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HE art of Elocution, which, until lately, was little cultivated in this country, is receiving every year more and more attention. It now finds a place in the curriculum of the great majority of our educational and theological training colleges; and the recent circular issued by the Education Department, insisting that the children in elementary schools shall be taught to read with 'intelligence and expression,' should give a further stimulus to expressive reading.
There are three important points for the reader or reciter to study:
CORRECT PRONUNCIATION AND DISTINCT ARTICULATION.
The first aim of the beginner should be distinctness of utterance. No selection, however beautiful or however dramatic, can interest an audience if the words are so imperfectly articulated that they are heard with difficulty. The old lines so often
quoted contain the essence of this first principle of good
Learn to speak slow; all other graces
Will follow in their proper places.
Impediments of speech-lisping, burring, stammering-may be greatly modified, or entirely cured, if distinct articulation is steadily practised.
Lisping-which is the result of the tongue resting against the teeth, thus causing s to be sounded as th-will disappear on holding the tongue back from the lower teeth, in order that its action may be free from the motion of the jaw.
Burring' will vanish if the rough sound of r, instead of being pronounced in the throat, be spoken trippingly on the tongue.
Stammering will gradually yield to frequent exercises in reading with great slowness of utterance, so as to impart additional flexibility and strength to the muscles of the jaws, palate, tongue, and lips.
Freedom from provincialisms comes under the head of pronunciation. A Scotchman may have the true touch in reciting the pathetic Last Journey by Ian Maclaren; but the touch will be wanting if Emily Hickey's beautiful Ballad of Lady Ellen be recited with a similar accent.
Emphasis is the force which is laid on particular words to distinguish them from other words in a sentence. Nouns and verbs are, as a rule, emphatic; but as no rule is without an exception, so the reciter must be largely guided by his own common-sense. He should always keep in mind that words are meant to convey ideas, and the words in the sentence which are the main factors in conveying the idea are those which should receive the principal emphasis. There is perhaps no better test of a reader's intelligence than the justness of his emphasis.
Above all, there can be no really expressive delivery of any selection unless the reciter is in sympathy with the author:
To this one standard make your just appeal,
Here lies the golden secret-Learn to feel.
Gesture has been well defined by one writer as the attempt to 'realise the scene.' Effective gesture is the most difficult of all accomplishments in reciting. Miss Fanny Kemble, in enumerating the indispensable acquirements of an actor, placed these as the first three :
'To know how to stand still.
To move the hands and arms without moving the feet and legs. To move the feet and legs without moving the hands and arms.’
These principles are equally necessary to the reciter, and until they are mastered perfect facility has not been attained.
Repose is one of the most important elements of success. gesture should be made without a reason for it. should never be employed to picture illustrative similes.
We have seen a reciter, in declaiming Aytoun's Charles Edward at Versailles, produce a grotesque effect by stooping down at the words, 'As the watered garden recks not of the drought of yesterday,' and making imaginary flourishes in the air with a phantom garden-hose. 'Suit the word to the action, the action to the word,' is good counsel; but it must not be followed too literally.
In conclusion: BE DISTINCT, BE EARNEST, BE NATURAL, and you cannot fail to be effective.
A word as to the best method of committing a piece to memory may not be out of place. Teachers suggest three plans : (1) The reading of the piece over and over again until it is memorised; (2) The learning of the words sentence by sentence; (3) The writing out of the selection.