One of the most powerful auxiliaries of beauty is a fine, well trained voice. Indeed, one of the most fascinating women I ever knew had scarcely any other charm to recommend her.
She was a young countess in Berlin, who had dull eyes, a rough skin, with dingy complexion, coarse, dull hair, and a dumpy form. But she has an exquisite voice, which charmed everybody who heard it. Ugly as she was, she was called “the syren,” from the fascinating sweetness of her voice.
And with an infallible instinct that she had but a single charm, she had cultivated that until she had bought it to the utmost perfection. Words fell like charmed music from her lips. And then, besides the discipline she had given her voice, she had made herself master of the art of conversation. In this respect, every woman’s education is sadly neglected. Had I a daughter, the first thing I would teach her, in the way of artificial accomplishment, would be, that to converse charmingly is a far greater accomplishment to a lady than music and dancing.
A woman who can converse well is always sure to command respect and admiration in any society. By this, I, of course, don’t mean a vicious abundance of words, and rapid volubility of tongue, for these are things which my sex sometimes too easily acquires. Good conversation does not mean the art of talking, but, the art of talking well. How few ladies have it! How few have ever been taught that good talking is as much an art as good singing? It is the voice; after all, more than words, that gives the finest and clearest expression to the passions and sentiments of the soul.
The most correct and elegant language loses all its beauty with a bad or ill-trained voice. The exhilaration of mirth, the profound sighs of sadness, the tenderness of love, the trembling interrupted sobbing of grief, all depends upon the voice for the effect upon the character and the heart. A bad talker is as great a bore as a bad singer or a bad reader. Indeed, to be charming in conversation implies a perfect knowledge of the rare and difficult art of reading. I call it rare and difficult, not only from the nature of the art itself, but also from the lack of competent teachers. There are a thousand good teachers of the art of singing, where there is one of the art of reading.
The teachers of elocution are generally decayed actors or professors, who are worse than incompetent, for they, in nine cases out of ten, get their pupils into pedantic, affected, and unnatural habits, which are thousand times worse than the natural awkwardness. The best advice I can give a lady on this subject is- unless she knows a teacher who has an exquisite voice and style- to practise herself in reading aloud, and training her voice to express the most happy and delightful ideas by soft and appropriate tones. She may think herself happy if she requires perfection in this exquisite art by two years of unwearied pains and study. And she may be sure that the accomplishment is cheaply bought at whatever expense.