In advising readers on the choice of literature, we are risking much—reading is so much a matter of taste, and, at the best, it is only possible to suggest likely subjects. Certain rules apply in reading, however, as in everything else, and the most important one is the avoid ance of books which are written in indifferent English, or on subjects which are likely to do moral injury to the reader. If you are unused to intensive reading and desire to start a course of literary study—begin only with books by known authors—authors whose work has stood the test of time—and the taste for good literature thereby gained, will influence your choice in later reading. Tastes in literary com position change with everything else, and as a corrective, and to bring the reader up to date, he should interpolate into his study of the older literary masters, works by modern authors. A study of the better class periodicals, will also serve a good purpose in this direction. It is difficult to suggest which great author to read first, but, having regard to the excel lence of his English, and his skill as a stylist, one might (very tenta tively) suggest Addison’s ‘Letters to the ‘Spectator’.’ As a matter of fact, judged purely as a literary work, the Bible has much to recommend it, though, perhaps, on the ground of its association, this will not commend itself to the reader-for-amusement. Shakes- peare and the Poets should be left until later—they will perhaps be somewhat ‘heavy going’ for the raw tyro. Dickens can be confidently suggested—his simplicity of style, coupled with his amazing knowledge of human psychology, render him, maybe, the best ‘guide, philosopher and friend’ to the literary amateur. Scott is a classic writer, and is beloved by most discriminating readers, but he is a little difficult to read at first, owing to the irritating tendency to floridness and verbosity which slightly disfigure the old masters. Macau lay can be recommended, but Carlyle, whose style is a little self-conscious and certainly original, should be left till later. One writer, though he is somewhat under a cloud in the world of purists, is old Herodotus. Classical as is his work, his style is so racy and his stories so entertaining (though merely historical treatises), that he is a never-ending joy to his admirers. This book should be read in Professor Cary’s translation, to read it at its best. Swinging the pendulum in the other direction, Lamb’s ‘Essays of Elia’ commend themselves to the mind, to which may be added the works of Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad , Bret Harte, Washington Irving, Oliver Wendell Plolmes, R. L. Stevenson and Rudyard Kipling. This is a catholic list, and there are many who will complain of the famous names missing therefrom. Having assimilated these, however, the would-be reader will at all events have learnt something of literary style. In order to keep abreast of the latest literary successes, it is well to study the critiques in the current press, or those so ably reviewed for the B.B.C. CAREER, HOWTO CHOOSE A. In these days when the labour market is hopelessly overcrowded, it is no small difficulty to choose a career for a youngster. The child should not be given his own way too much in this matter, as youths and maidens can generally be trusted to make an unpractical choice. The last three or four years of a child’s school-days should be spent by the parent or guardian in a careful study of his charge, and if the parent feels incompetent to judge the youngster’s commercial qualifica*-tions, the schoolmaster should be called in and consulted. If a decided bent is shown in any particular direction (provided that bent shows practical possibilities), an attempt should be made to fit him for that sphere. Unfortunately, however, many young people either show no inclination for any particular line, or else very obviously have no vocation for the line of their choice—hence the large number of square pegs in round holes. Unless finance dictates an early getting into harness, parents should be in no hurry to launch their brood upon the world— many young lives have been permanently soured, and promising people degenerated into mediocrats by foisting them into trades or professions for which they are quite unsuited, but which offer openings at the time. DANCING (BALLET).
No branch of physical training does so much for the development of poise and deportment as the type of dancing which is loosely known as ‘ballet.’ All children have a natural aptitude for dancing—it is inherent in all humans—and cannot be placed too early under the care of a reputable dancing mistress All the greatest ballerinas commenced their tuition as soon as they could walk. If a youngster is reasonably sturdy, it should be taken in hand about the age of four—whilst the bones are as yet imperfectly formed, and before the child has anything to unlearn. For the first year, no reputable mistress will attempt to teach any steps, except the elementary ‘positions’ and ‘attitudes’; the time will be spent in teaching correct breathing (a thing few can do), and in exercises to develop the abdominal and leg muscles. A further season will be spent in ‘bar-training,’ and by the third year she should be ready to learn dancing properly —indeed, an intelligent child will be able to pick up the steps by this time. There are unintelligent mistresses who, for the sake of the glory to be gained, put tiny mites ‘on their points’ (I.e., teach them toe-dancing) almost immediately—to the permanent injury of the tiny instep. Such mistresses should be given a wide berth—as well set a child witli no knowledge of the technique of draughtsmanship to paint a picture.
