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to quiet folk who are content with intelligence and refinement." Though happily the airs and attitudinizings of the inferior adepts are seen less often than formerly, and they no longer meet with the unqualified approval of even the half-educated, it is doubtful whether we realize now, any more than when Dowden wrote, the educational and the cultural value of reading aloud. Anyhow, good reading is rarely heard in the school or the home or elsewhere. And though our students are possibly better prepared to stand before others and make a talk or give a formal address than they were ten or twenty years ago, few of them can read a page of print with clearness, ease, or naturalness.
Again to quote from Professor Dowden: The reading which we should desire to cultivate is intelligent reading, that is, it should express the meaning of each passage clearly; sympathetic reading, that is, it should convey the feeling delicately; musical reading, that is, it should move in accord with the melody and harmony of what is read, be it verse or prose." If this sort of reading were cultivated wisely in our homes and schools, another generation would perhaps find good reading more generally practiced than now, and an understanding and love of good literature more prevalent among young people than at the present time. It is the hope of the author that this book may be instrumental, even in a slight degree, in stimulating interest in reading aloud and in simplifying some of the problems of teaching it.
The study of reading aloud is concerned with three problems, namely: thinking, feeling, and style of speech. Of these, thinking is of prime importance and demands first consideration. While enjoyment through awakened imagination and feeling is the ultimate
purpose of literature, it is the author's ideas and the information he gives us which call these faculties into action. As children we
did not rejoice at the deliverance of Robinson Crusoe from his island until we were told that the ship was ready for his rescue and that he was so overcome that he was at first ready to sink down with surprise.” We are not struck with horror at Macbeth's crime until we are told that “he is about it.” So, in reading aloud, the listener can derive little pleasure from what he hears unless the sense of it is made clear to him. Interest and enjoyment wait on understanding.
An attempt to arouse the emotions in reciting a piece of literature before one understands it or knows what the emotions are about, like an effort at fine writing when one has nothing to say, expresses nothing so much as vanity and poverty of thought. One suspects that a good deal of the elocutionary affectation of the past was due to this sort of perversion.
But no reading is adequate which fails to express the spirit of what is read. Every thought, if it really means anything to us, arouses some kind of emotional reaction. We relate ourselves to it in some way. The thought of home awakens feelings of tenderness; of a game of football, interest or enthusiasm ; of a hard lesson, dread or determination. Abstract ideas, unrelated to our experience, concern us little: 4 x 4 = 16 is a matter of slight moment to us unless it means dollars, or years of life, or miles yet to be walked. We become “ absorbed ” in a story when, as we read on, we adjust ourselves to its characters, and its ideas and incidents become vivid and real to us. And the sympathetic reader will not utter words merely, nor ideas alone as a series of cold statements, but thought with the feeling it awakens.
The style of speech of each individual is largely a matter of mental habits, of feeling, temperament, and character. “ Style is the man himself.” True it is, that the man is
known by the manner of his speech. One can never get far away from one's self in speech, whether the speaking be limited to one's own thoughts or to the thought of a poem or piece of prose. Effort to express what one does not feel, to appear to be what one is not, deceives no one so much as the speaker. But in one respect, at least, the manner of speech has a mechanical basis, and depends upon mechanical processes, ,
which in time, by dint of much practice and use, become automatic and habitual. The use and control of the voice as an instrument of expression is largely acquired by deliberate effort. It is something each individual must learn, from the easy management of breath to the formation of tone into words. A bad voice, with abnormal methods of using it, while perhaps not fatal to good speech, seriously impairs its effectiveness and is a handicap to the possessor. Crudities in pronunciation and faulty enunciation of consonants and vowels betray ignorance or carelessness on the part of the speaker. Pleasantness, ease, grace, and accuracy of speech result from right training, right example, good habits, and care. Fortunate is the person who, from the first, has heard careful and cultured speech and has been trained to speak the language correctly and gracefully.
But however great the need may be in the matter of use of the voice, and formation of tone into words, these things should not receive first consideration in expression work. They are but incidental to the main purpose, and may appropriately receive attention as the demands of reading may indicate. In oral as well as written expression, thought, not style, is of prime consequence. We speak to get something said, not to show how well we can speak. The manner of speech, though important, is, after all, secondary to the matter spoken.
Nor is an effective manner of speech to be acquired from
without by imitation of others or by studious observation of rules. The laws of expressive speech take their rise from the nature of man. Likewise, the causes of weak, faulty, inexpressive speech are to be traced to the nature and mental habits of the individual. In a sense each person carries his own laws and rules of speech with him. Only untrained faculties, undisciplined latent powers, faulty habits and mannerisms, unresponsive and uncontrolled agents of expression, render expression inadequate, peculiar, ineffective. If the mind were perfectly trained to concentration and clear thinking, the imagination and emotions active, strong, and normal, and the voice perfect as an instrument and obedient to every shade of thought and feeling, there would be little need for the study of expression. But until this happy condition is attained, the study of expressive speech will remain one of the most effective means of educating all the faculties of our nature.
It is to purposeful and spirited conversation, conversation in its widest range of expression as exemplified by the speech of people in general, that we must look for the principles that underlie expressive reading or effective speech of any kind. It is the most common, spontaneous, unpremeditated form of communication. In conversation the speaker presumably has something to say, without having given studious care to the way it is to be spoken; the desire to speak leads the thought out, and voice and body obey the impulse as best they may. Though they are often hampered by weaknesses, wrong habits, mannerisms, and misuse, the influence of thought and feeling tends to direct their action in the right way. From conversation we may learn the vocabulary of tone by which spoken language is given its peculiar significance and force.
Now, reading aloud is nothing more nor less than the application to written language of the natural laws of
vocal expression, as revealed in conversation. Good reading is not to be acquired by following rules. It would be as reasonable to dictate to a writer what words he should use in setting down his thoughts, as to lay down absolute rules of tone for expressing certain kinds of thought and emotion. The modulations of the voice are combined by different individuals in infinite variety for the expression of thought. But without knowledge of what constitutes good reading and the elements of it, and without the skill to detect faults and mannerisms and weaknesses and attribute them to their causes, there can be little growth in the power to speak and read aloud.
Observation and analysis have shown that certain modulations of the voice — such, for example, as inflection and accentuation -- are directly related to the mind and reveal the process of thinking, while others — like tone-quality and pitch-bear an intimate relation to the imagination and * emotions. Every change of the voice means something and conveys some impression to others of the thought and feeling of the speaker. Now, the absence or weak use of any of these modulations in reading aloud, or in any form of speaking, may be attributed to mental or emotional causes. Faulty and inadequate expression is apt to be the result of lax and inadequate thinking. Correct the thought, arouse interest, awaken the mind to clear, vigorous action, and the speech will take care of itself pretty well. A well-trained voice is a valuable asset, but it is incidental to a well-trained mind and controlled feelings. All the examples and exer'cises found in the following pages should be practiced as exercises in thought-getting and thought-giving. In this way the study of vocal expression becomes a study, not of external mechanics of speech, but of the inner conditions of thought and life upon which all natural speech depends. The study of the principles of expressive speech will pro