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consequence is that America abounds in orators. not setting up American oratory as a model—far from it-nor do I say that so much talk is desirable ; but there is a wide difference between their excessive fluency and our excessive taciturnity. They sin against good taste often ; they indulge too much in the flowers of speech; but that is better than our English incapacity to speak at all.
What, then, is the meaning of the general neglect in this country, as a part of education, of those studies which might have been supposed to be the foremost pursuit of all whose special business it is to read and speak---and especially by the Clergy, the Bar, and the Solicitors? If these Professions are so negligent, it is not surprising that the public, with whom these arts are only accomplishments, should be equally negligent.
I suspect that the cause of the neglect lies, not so much in ignorance of the value of the art when acquired, as in a strange prejudice, widely prevailing, that to read and to speak are natural gifts, not to be implanted, and scarcely to be cultivated, by art. In the Church, the bad readers, being the majority, have circulated a stupid notion that to read well is theatrical. Among the Lawyers, there is an equally fallacious notion that studied speaking must be stilted speaking. I shall have occasion to show you hereafter how unfounded and false are these objections ; at present, it suffices merely to notice them, as influential sources of the negligence of which I am complaining.
Another cause of the neglect of the study of the art of speaking, as an art, will at the first statement of it somewhat surprise you, but a little experience and observation will soon satisfy you of its truth. A bad reader is scarcely conscious of his incapacity. So it is with a bad speaker, but with this difference, that whereas all can read somehow, and the only distinction is between bad reading and good reading, all cannot speak; consequently, while nobody thinks he reads badly, many know that they cannot speak at all. But this you may be assured of, that, as no man who reads seems to be conscious that he reads badly, so no man who speaks at all is conscious that he speaks badly. The fact is, that we cannot hear and see ourselves. In reading, we know what the words of the author are intended to express, and we suppose that we express them accordingly; and in speaking, we know what we designed to say, and we think that we are saying it properly. It is very difficult to convince reader or speaker that to other ears he is a failure.
No man imagines that he can sing well, or play well upon an instrument, without learning to sing or play, for two or three trials prove to him his incapacity; he is unable to bring out the notes he wants, and he breaks down altogether. But every man can read after a fashion, and utter a sentence or two, however rudely, and therefore his imperfection is not made so apparent to himself—it is a question only of degree ; and being able to read and speak, and not being conscious how he reads and speaks, he cannot easily be satisfied that he reads and speaks badly, and that proficiency must be the work of some teaching, much study and more practice.
My purpose, in dwelling upon this almost universal neglect of the arts of speaking and reading by those whose fortunes depend upon the right use of their tongues, is to prevent you, if I can, from falling into the same fashion, and trusting your success to chance, in the fallacious belief that you are following nature. If any doubt can linger in your mind whether nature is allsufficient for the purpose of oratory, I need but point to the wonderful lack of it-to the bad reading in the Pulpit, and the bad speaking at the Bar, in Parliament and at public meetings. It is possible that education might not remove the reproach ; but it is certain that the present system does not succeed in creating or cultivating oratory. It will, at least, be worth while to attempt improvement; the effort cannot wholly fail, for, if nothing more, it will certainly make better readers of those who now read so badly.
The object is worth the effort. Apart from professional advantages, the art of speaking is the surest path to the gratification of your very laudable ambition to take part in the political and social life of your generation. In all countries and in all ages the orator has risen to distinction. But his art is nowhere so potent as in free countries, where liberty of speech is the birthright of the citizen. Wherever self-government is recognised, there must be gatherings for the purpose of transacting public business; men must meet together in their parishes, their counties, or by whatever name the subdivisions of their country may be known. They could not discuss the business of the meeting without some speaking, and the most pleasant speaker will assuredly win the ears, and therefore carry with him the feelings and the votes, of those who cannot speak. The same result is seen in all assemblies, from the vestry, which is the Parliament of the parish, to the House of Commons, which is the Parliament of the nation. A man who cannot speak is there doomed to insignificance ; a man who can speak but badly is still somebody; the
man who speaks tolerably is a man of mark; the man who speaks well at once establishes himself as a chieftain, and he holds in his hand the power of the whole assembly. Seeing, then, what a valuable accomplishment is the Art of Speaking-how surely it will lead to power, possibly to greatness, certainly to fame, and probably to profit, -the marvel is that it is not more cultivated in this country. In truth, it can scarcely be said to be cultivated at all. How is this? Is it that Englishmen are unconscious of its value, or that they think it a gift bestowed by nature, which art cannot produce and can do little to perfect? I cannot tell; but there the fact is. In our homes, in our schools, no pains are taken to teach young persons to speak to read ; and he who cannot read well will not speak well. Parents and guardians cheerfully expend large sums for the teaching of music or drawing—whether a natural taste for it does or does not existaccomplishments which only the gifted are likely to turn to good account in after life, and for the exercise of which there is seldom a demand ; while the arts of reading and of speaking—the former daily in request, and the latter leading to success in life through many paths—are entirely neglected, or, if recognised at all, imperfectly taught by a lesson of half-an-hour in a week, or got up for the occasion of a show-off on those dreary days when the schoolmasters advertise themselves under pretence of exhibiting the abilities of their pupils.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE ART OF SPEAKING.
The proverb Poeta nascitur, &c., has been extended to the Orator. It is only partially true as applied to either. There is no such thing as a born Poet or a born Orator. No man can write a good poem or make a good speech by the mere force of untaught nature ; he must go through more or less of training to accomplish either. We have heard a great deal of uneducated poets; but this does not mean that they were able to scribble poetry when first putting their pens to paper. They were not uneducated poets, but only self-educated poets. If they had been trained to no other knowledge or accomplishment, they had trained themselves industriously to this.
On the other hand, it is no less true that the Poet and the Orator must be endowed by nature with certain faculties, wanting which neither could achieve greatness. But there is this notable distinction between them, that inferiority, or even mediocrity, in a Poet renders his accomplishment uninteresting to others and almost useless to himself, whereas very small powers of oratory are highly useful to the possessor. Of this you may be assured,