In most places the State-controlled elementary schools have reached such a high standard of efficiency, that, unless a child is intended for a highly scientific or scholastic career, the grounding given will be almost sufficient for his or her needs—eked out, of course, by a little technical training in a night school. The health of the child is studied more and more, and the schools every year tend to more nearly approximate to the secondary school. Indeed, in London and other large towns, they form preparatory institutions to the higher secondary schools in virtue of the numerous scholarships offered.
Under the Education Act, a parent may not undertake the education of his or her child, unless such parent is possessed of scholastic qualifications. Nevertheless, the home influence will always be stronger than that of the school, and it behoves all parents to amplify the outside teaching. There are excellent kindergarten sections attached to all the elementary schools, but if a child starts its school-life armed with a little elementary knowledge learned at the parent’s knee, it starts with an incalculable advantage.
Night Schools, etc.
Almost every town of any size has some kind of evening school where subjects of a technical nature can be learned. The fees are, as a rule, extremely reasonable, the tuition excellent, and the subjects cover an almost inexhaustible range of technical subjects. Persons seeking to take up a course in one of these institutions should write to the Director of Education of their native or nearest town, asking for syllabus and list of fees.
Physically Defective Children. The question of educating and fitting into careers physically defective children is a difficult one. The exact extent of the difficulty depends very much on the form the disability takes. There are, however, in most large centres, schools for the training of children both mentally and physically defective—and, in a great many cases, such training and education is undertaken gratis.
These schools are intended to fill the gap between the elementary school and the big public school. Until a few years ago, the difference between them and the elementry schools was somewhat wide, but, owing to the improvement in the standard of the latter, the difference is in many cases somewhat remote —mostly existing in the fees charged.
These inst itu -tions are the last authority in education, and are the only sources of the Degrees which confer the hallmark of the educated man. They can only be entered on having satisfied the authorities thereof, by means of Matriculation, that the standard of knowledge is up to the prescribed level. Beside the classic establishments of Oxford and Cambridge, there are many other English Universities of very high standard, whose degrees are much sought after— notably, London, Manchester, Glasgow, Durham, etc. ELOCUTION.
Elocution is the art of clear and correct articulation and enunciation in public speaking generally, as opposed to ordinary conversation. It is usual to learn it from a qualified master, but for all practical purposes the observance of a few rules will satisfy the ‘man in the street.’
First of all, learn to breathe correctly through the nose, taking deep breaths and practise holding them. Cultivate a melodious voice: avoid monotones, but do not gush. Learn to punctuate your sentences. Cu lti-vate a correct and clear enunciation—if you find yourself stumbling over certain sounds or combinations of sounds, practise saying them over and over again aloud, slowly at first and gaining speed gradually. Never mumble—open the mouth well when speaking, and separate the teeth. Cultivate simplicity of diction, but let each word have its full value. Be connected and systematic and do not stammer. Never slur over words. In such awkward combinations as ‘Law Office,’ do not be betrayed into rendering it ‘Lor-roffice.’ Never get flustered: keep cool, and always be good tempered in speech (even though you do not feel it). Don’t be a ‘poker face’; let your expression eke out your words— but don’t grimace. If you must indicate with your hands, don’t gesticulate. Don’t point, or hammer with the fist—these are the devices of the oratorical bully.
When speaking in public, don’t say too much: before you start, know what you want to say ; say it—and sit down. GRAMMATICAL ERRORS COMMON IN SPEECH AND WRITING.
