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WILLIAM B. FOWLE,
It has been customary for compilers of Selections for Recitation, to devote a considerable portion of their books to the elements of pronunciation, the rules of gesture, and an explanation of the “whole Art of Oratory;" but the compiler of this New Selection has had too much experience in teaching, to fall into the common error, for error surely that must be, which places in a school-book for children, what children seldom if ever regard.
The fact seems to be, that no general rules afford assistance in any particular case. They may tell the pupil to assume an easy position, to articulate distinctly and to use appropriate gestures; but he may be told this in a few lines as well as in fifty pages. But what general rules can instruct him in the positions best suited to the piece in hand, in the pronunciation of the very words it contains, and in the gestures which may vary
sentence ? He must first be made to understand the piece, he must then read it to a competent teacher till he has acquired the distinct and correct pronunciation of every word, and then his judgment, and that of his teacher, must determine what gestures are natural and becoming, and well adapted to give effect to the sentiment. This is the “whole Art of Oratory,” and this the manner in which it must be taught to children.
In accordance with this common-sense view of the subject, the compiler has abstained from giving any general directions, and has prefixed to each lesson a few brief remarks, to explain the history, occasion, or meaning of the piece. In a few instances, also, he has marked the emphatical words with italic type, has indicated the pronunciation of uncommon words, and thrown in such remarks as may lead the pupil to study, in suitable books, the great principles of Rhetoric and Composition.
It would be idle to venture the common-place remark, that a teacher of Oratory must be able to exemplify the rules of his science, if it were not also a common notion that
make good speakers. That the pupil of an indifferent orator may become a good speaker, is not denied, but that his success is to be attributed to his teacher, is not so apparent. Talent will advance in spite of great hindrances, but instead of calculating how much the talented youth has learned under an incompetent instructor, it is wiser to calculate how much he has lost, or how much more he would have gained, had his teacher been a master of his art.
The small number of finished orators shows the difficulty of the attainment, as their wonderful influence shows its vast importance. Let no one, then, suppose that, when every other art, even those purely mechanical, can only be taught by good workmen, this art of arts may be taught by any bungler, or, without example, by the aid of general directions.
The Compiler has endeavored to make the selection a new one, and he believes that few or none of the pieces have ever been selected for a like purpose before. No Dialogues have been introduced, because there are few good ones that are not already in schoolbooks, and, but lately, the Compiler has published a volume of original and selected Dialogues, which contains no Monologues, like those to which this book is exclusively devoted. About twenty pieces are now published for the first time, and the Editor has affixed his name to them, solely because his not having done so to original pieces in former compilations, has been the excuse of certain compilers, who, supposing them anonymous, have appropriated them with a freedom which is more complimentary to the writer than profitable to his publisher.
The cuts were inserted at the request of the publishers. In justice to himself, the Editor must add, that, in preparing materials for the compilation, he miscalculated the quantity that would be needed, and toward the close was obliged to make a selection when it was too late to do so with a proper regard to
the original plan. As it is, however, the Compiler hopes, that not only the teacher of elocution, but the philanthropist and the christian, will find the book a useful coädjutor in the great cause of Human Improve. ment.
WM. B. FOWLE. Boston, June, 1844.
ERRATA. Page 166, 2d line of the piece, read, The moon rises broad o'er, &c. 3d
for their read thy. 177, last line, for band, read land. “ 2d line from bottom, read Whose was as an earthquake's, &c. “ 4th line from bottom, for the, read thy. 179, 13th line from the top, for houses, read horses.