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Title: Extempore Speech: How to Acquire and Practice It

Author: William Pittenger

Release date: July 16, 2017 [eBook #55128]

Language: English

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Instructor in the National School of Elocution and Oratory.
National School of Elocution and Oratory,
1416 and 1418 Chestnut Street.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1883, by the
National School of Elocution and Oratory,
in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
Franklin Printing House,
321 Chestnut Street,



The following pages are the result of considerable observation and experience. Fifteen years ago the writer published a small volume entitled “Oratory; Sacred and Secular,” in which the same general views were set forth, though more slightly and crudely expressed. In this work the recognized defects of that earlier effort are supplied; and it is believed that all persons who have natural adaptation to public speech will here find all necessary directions to guide them by the shortest and surest road to success.

It is not necessary or even expedient that a book which teaches the mode of eloquence should itself be eloquent. We may watch, admire, and describe the flight of an eagle while standing on the firm ground quite as well as if flying in the air beside him. No effort, therefore, has been made to imitate those grand bursts of feeling or lofty flights of imagination in which the popular orator may indulge; but we have sought to give such directions about practical details as may be useful to the highest genius, while the broad path toward that kind of excellence most in ivharmony with the speaker’s own faculties is clearly marked out.

The writer is firmly convinced that more than nine-tenths of those who have any fair degree of ability to speak in public will succeed best in the mode laid down in the following pages; that is, by thorough preparation and arrangement of thought, combined with spontaneous selection of words in the moment of discourse.

Reasons will be given for considering this the most natural, logical, impassioned, and effective mode of discourse; indeed, the superior excellence of extempore speech is now generally conceded and will require little argument; but it is more important to encourage the beginner by showing him just how to acquire and practice fluent, accurate, and impressive off-hand speech in public, with as little embarrassment or fear as if every word were written out and in plain sight. This is the especial object of the following pages.


Table of Contents.

Preliminary Considerations:
Chapter I. Can Eloquence be Taught? 9
Chapter II. The Four Methods of Public Speech—Their Advantages and Disadvantages 15
Chapter III. Lessons from the Experience of Eminent Orators 31
Chapter IV. An Embryo Speech, with Models of very Simple Plans 44
Chapter V. Initial Fear, and How to Overcome it 60
Chapter VI. Utility of Debating Societies 65
Preparation of the Speaker:
Chapter I. Unfortunates who never can Extemporize 73
Chapter II. Thought and Emotion 87
Chapter III. Language 101
Chapter IV. Imagination 109
Chapter V. Voice and Gesture 114
Chapter VI. Confidence 125
viChapter VII. Peculiarities belonging to the Various Fields of Oratory 135
Plan and Delivery of the Speech:
Chapter I. The Pen and the Tongue 145
Chapter II. Subject and Object 148
Chapter III. Thought-gathering 159
Chapter IV. Constructing a Plan 166
Chapter V. How Shall the Written Plan be Used? 177
Chapter VI. The First Moment of Speech 187
Chapter VII. The Introduction 196
Chapter VIII. Progress of the Speech 207
Chapter IX. Three Plans of Great Addresses 217
Chapter X. Illustrations, Pathos, Humor 243
Chapter XI. The Orator’s Logic 248
Chapter XII. After the Speech 262

Preliminary Considerations.


Can Eloquence be Taught?

There is a widespread opinion that all study of the mode of oratory is unmanly, and leads to the substitution of artifice and adornment for simplicity and power. “Let a man have something important to say,” it is argued, “and he need not waste his time in trying to find how to say it.” So general is this sentiment, that a ministerial acquaintance of the writer’s was recently very careful to conceal from his congregation the fact that he was taking a series of lessons in elocution, lest his influence should be diminished.

We may admit that the popular prejudice against the study of eloquence is not without a mixture of reason. It is possible to foster a spurious kind of oratory, which shall be far inferior to the rudest genuine speech. But on the other hand, it is safe to maintain that every rational power man possesses can be strengthened by judicious cultivation, without in the least impairing its quality. There is no trick in true oratory—no secret magic by which a weak-minded man can become the leader of others stronger and wiser than himself. The great prizes of eloquence cannot be placed in the hands of the ignorant or slothful. But so surely as a raw apprentice 10can be transformed into a skillful workman, any person possessed of ordinary faculties, who will pay the price in labor, can be made master of the art of ready and forcible public utterance.

The methods of oratorical cultivation presented in this volume are not based upon mere theory. They have been tested in hundreds of instances, and their results are beyond question. A carpenter will assert with perfect assurance, “I guarantee to take an ordinary young man, who will place himself in my hands for a reasonable time, and turn him out a thorough mechanic, master of every part of his trade.” The effects of training are as marvelous and as certain in the fields of eloquence.

But this training must necessarily combine practice with theory. To study about great orators and observe their works is not sufficient. Here again, we may take a lesson from the mode in which an apprentice is trained. The master architect does not take his young men to gaze upon finished buildings, and expect them, from mere admiration and architectural fervor, to construct similar works. He would soon find that not one in a hundred had the “mechanical genius” for such an easy triumph. But he takes them into the shop, where work is in progress, places before them some simple task, and from that leads them on, step by step, to more difficult achievements. They learn how to make the separate parts of a house, and afterward how to fit those parts 11into a complete work. Under this rational mode of instruction the great majority master the whole business placed before them, and the failures are rare exceptions. If similar success does not attend oratorical students, the explanation must be sought, not in the nature of oratory, but in wrong methods of training. Merely reading Cicero and Demosthenes, even in their original tongues, declaiming choice selections, or listening to great orators, will not make any one eloquent, unless indeed he possesses that rare natural genius which rises above all rules and sweeps away every obstacle.

But it must be remembered that there are many degrees of eloquence. The popular conception is somewhat unjust in refusing recognition to those who possess this power in only a fair degree. It is not possible by any mode of training to produce many orators of the very highest type. Such will ever be rare for the same reason that there are but few great poets, generals, or statesmen. But proper education in the art of speech should enable a man to give full, free, and adequate expression to whatever thoughts and feelings he may possess. It may go further, and make him more fruitful in thought, and more intense in feeling, than he could have been in the absence of such education, and he may thus become fairly entitled to the rewards of eloquence without, however, reaching the level of the few great world-orators. The distinction between a good degree of practical, working 12eloquence, which may be successfully taught to the mass of students, and the very highest development of the same faculty, should always be kept in mind. Even the mightiest genius may be regulated, strengthened, and directed by culture; while moderate talents may, by similar culture, reach a very serviceable degree of efficiency and power.

While these considerations appear almost self-evident, they are not unnecessary. On listening to a true orator—one who, without hesitation, pours forth a stream of well-chosen words, and develops a difficult subject in a clear and masterly manner—we are apt to receive an impression like that made by the operation of a law of nature, or an unerring animal instinct. Does the orator acquire eloquence as the bee learns to construct honey cells? There is, no doubt, a foundation for eloquence in natural ability, but the analogy is far more close with the human builder, who sees mentally the image of the house he wishes to construct, fits the various timbers and other materials into their places, and works intelligently until his conception is realized. To Jack Cade and his fellows the mysteries of reading and writing “came by nature;” but experience has shown that this much of nature can be developed in the great majority of American children. In the moderate and reasonable meaning of the term, eloquence can be made almost as general as the elements of a common-school education. The child that 13masters the art of reading, really makes a greater conquest over difficulties, than the average well-educated youth needs to add to the stores he already possesses, in order to attain a good degree of oratorical power. There are, indeed, a few indispensable requisites which will be enumerated in another chapter; but the want of these debars a small minority only, and their absence is easily recognized. For all others the path of success lies open. Patient practice in the use of the pen as a servant but not as a master, the study of good models, and the laborious mastery in detail of the separate elements of oratory, will not fail of abundant fruit.

There are two classes of works with which this treatise should not be confounded. It aims to occupy an almost vacant place between manuals of elocution on the one hand, and works of technical instruction in the various oratorical professions, on the other. Both of these classes of books are very useful, and teach indirectly many of the elements of true eloquence. Elocution deals with voice and gesture, which are prime elements in oratory; and although it is popularly supposed to be applicable only to reading and recitation, it is equally serviceable in off-hand speech. Works of the second class give rules for preaching, debating, pleading at the bar, teaching, and all other professions which involve public speech. They show how various kinds of discourses may be constructed, but have few practical directions about the 14mode of delivery, or that grand and noble work—the development of the oratorical power itself.

This book is written from the standpoint of the student who wishes to wield the golden sceptre of eloquence and is willing to put forth all reasonable efforts to that end. It will aim to guide him into the right path; show him what helps are available, and what discipline is necessary; encourage him in overcoming difficulties, and stimulate him to seek the very highest excellence within the compass of his faculties.


The Four Methods of Public SpeechTheir Advantages and Disadvantages.

“What shall I do?” exclaims the young student who expects soon to face public audiences. “Shall I write out what I have to say, polish it as highly as possible, and then utter this finished product? Or must I take the risk of being able to say nothing at all, in hope of gaining the ease and naturalness of spontaneous speech?”

It must be admitted that the first course indicated above has many advantages, and seems in harmony with the marked tendency of civilization toward division of labor. It is hard to perform several different operations at the same moment. Look how heavily the extempore speaker is burdened. He must think of his subject; arrange his ideas, sentences, and words; remember quotations; originate proper tones and gestures; and keep his attention closely fixed upon his audience. All this he must do with the utmost promptness and regularity, or incur a fearful penalty—that of embarrassment and failure. Few men have the courage to stand long before an audience, waiting for a missing word or idea. To avoid this danger the mind of an extempore speaker must be accustomed to work with the rapidity and precision 16of a printing-press; otherwise, the appalling danger of failure and ridicule will constantly stare him in the face. It is not wonderful that such perils have made many speakers perpetual slaves of the pen.

But it may be noted that the public reader has an equal number of things to do at the same moment. He must look on the manuscript and recognize the words—a complicated process, which practice has made easy, but which does greatly distract attention. The whole discourse must be brought into mind as really as if extemporized with the difference that now, instead of arising from within, it is brought back from without—a much more difficult achievement. Tones and gestures are also increasingly difficult. The reader will usually wish to give some attention to the audience, which, with manuscript before him, will be far from easy. After he has done his best his hearers will think, “This man is reading, not speaking—giving us what he thought yesterday or last week, not what he is thinking now.” Possibly this will not diminish their pleasure, but the sentiment needs to be recognized.

The resource of memorizing the discourse after it has been prepared relieves the eye and lessens the physical distraction, but it throws an additional and very heavy burden upon the mind, and introduces new embarrassments peculiar to itself.

The advice enforced in these pages will be: “Extemporize; 17take the risk; fail, if necessary” though precautions will be given making failure well nigh impossible; “but in all cases when you speak to the people with the object of convincing or persuading, let it be seen that you speak directly the thoughts and feelings of that very moment.”

The two extremes of verbal communication between men are letters, books, or essays, on the one side, and desultory talk on the other. In the one, the pen is everything; in the other, it is not employed at all. Neither mode of address constitutes oratory, but the whole field of this art lies between them.

There are four principal methods of discourse distinguished in reference to the mode of delivery, which we may name as follows:

Of these, the first two have the great advantage of allowing the speaker as much time as may be necessary for the arrangement of the speech down to the minutest detail. Words may be selected with the nicest care, and if the first effort is not satisfactory the speech may be written again and again, until the writer’s full power has been utilized. After delivery, the manuscript is at once available for publication or preservation. The first 18method gives the orator something to lean upon. Should he become embarrassed, he can fix his attention closely upon his writing until he recovers. Should his attention be distracted, and the thread of discourse be broken, it can be taken up again at any point.

In recitation more declamatory fervor is possible than in reading. Gesticulation is less restrained. The speaker need not be confined within the narrow limits of a circle, the centre of which is his manuscript, and the radius the distance at which he can read it.

As an offset, there is the effort, in some cases very considerable, of memorizing; the variable power of memory in different states of health; and the possibility of altogether forgetting the prepared words. It must also be admitted that few men can declaim well. Some have mastered the difficult art, and have won laurels in this way; but their number, especially in the modern world, is comparatively small.

Extemporizing does not exclude the most exhaustive study of a subject. It is easier, indeed, to write upon a subject only partially understood, than to address an audience directly upon the same topic. Neither does this method exclude the most careful pre-arrangement of the thoughts enunciated. The trained speaker will find it comparatively easy to make a plan at a moment’s notice which will serve as a basis for discourse; but he will usually be provided with a plan long before he 19begins to speak. He will aim to understand his subject, make the best arrangement of it in his power, select what is most fitting for his purpose, and then, face to face with his audience, will give them, in a manly way, the outflowing of his mind and heart. It is in this sense alone that the word “extempore” will be used in this volume. We maintain that, so far from being the refuge of ignorance and sloth, extempore speech is often the vehicle of the widest culture and the most extensive knowledge.

The increased attention paid to extempore speech within a few years indicates a hopeful improvement of taste among professional men. The majority of the people have always preferred it. They do not greatly desire of pulpit, platform, or bar, the verbal elaboration favored by written speech; but fervent manner, earnest conviction, and directness are highly prized. Readers and reciters imitate, as far as they can, the manner of spontaneous speech. It is well to remember that this tribute of imitation is never paid by the superior to the inferior.

One argument in favor of extempore delivery has never received due consideration: it is far more healthful than other forms of address. In the case of men who speak only at long intervals, this consideration may not be weighty; but to others, it involves years of added usefulness, or even life itself.

20This superior healthfulness has often been observed, but what is its source? The answer will go far to show why true extempore speech is more persuasive and emotional than any other variety. In chemistry, a law of affinity has long been recognized, according to which substances just set free from combination have greater energy, and are more ready to form new combinations, than ever afterward. In the same way, voice and gesture readily respond to nascent emotion; that is, to emotion aroused for the first time. Every speaker who utters the thought of the moment, if not fettered by bad habits, or paralyzed by fear, will exhibit a perpetual change of position, a variety of muscular movement, and a play of expression which he can never afterward reproduce. The pitch, rate, and force of the voice are controlled in the same effective and almost automatic manner. An ordinary extemporizer, when thoroughly aroused, will employ as great a variety of tones and gestures as a highly trained elocutionist in his most elaborate recitations. Nothing is asserted as to the skill of the combinations, the melody of the voice, or the grace of the action; though even in these the advantage is not always on the side of the elocutionist. But in distributing the effort among all the organs, and in giving that alternate rest and action upon which health and strength depend, the elocutionist may strive in vain to equal the model set him by a good extempore speech. In Western and seaside 21camp-meetings, speakers who have never spent an hour in vocal drill will often address thousands of people in the open air with an energy of voice and manner that would, if employed over a manuscript by any other than the most accomplished elocutionist, speedily bring all efforts and the speaker himself to an end. But he easily endures the strain because there is that continual change which is the equivalent of rest. Notice some thoroughly excited speaker, trained only in the school of experience—possibly a mere demagogue or popular agitator—at his work. A word shot forth almost as piercing as a steam whistle is followed by a sentence far down the scale, and when emotion demands the same high key again, the organs in that position are fresh for a new ear-piercing effort. There is equal variation in the rate of speech. The whole body joins in the expression of emotion, without the slightest conscious effort, impelled only by the aroused nervous energy which seeks that mode of discharge. When the effort ends, the man is weary, indeed; but with a weariness distributed over the whole body, and without a trace of that exhaustion of brain, throat, or the upper part of the lungs, which has sent many manuscript speakers—clergymen, especially—to untimely graves.

What a difference there is between the preacher who languidly reads his manuscript for twenty-five minutes to a hundred people, and closes the mighty effort with aching head, quivering nerves, and exhausted throat, and 22the typical camp-meeting orator! The latter works hard, addressing thousands of people for an hour and a half or two hours; but as the stamping foot, the tense arm, the nodding head, the fully expanded lungs, and the swaying body have all taken part, the blood and nervous energy have been sent in due proportion to every organ, and there is no want of balance. The man can repeat the same performances the next day, and continue it, as many itinerants have done, for months together. Similar examples of endurance have often been given in heated political canvasses by orators of the very highest eminence, as well as by others unknown to fame. Difference of cultivation or of earnestness will not suffice to explain the contrast between the two classes of speakers.

The chemical analogy is instructive, and goes far to account for the observed differences. When thought passes out of the mist and shadow of general conceptions into the definite form of words, it has immeasurably greater power to arouse and agitate the mind in which this transformation is made, than it can have when the same words are merely recalled in memory or read from a sheet of paper. When the whole process of expression takes place at once:—the mental glance over the subject; the coinage of thoughts into words and sentences; the utterance of the words as they rise to the lips; the selection of key, inflection, emphasis, gesture:—the man must have a very cold nature, or his theme be very dull, if, 23with a sympathizing audience before him, the tides of emotion do not begin to swell. But notice how other modes of delivery squander this wealth of emotion. The writer carefully elaborates his language. He is perfectly calm, or if there is any excitement, it is purely intellectual, and the quickened flow of blood is directed only to the brain. When the ardor of composition subsides, and he reviews his pages, the fire seems to have died out of them. While memorizing, or making himself familiar enough with what he has written to read it with effect, he may recall some of the first ardor, but only to have it again subside. When at last he stands up to speak, his production is a thrice-told tale. In but few cases will he feel the full inspiration of his message. If he recites, the effort of memory distracts his attention, and he is probably reading from a page of manuscript presented by his mental vision. If he reads directly, he must take a position to see his paper, and at least part of the time keep his eye fixed upon it. The address is felt to come, notwithstanding all the artifice he can employ, at least as much from the paper as from the man. The most profound culture in reading and declamation only suffices to bring back part of the emotion with which the genuine extemporizer starts.

As bearing upon the subject of the healthfulness of extempore speech, a reference to the writer’s own experience may not be improper. Severe and exceptional 24hardship in the civil war led to a complete breakdown in health. The hope of any kind of active work, or even of many months of life, seemed very slight. The question was not so much how to speak best, as how to speak at all. Fortunately, a long series of daily lectures, involving no great intellectual effort, proved that mere talking was not necessarily hurtful. Some elocutionary hints at the right time were also of great value. When the pulpit was entered, greater difficulty arose. A few trials of memorized preaching produced alarming nervous exhaustion. Reading was equally deleterious to throat and voice. One path alone seemed open; and entering upon that with confidence, which eighteen years of experience has only deepened, the writer found that extempore speech was, for him, probably the most healthful of all forms of exercise. It is not likely that one-third of this term of work would have been secured by any other kind of address.

Another important advantage is the saving of time afforded by this mode of speech. The hours otherwise wasted in word-elaboration may be more usefully employed in general studies. The field for an orator’s improvement is boundless; but if obliged to fully write a large number of discourses, he must either work very rapidly or very perseveringly to enter far into that field. But if less preparation is given to individual speeches, more time will be available for the improvement of the 25speaker. Or if he uses the same length of preparation for each discourse in the extempore mode, he can collect and classify a far greater amount of material, and the mental element will thus gain far more than the merely verbal loses.

Only the fourth or composite method of discourse remains for our consideration. At first glance, it seems to combine the advantages of all other methods, and for many minds it possesses great attraction. In it the less important parts of the speech are given off-hand, while passages of especial brilliancy or power are written fully, and either read or recited. Added variety may be given by reading some of these, and declaiming others from memory. A very brilliant and showy discourse may thus be constructed. But the difficulties are also very great. Full success requires a rare combination of desirable qualities. A good verbal memory, the power of composing effective fragments, and of declaiming or reading them well, are not often joined to all the qualities that make a ready and impressive extemporizer. For this reason it usually follows that in composite discourses one of the elements so greatly predominates as to dwarf the others. A manuscript discourse in which an extempore remark or two is interpolated must be classed with written discourses. Neither does extemporizing lose its special character, though some scattered quotations be read or repeated from memory. To pick up a book, in 26the midst of a speech, and read a theme or argument, or the statement of another’s position, does not make the discourse composite in character, unless such reading be the principal part of it. An eloquent speaker on one occasion occupied more than half his time, and produced far more than half his effect, by reciting poems of the author who was the nominal subject of his lecture. The performance would have been more appropriately styled, “Recitations from the poems of ——.” The few running comments introduced did not entitle it to be classed as an original production, because they were obviously not its governing motive.

How shall the advantages of extemporizing be secured, while avoiding its dangers? No commendation can be given to those who simply talk to an audience, giving forth only what may happen to be in mind at the moment of delivery. The most pedantic writing and lifeless reading would, as a habit, be preferable to such recklessness. Unwritten speech does not preclude the fullest preparation. The plans advocated in this volume will enable a speaker to gather materials as widely, arrange them as systematically, and hold them as firmly in hand, as if every word was written; while at the same time he may have all the freedom and play of thought, the rush of passion, and the energy of delivery that comes in the happiest moment of outgushing words. But those who are unwilling to labor may as well lay down the book. 27We do not profess to teach a process of labor-saving, though much labor will be changed from mechanical to intellectual, and after long experience the total saving may be great. But in the first stages those who have been accustomed to write in full will find that the change involves an increase, rather than a diminution, of work.

On all ordinary occasions a good speech must result from a previous ingathering of materials—the formation of a mental treasury in connection with a special subject. The speaker works for days or weeks in collecting from all sources and arranging in the happiest manner that which his hearers are to receive in an hour with no other labor than that of listening. The great advantage of writing is supposed to lie in this preparation. To-day an orator may write everything he knows about a subject; to-morrow, by means of reading, conversation, or further thought, he may have more ideas to record; and he may thus continue to widen and record his knowledge, until his time, or the subject itself, is exhausted. Then he may revise, select what is most appropriate, refine and polish his language, and finally come before an audience confident that he holds in his hand the very best that he can give them. But, alas! it is an essay, or treatise, rather than a speech! So far as his materials are suitable for a speech, they can be gathered and used as readily in an extempore discourse. The use of the pen as an 28instrument of accumulation and record is not to be despised. But in its final form, not a line of the most massive and complicated speech that the mind of man can produce need be written. Enriched by garnered thoughts—knowing where to begin and where to close—seeing a clear outline of the whole subject in mental vision—the trained speaker may possess every faculty, and use every resource of speech, in as serene confidence as if every word was fixed in memory or on manuscript.

Those who have only one speech to deliver, and that for show rather than service, will hardly credit these assertions. Graduating orations will probably always be recited from memory. In such cases the matter is of little value, while the form is everything. So well is this relation of fitness understood, that in serious address it is a severe condemnation to say, “He declaims just like a school-boy,” or “That is sophomoric.” The line of appropriateness may be suggested as follows: When the sole aim is to inform or please, or when an address is submitted for criticism, those who have the needed ability may very well read or recite. But when conviction or persuasion is sought, when public opinion or conduct is to be influenced, the indescribable but most potent charm of sincere, earnest, spontaneous words will ever prove most effective. No leader of a great, popular movement ever trusted to manuscript appeals, and but two or three of such leaders memorized their orations. 29These methods may well be reserved for the oratory of ornament and show.

May a word of advice be hazarded to those who, in spite of all these considerations, prefer to rely upon manuscript or memory? Be honest about it! Those modes of delivery have advantages when their resources are fully mastered. Do not seek credit for what you do not possess, but stand firmly on your own ground and make the most of it. If you recite, memorize perfectly and employ the most effective elocutionary devices. Do not hesitate to study the manner of good actors, for your recitations and theirs must have much in common. If you read, put the paper, not where it will be best hidden, but where it will do you the most good, and read as well as you can. Thoroughly good reading is far more interesting and attractive than reading which is a bad imitation—there are no good imitations—of spontaneous speech. Do not mark in your manuscript “Here become pathetic;” or at another place, “Here show surprise and indignation.” Reading is essentially quiet in its character, appealing to intellect and gentle feeling rather than stormy passion. You will thus realize all the success that is possible for you in the method you have chosen, and escape such well-grounded sarcasm as that of Sydney Smith, who thus describes a style of preaching common in his day:

“Discourses have insensibly dwindled from speaking 30to reading, a practice which is of itself sufficient to stifle every germ of eloquence. It is only by the fresh feelings of the heart that mankind can be very powerfully affected. What can be more ludicrous than an orator delivering stale indignation, and fervor a week old; turning over whole pages of violent passions, written out in goodly text; reading the tropes and apostrophes into which he is hurried by the ardor of his mind; and so affected at a preconcerted line and page that he is unable to proceed any further?”


Lessons from the Experience of Eminent Orators.

Although unwritten speech is popular and has innumerable arguments in its favor, many persons yet maintain that eloquence of the highest character cannot be reached without trusting to the memory and the pen. In vain we urge that it is more natural to find words at the moment of utterance; that a better framework may be constructed by confining preparation to it alone; that the hearer and speaker may thus be brought into more perfect accord; that this, in short, is the method of nature, which permits the solid part of the tree to stand through many winters, while its graceful robe of foliage is freshly bestowed every spring. With the emphasis of an axiom, opponents declare that the words of a great orator must be previously chosen, fitted, and polished.

A speech-writer is apt to have one argument drawn from his own experience which outweighs all argument. His own most satisfactory efforts are those in which nothing is left to the chance of the moment. But even experience sometimes misleads. We may be bad judges of our own performances. When extemporizing, the best utterances are often immediately forgotten by the 32speaker, whose mind is crowded with other “thick-coming fancies.” But in writing we may linger lovingly over each sentence, and return to enjoy it as often as we wish. If anything is imperfect, we can correct and improve down to the moment of speech. And while in the act of reading or reciting we are in a much better position to admire our own work, than when carried away by such an impassioned torrent as to scarcely know whether we have been using words at all. If our auditors declare their preference for the latter, we can find a ready explanation in their want of taste and culture.

It is not denied that great effects may be produced by memorized words. The popularity of the stage is sufficient proof of their power. Actors often cause uncontrollable tears to flow. If a man can write powerfully, and then recite well, he may greatly move an audience. Massillon, Bossuet, and our own John B. Gough, have each achieved great popular success in that manner. But while such men will be listened to with eagerness and pleasure, they will be regarded as great performers rather than as authorities and guides. They have placed themselves on a level with those who deal in unreal things, and must be contented to remain there. Doubtless, it is more noble to speak in the words that were once appropriate to our feelings and sentiments, than to deal only in the words of others; but the resemblance between quoting our own previously prepared 33language and the language of other persons is felt more keenly by the people than the difference between the two processes.

But even in momentary effect, declaimers of memorized words have been surpassed by extemporizers, as numerous examples demonstrate; while in power of thought and lasting influence the superiority of the latter is so great as to make comparison almost impossible.

The great examples of Demosthenes and Cicero are often quoted to prove that eloquence of the highest type must be written. Of these men it may be said that Demosthenes had an assemblage of great qualities that, backed by his tireless industry, would have made any method the road to brilliant success. But he did not always recite, and he would not have dreamed of using manuscript. Cicero was at least as great in literature as in oratory, and his speeches are now read as literary models. Some of them were never spoken at all. It may be allowed that he ordinarily recited previous preparations, but some of his most brilliant passages were purely extemporaneous. The outburst that overwhelmed Catiline upon the unexpected appearance of the latter in the Roman Senate was coined at white heat from the passion of the moment. Hortensius, the great rival of Cicero—perhaps his superior as an advocate—spoke in spontaneous words, as did many of the most eminent of the Roman orators, whose fame now is less brilliant than 34Cicero’s, mainly because no effective means then existed of preserving extempore speech. As an offset to the example of Demosthenes, the great name of Pericles may be fairly adduced. He did not write his addresses, and direct comparison is therefore impossible; but his speech established a sway over the cultivated democracy of Athens in the day of their highest glory more indisputable than Demosthenes ever attained.

The case in regard to the ancient world may be thus summed up: Manuscript reading was not considered oratory at all; all speeches were either recited or extemporized; the latter have inevitably perished, while some of the former have survived, and, becoming a part of school-book literature, have conferred a disproportionate fame upon their authors. An orator who was compelled to write his speech in order to preserve it had a much greater inducement to write than exists since the invention of shorthand reporting. Yet some speakers of the highest eminence did not adopt that mode, and others did not confine themselves to it.

In the modern world the weight of example is decisively on the side of unwritten speech. A few instances are all that our space will allow us to adduce.

Augustine, the great Christian writer and preacher, has not left us in ignorance as to which mode of address he preferred. He enjoins the “Christian Teacher” to make his hearers comprehend what he says—“to read 35in the eyes and countenances of his auditors whether they understand him or not, and to repeat the same thing, by giving it different terms, until he perceives it is understood, an advantage those cannot have who, by a servile dependence upon their memories, learn their sermons by heart and repeat them as so many lessons. Let not the preacher,” he continues, “become the servant of words; rather let words be servants to the preacher.”

This advice will be equally applicable to others than preachers who may possess a serious purpose. But the charity of Augustine allows of reciting under certain circumstances. He well says: “Those who are destitute of invention, but can speak well, provided they select well-written discourses of another man, and commit them to memory for the instruction of their hearers, will not do badly if they take that course.” No doubt he intended that due credit should be given to the real author.

Of Luther it was said that “his words were half battles.” No man ever wielded greater power over the hearts of the people. He was an excellent writer, and had great command of words. But he was too terribly in earnest to write his discourses. From a vast fullness of knowledge he spoke right out, and evoked tears or smiles at pleasure. His strong emotions and indomitable will, being given full play, bore down everything before him.

36It may well be doubted whether the eloquence of Lord Chatham did not surpass, in immediate effect, anything recorded of Demosthenes or Cicero. His example, and that of his equally gifted son, thoroughly refute those who deny that unwritten speech may convey impressions as strong as any ever made by man upon his fellows. Some of his grandest efforts were entirely impromptu, achieving overwhelming success under circumstances which would have left the man of manuscript or of memory utterly helpless.

Of William Pitt, the son of Lord Chatham, who was likewise an extempore speaker in the best sense of the word, Macaulay says:

“At his first appearance in Parliament he showed himself superior to all his contemporaries in power of language. He could pour out a long succession of rounded and stately periods without ever pausing for a word, without ever repeating a word, in a voice of silver clearness and with a pronunciation so articulate that not a letter was slurred over.”

These two men were never excelled in debate. They had that great advantage peculiar to good extempore speakers of being always ready. Every advantage offered was seized at the most favorable moment. Time wasted by others in writing and memorizing special orations they used in accumulating such stores of general knowledge and in such wide culture that they were 37always prepared. They came to great intellectual contests with minds un-fagged by the labor of previous composition, and their words were indescribably fresh and charming, because born at the moment of utterance.

The traditions of the almost supernatural eloquence of Patrick Henry are dear to the heart of every American school-boy. While few specimens of his eloquence survive, it is sure that he exerted wonderful power in speech, and that he contributed not a little to the establishment of the American Republic. He never wrote a word either before or after delivery, and his mightiest efforts were made in situations where the use of the pen would have been impossible. The Virginia Resolutions, which mark a vital point in the history of the Revolutionary struggle, were written by him on the blank leaf of a law book while a discussion was in progress. In the whole of the terrible debate which followed he was ever ready, speaking repeatedly and mastering every opponent. He was a great thinker, but a meager writer. History and human character were his favorite studies, and these contributed to fit his wonderful natural genius for coming triumph.

Among the great English preachers of the past century two were especially great as measured by the degree of popular influence they wielded. We do not wish to convey Wesley and Whitefield in any other light than as effective orators. They each did an amount 38of speaking that a manuscript reader would have found impossible, even if the latter had been hindered by no other consideration. At the beginning Whitefield did memorize most of his sermons. Even afterward he treated the same subject so frequently when addressing different audiences that the words, tones, and gestures, as well as the outline of thought, became quite familiar. Yet his own testimony is decisive as to the fact that he was not a memoriter preacher in the narrow sense of the term. He says that when he came to preach he had often, in his own apprehension, “not a word to say to God or man.” Think of a person who has a fully memorized speech, which he is conning over in his mind, making such a declaration, and afterward thanking God for having given him words and wisdom! Whitefield’s published sermons show few traces of the pen, but bear every mark of impassioned utterance. He spoke every day, until speaking became part of his very life. Think what a command of language, and of all the resources of speech, he must thus have acquired!

