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THE ART OF SPEAKING.
THE Art of Speaking is based upon the Arts of Writing and Reading, which are the proper introductions to it. Oratory is compounded of three ingredientsthoughts, words and utterance. You must have ideas or emotions which you desire to express ; you must have the right words in which to clothe them; and you must speak those words in the manner that will bring them the most thoroughly into the minds of those who hear them. To adopt a popular phrase, the Art of
, Oratory presents itself in two great divisions-What to speak, and how to speak it.
But oratory is something more than the Arts of Writing and Reading combined. You may be able to write an excellent essay, and yet unable to compose a tolerable speech; so you may read well, but speak badly. The Arts are, therefore, not identical, but they are very near of kin. Ceteris paribus, a good writer and reader will be a better speaker than he who writes imperfectly and reads badly. Almost all of the hints that have been given to you in former letters for learning how to write and how to read are equally applicable to learning how to speak. I do not purpose to repeat them, but, assuming that you have read them and given them such consideration as they may appear to you to deserve, I will begin by pointing out to you where they diverge, and what further you must do to accomplish yourself in the art that is the highest and ultimate object of your ambition.
As before, I must guard myself from the imputation of vanity in attempting to teach you how to speak. I cannot pretend to be able to do all that I think ought to be done for the acquirement or the practice of oratory. I profess nothing more than to have given some thought to the subject, and traced some of its difficulties, and I hope therefore that I may be enabled to convey a few useful precepts, although I could exhibit no satisfactory example.
As I have already stated, the first subject for consideration will be what to say, the second how to say it; in other words, first, the matter, second, the manner.
The composition of a speech, whether prepared or extempore, will be considered with some care, and this will be followed by hints for the art of uttering it in the manner most effective for its purpose. This will comprise the cultivation of the voice and gesture, with the minor graces
that constitute the finished orator. Hints for the study of these will be submitted to you. The various kinds of oratory, with the requirements of each, will be separately treated of, but with more especial reference to the oratory of the bar and of the platform, as those to which your practice will be most frequently directed.
Such is the outline of the design contemplated for the completion of the subject which I have sought to bring under your consideration in these letters. It involves many incidental topics, which I purpose to treat as they arise in association with the main thread of the argument. As before, my aim is to offer you some practical hints for self-teaching, gathered from observation or suggested by reflection. I have no pretension to be
. myself an orator, but I do not write wholly from theory. The requirements of my profession have compelled me to give some attention to the art, and that which I learned with difficulty and labour, because I had no guide, I am desirous of conveying to you in a form which I hope may give you the sum of much tentative toil, and the benefit of combined thought and experience. I do not place it before you as a system. I have constructed no elaborate scheme; I have no formulas to prescribe, and scarcely anything to propound in the nature of positive rules. An orator, like a poet, must be born such ; he cannot be made. I can pretend to nothing more than to tell you
should try to do and what you should endeavour to avoid, throwing out suggestions of apt means for cultivating the mental and physical faculties requisite to success.
But although you may be wanting in the capacities needful to a great orator, you may certainly train yourself to be a good speaker--that is to say, you may learn to express your thoughts aloud, in language that makes them clearly intelligible to your audience, and in a manner that is not painful to them. The foundation of the Art of Speaking is, of course, the possession of ideas to be spoken. A speech cannot be constructed without thoughts of some kind to be expressed in words. You must fill your mind with ideas somehow. Wanting
them, it is useless to attempt the art ; but, having them, the utterance of them, both in language and delivery, is to some extent a matter of training. The power of words is, indeed, denied to some men, though they are few ; more frequently the voice may be defective; in other cases Nature has made gracefulness of manner impossible ; but these, though essential to oratory, are not necessary to speaking, and you may become a very tolerable speaker, though wanting in some, or deficient in all, of these qualities. Therefore, I exhort you not to be dismayed by seeming obstacles at the beginning. Be resolute in self-training; proceed persistently in spite of repeated failure ; fear not to break down; measure your faults, and put them to mending; be earnest and unwearied in the pursuit of your object, and you will assuredly attain it.
The uses of the art, its advantages to all men, but especially to a Lawyer, need no description. They must be patent to you, for everywhere you see men who have risen to the highest places solely by virtue of this accomplishment. In a free country it must ever be so. The man who can express powerfully what others feel, but are unable to express, wields the united power of all the minds of whom he is the exponent.
There is no such personal influence as that enjoyed by the orator, for he not only implants his thoughts in other men, but directs them to action. The man who can stand
and speak aloud to an assembly a single sentence intelligibly has a faculty that sets him in effectiveness far above his fellows. Such an accomplishment is worth a great deal of patient industry to attain, and if I cannot pretend to teach it, I may, perhaps, be enabled to put you in the
I way of learning it, even although I am unable to practise my own preaching.
FOUNDATIONS OF THE ART OF SPEAKING.
INSTINCTIVELY you will change the structure of the sentences, and the very words, to express the self-same thought in talking, in writing, and in speaking. But it does not therefore follow that you will instinctively frame your speech of the best words in the best places, and utter them in the most effective manner. These are matters for education, the product of artistic training and much practice. I have shown you before that reading is not a matter of course; so neither does excellent oratory come from nature. You will often hear it asserted otherwise, and there seems to be a prevalent impression, among those who have never given thought to the subject, that any man who can read words can pronounce them properly, that words will come when they are wanted, and that, if you find the words, you may be an orator without further labour. Few have formed the slightest conception of the number and variety of the qualifications essential to effective speaking—how the memory must be filled with facts and words; how the intellect must be cultivated