Over-Emphasis— A great blunder is the trick of qualifying words which are really complete in themselves. ‘He was a very honest man,’ may serve as an example. Obviously honesty is a definite virtue; a man can be dirty, very dirty, but if he is honest, that ends the matter. An exception to this rule may be recognized in the popular phrase, ‘A half-truth,’ but this should be used carefully and with definite purpose. If a person’s statement is true so far as it goes, yet does not reveal the whole of the facts, it can be called a ‘half-truth,’ in spite of the fact that such statements are almost invariably intended to deceive. Yet this phrase is often used to signify a mild, inoffensive falsehood— if such a thing, indeed, can be said to exist.
Among the many common grammatical errors of the day is the ‘split infinitive,’ as it is called. This is frequent in speech—more so, indeed, amongst educated people than amongst the ignorant—and is found with annoying persistence in the public press. Examples of this error are the following : ‘I told him to loudly shout,’ ‘She was obliged to hurriedly change her frock.’ The verbs ‘to shout’ and ‘to change’ should not be split—the adverb must be placed elsewhere, as ‘to shout loudly’ and ‘to change her frock hurriedly.’ It is easy to avoid such a blunder, and, although there may be cases where a split infinitive adds force to a sentence, the use of it is a dangerous practice, and should be avoided.
Use of Prepositions.
It is a common error to conclude a sentence with a preposition—this clumsy form of faux pas is very easily avoided. ‘Who was the woman you were walking with?’ is an example. Clearly this should be, ‘Who was the woman with whonu. you were walking?’ The prepositions are: in, to, for, from, of, by, with, against, at, and a few others. They are called prepositions because they are placed before—the Latin word pre meaning ‘before.’ It is obvious, then lore, that it is grossly incorrect to place them at the end. There seems, however to be a feeling amongst some people that sentences having the preposition in its correct position are pedantic—the obvious answer is, recast the whole sentence. It is a simple matter to render the above example as ‘Who was your lady companion?’ MEMORY TRAINING.
A faulty memory—if not due to some actual organic cause—is capable of improvement by the exercise of a little will power.
It may be due to brain-fag or intense worry, but should not exist in a well co-ordinated mind. Generally speaking, a little exercise for the memory corrects the tendency to lapses—though, of course, no memory is immune from occasional aberration. One form of memory training works on the principle of a mental card-index system—by association of ideas, a key is found to unlock the chambers of recollection. We can remember, for instance, that the Austrian Archduke Charles was murdered in 1914, because this murder was one of the events which precipitated the Great War. Again by a similar, and very obvious, association of ideas, a man may remember his wife’s birthday because it falls on the aniversary of the wound he received at Ypres. Telephone numbers may be remembered by some peculiarity in the arrangement of the figures, etc.
No exercise for the memory is quite so effective as the study of dates—this is the reason why so much stress was laid on them in the old-fashiomd schools. It has been found useful to jot down, say, the dates of the accessions and deaths of all the Kings of England since the’ Conquest, on a slip of paper, and con this from time to time, and every now and then, to test one’s self to see how many can be remembered. Another exercise is, to endeavour to write down word for word, any short article read in a newspaper, say, half an hour previously. PIANO-PLAYING.
There are many music lovers who have not time to devote to the acquirement of the ability to read music, and play well from the notation at sight, but who, nevertheless, like to vamp accompaniment on the piano to their own singing or that of friends. To others, the leisure comes late in life, when the muscles are too set and rigid to meet the need of flexibility demanded by ordinary keyboard technique. To acquire even a vamping proficiency some elementary knowledge of the rudiments of music are necessary, and those wishing to acquire a knowledge of pianoforte ‘ vamping ‘ are recommended to consult Mr. Julius Berne’s ‘Vamping made Easy’ published by Foul-sham. Those desiring a more intensive knowledge of pianoforte technique, should obtain ‘The Art of Piano-Playing’ by Percival Garratt, published by the same house.
