedy, it must be considered that as persons of delicate habits are more generally subject to it, it no doubt proceeds from a constitutional trepidation. Care of the health, then, is the foundation of every hope of cure. All excesses should be avoided; all irregularities guarded against. All the powers of the mind should be enlisted in the combat with the defect. A young person should, therefore, speak with deliberation, and when alone, practice frequently those words or letters which he finds it most difficult to enounce. He should also furnish his mind