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I am the happy owner of a goodly library of elocution. The older worthies-Austin, Sheridan, Steele, Walker, Rush, Barber, Weaver, Comstock, Caldwell, Bronson, Murdoch and Russell, Murdoch, Kirkham, Gummere, Mandeville, Bell, Frobisher, Bacon, and the rest,-touch elbows with the two Raymonds, Fulton and Trueblood, Clark, Chamberlain, Townsend Southwick, Curry, Warman, King, Ayres, Kleiser, and dozens more; and the throng increases every year.
If possible, I should own every extant work on the subject.
It is true, that, as a rule, the great bulk of each book is essentially contained in almost every other; but it is also true that, with scarcely an exception, each writer adds something, much or little, from his own store of thought, practice, and observation, and so swells the common stock of knowledge, precept, and tradition. Theories conflict; ignorance, guesswork, and pretension sometimes pose as knowledge and wisdom; terminology is as yet unsettled; the more of anatomy, physiology, and acoustics we learn, the less we seem to know about the causation of voice; the new Delphic oracle, psychology, confers authority and impressiveness-and obscurity-upon any and every sort of doctrine and opinion: nevertheless, there is not one of all my books that I have not learned from, and not one that I should be willing to part with. This is my apology and warrant, if they are needful, for writing another book on the speaking voice.
The notions of the vast majority of people about elocution would be amusing, did they not sadly indicate the almost universal ignorance and neglect of the art. 'Expressive and tuneful speech is a natural gift,' says one; 'unless your
lips are touched with the live coal from the altar, all your labor and learning will never make you eloquent.' 'It would take a long lifetime to learn the rules, another to learn their applications and exceptions; and the result would not be worth the trouble,' declares another. A third says, The best readers and speakers are the most natural: that is the whole secret be perfectly natural, and your elocution is perfect.' A fourth: 'Get the thought, thrill with the feeling, let yourself go, and you cannot go wrong.' A fifth: 'It is all a question of the height of your stilts: the higher the stilts, the more elevated the elocution: the more turgid and violent you are, the more elaborate and extravagant, the more you put on-the more impressive you are: no great orator, actor, or reader ever stood with his feet on the ground.' “Read and speak as you talk: any solicitude about tone, inflection, emphasis, pause, attitude and action, will inevitably render you artificial,' pronounces the sixth.
Music, painting, sculpture, literature, acting, and architecture are recognized as arts; for the reason, clearly, that they are more or less remote from our everyday, commonplace habit of mind. They appeal to the ideal, and, so far as in us lies, we respond to the appeal; or are willing to confess that the irresponsiveness rests in our own ignorance or lack of esthetic sense. We concede that to become eminent in any of those arts demands high natural endowment, supplemented by years of study and development; and to the worthy exponent we begrudge no rewards of wealth and honor.
Speech, on the other hand, is a familiar thing,-a utility, a tool, an every-moment, indispensable convenience, like eyesight and hearing, acquired without conscious effort and used as an inalienable, inherent possession. It is in every· body's mouth; we all talk, and keep talking, well or badly,
and the phenomena of pause, emphasis, melody, force, and
quality are employed with little or no attention or purpose except to say our say.'/ The voice is played upon by thought and feeling, and co-ordinates with them: if thought and feeling are clear and definite, so will be utterance, emphasis, and intonation; which become vague and indefinite, as thought and feeling are so. Using speech in this way, as a mere means of necessary converse in the household, the drawing-room, the shop, the office, and the street, it is difficult to bring ourselves to regard it as an art,-as, in its highest manifestations, the art supreme.
It is altogether incredible that this menial, this bearer of burdens, this rough-and-ready spokesman of traffic, is an angel; for his wings are folded and hidden, until our souls are opened by some master of eloquence to recognize the heavenly messenger. And, alas! in our individual cases, his uses have Ween so long attuned to the sordid, the common, the idle, the slipshod, the meager, the extravagant, that his release can only be gradual, and the liberated serf must slowly toil and grope his upward way to freedom and heaven. He cannot spread his wings, until he has accomplished the weary climb to a purer atmosphere.
'If we would read well, we must first learn how,' says Doctor James Rush, in his 'Philosophy of the Human Voice'; and, as a preliminary to the learning how, we must cease to look upon graceful, becoming speech as purely spontaneous, instinctive, and self-directed, an unordered maze of haphazard sounds,-and accept it as an art, to be acquired, and worth what expenditure soever of continued pains and effort.
Art, of whatever kind or degree, is the fine result of appropriate means intelligently directed to a definite end.
Raffaello declared that the artist represents objects, not as Nature makes them, but as she is ever striving to make them. Shakespeare, speaking of the art of flower-culture, says:-