Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 121

The Euphonia, or Speaking Automaton

Illustrated London News, Vol. 9, Aug. 8, 1846, p. 96.

We noticed this new Speaking Automaton a fortnight since, and then recorded its feats arte loquendi.  It is stated by Professor Faber to be the result of twenty-five years' labour!  It is well observed in the Athenĉum:--"It is in vain to apply the 'Cui bono?' to a matter like this.  It is quite true that mechanical figures, in heads and turbans, with their lungs in red baize and worked by machinery, are not in themselves utilities--the more particularly as their talking machinery requires the impulse of a real living and talking man, who might more conveniently have done the talking at first hand.  As an example of inductive and mechanical skill, however, such an exhibition as this is well deserving of attention; and there is no difficulty, besides, in imagining a number of purposes to which the discovery of any artificial means for producing vocal articulation might be applied with valuable effect.  It is, in any case, an old scientific problem; and anything that brings us nearer to its solution would have an interest, were it for that reason alone.  We believe this invention of Professor Faber comes closer to that result than any previous 'instrument made with hands.'"

Still, the writer continues: "This is, like all similar attempts which have preceded it, only an approximation, though a nearer approximation, to the thing proposed.  It requires all our sense of the ingenuity and perseverance which have been bestowed on the work, to induce our assent to the proposition which calls the voice a human voice; but we recommend it to notice as a remarkable result of contriving skill and scientific patience."

In this light, the Euphonia has been numerously visited and inspected.

The Speaking Head of Roger Bacon, and similar inventions of much earlier date, show that the idea of applying machinery to imitate life, is of some antiquity, and that considerable success was not deemed impossible.  One of the greatest masters in this way was Vaucanson, with his duck, his flute and flageolet players; but even he must duck his diminished head before the Euphonia of our day.