Imágenes de páginas




SOME further illustrations will be necessary to enable you to comprehend clearly the hints I have thrown out to you. I felt considerable misgivings whether the device I had adopted for exhibiting the variations of utterance by help of the printer's art would not more puzzle than assist the reader. It is satisfactory to learn, however, that the plan has been sufficient for its purpose, and that readers have found no difficulty in following the instructions so conveyed. The same notation will be preserved throughout the following illustrations. But it will not be necessary to repeat the practice of successive readings of the same passage, each introducing an additional ornament, as in the lesson contained in the last letter. If that be read eight or ten times, strictly observing the method proposed, you cannot fail to arrive at the most perfect comprehension of the nature as well as the value of each of those requisites to the Art of Reading. I shall now, therefore, merely present the illustrations as scored for practice, and then endeavour to state the reasons for such readings; and those reasons


will often serve as examples of former remarks ; for, let it be a firm faith with you, that unless you can assign a reason for reading a passage in one way rather than in another way, you cannot be a good reader—you will read only by imitation and not by the impulse of your own mind.

And here I may tell you an anecdote that has been conveyed to me, which is interesting as confirmatory of an observation, made in a former letter, to the effect that, if a person reads badly, it is because he does not understand what he reads. That so it is


from the fact, that almost everybody talks rightly. Rarely do we hear the wrong emphasis in conversation ; yet the very man who gives to every word he utters the right expression, when he is talking, will give the wrong expression to three-fourths of his words when he is reading The reason of this strange defect is, that when he talks he understands what he is saying, and the voice echoes the mind; when he reads, either his mind is not at work upon the words, or it does not catch at the moment the sense of what he reads, and it becomes a mere mechanical operation-an utterance by rotethe words going in at the eye, and coming out at the tongue, without passing through the intelligent mind.

My informant is a sensible man, who has imbibed the modern heresy that reading is an accomplishment at least as desirable, and likely to be as useful in life, as singing, and accordingly he has spared no pains to preserve his children from learning to read badly. His notion is—and he is rightthat the bad habits acquired in childhood, in the performance of the merely mechanical art of sounding printed words, without understanding the ideas they are designed to convey, are the foundation of bad reading in after life. Assuming this, he has taken reading as the test and measure of intelligence in children. Esteeming so highly the art of reading, it is natural that any experiences of others on the subject should interest him, and that any hints of which he approved should be conveyed to his family. Thinking well of some which he has found in these letters, he has endeavoured to make a practical use of them, and they have been conveyed to his pupils as they appear here. The last letter, containing some illustrations of the previous suggestions, was accordingly produced to the family circle, when my informant bethought him that he would test the capacities of the little group around him by calling upon each to read the same passage from the Book of Genesis, marking in another volume, after the same fashion, the manner in which it was read by the child according to his own natural impulse, and then comparing them so as to ascertain how far the natural reading of the child coincided with the reading proposed in this essay. The test, he says, was perfect; precisely in proportion to the little reader's natural intelligence was the reading more or less in unison with that here suggested. He found by further trial that, where they read wrongly, invariably they did not understand the meaning of what they were reading; and one little boy, whose intelligence is remarkable, read the entire passage aloud for the first time, and his natural and untaught expression of it was found in almost precise accordance with the studied and reasoned mode of utterance which I had suggested. This experiment is interesting and valuable, because it was tried with children who had acquired no bad habits, and therefore it proves how much more nature does than art

I was

can do towards making a good reader, and confirms the assertion that the art of reading consists mainly in understanding what you read. The experiment could not have been tried by adults, because none are to be found who have not acquired some evil habits of reading in their school-days, which cleave to them still, or which they have been enabled to conquer only by calling in the aid of art.

I would earnestly recommend other parents to follow the example of my informant :-to keep vigilant guard over the first lessons in reading; to prohibit the reading aloud of anything not understood, and to take misreading as a certain test of misunderstanding. Be sure that your pupil understands, and you may be assured that he will read.

I make no apology for this interposition. treating an old subject after a new fashion, and, as I proceeded, not only did new thoughts upon it arise in my own mind, but suggestions were sent to me by readers who take an interest in the theme; for my purpose, as I told you before, is not a formal treatise, but a friendly communication of the results of some experience and reflection on a subject whose real worth is only beginning to be acknowledged by the public.

There is not a better illustration of the suggestions that have been submitted to you than Hamlet's famous soliloquy. Its very familiarity will, perhaps, recommend it for practice, because it is almost certain to be associated in your mind with readings at school, and you will more readily see the propriety of one by contrast with the other. I preserve the same notation.

Remember that Hamlet has just seen the spirit of his father, who has told him that his father-in-law


was a murderer. He is not quite assured whether or no it was "an honest ghost; ” if it was not “ instrument of darkness” tempting him to a horrible crime. He is sorely perplexed, seeking eagerly for some assurance that the story supernaturally imparted to him was true.

Now, to read the soliloquy correctly, you must feel it, and to feel it you must throw your mind into much the same condition as that in which Hamlet's is supposed to be at the moment of thus communing with himselffor it is a soliloquy, and not a speech addressed to others ; and a soliloquy is only thinking aloud, and should be so read or acted. It is manifest, moreover, that he had been contemplating suicide as a refuge from doubts and perplexities. The voice should be low in tone, with sadness of expression ; the utterances slow—the pauses long at first, for he is assumed to be reflecting.

TO BE or not to be that is the question-
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The stings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And-by opposing—end them? To DIE?— To




No more—and by a sleep to say we end
The heart ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to- -'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished

TO SLEEP! -Perchance to DREAM!--Aye, there's the

For in THAT sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffted off this mortal coil-
Must give us pause-

-THERE'S the aspect
That makes calamity of so long a life.
Read slowly so far. The next passage should be read
rapidly, for is not Hamlet pouring out quick coming

« AnteriorContinuar »