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of it appearing to grow naturally out of one another, with a definite beginning and a definite end.
This done, expand the “headings” into a speech, still bearing in mind that you are supposed to be talking, not writing. When it is completed, stand up, paper in hand, and spout your performance to the tables and chairs. Thus you will learn if it comes trippingly on the tongue, and likewise something of its sound. As yet you need not be over-critical upon its merits as a composition. Doubtless it is full of faults ; somewhat stilted, flowery in language, abounding in what the Americans call “bunkum,” and on the whole unsatisfactory. Every young orator falls into these faults. Fine talking and fine writing are the universal sins of inexperience, certain to be corrected by time. There is only one defect that is never cured, one fault for which there is no hope—the penny-a-lining style, significantly called “the high polite.” The mind once taken possession of by that modern jargon, never throws it off ; perhaps because the infection can be caught only by a mind essentially vulgar and conceited, and the presence of it proves incapacity even for the appreciation of something better.
Your language cannot be too simple, by which I mean, plain, pure Saxon English. It is at once intelligible to the common people, and pleasing to the educated taste. It is one of the secrets of the success of all the great popular orators. English-the English of the Bible, of Shakespeare, of Defoe, of Bunyan, of Dryden, of Swift—is singularly expressive and pictorial ; and being for the most part the language of daily life, it is instinctively understood by an audience who are not required to pause upon a word to reflect what the
speaker means by it, thus certainly falling behind him in the discourse. After you have written your imaginary speech, read it over twice or thrice, for the sole purpose of detecting and changing words for which a more homely expression can be found, and do not rest content with your performance until every foreign word for which there is a Saxon equivalent has been banished ; and whenever you alight upon a “high polite” word or phrase, out with it, even if you are obliged to substitute the longest word in the dictionary. Magniloquence is simply silly; the penny-a-lining style is horribly vulgar.
Carefully eschew metaphors, similes, and the flowers of speech. The tendency of all young orators, as of young writers, is to lavish them profusely, and they are wont to measure their own merits, and perhaps the merits of others, by the extent of that kind of ornament. Good taste does not banish them altogether, but it prescribes the use of them so rarely, and only on such appropriate themes and special opportunities, that your safest course will be to exclude them wholly from your first endeavours, and only to permit their introduction when you have made more progress, and then rarely and where their aptitude is very apparent. A flowery speaker may attract at first, but he soon wearies; and wheresoever oratory is to be applied to the practical uses of life, as in the Senate or at the Bar, the orator who indulges largely in ornament of this kind will soon weary and disgust an audience intent upon business.
These hints for the general structure of a speech may perhaps assist you in that which I again recommend to you for your first lesson—the writing of a speech, as nearly as you can in the very words in which you would desire to speak it.
THE ART OF SPEAKING-FIRST LESSONS.
THE speech being thus written, stand and speak it, giving full play to the voice, but using no action. Imagine the furniture to be an audience, and “get up” all the fervour you can to address them. The object of this is two-fold: partly to practise you in the mechanics of oratory, but mainly to enable you to detect faults in your composition that might not be discovered by the eye or the mind. When you utter it aloud, your tongue and your ear together will speedily inform you if you are wanting in some of the graces of oratory, or have indulged too much in its conceits. A sentence, smooth to the mental ear when read “ to yourself,” will tune harsh discords and unpleasing notes when spoken by the tongue; a phrase that seemed most potent when you conceived it, is found to be most pitiful when
you bring it forth ore rotundo; a sentiment that occupied a quarter of an hour in its development, stumbles upon and falls flat upon the ear. As you discover these defects, mark them upon the manuscript and correct them. Then read again, and observe the improvements
the lips and the defects that remain. Treat these in the same manner, until they have disappeared and you can read right through the paper without offence to your ear or your good taste. This is all you should attempt in the form of reading. You must not use action, for it is impossible to use fit action while the eye is fixed upon a book or paper, and ungainly movements are more easily acquired than shaken off again. The primary purpose of this lesson in self-teaching is the composition, and not the utterance, of a speech—that will be treated of presently.
When you have thus written and recited half-a-dozen speeches, you will probably compose them with increased rapidity and manifest improvement in form and language. So soon as you feel the thoughts flowing with ease, and shaping themselves into words without an effort, throw the pen aside and try to make a speech impromptu.
Let your first trial of impromptu speaking be with one of the subjects which you have written upon and recited as a speech. Throw it aside, and try to make the same speech, not by repetition from the memory, but by invention as you speak. Some memories are too powerful to permit of this ; they would recall the very words that were written, and not the mere thoughts in their orderly array; in such case it would be only reading by the mental instead of the bodily eye, and the object of the practice would be lost. But when the memory is not so retentive, and recalls only the scheme of the composition, try to make an extempore speech on the same theme, treated in the same manner. Now, as ever, when you utter your thoughts directly from the lips, mind addressing mind through no other medium than the voice, you may use action, not studied, not even considered at the moment, but such as you adopt unconsciously. How to utter a speech, and what action to use with it, will be subjects for special consideration hereafter.
You will doubtless feel some mortification at the issue of this
first trial : it will be a failure; your thoughts will be confused ; the words will not come, or come out of place; you will hesitate, stumble, and possibly stand still. Be not discouraged at this; it is the fate of all beginners of good promise. Better so than glibly to pour out a stream of weak words not freighted with ideas. There is no more fatal symptom than this sort of facility in a beginner. The limits of his success are soon found; practice increases the rapidity and not the depth of the stream that flows from his lips. You have halted and stumbled and broken down, because you carried weight. You wanted to say something definite in language as definite. This is an art that does not come by nature, save perhaps to wonderful genius once in a century. Common minds must learn by experience to think clearly, to sustain continuous thought, to clothe those thoughts in words as speedily as the tongue can utter them, and then to express them in tones pleasing to those who hear. That is the accomplishment after which you are striving, and it can be attained only by perseverance and patience; failure must precede success, and let it be your consolation that failure is the pathway to success.
Fortunately, by the method of self-teaching that I have suggested, your discomfiture will be known only to yourself. Better to break down in a private room than in a public meeting. At least, the chairs will not jeer you ; shame will not be added to disappointment.