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HOW TO READ WELL-ALL DESIRE TO DO SOFEW EVER DOREASONS
WHY-THIS WORK AN EXPERIENCED FRIEND, LEADING TO THE NATURAL AND THE GRACEFUL, IN UTTERANCE AND ACTION.
To read well, is to read as if the words were supplied by the act of present thought, rather than by the page before us; or just as we should speak, if the language and sentiments were our own.
Children, and all persons while engaged in earnest conversation, or telling an interesting story, generally speak in such tones, and with such a degree of animation and force, as are best suited to give a clear expression of their thoughts and feelings. Just so we should read ; and if we desire to excel, we must refer constantly to the manner in which sensible and well educated persons talk, as the only safe and correct model.
We must adapt our style to the nature of the composition we are reading, whether it be light and
humorous, or serious and solemn; and endeavor to represent naturally every shade of emotion. If it be a narrative we are reading, our utterance should be the same as if we were relating it in our own language : if a conversation, we should refer with just discrimination to the persons engaged in it; and try to represent, by our tones and manner, the distinct peculiarities of each : if an essay, a sermon, an oration, we should put ourselves, as nearly as we can, in the place of the author, and read just as if the thoughts and words came warm and fresh from their original fountain ; and so of every other kind of writing.
Hence the necessity of a quick eye to mark the sense ; for no one can read or speak well whose thoughts do not go some way before his utterance. He must understand the subject, and the exact import of all the words ; his pronunciation must always be in critical accordance with the best usage ; his voice must be cultivated, so as to be flexible, full, forcible and mellow ; his ear so instructed, as readily to detect the least deviation from strict propriety of tone ; and all his external movements such as to appear natural, easy, and dignified.
Taking these brief outlines for the only correct standard, how rarely do we meet with a truly good reader ! and yet how seldom do we listen to a person who really thinks himself a poor one! We are in general the last to discover our own faults; and when they are shown to us by the friendly hints and criticisms of others, we are naturally slow to apprehend, and often still slower to acknowledge and to correct them.
But how happens it, that while few are insensible to the charms of a good elocution, we find so many bad readers and speakers, even among those who are esteemed well educated ? No doubt, in the majority of cases, the cause can be traced to a defective mode of early instruction; or perhaps to the misfortune of falling, at a later period, into the hands of a conceited elocutionist.
Children, in their first attempts to read, find great difficulty in making out the right pronunciation of the separate words; they are necessarily so intent upon this, as almost wholly to lose sight of connection, sense, and sentiment; and thus they contract a habit, which is apt to abide long after the cause that produced it has ceased to operate. Hence we may see how important it is to keep children to the same reading lesson, till it is rendered so familiar, that they can speak the words with ease, and connect them with the appropriate colloquial utterance; and also to limit their attention to subjects suited to their comprehension, their tastes, and feelings. To put them to lessons above their comprehension is the most direct way to induce habits of reading wholly artificial ; each separate word may have the right pronunciation ; but the spirit of a just utterance will not be there.
These lessons, the result of much experience, much study and care, are intended to meet what seem to be the special wants of the pupil ; and, like a kind and judicious friend, to take him, as it were, by the hand ; to help him to correct whatever is found to be faulty, to guard him against whatever is fanciful, or conceited ; and to lead him on, by a gentle, plain, and natural course of instruction, to the attainment of an easy, manly, and graceful elocution.
Elocution is simply an appropriate utterance. As a science, its office is to teach an easy, correct, and expressive manner of speaking ; whether in conversation, in speaking in public, or in reading aloud to others. It comes from two Latin words—ex, signifying from, or out of, and loquor, to speak : it means to speak out distinctly and impressively, from right thoughts and feelings, in the most becoming manner.
READING AND PUNCTUATION.
The first object of the reader or speaker should be to graduate the force of his utterance to the space necesary to be reached, so as to make every word plainly audible to the persons addressed : that is, to speak just loud enough to be heard with ease, and no louder, unless to give prominence to some particular thought; and to pronounce with such distinctness, that not a word can be inisapprehended, or mistaken for any other than the very word he designs to utter; and, at the same time, so as to avoid all harshness of tone cr vociferation, and every appearance of preciseness and formality.
It is well ever to bear in mind, that reading aloud, as well as talking and speaking in public, is for the ears of others; and that the special characteristic of good