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can thus count with a single breathing. The use of this will soon be apparent to you in practice, for you will come to the end of your voice before you have arrived at the end of the sentence, and then you will be compelled to mar its meaning and annoy your audience by pausing when the sense of what you are reading requires that you should link the words closely together. But, having acquired facility for extending one breathing over a long sentence, if need be, you are not required always to speak till no breath remains. On the contrary, you should seize every convenient opportunity for performing the operation in a right place, lest you should be compelled to do so in a wrong one.
Choose such pauses as should be indicated by what is called the
“ full stop in writing. Thus you will learn to enjoy the entire command of your voice, and the best practice for that purpose is to read daily a few pages, with the sole design of mastering the art I have endeavoured to describe,
Nearly allied to Emphasis and Pause is Inflection. I mean by this term the rise and fall of the voice, a variation essential to the avoidance of monotony and the securing of an attentive ear from your audience. Some skill is required for the right regulation of this. The limit within which your voice may range is not wide ; the movement must be determined, partly by what you read, partly by the ear. There are no rules to which you can safely trust for guidance. I can do little more to help you than tell you what to avoid. There is a frequent fault of which you should beware. Many persons, trying to escape from a level voice, fall into the still more unpleasant practice of speaking in waves ; that is to say, the voice is made to rise and fall by a regular
swelling and sinking at precisely even periods—an utterance difficult to describe in words, but which you will doubtless recognise readily from this rude comparison of it. The right use of Inflection is one of the most subtle ingredients in the art of reading. If it be judiciously used, however slightly, it gives a spirit and meaning to the words that win even unwilling ears. The voice raised at some fitting moment sends the thought straight into the mind that is opened expectantly. Judiciously lowered, it touches the emotions. There is no fixed rule either for raising or dropping the voice. A vague notion prevails that the punctuation has something to do with it; that you ought to lower the voice at the end of a sentence ; that a full stop should be notice to you, not only to halt, but to drop gradually down into silence. This is a grievous error and so common as to be almost a national fault. It is remarkably shown in our manner of speaking, and this will serve as an excellent illustration of my meaning. The English usually drop their voices at the end of a sentence; other nations, and the French especially, usually raise it. In other words, we talk with the downward inflection and they with the upward inflection. The consequence is, that their conversation appears much more lively than ours, and their talk is more readily intelligible to a foreigner than is ours. The last words of an Englishman's sentences are often unintelligible, for his voice falls until it dies away in a sort of guttural murmuring. And, as we talk, so too often do we read. We drop the voice at the end of every sentence, beginning the next sentence some half-a-dozen notes higher and several degrees louder. Now, the Art of Reading requires just the reverse of this. Instead of letting the
voice decline towards the end of a sentence, the general rule should be to keep it up, and even slightly to raise it. Thus it is that the attention of an audience is sustained and a liveliness is imparted to your discourse far beyond the apparent simplicity of the means adopted. Try it ; read a page, using the English downward inflection, and then read the same page, using the upward inflection at the end of each sentence, and mark the contrast upon your own energies. Ask a friend to do the like and listen; you will instantly recognise the superior life and vigour infused into the composition. Repeat the experiment in a large room, before a numerous audience, and you will find that, while it is very difficult for the ear to seize the words uttered in the falling inflection, the entire sentence is clearly and readily caught by the most distant listener when the rising inflection is used—that is to say, when the voice is made to rise, instead of being permitted to fall, at the end of a sentence.
I remember once being at a rehearsal at Drury-lane, with one of our great actors. I expressed surprise that he did not speak louder, as it seemed to me that his voice was not raised much beyond that of ordinary conversation; yet it filled the house and came back to He explained to me that it was really so. “If I
I were to speak twice as loud,” he said, “I should not be heard half so well. To be heard by a large audience, you have only to speak slowly and to raise your voice at the end of every sentence.” It was a lesson not to be forgotten, and having tried and proved it, I recommend
it to you.
ATTITUDE-INFLUENCE OF THE MENTAL OVER THE
THE hints that have been offered so far relate to reading generally; they are designed to assist you in the development of those physical powers, without which intellectual capacity fails to express itself. The right management of the voice is as necessary as the right understanding of that which the voice is to utter. Both are indispensable ; both require persistent study ; neither will compensate for defects in the other, and, in its influence on a miscellaneous audience, it is doubtful whether a reading mechanically good would not surpass a reading intellectually good. However this may be, do not place too much reliance upon the virtues you mentally infuse into your reading, to the neglect of the graces with which voice and manner will invest them. To read well, you must do both well.
For the purpose of controlling your breath, and thus governing your voice, some attention must be given to attitude, and fortunately the position that is best adapted for utterance is that which is most easy to yourself and
most agreeable to your audience. You should sit as uprightly as possible, or, if that be inconvenient, inclining very gently in the chair, the arms well thrown back, so as to give to the chest the fullest and freest expansion, and the head erect, so as to remove all pressure from the throat, where the delicate organs of the voice are playing. Not only do you thus exercise them with the greatest ease to themselves, but the sounds they produce are sent most audibly and distinctly to the furthest range
of listeners. If you stoop forward, bending over your book, you cannot take a full breath, you cannot regulate your tones, you are unable to make your breathing coincident with the necessary pauses of the discourse, and your
voice is sent down, to be muffled against your book, or stifled upon the floor, instead of being flung forth in a flowing stream of sound, to reach the ears of the most distant of the assembled circle. If you want to measure the amount of voice required to touch those furthest from you,
is easy enough. There needs no intricate calculation, not even a mental estimate of space. Nothing more is needed than that
should look at the person who stands the most distant of those you desire to address, and instinctively, without effort or calculation of your own, your voice will take the pitch of loudness requisite to make him hear.
But you will probably say that, however useful these rules for attitude may be to speakers, they are inapplicable to readers; for how, you will ask, is it possible, sitting upright or reclining gently back in a chair, with head erect, to read a book without holding it straight before the eye and consequently eclipsing your face entirely? I confess there is some difficulty in accomplishing this feat, at first, but it is to be acquired with a