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FIRST CLASS READER.
PRINCIPLES OF ELOCUTION.
THE art of reading well is one of those rare accomplish ments which all wish to possess, a few think they have, and others, who see and believe that it is not the unacquired gift of genius, labor to obtain. But it will be found that excellence in this, as in every thing else of value, is the result of well-directed effort, and the reward of unremitting industry.
To read or speak so as at once to convey intelligence to the mind and pleasure to the ear; to give utterance to thoughts and sentiments with such force and effect as to quicken the pulse, to flush the cheek, to warm the heart, to expand the soul, and to make the hearer feel as though he were holding converse with the mighty spirit that conceived the thought and composed the sentence, is, it is true, no ordinary attainment; but it is far from being either above the power or beyond the reach of art.
To breathe life through the language; to give coloring and force to the thoughts; to present to the ear the solemn musings of Young, to the eye the lofty descriptions of Milton; to unfold to the understanding, to display to the fancy, and to picture to the imagination, the characters and passions
which Shakspeare has portrayed with an unparalleled force of feeling, is not merely an accomplishment; it is an acquisition of priceless value, a power of omnipotent agency, when wisely and skilfully used.
But this degree of excellence is to be attained only through the influence of sure and multiplied principles; principles that are universal; principles that are founded in nature; principles that are discovered by analyzing the frame of spirit in which the sentiment, whatever it be, was spoken or written, and by consequence the natural expressions of that frame of spirit.
A particular and well-defined principle, then, becomes inseparably associated with each emotion, in every state of feeling, and in every condition of mind; and it is by a correct understanding and a skilful application of this, that the reader is able to give a true and vivid coloring to every shade of thought, and a just force of expression to the intended meaning of the writer.
The art of speaking well is a mark of distinction between the elevated and the low conditions of life; and it seems strange, and somewhat humiliating, that the world should be satisfied with the mere instinctive exercise of an art, and with only an occasional example of perfection, without adopting some system of instruction, founded on principles which will be productive of multiplied instances of success.
Let no one, therefore, but the ignorant, who knows what will please himself in his ignorance, question the efficacy of principles, or the taste which directs their application. To the ignorant, principles are stumbling-blocks; to the indolent and uncultivated, they seem foolishness. With the single exception of reason, is there any thing of such intrinsic value as language, which despatches swift-winged thoughts in the fleeting vehicle of oral communication, or imbodies them in the more lasting forms of written productions? What an influence does speech exert upon our judgment in the affairs of active life! How far do the powers of expression mould our actions, sway our determinations, and affect our feelings,