“’Tis not so easy a matter to read well”: directions for reading aloud in eighteenth-century English grammars

Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez


In the second half of the eighteenth century the number of English school grammars underwent a dramatic increase, and grammar writers used title pages, prefaces and, in general, other book components to attract potential buyers. A very common commercial strategy consisted in adding supplementary material to the grammars. Among this material, a type of supplement, commonly called “directions for reading”, is often found in these grammars. This was intended to provide guidance on reading aloud to students, since a successful and effective oral delivery was considered a polite social asset and an important professional skill at the time. This article aims (i) to present a representative list of school grammars of English with “directions for reading”, (ii) to compare the directions for reading contained in different works to identify those aspects considered essential for a good reading performance, and, finally, (iii) to explore the relationship between these directions for reading and some works of the eighteenth-century elocutionary movement.


reading aloud; eighteenth-century grammars; elocutionary movement; directions for reading

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ISSN: 2000-3560