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Title: How to Become a Public Speaker - Showing the best manner of arranging thought so as to gain - conciseness, ease and fluency in speech
Author: Pittenger, William
Language: English
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                            HOW TO BECOME A


                       EASE, AND FLUENCY IN SPEECH

                            WILLIAM PITTENGER

                       THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY


       Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1886, by
    in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C.



                I. Can the Art of Speech be Learned?      5

               II. The Four Methods of Public Speech,    11

              III. An Embryo Speech, with Models,        24

               IV. Initial Fear and How to Overcome it,  40

                V. Utility of Debating Societies,        45

               VI. Thought and Emotion,                  51

              VII. Language,                             65

             VIII. Imagination,                          73

               IX. Voice and Gesture,                    78

                X. Confidence,                           89

               XI. The Pen and the Tongue,               99

              XII. Subject and Object,                  102

             XIII. Thought-Gathering,                   113

              XIV. Constructing a Plan,                 120

               XV. How shall the Written Plan be Used?  124

              XVI. The First Moment of Speech,          134

             XVII. The Introduction,                    143

            XVIII. Progress of the Speech,              154

              XIX. After the Speech,                    164

                               CHAPTER I.
                   CAN THE ART OF SPEECH BE LEARNED?

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 can 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 into 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 eloquence, 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
masters 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 understood by every person; 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 mode 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.

                              CHAPTER II.

“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 of 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; take 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:

 1. Reading.

 2. Recitation.

 3. Extemporizing.

 4. The composite method.

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 method 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 begins 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.

This 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 camp-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 the 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, with 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

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 hardship in the civil war led to a complete break-down 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 speaker. 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 the 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 out-gushing words. But those who are unwilling to
labor may as well lay down the book. We 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.

                              CHAPTER III.

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 rustic 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

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 schoolboy’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. A 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:




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. The 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 strongly 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.

After 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

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 time—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.

                           PLANS OF SPEECHES.

                             EXAMPLE FIRST.


  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

[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 improvised—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 brought 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.




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.

                            EXAMPLE 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

                       _The Same Plan Condensed._

                          SUBJECT.—THE OCEAN.




                          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.”

The 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 cause, 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 you 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

                  *       *       *       *       *

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!

                            ANTONY’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:

                            THE 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 in 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.

                              CHAPTER IV.

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 my 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, the
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.

A 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 of
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.

                               CHAPTER V.

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, is 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 topic 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
modified 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, and 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.

  CONCLUSION.—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

  _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.

                              CHAPTER VI.
                          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 veil 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. The 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

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.

How, 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 of 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 in 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 will 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, for 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
game 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
nature. 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 needs 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

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 before 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
said 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 failed 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

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. How
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.

                              CHAPTER VII.

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 men 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 in
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

_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 curious 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 the 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 question 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 words 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

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 language. 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.

                             CHAPTER VIII.

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 more 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
picturesque 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 is 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
        Turns 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.

                              CHAPTER IX.
                           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 expression 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 are 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 opposite 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 supple 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 naturalness 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 speech 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 reputation 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.

The 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 purpose 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 acquainted 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.

                               CHAPTER X.

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. When 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

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 wonderful, 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 schoolboy
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 to 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 when 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 fully 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 him 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 as 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

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, and 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 piece. 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

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.

                              CHAPTER XI.
                        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 might 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 for 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 shorthand reporters and amanuenses, this is but doing the same thing
under another form.

The principal purpose of the chapters that follow 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.

                              CHAPTER XII.
                          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 or 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.

First, 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 or 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, and 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 find, 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 common 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 great 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 really 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 foreign 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 _up_ 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.

                             CHAPTER XIII.

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 process,
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 then 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

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
should 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 prefer, 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 new
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 the 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

                              CHAPTER XIV.
                          CONSTRUCTING A PLAN.

The thoughts which have been gathered in the modes pointed out in the
last chapter are now to be arranged in the most effective order. It will
not usually do to begin a speech with those things we happen to first
think of, and proceed to others that are less obvious. This would lead
to an anti-climax fatal to eloquence. A speaker who adopted this mode
once complained that his speeches often seemed to taper to a very fine
point, and that he lost all interest in them before finishing. The
explanation was simple; he uttered first those thoughts which were
familiar to himself and came afterward to those which had been sought
out by more or less painful effort, and which seemed less certain and
valuable. The remedy for this fault is found in careful arrangement. The
most familiar thoughts will naturally be jotted down first, but it does
not follow that they should occupy the same place in the finished plan
of the speech.

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

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 outline 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
cannot 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 case, 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 to
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.

                              CHAPTER XV.

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 whose 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
might 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 about 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 arranged 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 speak 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 sense 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 from 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, to 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 read. 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.

                              CHAPTER XVI.
                      THE FIRST MOMENT OF SPEECH.

Having 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, and 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
light 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

There 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 of 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. Some 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 strength 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

“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 acquit 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 forth 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

                             CHAPTER XVII.
                           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 calm 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 level 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

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 once 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

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 Ins flock
again. But these are rare exceptions. The speaker about to make any kind
of an apology 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, but 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

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 skillful, 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 because I know thee to be expert in all customs and
questions which are among the Jews; wherefore, I beseech thee to hear me

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 high! 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 for 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 misbegun, 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 perfect 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 commonplace,
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.

                             CHAPTER XVIII.
                        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 the 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 commonplace 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

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 are 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, give 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 which 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, or 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 the 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 _talks_, 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.

There 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
vital, 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.

                              CHAPTER XIX.
                           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

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 short 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
orator’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

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, elicited
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

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 out 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 if 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.



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             By Lizzie J. Rook & Mr_s_. E. J. H. Goodfellow

                            For the Wee Ones

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                      THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY

                     923 Arch Street, Philadelphia


                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. Changed ‘long’ to ‘lung’ on p. 142.
 2. Silently corrected typographical errors.
 3. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.
 4. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.

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operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.