Wesley wrote many sermons, and on a very few occasions read them. He used the pen almost as much as the voice, but he wrote sermons, books, and letters for others to read, not as material for his own public reading. He was less impassioned and overwhelming than Whitefield but his sermons were not less effective. They were noted for the quality of exactness of statement. 39In the most easy and fluent manner he said precisely what he wanted to say. He was never compelled to retract an unguarded expression into which he had been hurried by the ardor of the moment. Yet his power over his hearers was not diminished by this carefulness. Scenes of physical excitement, such as attended the preaching of Whitefield, were even more marked under his own calm words.

We will refer to another deceased preacher, who presents the strange peculiarity of being an extempore speaker whose great fame has been acquired since his eloquent voice became silent in death, and now rests upon his written sermons. Frederick W. Robertson labored in a comparatively narrow field and finished his career in youth, but he was truly eloquent. His example proves that extempore speech may be the vehicle of the most profound thought and be crowned with all the graces of style. These qualities have given his sermons greater popularity in high scientific, literary, and philosophical circles, than those of any preacher of the present day. How could such extempore sermons be preserved? A few were taken down by a short-hand reporter, and although Robertson refused to allow their publication in his lifetime, thus leaving them without the benefit of his corrections, they are almost faultless in form and expression. Others were written out by his own hand after delivery, but these are more or less fragmentary. 40Had it been necessary for him to write and memorize each sermon, he could never have pursued those thorough studies, described in his letters, from which he derived so much of his power.

The great trio of American political orators belonging to the generation which has just gone from the stage—Clay, Webster, and Calhoun—were extempore speakers; Clay and Calhoun always, and Webster usually, speaking in that manner. The latter, however, was fond of elaborating some striking thought in his mind to the last degree of word-finish, and then bringing it forth in the rush of spontaneous utterance. This did not make his speech composite in the mode of delivery, for these prepared gems were short fragments, employed only for ornamental purposes. Competitors of these great men who were obliged to rely upon manuscript or memory stood no chance of success in the fiery debates through which they passed.

From hundreds of living extemporizers we will call attention to but three, and these of the highest eminence. They are all distinguished writers and do not rely on the extempore method of discourse because of inability to succeed in other methods. These men are Henry Ward Beecher, Charles H. Spurgeon, and William E. Gladstone. The amount and quality of work of all kinds they have accomplished would have been impossible for speech-readers or reciters. Beecher sometimes 41reads a sermon or a lecture, but though he reads well, the effect is small as compared with the fire and consummate eloquence of his extempore addresses. Spurgeon has drawn together and maintains probably the largest congregation that ever regularly attended the ministry of one man, and he is purely extemporaneous. Both these men are subjected to the additional test of having their sermons written from their lips and widely published, thus showing that their popularity has other elements besides the personal presence and magnetism of the speakers.

The wonderful power of Gladstone has been displayed unceasingly for half a century. While eager critics, hostile as well as friendly, in Parliament or at the hustings, are waiting to catch every word from his lips, he does not find it necessary to control his utterances through the use of the pen. Day after day, in the midst of heated canvasses, he discusses a wide range of complicated questions, and neither friend nor foe ever suggests that he could do better if his words were written out and memorized. Even in such addresses as include the details of finance and abound in statistics he uses but a few disconnected figures traced on a slip of paper. Some years ago, when his modes of speech were less known than now, the writer asked him to give a statement of his method of preparation, and any advice he might feel disposed to convey to young students of oratory. The 42following courteous and deeply interesting letter was received in reply, and with its weighty words we may appropriately close this chapter:

Hawarden, North Wales,           }
October 12th, 1867.}

Sir:—Though I fear it is beyond my power to comply in any useful manner with your request, I am unwilling to seem insensible to your wishes.

I venture to remark, first, that your countrymen, so far as a very limited intercourse and experience can enable me to judge, stand very little in need of instruction or advice as to public speaking from this side of the water. And further, again speaking of my own experience, I think that the public men of England are beyond all others engrossed by the multitude of cares and subjects of thought belonging to the government of a highly diversified empire, and therefore are probably less than others qualified either to impart to others the best methods of preparing public discourses or to consider and adopt them for themselves.

Suppose, however, I was to make the attempt, I should certainly found myself mainly on a double basis, compounded as follows: First, of a wide and thorough general education, which I think gives a suppleness and readiness as well as firmness of tissue to the mind not easily to be had without this form of discipline. Second, of the habit of constant and searching reflection on the subject of any proposed discourse. Such reflection will naturally clothe itself in words, and of the phrases it supplies many will spontaneously rise to the lips. I will not say that no other forms of preparation can be 43useful, but I know little of them, and it is on those, beyond all doubt, that I should advise the young principally to rely.

I remain, sir, your most obedient servant,
W. E. Gladstone.

An Embryo Speech, with Models of Very Simple Plans.

The first extemporaneous speeches attempted should be of the simplest character. Too high an ideal formed at the outset may be very harmful by causing needless discouragement. To speak freely in any manner, however rude, until confidence and the power of making every faculty available are acquired, should be the first great object. Many persons are slaves of bad habits through life because they began wrong. Nothing harms an orator more than cultivating his critical taste far beyond his power of ready utterance. There is no necessary relation between the development of the two things. To become a fine word-critic and master of an excellent written style does not imply the power to strike off finely finished sentences at the speed of the tongue; but it does tend to render the speaker dissatisfied with anything below the level of his written performances, and thus checks his fluency. To master the difficult art of written composition first, and strive afterward to gain a similar proficiency in spoken words, is a complete reversal of the natural method, and in all but a few gifted minds puts a premium on failure. An unlettered 45rustic may speak with perfect ease, because he is not conscious of the numberless verbal blunders he falls into; but if it were possible, by some process of spiritual infusion, to put him in possession of a fine, critical taste, he would be instantly smitten dumb.

The true method is to cultivate the faculty of extemporization side by side with critical judgment. In case that is done, ease and confidence will not be for a moment disturbed. It thus appears that while an extempore speaker can never know too much, it is quite possible for his knowledge and cultivation to advance in the wrong order. The pen will be of perpetual use to the speaker; but his command of it must not increase so rapidly in proportion as to make him ashamed of his tongue.

From this reasoning it follows that the best time to lay the foundation of excellence in speech is very early in life. Speeches made then are necessarily flimsy and rudimentary, but they are not the less valuable on that account. They are to be estimated not for their own worth, but for their results upon the mind producing them. The school-boy’s first “composition” has always been a mark for cheap witticism; but the boy himself regards it with justifiable pride, as the first step in the noble work of putting thought on paper. The same pains and patience applied to the art of public talking as to written composition will produce equal fruit. 46A few directions intended to aid in overcoming some of the initial difficulties of speech, which may serve as suggestions to teachers as well as helps to solitary students, are here appended. They are purposely made of almost ludicrous crudeness, but will not, it is trusted, be less serviceable on that account; for it is not so important to aid the mature speaker in giving the last fine strokes of genius to a masterly oration, as it is to stimulate and guide beginners in their first stammering utterances.

The simplest oration or formal address that can be constructed has three distinct parts. With these we will begin the great work of division and arrangement. They may be named as follows:

1. The Introduction.
2. The Discussion.
3. The Conclusion.

On this framework a speech-plan can be constructed simple enough for any child. And it is at the same time true that even a child, with such a plan, might speak appropriately who would otherwise not be able to begin at all.

We will consider these three parts in their order.

The introduction is at once important and embarrassing. First words are nearly always heard attentively, and they do much to determine the degree of attention that will be bestowed on the remainder of the speech. 47The young speaker should select something as an introduction upon which his mind can fasten, instead of dwelling upon the frightful generality of the naked theme. Neither is it hard to construct a good introduction if a few plain directions are heeded, which will be more fully given in a succeeding chapter. All persons feel the need of some kind of a formal opening, and therefore often begin with an apology—the very worst form of an introduction, because it is not interesting in itself and does not lead up to the subject.

In rudimentary speech, which we are now considering, the introduction should be simple, and, above everything else, easy for the speaker to comprehend and remember. If there is anything in the whole world which he is sure he can talk about for a few moments, and which can be made to have a moderate degree of connection with his subject, let that be chosen for an opening. If it is also vivid and striking in itself, and familiar to the audience, so much the better; but this quality should not be insisted upon in these first attempts.

When the introductory topic is selected it should be turned over in the mind until the speaker knows just what he is going to say about it. This process will have a wonderfully quieting effect upon his nerves. He has fairly mastered something, and knows that at all events he can begin his speech. It is well to make a note of this introduction in a few simple words which will 48strongly fasten themselves in the memory. No effort toward elaboration should be made, for that would naturally lead to a memorized introduction, and either require the whole speech to be written, or produce a painful and difficult transition.

The discussion deals directly with the subject or central idea of the discourse. Here a clear statement of at least one thought which the speaker can fully grasp should be made. The pen (or pencil) may be used in preparation without impropriety. If but one idea is thought of, let that be written in the fewest and strongest words at the student’s command. While doing this it is likely that another and related thought will spring into mind which can be treated in the same manner. With diligent students there may even be a danger of getting down too many seed-thoughts. But that contingency is provided for in the chapters on the fully developed plan, and needs no further notice at this time.

When this central division is completely wrought out, two other points claim attention. How shall the transition be made from the introduction to the discussion? A little reflection will show how to glide from one to the other, and that process should be conned over, without writing, until it is well understood. It is wonderful how many outlines of ideas the memory will retain without feeling burdened; and this power of retention grows enormously through exercise.

49After this, the mode of gliding from the discussion to the conclusion may be treated in the same manner, and with equal profit. The conclusion itself is scarcely less material than the introduction; but there is much less range of choice in the manner of closing than in that of beginning. The subject is before the audience, and any wide departure from it seems like the beginning of a new speech—something not usually well received. There is this distinction between the relative value of introduction and conclusion: a good introduction adds most to a speaker’s ease, confidence, and power during the moment of speech; but a good conclusion leaves the deepest permanent impression upon the audience. It is usually remembered longer than any other part of the address.

When a discourse has been prepared in this simple manner it has virtually five parts—three written and two held in memory. From such an outline it is far more easy to make an address than from the bare announcement of a theme. It is true that all these parts may be formed and held in mind without ever making a pen-stroke. A practiced orator will do this, in a moment, when unexpectedly called upon; or he may only forecast the introduction and trust to finding the plan as fast as it is needed. But in this he is no model for imitation by beginners. Even powerful orators sometimes spoil the whole effect of a good address by an unfortunate mode of closing. They may forget to close in 50time—a grievous fault!—or may finish with some weak thought or extravagant proposition, by which the whole speech is mainly judged and all its good points neutralized. The construction of even as simple a plan as here indicated would have more than double the effect of many speeches made by great men.

A few simple and rude plans are annexed. No merit is sought for in any one of them beyond making plain the method recommended.

Subject.Chinese Emigration to America.

Introduction.—The number of emigrants to our country and the nations they represent.

[A totally different and more effective introduction might be the description of a group of Chinese as seen by the speaker.]

Discussion.—The nature, amount, and present effect of Chinese emigration.

[It is possible for the speaker in his introduction to foreshadow the position he expects to maintain in his speech; or he may make a colorless introduction and reserve his opinion for the discussion. The material under this head is unlimited. It is only necessary from the oratorical standpoint that the speaker should determine what course to take, and then carefully think out in advance or read—for history and statistics cannot be 51improvised—all about that which he intends to use. When he can tell it all over easily to himself he may reasonably feel assured of his ability to tell it to others. The various arguments should be weighed and the best selected. That which most naturally connects with the introduction should be firmly fixed in the mind as the first, that it may form the bridge from the one part to the other.]

Conclusion.—Results of policy advocated, either predicted, described, or shown to be probable. Mode of remedying evils that might be apprehended from that policy.

[In the conclusion the speaker may take upon himself the character of a prophet, poet, or logician. He may predict results and let the statement make its own impression. He may put all emphasis upon a vivid painting of the future colored by the views he advocates; or he may sum up his reasons, deduce consequences, and weigh alternatives. The choice between these different modes may be made instinctively, or it may require considerable mental effort, but when made, the best mode of transition will be very easily found.]

In all this process, which in the case of undisciplined speakers may extend over many days of hard work, the pen may be used freely, making copious notes of facts and arguments. After enough has been accumulated and put in such shape that the speaker can easily look over the entire field, he is ready for another process—that of simplifying his plan. Rough and copious notes 52brought with him to the platform would only be a source of embarrassment. But the germ of his ideas, which are now familiar, can be put into very small compass. Perhaps the following would recall everything in the preceding outline:

The Chinese Question.
1. Experience.
2. Arguments.
3. Results.

But it is clear that a skeleton containing only three words need not be kept in view. The whole outline of the speech will therefore be in the mind. If numerous figures or citations from authorities are employed, they may be classified and read from books or notes, as needed. Such reading in no way detracts from the extemporaneous character of the address, though if too numerous they tend to damp oratorical fire and break the unity of discourse. One who has had no personal experience, or who has not carefully observed the methods of other speakers, can scarcely imagine how much a simple outline, such as here suggested, accomplishes in removing the confusion, fear, and hesitation which characterize beginners.

Another specimen, not of controversial character, is subjoined.

53EXAMPLE SECOND.| Subject.The Ocean.

Introduction.—The vastness of the ocean. No one person has seen more than a small part of it. Power evidenced by storm and shipwrecks.

Discussion.—Five great divisions of the ocean. Use in nature, watering and tempering the land; in commerce, as a highway; in history, by dividing and uniting nations; its mystery, etc.

Conclusion.—Proof of the Creator’s power and wisdom found in the ocean.

The Same Plan Condensed.
Subject.The Ocean.
1. Vastness and Power.
2. Parts, Use, and Mystery.
3. Evidence.
Dean Swift’s Sermon.

This eccentric clergyman once preached a sermon shorter than its own text, yet having all the three parts of which we have spoken. The text was Prov. xix, 20: “He that pitieth the poor lendeth to the Lord; and that which he hath given will He pay him again.”

The sermon was:

“Brethren, you hear the condition; if you like the security, down with the dust.”

54The collection is said to have been munificent.

In this short sermon the text with the word “Brethren” constitutes the introduction; the phrase, “you hear the condition,” is a good transition to the discussion contained in the next member, “if you like the security,” which assumes the truth of the text, makes its general declarations present and personal, and prepares the way for the forcible and practical, if not very elegant, conclusion, “down with the dust.”

Among the many speeches found in Shakespeare, the existence of these three essential parts may easily be noted. The funeral speeches over the dead body of Julius Cæsar afford an excellent example. The merit of the orations of Brutus and Antony are very unequal, but both are instructive. We will analyze them in turn.

Brutus speaks first. He shows his want of appreciation of the true nature of persuasive eloquence by declaring that this will be an advantage. His introduction is also too long and elaborate for the work he has in hand. The central thought with which he opens is in substance, “I am worthy of your closest attention.” This cannot be considered a fortunate beginning, and it would have been fatal for any one less highly esteemed by the people than “the well-beloved Brutus.” He says:

Brutus’ Speech.

“Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my 55cause, and be silent that you may hear; believe me for mine honor, and have respect to mine honor that you may believe; censure me in your wisdom and awake your senses that you may the better judge.”

This introduction is a master-piece of Shakespeare’s art, because it pictures so well the character of Brutus in his dignity and blind self-confidence; but for Brutus it is unfortunate, because it puts him on the defensive and makes the people his judges. He must now plead well, or they will condemn him.

In the discussion the thought simply is, “I was Cæsar’s friend, and therefore you may well believe that I would not have killed him if he had not deserved death because of his ambition.” This is the whole argument, and it is weak because it does not prove the ambition of Cæsar, or show that ambition on Cæsar’s part was a crime which Brutus had a right to punish with death. The antithetic sentences lack both logic and passion. As they touch neither head nor heart, they can have but slight and momentary effect. Notice the discussion as an example of fine words which do not serve their purpose.

“If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Cæsar’s, to him I say that Brutus’ love to Cæsar was no less than his. If, then, that friend demand why Brutus rose against Cæsar, this is my answer: Not that I loved Cæsar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had 56you rather Cæsar were living, and die all slaves, than that Cæsar were dead, to live all freemen? As Cæsar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him. There are tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his ambition. Who is here so base that would be a bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so rude, that would not be a Roman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so vile that will not love his country? If any, speak; for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.”

As several citizens cry out, “None, Brutus, none,” he passes to the conclusion, which is as weak as the discussion.

“Then none have I offended. I have done no more to Cæsar, than you shall do to Brutus. As I slew my best lover for the good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself, when it shall please my country to need my death.”

He has gained nothing by the whole speech, save the knowledge that none of the citizens present care at that time to impeach him for his crime; but their minds were open to other influences. Shakespeare thus shows how an able man might use all his powers in the perfection of oratorical and rhetorical forms, without producing a great or effective speech. Antony now comes forward. Behold the contrast!

57Antony’s Speech.

The introduction is like and unlike that of Brutus. The same three titles are used; the same call for attention. But there is no repetition, no egotism, no elaboration. The introduction is short, calling attention to his ostensible purpose, and prepares for a beautiful transition to the discussion.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Cæsar, not to praise him.”

There is not a superfluous word. But how can Antony glide into those praises of Cæsar, which he has disclaimed, but which are necessary to his purpose? The next sentence solves the question:

“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Cæsar.”

This leads most naturally to the thought of the discussion, which is, No event of Cæsar’s life shows guilty ambition; but many do reveal love to the people and care for the general welfare. He should, therefore, be mourned, and—the next word is not supplied by the orator, but forced from the hearts of the people—avenged! We quote a few only of the well-known words:

58The Discussion.
“The noble Brutus
Hath told you Cæsar was ambitious;
If it were so, it were a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Cæsar answered it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,
(For Brutus is an honorable man,
So are they all, all honorable men,)
Come I to speak in Cæsar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me;
But Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransom did the general coffers fill.
Did this in Cæsar seem ambitious?
When that the poor hath cried Cæsar hath wept.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
You all did see, that, on the Lupercal,
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?”

The strongest argument against belief in guilty ambition on the part of Cæsar and in favor of punishing his murderers is reserved by the subtle Antony for the last, and then he manages to have the people demand it of him. He proceeds very naturally and effectively from the rent robe and the bleeding body to the will of Cæsar. This instrument gave the Romans each a large donation 59in money, and bestowed upon them collectively “his walks, his private arbors, and new-planted orchards” as a public park. The argument was irresistible, and needed no elaboration. If his death was avenged as a murder, the will would be valid; otherwise, it would be set aside, and his estate confiscated by the conspirators. The people, thus fired by the strongest motives of gratitude and interest themselves supply the conclusion, and Brutus had to fly for his life.

The whole speech is worth study as an exhibition of almost perfect eloquence. Shakespeare meant to draw in Brutus the picture of a scholar coming before the people with fine words, and producing little more than a literary effect. In Antony he pictures the true orator in the plentitude of his power, to whom words are but servants in accomplishing his purpose of persuading and inflaming the people. The one speech reads as if it might have been written out in the closet and memorized; the other gushes from the heart of the speaker as he watches the sea of upturned faces, adapting his words with exquisite skill to suit and swell the passions written there.


Initial Fear and how to Overcome it.

However numerous and varied may be the classes of those who contemplate extempore speech, they are all confronted by one common difficulty. Whether a boy makes his maiden effort, or a man of wide thought and ripe culture attempts for the first time to dispense with the manuscript in which he has trusted through years of successful public speech, the fear of failing looms up before each of them in a manner equally formidable.

The writer well remembers his first boyish venture into this arena of peril. A debate in a village shoemaker’s shop furnished the occasion. Two or three “speakers” were ranged on a side, and the question was that time-honored controversy of country lyceums—the comparative magnitude of the wrongs suffered by the Indians and the Negroes at the hands of the American Government. Which side the writer was on, or what arguments were used, has long since been forgotten, but the palpitating heart, the terrible suspense, as one after another of the preceding speakers made his remarks and brought the terrible moment of facing the audience nearer, can never cease to be remembered. When at last called out by the voice of the presiding officer, I found 61my way to the end of a rude bench or counter that ran partly across the room, leaned upon it, shut my eyes, and began to talk. How hoarse and hollow the sound that followed! All that was uttered was instantly forgotten by the speaker, for one terrible thought dominated every other—a speech was being made! My head whirled, every nerve tingled, and a confused, roaring sound filled my ears, while I most heartily repented of allowing myself to be persuaded into such a frightful position. A great dread stared at me from the end of each sentence—that of finding nothing more to say and being obliged to sit down amid the ridicule of neighbors and school-fellows. When at length the agony was over, and opening my eyes, I dropped into a seat, a striking revulsion of feeling occurred. This rose to the height of joy and triumph when I learned that “the speech” had actually been ten minutes long. It was a grand achievement!

In all sober earnest, I estimate that this first effort was probably the most profitable of my life, because it was a beginning in the right direction. Weeks of preparation preceded the momentous effort, and in some kind of a way the result had been poured upon the audience. From that time the writer was numbered among the village debaters and shared in the advantages of the village Lyceum—a capital means of improvement. Had the first extemporaneous effort been made later in life, 62the shrinking and terror would probably have been even greater.

While no way has been discovered of altogether preventing the initial fear that attends extemporaneous speech by the unpracticed orator, yet it may be greatly lessened and more rapid and perfect control of it obtained by heeding a few simple suggestions. Some serviceable expedients have already been pointed out, and will here only be referred to. As simple a plan as that described in the last chapter, with lengthened meditation on each part, will give the mind of the speaker something to do aside from dwelling upon his own danger. He should also prepare far more matter than can possibly be used—so much that in the simplest and baldest statement it will fill a respectable period of time. He need not be careful as to how he speaks, or in how many forms he repeats the same idea. Originality, also, may safely be neglected. The object is not to talk especially well, or to utter that which has never been uttered before, but only to keep on talking until self-possession and the mastery of every faculty have been fully restored. This preparation of great quantities of material with no care as to the graces of delivery may expose the speaker in time to another peril—that of being tedious and wearisome; but this is not the source of the initial fear with which we are now dealing, and when it becomes a real evil there are effectual means of guarding against it.

63A further direction is that the mode of introduction be very firmly fixed in the mind. This wonderfully calms the speaker. He knows that he can begin even if he never gets any further; and by the time the introduction is passed, if the man possesses any natural aptitude for speech, his mind will in all ordinary cases have recovered its equilibrium, and be ready to devise and direct everything that follows.

The plan and the full notes which have been made should also be kept within easy reach, or even in the hand—not with the intention of using them, for that is the very thing to be avoided, but that the speaker, by knowing that they can be referred to in an emergency, may be guarded against “stage fright.” He may also exercise self-control by not looking at them unless absolutely driven to it.

The object of first efforts—even for the orator who is great in other modes of delivery—is not to make a great or admired speech, but only to get through the ordeal without disgrace or failure. Quality must be sought later. To get any reasonable quantity of speech at first, to satisfy yourself that you can both think and talk when on your feet, is achievement enough.

One caution may be offered to the man possessing a good written style which the boy will not need. Do not make your preparation so minutely or verbally that the very words linger in your memory. If you do, one 64of two things will probably happen: either you will recite a memorized speech, which, however fine in itself, will contribute nothing to the object of learning to speak extemporaneously, or the fine fragments of remembered diction that flood in your mind will be so out of harmony with the words spontaneously evolved as to produce a continual series of jars and discords noticeable to every one, and to none more painfully than to yourself. The writer once listened to a speech of this mixed character, in which the orator would soar for a time on the wings of most excellent words, and then drop down to his ordinary and very meagre vocabulary. So frequent and unexpected were these transitions that the orator’s progress suggested nothing so much as traveling over one of those western corduroy roads, where the wheels of the carriage first rise with a great effort on top of a log, and then plunge into fathomless depths of mud! Rather than such jolting, it is better that the experimental speeches should never rise above the level of mere talk, and thus maintain a uniform progress. In due time all qualified persons can lift their extemporaneous words as high as the utmost reach of the pen. But first must be gained the power of standing unprotected by a paper wall, face to face with an audience and employing every faculty as calmly and efficiently as in the study. Practice in talking to the people will make this possible and easy, but nothing else will.


Utility of Debating Societies.

Comparatively little attention is paid to the direct cultivation of extemporaneous oratory in schools and colleges. Indirectly, much help is given by teaching many things which go to furnish the orator with ideas and words, but the combination of these into that noble effort of human genius—a speech—is left to individual research or to accident. A few schools of oratory have been founded which give a large and probably disproportionate share of attention to elocution in the form of stage or dramatic reading; but even the best of these are as yet but entering upon their real work of cultivating thoroughly the power of persuasive public speech. When each college shall have a chair of extempore speech, and each academy shall give as much attention to unpremeditated utterances in conversation and public address as is now bestowed upon Greek or Latin, the oratory of pulpit, bar, platform, and legislature will be of a vastly higher type.

Some newspaper critics have deprecated teaching the art of speech on the ground that there is already too much public talking. This view, if seriously entertained, 66is very narrow and misleading. Not more, but better speech—an increase of quality, rather than quantity—would result from cultivation, and improved methods. And it may also be argued that if a great part of the work of life is found in convincing, instructing, and persuading our fellows, an abundance of speech is absolutely required. As freedom and mental activity increase, the only practicable modes of leading and governing men, which rest upon persuasive speech, will be more urgently demanded. In a state where the will of one man is law, political speech has little place; and in a Church where independent thought is heresy and the mass of the people accept unquestioningly the precise form of faith in which they were born, preaching will have a very narrow field. But in our own country it is our boast that we determine every subject by free discussion; and it is clear that a man who can take no part in the oral battles that are continually waged about him is placed at a great disadvantage.

But the literary societies generally connected with schools do afford very valuable help in acquiring the art of oratory. Not only their formal exercises, but their discussion of points of order and procedure, and the management of the business and government of such societies, call out talking talent. Debating societies or lyceums give the same kind of facilities to speakers outside of educational halls. A spirited debate on some 67topic not above the comprehension of the debaters affords one of the best possible means of acquiring the prime faculties of assurance and fluency. In such debates the question is chosen, the sides assigned, and ample time given for that kind of preparation which can only be effectually made in the general study of the subject. There is no great temptation to write a speech for a coming debate, as its formal sentences would fit poorly into the line of argument, the course of which cannot be foreseen, even if their substance should not be anticipated by a speaker on the same side. But the more general knowledge of the subject in its entire range that can be acquired the better, so long as it does not overwhelm the speaker. The opening speech may indeed be planned in advance with some definiteness, but all others will be colored and modified by the situation into which the debate has been drawn. Each participant is under a strong stimulus to do his best, sure, if successful, of warm approval by his colleagues and sweet triumph over his opponents. After the opening speech each contestant will have the time his predecessor is speaking for arranging arguments and preparing an answer. The stimulus of contradiction rouses every faculty to the highest energy. Each argument is scrutinized for the purpose of discovering its weak point, and nothing will pass on trust. It may as well be acknowledged that the gladiatorial spirit, though in a 68modified form, is still rife in the civilized world. The “joy of conflict” may be tasted as well in the sharp encounters of an earnest debate upon some topic of absorbing interest as on the battle-field. A society which furnishes its members continual opportunity for speech, under such conditions cannot fail to be a powerful educator in the direction of extemporaneous speech. In such encounters, the freedom that belongs to this kind of address is most highly appreciated, and the mistaken considerations of dignity and propriety which so often take all life and heart from speech can have little weight. Debates have indeed been occasionally carried on by means of essays in place of speeches, but such encounters have been tame and listless affairs, and have soon given place to the real article. Among the American statesmen who have taken their first lessons in the art which paved their way to greatness in country debating societies may be reckoned Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, and many others only less eminent.

Enough inducements, we trust, have been set forth to lead every student of speech to find or make an opportunity for availing himself of this capital means of cultivation. Let him enter upon the work of debating, earnestly resolving (after the first few efforts) to do the very best in his power. Let him arrange his material carefully, select a striking mode of opening each address, 69and strive to close in such a manner as to leave the best effect on the minds of his hearers. As he debates for improvement rather than for immediate victory, he will, of course, despise all tricks and seek to win fairly, or—what is just as important a lesson—he will learn to accept defeat gracefully.

The skeletons of two speeches on opposite sides of the same question are here presented for the purpose of showing how a simple plan will hold to the proper place all the thoughts and arguments that may be accumulated.

The same form of outline is used as in the preceding chapter.


Would the annexation of Cuba to the United States be beneficial?

Affirmative Argument.

Introduction.—How small and hemmed in by powerful countries the United States would have been if no annexations had ever been made. To annex Cuba would be no new policy.

Discussion. Argument First.—Favorable location of Cuba and commercial value to the United States.

Argument Second.—The great riches and beauty of the Island, which make it very desirable.

Argument Third.—Advantages to the people of Cuba themselves, in belonging to a great and free nation.

70Conclusion.—All previous annexations had to encounter strong opposition when first proposed, but are now acknowledged to have been good policy. So, if Cuba is brought under our flag, opposition will die out and all parties be glad of the result.

Negative Argument.

Introduction.—Plausible but inconclusive nature of the argument advanced on the other side. Previous annexations may not have been good, though opposition ceased when it could avail nothing. Even if all former annexations were beneficial this might not be, as all attending circumstances are so widely different.

Discussion. Argument First.—The nation has already as much territory as can be well governed. An increase would lead to grave dangers.

Argument Second.—The people of Cuba are different in language, race, and religion from the majority of the people of the United States; have different customs, and are unacquainted with the working of our institutions. They could not therefore be transformed easily into good citizens.

Conclusion.—Dreadful wars and calamities have arisen in all ages and all parts of the world from greediness in absorbing territory—“earth hunger,” as the Germans call it. To annex Cuba would involve present and future danger.


Preparation of the Speaker.


Unfortunates who Never can Extemporize.

Persons are met every day who declare their belief in extempore speech—for others—but who are fully persuaded that the possibility of ever becoming effective speakers has been placed by nature forever beyond their own reach. In some cases this persuasion is well founded. There are people who cannot by any possible effort learn to speak well without manuscript or memorized words. But too much must not be made of this acknowledgment. The number of these unfortunates is smaller than is usually believed. It is also noticeable that persons of undoubted talent are often most ready to despair of their own future as speakers, while others, whose defects are patent to all their neighbors, have no fears whatever.

The object of this chapter is to point out the character of the few insuperable disqualifications for extempore speech, and supply rational tests by which their presence in any given case may be determined. This is a task of no small difficulty and delicacy; yet it is necessary. To encourage any person to strive for that which is forever placed out of his reach is cruel—almost criminal. It is equally wrong to discourage those who only need persevering effort in order to achieve full success.

74With regard to the faculty of eloquence, mankind may be divided into three classes. Persons in the first class have the oratorical temperament so fully developed that they will speak well and fully succeed in whatever mode they may adopt, or, indeed, without consciously adopting any method at all. They have such a union of the power of expression and of the impulse toward it, that they speak as naturally and as surely as the nightingale sings. The existence of extraordinary native genius must be acknowledged as a fact in every department of human effort. But it by no means follows that these wonderfully gifted beings will rise to the highest eminence in their own spheres. They certainly will not unless they add diligent effort and careful cultivation to their natural powers. Some of the greatest orators have not belonged to this class, but to that next described. They would never have been heard of—would probably never have addressed an audience at all—if they had not forced their way upward against adverse criticism, and often against their own feeling and judgment, impelled only by a sense of duty or by enthusiastic loyalty to some great cause.

