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PIECES IN PROSE AND VERSE,
DESIGNED TO ASSIST YOUNG PERSONS
TO READ WITH PROPRIETY AND EFFECT
PIETY AND VIRTUE.
WITH A FEW PRELIMINARY
OBSERVATIONS ON THE PRINCIPLES
BY LINDLEY MURRAY,
W. & J. BOLLES:
COLLINS, KEESE & CO.:
MANY selections of excellent matter have been made for the benefit o young persons. Performances of this kind are of so great utility, that fresh productions of them, and new attempts to improve the young mind, will scarcely be deemed superfluous, if the writer makes his compilation instructive and interesting, and sufficiently distinct from others.
The present work, as the title expresses, aims at the attainment of three objects: to improve youth in the art of reading; to meliorate their language and sentiments; and to inculcate some of the most important principles of piety
The pieces selected, not only give exercise to a great variety of emotions, and the correspondent tones and variations of voice, but contain sentences and members of sentences, which are diversified, proportioned, and pointed with accuracy. Exercises of this nature are, it is presumed, well calculated to teach youth to read with propriety and effect. A selection of sentences, N which variety and proportion, with exact punctuation, have been carefully observed, in all their parts as well as with respect to one another, will pro bably have a much greater effect, in properly teaching the art of reading, than is commonly imagined. In such constructions, every thing is accommodated to the understanding and the voice; and the common difficulties in learning to read well are obviated. When the learner has acquired a habit of reading such sentences, with justness and facility, he will readily apply that habit, and the improvements he has made, to sentences more complicated and irregular, and of a construction entirely different.
The language of the pieces chosen for this collection has been carefully regarded. Purity, propriety, perspicuity, and, in many instances, elegance of diction, distinguish them. They are extracted from the works of the most correct and elegant writers. From the sources whence the sentiments are drawn, the reader may expect to find them connected and regular, sufciently important and impressive, and divested of every thing that is either trite or eccentric. The frequent perusal of such composition naturally tends to infuse a taste for this species of excellence, and to produce a habit of thinking, and of composing, with judgment and accuracy.*
That this collection may also serve the purpose of promoting piety and virtue, the Compiler has introduced many extracts, which place religion in the most amiable light; and which recommend a great variety of moral duties, by the excellence of their nature, and the happy effects they produce. These subjects are exhibited in a style and manner which are calculated to arrest the attention of youth; and to make strong and durable impressions on their minds.t
The Compiler has been careful to avoid every expression and sentiment, that might gratify a corrupt mind, or, in the least degree, offend the eye or ear of innocence. This he conceives to be peculiarly incumbent on every person
*The learner, in his progress through this volume and the Sequel to it, will meet with numerous instances of composition, in strict conformity to the rules for promoHing perspicuous and elegant writing, contained in the Appendix to the Author's English Grammar. By occasionally examining this conformity, he will be confirmed In the utility of those rules; and he enabled to apply them with case and dexterity.
It is proper further to observe, that the Reader and the Sequel, besides teaching to read accurately, and inculcating many important sentiments, may be considered as Auxiliaries to the Author's English Grammar; as practical illustrations of the princi ples and rules contained in that work.
In some of the pieces, the Compiler has made a few alterations, chiefly verbal, re apt them the better to the sign of his work.
wno writes for the benefit of youth. It would indeed be a great and happy improvement in education, if no writings were allowed to come under their notice, but such as are perfectly innocent; and if on all proper occasions, hey were encouraged to peruse those which tend to inspire a due reverence for virtue, and an abhorrence of vice, as well as to animate them with sentiments of piety and goodness. Such impressions deeply engraven on their minds, and connected with all their attainments, could scarcely fail of attend ing them through life, and of producing a solidity of principle and charac ter, that would be able to resist the danger arising from future intercourse with the world.
The Author has endeavoured to relieve the grave and serious parts of his collection, by the occasional admission of pieces which amuse as well as instruct. If, however, any of his readers should think it contains too great a portion of the former, it may be some apology to observe, that in the existing publications designed for the perusal of young persons, the preponderance is greatly on the side of gay and amusing productions. Too much attention may be paid to this medium of improvement. When the imagination, of youth especially, is much entertained, the sober dictates of the understanding are regarded with indifference; and the influence of good affections is either feeble, or transient. A temperate use of such entertainment seems therefore requisite, to afford proper scope for the operations of the understanding and ⚫the heart.
The eader will perceive, that the Compiler has been solicitious to recommend to young persons, the perusal of the sacred Scriptures, by interspersing through his work some of the most beautiful and interesting passages of those invaluable writings. To excite an early taste and veneration for this great rule of life, is a point of so high importance, as to warrant the attempt to promote it on every proper occasion.
