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The faculty of speech (it is observed by an ingenious contemporary) is so intimately connected with every faculty of the mind, that it is impossible substantially to improve the one, without a similar improvement of the others. Without waiting to investigate the truth of this position, it may be enough to remark, that clearness and precision of language, must be founded in clearness and precision of thought; and it is equally certain that a serious cultivation of elocution as a science, is necessary to the practical exhibition of it in an accurate and graceful delivery.
The art of delivery, which has been called the soul of oratory, is from its nature less capable of being communicated by writing, and has been, therefore, less improved than the other departments of our language; thus, while the principles and practice of composition in every possible variety of style, have been unfolded by many distinguished writers with great precision and detail, the acquirement of this valuable accomplishment (Elocution) has been left in a great measure to the casual efforts of imitation.
The importance of Elocution, however, at length induced several ingenious men to construct a systematic outline of the science; and to describe those variations of voice, which the structure and signification of a sentence seemed to require. Many attempts have been made to exhibit some of those modifications of tone and inflexion, which form the essence of a correct enunciation. The several notes of punctuation, may be considered as so many attempts to facilitate the delivery of language; and if properly adapted, are of considerable importance. Marking the emphatic words, also, in a different character, has been found highly advantageous; but, the most simple, the most significant, and the most useful method, remained to be discovered and promulgated by the late ingenious and learned Mr. Walker-a man who has done as much towards correcting and establishing the pronunciation of our language, as Dr. Johnson has done in reducing to a standard its orthography and signification.
The method discovered by Mr. Walker, consists, chiefly, in distinguishing the voice into two essential turns, or inflexions, the rising and the falling. The rising inflexion is that upward turn of the voice we generally use at a comma, or in asking a question beginning with a verb, as No', say you; did he say, no'?” This inflexion has been commonly called a suspension of voice, and is marked with the acute accent, thus ('). The falling inflexion is generally used at the semicolon and colon, and must necessarily be heard in answer to the former question, “He did';-he said no'."
This inflexion is employed at the end of almost every sentence, except the definite question, or that which begins with a verb, and is designated by the grave accent, thus ().
These two inflexions of the voice are the axis, as it were, on which the force, variety, and harmony of speaking turn. They may be considered as indicating the great outlines of pronunciation; and, if they can be tolerably conveyed to a learner, Mr. Walker observes, they must be of nearly the same use to him, as the rough draught of a picture is to a pupil in painting. It must be observed, however, that by the rising or falling inflexion, is not meant the pitch of voice in which the whole word is to be pronounced, but that upward or downward slide which the voice makes when the pronunciation of a word is concluding.
Words require particular inflexions, either according to the particular significations they bear; or as they are differently arranged, or connected with each other. If the sense of a sentence require the voice to adopt the rising inflexion on any particular word, variety and harmony demand the falling inflexion on one of the preceding words; and, on the contrary, if emphasis, harmony, or a completion of sense, require the falling inflexion on any word, that immediately preceding almost always demands the rising inflexion.
Whenever the sense of a sentence begins to form, and the expectation becomes excited, there the rising inflexion must be adopted. An example or two will show the propriety of this general rule.
1st. “As we cannot discern the shadow moving along the di’al-plate; so the advances we make in knowledge are only perceived by the distance gone over.”
2d.“ If, after surveying the whole earth at once, and the several planets that lie within its neighbourhood, we contemplate those wide fields of æther that reach in height as far as from Saturn to the fixed stars, and run abroad almost to an infi'nitude; our imagination finds its capacity filled with so immense a prospect, and puts itself upon the stretch to comprehend it.” In these examples the rising inflexion takes place upon the words“ dial-plate” and “infinitude,” where the sense of each sentence begins to form.
The falling inflexion, on the contrary, is adopted on that particular word of a sentence where a certain portion of perfect sense is recognized, and the expectation, in part, answered. Thus : “ Some men are more apt to consider what they have lost, than what they possess'; and to fix their eyes upon those who are richer than themselves, rather than upon others who are under great difficulties.”.
Again : “ The soul (considered abstractedly from its passions) is of a remiss and sedentary na'ture ; slow in its resolves, and languishing in its executions." The falling inflexion in the two latter examples, takes place on the words “possess” and “nature,” where each of the sentences might have terminated, without any infringement on the sense of either. *
Upon the whole, it may be observed, that different subjects require different inflexions; that familiar, strong, argumentative subjects require the falling inflexion, as this is expressive of activity, force, and precision ; but grand, beautiful, and plaintive subjects (especially of a negative character,) slide naturally into the rising inflexion, as this is expressive of awe, admiration, and melancholy.