The second class is far larger than either of the others. The majority of people have not so great talents for speech as to drive them of necessity into the oratorical field. Neither are they absolutely incapable of true speech. If they will labor for success in oratory, as a 75photographer or a sculptor labors to master his art, they will gain it; otherwise, they will always be slow and embarrassed in utterance and be glad to find refuge in manuscript or in complete silence. It is often amusing to note a person of this class who has never learned how to be eloquent, but who is full of ideas that seek expression, using another person who is a mere talking machine as a mouthpiece! There is nothing wrong in such a division of labor, but the latter secures all the glory, although he runs considerable risk, as his stock of borrowed information cannot be replenished at will. The writer knew two young men, members of a certain literary society, who sustained this relation to each other. They usually sat together, and while a debate was in progress the wiser of the two would whisper the other what line of argument to follow and what illustrations to employ, and at the proper time the latter would spring to his feet with the utmost confidence, and blaze forth in borrowed eloquence. In time, however, the silent man tired of his part and took the pains to learn the art of speech for himself. A great profusion of language is not the first need of an orator. Quite as often as otherwise it proves a hindrance and a snare. The members of this large class have every encouragement to work diligently, and are sure of ultimate reward.

But the remaining class can no more learn to speak well, than a blind man can learn to paint, or a dumb man 76to sing. How shall such persons be made acquainted with their condition, and thus save themselves years of painful and fruitless toil? Mathematical accuracy of determination is not practicable, but any person of candor and ordinary judgment may apply a few simple tests which will not allow wide room for error.

A dumb man cannot be an orator. The physical impediment is here absolute and recognized by all. But mere slowness and defects of speech, though hurtful, are not necessarily fatal. Stammering may in almost every case be cured, and many stammerers have made good speakers. A weak voice is also a misfortune; but it may be greatly strengthened, and by cultivation and judicious husbanding become equal to every purpose. A feeble voice will accomplish much more in extemporizing than in reading a manuscript. Some most eloquent men have reached their stations in spite of vocal defects. John Randolph, Robert Hall, and Bishop Simpson are cases in point. After all the examples that have been afforded of the power of cultivating the voice, supplemented by the effects of using it in a natural manner, no man who can carry on an ordinary parlor conversation need say, “My voice is so weak that I can never be a public speaker.” He may require training in the ways pointed out hereafter; but with proper effort he can reasonably expect a good degree of success. The writer here speaks from experience. His voice was so feeble that reading a 77single paragraph aloud at school was difficult; and when afterward the study of law was contemplated, many friends dissuaded on the ground that lack of voice forbade all hope of success at the bar. But special drill and the healthful practice of extemporaneous speech have wrought such an improvement that now no great effort is required to make several thousand persons in the open air hear every word of a long address.

Some persons are ready to assign their own timidity as an excuse for never attempting public speech. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred this is no real disqualification. If the timidity, indeed, be so great that the person will not risk speech, that decides the question against him, but in such a case he should say, “I will not,” rather than “I cannot.” Fear is more under the government of the will than we are apt to imagine. Even when excessive, the right kind of drill will go far toward overcoming it. Great cowards often make good soldiers when so well disciplined that they know just what to do, and from the force of habit cannot neglect it, although their attention may be wholly absorbed in something else. But it is idle to disguise that the extempore speaker will always run some risk of failure. Probably no great orator ever escaped a mortifying, if not disastrous, overthrow at some period of his career. Sheridan and Lord Beaconsfield each began their great achievements in the English House of Commons by a 78complete breakdown. But they also had the courage to try again and to keep trying until success came. Mere natural shrinking from such trials is no disqualification, if when the mind is fully made up as to the best course there is sufficient courage and will-power to go forward. Indeed, a certain degree of fear belongs to the oratorical temperament. A man who can at the first trial calmly face an expectant audience, probably lacks some of the sensitiveness which is one of the qualifications of the powerful and effective speaker. The only real disqualification, therefore, in the direction of timidity, is such a degree of fear as will make the speaker turn away from all the prizes of oratory, unwilling to encounter the hardship and the struggle by which they may be won.

But is the position of the reader or declaimer better in this particular than that of the true speaker? How difficult it is to read well before an audience! Even elocutionists who devote years of practice to a narrow range of selections find their efforts very unequal. They can never be sure of reaching the full measure of former successes. To read one’s own composition, and to feel responsible for the words and the matter, as well as for the delivery, greatly intensifies the fear of falling below reasonable expectations. The writer has observed many manuscript readers, and can testify that they are usually as much embarrassed when the hour of trial arrives as off-hand speakers. In the latter mode of 79delivery the voice is so much more free and varied, and the mind is apt to be removed so much more from self, that the balance of advantages in the matter of embarrassment seems to be decidedly in favor of extemporizing.

The perils of the reciter are still more formidable. The reader seldom grows so much embarrassed as to be unable to see the words before him. If he loses his place he can begin somewhere else, and stumble on in some kind of way. But verbal memory, when weighted with the burden of a whole discourse and clouded by embarrassment, easily give way altogether. A slight physical ailment may produce the same result. When memory thus fails, scarcely any escape is possible to one accustomed to depend upon it. Many speakers will recollect occasions on which they were unable to recall short memorized passages, but could easily supply extemporized words and thus follow the line of discourse previously marked out without any mortifying confession of failure. It will therefore be a gain to one who aspires to public speech of any kind to settle it finally that no other mode of utterance can diminish those risks which so terrify the extempore speaker.

A third disqualification is the want of ordinary mental power. Great mental endowments may not be necessary. In the ordinary meaning of the word, the orator need not be a genius. His education may be very defective, 80his range of information narrow, and his general powers of mind not above the average. But if he is to stand before his fellows as a guide and instructor—a position assumed to some degree by every speaker—he should not be inferior in a marked degree to his hearers, at least in those things which relate to the subjects he discusses. A mediocre man who has had special training in some one direction, and adds native vigor of mind, may be a very instructive and entertaining speaker in his own field. But if through mental weakness he talks so foolishly on any topic that his want of wisdom is apparent to all his hearers, he might better close his lips; and if his mental faculties are so defective or badly balanced that he cannot master the ordinary subjects upon which he will be required to speak if he speaks at all, he should abandon all thought of oratory.

This disqualification is the most difficult for a man to determine in himself. A weak voice, overmastering fear, infirm health, can all be recognized with an approach to certainty; but who can be bold enough to settle the question whether his mind is sufficiently strong to profitably address his fellows? A few general suggestions presented in the form of questions are all that will be useful in making this decision. Do you find it possible to study a subject until all sides of it are clearly visible in their mutual relations? Do the subjects with which you are most familiarly acquainted still seem 81shadowy and confused in your own mind? When you try to tell a friend about any passing event, do you use words so bunglingly as to give him no clear conception of the matter? A speaker must be able to hold a subject firmly in his mind, and to make such a presentation of it to others that they also may understand it.

Yet in answering these questions let it be remembered that many persons, exceedingly self-distrustful, have put forth their efforts all the more diligently on that account, and have thus achieved brilliant success.

The rule is a safe one, that a man whose mind furnishes him with important ideas, and with the desire to communicate them, may speak successfully. Mental powers may be greatly improved and strengthened, and no one who does not stand far down the scale in natural endowment, or is willing to use the means at his disposal diligently, need hesitate to make an attempt which can scarcely fail to be full of profit, even when it does not command perfect success. We will not now enter upon a consideration of the modes by which the general strength of the mind may be augmented and its stores increased, for oratory busies itself with the method of communication rather than with the illimitable field of general cultivation.

Any mortal disease, or such physical infirmity as prevents the exercise of bodily and mental powers, will be found to interfere as materially with oratory as with 82other forms of labor. For a man who is far advanced in consumption to begin a course of preparatory training with a view to becoming an orator, would be an evident waste of effort. If he has anything to say which the world ought to know, he should speak it out at once in the best form that his present ability allows, or commit the task to others. This seems so self-evident that it should be understood without statement; but the opposite idea has attained some degree of currency. It is sometimes said of an individual, “Poor fellow, his health is so broken that he can never make a living by any hard work; it would be well for him to turn his attention to some easy profession, where he would have nothing to do but speak.” There is one form of truth concealed in this hurtful error. Natural speech does furnish healthful exercise for the vocal organs, which in their turn are closely connected with the most vital parts of the human body. In some cases serious disease has been cured by the habit of public speech. But these cases are exceptional, and do not in the least invalidate the principle here laid down, which is, that disease, so far as it enfeebles the body, operates as a direct disqualification for effective speech; and if the disease be severe and permanent the disqualification is total. It must also be remembered that some forms of disease are rendered worse by the effort and excitement inseparable from public address. Physicians usually forbid the healthful 83exercise of surf-bathing to persons afflicted with heart disease. But the intellectual waves of a heated discussion buffet no less fiercely than the ocean surf, and to be met successfully requires a steady arm and a strong heart. Even in the calmest and most passionless discourse it is scarcely possible to avoid having the pulse quickened, and all the elements of mental and physical endurance severely tested. The star of a most eloquent man suddenly faded a few years ago while he was still in middle life, because he became too feeble to put forth oratorical force. He continued to speak for a few years, but scores only listened to him where hundreds and thousands had hung spell-bound on his utterances before his physical strength declined.

But it is cheering to remember that especially in youth ill-health may often be entirely removed. The great majority of young people need only the careful observance of healthy conditions in order to make their bodies efficient instruments for the expression of all the fires of eloquence that may be enkindled in their souls.

One of the principal marks by which man is distinguished from the lower animals is the invention and use of articulate language. By it, the dress for our ideas is formed, and it is scarcely possible even to meditate without mentally using words. During all our waking moments, even the most idle, a stream of language is running ceaselessly through our minds. The more completely 84the form of language is spontaneously assumed by the thought-current, the easier it becomes to open the lips and let it gush forth in words. With most persons unspoken meditations are very fragmentary and obscure—mere snatches begun and broken off by passing impulses or impressions. An extemporaneous speaker must be able to control his thoughts and hold them to a predetermined path; and if he also accustoms himself to force them into a full dress of language, the habit will greatly lessen conscious effort in the moment of speech. But however this is, the power of wielding the resources of his mother tongue is absolutely essential to the orator. A great and incurable deficiency in this respect is fatal. There are examples of almost wordless men, who, though suffering no deprivation of any of the physical organs of speech, have yet been so deficient in language-power that they could not employ it as the medium of ordinary communication. Such a man—an Illinois farmer—well known to the writer, could not find words to make an ordinary statement without long and embarrassing pauses. The names of his nearest neighbors were usually forgotten, so that he required continual prompting in conversation. He was not below the average of his neighbors either in education or intelligence, but was simply almost without the faculty of language. This deficiency in a less marked degree is not uncommon. No amount of training would ever have 85converted this farmer into an orator. Had he attempted to discuss the most familiar topic his beggarly array of words would have been more forlorn than Falstaff’s recruits. Another example that may be cited was in one sense still more instructive—a preacher whose goodness was acknowledged by all who knew him, a man of solid acquirements and of great diligence and energy. But his long and embarrassed pauses, together with his struggles to get words of some kind to express his meaning, constituted a trial to his hearers so great that no congregation would long endure his ministry.

It is possible that such persons would gain some relief by writing and reading their discourses. Probably they could not memorize at all. Their reading, however, would most likely be marked by many of the same defects as their spoken utterances.

Many of the persons who accuse themselves of a lack of words mistake the nature of their difficulty. It is easy to bring the matter to a decisive test. If you are really very deficient in the faculty of language, you cannot tell an ordinary story, with the details of which you are perfectly acquainted, in a prompt and intelligent manner. Try the experiment. Read over two or three times a newspaper account of a wreck, a murder, or some other common occurrence; then lay down the paper and in your own way tell your friend what has happened. If you can do this easily, you need never complain of the 86lack of words. Equal familiarity with any other subject will produce the same results. Neither the preacher nor the farmer referred to could have successfully passed this test. The preacher would have told the story badly, and in an incredibly long space of time; the farmer would not have told it at all.

We have now considered the most serious disqualifications for the orator’s vocation. Many things which are constantly assigned by candidates as the reasons for confining themselves to the use of manuscript in public address have not been included, for most of these, as will appear in a subsequent chapter, are susceptible of easy remedy. Here we have only mentioned those which cannot be cured. If a man concludes, after due trial and consultation, that these defects, or any part of them, prevail in his own case, it will be prudent for him to select some other life-work to which he is better adapted than he can ever hope to be for public speaking.

We sum up the following disqualifications for oratory: incurable defects of voice, extreme timidity, feebleness of mind, certain forms of bodily disease, and great deficiency in the faculty of language.


Thought and Emotion.

Two kinds of preparation contribute to the production of eloquence. One is the preparation of the speaker, the other of the speech. The first is fully as important as the second. In ordinary cases both are indispensable. Some “born orators” speak well without appearing to pay any attention to the improvement of their faculties. Others are occasionally eloquent on a topic without special preparation. Yet these cases when closely examined will be found apparent rather than real exceptions to the rule above stated. The man who seems never to have cultivated the power of speech, and is yet able to blaze into fervid eloquence at will, has usually concealed his preparation or carried it on in such uncommon methods that they have not been recognized as preparations. On the other hand, a man who speaks well without a moment’s warning can do so only when the subject is thoroughly familiar to him. A ready and self-possessed speaker may grasp thoughts which have been long maturing in his mind, and give them forth to an audience in obedience to an unexpected summons, but if he is called upon when he knows nothing whatever of his subject, failure is inevitable, though he may possibly 88veil it more or less in a stream of platitudes. Ask a man at a moment’s warning to give an astronomical lecture. If he is perfectly familiar with the subject in general, and is also a practical orator, he may succeed well without preparing a special speech. But if he is ignorant of Astronomy, what kind of an address can he make? If he is the most eloquent man in the nation that faculty will avail him nothing, for he cannot extemporize the names of the planets, the laws which govern their motions, or any of the facts out of which his lecture must be woven. Precisely the same necessity of adequate information exists in every other field of intelligence. The ignorant man cannot possibly tell that which he does not know, although he may make a great show of knowledge out of small material; but even to do that with certainty requires careful premeditation and arrangement.

In this and following chapters we wish to treat of the kind of cultivation which makes a man ready to speak. The field is here very wide and some general considerations must be introduced, but we hope also to give valuable practical directions, especially to those who are yet at the beginning of their career.

In considering man as a speaker, we may classify his faculties into two broad divisions; those which furnish the materials of communication with his fellows; and those which furnish the means of such communication. 89The first class gives rise to thoughts and emotions in man’s own breast; the second enables him to arouse similar thoughts and emotions in the breasts of others. Our course, therefore, will be to consider, first, thought and emotion, and afterward those powers of body and mind by which we express, that is, press out from ourselves toward the receptive faculties of our fellow beings.

Thought, in the broad sense here given, embraces the knowledge of all facts, and all the reasoning that may be based upon those facts. Emotion is the mental feeling or response to knowledge, and comprises love, hate, joy, fear, sorrow, and hope. These two elements are the broad basis of all eloquence. Keen, profound, far-reaching thought—in other words, thought raised to its highest terms—and quick, sensitive, powerful emotion, are necessary to the highest eloquence. Compared with them, mere verbal fluency is less than dust in the balance. But such a combination—the highest degree of both thought and emotion—is rare, and many degrees less than the highest of either is available for genuine eloquence. To increase either or both, if it can be done without any corresponding sacrifice, is to increase eloquence in precisely the same proportion.

Education in the popular sense is the cultivation of thought with the added faculty of language. But we prefer to consider the latter power separately as one among the means of communicating thought.

90How, then, shall thought-power be increased? There is no royal road. Every one of the faculties by which knowledge is accumulated and arranged or digested into new forms grows stronger by being employed upon its own appropriate objects. Exercise is then the means by which the material of knowledge is gathered, and all faculties strengthened for future gathering. Each fact gained adds to the treasury of thought. A broad and liberal education is of exceeding advantage. This may or may not be of the schools. Indeed, they too often substitute a knowledge of words for a knowledge of things. That fault is very serious to the orator, for the only way by which even language can be effectively taught, is by giving terms to objects, the nature of which has been previously learned.

But many persons need to speak who cannot obtain an education in the usual sense of the words—that is, college or seminary training. Must they keep their lips forever closed on that account? By no means.

A thousand examples, some of them the most eminent speakers the world has produced, encourage them to hope. Let such persons learn all they can. Wide, well-selected, and systematic reading will do wonders in supplying the necessary thought-material. Every book of history, biography, travels, popular science, which is carefully read, and its contents fixed in the mind, will be available for the purposes of oratory. Here a word 91of advice may be offered, which, if heeded, will be worth many months of technical education at the best colleges in the land; it is this: have always at hand some work that in its own sphere possesses real and permanent merit, and read it daily until completed. If notes are made of its contents, and the book itself kept on hand for reference, so much the better. If some friend can be found who will hear you relate in your own words what you have read, this also will be of great value. Many persons, especially in our own country, spend time enough in reading the minute details of the daily papers to make them thoroughly acquainted in ten years with forty volumes of the most useful books in the world. Think of it! This number may include nearly all the literary masterpieces. Which mode of spending the time will produce the best results? One newspaper read daily would amount to more than three hundred in a year, and allowing each paper to be equal to ten ordinary book pages, the result would be three thousand pages annually, or six volumes of five hundred pages each. In ten years this would reach sixty volumes! This number, comprising the world’s best books in history, poetry, science, and general literature, might be read slowly, with meditation and diligent note-taking, by the most busy man who was willing to employ his leisure in that way. Libraries and books are now brought within the reach of all, and the mass of what man knows can be learned 92in outline by any student who thirsts for knowledge. While thus engaged the student is on the direct road toward oratorical efficiency, though such knowledge will not in itself constitute eloquence. It is but one of its elements. Neither will the speaker have to wait until any definite quantity of reading has been accomplished before it becomes serviceable to him. All that he learns will be immediately available, and, with proper effort, the facility of speech and the material for speaking will keep pace with each other.

But personal observation of life and nature are just as necessary as reading. The world of books is very extensive, but it yields its treasures only to persons who bring to its study some independent knowledge of their own. We cannot hope to add much to the world’s stock of knowledge by what we see with our own eyes, but what we do see and hear will interpret for us what we learn from the far wider world of books. Gibbon tells us that his militia service, though of no great advantage in itself, was afterward very useful to the historian of the Roman Empire. What we behold of the landscape around us lays the foundation for understanding what poets and travelers tell us of other landscapes we may never see. Book knowledge wall become real and vivid just in proportion as it is brought into comparison with the observation of our own senses. To the orator, this is far more important than to the ordinary student, 93for it adds greatly to the royal faculty of imagination. A description from the lips of a speaker who beholds at the moment a mental picture, accurate as a photograph, and bright with color, will be very different from another description built up only of words, however well chosen and melodious the latter may be. A little dabbling in natural science, a few experiments tried, an occasional peep through telescope or microscope at the worlds they open, and all other means of bringing knowledge under the scrutiny of our own senses, will greatly contribute to the power of the orator.

The reasoning faculties must also be trained by exercise upon their own objects. The knowledge which has been gathered from personal observation or from the testimony of others in books will furnish material, but will not enable us to reason. Logic and mathematics have considerable utility as guides, but they cannot supply the want of continuous application of the processes of argument and deduction. No man becomes a reasoner from merely learning the mode in which the reason operates. Of two persons, one of whom understands every mood of the syllogism and the source of every fallacy, while the other has no technical knowledge of logic, but has been engaged in careful reasoning, discussion, and argument, all his life, it may easily happen that the latter will be the better reasoner of the two—just as a man might learn from the books all the rules of the 94game of croquet, and yet be beaten by another who continually handled the mallet, but had never read a single rule. Practice makes perfect. Essay writing, constructing arguments, tracing effects back to their causes, making careful comparison of all things that can be compared, in short, bringing our judgment to bear upon all facts, forming our own opinions of every event, and being always ready to give a reason to those who ask,—these modes of exercise will make the faculty of reason grow continually stronger. It is not pretended that these or any other modes of cultivation can make all minds equal, but they will improve any one—the lowest as surely as the most active—though the interval after both have been thus exercised will remain as great as before.

Extempore speech itself, when practiced upon carefully arranged plans or models as recommended hereafter, is one of the most powerful modes of cultivating the logical faculty. To construct plans, so that all thoughts accumulated upon a given subject may be unfolded in a natural and orderly manner, cannot fail to exercise the reasoning faculties, and impart corresponding strength to them.

But how shall emotion be cultivated? The wisest speech, if deep feeling neither throbs in the words nor is manifested in delivery, cannot be eloquent. The orator can only speak forth from an aroused and excited 95nature. There is a kind of intellectual excitation kindled by the presentation of truth which is sufficiently effective when instruction is the only object. But to persuade and move men—the usual aim of the orator—requires passion. No pretense will avail the extempore speaker. He will infallibly be detected if counterfeiting, and to succeed in exhibiting feeling he must really feel. There are but two things which can arouse feeling—care for a cause or for persons. Many a man is eloquent when “riding his hobby,” though at no other time. He has thought so much upon that special subject, and has so thoroughly identified himself with it, that everything relating to it becomes invested with personal interest. Any cause which can thus be made personal will be apt to arouse feeling. It would be wise, therefore, for an orator to identify himself as closely as possible with all manner of good causes which come within his reach. Then such well-springs of emotion will gush out easily and frequently.

This mode of excitation is largely intellectual in its character. The next to be described has more to do with the affections. The clergyman wants to secure the welfare of his congregation, and the better he is acquainted with them individually the stronger will be this wish. The lawyer is but a poor attorney if he does not so identify himself with his client as to feel more than a professional interest in the latter’s success. The politician 96needs no exhortation to rouse his enthusiasm for his party and his chief. All these are instances of that care for persons which adds so greatly to the powers of effective speech. The plain inference, therefore, is that the speaker will gain largely by identifying himself as closely as possible with the interests of men, and by cultivating love for them. A cynical or indifferent spirit makes a fearful discount from the possibilities of eloquence. Only the greatest qualities in other directions can prevent it from proving fatal.

The power and sensitiveness of emotions founded upon intimate knowledge and partnership of interest go far to explain the wonderful eloquence of the old Greeks. Their country was the native land of eloquence. This arose not so much from the character of that gifted race as from the fact that each speaker personally knew his audience and had an intimate, material interest in the affairs he discussed. They regarded their opponents as terribly bad men. Their own lives and the lives of many of their friends were not unfrequently involved in the questions they discussed. The States were so small, and the personal element so important, that strongly aroused feeling became inevitable. The discussion of war or peace before an audience who knew that if they voted war their town might be besieged by the enemy within a fortnight, was sure to be eagerly listened to. No platitudes would be tolerated. The orators spoke 97before their neighbors, some of them friendly, others bitter enemies who were seeking in each word they uttered an occasion for their ruin. Much of the wonderful power of Demosthenes arose from the deep solicitude felt by himself and excited in his hearers as they watched the swiftly coming ruin of their common country.

It is also a law of human nature that we feel deeply for that which has cost us great labor. The collector of old china or of entomological specimens learns to greatly value the ugly dishes and bugs he gathers, though others may despise them. The more of real work we do in the world, the deeper the hold our hearts take upon it. This is one of the secrets of the power of goodness as an element of oratory. It was long ago declared that a good man, other things being equal, will be a better speaker than a bad man. His affections are called forth by a greater variety of objects. Yet hate can make a man eloquent as well as love, and some of the most eloquent orations ever uttered partook largely of this baleful inspiration. But the occasions on which noble feelings may rise into eloquence are far more numerous and important.

Why should not a man train himself to take a deep interest in all that is brought familiarly to his notice? This wide range of sympathy is one of the marks which distinguishes a great from a small mind. It has been 98said that “lunar politics” can have no possible interests for the inhabitants of this globe. But who can be sure of this, if there be such a thing as “lunar politics”? The wider our knowledge the more we recognize the possibility of interests which we had not before dreamed of. If there are inhabitants on the moon, and if we have an immortal existence, it is far from impossible that we might some time be brought into the closest connection with them. No man can tell the bearing of a new fact upon human welfare, more than he can write the history of a new-born babe. At any rate, every fact is a part of the great system of truth which lies all about us, and which is adapted to the needs of our intellect. Let it also be remembered that all men are kindred, and that we should make common cause with them. When this comes to be the habitual attitude of the mind, not as a mere sentiment, but as a strong and steady impulse, impassioned speech on any great theme affecting the interests of nations or individual men will be easy.

Emotion cannot be feigned, neither can it be directly roused by an effort of the will. We cannot say, “Now I will be in a furious passion,” or, “Now I will be inflamed with wrath against this great wrong,” for the mere sake of speaking better upon the subject in hand. But we can gaze upon a great wrong, and meditate upon the evil it involves, until the tides of indignant emotion arise in our breast. Many a well-prepared speech has 99failed of effect, because the orator was so anxious about the form of his address and his own popularity as to lose interest in the subject itself. Sometimes speeches read or recited fail from an opposite cause. The interest has once been aroused, and having burned during the protracted period of composition, it cools and cannot be recalled. No energy, declamation, or elegance of diction can redeem this capital defect.

To tell a man in general terms how he may widen his sympathies and enter into the closest bonds with his fellows is difficult. It is much easier to tell him what not to do. The hermits of the desert took exactly the wrong course. They lost the power of eloquence except upon some theme which could be wedded to their solitary musings. Peter the Hermit was roused to fury by the tales of wrongs to pilgrims in the Holy City—almost the only thing that could have made him eloquent. But on that one topic he spoke like a man inspired and was able to call all Europe to arms. Whatever separates from the common interests of humanity must diminish the power or at least the range of genuine emotion. To know a great many men, to understand their business affairs, to enter into their joy and fear, to watch the feelings that rise and fall in their hearts, is sure to deepen our own feelings by unconscious imitation and sympathy. Each new friend is an added power of noblest emotion—a new point at which the world takes hold of our hearts. 100How many persons are eloquent for a cause only! On the other hand, some men care nothing for general principles, but will throw their whole soul into a conflict for friends.

That man is well furnished for eloquence who knows a great deal, who can mentally combine, arrange, and reason correctly upon what he knows, who feels a personal interest in every fact with which his memory is stored, and every principle which can be deduced from those facts, and who has so great an interest in his fellows that all deeds which affect them awaken the same response in his heart as if done to himself. He will then possess all the necessary treasures of thought, and will himself be warmed by the fires of emotion. The only remaining problem will be to find the manner of communicating his thought and emotion in undiminished force to others through the medium of speech.

The mode of cultivating the powers necessary to this end will next engage our attention.



The preceding chapter dealt with those faculties which provide the materials of speech, and in one sense was scarcely appropriate to a treatise designed to show the best modes of communicating knowledge. Yet it was difficult to approach the subject intelligibly in any other way. So much has been said about the natural power of oratory that it was necessary to define its character and to show how it might be supplemented by cultivation. But it is more directly our task to point out the mode of improving the communicative faculties.

First in importance among these stands language. Without its assistance thought could not be consecutively imparted. Some vague and intangible conceptions might arise within our own minds, but even these could not be given to other minds without the medium of words. The power of language is distinct from general intellectual ability. It by no means follows that a man who possesses important thoughts and deep emotions will be able to communicate them well; but a very moderate endowment of the word-faculty may be so cultivated as to fulfill every requirement. Diligent practice in the methods advised below will enable the great majority of 102men to express their thoughts with fullness and accuracy.

There are certain laws in every language made binding by custom, which cannot be transgressed without exposing the offender to the severe penalty of ridicule and contempt. These laws form the basis of grammar, and must be thoroughly learned. If a man has been under the influence of good models from childhood, correctness will be a matter almost of instinct; but the reverse of this is frequently the case. Even then there is but little difficulty experienced by any one who will take the necessary pains, in learning to write in accordance with the rules of speech, and when this power has been attained there is a standard formed by which to judge our spoken words. But it is not enough for the extempore speaker to be able to reduce his sentences to correctness by recasting, pruning, or adding to them. They should be required to present themselves at first in correct form and in rounded completeness. He has no time to think of right or wrong constructions, and the only safe way, therefore, is to make the right so habitual that the wrong will not once be thought of. In other words, we must not only be able to express ourselves correctly by tongue and pen, but the very current of unspoken words that flows in our brains must be shaped in full conformity to the laws of language. When we exercise the power of continuous grammatical thinking, there will be no difficulty 103in avoiding the ridiculous blunders which are supposed to be inseparable from extempore speech.

Correctness in pronunciation is also of importance. Usage has given each word its authorized sound, which no person can frequently mistake without rendering himself liable to the easiest and most damaging of all criticisms. Bad pronunciation produces another and extremely hurtful effect upon extempore speech. The mental effort necessary to discriminate between two modes of pronouncing a word, neither of which is known to be right, diverts the mind from the subject and produces embarrassment and hesitation. Accuracy in the use of words, which is a charm in spoken no less than written language, may also be impaired from the same cause; for if two terms that may be used for the same idea are thought of, only one of which can be pronounced with certainty, that one will be preferred, even if the other be the more suitable. The extemporizer ought to be so familiar with the sound of all common words that none but the right pronunciation and accent will ever enter his mind.

Fluency and accuracy in the use of words are two qualities that have often been confounded, though perfectly distinct. To the speaker they are of equal importance, while the writer has far more need of the latter. All words have their own peculiar shades of meaning. They have been builded up into their present shape through long ages. By strange turns and with many a 104curious history have they glided into the significations they now bear; and each one is imbedded in the minds of the people as the representative of certain definite ideas. Words are delicate paints that, to the untutored eye, may seem of one color, but each has its own place in the picture painted by the hand of genius, and can be supplanted by no other. Many methods have been suggested for learning these fine shades of meaning. The study of Greek and Latin has been urged as the best and almost the only way: such study may be very useful for discipline, and will give much elementary knowledge of the laws of language: but the man who knows no other tongue than his own need not consider himself debarred from the very highest place as a master of words. The careful study of a good etymological dictionary will, in time, give him about all the valuable information bearing upon this subject that he could obtain from the study of many languages. In general reading, let him mark every word he does not perfectly understand, and from the dictionary find its origin, the meaning of its roots, and its varied significations at the present day. This will make the word as familiar as an old acquaintance, and when he meets it again he will notice if the author uses it correctly. The student may not be able to examine every word in the language, but by this mode he will be led to think of the meaning of each one he sees; and from this silent practice he will learn 105the beauty and power of English as fully as if he sought it through the literatures of Greece and Rome. If this habit is long continued it will cause words to be used correctly in thinking as well as in speaking. To read a dictionary consecutively and carefully (ignoring the old story about its frequent change of subject) will also be found very profitable.

Translating from any language, ancient or modern, will have just the same tendency to teach accurate expression as careful original composition. In either case the improvement comes from the search for words that exactly convey certain ideas, and it matters not what the source of the ideas may be. The use of a good thesaurus, or storehouse of words, may also be serviceable by showing in one view all the words that relate to any subject.

But none of these methods will greatly increase fluency. There is a practical difference between merely knowing a term and that easy use of it which only habit can give. Elihu Burritt, with his knowledge of fifty languages, has often been surpassed in fluency, force, and variety of expression by an unlettered farmer, because the few words the latter knew were always ready. There is no way to increase this easy and fluent use of language without much practice in utterance. Where and how can such practice be obtained?

