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I have in the two preceding discourses finished what regards in general the sentiments and the elocution proper for the pulpit ; I intend in the present discourse to discuss the article of pronunciation. This admits the same division, which was observed in the former branch, into grammatical and rhetorical. The former was by the Greeks denominated ExpoVnois, the latter UWOXELOIS. As it is of the utmost consequence, when we are entering on the examination of any article, that we form precise ideas of the subject of inquiry, and do not confound things in themselves distinct, I shall begin this lecture with a definition of each of these, to which I must beg leave to entreat your attention, that so none may be at a loss about the meaning or application of what shall be advanced in the sequel. As to the first then, grammatical pronunciation consisteth in articulating, audibly and distinctly, the letters, whether vowels or consonants, assigning to each its appropriated sound, in giving the several syllables their just quantity, and in placing the accent, or, as some call it, the syllabic emphasis, in every word on the proper syllable. As to the second, rhetorical
nunciation consisteth in giving such an utterance to the several words in a sentence, as shows in the mind of the speaker a strong perception, or, as it were, feeling of the truth and justness of the thought conveyed by them, and in placing the rhetorical emphasis in every sentence, on the proper word, that is, on that word which, by being pronounced emphatically, gives the greatest energy and clearness to the expression. Under this head is also comprehended gesture; as both imply a kind of natural expression, superadded to that conveyed by artificial signs, or the words of the language. Under the term gesture, I would be understood to comprehend not only the action of the eyes and other features of the countenance, but also that which results from the motion of the hands and carriage of the body. This together with the proper management of the voice was all comprised under the Greek word υποκεισις, , borrowed from the theatre, but which, for want of a term of equal extent in our language, we are forced to include under the name pronunciation. Now these two kinds of pronunciation, the grammatical and the rhetorical, are so perfectly distinct, that each may be found in a very eminent degree without the other. The first indeed is merely an effect of education; in so much that one who has had the good fortune to be brought up in a place where the language is spoken in purity, and has been taught to read by a sufficient teacher, must inevitably, if he labours under no natural defect in the organs of speech, be master of grammatical pronunciation. The second is more properly, in its origin, the production of nature, but is capable of being considerably improved and polished by education. The natural qualities which combine in producing it, are an exquisite sensibility joined with a good ear and a flexible voice. An Englishman, who hath been properly educated, and always in good company, as the phrase is, that is, in the company of those who, by a kind of tacit consent, are allowed to take the lead in language, may pronounce so as to defy the censure of the most critical grammarian, and yet be, in the judgment of the rhetorician, a most languid and inanimate speaker, one who knows nothing at all of the oratorical pronunciation. Speakers you will often find in the house of commons, who are perfect in the one and totally deficient in the other. On the other hand, you will find speakers of this country who in respect of the last, have considerable talents, insomuch that they can excite and fix attention, that they can both please and move, that their voice seems capable alike of being modulated to sooth the passions or to inflame them, yet in whose pronunciation a grammarian may discover, innumerable defects. There is this difference, however, between the two cases, that though the grammatical pronunciation may be perfect in its kind without the rhetorical, the last is never in perfection without the first. The art of the grammarian in this, as in the former article of elocution, serves as a foundation to that of the orator. It will be proper therefore to begin with a few remarks upon the former.
That a right grammatical pronunciation will deserve some regard from us, appears from the same reasons, which evinced that grammatical elocution deserves some regard. Those reasons therefore shall not be how repeated. There is however, it must be acknowledged, a considerable difference between the two cases. And the former attempt is much more hazardous than the latter. If we aim no higher, than that the words we use, the application and the construction be proper English (which is all that grammatical elocution requires) we shall never run the risk of the charge of affectation, than which, I know no imputation that is more prejudicial to the orator. Whereas a forced and unnatural, because unaccustomed pronunciation, and the awkward mouthing which the attempt often occasions, as it falls within the observation of the generality of hearers, so it is more disgusting to hearers of taste and discernment, than perhaps any provincial accent whatsoever. Shall we then give up all attempts this way? I do not say that neither. But let us keep a proper medium in our attempts, and never strain be. yond what we can effect with ease. Let us begin by avoiding the most faulty pronunciations we can discover in ourselves, or which have been remarked to us by others; and let us endeavour to avoid them not in the pulpit only, but in common conversation. It would be a matter of considerable consequence for this, as well as for more material purposes, that young men of an ingenuous temper and good sense, who happen to be companions, should mutually agree to serve as checks and monitors to one another. I know not any thing which would contribute more to prevent the contracting of ungainly habits, or to correct them timely when contracted. “A friend's eye,” says the proverb, “ is a good mirroúr.” And every one must be sensible, that there are several kinds of faults. and improprieties, which totally elude the discovery of the person chargeable with them, but which by no means escape the notice of the attentive spectator or auditor. I said that when a faulty manner in pronounc
ing is discovered, it ought to be avoided not in the pulpit only, but in conversation. The nearer our manner of pronouncing in the pulpit is to that we daily use, the more easy and the more natural it will appear. Example, as in every thing, so here in particular, goes a great way. Let us therefore attend to the manner of the best speakers, to whose company we have access, and we shall insensibly conform ourselves to it. It is by such insensible, more than by any intentional imitation, that every man acquires the speech and pronunciation which he uses. And by the like easy and gradual influence of example, by which a faulty pronunciation was contracted, it will best be cured. The only caution necessary on this article is, that we be very sure as to the choice we make of patterns, lest unluckily we imitate blemishes for excellences, and be at great pains in acquiring, what we ought rather to be at pains to avoid. Grammars and dictionaries
be of some use here, but are not sufficient without other aid. Distinctions only discernible by the ear, can never be adequately conveyed merely by the eye. There is one part of pronunciation, however, and a very important part, which may be learnt solely by book, that is, the placing of the accent or syllabic emphasis. In this, our provincial pronunciation often greatly misleads us. Nor have we any idea, how offensive a deviation of this kind is to the ears of an Englishman. So much for grammatical pronunciation.
As to the rhetorical pronunciation, there is not any thing so peculiar in the christian eloquence, as to require that we make any addition of moment to the rules on this subject laid down in the best institutes of rhetoric, which I recommend to your serious perusal.