Elocutionary Arts

Exploring the lost practices and performers of recitation

"The Holy Whine" in The technic of the speaking voice: its development, training, and artistic use, based upon Rush’s Philosophy of the human voice, and the teaching and example of James E. Murdoch; and including a new presentation of expressive speech-melody, copiously illustrated by examples; many studies in interpretation; and a brief outline of gesture (1915) by John Rutledge Scott
This Way to Better Speech (1940), by Louise And Dorothy Miniace Abney

This Way to Better Speech (1940), by Louise And Dorothy Miniace Abney

Pose for “Fire can not slay it, it shall thrive, little brother!” from Sister Helen by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, in Gesture and Pantomimic Action (1891) by Florence Fowle Adams
Pose for Vehemence from Gesture and Pantomime Action (1891) by Florence Fowle Adams
Weekly schedule including thrice-weekly Delsarte lessons and/or practice, social calls, and other civic activities dating from ca. 1890s [?].  Found inserted in a pantomime textbook.
Maud Muller, by John Greenleaf Whittier
MAUD Muller, on a summer’s day,  

Raked the meadow sweet with hay.          

  

Beneath her torn hat glowed the wealth  

Of simple beauty and rustic health.    

  

Singing, she wrought, and her merry glee

The mock-bird echoed from his tree.            

  

But when she glanced to the far-off town,    

White from its hill-slope looking down,  

  

The sweet song died, and a vague unrest  

And a nameless longing filled her breast,—

  

A wish that she hardly dared to own,     

For something better than she had known.      

  

The Judge rode slowly down the lane,  

Smoothing his horse’s chestnut mane. 

  

He drew his bridle in the shade

Of the apple-trees to greet the maid,          

  

And ask a draught from the spring that flowed 

Through the meadow across the road.          

  

She stooped where the cool spring bubbled up,       

And filled for him her small tin cup,

  

And blushed as she gave it, looking down  

On her feet so bare, and her tattered gown.  

  

"Thanks!" said the Judge; "a sweeter draught            

From a fairer hand was never quaffed.”         

  

He spoke of the grass and flowers and trees,

Of the singing birds and the humming bees;            

  

Then talked of the haying, and wondered whether            

The cloud in the west would bring foul weather.           

  

And Maud forgot her brier-torn gown   

And her graceful ankles bare and brown;

  

And listened, while a pleased surprise           

Looked from her long-lashed hazel eyes.    

  

At last, like one who for delay  

Seeks a vain excuse, he rode away.   

  

Maud Muller looked and sighed: “Ah me!

That I the Judge’s bride might be!         

  

"He would dress me up in silks so fine,    

And praise and toast me at his wine.    

  

"My father should wear a broadcloth coat;     

My brother should sail a painted boat.

  

"I’d dress my mother so grand and gay, 

And the baby should have a new toy each day.     

  

"And I’d feed the hungry and clothe the poor,            

And all should bless me who left our door.”  

  

The Judge looked back as he climbed the hill,

And saw Maud Muller standing still.   

  

"A form more fair, a face more sweet,      

Ne’er hath it been my lot to meet.    

  

"And her modest answer and graceful air        

Show her wise and good as she is fair.

  

"Would she were mine, and I to-day,           

Like her, a harvester of hay:     

  

"No doubtful balance of rights and wrongs,            

Nor weary lawyers with endless tongues,           

  

"But low of cattle and song of birds,

And health and quiet and loving words.” 

  

But he thought of his sisters proud and cold,     

And his mother vain of her rank and gold.    

  

So, closing his heart, the Judge rode on, 

And Maud was left in the field alone.

  

But the lawyers smiled that afternoon,  

When he hummed in court an old love-tune;         

  

And the young girl mused beside the well, 

Till the rain on the unraked clover fell.        

  

He wedded a wife of richest dower,

Who lived for fashion, as he for power.        

  

Yet oft, in his marble hearth’s bright glow,     

He watched a picture come and go; 

  

And sweet Maud Muller’s hazel eyes        

Looked out in their innocent surprise.

  

Oft, when the wine in his glass was red,  

He longed for the wayside well instead;     

  

And closed his eyes on his garnished rooms  

To dream of meadows and clover-blooms. 

  

And the proud man sighed, with a secret pain,

"Ah, that I were free again!  

  

"Free as when I rode that day, 

Where the barefoot maiden raked her hay.”          

  

She wedded a man unlearned and poor,         

And many children played round her door.

  

But care and sorrow, and childbirth pain, 

Left their traces on heart and brain.        

  

And oft, when the summer sun shone hot  

On the new-mown hay in the meadow lot,       

  

And she heard the little spring brook fall

Over the roadside, through the wall,     

  

In the shade of the apple-tree again    

She saw a rider draw his rein.   

  

And, gazing down with timid grace,      

She felt his pleased eyes read her face.

  

Sometimes her narrow kitchen walls    

Stretched away into stately halls;    

  

The weary wheel to a spinet turned,   

The tallow candle an astral burned, 

  

And for him who sat by the chimney lug,

Dozing and grumbling o’er pipe and mug,  

  

A manly form at her side she saw,     

And joy was duty and love was law.           

  

Then she took up her burden of life again,     

Saying only, “It might have been.”

  

Alas for maiden, alas for Judge,        

For rich repiner and household drudge!            

  

God pity them both! and pity us all,   

Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.     

  

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: “It might have been!”  

  

Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies 

Deeply buried from human eyes;    

  

And, in the hereafter, angels may      
Roll the stone from its grave away!

Maud Muller, by John Greenleaf Whittier

MAUD Muller, on a summer’s day, 

Raked the meadow sweet with hay.         

 

Beneath her torn hat glowed the wealth 

Of simple beauty and rustic health.   

 

Singing, she wrought, and her merry glee

The mock-bird echoed from his tree.           

 

But when she glanced to the far-off town,   

White from its hill-slope looking down, 

 

The sweet song died, and a vague unrest 

And a nameless longing filled her breast,—

 

A wish that she hardly dared to own,    

For something better than she had known.     

 

The Judge rode slowly down the lane, 

Smoothing his horse’s chestnut mane.

 

He drew his bridle in the shade

Of the apple-trees to greet the maid,         

 

And ask a draught from the spring that flowed

Through the meadow across the road.         

 

She stooped where the cool spring bubbled up,      

And filled for him her small tin cup,

 

And blushed as she gave it, looking down 

On her feet so bare, and her tattered gown. 

 

"Thanks!" said the Judge; "a sweeter draught           

From a fairer hand was never quaffed.”        

 

He spoke of the grass and flowers and trees,

Of the singing birds and the humming bees;           

 

Then talked of the haying, and wondered whether           

The cloud in the west would bring foul weather.          

 

And Maud forgot her brier-torn gown  

And her graceful ankles bare and brown;

 

And listened, while a pleased surprise          

Looked from her long-lashed hazel eyes.   

 

At last, like one who for delay 

Seeks a vain excuse, he rode away.  

 

Maud Muller looked and sighed: “Ah me!

That I the Judge’s bride might be!        

 

"He would dress me up in silks so fine,   

And praise and toast me at his wine.   

 

"My father should wear a broadcloth coat;    

My brother should sail a painted boat.

 

"I’d dress my mother so grand and gay,

And the baby should have a new toy each day.    

 

"And I’d feed the hungry and clothe the poor,           

And all should bless me who left our door.” 

 

The Judge looked back as he climbed the hill,

And saw Maud Muller standing still.  

 

"A form more fair, a face more sweet,     

Ne’er hath it been my lot to meet.   

 

"And her modest answer and graceful air       

Show her wise and good as she is fair.

 

"Would she were mine, and I to-day,          

Like her, a harvester of hay:    

 

"No doubtful balance of rights and wrongs,           

Nor weary lawyers with endless tongues,          

 

"But low of cattle and song of birds,

And health and quiet and loving words.”

 

But he thought of his sisters proud and cold,    

And his mother vain of her rank and gold.   

 

So, closing his heart, the Judge rode on,

And Maud was left in the field alone.

 

But the lawyers smiled that afternoon, 

When he hummed in court an old love-tune;        

 

And the young girl mused beside the well,

Till the rain on the unraked clover fell.       

 

He wedded a wife of richest dower,

Who lived for fashion, as he for power.       

 

Yet oft, in his marble hearth’s bright glow,    

He watched a picture come and go;

 

And sweet Maud Muller’s hazel eyes       

Looked out in their innocent surprise.

 

Oft, when the wine in his glass was red, 

He longed for the wayside well instead;    

 

And closed his eyes on his garnished rooms 

To dream of meadows and clover-blooms.

 

And the proud man sighed, with a secret pain,

"Ah, that I were free again! 

 

"Free as when I rode that day,

Where the barefoot maiden raked her hay.”         

 

She wedded a man unlearned and poor,        

And many children played round her door.

 

But care and sorrow, and childbirth pain,

Left their traces on heart and brain.       

 

And oft, when the summer sun shone hot 

On the new-mown hay in the meadow lot,      

 

And she heard the little spring brook fall

Over the roadside, through the wall,    

 

In the shade of the apple-tree again   

She saw a rider draw his rein.  

 

And, gazing down with timid grace,     

She felt his pleased eyes read her face.

 

Sometimes her narrow kitchen walls   

Stretched away into stately halls;   

 

The weary wheel to a spinet turned,  

The tallow candle an astral burned,

 

And for him who sat by the chimney lug,

Dozing and grumbling o’er pipe and mug, 

 

A manly form at her side she saw,    

And joy was duty and love was law.          

 

Then she took up her burden of life again,    

Saying only, “It might have been.”

 

Alas for maiden, alas for Judge,       

For rich repiner and household drudge!           

 

God pity them both! and pity us all,  

Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.    

 

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: “It might have been!” 

 

Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies

Deeply buried from human eyes;   

 

And, in the hereafter, angels may     

Roll the stone from its grave away!

From “Now You’re Talking: a Guide to the Art of Conversation” by Ethel Kenyon, a booklet in the series, Amy Vanderbilt Success Program for Women circa 1965. [Above: Martha Raye]
Ethel’s Elocution Edicts: 10 ways to drop 10 years from your voice
Read inspiring and challenging passages aloud to lend color and strength to your tone of voice.
Make the breath you speak on, short, deep, easy.
Find your own most comfortable pitch, favoring lower and middle registers for your listener’s pleasure.
Stay out of your throat; speak up front, imagining an unobstructed column from your diaphragm to your lips.
Banish voice blemishes, especially nasality.
Ward off vocal wrinkles with vocal hygiene; stop punishing your voice, whether emotionally (translation: quit screaming) or with throat irritants (translation: quit smoking).
Forestall facial lines and tight tones by relaxing your mouth. Keep cheek muscles in repose.
Infuse your tone with warmth (think of how you speak to a beloved child)
Develop a beauty routine for your voice by listening to fine radio or TV voices.
Use a tape recorder as your closest ally and most accurate critic.
[Courtesy of moviestarmakeover.com]

From “Now You’re Talking: a Guide to the Art of Conversation” by Ethel Kenyon, a booklet in the series, Amy Vanderbilt Success Program for Women circa 1965. [Above: Martha Raye]

Ethel’s Elocution Edicts: 10 ways to drop 10 years from your voice

  1. Read inspiring and challenging passages aloud to lend color and strength to your tone of voice.
  2. Make the breath you speak on, short, deep, easy.
  3. Find your own most comfortable pitch, favoring lower and middle registers for your listener’s pleasure.
  4. Stay out of your throat; speak up front, imagining an unobstructed column from your diaphragm to your lips.
  5. Banish voice blemishes, especially nasality.
  6. Ward off vocal wrinkles with vocal hygiene; stop punishing your voice, whether emotionally (translation: quit screaming) or with throat irritants (translation: quit smoking).
  7. Forestall facial lines and tight tones by relaxing your mouth. Keep cheek muscles in repose.
  8. Infuse your tone with warmth (think of how you speak to a beloved child)
  9. Develop a beauty routine for your voice by listening to fine radio or TV voices.
  10. Use a tape recorder as your closest ally and most accurate critic.

[Courtesy of moviestarmakeover.com]

"Elements of Expression" from Lessons in elocution and drill book, for practice of the principles of vocal physiology, and for acquiring the art of elocution and oratory (1872) by Allen Ayrault Griffith
Delsarte exercises for going up and down the stairs, from The New Popular Reciter and Book of Elocution (1901) by Frances P. Pogle.  The elaborate cover of the book can be seen in the collection of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries.

Delsarte exercises for going up and down the stairs, from The New Popular Reciter and Book of Elocution (1901) by Frances P. Pogle.  The elaborate cover of the book can be seen in the collection of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries.

Two excepts from The young ladies’ elocutionary reader: containing a selection of reading lessons  (1853) by Anna U. Russell