Recitation, in this context, refers not to the oral delivery of prepared lessons by a pupil in front of a teacher, but the reciting of memorized selections in a public performance accompanied by studied gestures and intonation. The practice had its origins in reading aloud in homes, gradually became institutionalized in the schools (elocution), and finally evolved into a popular form of entertainment in variety shows such as vaudeville and music halls. Although elocution originally was aimed at training clergymen and lawyers, it became a means of promoting proper speech among the working class, thus facilitating upward mobility. In Victorian-era schools, uplifting recitations that fostered moral improvement were especially encouraged. Well-known poems were popular, as were inspiring historic and patriotic ballads. The two simple examples of verses for children illustrated below are fairly typical of the period.
Source: Excelsior writer and speaker, / by Rev. Henry Davenport Northrop.
Atlanta, Ga. : J.L. Nichols & Co., 1899).
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