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[An example of "gay” and “ humorous ” “ expression," in description.
The “ quality” of voice, required in the reading, is "pure tone * modified as mentioned. The “expression,” in all cases of description for effect, should be very
much indulged, — even to the extent of playful excess, and exaggerated mock gravity of manner: every emphasis,“ inflection,” and form of “ stress," should be given with the utmost graphic breadth ; the author's design obviously being a sly caricature of habit, in the form of a pretended eulogy of character. The whole manner, however, should be so skilfully managed, that an ambiguous air of sincerity, corresponding to that of the language of the piece, should be maintained throughout.]
“A clear fire, a clean hearth, and the rigour of the game." This was the celebrated wish of old Sarah Battle, (now no more,) who, next to her devotions, loved a good game at whist. She was none of your lukewarm gamesters, — your half and half players, who have no objection to take a hand, if you want one to make up a rubber; who affirm that they have no pleasure in winning; that they like to win one game, and lose another; that they can wile away an hour very agreeably at a card-table, but are indifferent whether they play or not, and will desire an adversary who has slipped a wrong card, to take it up and play another. These insufferable triflers are the curse of a table. One of these flies will spoil a whole pot. Of such it may be said, that they do not play at cards, but only play at playing at them.
Sarah Battle was none of that breed. She detested them, - as I do, — from her heart and soul; and would not, — save upon a striking emergency, — willingly seat herself at the same table with them. She loved a thorough-paced partner, - a determined enemy. She took, and gave, no concessions. She hated favours. She never made a revoke, nor ever passed it over in her adversary, without exacting the utmost forfeiture. She fought a good fight, cut and thrust. She held not her good sword, (her cards,) “like a dancer." She sat bolt upright; and neither showed you her cards, nor desired to see yours. All people have their blind side,
their superstitions; and I have heard her declare, under the rose, that hearts was her favourite suit.
I never in my life, and I knew Sarah Battle many of the best years nf it, — saw her take out her snuffbox when it was her turn to play; or snuff a candle in the middle of a game; or ring for a servant, till it was fairly over. She never introduced, or connived at, miscellaneous conversation during its process. As she emphatically observed, cards were cards; and if I ever saw unmingled distaste in her fine last-century countenance, it was at the airs of a young gentleman, of a literary turn, who had been with difficulty persuaded to take a hand; and who, in his excess of candour, declared, that he thought there was no harm in unbending the mind, now and then, after serious studies, in recreations of that kind! She could not bear to have her noble occupation, to which she wound up her faculties, considered in that light. It was her business, her duty, the thing she came into the world to do, – and she did it. She unbent her mind afterward, — over a book.
Pope was her favourite author: his Rape of the Lock, her favourite work. She once did me the favour to play over with me, (with the cards,) his celebrated game of “ombre" in that poem; and to explain to me how far it agreed with, and in what points it would be found to differ from,“ tradrille.” Her illustrations were apposite and poignant; and I had the pleasure of sending the substance of them to Mr. Bowles : but I suppose they came too late to be inserted among his ingenious notes upon that author.
[This exercise forms an example of " serious ” and “ animated” conver
sation. The “ quality” of voice, in the reading, is “ pure tone,” in its “ moderate” form. The pitch” is on“ middle” notes, descending occasionally to" grave," or moderately low key ; the “force” is “ moderate,” increasing, sometimes, to a degree of energy, when the
sentiment becomes impressive; the “movement” is generally 1 “ moderate," — sometimes, in descriptive passages, it is “lively."
The “ inflectior.s” and the emphasis, are slight in the lively, and well marked in the grave passages. The “movement” and the pauses correspond, in a time,” to the character of the emphasis. A moderate “ radical stress " prevails throughout the piece.]
When Pekuah returned from her captivity in the palace of the Arab chief, she complained to the Princess Nekayah of the misery of the situation she had endured.
“ There were women in your Arab's fortress," said the princess. “Why did you not make them companions, enjoy their conversation, and partake their diversions? In a place where they found business or amusement, why should you alone sit corroded with idle melancholy? or why could you not bear, for a few months, that condition to which they were condemned for life?”
“ The diversions of the women," answered Pekuah, “ were only childish play, by which the mind accustomed to stronger cperations, could not be kept busy. I could do all which they delighted in doing, by powers merely sensitive, while my intellectual faculties were flown to Cairo. They ran from room to room, as a bird hops from wire to wire in his cage. They danced for the sake of motion, as lambs frisk in a meadow. One sometimes pretended to be hurt, that the rest might be alarmed; or hid herself, that another might seek her. Part of their time passed in watching the progress of light bodies that floated on the river, and part in marking the various forms into which clouds broke in the sky.
“ Their business was only needlework, in which I and my maids sometimes helped them; but you know that the mind will easily straggle from the fingers; nor will you suspect that captivity and absence from Nekayah could receive solace from silken flowers.
“ Nor was much satisfaction to be hoped from their conversation ; for of what could they be expected to talk? They had seen nothing; for they had lived, from early youth, in that narrow spot : of what they had not seen they could have no knowledge; for they could not read. They had no ideas but of the few things that were within their view, and had hardly names for any thing but their clothes and their food. As I bore a superior character, I was often called to terminate their quarrels, which I decided as equitably as I could. If it could have amused me to hear the complaints of each against the rest, I might have been often detained by long
stories; but the motives of their animosity were so small, that I could not listen without interrupting the tale."
“How,” said Rasselas, “ can the Arab, whom you represented as a man of more than common accomplishments, take any pleasure in his palace, when it is filled only with -women like these ? — Are they exquisitely beautiful ?”
“ They do not,” said Pekuah, “ want that unaffecting and ignoble beauty which may subsist without sprightliness or sublimity, without energy of thought or dignity of virtue. But, to a man like the Arab, such beauty was only a flower casually plucked and carelessly thrown away. Whatever pleasures he might find among them, they were not those of friendship or society. When they were playing about him, he looked on them with inattentive superiority; when they vied for his regard, he sometimes turned away disgusted. As they had no knowledge, their talk could take nothing from the tediousness of life; as they had no choice, their fondness, or appearance of fondness, excited in him neither pride nor gratitude; he was not exalted in his own esteem by the smiles of a woman who saw no other man, nor was much obliged by that regard of which he could never know the sincerity, and which he might often perceive to be exerted, not so much to delight him as to pain a rival. That which he gave, and they received, as love, was only a careless distribution of superfluous time; such love as man can bestow upon that which he despises, such as has neither hope nor fear, neither joy nor sorrow.”
[This piece exemplifies, in reading, the tones of "repose” and beauty,
terminating in a strain of “ solemnity.” “Pure tone” is the “quality” of voice, throughout. The "force” is “subdued,” first, by 6 tranquillity,” afterwards, by “ reverence.” The “ pitch” is on the low note of musing 6 erpression ;” and the “ movement” is generally “ moderate,” — sometimes “slow." A gentle “median stress” prevails. The unity and continuous effect of the description, which purposely blend the whole scene into one harmonious whole, make the pauses shorter than they would otherwise be in a piece so tran
quil in its expression. The perfect “purity” of the “ tone," and the ceaseless flow of the voice, are among the chief means of appropriate effect, in passages of this description. A gentle suavity pervades the “repose” which forms the main element of this piece. The great fault to be shunned, in the reading, is a dry, prosaic, matterof-fact style, which enumerates mechanically, what should be described poetically and imaginatively.]
How sweet at summer's noon, to sit and muse