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3rd Cit. You shall have leave.
Antony. If you have TEARS- -prepare to shed them now-
-and I perceive you feel
as you see
with TRAITORS 2nd Cit. We will be revenged1st Cit. Oh piteous spectacle ! 2nd Cit. Oh noble Cæsar ! 4th Cit. Oh traitors—VILLAINS!
about--seek-burn-fire-kill-slay-let not a traitor
live. Ant. Stay-COUNTRYMEN.
1st Cit. Peace there- -hear the noble Antony 2nd Cit. We'll hear him-we'll follow him-we'll die with
him.Ant. Good friends- -SWEET friends let me not stir you up To such a sudden flood of MUTINYThey that have done this deed are honourableWhat PRIVATE griefs they have alas !-I know notThat made them do it-they are wise and honourableAnd will no doubt—with reasons answer youI come not-friends to steal away your heartsI am no orator- -as BRUTUS isBut as you know me all--a plain-blunt manThat love my friend and that they know full wellThat gave me public leave to speak of himFor I have neither wit
I COME now to that which, until you have tried it, appears the easiest of all forms of oratory, but which is in truth the most difficult of all, and to which I
propose to give the significant name of Social Oratory, meaning by that the speech-makings that are addressed to small parties assembled not for business, but for festive or other social purposes, so large a proportion of which is demanded at one kind of gathering, said to be so peculiarly English, that the title of “Dinner-table Oratory" might have been given to it with almost equal propriety.
Doubtless you will exclaim, “A speech after dinnera toast proposed —thanks returned-surely anybody who can say anything can do that!” You need not try it to be satisfied that it is very much more difficult than you have thought it to be. Sit at any table where toasts are given and responded to, and seeing what a mess four out of five of the speakers make of it, you will begin to suspect that it is not quite so easy an accomplishment. Vacuity of thought and confusion of
words are the prevalent characteristics; some break
propose a toast,” or to return thanks for having been yourself proposed, you will probably make a discovery. You were tolerably fluent and talked sensibly enough at the Union in Oxford, at the Forensic Society in London, and at occasional public meetings; but you feel very foolish now, and look as foolish as you feel. You could talk pretty well when you had a subject to talk about. You have not learned the art of talking about nothing, and the accomplishment of saying something when you have nothing to say.
This is the secret of Social Oratory, and explains its difficulties, its failures, and its successes. It can scarcely be called an art, for it seems to be a special faculty with which a few are gifted, but which is denied to the many. Of course, like all
powers of mind or body, it is capable of cultivation, but, like the gift of poetry or music, it must be given by nature, and if the germ is not there, it cannot be implanted.
Another peculiarity of this form of oratory is, that the larger the intellect, the more refined the taste, the loftier the intelligence, the more its difficulty in afterdinner speaking. The reason is its consciousness and sensitiveness. Its perception of the ridiculous contrast between the bigness of the language and the littleness of the subject, its sense of the hollowness of the praises and professions, paralyses its powers; it can find nothing to say that is at once new and true, and its pride revolts from indulgence in the conventionalities which the parrot voices around him repeat again and again, with apparent unconsciousness of their threadbare wearisome
Social Oratory, then, is the art of saying a great deal about nothing, and saying it in a pleasant manner. It is not designed for any other purpose than to please for the moment. It partakes of the character of all social intercourse, which is to be as agreeable to one another as possible, and to keep all that is disagreeable out of sight and hearing. The standing-up talk of the dinnertable should be only the sitting-down talk of the drawing-room, somewhat amplified, judiciously strung together, and flavoured with a few flatteries not permitted to be addressed to a man in a tête-à-tête, but which you are allowed, and indeed expected, to pour forth without limit of quantity or quality when you are speaking of him to others in his presence.
Can it be, you ask, that such exaggerated epithets as are lavished upon a man whose health is proposed at a dinner-table can be gratifying to him ? Do not his common sense and good taste revolt, as much as do yours, from laudations so undeserved that they have the appearance of ironical insults ? You have not yet learned the measure of human vanity. All men open to flattery, more or less, but of most men the capacity for it is boundless. The most modest of us is