This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
How differently does the true orator appear! Untrammeled on the platform by papers, he stands before his audience in the dignity of human nature, every feature enlivened by the thoughts that till his brain, a clear, ringing voice to give them expression, and body and limbs all alive with harmonious and touching gestures. Such a man is a power in the land, for good or evil, swaying the masses, pleading the cause he advocates with earnestness, fidelity and eloquence, and leaving the impress of his intellect upon the minds and hearts of his hearers.
The distinguishing mechanical features of a finished address are distinct articulation, inflections, accent, emphasis, modulation and gesture.
Articulation is the art of using the vocal organs, including the teeth, with such ease and perfection that every portion of a word or sentence is distinctly uttered, every vowel and consonant fully pronounced, and no words or letters clipped off, as it were, or omitted from any sentence. Beginners, especially children, in their haste to get through a sentence, when "speaking a piece," often do this in a very ridiculous manner, but no finished orator is guilty of the practice. In the sentence, "He could pay nobody," the words, by careless speaking become, "He could pain nobody." This example will serve to show the necessity of a clear enunciation of every word and syllable, lest the entire passage be changed and its sense destroyed.
Inflection is a slide, or a change of the voice. The monotone is devoid of any rising or falling changes; hence the term "monotonous" is ap-
Fig. 1 - Bashfulness.
The above illustrations represent the effect of practice and culture. While speaker No. 1, by his unpolished manner and diffidence, is an object of pity or ridicule, as a public plied to a continuous flow of words in a single tone of voice. Still, the monotone, as the expression of great sublimity of thought, is sometimes used by the best orators and readers. While it may serve to express earnestness, it does not convey the idea of deep emotion.
The rising inflection may start a sentence with a monotone, but becomes louder and more significant as it proceeds. It is strongly marked in the asking of a question, as: "Where were you yesterday?" - throwing the emphasis on "yesterday," with a gradual raising of the voice.
The falling inflection begins with a high tone of voice and ends the sentence in a moderate one; for example: "Yester-day I stayed at home," answering the question and emphasizing "yesterday," also, because that word covered the principal object in asking the question.
The circumflex tone begins with the falling inflection and ends with the rising one, as: "I went out yesterday, but I stay here to-day," - " today" elevated. The word or in the sentence : " Will you stay - or go ?" - throws the rising inflection on "stay," and the falling on "go."
In the negative sentence: "Study not for recreation, but for instruction," the rising inflection is on the affirmative, "instruction," while "re-creation" has the falling tone.
Affection or tender emotion requires the rising inflection, coupled with softness: "Then spake the father, Come hither, my child."
These inflections enter into all the expressions of the human voice, ever varying, according to the sentiment to be promulgated. Nature teaches speaker, No. 2, representing a well-known orator, as he apostrophizes a glass of water, entrances his audience by his self-possession, his earnestness, and his naturalness.
Fig. 2 - Self-possession.
them and frames their utterances, while art acquires and simulates them on the stage, on the platform, in the pulpit, in the halls of legislation, or in the legal tribunal.
Accent is a peculiar force of the voice displayed in the pronunciation of a particular syllable in a word, or a particular word in a sentence, to make it more effective. A variety of English words have two or more accentuations. Thus the word "ac-cent," in the sense here used, has the accent on the first syllable - "ac"; but if we say that such a word should be accented, the "cent" is most strongly pronounced.
Emphasis is a stronger expression given to the utterance of a word or sentence, for the purpose of impressing it upon the mind, than can be given by inflection or accent alone; requiring elevation of tone, indicating either earnestness or emotion, or calling attention to some peculiarity of thought or argument advanced by the speaker. In writing, the emphasized word is usually underscored; in type, it is put in italic letters.
Modulation is the natural or acquired melodious form of utterance to suit the sentiment with musical precision. Indeed, modulation is a feature of music as well as of elocution, giving sweetness of tone and variation to the voice. It combines articulation, inflection, accent and emphasis, and enriches the entire discourse with harmony of expression.
Gesture is any natural movement of the limbs or body that indicates the character of the prevailing feeling or emotion of the heart. It appeals at once to our sympathies with far greater eloquence than words, and when combined with oratory makes the latter more effective. Without proper gestures, an orator loses much of his power to control the thoughts and opinions of his auditors; they add to the earnestness of his expressions, increasing his eloquence, and carrying conviction with every proposition advanced. In real oratory the eye speaks as well as the lips; the motions of the arms, and hands, and head, and body, are all brought into subjection to the dominant argument, and the grace and dignity of the human form are exhibited in all their brilliancy. "Hamlet's" advice to the players - "Suit the word to the action, and the action to the word," is worth heeding. A downward movement of the arm or hand at a rising inflection would be but a burlesque.
Volume is the character of the voice as determined by the utterance of various emotions, in which the throat expands or contracts, producing whispers, wailings, etc., and is expressive of the inward emotion, whatever it may be.
Pitch represents the proper elevation of the voice, and its use in elocution is to regulate the tone of the discourse to its character. If not regarded as it should be, the delivery becomes faulty and disagreeable.
Force applies to the energy which is given to certain words and phrases, as expressive of the earnestness with which they should be received. It is mental emphasis, laying stress, in degrees, upon whatever is uttered.
Avoid talking through the nose and getting into a sing-song strain of delivery. Do not take the other extreme and become too grand in language for the subject. Speak of common things naturally, distinctly and intelligently. Do not use great, swelling words, chosen from the dictionary, for the sake of " showing off." The Anglo-Saxon tongue is filled with short, expressive words - words of one or two syllables, that point a sentence with wit and eloquence better than a flow of dissyllables.
Pitch the tone of voice no higher than is necessary to reach the ears of the person farthest from you in the audience, but be sure that it reaches its limit without losing its distinctness. In this lay one of the strongest features of the eloquence of the lamented Wendell Phillips.
Oratory should express in the features, the position of the body, and the movements of the head and limbs, the emotions which govern the utterances of the speaker, as indicated in the figures, explanations and examples which follow: