Imatges de pÓgina


were the chief objects of instruction. Whilst that of delivery, was so wholly neglected, that the best scholars often could not make themselves understood in repeating their own exercises ; or disgraced beautiful composition by an ungracious delivery. Those who taught the first rudiments of reading, thought their task finished when their pupils could read fluently, and observe their stops. This employment requiring no great talents, usually fell to the lot of old women, or men of mean capacities; who could teach no other mode of utterance than what they poffeffed themselves ; and consequently were not likely to communicate any thing of propriety or grace to their scholars. If they brought with them any bad habits, such as stuttering, stammering, mumbling, an indistinct articulation, a constrained unnatural tone of voice, brought on from imitation of some other ; or if they were unable to pro


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nounce certain letters, these poor creatures, utterly unskilled in the causes of these defects, sheltered their ignorance under the general charge of their being natural impediments, and sent them to the Latin school, with all their imperfections on their heads. The master of that school, as little skilled in these matters as the other, neither knew how, nor thought it part of his province to attempt a cure; and thus the disorder

generally passed irremediable through life. Such was the state of this art on the first propagation of literature, and such it notoriously remains to this day.

When we reflect on the general benefit that would accrue from bringing this art to perfection ; that it would be useful to many professions ; necessary to the most numerous and respectable order established amongst us; ornamental to all individuals, whether male or female; and that the state of pub


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lic elocution must in a great measure be affected by it, it would be apt to astonish one to think that there has been so little progress made in it.

When we consider too that the world. has always been clamorous in their complaints upon this head, having too generally. occasion to regret the low ftate of this art, in their attendance on the most important duty, that of public worship; and that there are multitudes whose interest and inclination it would be to improve themselves in it, had they the means in their power, and could they obtain regular instruction ; it would surprise one at first that no one has as yet struck out fuch a method, which would certainly be attended with great emoluments to him. And indeed the prospect was so inviting, that many have been the attempts which have been made in that way from time to time; but they all failed from the fame cause ; which was, that they who attempted it were men skilled in letters, but not in sounds; and they were blind enough to imagine that the knowledge of the one neceffarily included that of the other. Whereas the very reverfe is true; as it would be impossible to treat justly of founds, until the man of letters shall have first divested himself of all the prejudices and errors which he had imbibed with regard to that article, from the time of his first learning the alphabet ; for in that lies the fource of all our mistakes. They took the alphabet as they found it, and thought it perfect; whereas this alphabet, on the revival of the learned languages, was borrowed from the Roman, though it by no means squared with our tongue. As a proof of which it is certain that we have 28 fimple sounds in our tongue, and have in reality but 20 characters to mark them, though more



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in the alphabet, as will presently be shewn. This reduced men in the beginning to a thousand clumsy contrivances, in those unenlightened days, to make such an alphabet answer the end at all ; but it was done at such an expence as to make the learning to read and spell properly a tedious and difficult task, which required the labour of many years to accomplish. These contrivances of theirs in spelling, to make a defective alphabet answer the end of representing words, have so confounded our ideas with regard to the powers of several letters, applied to a variety of different uses, that all the systems hitherto produced upon that point have been a perfect chaos. Nothing can be a stronger proof of the gross errours into which literary men fell, in their several

grammars and treatises upon this subject, than that the best of them have mistaken diphthongs for


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