« AnteriorContinuar »
however conversant he is with it, can ever speak eloquently, unless he is acquainted with the mode of forming and polishing his discourse."" The mere
stringing together a number of facts, without attending to the order of arranging them and making them at once striking and pleasing, will produce comparatively little effect. I have heard persons speak at considerable length on important subjects, and even though the substance of their speeches was very good, and the information they possessed very extensive, yet, in consequence of not having studied the best mode of captivating the attention, and swaying their audiences round by degrees to consent to the justness of their views, they were made the objects of ridicule. It is of course the desire of an orator to make his speech impressive, and to work upon his auditors, but before this can be effected it will be necessary that he should become acquainted with the affections of men, in order to excite or soothe their passions: he should have an insinuating address, and polished manners, and a liberality, inseparable from a cultivated mind; his sentences should be so constructed as to flow on with dignity and ease: the speaker should have some end in view, of which he must never for a moment lose sight; he ought never to deviate into abstruse expressions, for this is only calculated to bewilder his hearers; and, above all, he must never wander out of the beaten track of common sense.
These are the requisites for a good speaker. to attain them-Hic labor, hoc opus est.
not to be had by merely wishing for them; it is necessary for an orator who would perfect himself, that he should study, and study hard. He should make himself well acquainted with the writings of those who have distinguished themselves for their elevated style of composition; he should attentively peruse the works of the most renowned poets, that he may gain lofty conceptions from them; he should read history and biography, that he may become acquainted with mankind, and lay in a store of useful facts; he must thoroughly understand that branch of philosophy which treats of the conduct and morals of mankind; and lastly, he must frequently read the splendid the immortal productions of the Greek and Roman orators: from the examples which these illustrious men have left to posterity, the student cannot but derive the greatest possible benefit and assistance; he must learn to distinguish the genius of each,-observe the method they have chosen-where they abound in figures, and where they assume a plain dress. But this is not all. The most important part, and the one without which the other goes for nothing, is Practice. As exercise
improves and strengthens the body, so practice, the mind. It was by constant practice that the celebrated Fox became one of the most brilliant and powerful debaters that ever sat in parliament. Mr. Fox himself attributed his own success to the resolution which he formed, of speaking, well or ill, at least once every night. "During five whole sessions," he used to say, "I spoke every night except one; and
I regret only that I did not speak on that night too." The exceptions indeed are very rare of a man's not having made himself a good speaker at the expense of his audience.
By some it may be thought that as the only end of a wise man's speaking is to produce conviction, and the only thing necessary to be observed is to offer his arguments clearly and methodically, the more plainly and shortly this is done, the better, and the paying so much attention to the cadence, and what is called the ornament of speech is superfluous. Now, in common conversation, or in plain argument, perhaps all that is necessary is that your language be such as not to offend; but the case stands differently in a speech delivered before an assembly; it is then necessary that the language should be harmonious and pleasing. It must be remembered that men have natural prejudices, which have to be overcome. It is undoubtedly true that instruction and conviction are the great ends of speaking; but how are the attentions of men to be roused? how are they to be awakened from a state of lethargy? Plain straightforward truth is not sufficient; it must be set off and illustrated. Cool reasoning is not sufficient; curiosity must be excited-good-will gained-passions appealed to.
Both the Greek and Roman orators took very great pains in arranging their words in a manner to produce the most agreeable sounds. Dionysius of Halicarnassus has left a treatise on this subject. Cicero, in his art of Oratory, dwells at considerable
He cautions a speaker
length on its importance. against bringing too many consonants or vowels together, as in this case the words and sentences would not flow smoothly; and he prescribes four hexameter lines as usually the utmost length for a period. Avoid bringing too many monosyllables together, and shun also the frequent hissings of plural nouns and verbs ending in s. The most celebrated speakers in our houses of parliament, or at the bar, have evidently paid very great attention to the rounding of the periods in their most admired and laboured speeches: many are the instances of the rhythm or cadence being so evenly balanced that long passages might be regularly scanned and converted into blank verse, with hardly the alteration of a word. I will not dwell longer upon this subject, as any departure from harmony of sound is easily perceptible to one who has been accustomed to either hearing or reading sentences which are well constructed.
Let the student particularly bear in mind that sound ought to be conformable to sense. Every passion has its peculiar style; let him be careful not to attribute to one passion the language and expression belonging to another, for this is an error against reason and nature. Grief speaks in broken and disjointed accents;-anger bursts into a torrent of wordsimpetuous, quick, ready, rapid, redundant;-joy expresses itself in numbers light and flowing, full of cheerfulness and vivacity. Entreaty is best made submissively, in an earnest tone of voice and with a countenance expressive of anxiety.
Action demands our consideration, as being next in importance to the compositon of the speech. The great necessity there is for paying strict attention to action, during the delivery of an oration, has been very strongly urged by every writer on rhetoric, ancient and modern. Its importance was better understood by the orators of old than it is now; they knew by actual observations and by personal experience, the decidedly superior effect a speech produced, when accompanied by good action. How mortifying it is, to see a splendid oration, so far as composition goes, rendered almost painful to an audience by the want of proper expression and action during the delivery! It is strange, that while every one acknowledges the necessity of action, it should so rarely be carried into practice. Never, I think, was advice so often repeated -never was phrase so much hackneyed-as the definition given by Demosthenes of the chief requisite for a speaker; and yet so seldom carried into practice. How is it possible for any one to seem to feel what he says, if all the time he is speaking, he stands as motionless as a statue? No fixed rules can be given for action. The few following hints are all that can be said on the subject. When the speaker rises, let him stand in an easy posture, his arms hanging loosely down by his side; and as he proceeds in his speech, and the subject requires it, let him raise one or both hands. Let him follow the advice given by Hamlet to the players. When he grows warm on the subject,