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A COMPILATION OF THE CHOICEST
Recitations, Readings and Dialogues
From the Most Celebrated Authors
PATHETIC, TRAGIC, HUMOROUS
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ENTERTAINMENTS
Instructions for the Cultivation of the Voice,
Hints on Elocution, Etc,, Etc.
IN TWO PARTS
THOMPSON & THOMAS
THE MISSION OF SPEECE.
OF the animate forms with which we are acquainted, nearly all are provided with a voice, but Man only is furnished with the power of producing articulate speech. Parrots, however, talk ; this is not speech, but simply the exercise of their power of imitation.
The brute creation seem to enjoy the privilege of expressing their satisfaction, dislike or affection by certain vocal manifestations, but this cannot properly be termed speech, as no ideas can be conveyed, but simply a state of feeling. As many animals possess all the organs of voice and of articulate expression, it is easily seen that speech is reserved for that class of beings who have mentality and judgment; hence, we must consider it an exalted gift to Man as the superior creation.
In the possession of mind and speech, then, we differ from the lower organisms; and the possession of these two“ talents” implies a responsibility in their cultivation and development. No one denies that the improvement of the mind is a moral duty resting upon all, but with the voice few recognize the same existing obligation. Candid thought will convince everyone that vocal culture is as desirable as any other physical or mental attainment.
By a careless and almost criminal oversight, the war is allowed to be constantly assailed by a degree of coarseness and inelegance in the voice that would be tolerated in no other department of the physical or mental economy, and we have become so familiar with uncouth speech that it falls upon the ear with its extreme offensiveness unnoticed. If all recognized the fact that we owe to our neighbor a distinct, clear-cut articulation as well as a cordial shake of the hand, the result would at once be apparent. Slovenliness of voice should always be classed with slouchiness of manner. It has been well said that words should fall from the lips as new coins fresh from the mint, properly stamped, and each of due weight and proportion.
Speech is the great medium of communication between individuals, and so closely is it related to our inmost nature that the vehicle which conveys our thoughts from us to another is also the grand supporter of life itself, and, if we were deprived of this vocal medium, the air, death would be the instant result. Let us for one moment ponder the thought that this great atmospheric ocean which surrounds us, in constant vibration from thousands of throats, is constantly furnishing us the life-sustaining oxygen, and, as it relieves the body of the ashes of our existence laden with the poisonous seeds of disease and death, is continually bearing upon its freighted wings all the expressions of joy, love, hope and tenderness of which the human voice is capable.
Aside from the use of speech in conversation, the voice is employed in reading, and the difference between read. ing and ordinary conversation is so slight that all rules governing the one concern the other, with this distinction: in reading, ideas are obtained from the printed page, and the reader is compelled to give expression to them by the use of words whicu may not be the same words which he would employ were he not guided by a book. Practically, the use of unfamiliar words and forms in reading is the only real distinction between it and conversation, and, when the reader acquires a mastery of such words and forms, the two acts are identical. A “reading voice,” as distinct from a conversational voice, is a term that should have no necessity for a place in the English language.
The habit of assuming a false or monotonous tone in reading may usually be traced to false instruction given in primary school days; and the use of an unpleasant, impure voice, in nine cases out of ten, may be followed to the same source.
No two persons possess voices alike in all respects, owing to a difference in size or shape of the vocal and articulate organs, or to a different manner of using them; and, differing as widely one from another, each person has an individual style of expression, which is designated his elocution, or manner of speaking. We may possess either a good or a poor elocution. To acquire a good elocution, it is necessary to pay attention to the voice as the basis of all speech, and, by means of vocal drill, to render it strong and agreeable and to place it under control. This done, we must study the principles upon