To improve the young mind, and to afford some assistance to tutors, in the arduous and important work of education, were the motives which led to this production. If the Author should be so successful as to accomplish these ends, even in a small degree, he will think that his time and pains have heen well employed, and will deem himself amply rewarded.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE
PRINCIPLES OF GOOD
TO read with propriety is a pleasing and important attainment; productive of improvement both to the understanding and the heart. It is essential to a complete reader, that he minutely perceive the ideas, and enter into the feelings of the author, whose sentiments he professes to repeat: for how is i possible to represent clearly to others, what we have but faint or inaccurate conception of ourselves? If there were no other benefits resulting from the art of reading well, than the necessity it lays us under, of precisely ascertaining the meaning of what we read; and the habit thence acquired, of doing this with facility, both when reading silently and aloud, they would constitute a sufficient compensation for all the labour we can bestow upon the subject. But the pleasure derived to ourselves and others, from a clear com. munication of ideas and feelings; and the strong and durable impressions made thereby on the minds of the reader and the audience, are considerations, which give additional importance to the study of this necessary and useful art. perfect attainment of it doubtless requires great attention and practice, joined to extraordinary natural powers; but as there are many degrees of excellence in the art, the student whose aims fall short of perfection will find himself amply rewarded for every exertion he may think proper to make.
To give rules for the management of the voice in reading, by which the necessary pauses, emphasis, and tones, may be discovered and put in practice, is not possible. After all the directions that can be offered on these points, much will remain to be taught by the living instructor; much will be attainable by no other means, than the force of example, influencing the imitative powers of the learner. Some rules and principles on these heads will, however, be found useful, to prevent erroneous and vicious modes of utterance; to give the young reader some taste for the subject; and to assist him in acquir ing a just and accurate mode of delivery. The observations which we have to make, for these purposes, may be comprised under the following heads: Proper Loudness of Voice; Distinctness; Slowness; Propriety of Pronunciation: Emphasis; Tones; Pauses; and Mode of Reading Verse.
Proper Loudness of Voice.
THE first attention of every person who reads to others, doubtless, must be to make himself heard by all those to whom he reads. He must endeavour to fill with his voice, the space occupied by the company. This power of voice, it may be thought, is wholly a natural talent. It is, in a good measure, the gift of nature; but it may receive considerable assistance from art. Much depends, for this purpose, on the proper pitch and management of the voice. Every person has three pitches in his voice; the high, the middle, and the low one. The high, is that which he uses in calling aloud to some per
NOTE. For many of the observations contained in this preliminary tract, the author is indebted to the writings of Dr. Blair, and to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
son at a distance. The low, is when he approaches to a whisper. The middle, is that which he employs in common conversation, and which he should generally use in reading to others. For it is a great mistake, to imagine that one must take the highest pitch of his voice, in order to be well heard in a large company. This is confounding two things which are different, roudness or strength of sound, with the key or note in which we speak. There is a variety of sound within the compass of each key. A speaker may therefore render his voice louder, without altering the key: and we shall always be able to give most body, most persevering force of sound, to that pitch of veice to which in conversation we are accustomed. Whereas, by setting out on our highest pitch or key, we certainly allow ourselves less compass, and are likely to strain our voice before we have done. We shall fatigue ourselves, and read with pain; and whenever a person speaks with pain to himself, he is also heard with pain by his audience. Let us therefore give the voice full strength and swell of sound; but always pitch it on our ordinary speaking key. It should be a constant rule never to utter a greater quantity of voice than we can afford without pain to ourselves, and without any extraordinary effort. As long as we keep within these bounds, the other organs of speech will be at liberty to discharge their several offices with ease; and we shall always have our voice under command. But whenever we transgress these bounds, we give up the reins, and have no longer any management of it. It is a useful rule, too, in order to be well heard, to cast our eye ou some of the most distant persons in the company, and to consider ourselves as reading to them. We naturally and mechanically utter our words with such a degree of strength, as to make ourselves be heard by the person whom we address, provided he is within reach of our voice. As this is the case in conversation, it will hold also in reading to others. But let us remember, that in reading as well as in conversation, it is possible to offend by speaking too loud. This extreme hurts ti e ear, by making the voice come upon it in rum. bling, indistinct masses.
By the habit of reading, when young, in a loud and vehement manner, the voice becomes fixed in a strained and unnatural key; and is rendered incapable of that variety of elevation and depression which constitutes the true harmony of utterance, and affords ease to the reader, and pleasure to the audience. This unnatural pitch of the voice, and disagreeable monotony, are most observable in persons who were taught to read in large rooms who were accustomed to stand at too great a distance, when reading to their tea chers; whose instructors were very imperfect in their nearing; or who were taught by persons who considered loud expression as the chief requisite in forming a good reader. These are circumstances, which demand the seri. 3us attemion of every one to whom the education of youth is committed.
IN the next place to being well heard and clearly understood, distinctness of articulation contributes more than mere loudness of sound. The quantity of sound necessary to fill even a large space, smailer than is commonly imagined; and, with distinct articulation, a person with a weak voice will make it reach further than the strongest voice can reach without it. To this, therefore, every reader ought to pay great attention. He must give every sound which he utters, its due proportion; and make every syllable, and even every letter in the word which he pronounces, be heard distinctly; without slurring, whispering, or suppressing, any of the proper sounds.
An accurate knowledge of the simple, elementary sounds of the language, and a facility in expressing them, are so necessary to distinctness of expres sion, that if the learner's attainments are, in this respect, imperfect, (and many there are in this situation,) it will be incumbent on his teacher to car ry him back to these primary articulations; and to suspend his picress, till ne become perfectly master of them. It will be in vain to press him forward, with the hope of forming a good reader, if he cannot completely tulay every elementary sound of the language.