There are two kinds of error in pronunciation—those due to ignorance, and the much commoner ones due to carelessness. For the former, there is every excuse, but none for the latter. These are slangy days, and the way of the purist is hard, but even the most up-to-date circles do not tolerate glaring mis-pronunciation. Some words, however, are controversial, and for these we will attempt no guidance. France has an authoritative body regulating the language: England has no such arbiter, and for want of a better authority, the man in the street must depend on the rulings recently laid down by the B.B.C.
A great stumbling block in the way of correct pronunciation is the legion of words which are pronounced in two different manners—due to variation in accentuation. The rule in this case, however, is that when the word is a noun, the accent falls on the first syllable; when it is desired to turn it into a verb, the accent is transferred to the second syllable as for example ac’cent (as a noun), accent’ (as a verb); com’pact (noun), compact’ (verb); di’gcst (noun); digest’ (verb).
It is sometimes stated, even in print, that the II in what, when, where, why. Sec, is silent : this is absolutely wrong—the H is very much aspirated—the words being pronounced hwat, hxven, hwere, hwy. The reason for this somewhat odd pronunciation is that these words have come to us from the Saxon, but in transmission, the letter W and the aspirate have become transposed—a curious corruption which has taken place in a number of Saxon words.
K and G before the letter N are silent—as Knight and Gnat; the final B, following the letter M, is always silent also—as Comb. Final E’s are only sounded when the words are of foreign origin, as Rene and blasé’. When W precedes R, as in wretched, the former letter is silent. In such words as hour, heir, honest, and in words of foreign origin, as hors de combat, the aspirate is always silent. The final T in such foreign words as eclat is also silent; the word is pronounced ayclah. When the last letter but one of a word is C or G, and the final letter is E, the latter vowel gives the consonant a soft sound—the value of S to the C, and of J to the G—thus force and range. The letter L may have almost a vowel consistency in some words, as Chalk (pronounced Chauk), Stalk (pronounced Stauk). In some words which commence with a P and another consonant, the P is silent. All these words have come to us from the Greek, and examples which may be quoted are psychic, pseudo and ptosis; these words are pronounced sighhicli, sewdo and toesis. Words which commence with the Greek letter phi ($), are spelt with PI I in English, and pronounced as F, as in Pharmacy and Phoenix (pronounced Farmasy and Feenix). Certain words are debatable, as Controversy, Laboratory, &c, there being no arbitrary rule as to whether the accent should be on the first or the second syllable.
The possible variant pronunciations of the English vowels should be remembered—(A) ay, ah and a (as in cat); (E) ec, ay and e (in get); (I) eye, ee and I (in sin); (O) oh and o (dog); and 6 (son); (U) oo and u (mud). PUNCTUATION, CORRECT. —
It is no very difficult task to master the mysteries of punctuation; if a pause is indicated in speech, a punctuation sign to the value of such pause, should be inserted in writing; similarly, inflections of the voice (surprise, question, &c.) have signs which indicate such sentiments in writing. Carelessness in punctuation some- 02 times produces most ludicrous results, as the following sentence will show:—’Qesar entered on his head, his helmet on his feet, his sandals in his hand, his trusty sword in his eye, an angry glare.’ This, of course, is nightmarish: the correct punctuation clarifies it, however: ‘Caesar entered, on his head his helmet; on his feet, his sandals; in his hand, his trusty sword; in his eye, an angry glare.’ It is impossible in the scope of this work to go into all the ramifications of punctuation, but the principal signs and their values are given here, and for further information the reader is referred to Messrs. Foulsham’s ‘Correct Punctuation.’
The Full Stop, or Period (.), indicates the conclusion of a sentence, or of one train of thought.
The Comma (,) indicates a slight pause, either for breath or effect, before the conclusion of a train of thought,
The Colon (:) is practically a Full Stop. It merely separates two complete ideas which, although related, could each stand alone, as in the example: ‘The king is dead : long live the king.’ The second sequence—that following the Colon—does not commence with a capital letter.