Conversation affords an excellent means for this kind of improvement. We do not mean the running fire of 106question and answer, glancing so rapidly back and forth as to allow no time for premeditating or explaining anything, but real and rational talk—an exchange of thoughts and ideas clearly and intelligibly expressed. The man who engages much in this kind of conversation can scarcely fail to become an adept in the art of expressing his thoughts in appropriate language. Talk much; express your ideas in the best manner possible; if difficult at first, persevere, and it will become easier. Thus you will learn eloquence in the best and most pleasing school. The common conversational style—that in which man deals directly with his fellow man—is the germ of true oratory. It may be amplified and systematized; but talking bears to eloquence the same relation that the soil does to the tree that springs out of its bosom.

But the best thoughts of men and the noblest expressions are seldom found floating on the sea of common talk. To drink the deepest inspiration, our minds must often come in loving communion with the wise and mighty of all ages. In the masterpieces of literature we will find “thought knit close to thought,” and, what is still more to our present purpose, words so applied as to breathe and live. These passages should be read until their spirit sinks into our hearts and their melody rings like a blissful song in our ears. To memorize many such passages will be a profitable employment. The 107words of which such masterpieces are composed, with the meanings they bear in their several places, will thus be fixed in our minds ready to drop on our tongues when needed. This conning of beautiful passages is not now recommended for the purpose of quotation, although they may often be used in that manner to good advantage, but simply to print the individual words with their signification more deeply in memory.

This may be effected, also, by memorizing selections from our own best writings. What is thus used should be highly polished, and yet preserve, as far as possible, the natural form of expression. Carried to a moderate extent, this exercise tends to elevate the character of our extemporaneous efforts by erecting a standard that is our own, and therefore suited to our tastes and capacities; but if made habitual, it will induce a reliance upon the memory rather than on the power of spontaneous production, and thus destroy the faculty it was designed to cultivate.

But no means of cultivating fluency in language can rival extempore speech itself. The only difficulty is to find a sufficient number of occasions to speak. Long intervals of preparation have great advantages as far as the gathering of material for discourse is concerned; but they have disadvantages, also, which can only be overcome by more diligent effort in other directions.

Clear and definite ideas greatly increase the power of 108language. When a thought is fully understood it falls into words as naturally as a summer cloud, riven by the lightning, dissolves into rain. So easy is it to express a series of ideas, completely mastered, that a successful speaker once said, “It is a man’s own fault if he ever fails. Let him prepare as he ought, and there is no danger.” The assertion was too strong, for failure may come from other causes than a want of preparation. Yet the continuance of careful drill, in connection with frequent speaking and close preparation, will give very great ease and certainty of expression. The “blind but eloquent” preacher, Milburn, says that he gave four years of his life—the time spent as chaplain at Washington—to acquire the power of speaking correctly and easily without the previous use of the pen, and he declares that he considers the time well spent. His style is diffuse, sparkling, rhetorical, the most difficult to acquire, though not by any means the most valuable. An earnest, nervous, and yet elegant style may be formed by those who have the necessary qualifications in much shorter time.



Nothing adds more to the brilliancy and effectiveness of oratory than the royal faculty of imagination. This weird and glorious power deals with truth as well as fiction and gives to its fortunate possessor the creative, life-breathing spirit of poetry.

Listen to the description of natural scenery by a person of imagination, and afterward by another destitute of that faculty! Each may be perfectly accurate and refer to the same objects, even enumerating the same particulars in the same order; but the one gives a catalogue, the other a picture. In relating a story or enforcing an argument, the same difference in the vividness of impression is apparent.

It is said of Henry Ward Beecher, who possesses a strong imagination, that the people would listen with delighted attention if he only described the mode in which a potato grew! He would see a thousand beauties in its budding and blossoming, and paint the picture so vividly as to command universal attention.

The Bible, which is the most popular of all books, is pre-eminently a book of imagination. Nowhere is loftier or more beautiful imagery employed, or wrought into 110more exquisite forms. A few short and simple words paint pictures that the world looks upon with astonishment from age to age. Paradise Lost, the most sublime imaginative poem in the language of man, drew much of its inspiration from a few passages in Genesis. Job and Isaiah are without rivals in the power of picturing by means of words, sublime objects beyond the grasp of mortal vision.

While illustrations and comparisons flow principally from the reasoning faculties, their beauty and sparkle come from imagination. Without its influence these may explain and simplify, but they have no power to interest the hearer or elevate the tenor of discourse.

How may imagination be cultivated? It is said that “Poets are born, not made,” but the foundation of every other faculty also is in nature, while all are useless, unless improved, and applied. Imagination will increase in vigor and activity by proper use. Its function is to form complete mental images from the detached materials furnished by the senses. It gathers from all sources and mixes and mingles until a picture is produced. The proper way to cultivate it lies in forming abundance of just such pictures and in finishing them with all possible care. Let the orator, on the canvas of the mind, paint in full size and perfect coloring, every part of his speech which relates to material or visible things. Illustrations also can usually be represented in 111picturesque form. We do not now speak of outward representation, but of viewing all objects in clear distinctness, through the eye of the mind. It is not enough for the speaker, if he would reach the highest success, to gather all the facts he wishes to use, to arrange them in the best order, or even to premeditate the very form of words. Instead of the latter process, he may more profitably strive to embrace all that can be pictured in one mental view. If he can summon before him in the moment of description the very scenes and events about which he is discoursing, and behold them vividly as in a waking dream, it is probable that his auditors will see them in the same manner. A large part of all discourses may thus be made pictorial. In Ivanhoe, one of the characters looks out through a castle window and describes to a wounded knight within the events of the assault which was being made upon the castle. Any person could describe the most stirring scene vividly and well in the moment of witnessing it. A strong imagination enables a speaker or poet to see those things he speaks of almost as accurately and impressively as if passing before his bodily eyes, and often with far more brightness of color. To make the effort to see what we write or read will have a powerful effect in improving the imaginative faculty.

Reading and carefully pondering the works of those who have imagination in high degree will also be helpful. The time devoted to the enjoyment of great poems 112is not lost to the orator. They give richness and tone to his mind, introduce him into scenes of ideal beauty, and furnish him with many a striking thought and glowing image.

Most of the sciences give as full scope to imagination in its best workings as poetry itself. Astronomy and geology are pre-eminent in this particular. Everything about them is grand. They deal with immense periods of time, vast magnitudes, and sublime histories. Each science requires the formation of mental images and thus gives the advantages we have already pointed out. It is possible for a scientific man to deal exclusively with the shell rather than the substance of science, with its technical names and definitions rather than its grand truths; but in this case the fault is with himself rather than with his subject. The dryness of scientific and even mathematical studies relates only to the preliminary departments. A philosopher once said that success in science and in poetry depended upon the same faculties. He was very nearly right. The poet is a creator who forms new worlds of his own. The greatest of their number thus describes the process by which imagination performs its magic.

“The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
113Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination.”

Almost the same result must be reached in many departments of science, with the aid of only a few scattered facts for a basis. The geologist has some broken bones, withered leaves, and fragments of rock, from which to reconstruct the primitive world. From the half-dozen facts observed through his telescope, the astronomer pictures the physical condition of distant planets. In every science the same need exists for imagination in its highest, most truthful function, and the same opportunity is, therefore, afforded for its cultivation.

An eminent elocutionist frequently urged his classes to employ all pauses in mentally picturing the idea contained in the coming sentence. He declared that by this means the expression of the voice was rendered more rich and true. In uttering our own words this process is at once more easy and more fruitful in varied advantages.


Voice and Gesture.

Voice and gesture form the immediate link between the speaker and his audience. The value of good quality in both is sometimes over-estimated, though it is always considerable. A good voice, well managed, gives powerful and vivid expression to thought, but cannot supply the absence of it. Neither is such a voice indispensable. Many instances of high success against vocal disadvantages might be mentioned; but these only prove that other excellencies may atone for a single defect. We can never be indifferent to the charms of a good voice, that modulates with every emotion and responds to the finest shades of feeling. It has much of the pleasing quality of music.

But this harmony cannot be evoked by merely mechanical training. To teach the pupil just what note on the musical scale he must strike to express a particular emotion, how much of an inflection must be used to express joy or sorrow, and how many notes down the scale mark a complete suspension of sense, is absurd: speech can never be set to music.

But let it not be inferred from this that voice cultivation is useless. The more perfect the instrument for the 115expression of thought can be made, the better it will be fitted for its high office. An orator may profitably spend a little time daily for years in training the voice, for it is a faculty he must continually employ, and none is more susceptible of improvement. The passion evoked in animated speech will demand for its adequate expression almost every note and key within the compass of the voice; and unless it has previously been trained into strength on each of these, it will fail or grow weary. The proper kind of preparation operates by exploring the range of the voice, testing its capabilities, and improving each tone. This work is not imitative or slavish. It is only like putting an instrument in tune before beginning a musical performance.

To give full elocutionary instruction here would be aside from our purpose; but a few useful modes of practice may be pointed out.

Good articulation is of prime importance. Nothing will contribute more to secure this valuable quality than the separation of words into their elements of sound and continued practice on each element as thus isolated. Phonetic shorthand affords a good means for making such analysis, or the same purpose may be accomplished by means of the marks of pronunciation found in any dictionary. As we practice these elements of sound we will discover the exact nature of any defect of articulation we may suffer from, and can drill upon the sounds that 116are difficult until they become easy. When we have thus learned to pronounce these few elements—not much above forty in number—and can follow them into all their combinations, we have mastered the alphabet of utterance. It will also contribute greatly to strengthen the voice and make it pliable, if we continue the same practice on these elements at different degrees of elevation on the musical scale until we can utter each one in full, round distinctness, at any pitch from the deepest bass to the shrillest note ever used in speech. This will bring all varieties of modulation within easy reach.

Practice on these elements is also a very effective mode of strengthening weak voices. By pronouncing them one by one, with gradually increasing force, the degree of loudness we can attain at any pitch, will be greatly extended. The amount of improvement that may be made would be incredible if it were not so often exemplified. Every teacher of elocution can testify of students, the power of whose voices has thus been multiplied many fold; and almost equal advantages may be reaped in persevering private practice.

Following on the same line, we may learn to enunciate the elements, and especially the short vowels, in a quick, sharp tone, more rapidly than the ticking of a watch, and with the clearness of a bell. This will enable the speaker to avoid drawling, and be very fast when desirable, without falling into indistinctness. Then, by an 117opposite process, other sounds, especially the long vowels, may be prolonged with every degree of force from the faintest to the fullest. Perseverance in these two exercises will so improve the voice that no hall will be too large for its compass.

The differing extension of sounds, as well as their pitch and variations in force, constitute the perspective of speech and give it an agreeable variety, like the mingling of light and shade in a well-executed picture. The opposite of this, a dull, dead uniformity, with each word uttered in the same key, with the same force, and at the same degree of speed, becomes well-nigh unbearable; while perpetual modulation, reflecting in each rise and fall, each storm and calm of sound, the living thought within, is the perfection of nature, which the best art can only copy.

All vocal exercises are of an essentially preparatory character. In the moment of speech details may safely be left to the impulse of nature. Supply the capability by previous discipline, and then allow passion to clothe itself in the most natural forms. There is such a vital connection between emotion and the tones of voice, that emphasis and inflection will be as spontaneous, on the part of the disciplined speaker, as breathing. Rules remembered in the act of speaking tend to destroy all life and freshness of utterance.

When bad habits have been corrected, the voice made 118supple and strong, confidence attained, and deep feeling evoked in the speaker’s breast, there will be little need to care for the minutiæ of elocution. The child that is burnt needs no instruction in the mode of crying out. Let nature have her way, untrammeled by art, and all feelings will dominate the voice and cause every hearer to recognize their nature and participate in them. In this way we may not attain the brilliancy of theatric clap-trap, but we will be able to give “the touch of nature that makes the whole world kin.”

If carefully guarded, the faculty of imitation may be of great service in the management of the voice. The sounds that express sympathy and passion are heard everywhere, forming a medium of communication more subtle and widespread than any language of earth. From the example of great orators we may learn what true excellence is, and become able to reproduce some, at least, of their effects. It would be hurtful to confine our attention too long to one model, for true excellence is many-sided, and if we continually view only one of its phases we are apt to fall into slavish imitation—one of the greatest of all vices. By having many examples to look upon, and using them only to elevate our own ideal, we will escape this danger. The models before us will urge us to greater exertions and the whole level of our attainments be raised.

There are abundant faults to mar the freedom and 119naturalness of delivery, and the speaker who would be truly natural must watch diligently for them and exterminate them without mercy. The sing-song tone, the scream, the lisp, the guttural and tremulous tones, the rhythmical emphasis which falls like a trip-hammer at measured intervals, are specimens of common, bad habits that should be weeded out as fast as they push through the soil; and if the speaker’s egotism is too great to see them, or his taste not pure enough, some friend should point them out. Even the advice of an enemy conveyed in the unpleasant form of sarcasm and ridicule may be profitably used for the purpose of reform and improvement.

Should a conversational tone be employed in speaking? This question has often been asked, and much difference of opinion evoked, but it may be satisfactorily answered. The language of conversation is the language of nature in its most unfettered form, and it should, therefore, be the basis of all speech. The same variety and character of intonations used in it should be employed in every variety of oratory. But conversation itself varies widely with varying circumstances. The man talking with a friend across a river will speak less rapidly but more loudly than if he held that friend by the hand. In speaking to a number at once, the orator must, in order to be heard, speak more forcibly and distinctly than in addressing one only. With this explanation, it may be laid down as a safe rule that a 120speech should begin in a conversational manner. But should it continue in the same way? A deep, full tone—the orotund of the elocutionist—will make a stronger impression than a shrill, feeble utterance. And as conversation becomes earnest even between two persons, there is the tendency to stronger and more impressive tones. This same tendency will be a sufficient guide in speech. A trained man giving utterance to a well-prepared speech, upon a theme which appeals to his own emotions, will adopt those oratorical tones which form a proper medium for eloquence, without a single thought given to that subject during the moment of delivery. Begin as a man who is talking to a number of his friends upon an interesting subject; then, as the interest deepens, let go all restraint. As passion rises like an inflowing tide, the voice will be so fully possessed by it and so filled out and strengthened as to produce all the effect of which its compass is capable. It will deepen into the thunder roll when that is needed, and at the right time will grow soft and pathetic.

But above almost every other error that the speaker can commit, beware of thinking that you must be loud in order to be impressive. Nothing is more disgusting than that interminable roar, beginning with a shout, and continuing to split the speaker’s throat and the hearer’s ears all through the discourse. This fault is not uncommon in the pulpit, especially among those who desire a 121reputation for extraordinary fervor and earnestness. But it is the worst kind of monotony. The loudness of tone, that applied at the right place would be overpowering, loses all power except to disgust and weary an audience. It expresses no more thought or sentiment than the lashing of ocean waves conveys to the storm-tossed mariner. Have something to say; keep the fires of passion burning in your own soul; learn the real strength there is in the reserve of power; and the cultivated voice will not fail in its only legitimate office—that of making the clear and adequate impression of your thoughts and emotions upon the souls of others.

Elocutionary manuals properly devote much space to the consideration of gesture, for the eye should be addressed and pleased as well as the ear. But we doubt whether the marking out of special gestures to be imitated can do much good. A few broad principles like those formulated by the celebrated French teacher, Delsarte, may be profitably studied and made familiar by practice upon a few simple selections. After that the principal use of training is to give confidence so that the speaker may be in the full possession and instinctive use of all his powers. Fear often freezes the speaker into ice-like rigidity; and hearers are apt to feel the same deadly chill when listening to some one whose dominating sentiment is the fear that he may do something ridiculous, or fail to win their favor.

122The secondary use of training in gesture is to discard awkward and repulsive movements. Timidity and fear may be overcome by a firm resolution, and the object is well worth the effort. Bad or ungraceful actions are far better in the case of a beginner than no action at all. The saying of Demosthenes, that the first, the second, and the third need of an orator is “ACTION,” does not fully apply to the modern speaker. He needs many things more urgently than action, even when that word is taken in its widest sense. But action is important, and when graceful and expressive, it does powerfully tend to arrest attention, and even to help the processes of thought on the part of the speaker himself. We have heard several eloquent men who scarcely moved during the delivery of an address, but never without feeling that good gesticulation would have been a great addition to their power. It is unnatural to speak for any considerable period of time without moving. None but a lazy, sick, or bashful man will do it. Let the laziness be shaken off, the sickness cured, and the bashfulness reserved for a more fitting occasion! A man who is too bashful and diffident to move hand, head, or foot in the presence of an audience should in consistency refuse to monopolize their time at all!

Practice will usually overcome this fault. When a man has stood a great many times before an audience without receiving any serious injury, and has a good 123purpose in thus claiming their attention, and something which he thinks they ought to hear, he will forget his fears and allow his mind to be engrossed, as that of a true speaker should be, with the subject he has in hand. Then all his gestures will have at least the grace of unconscious and spontaneous origination.

But when fear has been overcome so that the speaker is not afraid to use his hands, he needs to enter upon a determined and comprehensive campaign against bad habits. If anything is truly natural—that is, true to the higher or universal nature—it will be beautiful; but early examples are so often wrong and corrupting that it is hard to say what nature is: Nature may be a bad nature—the reflection of all that is low and sordid as well as that which is high and ennobling. That nature which is in harmony with the sum of all things, which is the image of the Creator’s perfectness, must be right and good; but we must not too hastily conclude that any habits of our own have this high and unquestionable source. Hardly a speaker lives who does not at some time fall into unsightly or ridiculous habits. The difference between men in this respect is that some steadily accumulate all the faults they ever have contracted, until the result is most repulsive; while others, from the warnings of friends or their own observation, discover their errors and cast them off.

A mode by which the solitary student may become 124acquainted with his faults, and from which he should not be driven by foolish ridicule, is by declaiming in as natural and forcible a manner as possible before a large mirror. Thus we may “see ourselves as others see us.” Repeated practice in this manner will enable you to keep the necessary watch upon your motions, without so much distracting attention as to make the exercise before the glass no trustworthy specimen of ordinary habits. In speaking, you hear your own voice and thus become sensible of audible errors, but the glass is required to show improper movements that may have been unconsciously contracted. It is not advised that each speech, before delivery, should be practiced in front of the mirror. It is doubtful if such practice would not cherish a self-consciousness worse than all the errors it corrected. But the same objection would not apply to occasional declamations made for the very purpose of self-criticism.

By these two processes—pressing out into action as freely as possible under the impulse of deep feeling, and by lopping off everything that is not graceful and effective—we may soon attain a good style of gesture. When the habit of suiting the action to the word is once fully formed, all anxiety on that subject may be dismissed. The best gesticulation is entirely unconscious.



How may that boldness and confidence which is indispensable to an orator best be acquired? On your success in this direction, hinges all other kinds of improvement. So long as a nervous dread hangs about you, it will make the practice of extemporaneous speech painful and repulsive, paralyzing all your faculties in the moment of utterance.

You must acquire confidence in your own powers and be willing to trust to their guidance.

But it is not necessary that you should exhibit or even feel this confidence at the beginning of a speech, for it may then appear like boastfulness or egotism. It is enough if you then have confidence in your subject, and in the fullness of your preparation. You may then without injury wish that some one, that you imagine more worthy, stood in your place. But if this feeling continues all through the address, failure is inevitable. Many a man begins while trembling in every limb, especially if the occasion be of unusual character, but soon becomes inspired with his theme and forgets all anxiety. If your fear be greater and more persistent, keeping you in perpetual terror, it will destroy all liberty and eloquence. 126When laboring under such an influence, you lose self-possession, become confused, all interest evaporates from your most carefully prepared thoughts, and you sit down at length, convinced that you have failed. It is but little consolation to believe that you had all the time in your brain the necessary power and material to achieve splendid success, if you had but possessed the courage to use it aright.

There is no remedy for fear more effectual than to do all our work under the immediate inspiration of duty. This feeling is not the privilege of the minister alone, but of each one who is conscious that he occupies the place where he stands because it is his right to be there, because he has some information to give, some cause to advocate, or some important task to do. With such consciousness we can speak our best, and finish with the satisfaction of having done our work as truly as if we had performed duty placed upon us in any other department of labor. But if we aim simply at making an exhibition of self and of showing our own skill and eloquence, then the smiles and frowns of the audience becomes a matter of overwhelming importance, and if we fail we are deeply mortified and bewail our foolishness in exposing ourselves to such needless risk.

The lack of proper confidence is the great reason for using manuscript in the moment of speech. The speaker makes one effort to extemporize and fails. This is not 127wonderful, for the path to success usually lies through failure from the time that we master the wonderful art of walking through many failures; but instead of copying the school-boy motto, “try, try again,” and reaping wisdom and experience from past efforts, he loses all hope—concludes that he is disqualified for that kind of work, and thus sinks to mediocrity and tameness, when he might have been brilliant in the fields of true oratory.

The exhibition of confidence and resolution by the speaker is a draft drawn on the respect of an audience which is nearly always honored, while the opposite qualities hide the possession of real talent. Hearers readily pardon timidity at the beginning of an address, for then attention is fixed upon the speaker himself, and his shrinking seems a graceful exhibition of modesty. But when he has fully placed his subject before them they associate him with it. If he is dignified and assured, they listen in pleased attention and acknowledge the weight of his words. These qualities are very different from bluster and bravado, which injure the cause advocated and excite disgust toward the speaker. The first appears to arise from a sense of the dignity of the subject; the second, from an assumption of personal superiority—an opinion no speaker has a right to entertain, for in the very act of addressing an audience he constitutes them his judges.

An orator needs confidence in his own powers in order 128to avail himself fully of the suggestions of the moment. Some of the best thoughts he will ever think flash upon him while speaking, and are out of the line of his preparation. There is no time to carefully weigh them. He must reject them immediately or begin to follow, not knowing whither they lead, and this in audible words, with the risk that he may be landed in some absurdity. He cannot pause for a moment, as the least hesitation breaks the spell he has woven around his hearers, while if he rejects the offered idea he may lose a genuine inspiration. One searching glance that will not allow time for his own feelings or those of his auditors to cool, and then—decision to reject, or to follow the new track with the same assurance as if the end were clearly in view—this is all that is possible. It requires some boldness to pursue the latter course, and yet every speaker knows that his highest efforts—efforts that have seemed beyond his normal power, and which have done more in a minute to gain the object for which he spoke than all the remainder of the discourse—have been of this character.

It also requires a good degree of confidence to firmly begin a sentence, even when the general idea is plain, without knowing just how it will end. This difficulty is experienced sometimes even by the most fluent. A man may learn to cast sentences very rapidly, but it will take a little time to pass them through his mind, and 129when one is finished, the next may not yet have fully condensed itself into words. To begin to utter a partially constructed sentence, uncertain how it will end, and press on without letting the people see any hesitation, demands no small confidence in one’s power of commanding words and framing sentences. Yet a bold and confident speaker need feel no uneasiness. He may prolong a pause while he is thinking of a needed word, or throw in something extraneous to fill up the time till the right term and construction are found. Yet the perfect remedy for these dangers is to learn the difficult art of standing before an audience with nothing to say and making the pause as effective as any phase of speech. This can be done, dangerous as it seems. It does require far more of courage to face an audience when the mouth is empty than when we are talking; the mettle of troops is never so severely tried as when their cartridge-boxes are empty; but all the resources of eloquence are not at command until this test can be calmly and successfully endured. An eminent speaker once said to a friend after a very successful effort, “What part of the address you have been praising most impressed you?” “It was not anything you said,” was the reply, “but the thrilling pause you made of nearly half a minute after a bold assertion, as if you were challenging any one to rise and deny what you had asserted.” “Oh! I remember,” returned the other; “I could not get the next sentence fixed quite right, and was 130fully determined not to say it at all unless it came into the proper shape.”

This necessary confidence can be cultivated by striving to exercise it, and by assuming its appearance where the reality is not. The raw recruit is transformed into a veteran soldier by meeting and overcoming danger. All the drill in the world will not supply the want of actual experience on the battle-field. So the extempore speaker must make up his mind to accept all the risk, and patiently endure all the failures and perils that result. If he fully decides that the reward is worthy of the effort he will be greatly aided in the attempt, as he will thus avoid the wavering and shrinking and questioning that would otherwise distress him and paralyze his powers. A failure will but lead to stronger and more persistent effort, made with added experience. Success will be an argument for future confidence, and thus any result will forward him on his course.

In regard to the difficulty of framing sentences in the moment of utterance, the experienced speaker will become so expert, having found his way through so many difficulties of that kind, that the greatest danger experienced will be that of carelessly allowing his words to flow on without unity or polish. It does require a determined effort, not merely to express meaning, but to pack and compress the greatest possible amount into striking and crystalline words. Experience also gives 131him such a knowledge of the working of his own thoughts that he will be able to decide at the first suggestion what unbidden ideas should be accepted and what ones should be rejected. If these new thoughts, however far outside of his preparation, seem worthy, he will give them instant expression; if not, he will dismiss them and continue unchecked along his intended route.

It is hoped that the reading of this treatise will increase the confidence of extempore speakers in two ways; first, by producing in the mind of each one perfect conviction that for him the better way is to adopt unwritten speech without reserve; and second, by pointing out a mode of preparation which will give as good ground for confidence as a fully written manuscript could possibly supply. To gain confidence which is not warranted by the event would only provoke a hurtful reaction; but confidence which is justified by experience grows ever stronger.

We have thus glanced at a few of the qualities which need to be cultivated and strengthened for the purposes of public speech. The survey does not cover the whole field of desirable qualities, for this would be to give a treatise on general education. Perfect speech requires every faculty of the mind to be brought to the highest state of efficiency. There is no mental power which will not contribute to success. The whole limits of possible education are comprised in the two branches already mentioned 132as concerning the orator—those relating to the reception of knowledge and those to its communication. The harmonious combination and perfect development of these two is the ideal of excellence—an ideal so high that it can only be approached. All knowledge is of use to the orator. He may not have occasion to employ it in a particular speech, but it contributes to give certainty, breadth, and scope to his views, and assures him that what he does put into his speeches is the best that can be selected. If he is ignorant, he is obliged to use for a discourse on any subject not that material which is the best in itself, but simply the best that may happen to be known to him, and he cannot be sure that something far more suitable is not overlooked.

The communicating faculties are, if possible, still more important. A great part of the value even of a diamond depends upon its polish and setting, and the richest and wisest thoughts fail to reach the heart or captivate the intellect unless they are cast into the proper form, and given external beauty.

Let the speaker, then, have no fear of knowing too much. Neither need he despair if he does not now know a great deal. He cannot be perfect at once, but must build for future years. If he wishes a sudden and local celebrity that will never widen, but will probably molder away even in his own lifetime, he may possibly gain it in another way. Let him learn a few of the externals of elocution, 133and then, with great care, or by the free use of the materials of others, prepare a few finely worded discourses, and recite or declaim them over and over again as often as he can find a new audience. He may not gain as much applause as he desires by this method, but it will be sufficiently evanescent. He will not grow up to the measure of real greatness, but become daily more dwarfed and stereotyped in intellect.

The following quotation contains a good example of the seductive but misleading methods sometimes held up before the young orator: “They talk,” said Tom Marshall to an intimate friend, “of my astonishing bursts of eloquence, and doubtless imagine it is my genius bubbling over. It is nothing of the sort. I’ll tell you how I do it: I select a subject and study it from the ground up. When I have mastered it fully, I write a speech on it. Then I take a walk and come back, and revise and correct. In a few days I subject it to another pruning, and then recopy it. Next I add the finishing touches, round it off with graceful periods, and commit it to memory. Then I speak it in the fields, in my father’s lawn, and before my mirror, until gesture and delivery are perfect. It sometimes takes me six weeks or two months to get up a speech. When I am prepared I come to town. I generally select a court day, when there is sure to be a crowd. I am called on for a speech, and am permitted to select my own subject. I speak my 134piece. It astonishes the people, as I intended it should, and they go away marveling at my power of oratory. They call it genius, but it is the hardest kind of work.”

No objection is made to the quantity of work thus described, but might not the same amount be expended in more profitable directions? A speech thus prepared was a mere trick intended to astonish the people. Sometimes the great Daniel Webster took equal pains in the verbal expression of some worthy thought, which was afterward held in the grasp of a powerful memory until a fitting place was found for it in some masterly speech. The difference between the two processes is greater than seems at first glance. Marshall’s plan was like a beautiful garment thrown over a clothes dummy in a shop window; Webster’s, like the same garment, worn for comfort and ornament by a living man.

It is better that the speaker should “intermeddle with all knowledge,” and make the means of communicating his thoughts as perfect as possible. Then out of the fullness of his treasure, let him talk to the people with an adequate purpose in view, and if no sudden acclaim greets him, he will be weighty and influential from the first, and each passing year will add to his power.


Peculiarities Belonging to the Various Fields of Oratory.

The laws which govern extemporaneous speech are so generally applicable to all forms of address that only a few things which are peculiar to each need be considered before pointing out the best modes of planning and delivering a speech.

Probably a sermon differs from the common type of speech more than any other form of address. Some of the distinctions usually made are purely conventional, and not a few are more honored in the breach than in the observance. A certain slowness and stiffness of manner is supposed to characterize the pulpit, and also the selection of grave and solemn tones. All these, so far as they tend to constitute ministers a class apart from other men, with manners and modes of speech peculiar to themselves, are a mere survival of ancient superstition. The preacher’s tone and address should be just such as any other competent speaker would employ in treating the same themes. Of course, when the preacher makes a solemn appeal, voice and action should all correspond in solemnity. But when he denounces sin, or holds vice up to ridicule, there should be an equal correspondence. In 136some denominations, a peculiar dress is given to the preacher as the garb of his office; and it may be that a peculiar manner will be grateful to those who love all things that have the flavor of antiquity. But all such mannerisms belong to another realm than that of eloquence. From the orator’s standpoint they can only be condemned. Let the preacher speak and act like any other educated gentleman, under like circumstances, and his power over his audiences will be the greater.

But the sermon possesses some real distinctions of importance. The custom of taking a text furnishes a point of departure to the preacher and greatly simplifies the work of introduction. The opening services in the church—the prayers and the music—put his audience into a mood to receive his words. They are calm and quiet when he begins to speak—indeed, this may easily go too far. Another peculiarity is that he has the whole field to himself: neither he nor his auditors expect a word or gesture of dissent from any position he may assume: all the criticisms of his hearers will be mental, or reserved to another occasion. In this, his position is diametrically opposed to that of the lawyer, and the politician, who expect all they say to be contradicted, as a matter of course, and are apt to acquire the fault of uttering self-evident truths in a combative manner, as if they expected the other side to deny even that the whole is greater than any of its parts, or that things each 137equal to another thing, are equal to each other. The preacher, on the other hand, is liable to utter propositions, which to many of his hearers are very doubtful, as if they were axioms.

The preacher should select a text which fairly covers the subject of his discourse or contributes to advance the object he has in view. The text should always be employed in its true sense. It partakes of the nature of a quotation by which the speaker fortifies his position, and all quotations should bear the meaning intended by their authors, as far as that meaning can be ascertained. This is required by common fairness, and the Bible is surely entitled to fair treatment as much as any other book. Generally the text should be read and treated as a part of the introduction, although some fine sermons have been constructed on the opposite principle of beginning far from the text and so leading up to it, that its perfect illustration or application only appears in the conclusion. No fault can be found with this method if conscientiously adopted and consistently carried out.

The great aim of preaching is persuasion, and this must largely influence its whole character. It is from this cause that emotion—ever the most valuable agent in persuasion—is so highly valued in the pulpit. The hearers are to be persuaded, first to embrace a religious life, and then to cultivate all those virtues and avoid all those evils incident to such a life. It may be proper to 138devote some time and attention to mere instruction, but that instruction derives all its value from its bearing upon action: it should be given as the means of rendering persuasion more effective. Warning, reproof, exhortation, consolation, promise—the whole field of motives and inducements—is very wide; but the great object is to make men better, and only incidentally to make them wiser or happier.

