Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

do so.

Try again ; you can afford ever so many failures in this arena. Briefly review the argument or plan of the speech, and then renew the effort. Mark wherein you fail ; if it is that you forget the order of the subjects, or if you cannot array your thoughts in orderly fashion, or if your words do not come readily or in right array. If it be that the plan of the discourse fades away

from your mind, you should assist the memory by making a very brief sketch of the successive subjects upon a slip of paper-suggestions merely of two or three words-and keep this before you, to assist you in a moment of distress, using it without scruple. Even the most practised orators may resort to this help, and most of them

If the fault is in the flow of the words, there is no such remedy—indeed, I can suggest none to you

but practice. And so with the orderly array of words ; this, too, is partly a gift of nature, but to be vastly improved by cultivation ; and even where nature is defective, labour and long practice will cure the defect, as may

be seen at the Bar, where it is of continual occurrence that men, who at the beginning appeared to be almost wanting in words, and who were unable to put the simplest thought into the plainest language, by much practice become correct and easy, if not positively fluent, speakers. I assume that

you have something to say when I throw out these hints to you for learning to say it. If your mind is vacant of thought, it is in vain that you attempt to become an orator; better abandon that ambition, and devote yourself to some mechanical pursuit for which nature has more fitted you. But be not in too great a hurry to arrive at the conclusion that your case is hopeless. The thoughts may be there, but lying in confusion, or not sufficiently definite; or they may be slow to move, or difficult to marshal; all these are defects to be cured; if only the thoughts are there in some shape, you can learn, with more or less of labour, to bring them into use. If, for instance, you find that with your pen you can say something sensible upon any theme, you may be assured that you can do the like with your tongue, and that the obstacle, wherever it is, may be removed by skill and diligence. Your case is only hopeless when, after many trials, you can find nothing to say, and worse still, when words come freighted with nothing but sound and fury. If it is that the thoughts are there, but

you

cannot evoke them, the remedy is to write--write-writeuntil the mind falls into the habit of thinking definitely and orderly, and of yielding up its thoughts readily. This process

is slow, but it is certain. You may not measure your progress week by week, but compare month by month, and you will discover the improvement. Try it by time. Note how many minutes are occupied in filling a page of your paper ; a month afterwards note them again, and so forth, and you will see what progress you have made. Compare the composition of this month with that of last month, and you will learn the steady advance in precision and power of expression. When you can write with tolerable fluency, begin again the attempt to speak. At first you may be baffled, for such is the strange force of habit, that ideas which flow fast through the

pen often refuse to come to the lips. But this is only a habit, and may be disturbed by the same perseverance that formed it. Persist in the attempt to say readily what you have written without difficulty. Begin by asking yourself this question, “ What is it I want to say on this subject : what should I say were I to write it ?" Answer the question aloud—not, in the first instance, standing up, but sitting down, in the very attitude in which you would have written, lacking only the pen and paper. Utter aloud, in any words that offer, the idea you have to express. Repeat it two or three times. Then stand up and repeat it again ; still not oratorically, but as if you were telling a friend in ordinary conversation what are your notions on the particular topic. Then repeat it in more formal phraseology, and with some of the tones of a speech ; and, finally, try to make a speech of it. This is a tedious process, it is true; but the defect to be conquered is formidable, and can be only be cured by patient perse

.

verance.

All these first lessons in oratory are to be practised in private. They are designed as preliminary training to the public exercise, which is certainly more efficient, because there is about it the stimulus of reality ; but it has also the nervousness that so often leads to failure, and you face the unpleasant consequences of failure itself when more persons will certainly be found to laugh at you than to pity you. These suggestions are not designed as a substitute for the ordeal of actual practice, but only for such preparation for it as may conduce to more certainty of success, or, at least, to the avoidance of ignominious failure, the fear of which has deterred so many who possessed the capacities of an orator, and the experience of which has sent many a promising man back into obscurity, whence he has not found courage again to emerge, although there was in him the material out of which success might have been achieved, had pains been taken to prepare for the trial.

LETTER XXXIII.

PUBLIC SPEAKING.

You may now make your first attempt to speak in public.

If possible, select the occasion. Do not trust yourself to say something about anything—which usually amounts to saying nothing—but avail yourself of the discussion of some subject to which you have given some thought, and on which you can say something.

Turn the subject over in your mind; think how you shall treat it—what general view you can take of it ; how you shall arrange your

ideas
upon

it so that they may be presented in orderly array, and connected link by link into a chain of argument.

Having planned it roughly in thought, put your plan upon paper.

. But only in outline. Do not provide the words; note down nothing but the subjects to be treated, with the order of treatment. Trust entirely to the impulse of the moment to provide words wherein to express your thoughts; but let those thoughts be firmly fixed in your memory.

Some famous orators are accustomed, in addition to this outline of the argument, to compose the peroration and recite it from memory. It is, however, a question of doubtful expediency at all times, and I would especially counsel you, as a beginner, not to resort to it.

There are many objections to a written speech. In the first place, you are dependent upon your memory, and if that should fail, your discomfiture is completeyou break down altogether! Few memories are so perfect as to preserve their power when the mind is otherwise disturbed. The fear of failure is very likely to be the cause of failure. A single word forgotten causes alarm and hesitation, and while you are trying to recall that word, others fade away, and in the accumulated confusion a whole sentence disappears. You hesitate, you stammer, you try back—in the hopeless chaos you are lost. From this danger the speaker of a written speech is never safe; it may occur at any moment, and the result is always humiliating.

But there is another objection to written speeches ; they can never be effective ; and for this reason, that they are projected by a process altogether different from that of an extempore speech. What you have first written, then committed to memory, and now proceed to deliver by the lips, you utter by a process that is little better than mechanical. The memory is the only mental faculty engaged in the operation, and your whole attention is concentrated upon the work of recalling the words you have learned. This process within you is distinctly manifested to your audience ; it is betrayed in face, in tone, in gesture, and your speech, wanting soul, fails to move soul.

But when you speak from the prompting of your

« ElőzőTovább »