The Semicolon (;), connects two statements in a rather more forceful manner than a Comma. It indicates that although both statements are definite ideas in themselves in the particular relation to each other in which they stand in the sentence, they cannot be completely separated, as in the sentence: ‘He fell over the cliff; that was the end of him.’
The Query or Question Mark (?), denotes interrogation, as ‘Are you going to the office to-day ?’ The Apostrophe (’), indicates possession—it originally implied the pronoun his omitted, as ‘Hob-son’s Choice.’ Parenthesis (), indicates an aside, or a qualification—not vital to the coherence of the sentence, but necessary to the truth of it, as ‘The King’s daughter (the eldest one), is to be married.’
The Exclamation Mark (!) indicates surprise — as, ‘Good Heavens !’ ‘Quotes’ or Quotation Marks (‘ ‘) indicate either conversation, or a quotation from some other authority—thus, ‘I am the Good Shepherd,’ or—He said ‘Give me something to eat I’ The Dash (—-), usually indicates a qualification of a sentence, a proviso, alternative, &c, as in the sentences ‘I shall be home by seven o’clock—that is, if I am coming home at all to-night.’ ‘I have discovered—but that had better wait until I see you.’ Occasionally, the Dash gives emphasis, as in the example, ‘Only one punishment will meet the case—death !’ SINGING.
Professor Bertram Williams, the eminent medico-voice-production authority, once said that it was in everyone to sing, so long as the vocal and respiratory organs were not impaired. All persons may not be possessed of Queen’s Hall voices, but all healthy vocal organs are capable of harmonious vocalization; it is merely a matter of voice training. The first consideration—as with public speaking—is correct breathing: the lungs are the bellows which blow the organ of the voice, and if they are not functioning correctly, it follows that the organ itself will work imperfectly. Poise is the next matter requiring attention. It is quite useless attempting to sing whilst lolling about, or with the chin in the chest; the shoulders must be thrown well back, the chest thrown out, and the chin held up well. Nobody can sing through the teeth—the mouth must be well open, as though allowing every ounce of sound to escape. Correct enunciation should be studied, and also something of the theory of music, harmony’ and (possibly) counterpoint. The serious singer should also learn to sight read, either from print or manuscript: this latter proviso is somewhat important to those taking up a theatrical or concert-platform engagement: it is surprising what a number of professional singers there are who are quite unable to read from manuscript.
Those wishing further information on the matter of voice-production should study Mr. Watson Lyle’s ‘Singing Made Easy,’ published by Messrs. W. Foulshani & Co., Ltd. Speaking in Public.
See Elocution. VIOLIN PLAYING.
The violin is a sweet-toned instrument, more nearly approximating to the human voice than perhaps any other music producer. It is played by the friction of a hair-covered bow against gut strings, which are stretched across the sounding-box of the violin to the neck, where they are regulated by pegs. The strings, of which there are four, are strained away from the sounding-box by means of a wooden bridge. This bridge conveys the sound into the sounding box, where it is mellowed and expelled through the ‘F’ holes. The normal pitch of the strings is E, A, D and G, the G-string being wrapped with copper wire.
Other notes on the scale are obtained by pressure with the fingers on given points of the violin neck. The pitch is maintained and regulated by means of the pegs, on which’the neck-ends of the strings are fastened. There are but three octaves obtainable on this instrument.
The violin is an excellent adjunct to the piano, and is quite indispensable to the orchestra, but as a solo accompaniment to the voice, it lacks ‘body,’ on account of its similarity to that organ of sound. As an accompaniment to the piano, the violin is welcome at every social gathering, and as the instrument does not take up much room, it can be carried about without any inconvenience. Readers who wish to obtain instruction in the art of playing this beautiful instrument should obtain the ‘Art of Violin Playing,’ by that eminent violinist, Melsa, published by Messrs. W. Foulsham & Co., Ltd.
See Elocution and Singing.