This peculiar character of preaching renders adherence to extemporaneous speech in the pulpit at once more important and more difficult than anywhere else. The quiet of the church, its solemnity, the fact that the preacher must speak at a given time and has thus the opportunity to write, and that a good sermon dealing with truths always applicable may, when once written, be read to many successive congregations, even after an interval of years;—the fear of jarring upon the associations of the church with any rude sentence or unpolished paragraph thrown off in the hurry of speech:—all these considerations powerfully plead for the manuscript. Yet in hardly any other form of address is the manuscript so hurtful. Extemporaneous speech is pre-eminently the persuasive form of address, and persuasion is the great object of the sermon. If the preacher ceases to be persuasive he may as well cease to preach, so far as the accomplishment of the true function of his office is concerned. The mode pointed out in the following part 139of this work will, it is believed, enable the extemporaneous preacher to utilize all the persuasiveness that belongs to his character, and at the same time escape all the dangers which have driven so many preachers to manuscript.

The conditions under which lawyers speak are very different. They are tempted by the surroundings of the court-room to set too low a value upon the graces of oratory, while the accomplishment of an immediate purpose engrosses their attention. The judge and jury are before them—a client is to be made victorious, or a criminal to be punished. Keen interest and emotion are supplied by the occasion itself. The law must be explained, the facts elicited and weighed, and the jury persuaded. There is also the great advantage of having the case decided at a definite time. No disposition exists on the part of the jury to postponement. If the lawyer once convinces them that law and evidence are on his side, the verdict follows as a matter of course. But when the preacher gets that far he has scarcely begun. His hearers may admit the truth of every word he speaks and the goodness of the course he advises, but they can comply with his advice at any time, and in that feeling they may postpone their action for years, if not permanently. But the lawyer can press his case on to a decision, which may be resisted for a time by one of the parties, but not by the jury to whom he addresses his arguments, and seldom by the judge.

140Lawyers have but little temptation to indulge in written speeches: the exigencies of the trial make formal preparation of little service. The great talent for a lawyer’s purpose is that favored by extemporaneous speech—the power of a clear, orderly statement of facts that are often exceedingly complex. This generally proves more effective than any argument. To grasp all the evidence that has been brought forward, and, putting it into the very simplest form it will bear, to show on that statement to judge and jury that he is entitled to the verdict—this is the great art of the advocate. But his statement must include or account for all the facts; otherwise, he lays himself open to an easy and damaging reply. The method usually adopted is to make a note of each fact elicited, each argument used by the opposite attorney, and each salient point of the case. Then these are reduced to the simplest form, an appropriate introduction sought, and either a strong argument, or an effective summing up, reserved for the conclusion. With this much of preparation the lawyer finds it easy to provide suitable words for the expression of the whole speech.

The speech of the judge in summing up or charging the jury differs only from that of the advocate in the greater impartiality by which it is marked. The most fair-minded attorney will be biased, more or less unconsciously, by the greater care which he bestows upon his own side of the case.

141Anniversary, platform, and lyceum lectures have much in common. Entertainment being the prominent object in them all, illustration and embellishment are greatly sought for. Humor is also in most cases highly enjoyed. The same address may be repeated many times and comes to have the finish of a work of art. The great camp-meeting sermons at seaside resorts, at anniversaries, and similar occasions, properly belong to this class rather than to that of sermons. This is the field in which memoriter addresses are usually supposed to be superior to all others. It may be conceded that whenever form rises into more prominence than matter, writing and memorizing will have increasing claims. A speaker who wishes to repeat one speech without substantial variation to a hundred audiences will not find it a great task to write it in full and memorize it. But if he is really a master in spontaneous utterance he need not depart from his usual course. He can fully prepare his materials and then speak the words of the moment, without the least fear of suffering in comparison with the reciter.

Instructive addresses by teachers and professors are nearly always given extempore, with the exception of those written lectures in the higher institutions which are supposed to sum up the results of knowledge in their respective departments. Even then the practice is not uniform, as many professors prefer talking to their 142pupils rather than reading to them. The practice of reading in such cases is really a survival from the days when books were scarce and high-priced, and the student found it easier to write notes from the lips of some master than to purchase the volumes containing the same knowledge, even when it had been published at all. But the tendency now is to find the statement of the facts of science, art, and literature in books, and depend upon the living teacher only to give vividness, life, and illustration to them. All this can be best done by the extemporaneous method.

Other modes of speech will naturally suggest themselves, but they present nothing peculiar in form. All that can be said about them may be compressed as profitably into the general topics of subject and object, thought-gathering, arrangement, and use of the plan, etc., which occupy the following pages.


Plan and Delivery of the Speech.


The Pen and the Tongue.

It does not follow from anything we have said that the pen should be discarded by the extempore speaker. Because he is not obliged to write each word, he should not feel excused from writing altogether. Few greater misfortunes could happen to a speaker than being deprived of the power of recording and preserving notes for the purposes of oratory. The most tenacious memory is burdened by the weight of a large number of intended discourses, especially if they are long and complex. No person can feel sure that he will remember all parts of the speech he intended to utter even in outline, unless it has been reduced to regular form so that one part will suggest another. In going to a store to purchase a few articles the pen is very useful in making a memorandum; if the errand boy neglects that precaution some of the most essential things may be forgotten. Among illiterate people a great many mnemonic signs have been employed, such as associating things to be remembered with the fingers, etc.; but among intelligent persons all of these have been superseded by the use of writing, and it would be very absurd to advocate a return to the old modes on the plea that the memory 146might be so strengthened that all items could be safely remembered. The reply would be ready: “Yes, it is possible; but we have a far better and less burdensome way of accomplishing the same object and have no motive in returning to the more difficult mode.” Thus while it may be possible to arrange in the mind all the outlines of a long discourse, it is not easy to do it, and there is no gain in the extra labor involved. Everything bearing upon a discourse may be written in brief outline, and then a selection made of what is best, throwing out all other portions. The remainder can then be far better arranged when in such a position that the eye as well as the mind can glance at it. The preparation for the intended speech thus assumes the shape of a miniature or outline, and may be filled out at any point which needs strengthening.

But even if it were possible to construct the plan and speak well without any previous use of the pen, this would, in the majority of cases, be insufficient. The orator needs to preserve the materials, if not the form of his oration, either for use in future speeches or for comparison with later efforts. It is very wasteful to throw away valuable material once accumulated, and then search the same ground over again when required to treat the same topic. This would be acting in the spirit of the savage who eats enough to satisfy his appetite and throws away all that remains, as he feels no further need 147for it, and only begins to gather again when hunger spurs him to exertion.

The pen is the instrument of accumulation and preservation, and should be diligently employed. No speaker can rise to permanent greatness without it. The instances given to the contrary are mere delusions or evasions. If the service of other pens can be employed, as in the case of short-hand reporters and amanuenses, this is but doing the same thing under another form.

The principal purpose of this third division of the work is to show how the pen may be used in such a manner as to preserve and arrange all the material we may gather, elaborate, or originate on any subject, so as to bring to the moment of unfettered extempore speech all the certainty of result and accumulated power of which our faculties are capable.

Bacon says: “Reading makes a full man, writing an exact man, and conference a ready man.” All these means should be used and all these qualities attained by the eloquent speaker.


Subject and Object.

We now enter upon the most practical part of our subject. We have seen what natural qualities are indispensable, and how these, when possessed, can be improved by training. The importance of a wide scope of knowledge bearing upon oratory, and of understanding and having some command of the powers of language has been pointed out. When a man has all of these, and is still a diligent student growing daily in knowledge, he is ready to consider the methods by which all his gifts and acquirements may be concentrated upon a single speech. Some of the directions in this and the immediately succeeding chapters are of universal application, while others are thrown out as mere suggestions to be modified and changed according to individual taste or particular circumstances.

A plan is necessary for every kind of speech. A rude mass of brick, lumber, mortar, and iron, thrown together as the materials chance to be furnished, does not constitute a house until each item is built into its own place according to some intelligent design. A speech has the same need of organization. A few minutes of desultory talk, whether uttered in a low or high voice, to one person 149or to many, does not make a speech. The talk may be good, or useful, or striking: it may be replete with sparkling imagery, and full of valuable ideas that command attention, and yet be no real discourse. The question, “What was all this about? what end did the speaker have in view?” is a fatal condemnation. The subject and object of every discourse should be perfectly obvious—if not at the opening, surely at the close of the address. The only safe method is to have a well-defined plan marked out from beginning to end, and then to bring every part of the work into subordination to one leading idea. The plan itself should be constructed with some clear object in view.

It is better that this construction of the plan should be completed before delivery begins. If you are suddenly called to speak on some topic you have often thought over, the whole outline of the address, with a plan perfect in every part, may flash upon you in a moment, and you may speak as well as if you had been allowed months for preparation. But such cases are rare exceptions. The man who attempts, on the spur of the moment, to arrange his facts, draw his inferences, and enforce his opinions, will usually find the task very difficult, even if the topic is within his mental grasp, and his memory promptly furnishes him with all necessary materials.

We will now consider the subject and object which every true discourse, whatever its character, must possess.

150First, as to the object: why is it that at a particular time an audience assembles and sits in silence, while one man standing up, talks to them? What is his motive in thus claiming their attention? Many of them may have come from mere impulse, of which they could give no rational explanation, but the speaker at least should have a definite purpose.

A clear aim tends powerfully to give unity and consistency to the whole discourse, and to prevent him from wandering into endless digressions. It binds all detached parts together and infuses a common life through his address. Such a ruling aim cannot be too definitely recognized and carefully kept in view, for it is the foundation of the whole discourse.

This object should not be too general in character. It is not enough that we wish to please or to do good: it may be safely assumed that speakers generally wish to do both. But how shall these ends be reached? “What special good do I hope to accomplish by this address?”

When you have made the object definite, you are better prepared to adapt all available means to its accomplishment. It should also be stated that the more objects are subdivided the more precision will be augmented, though there is a limit beyond which such division would be at the expense of other qualities.

Your object will usually have reference to the opinion 151or the action of those addressed, and the firmer your own conviction of the truth of that opinion, or the desirableness of that action, the greater, other things being equal, your persuasive power will be. If you do not know exactly what you wish, there is little probability that your audience will care to interpret your thought; they will take it for granted that you really mean nothing, and even if you do incidentally present some truth supported by good arguments, they will consider it a matter not calling for any immediate consideration or definite decision on their part.

The speaker’s objects are comparatively few and are often determined by his very position and employment. If you are engaged in a political canvass you are seeking to confirm and retain the votes of your own party, while persuading over to your side the opposition. Votes constitute the object you seek, and to win them is your purpose. But there are many ways by which that desirable end may be accomplished—some wise and noble, others ignoble. But a political orator will gain in power by keeping clearly in view his purpose and rejecting from his speeches all things that merely arouse and embitter opponents, without, at the same time, contributing to strengthen the hold of the speaker’s own party upon its members.

If you are a lawyer you wish to win your case. The judge’s charge, the jury’s verdict, are your objective points, 152and all mere display which does not contribute directly or indirectly to these ends is worse than wasted, as it may even interfere with your real purpose.

Much of your success will depend upon keeping the right object before you at the right time. If you aim at that which is unattainable, the effort is not only lost, but the object which you could have reached may in the meantime have passed out of your reach. Everybody has heard ministers arguing against some forms of unbelief which their hearers know nothing about. This is worse than useless; it may suggest the very errors intended to be refuted; and if this does not result, to think that the refutation will be stored up until the time when the errors themselves may be encountered, is to take a most flattering view of the length of time during which sermons as well as other discourses are remembered. You may avoid these errors by selecting some object which is practicable at the moment of utterance: the first right step makes all after success possible.

There is a difference between the object of a speech and its subject; the former is the motive that impels us to speak, while the latter is what we speak about. It is not uncommon for talkers to have a subject without any definite object, unless it be the very general one of complying with a form or fulfilling an engagement. When the period for the talk comes—it would not be right to call it a speech—they take the easiest subject they can 153find, express all the ideas they happen to have about it, and leave the matter. Until such persons become in earnest, and get a living object, true eloquence is utterly impossible.

The object of a discourse is the soul, while the subject is but the body; or, as we may say, the one is the end, while the other is the means by which it is accomplished. After the object is clearly realized by the speaker, he can choose the subject to much better advantage. It may happen that one object is so much more important than all other practicable ones that it forces itself irresistibly on his attention and thus saves the labor of choice; at other times he may have several different objects with no particular reason for preferring one of them in the order of time to another. In this case if a subject fills his mind it will be well to discuss it with an aim toward the object which may be best enforced by its means.

After all, it makes but little difference which of these two is chosen first. It is enough that when you undertake to speak you have a subject you fully understand, and an object that warms your heart and enlists all your powers. You can then speak, not as one who deals with abstractions, but as having a living mission to perform.

It is important that each subject should be complete in itself, and rounded off from everything else. Its boundaries should be run with such precision as to include all that belongs to it, but nothing more. It is a 154common but grievous fault to have the same cast of ideas flowing around every subject. There are few things in the universe which have not some relation to everything else. If we do not, therefore, very strictly bound our subject, we will find ourselves bringing the same matter into each discourse and perpetually repeating our thoughts. If ingenious in that matter, we may find a good excuse for getting our favorite anecdotes and brilliant ideas into connection with the most opposite kinds of subjects. An old minister once gave me an amusing account of the manner in which he made outlines of the sermons of a local celebrity. The first one was a very able discourse, with three principal divisions—man’s fallen estate, the glorious means provided for his recovery, and the fearful consequences of neglecting those means. Liking the sermon very well, my informant went to hear the same man again. The text was new, but the first proposition, was man’s fallen estate; the second, the glorious means provided for his recovery; and the last, the fearful consequences of neglecting those means. Thinking that the repetition was an accident, another trial was made. The text was at as great a remove as possible from the other two. The first proposition was, man’s fallen estate; and the others followed in due order. This was an extreme instance of a common fault, which is by no means confined to the ministry. When an eloquent Congressman was once delivering a 155great address, a member on the opposite benches rubbed his hands in apparently ecstatic delight, and remarked in a stage whisper, “Oh! how I have always loved to hear that speech!” In a book of widely circulated sermon sketches, nearly every one begins by asserting that man has fallen and needs the helps or is liable to the evils mentioned afterward. No doubt this primary statement is important, but it might sometimes be taken for granted. The fault which we have here pointed out is not uncommon in preaching. Occasionally ministers acquire such a stereotyped form of expression that what they say in one sermon is sure to recur, perhaps in a modified form, in all others. This is intolerable. There is an end to the patience of man. He tires of the same old ideas, and wishes, when a new text is taken, that it may bring with it some novelty in the sermon. The remedy against the evil under consideration is found in the careful selection and definition of subjects. Give to each its own territory and guard rigidly against all trespassers. A speaker should not only see that what he says has some kind of connection with the subject in hand, but that it has a closer connection with that subject than any other he may be called upon to discuss at or near the same time. A very great lecturer advertises a number of lectures upon topics that seem to be totally independent. Yet all the lectures are but one, except a few paragraphs in the introduction of each. This is 156really a less fault in the case of an itinerating lecturer than in most other fields of oratory, as the same people hear the lecture but once. Yet even then the false assumption of intellectual riches implied in the numerous titles cannot be justified.

The subject should be so well defined that we always know just what we are speaking about. It may be of a general nature, but our knowledge of it should be clear and adequate. This is more necessary in an extempore than in a written speech, though the want of it will be severely felt in the latter also. A strong, vividly defined subject will give unity to the whole discourse, and probably leave a permanent impression on the mind of the hearer. To aid in securing this it will be well to reduce every subject to its simplest form, and then, by writing it as a compact phrase or sentence, stamp it on the mind, and let it ring in every utterance; that is, let each word aid in carrying out the central idea, or in leading up to it. Those interminable discourses that begin anywhere and lead nowhere, may be called speeches or sermons, by courtesy, but they are not such.

To always preserve this unity of theme and treatment is not easy, and calls, often, for the exercise of heroic self-denial. To see in the mind’s eye what we know would please and delight listeners, pander to their prejudices, or gain uproarious applause, and then turn away with the words unspoken, merely because it is 157foreign to our subject—this is as sore a trial as for a miser on a sinking ship to abandon his gold. But it is equally necessary, if we would not fall into grave rhetorical errors. Any speech which is constructed on the plan of putting into it all the wise or witty or pleasing things the speaker can think of will be a mere mass of more or less foolish talk. Shakespeare is often reproached with having neglected the dramatic unities of place and time; but he never overlooked the higher unities of subject and object. These remarks do not imply that illustration should be discarded or even used sparingly. The whole realm of nature may be ransacked for these gems, and if they do illustrate, they are often better than statement or argument. If the thing to be illustrated belongs to the subject, then every apt illustration of it also belongs there.

It is possible that men of genius may neglect the unity of subject and object, and still succeed by sheer intellectual force, as they might do under any other circumstances. But ordinary men cannot with safety follow the example of Sidney Smith. His hearers complained that he did not “stick to his text,” and, that he might reform the more easily, they suggested that he should divide his sermons as other ministers did. He promised to gratify them, and the next Sabbath, after reading his text, he began: “We will divide our discourse this morning into three parts: in the first place, we will go 158up to our text; in the second place, we will go through it; and in the third place, we will go from it.” There was general agreement that he succeeded best on the last head, but preachers who are not confident of possessing his genius had better confine themselves to the former two.

A true discourse is the orderly development of some one thought or idea with so much clearness and power that it may ever after live as a point of light in the memory. Other ideas may cluster around the central one, but it must reign supreme. If the discourse fails in this particular nothing else can redeem it. Brilliancy of thought and illustration will be as completely wasted as a sculptor’s art on a block of clay.

A man of profound genius once arose to preach before a great assemblage, and every breath was hushed. He spoke with power, and many of his passages were of thrilling eloquence. He poured forth beautiful images and solemn thoughts with the utmost profusion; yet when at the end of an hour he took his seat, the prevailing sentiment was one of disappointment. The address was confused—utterly destitute of any point of union to which the memory could cling. Many of his statements were clear and impressive, but he did not make evident what he was talking about. It was an impressive warning against erecting a building before laying a foundation.



After the subject upon which we are to speak has been determined the logical order of preparation is, first, gathering material; second, selecting what is most fitting and arranging the whole into perfect order; third, fixing this in the mind so that it may be available for the moment of use. These processes are not always separated in practice, but they may be best considered in the order indicated.

When a subject is chosen and the mind fastened upon it, that subject becomes a center of attraction and naturally draws all kindred ideas toward it. Old memories that had become dim from the lapse of time are slowly hunted out and grouped around the parent thought. Each hour of contemplation that elapses, even if there is not direct study, adds to the richness and variety of our available mental stores. The relations between different and widely separated truths become visible, just as new stars are seen when we gaze intently toward the evening sky. All that lies within our knowledge is subjected to a rigid scrutiny and all that appears to have any connection with the subject is brought into view. Usually a considerable period of time is needed for this 160process, and the longer it is continued the better, if interest in the subject is not suffered to decline in the meanwhile.

But it is somewhat difficult to continue at this work long enough without weariness. The capacity for great and continuous reaches of thought constitutes a principal element in the superiority of one mind over another. Even the mightiest genius cannot, at a single impulse, exhaust the ocean of truth that opens around every object of man’s contemplation. It is only by viewing a subject in every aspect that superficial and one-sided impressions can be guarded against. But the continuous exertion and toil this implies are nearly always distasteful, and the majority of men can only accomplish it by a stern resolve. Whether acquired or natural, the ability to completely “think out” a subject is of prime necessity; the young student at the outset should learn to finish every investigation he begins and continue the habit during life. Doing this or not doing it will generally be decisive of his success or failure from an intellectual point of view. Thought is a mighty architect, and if you keep him fully employed, he will build up with slow and measured strokes a gorgeous edifice upon any territory at all within your mental range. You may weary of his labor and think that the wall rises so slowly that it will never be completed; but wait. In due time, if you are patient, all will be finished and will 161then stand as no ephemeral structure, to be swept away by the first storm that blows, but will be established and unshaken on the basis of eternal truth.

M. Bautain compares the accumulation of thought around a subject upon which the mind thus dwells with the development of organic life by continuous growth from an almost imperceptible germ. Striking as is the analogy, there is one point of marked dissimilarity. This growth of thought is voluntary and may easily be arrested at any stage. The introduction of a new subject or cessation of effort on the old is fatal. To prevent this and keep the mind employed until its work is done requires with most persons a regular and formal system. Profound thinkers, who take up a subject and cannot leave it until it is traced into all its intricate relations and comprehended in every part, and who have at the same time the power of easily recalling long trains of thought that have once passed through their mind, have less need of an artificial method. But their case is not that of the majority of thinkers or speakers.

We will give a method found useful for securing abundant speech materials, and allow others to adopt it as far as it may prove advantageous to them.

The things we actually know are not always kept equally in view. Sometimes we may see an idea with great clearness and after a time lose it again, while another, at first invisible, comes into sight. Each idea 162should be secured when it occurs. Let each thought that arises on the subject you intend to discuss be noted. A word or a brief sentence sufficient to recall the conception to your own mind will be enough, and no labor need be expended on composition or expression. After this first gathering, let the paper be laid aside and the subject be recommitted to the mind for further reflection. As other ideas arise let them be noted down in the same manner and the process be thus continued for days together. Sometimes new images and conceptions will continue to float into the mind for weeks. Most persons who have not tried this process of accumulation will be surprised to find how many thoughts they have on the simplest topic. If some of this gathered matter remains vague and shadowy, it will only be necessary to give it more time and more earnest thought and all obscurity will vanish.

At last there comes the consciousness that the mind’s power on that particular theme is exhausted. If we also feel that we have all the material needed, one step further only remains in this part of the work; the comparison of our treasures with what others have accomplished in the same field. It may be that this comparison will show the worthlessness of much of our own material, but it is better to submit to the humiliation involved and be sure that we have the best that can be furnished by other minds as well as our own. If we 163prefer, we may speak when we have gathered only the materials that are already within our own grasp and thus have a greater consciousness of originality, but such consciousness is a delusion unless based upon exhaustive research. Nearly all that we thus gather will be the result of previous reading, and almost the only thing in its favor over the fresh accumulations that we make by reading directly in the line of our subject, is the probability that the former knowledge will be better digested.

But more frequently, after the young orator has recollected and briefly noted all that bears upon his subject with which his own mind furnishes him, there remains a sense of incompleteness, and he is driven to seek a further supply. He is now hungry for new information, and on this state there is an intellectual blessing corresponding to the moral blessing pronounced upon those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. He reads the works of those who have treated the same or related topics, converses with well-informed persons, observes the world closely, still putting down every new idea that seems to bear upon his theme. Whenever an idea is found which supplies a felt want, it is received with great joy. It often happens that instead of finding the very thing sought for he strikes upon the first link of some chain of thoughts in his own mind that leads up to what he desires, but has hitherto overlooked. The 164new idea is only the more valued when it has thus been traced out.

Now, we have on paper, and often after much toil, a number of confused, unarranged notes. They are destitute of polish, and no more constitute a speech than the piles of brick and lumber a builder accumulates constitute a house. Indeed, this comparison is too favorable, for the builder has carefully calculated just what he needs for his house, and has ordered those very things. But usually we have in our notes much that can be of no use, and at whatever sacrifice of feeling it must be thrown out. This is a matter of great importance. It has been said that the principal difference between the conversation of a wise man and of a fool is that the one speaks all that is in his mind, while the other gives utterance only to carefully selected thoughts. Nearly all men have at times ideas that would please and profit any audience; and if these are carefully weeded out from the puerilities by which they may be surrounded, the remainder will be far more valuable than the whole mass. Everything not in harmony with the controlling object or purpose must be thrown away at whatever sacrifice of feeling. Read carefully your scattered notes after the fervor of pursuit has subsided and erase every phrase that is unfitting. If but little remains you can continue the search as at first, and erase and search again, until you have all that you need of matter truly relevant to 165the subject. Yet it is not well to be over-fastidious. This would prevent speech altogether, or make the work of preparation so slow and wearisome that when the hour of effort arrived, all freshness and vigor would be gone. A knight in Spenser’s “Faery Queen” entered an enchanted castle and as he passed through eleven rooms in succession he saw written on the walls of each the words, “Be bold;” but on the twelfth the inscription changed to the advice of equal wisdom, “Be not too bold.” The same injunctions are appropriate to the orator. He should be careful in the selection of his material, but not too careful. Many things which a finical taste might reject are allowable and very effective. No definite rule, however, can be given on the subject, as it is a matter of taste rather than of calculation.


Constructing a Plan.

No part of the orator’s work is more important than that of constructing a good plan. If this is not well done the fullest success is impossible. In speech all thoughts are expressed by the slow process of successive words. If these are badly chosen and so arranged as to carry forward the current of thought in the wrong direction, almost endless hindrance and distraction may follow. And as these words, in extempore speech, are given forth on the spur of the moment, it becomes necessary to make such an arrangement that the proper idea to be dissolved into words shall always be presented to the mind at the proper time.

In some cases this disposition of parts is very easy. A course indicated by the very nature of the subject will sometimes spring into view and relieve us of all further embarrassment. A lawyer may find the discussion of the testimony of each of several witnesses, together with the formal opening and close, to be all the plan that he needs. But more frequently this portion of the orator’s task will both require and repay severe thought.

Many different kinds of plans have been pointed out 167by preceding writers, but we will indicate those only which have considerable practical importance.

The first of these may be called the narrative method. It is most frequently used when the recital of some history forms the principal part of the discourse. Certain leading events, either grouped together according to their nature or following the order of time, furnish the primary divisions. This kind of a discourse follows the same laws, in the arrangement of the different parts, as histories, romances, and narrative poems. The order of time is the most obvious method of constructing it, but this order should not be adhered to when the story can be better and more dramatically told by varying from it. Both introduction and conclusion should be very carefully selected—the former to arouse attention and direct it in the right course; the latter to leave the strongest impression and the one most in harmony with the object of the speaker.

The second method is the textual, and is especially though not exclusively adapted to sermons. In it a verse from the Bible, a motto, a sentence used by an opponent, or some definite form of very significant words, affords a basis for each part of the discourse. The order of the discourse may, however, be different from that of the words in the text, any change being allowable which secures more of the advantages of the narrative or logical methods. When the text is itself well known, a 168plan based upon it has an obvious advantage in assisting the memory both of speaker and hearer, by suggesting each part of the discourse at the proper time. When any lecture or oration has a formal motto which sums up and fairly expresses the subject discussed, the textual plan will be as well adapted to it as to a sermon.

The logical or mathematical method is the third and probably the most symmetrical form the plan may assume. A topic is taken, and after the introduction, which may be the mere statement of the subject, or of the relations of the speaker or of the audience to it, that subject is unfolded with all the precision of a proposition in geometry. Each thought is preliminary to that which follows, and the whole ends in the demonstration of some great truth and the deduction of its legitimate corollaries. This method is the best possible in those cases adapted to it—particularly those in which some abstruse subject is to be unfolded and proved.

The last method we will describe proceeds by divisions and subdivisions. It is the military method, for in it the discourse is organized like an army, into corps, brigades, and regiments; or it is like a tree, which divides into two or three principal branches, and these again subdivide until the finest twigs are reached. All the detached items that have been selected are brought into related groups, each governed by a central thought, and these again are held in strict subordination to the supreme idea.

169A subject will many times arrange itself almost spontaneously into several different parts, which thus form the proper divisions, and these again may be easily analyzed into their proper subdivisions. Even when this is not the case, we will see, as we examine the jottings we have made while gathering our materials, that a few of the ideas stand out in special prominence, and with a little close study of relations and affinities all the others may be made to group themselves around these. The individual ideas we put down on the first study of the subject usually form the subdivisions, and some generalization of them the divisions.

It is not well to make the branches of a subject too numerous or they will introduce confusion and fail to be remembered. From two to four divisions with two or three subdivisions under each, are in a majority of cases better than a large number. The tendency to multiply them to a great extent, and then to name them in the moment of delivery, in their order of firstly, secondly, etc., is in a great measure responsible for the popular estimate of the dryness of sermons, where this kind of plan prevails more than anywhere else.

Examples of the different kinds of discourses here alluded to may be found in the New Testament. The sermon of Paul on Mars Hill was logical in its development. The introduction is an exquisite adaptation of his theme to the position of his hearers, and from that 170point each thought is a development from the preceding thought, until the whole weight of argument converges to the duty of repentance because of the coming of a day in which Jesus Christ will be Judge. But when Paul told the story of his conversion before Agrippa, the narrative form, with strict adherence to the order of time, was naturally adopted. No better example of the divisional form can be found than Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, in which the three chapters about correspond with the general divisions, and the paragraphs devoted to such topics as blessing, prayer, fasting, and forgiveness, with the subdivisions.

When we have accumulated our materials, stricken out all that is unfitting or superfluous, and determined the general character of our discourse, the remainder of the work of finishing the plan must be left to individual taste and judgment. No rules can be given that will meet every case. We might direct to put first those statements or arguments which are most easily comprehended, and those which are necessary for understanding other portions of the discourse, and also whatever is least likely to be disputed. Something strong and impressive should be held well in reserve. It will not be according to the principles of that highest art which is the best mirror of nature if we exhaust interest in the opening and then close tamely. Beyond these obvious considerations little help can be given to the orator in 171this part of his work. He must form his own ideal and then work up to it. We do not advise any one to borrow other men’s outlines for the purpose of filling them up and then speaking from them as if the work was original. This is a most profitless kind of plagiarism. Such sketches may be useful to the very young speaker, merely as indications of the kind of excellence in plans or sketches at which he should aim. And when he hears good discourses he may look beneath the burning words and criticise the merits of the framework upon which they rest. This may render him less satisfied with his own plans, but such dissatisfaction ever affords the best hope for future success.

The true mode of improving your plans is to bestow a great deal of time and thought upon them, and to make no disposition of any part for which you cannot give a satisfactory reason. This direction relates only to the beginner. In time the formation of plans will become so natural that any variation from the most effective arrangement will be felt as keenly as a discord in music is felt by a master in that art. From such carefully constructed plans, firm, coherent, and logical discourses will result.

There are certain general characteristics that each plan should possess. It must fully indicate the nature of the proposed discourse and mark out each of its successive steps with accuracy. Any want of definiteness in the 172outline is a fatal defect. You must feel that you can rely absolutely on it for guidance to the end of your discourse or be always in danger of embarrassment and confusion.

Each clause should express a distinct idea, and but one. This should be repeated in no other part of the discourse; otherwise, we fall into wearisome repetitions, the great vice, as it is often claimed, of extempore speakers.

A brief plan is better, other things being equal, than a long one. Often a single word will recall an idea as perfectly as many sentences, and it will burden the memory less. We do not expect the draft of a house to equal the house in size, but only to preserve a proportionate relation to it throughout. The plan cannot supply the thought, but, indicating what is in the mind, it shows how to bring it forth in regular succession. It is a pathway leading to a definite end, and, like all pathways, its crowning merits are directness and smoothness. Without these qualities it will perplex and hinder rather than aid. Each word in the plan should suggest an idea, and be so firmly bound to that idea that the two cannot become separated in any exigency of speech. You will find it sorely perplexing if, in the heat of discourse, some important note should lose the thought for which it previously stood and become an empty word. But with clear conceptions condensed into fitting words this 173cannot easily happen. A familiar idea can be expressed very briefly, while a strange or new conception may require more expansion. But all thoughts advanced by the speaker ought to be familiar to himself as the result of long meditation and thorough mastery, no matter how strange or startling they are to his hearers. Most skeletons may be brought within the compass of a hundred words, and every part be clearly indicated to the mind that conceived it, though perhaps not to any other.