It will be evident to those conversant with the subject, that we have yet to notice the monotone, and the rising and falling circumflexes, as adopted by Mr. Walker; but as these tones of the voice are of much less general utility than the common inflexions, we shall briefly notice an example of each, and proceed with the more important parts of the subject.
Monotone may be defined to be, a continuation or sameness of sound, upon certain syllables of a word, exactly like that produced by repeatedly striking a bell; such a stroke may be louder or softer, but continues exactly in the same pitch. To certain solemn and sublime
passages in poetry, this tone gives a peculiar force and dignity; and, by the infrequency of its use, it also adds to that variety, with which the ear is so much delighted. To express this tone upon paper, a horizontal line has been adopted, thus (-).
The grand description of the riches of Satan's throne, in the beginning of Milton's second book of the Paradise Lost, affords us an opportunity of exemplifying the use of this tone:
* A correspondent, well acquainted with Mr. Walker's principles, suggests the adoption of the two following ingenious general Rules.-Ed.
Rule I. Every sentence, or member of a sentence, containing perfect sense, provided it is intended to convey information which is not supposed to be pre-understood, be its form positive or negative, must be accompanied with the falling inflexion.
Rule II. (The converse of Rule first.) Every sentence, or member of a sentence, containing information which is supposed to be pre-understood, be its form what it may, requires the rising inflexion. Of this description, are, in general, negative sentences, though not always ; for the Decalogue, for instance, that contains some negatives,—such as “ Thou shalt not kill,' -being pronounced by the Almighty, might be said to contain primary information ; and a clergyman at the altar personating the Almighty, may be considered as communicating laws not supposed to be pre-understood.
High on a throne of royal state, which far
The monotonous inflexion in this passage commences immediately after the disjunctive “or,” and terminates at the adjective “barbaric.”
The rising circumflex begins with the falling inflexion, and ends with the rising upon the same syllable, and seems as it were to twist the voice upwards. This inflexion may be illustrated by the drawling tone we give to some words spoken ironically; as the word “ Clodius,” in Cicero's oration for Milo.
This turn of the voice is marked with the common circumflex inverted; thus, (). “But it is foolish in us to compare Drusus Africanus, and ourselves with Clodius; all our other calamities were tolerable, but no one can patiently bear the death of Clodius.”
The falling circumflex begins with the rising inflexion, and ends with the falling upon the same syllable, and seems to twist the voice downwards. This inflexion is generally used to express reproach, and may be exemplified by the peculiar tone we hear on the word “ you,” in Hamlet's answer to his mother, who says,
Queen. “Hamlet, you have your father much offended !"
Hamlet. “Madam, you have my father much offended !" This turn of the voice is expressed by the common circumflex ; thus (“).
A moderate attention to these intonations of the voice will be sufficient to show their existence, and the necessity of their occasional employment.*
Before concluding these prefatory remarks, and proceeding to the specific Rules of Mr. Walker, it may be laid down as a general rule respecting emphasis, that the positive member of a sentence uniformly requires the emphatic falling, and the negative member the emphatic rising, inflexion. Answers to a few interrogatories will sufficiently illustrate this important rule; and at the same time afford to the pupil a series of exercises, which, if carefully and frequently gone over, will put him in possession of the rising and falling slides of the voice; without the attainment of which it will be impossible ever to acquire an accurate and harmonious delivery.
* The circumflexes are not necessarily confined to express irony and reproach. Where very important antithesis exists (either expressed or understood), they may be employed with peculiar advantage. Where a word has any thing very particular in its meaning, or where, in some instances, it is a repeated word, considerable addition to its significance, as well as to its novelty and effect, will be imparted by pronouncing it with the falling circumfler ; and, where any very important emphasis is required, accompanied with the rising inflexion, the rising circumflex, as above described, may be satisfactorily and advantageously substituted for the corresponding simple slide (the rising inflexion). See the word “inconvenience," p. 44. * When the interrogatory consists of exactly the same word, as in regard,” the best way to exhibit the inflexion is, to prefix a few appropriate words ;-thus, “ If for our own happiness we have a sincere regard, we shall scrupulously obey the precepts of the Gospel :"-we shall scrupu. lously obey the precepts of the Gospel, if for our own happiness we have a sincere regàrd.
Examples of Interrogatories.
Of these examples it may be repeated, that the pupil must be .completely master before he can expect to make any advancement in the management of the voice, or acquire any thing like a just and elegant delivery.