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BBC releases archive recordings of famous novelistExtraordinary voices matched to extraordinary talents


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#1 leonid

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 10:13 AM

The BBC has placed on a series of short broadcasts made by distinguished authors talking about their works and techniques employed in writing novels.

Included among many others are:

Virginia Woolf
W Somerset Maugham
Elizabeth Bowen******Just to listen to her beautifully modulated tones and diction conjuring up English speech of a lost era. Interestingly Ninette de Valois also born in Ireland spoke with similar standard of clear diction.


Kingsley Amis
Aldous Huxley
PG Wodehouse.
EM Forster
Christopher Isherwood
Kazuo Ishiguro
Beryl Bainbridge
Doris Lessing
Robert Graves
VS Naipaul

Link:= http://www.bbc.co.uk...ers/12246.shtml

#2 dirac

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 11:56 AM

Looks like great stuff. Thanks for the link, leonid. You used to have to travel to a library for such things, and thanks to the Internet....



#3 richard53dog

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 01:49 PM

Elizabeth Bowen******Just to listen to her beautifully modulated tones and diction conjuring up English speech of a lost era. Interestingly Ninette de Valois also born in Ireland spoke with similar standard of clear diction




Leonid, I've never heard Bowen speak but I have heard de Valois. But I can hear clearly that early 20th century English (as spoken in GB) and I like the effect of it very much. It seems very elegant to me. Also American English spoken in this same period was considerably closer in effect to British spoken English back then. It was also much classier than it is today.

Both version of spoken English have evolved into something much less clear and beautiful sounding. And they have gone in increasingly divergent directions.

So much of the British English we hear here in the US is very edgy sounding and American English has become more and more slurred. Not exactly progress.

#4 Ray

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 05:49 AM

Thanks so much for posting this link! I had never heard Virginia Woolf speak before--what would one call that way of speaking, high RP?

#5 leonid

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 12:03 PM

Thanks so much for posting this link! I had never heard Virginia Woolf speak before--what would one call that way of speaking, high RP?


I am sure there are many people today who would describe Virginia Woolf's voice as affected or "camp." Such an appellation would in itself, denote to some members of an older generation, as an inference as to the class of the commentator rather than a jocular expression.

The phrase "Received Pronunciation" was coined in 1869 by the linguist, A.J.Ellis, but it only became a widely used term used to describe the accent of the social elite after the phonetician, Daniel Jones, adopted it for the second edition of the English Pronouncing Dictionary (1924).

The definition of ‘received’ conveys its original meaning of ‘accepted’ or ‘approved’. We can trace the origins of RP back to the public schools and universities of nineteenth-century Britain - indeed Daniel Jones initially used the term Public School Pronunciation to describe this emerging, socially exclusive accent.

Over the course of the 19th century, members of the ruling and privileged classes increasingly attended boarding schools such as Winchester, Eton, Harrow and Rugby and graduated from then Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Their speech patterns were loosely on the local accents of "Upper Class" London, Oxford and Cambridge which in turn came to be associated with The Establishment.

I know what you mean by “High Received Pronunciation” but it is a term not widely used in the UK, but it does of course still exactly carry the implied social inference.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second's speech was up until two or three decades ago, an example of a cut glass accent and a clear example of Received Pronunciation. The Queen however, has now moderately adapted some archaisms of pronunciation with the changing times.

I think it is correct to say Miss Woolf's speech reflects RP in a highly individual manner. Daphne du Maurier, Muriel Spark, Beryl Bainbridge, Iris Mudoch, Margaret Drabble and Doris Lessing all speak with what many English people would call a ‘posh’ voice and RP is never far away from their pronunciation.

#6 leonid

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 12:12 PM



Elizabeth Bowen******Just to listen to her beautifully modulated tones and diction conjuring up English speech of a lost era. Interestingly Ninette de Valois also born in Ireland spoke with similar standard of clear diction




Leonid, I've never heard Bowen speak but I have heard de Valois. But I can hear clearly that early 20th century English (as spoken in GB) and I like the effect of it very much. It seems very elegant to me. Also American English spoken in this same period was considerably closer in effect to British spoken English back then. It was also much classier than it is today.

Both version of spoken English have evolved into something much less clear and beautiful sounding. And they have gone in increasingly divergent directions.

So much of the British English we hear here in the US is very edgy sounding and American English has become more and more slurred. Not exactly progress.


I certainly spoke with an older generation of Americans in the 1960's who spoke in as beautiful a manner as some duchesses. You are right when you describe such a closeness as to what one might call the speech mannerisms of UK Received Pronunciation.

