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be proud of his success; but the minds so to be won are few among the many—the multitude must be moved by more stimulating appeals : argument fails because ordinary minds cannot understand it; the feelings alone are common to all humanity, and through the feelings alone, therefore, can mixed assemblies be commanded.
To secure the sympathies of an audience, it is in the first place necessary that you should be at one with them. The
process is not wholly on your part. The most eloquent speaker cannot move an assembly entirely at his own pleasure—there must be some predisposition on the part of the listeners to sympathise with him ; they must meet him, as it were, half-way. Consequently he is compelled to consult their prejudices. Let him run counter to these, and his influence is gone. It has been said, indeed, of speakers, as of writers, who court popularity, that they can achieve it only by expressing in more apt words than the listener can employ the emotions already lurking in the minds of those whom they address; that, in fact, the orator does but fire the train that has been previously laid. A brief experience will satisfy you how true is this. The lesson to be learned from it is, that to succeed upon
the platform, you should, as a rule, shun argument in its own shape, though sometimes you may venture it, if cleverly disguised. But, inasmuch as a speech cannot be all declamation, and you must appear to aim at convincing even when you are only persuading, there is a resource always readily accepted as a substitute for argument—narrative, simile, and type. If, for instance, you wish that a certain proposition should be accepted as truth; should you proceed to prove it by an argument,
you would send half your audience to sleep, or throw them into a state of uneasy bewilderment. But tell them an anecdote that carries with it the desired conclusion, or typify the teaching, or introduce a striking simile, and eyes and mouths will open, and the comparison or the incident will be accepted with unquestioning readiness, however illogical the process, and however unsatisfactory the reasoning.
It is a great art, in platform oratory, to have a nice and rapid perception of the temper of your audience, and coolness and courage to retreat when you
yourself treading on dangerous ground. A keen eye will tell you
in a moment if you are going too far; nay, by a kind of instinct, you will feel the shadow that is passing over the minds of the assembly, and if you are wise, you will withdraw as gracefully as you can. unable to describe the aspect that indicates this incipient repulsion ; but you are conscious of a sudden shadow upon the upturned faces, and a chill that comes over yourself and freezes your energies. The best antidote to this, and the surest cover for your retreat, is a joke, if you can perpetrate one at such a moment; a laugh is a certain restorative to good humour, and the folly will be forgotten in the fun.
Your manner upon the platform should be deferential. A mixed audience is far more self-important and tetchy than a select party of the educated and intelligent. The more nearly an assembly resembles a mob, the more exacting it is of professions of respect. All the famous mob orators whom I have heard appeared to me to owe much of their power to the extreme deference they exhibited towards the people before them. King Mob feels an affront
and resents it, too—as readily as any other potentate. But you may take it as a maxim that an audience, whatever its composition, is more easily won than commanded.
Another quality essential to success upon the platform is good humour, and good temper must be combined with it. You know the difference between them. Good humour is the foundation of geniality; it is the habitual condition of a mind that looks on the sunny side of things, a kindly disposition, a cheerful temperament, an inclination to be rather blind to faults, and very discerning of virtues. Good humour is near of kin to good nature, though not identical with it. Its presence is always written upon the countenance, and bespeaks favour for the Orator before a word passes his lips. Good temper is not exhibited until the occasion calls for it, and then it is a quality of the highest value. In all mixed assemblies of a public character, and especially in political gatherings, opposition is tolerably certain to appear in some shape, often in forms calculated, and possibly designed, to produce vexation and anger. Nothing so baffles your opponents and wins for you the sympathy and support of the friendly and indifferent, as imperturbable good temper. Meet abuse and gibes with a smiling face ; answer them with a joke, and you will turn the laugh against your assailants. Under any imaginable provocation, keep your temper; it will secure you the advantage everywhere. Lose your temper, and you are yourself lost; you give the victory to your opponents.
Another needful quality of Platform Oratory is courage—moral and physical. As you should never betray anger, so you should never exhibit fear. In the fiercest conflicts of rival parties you should maintain unflinching firmness. You must learn to face hisses, hootings, groanings, and even more alarming expressions of hostility, with unblenched cheek, with a bold front, with unquivering voice, and with that aspect of cool calm resolve which commands the respect of the strong and cows the weak.
The language of the platform should be at once simple and forcible, pictorial but unornamented. Choose the most familiar words, and prefer those that most powerfully express your meaning. You must not be too fearful of the accusation of coarseness, which is always brought by feeble speakers against their more successful rivals; if your ideas are not coarse, you may be content to incur the charge of coarseness in your words, provided they convey your meaning accurately, are clearly comprehended by your audience, and write upon their minds the impression it is your desire to make there. The object of oratory is not to display yourself, but to persuade others, and that is the right manner of doing it which does it most effectively. He is the best workman who can adapt his tools to the materials he is moulding; and this also is not to be forgotten, that while refined phrases are understood only by the educated few, common words are understood by all. By the former you win the ears only of a portion of your audience ; by the latter you command the attention, and impart your thoughts to the minds, of the whole assembly.
THE ORATORY OF THE PLATFORM (CONTINUED).
THE Oratory of the Platform comprises many classes of oratory, having certain features in common, but also possessing other characteristic traits peculiar to themselves. In
last letter I endeavoured to describe the points on which they agreed; my present purpose is to trace the points in which they differ. I have treated of platform oratory in general, and the most convenient course will be now to consider each of its principal phases separately.
The first of these is the ordinary "public meeting," held for any public purpose, religious, charitable, parochial, or political. With a few very slight adaptations, the hints that apply to one of them will apply to all, excepting, perhaps, religious and charitable meetings, which require a special train of thought conveyed in a conventional diction. Another marked distinction is to be observed upon platforms, when ladies are expected to be an important portion of the audience. These are subdivisions only of the class, and therefore I propose to take the various kinds of