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oratory it is not necessary to speak in detail, as sufficient has already been shown to illustrate the importance of a clear perception, a good memory, a clear power of statement, keen logic, vivid imagination, force of will, vehement passion, and a host of other powers, where the loftiest flights of the most exalted influence is to be exerted. But, alas ! how seldom do we find them united in one man. Sometimes we have the voice, the tone, but not the body ; sometimes the beauty of action, without the melody of the voice. Nature and art combined rarely produce a perfect orator. Nevertheless, the world has over and over again furnished illustrations of what can be done by effort to aid nature ; and how seldom has any man made himself a name without earnest, persistent effort. With this, obstacles have been overcome, difficulties have been surmounted, and almost impossibilities have been performed.
It was laid down by Lord Brougham, who well illustrated in himself the truth of the statement, that " as a rule admitting of no exception, a man will speak well in proportion as he has written much; and that, with equal talents, he will be the finest extempore speaker, when no tiine for preparing is allowed, who has prepared himself the most sedulously when he had oportunity of delivering a premeditated speech. All the exceptions which I have ever heard cited to this principle, are apparent ones only ; proving nothing more than that some few men of rare genius have become great speakers without preparation ; in no wise showing that, with preparation, they would not have reached a much higher degree of excellence.”
But while all this is readily admitted, there must be of necessity some leading qualifications, either natural or acquired, which must be possessed by those who aspire to the position of an orator ; and first and foremnost we must place the Voice. The power of a well-trained, penetrating, and sympathetic voice, ranging through a long range of keys, and by its powers evoking the finest feelings of our nature, is beyond all price. If you have a good voice, be thankful, but seek to make the very best use you can of it.
Second to this we place a GOOD SOUND BODY. have the bow of Ulysses,” it has been said, “but of what use is it if he have not the strength to bend it to his will. His arrows may be of silver, and gold-tipped—they may be winged
"A man may
with the feathers of the very bird of paradise ; but if he cannot draw them to the head, and send them home to the mark, of what value are they to him ?” The most potent speakers in all ages have been noted for their bodily stamina. Men with good brawny frames, powerful digestive organs, and lungs equal to any capacity. They have been men "who, while they had a sufficient thought-power to create all the material needed, had pre-eminently the explosive power by which they could thrust their materials out at men. They were catapults, and men went down before them.” You have only to read of Burke, and Fox, and Brougham, to learn that they were men of stalwart frame. Of Daniel Webster it was said, by Sydney Smith, that he was a steam-engine in breeches." Lord Erskine, in his action, was likened to a blood-horse ; and, that when urging a plea, his eyes flashed, his nostrils distended, he threw back his head, while his 'neck was clothed with
John Bright and Daniel O'Connell also are well known for their massive frames, while Dr. Chalmers is readily recognised by his ponderous brain and general massiveness of appearance, as if he was conscious of the reserve power of a lion.
Perhaps the following letter, from Lord Brougham to Zachary Macaulay, father of the late Lord Macaulay, will be found worthy of careful consideration :
Newcastle, March 10, 1823. MY DEAR FRIEND, -My principal object in writing to you to-day is to offer you some suggestions, in consequence of some conversation I have just had with Lord Grey, who has spoken of your son (at Cambridge) in terms of the greatest praise.
What I wish to inculcate especially, with a view to the great talent for public speaking which your son happily possesses, is that he should cultivate that talent in the only way in which it can reach the height of the art; and I wish to turn his attention to two points :
1. The first point is this : the beginning of the art is to acquire a habit of easy speaking ; and in whatever way this can be had (which individual inclination or accident will generally direct, and may safely be allowed to do so), it must be had. Now, I differ from all other doctors of rhetoric in this : I say. let him first of all learn to speak easily and fluently ; as well and as sensibly as he can, no doubt ; but, at any rate, let him learn to speak. This is to eloquence, or good public speaking,
what the being able to talk in a child is to correct grammatical speech. It is the requisite foundation, and on it you must build. Moreover, it can only be acquired young, therefore let it by all means, and at any sacrifice, be gotten hold of forthwith. But in acquiring it every sort of slovenly error will also be acquired. It must be got by a habit of easy writing (which, as Windham said, proved hard reading); by a custom of talking much in good company; by debating in speaking societies, with little attention to rule, and mere love of saying something at any rate than of saying anything well. I can even suppose that more attention is paid to the matter in such discussions than to the manner of saying it ; yet still to say it easily, ad libitum, to be able to say what you choose, and what you have
This is the first requisite, to acquire which everything else must for the present be sacrificed.
