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It is deeply to be regretted that, notwithstanding the many valuable works published in ancient and modern times on elocution and the art of reading, this branch of education is so generally neglected in our seminaries of learning. Among the ancients, the art of public speaking was cultivated with the utmost degree of assiduity and skill; men of commanding talents and influence were the masters of it: and by attending upon the instructions of the academy, and the exercises of the forum, the youth of Greece and Rome were trained up to use with wonderful effect, their powers of reasoning, in the debates of the Senate, and those of persuasion, in addresses to popular assemblies.
The orations of Cicero and Demosthenes, are considered even at this remote period, master-pieces and models; and we cannot read without astonishment of the effect produced by the ancient orators, upon the minds of their countrymen. Are we to suppose that the public speakers of those days were endowed with powers of intellect, or organs of utterance, which are denied to those of the present period ? or, that the men of this generation are less susceptible of the influence exerted by the beauties of style, or the powers of speech? There can be no ground, I apprehend, for the adoption of such an opinion, and the difference alluded to, may be accounted for, by the comparatively small degree of attention, which is paid to elocution in the prevailing system of modern education.
In most of our primary schools, owing to the want of proper elementary books, and the incompetency of the teachers to supply the deficiency by oral instructions, children acquire false habits of intonation and emphasis, which, like other bad habits of childhood, are seldom corrected by the reflection and mature judgment of riper years.
The art of speaking and reading well, holds a very subordinate rank in the course of studies pursued in colleges and universities, where our young men destined for professional life receive their preparatory training. The greater part of their time is employed in reading the classics in their original languages, with which they are so imperfectly acquainted, that the employment is a task, rather than a pleasure,—and in acquiring a knowledge of the exact sciences; but, with the exception of an occasional exercise in composition and declamation, no effort is made to qualify them for the active, practical duties of the professions, which many of them are intended to fill.
The question asked by the Bishop of Cloyne, in relation to Great Britain, “ whether half the learning of the kingdom, was not lost for want of having a proper delivery taught in our schools and colleges," is no less applicable to the state of things in this country..
We need not, therefore, be surprised at the remark so often made by intelligent observers, of the small proportion of the Clergy who are either persuasive speakers, or accomplished readers. For, by a strange fatuity, the same neglect of Elocution, which is found in colleges, also pervades most of our Theological seminaries. And how can it be expected that men should be proficients in an art which they have never studied ?
Here and there, one of the sacred order, in spite of the disadvantages of education, discharges his important functions, as to the manner of delivering the gospel message and conducting the devotions of the Sanctuary,—with a high degree of eloquence;—but he Is cuisidorod a hiud of prodigy, who has risen to eminence by the force of native genius, or of the most industrious application. These seem to be the only means by which the deficiencies of education above referred to, can be remedied. And surely, every minister of the Gospel, who considers the vast importance of impressive delivery and appropriate action in securing attention to his discourses and efficiency to his pulpit labours, will consider the study of Elocution as having a fair claim upon a portion of his time and energies.
The reading of the Scriptures and forms of prayer and praise, constitutes a part of the public duties of the ministry, not less important than the delivery of sermons; and eminently good readers are not more common than pulpit orators of a high grade. The deficiencies in this respect which so commonly prevail,
are attributable to negligence of certain plain and fundamental rules. For even, though it should be admitted, that nature forms the orator, it cannot be denied that the hand of art has a principal agency in the making of a good reader.
Some valuable lessons on accent, emphasis, intonation, the pitch and management of the voice &c., will be found in the selections contained in the following pages from Sheridan's Art of Reading, and his Lectures on Elocution. Whatever may be thought of the correctness of his views on the accent of the English language, as distinguished from that of the Greek and Latin, which have been controverted by Walker and others ;—we shall find in these lessons, the result of much patient thought and study, by one to whom our mother tongue is deeply indebted, as the father of English Elocution, who first attempted to introduce a fixed system of pronunciation, and to establish the great principles by which propriety and elegance in public reading and speaking, might be attained. His errors may be corrected by reference to the works of those who, with the advantage of his light, have followed him in the same field of investigation. The fundamental rules of the art, however, will be found clearly stated and happily illustrated in the following extracts from his works.
The most important rule, perhaps, is that laid down centuries ago by Quinctilian, and which is worthy of attention in all languages and all climes. “Let every syllable, of every word, especially the last, be properly, distinctly and clearly pronounced.” Distinctness of articulation, correct emphasis, and a deep.felt interest in the sentiments delivered, can hardly fail, where there is not some great defect in the organs of speech, of making a good reader. And therefore the commonness of the deficiency in this respect among the ministers of religion, is the less excusable.
It may be remarked as one of the very strange things in the strange history of human affairs, that the art of Elocution should be most assiduously cultivated by a profession, the only end of whose exhibitions is to afford temporary gratification or idle amusement to the public;—while it is sadly neglected by one, whose duties stand connected with eternity, and which has for its high aim, the salvation of souls and the glory of God.
It is said that Garrick on being asked by a divine, why a greater effect was produced by tragedians in representing fictitious characters on the stage, than by ministers in delivering the most awful truths of religion from the pulpit; gave the following pithy reply: -“We utter fiction, as if it were truth: You utter truth, as if it were fiction.”
The Liturgy of the Protestant Episcopal Church, bas not only received the commendations of the pious of every name, for the chastened fervour, the sublime dignity, and evangelical purity of its devotional offices,—but has also been very generally applauded by men of taste, for the simplicity of language, and beauty of style in which those offices are clothed. When properly performed, our daily service, will almost certainly impart to the souls of true worshippers, the most