There may be occasions when a speaker is justified in announcing his divisions and subdivisions, but such cases are exceptions. Hearers do not care how a discourse is constructed, so it comes to them warm and pulsating with life. To give the plan of a speech before the speech itself is contrary to the order of nature. We are not required first to look upon a grisly skeleton before we can see a graceful, living body. There is a skeleton inside each body, but during life it is well hidden, and there is no reason that the speaker should anticipate the work of the tomb. It is hardly less objectionable to name the parts of the discourse during the progress of the discussion, for—continuing the former illustration—bones that project through the skin are very unlovely. The only ease, I presume to think, where it is justifiable to name the parts of a discourse, either before or during its delivery, is where the separate parts have an importance of their own, in addition 174to their office of contributing to the general object. Much of the proverbial “dryness” of sermons arises from the preacher telling what he is about to remark, firstly, before he actually makes the remark thus numbered. Whenever we hear a minister read his text, announce his theme, state the parts into which he means to divide it, and then warn us that the first head will be subdivided into a certain number of parts, each of which is also specified in advance, we prepare our endurance for a severe test.

What great speeches require are deep, strong appeals to the hearts of the people, through which shines the radiance of great truths and the lightning of intense convictions. These can all find their place in the most logically constructed address if the logic be not brought out and paraded in its offensive nakedness. No matter if the orator’s mode of work is less understood. A tree is far more beautiful and impressive when covered with waving foliage, even if some of the branches are hidden. Let the tide of eloquence flow on in an unbroken stream, bearing with it all hearts, but giving no indication of the manner in which it is guided; or, better still, let it move with the impetus of the cannon-ball, but without proclaiming in advance the mark toward which it is flying.

The plan should go just as far as the intended speech, that we may know exactly where to stop. Then we can 175arise with confidence, for we are sure that we have something to say; we know what it is, and, most important of all, we will know when it is finished. Most of the objections urged against extempore speaking apply only to speeches that have no governing plan. But when a firm and clear plan is prearranged, there is no more danger of saying what we do not intend, or of running into endless digressions, than if every word was written. Indeed, there is no better way of guarding against undue discursiveness in a written speech than by arranging such a plan before beginning to write.

But it may be urged that this laborious preparation—this careful placing of every thought—will require as much time as to write in full. It may at first. The mind needs to be drilled into the work, and it will be of great value even as a mental discipline. No study of logic or of metaphysics will give such practical insight into the nature of the mind’s workings as this pre-arrangement of thoughts and words to frame a speech. But the work grows continually easier with practice, until the mature speaker will save three-fourths—or even more than that proportion—of the time consumed by the speech-writer.

The speech is now clearly indicated. A plan has been prepared that fixes each item in its proper place. There is no further danger of the looseness and desultoriness with which extempore speech has been reproached. Yet 176there is abundant room for the inspiration of the moment. It is possible, in all the fire of utterance, to leave the beaten track and give expression to any new ideas that may be called up by the ardor of speech. But a sure foundation is laid—a course is marked out which has been deeply premeditated, and which gives certainty to all we say.


How Shall the Written Plan be Used?

Now that the plan is completed and fully written out, the next question arises as to what shall be done with it. It may either be used or abused. To read it to the audience or exhibit it to them would be an obvious abuse. Possibly if the speaker possessed a large blackboard, the latter course might, in special cases, have some advantages. But even then it is better that the students should, in most instances, exercise their own ingenuity in gathering out of the body of the speech the central thoughts which they wish to preserve in their notebooks, than that the work should be done for them in advance by having the whole plan of the lecture placed in their sight.

The writer has experimented on this subject by repeating the same lecture to different classes with the outline in some cases exposed to view, and in the others concealed: the interest has always seemed to be greater, and the understanding more complete in the latter case. If this is true where instruction is the only aim, it is still more necessary where persuasion is the object of the speaker. The exposing in advance of the means by which he intends to work, will put on their guard the very persons 178whose hearts he wishes to capture, and thus lose him all that advantage of surprise which is often as momentous in oratorical as in military affairs.

There are two other ways of using the plan to be considered. One is to keep it in the speaker’s sight, so that he may step along from one item to another, thus keeping a foundation of written words in the midst of the uncertainty of his extemporaneous efforts, like that afforded by stepping-stones to a man crossing a running stream. There are some advantages in such use. The speaker will feel freer in making those pauses which are sometimes necessary for the sake of emphasis. He is better able to collect his scattered ideas in case any untoward circumstance should break the thread of his discourse. If he is confused for a moment, he may look down to his paper and recover himself, while if thoughts and words flow easily he can ignore the plan which lies before him.

But all the reasons for thus using the plan are the most emphatic condemnation of the practice. They are all make-shifts. They are based upon the thought that the great object is to secure the speaker from danger and confusion; in other words, they put him on the defensive, instead of the aggressive. Were the question to be stated, “How can a man best preserve the form of extemporaneous speech while shielding himself from the most dangerous incidents of that mode of address?” it 179might plausibly be replied, “By making a very full plan and concealing it at some point within the reach of his eyes, and using it whenever that course becomes easiest.”

But we have not sought to point out the mode of speech which will best protect the speaker from risks incident to his work. For real effectiveness, compromises are usually hurtful, and this expedient forms no exception.

To have a plan in sight tends powerfully to break up the speech into fragments and destroy its unity. A series of short addresses on related points, affords no substitute for a concentrated discourse. The speaker who publicly uses his sketch, speaks on until he reaches a point at which he does not know what is to come next, and on the brink of that gulf, looks down at his notes, and, perhaps after a search, finds what he wants. Had the thought existed in his mind, it would have blended the close of the preceding sentences into harmony with it. Direct address to the people, which they so much value in a speaker, is interfered with in the same way, for his eye must rest for a portion of the time upon his notes. He will also be apt to mention the divisions of his speech as they occur, because the eye is resting upon them at the same time the tongue is engaged, and it is hard to keep the two members from working in harmony.

If notes must be used the same advice applies that we have already offered to those who read in full. Be honest 180about it; do not try to hide the notes. Any attempt to prove to an audience that we are doing what we are not doing, has in it an element of deception, and is morally objectionable. The use of notes is not wrong, but to use them while pretending not to use them is wrong.

Some speakers carry their notes in their pockets for the sake of being able to take them out in case they find their memory failing, and thus they guard against the misfortune which once befell the eloquent Abbe Bautain, who, on ascending the pulpit to preach before the French King and Court, found that he had forgotten subject, plan, and text. This method is honest and unobjectionable, for the notes of the plan are either not used by the speaker at all, or if he takes them from his pocket, the people will understand the action.

The only remaining method, and that which we would urge upon every extempore speaker, is to commit the plan, as sketched, to memory. It is put in the best possible shape for the expression of the subject by the labor which has been previously bestowed upon it, and now such review as will give the mind a perfect recollection of the whole subject in its orderly unfolding is just what is needed for final mastery. Previously much of the work of preparation was given to detached fragments. Now the subject as a whole is spread out. The time given to a thorough memorizing of the plan need not be great; it will indeed be but small if the plan itself is so well 181arranged that every preceding part suggests what follows; but it will be the most fruitful of all the time spent in preparation. It puts you in the best condition for speaking. The object is then fixed in the heart and will fire it to earnestness and zeal, while the subject is spread, like a map, before the mental vision. All the power you possess can then be brought to bear directly upon the people. Do not fear that in the hurry of discourse you will forget some part of what is clear when you begin. If you are in good mental and physical condition, the act of speech will be exhilarating and stimulating, so that every fine line of preparation will come into clearness just at the right time, and many a relation unperceived before, many a forgotten fact, will spring up in complete and vivid perception. There is a wonderful luxury of feeling in such speech. Sailing with a swift wind, riding a race-horse, even the joy of victorious battle—indeed, all enjoyments that arise from the highest powers called forth into successful exercise—are inferior to the thrill and intoxication of the highest form of successful extemporaneous speech. To think of using notes then would seem like a contemptible impertinence! Imagine Xavier or Luther with their notes spread out before them, looking up the different items from which to address the multitudes spell-bound before them! The Presbyterian Deacon who once prayed in the presence of his note-using Pastor, “O Lord! teach Thy servants to 182speak from the heart to the heart, and not from a little piece of paper, as the manner of some is,” was not so very far wrong!

It is advisable to commit the plan to memory a considerable time before speaking. It then takes more complete possession of the mind and there is less liability of forgetting some portion. This is less important when the subject is perfectly familiar, for then “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” but those subjects which have been recently studied for the first time are in a different position; and some meditation upon that which has just been arranged in its best form will be very serviceable. Even if the salient points are firmly grasped, some of the minor parts may require further close consideration. No study is ever so profitable as that which is bestowed after the plan is complete, for up to that time there is danger that some of the thoughts to which our attention is given may be ultimately rejected and others radically modified. But when the plan is finished each idea has settled into its place. If obscurity rests anywhere, it may be detected at once, and the strength of the mind be brought to bear for its banishment. Impressions derived from meditation are then easily retained until the hour of speech, because associated with their proper place in the prepared outline. Such deep meditation on each division of the discourse can scarcely fail to make it original in the true 183sense of the term, and weave all its parts together with strong and massive thoughts.

After the plan has been memorized we can meditate upon it not only at the desk, but anywhere. As we walk about or lie in bed, or at any other time find our minds free from distractions, we can ponder the ideas that cluster around our subject until they grow perfectly familiar. Even when we are reading or thinking on other topics, brilliant thoughts will not unfrequently spring up, or those we possessed before take stronger and more definite outlines. All such gains can be held in memory without the use of the pen, because the plan furnishes a suitable place for them.

The course here described we would urge strongly upon the consideration of the young speaker. If carefully followed, its results will be invaluable. Arrange the plan from which you are to speak as clearly as may be in the form of a brief sketch; turn it over and over again; ponder each idea and the manner of bringing it out; study the connection between all the parts until the whole from beginning to end appears perfectly plain and simple. So frequently has this mode of preparation been tested that its effectiveness is no longer a matter of experiment.

It is advantageous to grasp the whole subject, as early as possible, in a single idea—in the same manner in which the future tree is compressed within the germ 184from which it is to spring. Then this one thought will suggest the entire discourse to the speaker, and at its conclusion will be left clear and positive in the hearer’s mind. For some acute auditors this may be less necessary. They are able to outrun a loose speaker, arrange his scattered fragments, supply his omissions, and arrive at the idea which has not yet formed itself clearly in his own mind. Such persons often honestly commend orators who are incomprehensible to the majority of their hearers. But the opinions of such auditors are an unsafe guide, for they form a very small minority of any assembly.

There is one further step which may sometimes precede the moment of speech with profit—the placing upon paper of a brief but connected sketch or statement of the whole discourse. If this is made in the ordinary writing there is danger that its slowness will make it more of a word-study than what it is intended to be—a test of ideas. A thorough mastery of shorthand, or the service of some one who has such mastery, will supply this defect. If the plan is well arranged there will be no pause in the most rapid composition, and if the whole discourse can at one effort be thrown into a dress of words there may be full assurance that the same thing can be accomplished still more easily and effectively when the additional stimulus of an audience is supplied. There should be no attempt, in the moment of speaking, 185to recall the very words used in writing, but the command of language will undoubtedly be greatly improved by having so recently used many of the terms that will be again required. Frequently there will be fine passages in the speech which you have thus struck off at white heat that you may be unwilling to forget, but it is better to make no effort to remember them, for you are almost sure to rise still higher in the moment of public delivery.

When this rapid writing is not available, a partial substitute for it may be found in writing in the ordinary hand a brief sketch or compact model of the whole discourse. You will be surprised to notice how short a compass will suffice for a discourse requiring an hour or more in delivery, without the omission of a single material thought. Such a sketch differs from the plan in clearly expressing all the ideas that underlie the coming speech, while the latter would be nearly unintelligible to any but its author. The one is only a few marks thrown out in the field of thought by which an intended pathway is indicated; the other is a very brief view of the thoughts themselves, without adornment or verbiage. Some speakers who might feel insecure in trusting the notes and hints of the plan would feel perfectly safe in enlarging upon a statement of their thoughts so brief that the whole sketch of the speech would not require more than three or four minutes to 186read. But this whole plan of writing, either in full or in brief, is only an expedient, and need not be adopted by those who have full confidence in their trained and cultivated powers.

After you have prepared your plan it is well to preserve it for future use, which may be done by copying it into a book kept for that purpose: or, what is more convenient in practice, folding the slip of paper on which it is written into an envelope of suitable size with the subject written on the back. These may be classified and preserved, even in very large numbers, so as to be easily consulted. From time to time, as your ability grows, they may be improved upon so as to remain the complete expression of your ability on every theme treated. On the back of the envelope may also be written references to any source of additional information on the same subject, and printed or written scraps, valuable as illustrations, or for additional information, may be slipped inside.


The First Moment of Speech.

Haying completed all your preparations, you now anxiously await the commencement of the intellectual battle. This period is often a severe trial. Men who are physically brave sometimes tremble in anticipation of speedily standing before an audience. The shame of failure then may appear worse than death itself. As the soldier feels more of cold and shrinking terror when listening for the peal of the first gun, than afterward, when the conflict deepens into blood around him, so the speaker usually suffers more in this moment of expectancy than in any that follows. You behold the danger in its full magnitude, without the inspiration that attends it. Yet whatever effort it may cost, you must remain calm and collected, for if not master of yourself, you cannot expect to rule others. Your material must be kept well in hand, ready to be used at the proper time, though it is not well to be continually conning over your preparation. That would destroy the freshness of your matter and bring you to the decisive test weary and jaded. You only need such an occasional glance as will assure you that all your material remains within reach. It is seldom possible by any means to banish all fear, 188and it is to the speaker’s advantage that he cannot. His timidity arises from several causes, which differ widely in the effects they produce. A conscious want of preparation, especially when this arises from any neglect or indolence, is one of the most distressing sources of fear. A species of remorse then mingles with the embarrassment natural to the moment. If the speaker has no other motive than to win reputation—to minister to his own vanity—he will feel terrified, as he realizes that shame instead of honor may be the result of his rashness. That man is fortunate who can say, “I only speak because I feel it to be duty which I dare not refuse—a work that I must perform whether well or ill.” The lawyer who must defend his client, the minister who feels that the hour of service has arrived, the teacher in the presence of his class, are examples of those who speak under the same kind of compulsion that calls a field laborer out into the burning heat of a July noon whether he feels like it or not. But if you are about to speak because you have intruded into the work that properly belongs to another, you need to be very sure of your preparation, for in case of failure you will not have even your own sympathy.

But the most formidable and common foe of the speaker’s, in these preliminary moments, is a general dread that can neither be analyzed nor accounted for. Persons who have never felt its power sometimes make 189light of it, but experience will change their views. The soldier who has never witnessed a battle, or felt the air throb with the explosion of cannon, or heard the awful cries of the wounded, is often a great braggart; while “the scarred veteran of a hundred fights” never speaks of the carnival of blood without shuddering, and would be the last, but for the call of duty, to brave the danger he knows so well. There may be a few speakers who do not feel such fear, but it is because they do not know what true speaking is. They have never known the full tide of inspiration which sometimes lifts the orator far above his conceptions, but which first struggles in his own bosom like the pent fires of a volcano. They only come forward to relieve themselves of the interminable stream of twaddle that wells spontaneously to their lips, and can well be spared the pangs preceding the birth of a powerful and living discourse.

This kind of fear belongs to every kind of oratory, but is most intense on those great occasions, in presence of large audiences, when men’s passions run high. In mere instructive address, where the ground has been repeatedly gone over and where the effort is mainly of an intellectual character, it is less noticeable. It resembles the awe felt on the eve of all great enterprises, and when excessive, as it is in some highly gifted minds, it constitutes an absolute bar to public speech. But in most cases it is a source of inspiration rather than of repression.

190There is a strange sensation often experienced in the presence of an audience. It may proceed from the gaze of the many eyes that turn upon the speaker, especially if he permits himself to steadily return that gaze. Most speakers have been conscious of this in a nameless thrill, a real something, pervading the atmosphere, tangible, evanescent, indescribable. All writers have borne testimony to the power of a speaker’s eye in impressing an audience. This influence which we are now considering is the reverse of that picture—the power their eyes may exert upon him, especially before he begins to speak: after the inward fires of oratory are fanned into flame the eyes of the audience lose all terror. By dwelling on the object for which we speak and endeavoring to realize its full importance, we will in a measure lose sight of our personal danger, and be more likely to maintain a calm and tranquil frame of mind.

No change should be made in the plan at the last moment, as that is very liable to produce confusion. This error is often committed. The mind has a natural tendency to go repeatedly over the same ground, revising and testing every point, and it may make changes the consequences of which cannot be in a moment foreseen. But the necessary preparation has been made and we should now await the result calmly and hopefully. Over-study is quite possible, and when accompanied by great solicitude wearies our mind in advance and strips the subject 191of all freshness. If the eye is fixed too long upon one object with a steadfast gaze, it loses the power to see at all. So the mind, if exerted steadily upon a single topic for a long period, fails in vigor and elasticity at the moment when those qualities are indispensable. That profound thinker and preacher, Frederick W. Robertson, experienced this difficulty and was accustomed to find relief by reading some inspiring paragraphs upon some totally different theme from that he intended to speak about. The energy and enthusiasm of our minds in the moment of speech must be raised to the highest pitch; the delivery of a living discourse is not the dry enumeration of a list of particulars; but we must actually feel an immediate and burning interest in the topics with which we deal. This cannot be counterfeited.

To clearly arrange all thoughts that belong to the subject, lay them aside when the work is done until the moment of speech, and then enter confidently upon them with only such a momentary glance as will assure us that all is right—this is the method to make our strength fully available. This confidence while in waiting seems to the beginner very difficult, but experience rapidly renders it easy. M. Bautain declares that he has been repeatedly so confident in his preparation as to fall asleep while waiting to be summoned to the pulpit!

Those who misimprove the last moments by too much thought and solicitude are not the only class of offenders. 192Some persons, through mere indolence, suffer the fine lines of preparation which have been traced with so much care to fade into dimness. This error is not unfrequently committed by those who speak a second or third time on the same subject. Because they have once succeeded they imagine that the same success is always at command. No mistake could be greater. It is not enough to have speech-material in a position from which it can be collected by a conscious and prolonged effort, but it must be in the foreground of the mind. There is no time at the moment of delivery for reviving half obliterated lines of memory.

The writer once saw a notable case of failure from this cause. A preacher on a great occasion was much engrossed with other important duties until the hour appointed for his sermon had arrived. With perfect confidence he selected a sketch from which he had preached a short time before and with the general course of which he was no doubt familiar. But when he endeavored to produce his thoughts they were not ready. He became embarrassed, talked at random for a short time, and then had the candor to tell the audience that he could not finish, and to take his seat. Probably half an hour given to reviewing his plan would have made all his previous preparation fresh again, and have spared him the mortification of failure.

In this last interval it is also well to care for the 193strength and vigor of the body, as its condition greatly influences all mental operations. It is said that the pearl-diver, before venturing into the depths of the sea, always spends a few moments in deep breathing and other bodily preparations. In the excitement of speech, the whirl and hurricane of emotion, it is advisable to be well prepared for the high tension of nerve that is implied. Mental excitement exhausts and wears down the body faster than bodily labor. We must carefully husband our strength that we may be able to meet all demands upon it.

Holyoake makes the following pertinent observation in reference to this point:

“Perhaps the lowest quality of the art of oratory, but one on many occasions of the first importance, is a certain robust and radiant physical health; great volumes of animal heat. In the cold thinness of a morning audience mere energy and mellowness is inestimable; wisdom and learning would be harsh and unwelcome compared with a substantial man, who is quite a housewarming.”

Fatiguing and excessive exercise should be very carefully avoided. Holyoake illustrates this from his own experience. He says:

“One Saturday I walked from Sheffield to Huddersfield to deliver on Sunday two anniversary lectures. It was my first appearance there, and I was ambitious to 194acquit myself well. But in the morning I was utterly unable to do more than talk half inaudibly and quite incoherently. In the evening I was tolerable, but my voice was weak. My annoyance was excessive. I was a paradox to myself. My power seemed to come and go by some eccentric law of its own. I did not find out until years after that the utter exhaustion of my strength had exhausted the powers of speech and thought, and that entire repose, instead of entire fatigue, should have been the preparation for public speaking.”

The last statement is somewhat too strong, for absolute rest is not generally advisable. It would leave the speaker, when he began to speak, with languid mind and slowly beating pulse—a state which it would require some minutes for him to overcome. A short, but brisk walk, when the health is good, will invigorate and refresh all his faculties, and often prevent a listless introduction by giving him the vigor to grasp the subject at once and launch right into the heart of it. Should any person doubt the power of exercise to produce this effect, let him, when perplexed with difficult questions in his study, start out over fields and hills, and review the matter in the open air. It is a good thing to carry the breath of the fields into the opening of our addresses.

But when the speaker cannot take this form of exercise in the moments just preceding speech, he may easily find a substitute for it. If alone, he can pace back and 195forth and swing his arms until the circulation becomes brisk and pours a stream of arterial blood to the brain.

Another simple exercise can be practiced anywhere, and will be of great benefit. Many persons injure themselves by speaking too much from the throat. This is caused by improper, short, and shallow breathing. To breathe properly is beneficial at any time, and does much to prevent or remedy throat and lung disease. But in the beginning of a speech it is doubly important: when once under way, there will be no time to think of either voice or breath: the only safe plan, then, is to have the right mode made habitual and instinctive. This will be greatly promoted if just before beginning we breathe deeply for a few minutes, inflating the lungs to their extremities and sending the warm blood to the very tips of the fingers.

Having now done all we can in advance, nothing remains but to rise and speak. Preparation and precaution are passed. Actual work—the most joyous, thrilling, and spiritual of all human tasks—is now to be entered upon.


The Introduction.

The time for the speech having arrived, we will now consider its separate parts. No division is better for our purpose than that employed in a previous part of this work—a three-fold division into introduction, discussion, and conclusion.

A good introduction is exceedingly valuable, and is to be sought for with great solicitude, if it does not spontaneously present itself. Some kind of an introduction is inevitable, for there will always be a first moment when silence is broken, and our thoughts introduced. The subsiding murmur of the audience tells the speaker that the time of his trial has come. If he is very sensitive, or if he has seldom, if ever, spoken before, his pulse beats fast, his face flushes, and an indescribable feeling of faintness and fear thrills every nerve. He may wish himself anywhere else, but there is now no help for him. He must arise, and for the time stand as the mark for all eyes and the subject of all thoughts.

There is a vast difference between reciting and extemporizing in these opening moments, and the advantage seems to be altogether on the side of recitation. Every word is in its proper place and the speaker may be perfectly 197calm and self-collected. He is sure that his memory will not fail him in the opening, and encouraged by that assurance, will usually throw his whole power into his first sentences, causing his voice to ring clear and loud over the house.

The extemporizer is in a far more difficult position. He is sure of nothing. The weight of the whole speech rests heavily upon his mind. He is glancing ahead, striving to forecast the coming sentences, as well as carrying forward those gliding over the tongue, and, distracted by this double labor, his first expressions may be feeble and ungraceful. Yet this modesty and timidity is no real loss: it goes far to conciliate an audience and secure their good-will. We can scarcely fail to distinguish memorized from extemporized discourses by the introduction alone.

To avoid the pain and hesitancy of an unelaborated beginning, some speakers write and memorize the opening passage. This may accomplish the immediate object, but it is apt to be at the expense of all the remainder of the discourse. The mind cannot pass easily from reciting to spontaneous origination; and the voice, being too freely used at first, loses its power. The hearers, having listened to highly polished language, are less disposed to relish the plain words that follow, and the whole speech, which, like the Alpine condor, may have pitched from the loftiest summits, falls fast and far, until the lowest 198level is reached. A written introduction may be modest and unpretending, but unless it very closely imitates unstudied speech, painful contrasts and disappointments are inevitable.

One mode of avoiding these difficulties is to make no formal introduction, but to plunge at once into the heart of the subject. Sometimes, when the minds of speaker and hearer are already absorbed by the same general topic, as in the midst of a heated political canvass, this mode is very good. Under such circumstances, an interest may soon be aroused which removes all embarrassment. But usually the speaker’s mind is full of a subject which is unfamiliar and indifferent to his hearers. It then behooves him to find some mode of gaining their attention and sympathy before he takes the risk of arousing a prejudice against his subject which he might afterward strive in vain to overcome. If something is found which can be made to bear some relation to his subject, without too violent straining, and which already excites interest in their minds, it will be far better to begin with that, and lead them to the proper theme when their attention has been thoroughly aroused.

The introduction should not be left to the chance of the moment. It may often, with great propriety, be prepared after all other parts of the speech are planned. But with even more care than is given to any other portion should the introduction be prearranged. When 199once the wings of eloquence are fully spread we may soar above all obstructions; but in starting it is well to be assured that the ground is clear about us.

It is only the substance and not the words of the introduction that should be prepared. A single sentence may be mentally forecast, but much beyond would be harmful; and even this sentence should be simple and easily understood. Anything that needs explanation is very much out of place. Neither should the introduction be so striking as to be the part of the discourse longest remembered. Rather than permit the attention to be distracted in that manner, it would be better to have no introduction.

A speaker gains much if he can at the outset arrest the attention and win the sympathy of his hearers and then carry these over to his proper subject. But it may be assumed as certain, that no kind of an apology will accomplish this object—unless, indeed, the speaker is such a favorite that everything in regard to his health or position is an object of deep solicitude to his audience. A popular speaker who happens to be late and apologizes for it by explaining that he had just escaped from a terrible railroad accident would make a good introduction. A loved pastor, in his first sermon after serious illness, might properly begin by talking of his amendment and his joy at addressing his flock again. But these are rare exceptions. The speaker about to make any kind of an 200apology or personal reference as an introduction, may well heed Punch’s advice to persons about to be married: “Don’t.”

In many instances it is not easy to get the mere attention of an audience. They come together from many different employments with thoughts engaged upon various topics, and it is difficult to remove distracting influences and fix all minds upon one subject. Sometimes a startling proposition, in the nature of a challenge, will secure the object. Earnestness in the speaker goes far toward it. But above everything else, sameness and monotony must be carefully avoided. When the same audience is frequently addressed, variety becomes essential. The writer knew of a minister who made it a rule to consider the nature, reason, and manner of his subjects, in answer to the supposed questions: “What is it? Why is it? How is it?” The eloquence of Paul could not often have redeemed the faults of such an arrangement.

Some inattention may be expected and patiently borne with at first. Part of the opening words may be lost—an additional reason for not making them of capital importance to the address. It is useless to try by loud tones and violent manner to dispel indifference. If the speaker’s words have real weight, and if his manner indicates confidence, one by one the audience will listen, until that electric thrill of sympathy, impossible to describe, 201but which is as evident to the practiced orator as an accord in music, tells him that every ear is open to his words, and that his thoughts are occupying every mind. Then the orator’s power is fully developed, and if himself and his theme are equal to the occasion it is delightful to use that power. This silent, pulsating interest is more to be desired than vehement applause, for it cannot be counterfeited, and it indicates that the heart of the assembly has been reached and melted by the fire of eloquence, and is now ready to be molded into any desired form.

There are two or three general subjects available for introduction which every speaker would do well to study carefully, and which will do much to furnish him with the means of properly approaching his theme. We will mention the most useful of these, premising that no one mode should be depended upon to the exclusion of others.

A good mode of introduction consists in a compliment to an audience. When a truthful and manly compliment can be given it is a most pleasant and agreeable step toward the good-will of those we address; but if used on all occasions indiscriminately, it is meaningless; if transparently false, it is repulsive and disgusting; but when true, there is no reason why it should not be employed.

There are several good introductions of the complimentary character in the 24th and 26th chapters of Acts. When the orator, Tertullus, accused Paul, he began by 202skillful, but, from the standpoint of his clients, very insincere flattery:

“Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, we accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.”

No fault can be found with the form of this introduction, but it was untrue, for the men in whose names it was made were the very reverse of thankful to the Roman Governor.

Paul was far too skillful to lose the advantage of beginning his address with a compliment, and too honest to give a false one. There was one fact over which he could rejoice. Felix had been long enough in office to know the ways of his enemies; so Paul uses that as an effective and truthful compliment, while professing his own confidence in his cause.

“Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been for many years a Judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, because that thou mayest understand.”

In the same exquisite combination of truthfulness and compliment to a bad man, Paul begins his address when before King Agrippa:

“I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee, touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews; especially 203because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews; wherefore, I beseech thee to hear me patiently.”

It should always be remembered, however, that compliments, even in the estimation of those complimented, are only grateful in proportion to their judicious character. Their hollowness, if insincere, is easily detected and thoroughly despised.

Effective introductions can also be constructed from those topics of the day which may be supposed to fill all minds. A few words on such subjects, falling in with the general current of thought, may easily lead up to the orator’s special topic. The newspapers may thus furnish us, especially while some striking event is yet recent, with the means of arresting the attention of newspaper readers at our first words.

Another good mode of introduction is that of locality. The people of any town may be presumed familiar with the objects or events of interest for which their own place is celebrated. A ludicrous instance of this is narrated of the eloquent Daniel Webster. He had visited Niagara Falls and was to make an oration at Buffalo the same day, but, unfortunately, he sat too long over the wine after dinner. When he arose to speak, the oratorical instinct struggled with difficulties, as he declared, “Gentlemen, I have been to look upon your mag—mag—magnificent cataract, one hundred—and forty—seven—feet 204high! Gentlemen, Greece and Rome in their palmiest days never had a cataract one hundred—and forty—seven—feet high!”

Another mode of introduction which may be very useful under proper restrictions is that of citing some relevant remark made by an author whose name carries great weight, or so pointed in itself as to at once arrest attention. A great picture, some feature of a landscape, a great historical event, may be cited in the same way. This method of citation is capable of very wide application. If the sentiment or impression made by the citation is directly opposite to that which the speaker wishes to produce this will increase rather than diminish interest, as the enjoyment of contrast and controversy is very keen; but the speaker should feel confident of his ability to overcome the influence of the citation when thus hostile. A favorite introduction to abolition lectures in a former generation was the quotation of some strong and shocking declaration of the rightfulness or beneficence of slavery.

The last mode of introduction we will notice is very similar in character and may be termed that of perception. Something has been seen, heard, or imagined by the speaker, which, because of its simple, tangible character, is easily grasped, and yet leads by some subtle analogy to his topic. He has seen a ragged, desolate boy on the street; he describes that poor fellow to his audience; and then finds them far more ready to listen to a plea 205for orphan asylums, for education, for better city government, for anything which can have any bearing upon the welfare of the boy.

Here, then, are five principles upon which appropriate introductions may be constructed. Many others might be named, but these cover a wide range and may be very useful. They are:

1. Compliments.
2. Current Events.
3. Local Allusion.
4. Citations.
5. Things seen, heard, or imagined.

A great calamity may come to a speaker from a bad introduction. Speakers who are great in everything else often fail at this point. Some make their introductions too complicated, and thus defeat their own end, as surely as the engineer who gives his railroad such steep grades that no train can pass over it. Others deliver a string of mere platitudes and weary their audience from the beginning.

