John Mason


John Mason was a British Presbyterian minister, educator, and author of a very influential essay on elocution. This 1748 work addresses how to manage the voice when reading and speaking. Mason distinguishes the elocutionary challenges of reading aloud and speaking by emphasizing the sentiments behind the text. That is, when reading text authored by someone else, need to “express the full sense and spirit of your author” whereas when speaking you must express what is “suitable to the nature and importance of [your own] sentiments.” Mason includes in his essay a section on how to avoid bad pronunciation and another on how to achieve proper pronunciation.

John Mason authored two other works on elocution, these focusing on prosody in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. They were titled Principles of harmony in poetical composition (1749) and An essay on the power and harmony and prosaic numbers (1749).

Writings of John Mason

Mason, John, (1748). Essay on elocution; or, pronunciation. Intended chiefly for the assistance of those who instruct others in the art of reading. And of those who are often called to speak in publick (London).

Mason, John (1749) An essay on the power and harmony of prosaic numbers: Being a sequell to one on the power of numbers and the principles of harmony in poetic composition London: Printed by James Waugh for M. Cooper.

Mason, John.(1753) An essay on the action proper for the pulpit. London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley, 1753.

Mason, John. (1807) The student and pastor; or, Directions how to attain to eminence and usefulness in those respective characters. To which are added, A letter to a friend, upon his entrance on the ministerial office; and an Essay on elocution and pronunciation. London, H.D. Symonds.

Writings about John Mason

Haberman, F. (1954). English sources of elocution. In K. Wallace (ed.). History of speech education in America. NY: Appleton-Century Crofts, Inc.