Imágenes de páginas

nostrils, the air is slowly admitted, the lungs expand, and the chest rises with an equable motion that prevents the voice from quivering and its tones from changing abruptly.

At all times the voice requires to be kept under control. Some readers do not speak out, but as many are unable to keep rein upon their voices. Both are faults of almost equal degree. Both may be natural defects, incapable of cure ; but far more frequently they are the results of bad training, or no training, in early youth. In such cases the cure is not difficult. Simply to speak out should be the first lesson. Go into a room alone, or, still better, into a field, and read aloud at the top of your voice; thus

you will learn what power of voice is in

you and ascertain what you can do, if need be. If you find your voice weak, repeat the process day by day, for weeks or months, and its strength will certainly be increased, sufficiently, at least, for all the purposes of ordinary reading. If your breathing is short, that, too, will be strengthened by the same exercise ; and I have found no little benefit from a practice which seems rather formidable at first, namely, reading aloud as you walk

Not merely does this strengthen the lungs, but it teaches you the scarcely less important acquirement of regulating the supply of the breath to the voice, upon which you must depend mainly for ease in reading. . To husband the breath is in itself an art, for if you pour out too much, you exhaust the lungs and must replenish them before a proper pause in the sentence permits of it, to the equal annoyance of your audience and of yourself. You may measure your capacity in this respect by taking a full inspiration, and then at regular intervals counting one, two, three, &c., and the number you can thus

up hill.

express at one breath, without refilling the chest, will show you, not only the power of your lungs, but also the control which you have over them in regulating the exit of the breath. Make a note of the number to which you attain at the beginning of your training, and compare it from time to time with present capacities, and you

will see what has been your progress. But not only must you acquire power of voice, you must learn also to regulate the voice. This is an accomplishment far more more difficult to be acquired than mere strength of voice, as may be seen by the comparative infrequency of the attainment. How many persons, in all other respects good readers, are wanting in the power of intonation. They read right on, perhaps with a fine, full, sonorous, and even musical voice, that is in itself very pleasing, but which we find to be a monotone. Let this be ever so rich or sweet in itself, it palls by its monotony. The ear soon longs even for a discord to disturb that smooth stream of sound which, delightful at first, after a while becomes wearisome, and, in the end, is positively painful. Only one degree

. worse than this is a weak or dissonant voice. Whatever yours may be, you must strive industriously to avoid monotony and cultivate flexibility of the organs of speech and variety of tone. Almost every sentence requires a change of the voice, according to the thought it utters. The tones of the voice are the natural expression of the mind—the natural language of the emotions—understood by all, felt by all, exciting the sympathies of all, appealing equally to all people of all countries and of all classes. Unless you can express, by the tones of your voice, the emotions which the printed page before you is designed to convey, you cannot perform


your function of interpreter between the author and the audience, and you will fail to achieve the very purpose of your art.

Closely scanned, you will discover that this is very nearly the measure of accomplishment in the art of reading. Excellence consists in the command of tone. The presence of this power will compensate for the absence of many other good qualities ; its absence will not be compensated by the presence of all other excellencies. Clear articulation, correct pronunciation, accurate accentuation, and the graces of a rich voice well managed, are not substitutes for those tones that express the emotions and ally sound with sense. Tone of the voice resembles expression of the countenance. How often have you admired a face that had not a single faultless feature, because it possessed the undefinable charm of expression. So it is with readers. Where the mind flashes and sparkles in the voice, the listener first forgives, and then forgets, the gravest deficiencies in other requirements of the art.

Therefore cultivate tone. It is not a faculty you can acquire, because it is the result of certain characteristics of the mind ; but it may be educated. Indeed, education is necessary, not only to expand it, but to train it in the right direction. If you enjoy the mental capacity, you may want the physical power, to express the feelings perfectly. The largest emotion in your own breast would be dwarfed when expressed by a thin small voice. Nevertheless, when the faculty is not altogether wanting —and such a case is extremely rare—it is capable of indefinite, though not unlimited, improvement. The physical organs may be strengthened by judicious use, and the mind itself may be trained to a more rapid, as


well as a more energetic, expression of its emotions. Submit yourself to a series of lessons set to yourself, and repeated to yourself, if you have not a friend who will hear and correct them. Begin with the reading of a few pages of some composition calculated to kindle strong emotions, and when, by frequent repetition, you have brought out the full meaning, turn to others where the emotions to be expressed are more subtle. Having mastered these, advance to the still more delicate shades of meaning that require to be expressed by the slightest variations of tone.

Having achieved thus much, your work will be more than half accomplished; the foundations will be laid upon which you will, with small comparative difficulty, advance to the next stage in the progress of self-instruction in the art of reading.




EMPHASIS is next to be studied, and it is entirely within the reach of self-attainment. Tone must, to some extent, depend upon physical qualifications ; but emphasis may be acquired by all. It is simply a stress laid upon words to which it is desired to attract the special attention of the listener, and the art of reading is not acquired until

First, emphasis is placed upon the right words.

Secondly, the right amount of emphasis is given to each word, and

Thirdly, emphasis is not given to wrong words.

It is very difficult to describe emphasis by language. It is not precisely a louder sound, nor a lengthened sound, nor a pause, nor a peculiar tone, although it partakes something of all of these. If you do not clearly understand what it is, you may recognise it by reading half-a-dozen lines of the first book you open, uttering each word in the same manner, without the slightest change of expression, giving to particles and nouns the selfsame value ; you will thus discover what language

« AnteriorContinuar »