When from these or other causes our address is mis-begun, the consequences may be serious. The thought settles upon the speaker with icy weight that he is failing. This conviction paralyzes all his faculties. He talks on, but grows more and more embarrassed. Incoherent sentences are stammered out which require painful explanation to prevent them from degenerating into 206perfect nonsense. The outline of his plan dissolves into mist. The points he intended to make which seemed strong and important now look trivial. With little hope ahead he blunders on. The room grows dark before him, and in the excess of his misery he longs for the time when he can close without absolute disgrace. But alas! the end seems far off, and he searches in vain for some avenue of escape. There is none. His throat becomes dry and parched, and command of voice is lost. The audience grow restive, for they are tortured as well as the speaker, and if he were malicious and had time to think about it, he might find some alleviation in that. No one can help him. At length, in sheer desperation, he does what he ought to have done long before—simply stops and sits down—perhaps hurling some swelling morsel of common-place, as a parting volley, at the audience—bathed in sweat, and feeling that he is disgraced forever! If he is very weak or foolish, he resolves never to speak again without having every word written out before him; if wiser, he only resolves, not only to understand his speech, but how to begin it.


Progress of the Speech.

The passage from the introduction to the discussion should be made smoothly and gradually. To accomplish this, and to strike the subject at just the right angle, continuing all the interest previously excited, is a most important achievement. A definite object is a great assistance in this part of the work. If the object is clearly in view, we go right up to it with no wasted words, and the people follow our guidance because they see that we are not proceeding at random. But with no strong purpose we are apt to steer about our subject without ever being quite ready to enter upon it. The more brilliant the introduction the more difficult this transition will be. But all these difficulties may be overcome with the aid of a well-constructed plan, and then all the triumphs of oratory are before us.

There is great pleasure in speaking well. An assembly hanging on the words and thinking the thoughts of a single man, gives to him the most subtle kind of flattery. But he must not inhale its fragrance heedlessly, or his fall will be speedy and disastrous. The triumphs of oratory are very fascinating—the ability to sway our fellows at pleasure, to bind them willing captives with 208the strong chain of our thought—produces a delirious and intoxicating sense of power. But in the best of instances such achievements are very transient, and unless taken advantage of at the moment to work our cherished purposes, the opportunity is lost. Even during a single address it is hard to maintain the influence of a happy moment. Speakers sometimes utter a great and noble thought and the nameless thrill of eloquence is felt, but some irrelevant phrase or common-place sentiment dissolves the charm. To avoid this, the whole discourse must be animated with some controlling purpose, and in its general character, tend upward, until its close.

The law of climax ought to be carefully considered by the speaker. There may be more than one culmination of interest in an address, separated by an interval less absorbing and powerful, but this decline should only be allowed in order to prepare a second or third climax grander than all before. To violate this rule and have a speech “flatten out” toward its close, is a fearful error. Better reduce the length of the whole by one-half or three-fourths, and maintain interest and attention to the end.

A few miscellaneous considerations in regard to the style and manner of the speech may be inserted here as well as anywhere.

Diffuseness is often supposed to be a necessary quality of extemporaneous speech. Many speakers do fall into it, but they need not. They are diffuse because they 209are unwilling or unable to say exactly what they mean, but come near it, and continue their efforts until they are satisfied. They furnish no clear view of any idea, but only a kind of twilight illumination. This serious fault may be overcome in spontaneous speech as readily as in writing. He who thinks clearly and forcibly will talk in the same manner. Exquisite finish and elaborate verbal arrangement are not to be looked for in off-hand speech, but each idea may be expressed with great force, vigor, and accuracy of shading.

This ability to say precisely what we mean in few words, and at the first effort, constitutes one of the great beauties of a spoken style. The hearer is filled with grateful surprise when some new and living idea is suddenly placed before him clothed in a single word or sentence. A diffuse speaker gives so many premonitions of his thought that the audience have guessed it, and may even come to believe that they have always known it, before he has made his formal presentment. Of course, they are wearied, and never give him credit for an original conception.

If troubled with this fault, frequently forecast what to say; drive it into the smallest number of vivid, expressive words; then, without memorizing the language, reproduce the same thought briefly in the hurry of speech. If not successful in making it as brief as before, repeat the effort. This exercise will, in time, 210give the ability to condense. But to exercise it the temptation to fine language must be overcome. No sentence should be introduced for mere glitter or sparkle: a single unnecessary word may require others to justify or explain it, and thus may ruin a whole discourse. The danger of showy language in speech is far greater than in writing, for if the writer be drawn too far away from his subject he can strike out the offending sentences and begin again, while the speaker has but one trial. If beauty lies in his way, well; but if not, he should never abandon his course to seek it.

We have seen many directions for “expanding thought,” and have heard young speakers admire the ease and grace of such expansion. But thoughts are not like medicines which require dilution to be more palatable. It is better to give the essence of an idea and go on to something else. There should be clear and ample expression; condensation carried to the point of obscurity would be a fault; but nothing more than clearness is needed. If thoughts are few it is better to delve for others rather than to attenuate and stretch what we have.

A popular error exists as to the kind of language best adapted to the purposes of oratory. High-sounding epithets and Latinized words are considered the fitting medium of speech. These may overawe ignorant hearers, but can never strike the chords of living sympathy 211which bind all hearts together. If we use terms hard to be understood the effort put forth by hearers to master their meaning is just so much subtracted from the force of the address. The homely Saxon words that dwell on the lips of the people will unload their wealth of meaning in the heart as soon as the sound strikes the ear. Uncommon words build a barrier around thought; familiar ones are like a railroad over which it glides swiftly to its destination.

All debased and slang words should be rejected, unless the speech is to partake of the nature of burlesque: we do not advocate “the familiarity that breeds contempt:” this is also a hurtful extreme. The two great requisites in the use of words are that they should exactly express our ideas, and that they should be familiar: the charms of melody and association are not to be despised, but they are secondary.

Every speech should have its strong points, upon which especial reliance is placed. A skillful general has his choice battalions reserved to pierce the enemy’s line at the decisive moment, and win the battle. In both the physical and the mental contest, it is important to place these reserves aright that all their weight may be felt.

A crisis occurs in nearly all living addresses—a moment in which a strong argument or a fervid appeal will accomplish our purpose—just as a vigorous charge, 212or the arrival of reinforcements, will turn the doubtful scale of battle. The speaker, from the opening of his speech, should have his object clearly in view and drive steadily toward it, and when within reach, put forth his whole power in a mighty effort, achieving the result for which the whole speech was devised. If the right opportunity is neglected it seldom returns, and an hour’s talk may fail to accomplish as much as one good burning sentence thrown in at the right time. Much talk after the real purpose of an address is accomplished also is useless and even perilous.

It has all along been taken for granted that the speaker has something worthy to say. Without this a serious address deserves no success, although under some circumstances nothing but sound to tickle the ears is desired. Such speeches are well enough in their way, but they rank with the performances on the piano by which a young lady entertains her uncritical visitors. They cannot be called speeches in any real sense. The fact that a speaker has a solid and worthy foundation of knowledge and an adequate purpose gives him confidence. He knows that if his words are not instinct with music, and if the pictures of his fancy are not painted in the brightest colors, he has yet a just claim upon the attention of his hearers.

It is not necessary that the orator’s thoughts should be exceedingly profound; the most vital truths lie near 213the surface, within reach of all. But most men do not dwell long enough upon one subject to master its obvious features, and when some one does fully gather up and fairly present what belongs to a worthy theme it is like a new revelation. A good illustration of this is found in the sublimity Dean Stanley imparts to the story of the Exodus of Israel. Few new facts are presented, but these are so arranged and vivified by a thoughtful mind that the subject glows into new meaning. The extemporaneous speaker may have abundant time for such study of every topic within his range of addresses, and if he uses it aright, he can soon wield a charm far beyond any jingling combination of words.

When an orator stands before an audience, shall he expect to overwhelm them by his eloquence? Such a result is possible but not probable; and it can never be safely calculated upon. If persons attempt to be greatly eloquent on all occasions, they are apt to end by becoming ridiculous. Good sense and solid usefulness are better objects of endeavor.

Any man who studies a subject until he knows more about it than his neighbors can interest them in a fireside explanation, if they care for the subject at all: he tells his facts in a plain style and is understood. Many persons will listen delighted to a man’s conversation until midnight, but will fall asleep in ten minutes if he tries to make a speech to them. In the first case he 214talks, and is simple and unaffected; in the other he speaks and feels that he must use a style stiffened up for the occasion.

When Henry Clay was asked how he became so eloquent, he said that he could tell nothing about it; all he knew was that when he commenced an address he had only the desire to speak what he had prepared (not memorized), and adhered to this line of preparation until he was enwrapped in the subject, and carried away, he knew not how. This was a good course, for if the extraordinary inspiration did not come, a good and sensible speech was secured at any rate.

Some of these considerations may be of service if weighed in advance, but when the speaker once ascends the platform he must rely on his own tact for the management of all details. Closely observing the condition of the audience, and taking advantage of every favoring element, he moves steadily toward his object. With an unobstructed road before him, which he has traveled in thought until it is familiar, he will advance with ease and certainty. As he looks upon interested faces, new ideas arise, and if fitting, are woven into harmony with previous preparations, often with thrilling effect. Each emotion enkindled by sympathy embodies itself in words that move the heart as prepared language could not do, and each moment his own conviction sinks deeper into the hearts of his hearers.

215There are three principal ways of concluding a speech. One of the most graceful is to condense a clear view of the whole argument and tendency of the address into a few words, and leave the summing up thus made to produce its own effect. Discourses aiming principally to produce conviction may very well be concluded in this manner. To throw the whole sweep of an argument, every point of which has been previously elaborated, into a few telling sentences will contribute powerfully to make the impression permanent.

Another and very common mode is to close with an application or with practical remarks. When the address is a sermon, this form of closing is frequently termed an exhortation, and the whole speech is made to bear upon the duty of the moment. The conclusion should be closely connected with the remainder of the address: if it be so general in character as to fit any speech it will be of little service to any.

A conclusion should always be short and contain no new matter. Few things are more disastrous than the practice of drawing toward an end and then launching out into a new discussion. All good things that have been said, all previous favorable impressions, are obliterated by this capital fault. We should be careful to finish the discussion of our theme before we indicate that the conclusion has been reached. And if, at the moment of finishing, we happen to think of anything, however 216vital, which has been omitted, it had better be left to another time and place altogether.

A third method of closing is to simply break off when the last item is finished. The full development of the discourse is thus made its ending, care being taken that the last item discussed shall be of weight and dignity. This is by no means the easiest form of conclusion, but rightly managed it is one of the most effective.


Three Plans of Great Addresses.

For the purpose of showing how completely speech of all kinds may be embraced in a brief skeleton, we place before the reader three addresses of the most varied characteristics, yet each most admirable in its own department. One of these is English in origin, one Greek, and the last may well be styled universal, comprising, as it does, every element of excellence.

At the end of the first year of the great war waged between Sparta and Athens, Pericles pronounced a funeral oration over the dead who had fallen in the Athenian cause. Much of the language employed may, perhaps, be ascribed to the invention of the historian, Thucydides, but the substance and many of the strong expressions probably fell from the lips of the great statesman and orator of Athens. The speech possesses the simplicity and classic grace for which Grecian art has ever been celebrated. The orator’s SUBJECT was furnished by the occasion—the worthiness of the sacrifice which the fallen heroes had made to the greatness and glory of their native land. His OBJECT was to encourage the living to continue the war with ardor and support its privations with fortitude. There are no digressions, no 218anecdotes, and scarcely any illustrations. The glory of Athens and of her dead heroes is the one theme ever before him. This severe simplicity is carried too far to be entirely pleasing to modern taste, but the effect is certainly grand and sublime. A few very strong sentences relieve the general tone of clear, calm description. The translation is that of Professor Jowett.


Occasion.—The burial of those Athenians who fell in the first year of the Peloponnesian War.

Subject.—The glory of Athens and of the heroes who died for her.

Object.—To nourish patriotism and fan warlike enthusiasm.

Introduction.—Inadequacy of words to the praise of the brave.

I. The Source of Athenian Greatness.

1. The praise of ancestors who procured freedom and empire for the city.

2. Excellencies of the form of our Government.

3. Refinements of our life.

4. In war we are an over-match for all our enemies.

5. All our citizens are interested in public affairs, which are freely discussed.

6. In short, Athens is the school of Hellas.

219II. The Praise of the Fallen.

1. The above praise of the city is the praise of the dead, for they made her great.

2. Death is the final seal of their virtues and secures them from all change of fortune.

3. The whole earth is full of their glory, and their example is precious to their country.

III. Comfort to Kindred.

1. To parents.

2. To sons, brothers, and widows.

Conclusion.—Athens crowns her heroes by these honors, and by maintaining their children at public cost.

Funeral Speech.

“Most of those who have spoken here before me have commended the lawgiver who added this oration to our other funeral customs; it seemed to them a worthy thing that such an honor should be given at their burial to the dead who have fallen on the field of battle. But I should have preferred that, when men’s deeds have been brave, they should be honored in deed only, and with such an honor as this public funeral, which you are now witnessing. Then the reputation of many would not have been imperiled on the eloquence or want of eloquence of one, and their virtues believed or not as he spoke well or ill. For it is difficult to say neither too little nor too much; and even moderation is apt not to give the impression of truthfulness. The friend of the dead who knows the facts is likely to think that the 220words of the speaker fall short of his knowledge and of his wishes; another who is not so well informed, when he hears of anything which surpasses his own powers, will be envious and will suspect exaggeration. Mankind are tolerant of the praises of others so long as each hearer thinks that he can do as well or nearly as well himself, but when the speaker rises above him jealousy is aroused and he begins to be incredulous. However, since our ancestors have set the seal of their approval upon the practice, I must obey, and to the utmost of my power shall endeavor to satisfy the wishes and beliefs of all who hear me.

“I will speak first of our ancestors, for it is right and becoming that now, when we are lamenting the dead, a tribute should be paid to their memory. There has never been a time when they did not inhabit this land, which by their valor they have handed down from generation to generation, and we have received from them a free State. But if they were worthy of praise, still more were our fathers, who added to their inheritance, and after many a struggle transmitted to us, their sons, this great empire. And we ourselves assembled here to-day, who are still most of us in the vigor of life, have chiefly done the work of improvement, and have richly endowed our city with all things, so that she is sufficient for herself both in peace and war. Of the military exploits by which our various possessions were acquired, or of the energy with which we or our fathers drove back the tide of war, Hellenic or Barbarian, I will not speak; for the tale would be long and is familiar to you. But before I praise the dead, I should like to point out by what 221principles of action we rose to power, and under what institutions and through what manner of life our empire became great. For I conceive that such thoughts are not unsuited to the occasion, and that this numerous assembly of citizens and strangers may profitably listen to them.

“Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. We do not copy our neighbors, but are an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. But while the law secures equal justice to all alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty a bar, but a man may benefit his country whatever be the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private intercourse we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes; we do not put on our sour looks at him, which, though harmless, are not pleasant. While we are thus unconstrained in our private intercourse, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for authority and for the laws, having an especial regard to those which are ordained for the protection of the injured as well as to those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the reprobation of the general sentiment.

“And we have not forgotten to provide for our weary 222spirits many relaxations from toil; we have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year; at home the style of our life is refined; and the delight which we daily feel in all these things helps to banish melancholy. Because of the greatness of our city the fruits of the whole earth flow in upon us; so that we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as of our own.

“Then, again, our military training is in many respects superior to that of our adversaries. Our city is thrown open to the world, and we never expel a foreigner or prevent him from seeing or learning anything of which the secret if revealed to an enemy might profit him. We rely not upon management or trickery, but upon our own hearts and hands. And in the matter of education, whereas they from early youth are always undergoing laborious exercises which are to make them brave, we live at ease, and yet are equally ready to face the perils which they face. And here is the proof. The Lacedæmonians come into Attica not by themselves, but with their whole confederacy following; we go alone into a neighbor’s country; and although our opponents are fighting for their homes and we on a foreign soil, we have seldom any difficulty in overcoming them. Our enemies have never yet felt our united strength; the care of a navy divides our attention, and on land we are obliged to send our own citizens everywhere. But they, if they meet and defeat a part of our army, are as proud as if they had routed us all, and when defeated they pretend to have been vanquished by us all.

“If, then, we prefer to meet danger with a light heart but without laborious training, and with a courage which 223is gained by habit and not enforced by law, are we not greatly the gainers? Since we do not anticipate the pain, although, when the hour comes, we can be as brave as those who never allow themselves to rest; and thus too our city is equally admirable in peace and in war. For we are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness. Wealth we employ, not for talk and ostentation, but when there is a real use for it. To avow poverty with us is no disgrace; the true disgrace is in doing nothing to avoid it. An Athenian citizen does not neglect the State because he takes care of his own household; and even those of us who are engaged in business have a very fair idea of politics. We alone regard a man who takes no interest in public affairs, not as a harmless, but as a useless character; and if few of us are originators, we are all sound judges of a policy. The great impediment to action is, in our opinion, not discussion, but the want of knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action. For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act and of acting too, whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate upon reflection. And they are surely to be esteemed the bravest spirits who, having the clearest sense both of the pains and pleasures of life, do not on that account shrink from danger. In doing good, again, we are unlike others; we make our friends by conferring, not by receiving favors. Now he who confers a favor is the firmer friend, because he would fain by kindness keep alive the memory of an obligation; but the recipient is colder in his feelings, because he knows that in requiting 224another’s generosity he will not be winning gratitude but only paying a debt. We alone do good to our neighbors not upon a calculation of interest, but in the confidence of freedom and in a frank and fearless spirit. To sum up: I say that Athens is the school of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian in his own person seems to have the power of adapting himself to the most varied forms of action with the utmost versatility and grace. This is no passing and idle word, but truth and fact; and the assertion is verified by the position to which these qualities have raised the State. For in the hour of trial Athens alone among her contemporaries is superior to the report of her. No enemy who comes against her is indignant at the reverses which he sustains at the hands of such a city; no subject complains that his masters are unworthy of him. And we shall assuredly not be without witnesses; there are mighty monuments of our power which will make us the wonder of this and of succeeding ages; we shall not need the praises of Homer or of any other panegyrist whose poetry may please for the moment, although his representation of the facts will not bear the light of day. For we have compelled every land and every sea to open a path for our valor, and have everywhere planted eternal memorials of our friendship and of our enmity. Such is the city for whose sake these men nobly fought and died; they could not bear the thought that she might be taken from them; and every one of us who survive should gladly toil on her behalf.

“I have dwelt upon the greatness of Athens because I want to show you that we are contending for a higher prize than those who enjoy none of these privileges, and 225to establish by manifest proof the merit of these men whom I am now commemorating. Their loftiest praise has been already spoken. For in magnifying the city I have magnified them, and men like them whose virtues made her glorious. And of how few Hellenes can it be said as of them, that their deeds when weighed in the balance have been found equal to their fame! Methinks that a death such as theirs has been gives the true measure of a man’s worth; it may be the first revelation of his virtues, but is at any rate their final seal. For even those who come short in other ways may justly plead the valor with which they have fought for their country; they have blotted out the evil with the good, and have benefited the State more by their public services than they have injured her by their private actions. None of these men were enervated by wealth or hesitated to resign the pleasures of life; none of them put off the evil day in the hope, natural to poverty, that a man, though poor, may one day become rich. But, deeming that the punishment of their enemies was sweeter than any of these things, and that they could fall in no nobler cause, they determined at the hazard of their lives to be honorably avenged, and to leave the rest. They resigned to hope their unknown chance of happiness; but in the face of death they resolved to rely upon themselves alone. And when the moment came they were minded to resist and suffer, rather than to fly and save their lives; they ran away from the word of dishonor, but on the battle-field their feet stood fast, and in an instant, at the height of their fortune, they passed away from the scene, not of their fear, but of their glory.

226“Such was the end of these men; they were worthy of Athens, and the living need not desire to have a more heroic spirit, although they may pray for a less fatal issue. The value of such a spirit is not to be expressed in words. Any one can discourse to you forever about the advantages of a brave defense which you know already. But instead of listening to him I would have you day by day fix your eyes upon the greatness of Athens, until you become filled with the love of her; and when you are impressed by the spectacle of her glory, reflect that this empire has been acquired by men who knew their duty and had the courage to do it, who in the hour of conflict had the fear of dishonor always present to them, and who, if ever they failed in an enterprise, would not allow their virtues to be lost to their country, but freely gave their lives to her as the fairest offering which they could present at her feast. The sacrifice which they collectively made was individually repaid to them; for they received again each one for himself a praise which grows not old, and the noblest of all sepulchres—I speak not of that in which their remains are laid, but of that in which their glory survives, and is proclaimed always and on every fitting occasion both in word and deed. For the whole earth is the sepulchre of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men. Make them your examples, and, esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to be happiness, do not weigh too nicely the perils of war. The 227unfortunate who has no hope of a change for the better has less reason to throw away his life than the prosperous, who, if he survive, is always liable to a change for the worse, and to whom any accidental fall makes the most serious difference. To a man of spirit, cowardice and disaster coming together are far more bitter than death, striking him unperceived at a time when he is full of courage and animated by the general hope.

“Wherefore, I do not now commiserate the parents of the dead who stand here; I would rather comfort them. You know that your life has been passed amid manifold vicissitudes, and that they may be deemed fortunate who have gained most honor, whether an honorable death like theirs, or an honorable sorrow like yours, and whose days have been so ordered that the term of their happiness is likewise the term of their life. I know how hard it is to make you feel this, when the good fortune of others will too often remind you of the gladness which once lightened your hearts. And sorrow is felt at the want of those blessings, not which a man never knew, but which were a part of his life before they were taken from him. Some of you are of an age at which they may hope to have other children, and they ought to bear their sorrow better; not only will the children who may hereafter be born make them forget their own lost ones, but the city will be doubly a gainer. She will not be left desolate, and she will be safer. For a man’s counsel cannot have equal weight or worth when he alone has no children to risk in the general danger. To those of you who have passed their prime, I say, ‘Congratulate yourselves that you have been 228happy during the greater part of your days; remember that your life of sorrow will not last long, and be comforted by the glory of those who are gone. For the love of honor alone is ever young, and not riches, as some say, but honor is the delight of men when they are old and useless.’

“To you who are the sons and brothers of the departed, I see that the struggle to emulate them will be an arduous one. For all men praise the dead, and however pre-eminent your virtue may be, hardly will you be thought, I do not say to equal, but even to approach them. The living have their rivals and detractors, but when a man is out of the way, the honor and good-will which he receives is unalloyed. And, if I am to speak of womanly virtues to those of you who will henceforth be widows, let me sum them up in one short admonition: To a woman not to show more weakness than is natural to her sex is a great glory, and not to be talked about for good or for evil among men.

“I have paid the required tribute, in obedience to the law, making use of such fitting words as I had. The tribute of deeds has been paid in part; for the dead have been honorably interred, and it remains only that their children should be maintained at the public charge until they are grown up: this is the solid prize with which, as with a garland, Athens crowns her sons, living and dead, after a struggle like theirs. For where the rewards of virtue are greatest, there the noblest citizens are enlisted in the service of the State. And now, when you have duly lamented, every one his own dead, you may depart.”

229We next present the sketch of a sermon by Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, and part of the sermon itself. This is the more instructive, as the plan was prepared substantially in the way we have advised, and the sermon preached extemporaneously from it.

[From Homiletic Monthly, Nov., 1882.]
Pulpit Notes used by Spurgeon.
John xvii, 26.
Our Lord praying with His disciples at the last.
This the climax of the prayer.
In the deep, scratching the ground, get a harvest.
Here the final word is love and union with “I.”
Lord, what a subject.

It will be noticed that the preacher’s subject is Christ and love dwelling in the human heart; the object is to induce those who have this love to appreciate it more highly, and all others to seek it. We give only the introduction and the third division (which is also the conclusion), together with a part of the first division, as the whole discourse is too long to be quoted here. It may be added that these notes and the development of these parts are fair specimens of the manner in which the great London preacher prepares and delivers his discourses.

Text.—I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith Thou has loved me may be in them, and I in them.—John xvii, 26.

“For several Sabbath mornings my mind has been directed into subjects which I might fitly call the deep things of God. I think I have never felt my own incompetence more fully than in trying to handle such subjects. It is a soil into which one may dig and dig as deep as ever you will, and still never exhaust the golden 231nuggets which lie within it. I am, however, comforted by this fact, that these subjects are so fruitful that even we who can only scratch the surface of them shall yet get a harvest from them. I read once of the plains of India that they were so fertile that you had only to tickle them with the hoe and they laughed with plenty; and surely such a text as this may be described as equally fruitful, even under our feeble husbandry. Pearls lie on the surface here as well as in the depth. We have only to search its surface, and stir the soil a little, and we shall be astonished at the plentitude of spiritual wealth which lies before us. Oh! that the Spirit of God may help us to enjoy the blessed truths which are herein set forth! Here is the priceless treasure, but it lies hid till He reveals it to us.

“You see, this text is taken out of our Lord’s last prayer with His disciples. He did as good as say, ‘I am about to leave you; I am about to die for you; and for a while you will not see me; but now, before we separate, let us pray.’ It is one of those impulses that you have felt yourselves. When you have been about to part from those you love, to leave them, perhaps, in danger and difficulty, you have felt you could do no less than say, ‘Let us draw nigh unto God.’ Your heart found no way of expressing itself at all so fitting, so congenial, so satisfactory, as to draw near unto the great Father and spread the case before Him. Now a prayer from such a one as Jesus, our Lord and Master—a prayer in such a company, with the eleven whom He had chosen, and who had consorted with Him from the beginning, a prayer under such circumstances, when He 232was just on the brink of the brook of Cedron, and was about to cross that gloomy stream and go up to Calvary, and there lay down His life—such a prayer as this; so living, earnest, loving, and divine, deserves the most studious meditations of all believers. I invite you to bring hither your best thoughts and skill for the navigation of this sea. It is not a creek or bay, but the main ocean itself. We cannot hope to fathom its depths. This is true of any sentence of this matchless prayer, but for me the work of exposition becomes unusually heavy, because my text is the close and climax of this marvelous supplication, it is the central mystery of all. In the lowest depth there is still a lower deep, and this verse is one of those deeps which still exceed the rest. Oh! how much we want the Spirit of God! Pray for His bedewing; pray that His balmy influences may descend upon us richly now.

“You will observe that the last word of our Lord’s prayer is concerning love. This is the last petition which He offers, ‘That the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.’ He reaches no greater height than this, namely, that His people be filled with the Father’s love. How could He rise higher? For this is to be filled with all the fullness of God, since God is love, and he that loveth dwelleth in God and God in him. What importance ought you and I attach to the grace of love! How highly we should esteem that which Jesus makes the crown jewel of all. If we have faith, let us not be satisfied unless our faith worketh by love and purifieth the soul. Let us not be content, indeed, until the love of Christ is shed abroad in our 233hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Well did the poet say,

‘Only love to us be given;
Lord, we ask no other Heaven;’

for indeed there is no other Heaven below, and scarcely is there any other Heaven above than to reach to the fullness of perfect love. This is where the prayer of the Son of David ends, in praying ‘that the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them.’ What a subject! The highest that even our Lord Jesus reached in His noblest prayer. Again with groanings my heart cries, Holy Spirit, help!

“I. First, the food of love to God: What is it? It is knowledge. ‘I have made known unto them Thy name, and will make it known.’ We cannot love a God whom we do not know; a measure of knowledge is needful to affection. However lovely God may be, a man blind of soul cannot perceive Him, and therefore is not touched by His loveliness. Only when the eyes are opened to behold the loveliness of God will the heart go out toward God, who is so desirable an object for the affections. Brethren, we must know in order to believe; we must know in order to hope; and we must especially know in order to love. Hence the great desirableness that you should know the Lord and His great love which passeth knowledge. You cannot reciprocate love which you have never known, even as a man cannot derive strength from food which he has not eaten. Till first of all the love of God has come into your heart, and you have been made a partaker of it, you cannot rejoice 234in it or return it. Therefore our Lord took care to feed His disciples’ hearts upon the Father’s name. He labored to make the Father known to them. This is one of His great efforts with them, and He is grieved when He sees their ignorance and has to say to one of them, ‘Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?’ Study much, then, the word of God: be diligent in turning the pages of Scripture and in hearing God’s true ministers, that the flame of love within your hearts may be revived by the fuel of holy knowledge which you place upon it. Pile on the logs of sandal wood, and let the perfumed fires burn before the Lord. Heap on the handfuls of frankincense and sweet odors of sacred knowledge, that on the altar of your heart there may always be burning the sacred flame of love to God in Christ Jesus.

“The knowledge here spoken of is a knowledge which Jesus gave them. ‘I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it.’ O beloved! it is not knowledge that you and I pick up as a matter of book-learning that will ever bring out our love to the Father: it is knowledge given us by Christ through His Spirit. It is not knowledge communicated by the preacher alone which will bless you; for, however much he may be taught of God himself, he cannot preach to the heart unless the blessed Spirit of God comes and takes of the things that are spoken, and reveals them and makes them manifest to each individual heart, so 235that in consequence it knows the Lord. Jesus said, ‘O righteous Father! the world hath not known Thee!’ and you and I would have been in the same condition, strangers to God, without God and without hope in the world, if the Spirit of God had not taken of divine things and applied them to our souls so that we are made to know them. Every living word of knowledge is the work of the living God. If you only know what you have found out for yourself, or picked up by your own industry apart from Jesus, you know nothing aright: it must be by the direct and distinct teaching of God the Holy Ghost that you must learn to profit. Jesus Christ alone can reveal the Father. He Himself said: ‘No man cometh unto the Father but by me.’ He that knows not Christ knows not the Father, but when Jesus Christ reveals Him, ah! then we do know Him after a special, personal, peculiar, inward knowledge. This knowledge brings with it a life and a love with which the soul is not puffed up, but built up. By such knowledge we grow up into Him in all things who is our head, being taught of the Son of God.

“This knowledge, dear friends, comes to us gradually. The text indicates this: ‘I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it.’ As if, though they knew the Father, there was far more to know and the Lord Jesus was resolved to teach them more. Are you growing in knowledge, my brothers and sisters? My labor is lost if you are not growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I hope you know much more of God than you did twenty years ago when first you came to Him. That little 236knowledge which you received by grace when you found ‘life in a look at the Crucified One’ has saved you; but in these after years you have added to your faith knowledge, and to your knowledge experience; you have gone on to know more deeply what you knew before, and to know the details of what you seemed to know in the gross and the lump at first. You have come to look into things as well as upon things—a look at Christ saves, but oh! it is the look into Christ that wins the heart’s love and holds it last and binds us to Him as with fetters of gold. We ought every day to be adding something to this inestimably precious store, that as we are known of God so we may know God, and become thereby transformed from glory unto glory through His Spirit.

“Are you not thankful for this blessed word of the Lord Jesus: ‘I will declare it,’ ‘I will make it known’? He did do so at His resurrection, when He taught His people things they knew not before; but He did so much more after He had ascended up on high when the Spirit of God was given. ‘He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.’ And now to-day in the hearts of His people He is daily teaching us something that we do not know. All our experience tends that way. When the Spirit of God blesses an affliction to us, it is one of the Saviour’s illuminated books out of which we learn something more of the Father’s name, and consequently come to love Him better: for that is the thing Christ aims at. He would so make known the Father, that the love wherewith the Father had 237loved Him may be in us, and that He Himself may be in us.

This knowledge distinguishes us from the world. It is the mark by which the elect are made manifest. In the sixth verse of this chapter our Lord says: ‘I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest me out of the world. Thine they were, and Thou gavest them me; and they have kept Thy word.’ The world does not know the Father, and cannot know Him, for it abides in the darkness and death of sin. Judge yourselves, therefore, by this sure test, and let the love which grows out of gracious knowledge be a token for good unto you.

