Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

But you may

boundary of your art, without trespassing beyond it into the territory that belongs exclusively to the actor.

I cannot too often repeat to you that the foundations of the art of reading are understanding and feeling. If you do not clearly see the writer's meaning, you cannot interpret truly his thoughts; and unless you can feel the emotions he is painting, you cannot give the right expression to the words that breathe them. If you are deficient in either of these faculties, no study will make you a good reader. Having these natural gifts, all the rest may be acquired by diligence and training. I do not assert that, without these qualifications, it is useless to learn the art of reading. I desire only to warn you that, wanting them, or either of them, you may not hope to become an accomplished reader. acquire sufficient of the art for all the ordinary purposes of business or recreation ; you may read easily to yourself and pleasantly to others—more pleasantly, indeed, than many who possess the natural qualifications you want, but want the training you have received. Do not, therefore, be disheartened should you discover that you cannot throw your mind instantly into the conceptions of the author, so as to think and feel them as if they had been your own; but manfully resolve to learn to do that which not one educated man in ten can do, namely, to read a page of prose or poetry with common propriety, to say nothing of reading it with effect. And do not too hastily conclude that you

have not the faculties in question. Rarely are they quite absent from any mind. Often they lie dormant for want of cultivation and stimulus, unknown even to the possessor, until some accident reveals to himself and others Are you

the capacities of which he was not before conscious. They may be awakened from sleep; they may be stimulated into action ; they may be cultivated into excellence.

Be assured that they are quite wanting in you before you despair. Do not resign on the first trial. Persevere until conviction is forced upon you.

How may you ascertain this important fact ? Take some dramatic composition, some play of Shakespeare which you have not seen upon the stage, or a chapter of dialogue in a novel, and read it aloud. conscious that you understand the author's meaning ? Do you feel the emotions he expresses, or do they go into your ear and out at your lips without passing through your mind and there becoming instinct with soul, so that you speak living words, and not mere inanimate sounds ? Your own feelings will soon tell you if you

have

any sympathies with the author. But if you are unwilling to trust yourself, ask the same judicious friend, before recommended as your assistant, to lend you his ears for half-an-hour's reading. He can surely tell, if you cannot, whether you read with emotion or by rote. Improve yourself by hearing good reading and seeing good acting whensoever the opportunity offers, and comparing your own reading with that of the reader or actor, you will the more readily discover your own deficiencies and set them to mending.

Thus we arrive at the conclusion that reading is an art which all may acquire sufficiently for the daily uses of life at home or abroad.

As an accomplishment, where the pleasure of the audience is the object, reading must be something more than tolerable—it must be good.

1

LETTER XIV.

THE MANAGEMENT OF THE VOICE-TONE.

I HAVE endeavoured to explain to you, that to become a good reader you must learn to pronounce the words properly and express the sense rightly. These are the indispensable foundations of reading, but divers accomplishments of various values must be superadded. Of these presently.

You now understand, I hope, what it is you have need to acquire. I will now proceed to give you some hints (for it will be impossible to do more by writing than suggest) how to pursue this acquirement; how

you may best learn to read correctly and expressively.

As I have already observed, the first step is the most difficult—it is the banishment of positive faults. Few are free from them altogether; they are painfully prominent in the majority of persons, however highly educated. There is but one training that will cure these defects. You may modify, but you cannot remove them, by your own unaided efforts, because so much has habit familiarised them that you are not conscious of their presence. A judicious friend would indicate them to you-50 would a master ; but a friend is preferable, for masters are almost always infected with mannerism, and there is the utmost danger of their infecting you. A friend who would serve you by listening and indicating your faults on the instant, compelling you to repetition of the word or the sentence until it is mended, is the best possible teacher. Perhaps in your own family circle you may find some to do this good office. The fault thus indicated, and at once amended, is not readily forgotten afterwards. When the same word recurs, you remember the fault and avoid it, until after a while you will find the right pronunciation or reading becoming as familiar as was the wrong one. To this, however, perseverance is needful. Errors entertained from childhood are not banished in a day. The lesson must be repeated daily, until no pause for reflecting how to speak is manifest. When you have attained to this the fault is conquered.

Positive faults removed, the next step will be to acquire the accomplishments. You have learned what not to do, you will next learn what to do.

The most frequent faults are imperfect articulation, provincialisms, bad management of the voice, monotony, absence of emphasis, or emphasising in the wrong place.

A few words on each of these.

Imperfect articulation, its causes and its cure have already been treated of.

Provincial pronunciation has the same origin ; early associations become so much a habit that you are unconscious of their presence.

A listener, not coming from the same part of the country, can alone detect the presence of these provincialisms and set you to mending them. Both this and imperfect articulation are of all faults the most difficult to remove, and they can be conquered only by patience and perseverance. It is not the work of a day, or a week; months, or even years, may be required thoroughly to subdue them.

The management of the voice is a point of very great importance in reading. There is, first, the regulation of the breath, You cannot breathe, while reading, without a perceptible pause, and more or less of alteration in the tone of the voice, produced by the change from the empty to the full lung affecting the pressure upon the delicate organs of speech. Hence the necessity for so regulating the breath that it may be drawn at the right moment. Where sentences are not very long, there is no great difficulty in drawing breath at the close of a sentence ; but sometimes sentences are extended through many lines, and the sense requires that the voice should be evenly sustained from the beginning to the end. In such a case you must breathe before its conclusion. The effort will be least perceptible if you seize a convenient moment for a pause, which by a little art

ight be made to appear as a pause required by the subject, and thus an operation really wanted for

your own relief

may, by ingenuity, add efficiency to the reading, by relieving the monotony of sound and giving time to the listener to follow the sense, which in such cases is usually involved in a wilderness of words. But there is one rule for the management of the breathing which is equally applicable to all occasions. Invariably draw breath through the nostrils, and not through the mouth. This is the golden rule for reading and for speaking. If you do not observe this rule, your utterance will be a series of spasmodic gasps. Breathing through the

« AnteriorContinuar »