MISCELLANEOUS EXERCISES.

[The following extracts are designed to be used, not as a complete collection of pieces for all the purposes of reading, but as examples on which to apply the rules and principles contained in the preceding pages of this work. By practising on these selections, the student will become prepared to make a more intelligent and effectual use of the reading books in common use.'

When opportunity admits of studying with the aid of a teacher, it would be advisable to go through every piece with a careful preparatory analysis, applying the rules of inflection, emphasis, and pausing, and the principles of modulation. The pencil may be used to advantage for the purpose of marking the principal words and clauses of every sentence with their appropriate modifications of voice; the usual accents being employed to designate the inflections—a single or double perpendicular line for the 'pauses, according to their comparative length—and single or double underscoring for emphasis, according to its force. The changes of force, pitch, and rate, may be designated on the margin by initial letters; Id., (loud;) s, (so/1;) h, {high;) ho., (low;) f, (fast;) si, (slow;) and intermediate qualities thus, M, (moderate force;) m, (middle pitch;) m, (moderate rate.)

The exercises presented in the subsequent pages, are graduated by the rhetorical classification of the pieces, commencing with narrative and descriptive style, and avoiding -the introduction of didactic subjects till the easier forms of writing have been practised. This gradation, though little observed in most reading books, is of great importance to the acquisition of an easy, unaffected style of reading. The formal tones commonly heard in school reading, may nearly all be traced to the injudicious premature practice of reading didactic pieces.

The natural progress of elocution is that of the growth and expansion of the mind itself. We first learn to tell what has happened to ourselves or others, next to describe an object or a place which we have seen, then to express a sentiment, arising, perhaps, from the incident which we relate or the scene which we describe. But most reading books commence with formal, didactic sentiments, originally uttered, perhaps, in the pulpit. The expression of these demands full maturity of mind, the discipline of much reflective reasoning, and a perfect command of all the most complex and difficult principles of utterance. Such exercises are excellent subjects for practice, at a late stage of progress in elocution; but to prescribe them as elementary lessons, is equally absurd and injurious.

The reading lessons which follow, have been selected not on the common principle of regard to the rhetorical excellence of the composition, or the eminence of the author's name, as a classic in English literature, or the weight and value of the sentiment, which the extract is used to inculcate. A reasonable attention to these points has not, it is -hoped, been neglected. But the main object in view jn the insertion of every piece introduced among the following lessons, has been to furnish matter adapted to the purposes of elocution,—to present subjects which naturally produce true, vivid, effective reading. This result depends wholly on the character of the narration, or the description, or the sentiment, itself. The inspiration of genuine elocution must come from the thought or the emotion which the subject necessarily involves. Classical accuracy or elegance of composition has very little to do with it

Nor is it the importance of a sentiment, in the abstract, that can rationally be expected to suggest an appropriate elocution. A sentiment can be well expressed only on condition of its being true and natural to the individual who utters it An artificial and mechanical tone, will otherwise be sure to betray affectation in the reader. The didactic pieces which are introduced in the following selection, have been chosen with reference to their tendency to produce true and spirited reading, especially in young students. If this result should, in some instances, appear to have been overlooked, it is owing to the necessity of presenting some pieces which might furnish adequate exercise for mature minds; as the author hopes that this volume, though primarily intended for classes in schools and academies, may be found useful to adults who are desirous of cultivating the art of elocution, for the purposes of professional life.]

Exercise I.

Extraordinary Memory.—Anecdotes of the French Revolution.

Napoleon, late emperor of the French, possessed an uncommonly retentive memory. The articles of the civil code, after having been drawn up, and taken into consideration, in private conferences, were submitted to the discussion of the council of state, at which Bonaparte frequently presided. Treilhard* wondered at the readiness with which Napoleon frequently illustrated the point in question, by quoting, extempore, whole passages from the Roman civil law,—a subject which, from its nature, seemed to be entirely foreign to him. One day, the emperor re- quested his attendance in order to acquaint him with

* An eminent jurist, employed in compiling the "Code Napoleon."

some new ideas on criminal legislation. Afler conversing together, for some time, they formed themselves into a little committee; and the counsellor of state took the liberty of asking the emperor how he had acquired so familiar a knowledge of law affairs, considering that his whole life had been spent in camps. Bonaparte replied:

"When I was a mere lieutenant, I was put under arrest, unjustly it is true; but that is nothing to the point. The little room which was assigned for my prison, contained no furniture but an old chair, an old bed, and an old cupboard. In the cupboard was a ponderous folio volume, older and more worm-eaten than all the rest: it proved to be the Digest.* As I had no paper, pens, ink, nor pencils, you may easily imagine that this book was a valuable prize to me. It was so voluminous, and the leaves were so covered with marginal notes in manuscript, that, had I been confined a hundred years, I could never have been idle. I was only ten days deprived of my liberty; but, on recovering it, I was saturated with Justinian, f and the decisions of the Roman legislators. Thus I picked up my knowledge of civil law."

Ex. II.

Domestic and personal character of Sir Walter Scott.— Peter's Letters.

There is nothing like display or formal leading in Sir Walter's conversation. On the contrary, every

* Compend of civil law.

f The emperor by whose order was compiled the code of Roman civil law, and whose name it bears.

body seems to speak the more that he is there to hear; and his presence seems to be enough to make every body speak delightfully;—as if it had been that some princely musician had tuned all the strings, and, even under the sway of more vulgar fingers, they could not choose but discourse excellent music. His conversation, besides, i3, for the most part, of such a kind that all can take a lively part in it; although, indeed, none that I ever met with can equal himself. It does not appear as if he ever could be at a loss, for a single moment, for some new supply of that which constitutes its chief peculiarity and its chief charm; the most keen perception, the most tenacious memory, and the most brilliant imagination, having been at work, through the whole of his busy life, in filling his mind with a store of individual traits and anecdotes, serious and comic, individual and national, such as, it is probable, no man ever before possessed, and such, still more certainly, as no man of great original power ever before possessed, in subservience to the purposes of inventive genius.

A youth spent in wandering among the hills and valleys of his native country, during which he became intensely familiar with all the lore of those greyheaded shepherds among whom the traditions of warlike, as well as of peaceful times, find their securest dwelling-place, or in more equal converse with the relics of that old school of Scottish cavaliers, whose faith had nerved the arms of so many of his own race and kindred. Such a boyhood, and such a youth, laid the foundation, and established the earliest and most lasting sympathies of a mind which was destined, in after years, to erect upon this foundation, and improve upon these sympathies, in a way of which his

« PreviousContinue »