“III. Thirdly, here is THE COMPANION OF LOVE. ‘I in them.’ Look at the text a minute and just catch those two words. Here is ‘love’ and ‘I’—love and Christ come together. O blessed guests! ‘Love and I,’ says Christ; as if He felt He never had a companion that suited Him better. ‘Love’ and ‘I:’ Jesus is ever at home where love is reigning. When love lives in His people’s hearts, Jesus lives there too. Does Jesus, then, live in the hearts of His people? Yes, wherever there is the love of the Father shed abroad in them He must be there. We have His own word for it, and we are sure that Jesus knows where He is.

“We are sure that He is where love is; for, first, where there is love there is life, and where there is life there is Christ, for He Himself says, ‘I am the life.’ There is no true life in the believer’s soul that is divided from Christ. We are sure of that; so that where there 238is love there is life, and where there is life there is Christ. Again, where there is the love of God in the heart there is the Holy Spirit; but wherever the Holy Spirit is, there is Christ, for the Holy Spirit is Christ’s representative; and it is in that sense that He tells us, ‘Lo, I am with you alway,’ namely, because the Spirit is come to be always with us. So where there is love, there is the Spirit of God; and where there is the Spirit of God, there is Christ. So it is always, ‘Love and I.’

“Furthermore, where there is love there is faith, for faith worketh by love, and there never was true love to Christ apart from faith; but where there is faith there is always Christ, for if there is faith in Him He has been received into the soul. Jesus is ever near to that faith which has Himself for its foundation and resting place. Where there is love there is faith, where there is faith there is Christ, and so it is ‘Love and I.’

“Ay, but where there is the Father’s love toward Christ in the heart God Himself is there. I am sure of that, for God is love. So if there is love within us there must be God, and where God is there Christ is, for He saith, ‘I and my Father are one.’ So you see where there is love there must be Jesus Christ, for these reasons and for many others besides.

“’I in them.’ Yes, if I were commanded to preach for seven years from these three words only, I should never exhaust the text, I am quite certain. I might exhaust you by my dullness, and exhaust myself by labor to tell out the sacred secret, but I should never exhaust the text. ‘I in them.’ It is the most blessed word I know of. You, beloved, need not go abroad to 239find the Lord Jesus Christ. Where does He live? He lives within you. ‘I in them.’ As soon as ever you pray you are sure He hears you, because He is within you. He is not knocking at your door; He has entered into you, and there He dwells, and will go no more out forever.

“What a blessed sense of power this gives to us. ‘I in them.’ Then it is no more ‘I’ in weakness, but, since Jesus dwells in me, ‘I can do all things through Christ that strengthened me.’ ‘I in them.’ It is the glory of the believer that Christ dwells in him. ‘Unto you that believe He is precious.’

“Hence we gather the security of the believer. Brother, if Christ be in me, and I am overcome, Christ is conquered too, for He is in me. ‘I in them.’ I cannot comprehend the doctrine of believers falling from grace. If Christ has once entered into them, will He not abide with them? Paul saith, ‘I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ To that persuasion I set my hand and seal. Well, then, if Christ is in us, whatever happens to us will happen to Him. We shall be losers if we do not get to Heaven; but so will He be, for He is in us, and so is a partaker of our condition. If it is an indissoluble union—and so He declares it is—‘I in them,’ then His destiny and ours are linked together; and if He wins the victory we conquer in Him: If He sits at the right hand of God we shall sit at the right hand of God with Him, for He is in us.

240“I know not what more to say, not because I have nothing more, but because I do not know which to bring forward out of a thousand precious things; but I leave the subject with you. Go home and live in the power of this blessed text. Go home and be as happy as you can be to live, and if you get a little happier that will not hurt you, for then you will be in Heaven. Keep up unbroken joy in the Lord. It is not ‘I in them’ for Sundays, and away on Mondays; ‘I in them’ when they sit in the Tabernacle, and out of them when they reach home. No, ‘I in them’ and that forever and forever. Go and rejoice. Show this blind world that you have a happiness which as much outshines theirs as the sun outshines the sparks which fly from the chimney and expire. Go forth with joy and be led forth with peace; let the mountains and the hills break forth before you into singing:

‘All that remains for me
Is but to love and sing,
And wait until the angels come,
To bear me to the King.’

“’Oh! but I have my troubles.’ I know you have your troubles, but they are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in you, nor even with your present glory. I feel as if I could not think about troubles, nor sins, nor anything else when I once behold the love of God to me. When I feel my love to Christ, which is but God’s love to Christ, burning within my soul, then I glory in tribulation, for the power of God shall be through these afflictions made 241manifest in me. ‘I in them.’ God bless you with the knowledge of this mystery, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

Our third example is the outline of that grand inaugural discourse of the Christian religion found in the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of St. Matthew. The Sermon on the Mount is too familiar to need reproduction here, but the outline will show how regular it is in structure, and how closely it conforms to the laws which govern discourses.

The subject is the distinction between the Spiritual Kingdom Christ then set up, and the Jewish State, of which His hearers were still members.

The object is to induce His hearers to enter immediately into this new and better Kingdom.

Plan of the Sermon on the Mount.

Conclusion.—The whole subject illustrated by the evil consequences of building a house upon a foundation of sand, and the good consequences of building it upon a rock.


Illustrations, Pathos, Humor.

All popular and effective discourses must possess at least one of the above qualities. In ordinary speeches they do not present themselves spontaneously, but must be sought out with diligence and perseverance. Some speakers find it easy to sparkle with illustrations and to indulge in humor and pathos, but others can only succeed in that direction with painful toil. We wish now to consider a few of the methods by which they can be secured when they do not present themselves spontaneously.

The need of abundant illustrations has been felt in all kinds of address and many efforts have been made to supply them. A number of books have been published in which illustrations have been gathered from a wide range of literature, and catalogued for use. The speaker may employ these cautiously with great profit; and no longing for an originality, which, after all, can never be absolute, should deter him. The labor of searching for one or two illustrations of an important thought may be greater than that devoted to the preparation of the whole speech, but it is labor very profitably employed. While thinking what any particular thing 244is like, our conception of the thing itself and of all the ideas that cluster around it, will become much more vivid. Even the illustrations we reject may have great value in sharpening our conceptions of the difference between the thing investigated and all other things of a similar character.

But it is not enough to search for similes and figures among ready-made selections. All we know, hear, and read, may be passed in mental review for the purpose of seeing what truth it will vividly set forth. If we assume that our speeches must be illustrated, and spend much time in seeking for good illustrations, changing those we have used for better ones whenever possible, we will come to “think double,” that is, to see the likeness that exist in all objects to something else. The habit of doing this grows with practice. If we pass our addresses in review asking ourselves, “What points did we fail to make strong and intelligible for want of good illustrations?” we will be able both to see our defects in this line and the means of remedying them. There should be a very careful record of these treasures made, for with the majority of speakers nothing else is so precious.

Scraps from newspapers, sentences copied into common-place books, all kinds of memoranda which direct attention to a happy figure heard in conversation, encountered in reading, or thought of, will be exceedingly valuable.

245It is possible to have too many illustrations, but for one speaker who labors under this disadvantage nine have not enough. A bad illustration—one which is cloudy, tame, in bad taste, or which does not illuminate or enforce some part of our subject—is worse than none at all. It should be thrown out and its place supplied with something better.

The power to touch the heart, and as an evidence of deep feeling to cause tears to flow, is greatly sought by orators, and, strange as it may seem, is highly enjoyed by audiences. There is a luxury in aroused feeling, and multitudes will throng to the church or hall where they are made to weep. If the effort for such effects is carried too far, it will become unmanly and maudlin; but in proper bounds it is a genuine oratorical resource. How shall a reasonable degree of pathos be brought into our discourses?

Incidents which involve great or heroic suffering and self-sacrifices, if well told, with a direct bearing upon the general theme, seldom fail to make a deep impression. They are often invented by the speaker, but while that device may not always be worthy of condemnation, its expediency is questionable. Reality has far more power than fiction. There is so much of suffering and sorrow in the world, and so much of heroic struggle against it, that if our addresses fairly reflect this “world-tragedy” the highest pathos will be realized. Keen, 246quick observation and a really sympathetic nature on the part of the speaker will show him where to find the materials to move the hearts of his hearers. But while using such materials he must retain command of his own feelings. To be truly successful in the use of pathos he must give a reasonable foundation for the emotion he wishes to evoke, and then be able to turn the aroused feeling into some channel which will justify the pain caused.

Humor is intimately associated with pathos by the law of opposites. One is almost the direct reaction from the other, and after one has been evoked the other follows more easily than it would at another time. The spirit of humor is valuable in all forms of address, but in some—notably in the political arena and on the platform—it is invaluable. Its range is vast. It may be so rude and uncouth as to lessen the dignity of discourse, or it may be of the most refined character. While it cannot be relied upon as an argument, yet if a good argument is employed and then clenched by a humorous story or allusion of perfect appropriateness, much is gained. To make an audience laugh at the positions of an opponent, at least prepares the way for refuting him.

This quality may be cultivated by seeking out and enjoying the humorous element which is found in everything. We ought to be able to laugh at all that is ludicrous, without in the least losing our respect and 247veneration for what is good. Everything coarse and evil should be rejected from our minds instantly, however humorous; but all the really funny things, which can by any possibility be pressed into the service of speech, should be carefully noted and remembered. Abraham Lincoln owed no small part of his popular power to his marvelous fund of humorous illustrations. More than one noted preacher has given a keener edge to truth by the same means.

Extemporaneous speech furnishes much better opportunity than written for the acquirement of all these elements of power. When a speech is once written it is finished. But when merely planned and outlined, all stories, quotations, incidents, and happy turns of language discovered afterward, may be noted on the written plan, or slipped into an envelope with it, and afterward used at any time without the labor necessary to adjust them to a manuscript discourse.


The Orator’s Logic.

Logic is either one of the most useful or one of the most useless acquisitions of the orator. As taught in the middle ages, with its barbarous jargon of symbols and terms, it can add but little directly to the force or truth of any man’s speech, although even in that form it may, like most other studies, accomplish something in the way of sharpening the critical faculty and strengthening memory and attention. Its definitions, also, are not altogether valueless. But not one student in a thousand will apply its cumbrous rules in shaping his own reasoning, or in judging of the reasoning of others. If the reader has studied logic his own experience may be confidently appealed to. Do you ever, in reading an argument, notice to which figure and mood of the syllogism it conforms? If the argument seems false, do you ever seek to find whether the fault is in negative promises, want of distribution of the middle term, or in the violation of any other technical rule of logic? The mind has a much more direct and summary mode for disposing of unsatisfactory arguments.

But the principles of logic are few and simple, and when divested of all technicality, are of universal application. 249We will venture to point out some that may be of especial service to the speaker:

1st. Clear definition. The speaker should know the meaning of his subject and of all the important terms used in connection with it. This knowledge he should convey to his hearers in the most clear and striking manner that his own powers will permit. To have an audience misunderstand the speaker so far that while he was talking of one thing they are understanding something totally different (even if known by the same name) would be a grave logical fault. Exact and comprehensive definition, often enlivened and simplified by similes or anecdotes, will prevent such danger.

2d. Exact and comprehensive division of a subject is scarcely less important than clear definition. This is of equal value in studying a subject and in presenting it to an audience. If we wished to speak or learn about the ocean, one of the first facts to be dealt with would be its division into five parts—Atlantic, Pacific, etc. A good principle of division should always be selected and faithfully applied. Then as many subdivisions may be added as naturally follow from the application of another good principle of division. Thus, astronomy may be first defined as “the science of the stars.” Then it can be divided into planetary and stellar astronomy. The former may be subdivided into descriptions of the individual planets and other bodies in the solar system; the latter into the 250classes of objects found among the fixed stars. All of this is not a rhetorical or oratorical device, but has its foundation in mental laws; in other words, it is logical.

3d. Classification lies at the foundation of many of the sciences, and is a process of the highest importance in every domain of knowledge. In no other manner can the vast multitude of facts discovered by millions of observing eyes be preserved and made useful. The orator must also classify his general knowledge, and that special part of it which he intends to use for a speech. All his proofs, appeals, illustrative facts, and even his digressions should be arranged according to those natural bonds of congruity which constitute the basis of all classification.

But in what way can the person who is ignorant of technical logic make a harmonious classification? It will not add much to his ability to tell him that two processes—abstraction and generalization—are the basis of all true classification. It is simpler and means the same to say that things should be classed together which agree in some permanent and fundamental quality. Thus a vast number of animals of the most varied sizes, shapes, and powers, agree in having backbones and are therefore put into a class and called vertebrates. The study of agreements and similarities in things the most diverse is exceedingly profitable to the orator in many different ways. It affords inexhaustible material for illustrations—“those 251windows of speech.” The difference between the likeness upon which classification and illustrations are based is about as follows: The similarities which give rise to scientific classes are very important and essential; those from which illustrations spring may be slight and superficial.

These three processes are of more importance to the orator than any others embraced in logic. There is nothing “dry” or “repulsive” about them—terms quite frequently applied to discourses which turn aside from their own direct purpose to display the mere machinery of reasoning. By division a distinct impression is made of each part of a subject; by definition all misunderstandings are cleared away and attention fixed upon the very points at issue; by classification all thoughts find their proper places and are so gathered up into general ideas and joined with other familiar thoughts, by way of illustration, that they may easily be remembered and applied.

But how about the syllogism which logical treatises devote so much time to explaining? Its many varieties and endless transformations wrought out by acute minds from the time of Aristotle to the present, are curious and interesting, but they are not specially available for a speaker. Yet, since they rest upon a few easily understood principles, we will refer to the most obvious.

If two things each resemble a third it is certain that 252they also resemble each other. If one thing equals a second, but does not equal a third, then the second and third do not equal each other.

In the syllogism two comparisons are made and the resulting agreement or disagreement is expressed in the conclusion. Thus:

Corrupt men are bad citizens.
Men buying or selling votes are corrupt men.
Therefore, men buying or selling votes are bad citizens.

Here the class of corrupt men agrees with the class of bad citizens; it also agrees with the class who buy or sell votes; now, as it agrees with each of the two classes, it is certain that those two classes also agree with each other. This is the plain form of the syllogism.

The following is an instance of disagreement:

Good citizens are patriotic men.
Traitors are not patriotic.
Therefore, traitors are not good citizens.

When an agreement and disagreement are thus stated in the first and second lines, the result stated in the third line must be a disagreement. But if the first and second lines both state disagreements no result can be drawn, for there is more than one mode of disagreement. This may be illustrated by the case of two witnesses to the 253same circumstance. If both tell the truth their stories will agree; if one tells the truth and the other does not, their stories disagree; but if neither tells the truth, their stories may or may not agree—that is, they may tell the same falsehood or different kinds of falsehood.

In the syllogism it is necessary to see that the comparisons made are real and not fictitious. False logic or fallacies arise where a comparison seems to be made which is not real. Part of one thing or class may be compared with the whole of another, and then an agreement affirmed or denied for the whole of the two things or classes, and this fatal fault in reasoning may be very carefully concealed. It can usually be detected by turning around the sentence in which the defective comparison is made. Thus:

Men are animals.
Horses are animals.
Therefore, men are horses.

This seems to be a perfectly fair specimen of correct syllogisms. But in the first line the class “men” is compared with only a part of the class “animals,” and in the second line the whole of the class “horses” is compared with another part of the class “animals,” and as the comparison is not restricted to the same objects no statement of agreement or disagreement can be made. We detect the insufficiency of the comparison by saying, 254it is true that all men are animals, but not true that all animals are men.

Another mode of making a seeming comparison without the reality is by using words in unlike senses. Thus:

All light bodies dispel darkness.
A bag of feathers is a light body.
Therefore, a bag of feathers will dispel darkness.

To guard against this and all similar fallacies it is only necessary to notice whether the comparison is fair and complete. Practice will give great expertness in doing this, even when the comparison is implied rather than expressed.

Indeed, the greater part of reasoning lies outside the range of formal logic. The orator who would reduce each argument to a syllogistic form would be considered a clown endeavoring to make sport of, or for his audience. A statement is often made which depends for its validity upon a comparison or even a series of comparisons either flashing through the mind at the moment, or recalled as having previously been made. To this there can be no objection, provided such comparisons are obvious and indisputable. If a chain of reasoning rests upon the understanding that all men desire to be happy, it will be just as forcible as if that truism were stated or proved. Anything which an audience 255will accept without question is only weakened by the processes of proof. Something must be taken for granted in all kinds of argument, and the wider the domain of such assumptions can be fairly made the better for the interest and effectiveness of the arguments which follow.

A syllogism in which one of the essential parts is left to be supplied in the mind is called an enthymeme, and is the most common of all forms of reasoning. Whenever we state a fact, and adduce a reason for that fact, it takes this form. As an instance, we may give the beatitudes in the fifth chapter of St. Matthew. In each we have a declaration made and a reason given for that declaration, but that reason would have no necessary validity were it not for a well-understood principle, upon which, in each case, it is founded. When it is said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” we mentally add, or concede even without thinking it, “whoever has the kingdom of heaven is blessed.”

The same declaration may be put in logical form, thus:

Whoever possesses the kingdom of heaven is blessed.
The poor in spirit possess the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore, they are blessed.

It will be noticed that in all the beatitudes the syllogism 256is inverted, the conclusion coming first (which also is placed in an inverted form), while the major premise is left to be mentally supplied.

Another instance may be given of this most common of all the syllogistic forms—the only one of which the orator makes very frequent use.

It is stated, “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God;” the reader mentally supplies, “and those who see God are blessed.”

Or in syllogistic form:

Those who see God are blessed.
The pure in heart see God.
Therefore, the pure in heart are blessed.

The great frequency of the enthymeme is explained by the very nature of reasoning, which—at least in the case of the true orator—ever proceeds from the known to the unknown. One of our propositions should either be self-evident or tacitly conceded; it need not therefore be expressed. The other must be brought out fully and proved by appropriate evidence, and from these two foundations we draw out the conclusion, or, what is only another way of accomplishing the same purpose, we state the conclusion and then give a reason for it, which itself rests upon another reason mentally supplied. We may test the correctness of the process by inquiring if the unexpressed reason be of the nature of a necessary, 257or at least of a generally received, truth; then, if the expressed reason is supported by impregnable evidence (which in the case of the beatitudes is the authority of Teacher Himself); and finally, if the conclusion inevitably results from the union of the two preceding parts.

Much might be said of fallacies and their various forms, but the student who has not time to pursue a full course of logic would find little profit in such a brief sketch as is here possible. It will be enough to point out that all false reasoning involves a violation of some logical rules, the simplest and most useful of which we have already pointed out. The orator who carefully defines his terms, who watches every comparison to see if it is real and not merely pretended, who refuses to accept a plausible statement for a universal truth, who notices what an argument takes for granted as carefully as what it states, will not be likely to commit glaring errors himself, or to be led into them by others.

In controversy a most important logical direction may be given. Strive to ascertain just the standpoint of the audience in regard to your subject. Every speaker has much in common with his hearers, and if he would convince or persuade them he must start from that common position.

In doing this there is no compromise of principle. It is simply leaving out of view points of difference until points of agreement are explored. From these an 258argument, as strong as logic can make it, should lead to the conclusion either in thought or action to which you wish your audience conducted. The eminent Methodist missionary, Rev. Wm. Taylor, in speaking to the heathen of Africa, used first to dwell upon those things in their belief which were common with his own, giving them credit for trying to worship the true God as well as they could, and then declaring that he came to them with a fuller revelation from the same source. In this way he persuaded thousands to accept his guidance and believe the Bible, who would have been utterly repelled if he had first attacked their superstitions, and tried to show that they were wrong in everything. In the same manner every masterly persuader of men must proceed. Seeking out all that he regards as true in their opinions and beliefs, he will waste no time in proving what they already believe, or in persuading them to do what they are already engaged in, but will show them other things which necessarily follow from what they already admit. St. Paul, on Mars’ Hill, got a great logical advantage by his reference to the Unknown God, and from this starting place he worked his way carefully to the new truth which he had to declare. A political orator may simply abuse the opposite party; but he makes no converts and wins no enduring laurels by that method. If he will strive to understand the position of his opponents and then from the great principles regarding government, 259which all parties hold in common, proceed to show that the side he advocates carries out those principles to their legitimate result, he may change votes, and will be sought for where the empty declamation of one who pursues the opposite course would be felt as a hindrance rather than a help. “What do you do when you have no case at all?” said one lawyer to another. “Oh!” was the reply, “I abuse the opposite counsel.” This was only a mode of covering a retreat, and may have answered that purpose well enough after the battle had been lost; but as long as there is any hope of convincing the judge or winning the jury, such abuse is worse than useless. The advocate should not, however, take his opponent’s view of the subject at issue as the groundwork of his argument, but that which he believes the jury to entertain. Success in this instance is not won by convincing an opponent, but by bringing over to his views that body of men in the jury-box who are supposed to be impartial, but who always have their mode of viewing any given subject—a mode which an ingenious and observant advocate will not be slow to discover.

There are three phases of any controverted question which the orator who will discuss it successfully needs to study. He should know and estimate justly all that a determined opponent of his own view can advance. Nothing is gained by failing to appreciate the strength 260and plausibility of an adversary’s position. Complete justice to an enemy is often the first step to complete victory over him. Then the position of that part of an audience—possibly few in numbers, but from the logical standpoint exceedingly important—who are in suspense, and as ready to fall to one side as the other, ought to be fully weighed. The more perfectly intellectual sympathy exists between them and the orator, the more likely is he to bring them over to his own party. And this is the great object to be aimed at. Pronounced opponents are not often converted. “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” The attention directed to them is really for the sake of the doubtful class who may, unless resistance is offered, be won over by their efforts.

Some attention may also properly be given by the speaker to confirming his own party by showing them the solid grounds upon which their opinions rest. But usually the same arguments which are likely to decide the wavering will best accomplish this purpose also. Beginning with a simple but clearly defined statement of those principles or facts upon which he intends to base his arguments, and about which no difference of opinion is possible, he shows clearly that the opinions he and his friends hold must follow from the grounds already conceded. This should be set forth as the establishment of positive truth rather than as the refutation 261of any errors; then, when the waverers have been convinced and his own party strongly confirmed, he may, with advantage, show the weakness and absurdity of the position of those who hold opposed views. Such a course pursued by an able reasoner who really has truth on his side, which he thoroughly understands, will seldom fail to win all whose minds are open to conviction.

It is to these broad principles and to the careful study of all aspects of the questions he has to treat, rather than to the refinements of mediæval logic, that we would direct the orator’s attention. Whoever will follow the course prescribed in preceding chapters, carefully arranging the outline of his address, mastering all his material, and speaking the language of his own convictions, will be truly logical, and such logic carried to the highest degree will take nothing from any other grace either of form or substance that belongs to oratory.


After the Speech.

When a fervent and successful discourse has been concluded there comes a feeling of inexpressible relief. The burden of an important speech rests with accumulating force upon the mind from the time the subject is chosen until it becomes well-nigh intolerable. When speech actually begins every power is called into play and exerted to its utmost capacity. The excitement of the conflict hurries the speaker on, and although he may not at the time realize the gigantic exertions put forth, yet when he pauses at length, perhaps exhausted, but with the victory won, the sense of rest, relief, and security, is exceedingly delightful.

After such an effort both mind and body do need rest. There are speakers who profess to feel no fatigue after an hour’s labor, but these are seldom in the front rank of orators. If the soul has been aroused and all the man’s faculties bent to the accomplishment of a great purpose, relaxation is often followed by a sense of utter prostration. Nothing better for the moment can be advised than to abandon one’s self to the luxury of utter repose. Social intercourse and all distractions should as far as possible be avoided. If circumstances permit, a 263short sleep, if but for a few minutes, will afford great relief; and in most cases sleep will come if wisely courted.

After resting, it is well to ponder closely the lessons derived from each new experience in speaking. To indulge in exultation over success or to lament over failure is not profitable. The speaker is not a perfect judge of either. He has probably done the best he could at the time, and there the case should rest, except so far as he sees the need or the means of future improvement.

But judgment of success or failure cannot easily be avoided. If the speaker’s standard is low, he may pass beyond it without accomplishing anything worthy of high praise: or if he is despondent in nature he may have expected little and may now feel correspondingly elated because he has exceeded his very moderate expectations. But it is a curious fact that speakers are often least pleased with their best speeches. In the mightiest efforts of the mind the standard is placed very high—perhaps beyond the possibility of attainment—and the speaker works with his eyes fixed upon that summit, and probably, after all his exertions, sees it shining still far above him. His ideas are but half expressed; he is mortified that there should be such a difference between conception and realization. But his hearers have been led over untrodden fields of thought, and knowing nothing of the grander heights still above the 264orator’s head, they are naturally filled with enthusiasm, and cannot enter into the feelings of the speaker if he is foolish enough to tell them of his disappointment.

This is the reason that we are least able to judge of the success of speeches that have been long meditated and thoroughly prepared. The subject expands as we study, its outlines becoming grander and vaster until they pass beyond our power of adequate representation. Each separate thought in the whole discussion that is fully mastered becomes familiar, and is not, therefore, valued at its true worth. Sometimes, when we begin to speak with little thought, intending to give only easy and common views of the subject, everything appears fresh before us, and if some striking ideas arise, their novelty gives them three-fold value, and we imagine that we have made a great speech. All this constitutes no argument against diligent preparation, but it should stimulate us to bring up our powers of expression more nearly to the level of our conceptions.

There should never be extreme discouragement over an apparent failure. Some good end may be reached even by a very poor speech. One evening the writer preached when weary and almost unprepared. From first to last the effort was painful, and to prevent absolute failure the intended plan had to be abandoned, and detached thoughts from any source thrown in. Yet that discourse, which was scarcely worthy of the name, 265elicited warmer approval and did more apparent good than any one preached for several previous months. One or two fortunate illustrations redeemed every defect, so far as the audience (but not the speaker) was concerned.

Whatever judgment we may entertain of our own performances, it is not usually wise to tell our hearers, or to ask their opinions. Criticisms spontaneously offered need not be repulsed, but all seeking for commendation is childish or disgusting. It is sweet to hear our efforts praised, and most of men can bear an amount of flattery addressed to themselves which would be insufferable if offered to others; but this disposition, if much indulged, becomes ungovernable and exposes us to well-deserved ridicule. It is pitiable to see a man who has been uttering wise and eloquent words afterward stooping to beg crusts of indiscriminating flattery from his hearers.

Whenever there is a probability that any discourse will be repeated, it is well to review it soon after delivery, while its impression is still fresh upon the mind, and if any defect appears, amend it in the plan, and add to the same plan all the valuable ideas that have been suggested during the speech or afterward. In this manner we keep each discourse up to the high watermark of our ability.

Some orators are accustomed to write their speeches 266out in full after delivery. When the theme is important and time permits, this is a good exercise, but in many—perhaps the majority of cases—the labor would outweigh the profit.

No such objection applies to reviewing and correcting a verbatim report of our speeches. To many speakers such a review of the exact words they have uttered would be a striking and not altogether pleasing revelation. Pet phrases, which might otherwise be unnoticed for years; faults of expression, and especially the profuseness of words, in which extemporaneous speakers are tempted to indulge;—would all be forced upon our notice. We would be surprised to learn that we could often write the discourse in one-fourth the words employed in delivery. To form the habit of thus condensing our speeches after delivery would have a powerful tendency toward compacting thought in speech itself. The only hindrance in applying this capital means of improvement consists in the difficulty of obtaining such shorthand reports. Where this cannot be overcome a part of the advantage may be gained by taking the plan and from it writing out the same kind of a compact presentation of the thoughts as uttered. This differs from writing in full by making no effort to record exact words or forms of expression, but only to recall from memory and from the sketch the exact thoughts that were expressed in the language of the moment. Even 267if the same kind of brief sketch has been made previous to the act of speech, this does not take the place of what we now recommend; for the former outline may have been greatly modified by the experience of delivery.

In whatever form the best result of the discourse is recorded, great care should be taken in its preservation. The plan, sketch, or fully written discourse may be slipped into an envelope (which may also contain all illustrative scraps, notes, or references to books that bear upon the discourse) and on the back may be written the title, time, and character of delivery, with any other facts of importance. If the young speaker will faithfully follow up such a method of recording the results of his oratorical experience, he will find it one of the best forms of discipline, and the record itself—carefully indexed, frequently reviewed, and kept within reasonable bulk—will in time possess a value greater than gold.




PRACTICAL ELOCUTION. By J. W. Shoemaker, A. M. This work, as its name imports, is a condensed yet comprehensive treatment of the whole subject of elocution, giving brief consideration to all the topics bearing upon natural expression, with, exercises illustrative of the several departments. 12mo. Cloth, 200 pages, $1.25.

ELOCUTIONIST’S ANNUAL. 11 Numbers now ready. Each number contains pieces suitable for the holidays, school exhibitions, lyceums and literary societies, private readings, anniversaries, church and Sunday-school gatherings, educational, temperance, and political meetings, and a large and varied list of selections for public and professional entertainments; and, as a supplementary reading-book, is especially adapted to the wants of higher classes in schools. 200 pages. Paper binding, 35 cents; cloth binding, 75 cents; green and gold, $1.00.

BEST THINGS FROM BEST AUTHORS. 3 Volumes. Each volume is composed of three numbers of The Elocutionist’s Annual in the order of issue, comprising the latest and best productions of the most popular English and American writers of to-day, together with the choicest selections of standard literature adapted to reading in public and private. 600 pages. Cloth binding, $1.50; green and gold, $2.00; flexible morocco, $2.50.

ORATORY. An able and instructive discourse by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. Limp cloth, 25 cents.

THE WHITE SUNLIGHT OF POTENT WORDS. A scholarly and eloquent oration on the characteristics of effective public delivery, by Dr. John S. MacIntosh. Limp cloth, 25 cents.


Table of Vocal Exercises. A small wall chart, 32×44 inches, handsomely mounted. This chart presents in outline the system of voice culture employed in this Institution, and will be found of very great practical value to teachers or students, and to all interested in this important field of art. Price, $2.00.

Outline of Elocution and Analysis of Principles. A large wall chart, 60×72 inches, handsomely mounted. The arrangement of this chart is striking and suggestive, and presents a clear and practical analysis of the whole subject. Price, $5.00.

The above publications for sale by all Booksellers and Newsdealers, or will be sent, post-paid, upon receipt of price by the publishers.

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National School of Elocution and Oratory,
(J. W. SHOEMAKER, A. M., Founder.)
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This Course has reference to the Oral Forms of Expression, and includes Theory and Practice in Conversation, Voice, Action, Reading, Dramatic Recitation, Oratory.

Instruction is this Course may be taken either in class or privately, day or evening.

Parliamentary Practice will be afforded throughout this Course and the Course in Oratory.


This Course has reference to a thorough Classical English Education, as well as to Effective Public Delivery. It includes prominently, Conversation, English Language, History, Rhetoric, Literature, Composition, Criticism, Critical Shakespeare, Logic, Mental Science, Moral Philosophy.

Students not wishing to take the entire Course in Oratory may arrange to pursue Special studies.

Quarterly terms of nine weeks each begin in October, December, February, and April. A summer term of six weeks begins in July.

For further particulars send for full descriptive catalogue of sixty pages.

JOHN H. BECHTEL, Secretary,
1416 and 1418 Chestnut Street,


  1. Changed “throat and long disease” to “throat and lung disease” on p. 195.
  2. Silently corrected typographical errors.
  3. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.