Well, this was a challenge: take a book by an extremely successful dramatic reader in the early 1900s, and follow her training programme on the speaking voice and the vocal interpretation of various literary genres.
This is not a book designed for the professional reader’s training. It is meant for anyone who wants to get the best out of their voice in ordinary life. Watch out, though – if you are in the habit of wearing tight corsets, she has some severe words for you!
The first two parts of the book deal with vocal production and techniques such as change of pitch, inflection and tone colour, then the eight chapters of the third part offer studies on various genres such as the essay, the short story, several types of poetry, ending with dramatic monologues and plays.
Actually, by the time I reached the last few chapters, she had more or less given up trying to teach me anything, because she said I was supposed to know it all by then, so those chapters comprise mostly complete poems for one’s own personal study.
I did find it interesting. I think I found it useful. I hope that others may also find it so. Never having been a devotee of the great English poets Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Tennyson – indeed, to be honest, never having been a great devotee of any poetry at all – I was surprised, and really rather pleased to be forced to study some of their poems. And even more pleased to find that I could appreciate them.
Section 11 includes a detailed study of Shelley’s Ode to a Skylark and, in the order they appear, the complete poems:
The Lesser Children, or A Threnody at the Hunting Season by Ridgley Torrence
Hunting Song by Sir Walter Scott
It was a Lover and his Lass by William Shakespeare
Pack, Clouds, Away and Welcome Day by Thomas Heywood
Memory and Enamoured Architect of Airy Rhyme by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Love in the Winds by Richard Hovey
Candlemas by Alice Brown
She Was a Phantom of Delight by William Wordsworth
Nonsense Lyrics Topsy-turvy World and I Saw a New World by William Brighty Rands
Hymn Before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Juan’s Song from The Spanish Gypsy by George Eliot
Pablo’s Song from The Spanish Gypsy by George Eliot
My Star by Robert Browning
Cavalier Tunes Marching Along by Robert Browning
Garden Fancies The Flower’s Name by Robert Browning.
Section 12 has a study of part of Rabbi Ben Ezra by Robert Browning, and the complete poems:
Each and All by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Forbearance by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Section 13 comprises mostly just the complete short story The Revolt of ‘Mother’ by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman.
Section 14 has a study of a cutting of Gareth and Lynette from Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.
Section 15 has the complete poems:
A Tale (epilogue to Two Poets of Croisic) by Robert Browning
Incident of the French Camp
My Last Duchess