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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 beyond 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 mirror.” Andevery 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 pronouncing 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. 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 excellencies, and be at great pains in acquiring, what we ought rather to be at pains to avoid. Grammars and dictionaries may 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, I shall only remark to you a few of the chief and most common faults in this way, observable in preachers, and suggest some hints, by a due attention to which, one may attain the right management of the voice, and be enabled to avoid those faults. The first I shall observe, though not in itself a very great, yet is a very common fault, and often proves the source of several others; it is the straining of the voice beyond its natural key, commonly the effect of a laudable desire to make one's self be heard in a large congregation. This however is one of those expedients, that rarely fail to defeat the purpose which occasioned them. What is thus spoken in a forced tone (though the note in the musical scale emitted by the voice be higher) is neither so distinct, nor so audible, as what is spoken in the natural tone of voice. There is a very great difference between speaking high, and speaking loud; though these two are often confounded. Women's voices are a full octave higher or shriller (for that is all the term means) than men's, and yet they are much less fitted for being heard in a large auditory. In a chime of music bells the bass notes are all struck on the biggest bells, and the treble notes on the smallest. Accordingly the former are heard at a distance, which the feeble sound of the other cannot reach. The same thing may be observed of the pipes in an organ. Besides, it is a much greater stress to the
speaker, to hold out with his voice raised ever so little above its natural pitch, and it lays him under several disadvantages in respect of pronunciation, of which I shall have occasion to take notice afterwards.
A second fault which is very common with preachers is too great rapidity of utterance. This is an ordinary, though not a necessary consequence of committing a discourse to memory and repeating it. A person, without particularly guarding against it, is apt to contract an impatience to deliver the words, as fast as they occur to his mind, that so he may give them to the audience, whilst he is sure he can do it. This also is a great hinderance to the attainment of an affecting or energetic pronunciation; besides that it greatly fatigues the attention of the hearer, whom, after all, many things must escape, which otherwise he might have retained.
A third fault I shall observe is a theatrical and too violent manner. This, though it seems to proceed from a commendable ardour, sins against propriety in many ways. It suits not the gravity of the subject; and to appear destitute of all command of one's self doth not befit one who would teach others to obtain a perfect mastery over their passions. The preacher's manner in general ought to be modest, at the same time earnest and affecting.
A fourth fault, which is indeed the opposite extreme to that now mentioned, is an insipid monotony, by which every thing that is said, whether narration, explanation, argumentation, or address to the passions, is uniformly and successively articu
lated in the same listless, lifeless manner. And this is a much greater fault than the preceding. The former offends only hearers of taste and re-flection, but the latter, all who can either understand or feel. The preacher, in such a case, exhibits the appearance of a school-boy who repeats a lesson he hath conned over, but who doth not form a single idea of what he is saying from beginning to end.
The fifth, and only other remarkable fault in pronunciation I shall mention, is a sing-song manner; or what we commonly call a cant, which is something like a measure of a tune, that the preacher unintermittedly runs over and over, till he conclude his discourse. This, as a kind of relief to the lungs, is what a strained voice (the fault in speaking first mentioned) when it becomes habitual, generally terminates in, and though it hath not the same air of indifference with the monotony, is in other respects liable to the same objections. It marks no difference in the nature of the things said, and consequently (though the tune itself were not unpleasant) it may prove a lullaby, and dispose the hearers to sleep, but is quite unfit for awakening their attention. Both the last mentioned faults are the too frequent (not the unavoidable) consequence of the common method of rehearsing a discourse by rote, which has been verbatim committed to memory. This very naturally leads the speaker to fix the closest attention on the series of the words
prepared, that he may not lose the thread. And this as naturally carries off his attention entirely from the thought.
The consideration of these things hath often led