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Having had the honour, a few years ago, to give publick lectures on English Pronunciation at the University of Oxford, I was some time afterwards invited by several of the Heads of Houses to give private lectures on the Art of Reading, in their respective Colleges. So flattering an invitation made me extremely anxious to preserve the favourable impression I had made, and this put me upon throwing the instruction I had to convey into something that had the appearance of a system. Those only who are thoroughly acquainted with the subject, can conceive the labour and perplexity in which this task engaged me : It was not a florid harangue on the advantages of good Reading that was expected from me, but some plain practical rules, in a scholastick and methodical form, that would convey real and useful instruction.
This led me to a distinction of the voice, which though often mentioned by musicians, has been but little noticed by teachers of Reading* ; which is that distinction of the voice into the
* In the first edition of this work I expressed myself with a scrupulous caution, respecting this distinction of voice ; because, in a grammar written a century ago by Charles Butler, of Magdalen College, Oxford, I found a direction for reading the question beginning with the verb, not only in a higher tone, but with a different turn of the voice from the other question ; and in a grammar by Mr. Perry, of Scotland, about thirty years ago, I found the same distinction of voice in the same case : and, except in these two authors, I never met with this distinction in reading till the last edition of Enfield's Speaker ; where, in Rule VII. of the Essay on Elocution, instead of the old direction, Acquire a just variety of Pause and Cadence, I found, Acquire a just variety of Pause and Inflection ; and though in the old Rule there was not a single word about inflection of the voice, in the new one I found the inflections of the voice divided into two kinds ; the one conveying the idea of continua. tion, the other of completion ; the former of which is called the suspending, the latter the closing pause :-though, in a few lines after, we find what is called the closing pause, is often applicable to members, when the sense is suspended. In these new directions, too, I found the question distinguished into two kinds, and the suspending and the closing pause applied respectively to each. I could not help congratulating myself, that a doctrine I had published so many years before, began to be adopted by so judicious a writer as Mr. Enfield. But, when I found it had not only been adopted, but acknowledged by Mr. Murray, the Author of the best Grammar and Selection of Lessons for Reading in the English Language, I found myself fully compensated for the misfortune of not being noticed by the Author of the Speaker.
upward and downward slide, into which all speaking sounds may be resolved : The moment I admitted this distinction, I found I had possession of the quality of the voice I wanted; for though these slides or inflections were indefinite as to their quantity or duration, they were still essentially distinct, and were never convertible into each other ; whereas all the other distinctions were relative ; and what was high and loud in one case, might be soft and low in another. Accordingly I found, upon pursuing this distinction, that, provided the proper slide was preserved on that word which the sense and harmony required, the other distinctions of the voice were more easily attained : and if they were not, the pronunciation was infinitely less injured, than if every other distinction of the voice had been preserved, and this single one. neglected. Here then commenced my system ; infinite were the difficulties and obscurities that impeded my progress at first ; but perseverance, and, perhaps, enthusiasm, at last brought it to a period.
Without any breach of modesty, it may be asserted, that the general idea is new, curious,
and important : and, without any false humility, I am ready to allow, that the manner of treating it has too many faults and imperfections. Besides those incorectnesses which are inseparable from the novelty and difficulty of the subject, it partakes of that haste, that interruption, and want of finishing, which must necessarily arise from the constant and laborious attendance on pupils ; for, though nothing but long practice in actual teaching could have enabled me to construct such a system, it required the leisure and liberty of independence to produce it to the best advantage.