2. The next step is the grand one—to convert this style of easy speaking into chaste eloquence. And here there is but one rule. I do earnestly entreat your son to set daily and nightly before him the Greek models. First of all he may look to the best modern speeches (as he probably has already) ; Burke's best compositions, as The Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents; Speech on the American Conciliation, and On the Nabob of Arcot's Debt; Fox's Speech on the Westminster Scrutiny (the first part of which he should pore over till lie has it by heart; On the Russian Armament; and On the War, 1803; with one or two of Windham's best ; few, or rather none, of Sheridan's. But he must by no means stop here ; if he would be a great orator he must go at once to the fountain-head, and be familiar with every one of the great orations of Demosthenes. I take for granted that he knows those of Cicero by heart; they are very beautiful, but not very useful, except perhaps the Milo, Pro Ligario, and one or two more. But the Greek must positively be the model ; and merely reading it, as boys do, to know the language, won't do at all; he must enter into the spirit of each speech, thoroughly know the positions of the parties, follow each turn of the argument, and make the absolutely perfect, and most chaste and severe composition familiar to his mind. His taste will improve every time he reads and repeats to himself (for he should have the fine passages by heart), and he will learn how much may by done by a skilful use of a few words, and a rigorous rejection of all superfluities. In this view I hold a familiar knowledge of Dante to be next to Demosthenes. It is in vain to say that imitations of these models won't do for our times. First, I do not counsel any imitation, but only an imbibing of the same spirit. Secondly, I know from experience that nothing is so successful in these times (bad though they be) as what has been formed on the Greek models. I use a very poor instance in giving my own experience; but I do assure you that, both in courts of law and Parliament, and even to mobs, I have never made so much play (to use a very modern phrase) as when I was almost translating from the Greek. I composed the peroration of my speech for the Queen, in the Lords, after reading and repeating Demosthenes for three or four weeks, and I composed it twenty times over at least, and it certainly succeeded in a very extraordinary degree, and far above any merits of its own. This leads me to remark that, though speaking without writing before hand is very well until the habit of easy speech is acquired, yet after that he can never write too much ; this is quite clear. It is laborious, no doubt; and it is more difficult beyond comparison than speaking off-hand ; but it is necessary to perfect oratory, and, at any rate, it is necessary to acquire the habit of correct diction. But I go further and say, even to the end of a man's life, he must prepare, word for word, most of his finer passages. Now, would he be a great orator or no? In other words, would he have almost absolute power of doing good to mankind or no ? So he wills this, he must follow these rules.
Believe me, truly yours,
H. BROUGHAM. It will thus be seen that the most efficient preparation for public speaking is writing and preparation beforehand. Indeed, many will never be able to speak with effect unless they have the piece thoroughly committed to memory. But at the same time it should be so committed that there ought not to be a thought about what has to be said. To have to think about the words merely will, of necessity, interfere with the giving of proper attention to the action and graces of good delivery.
A good way to commit to memory is to copy it out carefully, and to read it and re-read it until it becomes practically your own. Sometimes you will be able to learn a piece by reading it over a number of times ; at any rate, never attempt another piece until you have fully mastered the one you have already taken in hand. The memory likes to be trusted and treated properly. Frequent rehearsing will fix the words and the subject upon your memory, and also give you confidence in your power and knowledge of what you intend doing.
The art of extempore speaking is, of course, of immense service, and, like everything else, can be cultivated by practice. It is worth a great deal to be able, when called upon, to make an off-hand speech. Upon this point the Rev. Dr.
Osgood--one of the most excellent of orators—thus speaks, in his papers on “Off-Hand Speaking :”
“To speak well you must be en rapport not only with your own mind, but with your subject and your audience. It is really wonderful that this connection is so rarely complete, and that such mishaps come from its absence. Sometimes you are out of joint with yourself, and your mind seems no more to jump with your tongue than the mind of the man in the moon, and you feel that you have no hold of yourself. Again, your thought, although quite active in a certain way, does not entor into the subject, and you are very inuch like an eager horseman who wants to ride, but finds the horse refusing to be mounted, or, when mounted, insisting upon standing still or pitching the luckless rider over his head. Sometimes, more
you and your subject get on very well together, you fail to connect with the audience, and, without having any positive quarrel with them, you find yourselves as far apart as if they were a thousand miles off. You will use every means to establish the true relation, to keep your own mind ready at your call; to make it dwell faithsully upon such leading prin. ciples as are fundamental to all important subjects; and to take vital interest in men, not such as belong to your own clique only, but in men as men, in all the various tempers and conditions of the common lot. He is happy who masters this connection thoroughly, and agrees with his own soul, his subject, and his audience. He is the good rider who is master of himself, his good steed, and the road, and he goes forth conquering and to conquer.”
Finally, it is important that special care should be always devoted to the habit of preparation as fully as possible, so that, if called on unexpectedly, the habits of mind and thought will be available for falling back upon for all the aid which the occasion may demand. It is, indeed, worth while to remember at all times the homely advice of the mother to her son, who had just returned from college to spend a few days prior to his settling over his church. Just as he was about leaving, she is reported as saying, “Now, my dear son, you will be often called upon to speak at many kinds of meetings; and allow me, from a long experience, to give you a little advice, which will, I am sure, add to your comfort and use