When you say, "So much of the British English we hear here in the US is very edgy sounding and American English has become more and more slurred. Not exactly progress." I know exactly what you mean and I try not to be infected by the vulgarisms of modern speech. It is up to those of us that care to set an example.

#7 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 01:52 PM

how marvelous, leonid, thank you! i once knew a gentleman who knew elizabeth bowen and told me of her beautiful speech. a treasure!

#8 dirac

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 03:01 PM

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second's speech was up until two or three decades ago, an example of a cut glass accent and a clear example of Received Pronunciation.



I remember a television documentary that broadcast an excerpt from one of the Queen’s speeches from back when. Could barely get a word of it – my memory brings up Edith Evans on Quaaludes. Had a similar experience years ago when what was then the MacNeil Lehrer News Hour interviewed a few backwoodsmen from the House of Lords who had shown up to protest a change in the rules and they mostly sounded like participants in the Monty Python Upper Class Twit of the Year Competition. Most diverting.



#9 papeetepatrick

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 04:36 PM

I am sure there are many people today who would describe Virginia Woolf's voice as affected or "camp." Such an appellation would in itself, denote to some members of an older generation, as an inference as to the class of the commentator rather than a jocular expression.


It might, but such an inference might well be irrelevant in certain circumstances except to certain very, very aged fossilized purists, since everybody knows what 'camp' is by now, and Princess Michael of Kent is an example of one who is seemingly certainly not averse to it, both talking about it and possibly even indulging in it purposely--she seems to enjoy it immensely. But I'll get to that in a moment, because she's interesting in this regard. otoh, I didn't hear anything 'camp' or 'affected' in Ms. Woolf's speech. I should listen again, and see if I can find any. My very first impression of that clip made me think of Vanessa Redgrave, but then that fell off.

As for the queen of England, I've heard her, as most have, through the years on PBS documentaries. It's always an interesting speech, I find. Some of the archaisms do remain, as the famous speech after the Windsor Castle fire, when she was clearly slightly less unflappable then we've always seen her before, and said 'it has been an annus horribilis'. Well, you know, many of us learned that term from that speech. She's very funny, and on one of the shows she was sitting for a portrait in the traditional Order of the Garter regalia, and talking about not only how uncomfortable the clothes were, but how the painter's father loved her gun collection, and how sometimes some of the collection would be missing. Although I don't know how pointed that was; in any case, there are the famous stories of Queen Mary deciding she liked someone's furniture.

Rex Harrison had a lot of what you hear in Ms. Bowen, I was thinking. Beautiful speech indeed, and I've always loved his.

But I want to ask leonid about Princess Michael, minor royal and art historian who either did move to France because fox-hunting became illegal, or planned to, or said she was, something... Have you ever attended one of her lectures and/or heard her speak at length? Because this is very interesting, even when she chooses an art history subject so precious, it's hard to see why one would spend really any time at all on it. Charles II and Nell Gwynn were one thing, but 'the Winter Queen of Bohemia' was a bit much, but that's by the by. She's from Bohemia herself, explained why she's called 'Princess Michael' (aside from her husband's name), and I believe the name is Anne-Christine Von Reibnitz, Austro-Hungarian. So she then is an 'English princess', as she says. And you have this very extreme speech which is very novel and enjoyable to hear, because this is the 'big plummy accent' you get. Since she is not English, it's interesting that to our ears, though, it would sound so upper-class English. Of course, she is upper class British, but she's not born English. It's a very 'woman-of-the-world' speech she has, you would say it had some affectations in it (in a way you wouldn't say it of Queen Elizabeth), but it still comes across as convincing and pleasurable to hear in its extravagant way. She likes to get racy in these talks and talke about the 'who-ahz' a lot. I can see that some wouldn't like it, she's definitely got a streak of decadence to her. But she's also got first-class brain and wonderful command of all the history, but isn't always the kindest when speaking of others, as in her lecture about Elizabeth, the name also of the month-long queen of Bohemia, she said 'well, Elizabeth wasn't teddibly bright'. I thoroughly enjoyed both lectures, despite the silliness of some of the content (renting a barge to go up the river so she could experience her first sighting of Bohemia just as the Winter Queen had was a bit 'conspicuous consumption'). It's a low, rich voice that doesn't sound too strange given her big-boned, handsome figure. I'd say she was campy sometimes, much more than Ms. Woolf, but I think Princess Michael knows she is campy, even though she talks about going to parties at Windsor and being a descendant of Diane de Poitiers fairly often (in fact, this kind of talk could be considered 'campy', I'd say, especially when she said to us 'When Her Majesty the Queen is kind enough to invite us to Windsor...' etc. and talks about her daughter's 'squah-toed shoes').


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