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is to write your thoughts; for thus you learn what your thoughts are worth, as well as in what words to express them.
Therefore, before you attempt to speak a speech, write one.
Choose your theme, and ask yourself this plain question, “What do I want to say about this subject ?”
In speech you may say much that would be inadmissible in writing. Written declamation is disagreeable, but declamation may be employed with great effect in speech. The structure of the sentence differs in the two forms of discourse, and the very language is unlike. A spoken essay would be as intolerable as a written oration. In the essay, we look for thoughts; in the speech, mainly for sentiments and emotions. The former is supposed to be the utterance of profound reflection in skilfully constructed sentences; the latter is the outpouring of the mind in the words that rush to the tongue, regardless of the orderly array prescribed to deliberate composition.
Nevertheless, you should try to write a speech before you attempt to speak one. But write it as you would speak it. To do this you must exercise your imagination, and suppose yourself in the presence of an audience, upon your feet, about to address them on some theme familiar to you; and acting, as it were, as your own reporter. Doubtless you believe your mind to be full of fine ideas and your brain overflowing with apt words wherein to clothe them. Before you have written three lines, you will be amazed to discover that those crowding thoughts are very shadowy and indefinite, those thick coming fancies little better than dreams, and the glowing words extremely reluctant to fall into orderly array.
In fact, you will find that you have yet to learn your lesson, and to do so you must begin with the rudiments of the art.
And great, indeed, will be the value of this first lesson, if only it should teach you thus much—that you have everything to learn. The first step to all knowledge is the knowledge of our ignorance.
You will find your pen halting for thoughts and words ; or, if you try to dash along, careless of what you write, you will be displeased with yourself when you read what you have written. But be of good courage ; already by your failure
you have taken a long step towards success. Now you have measured your incapacity and the difficulties to be conquered even at the threshold of your study. You will thenceforward make rapid progress, with the help of patience and perseverance.
No matter how slowly the work is done—do it. Complete your exercise in some shape, however clumsy. The express purpose of this first lesson is not so much to teach you what to do, as to convince you by experiment what you cannot do.
Having made two or three trials in this way, until you are able to express some definite thoughts in definite language, you may advance to the next process and attempt the construction of a formal speech-this also in writing, but written precisely as you would have spoken it-in the style and language of oratory. Begin by sketching an outline of your proposed treatment of the theme. Asking yourself “What have I to say about it ?” note in two or three suggestive words the ideas as they occur to you in your meditation. Afterwards arrange these in orderly fashion, so that the discourse may assume something like a logical shape, the parts
of it appearing to grow naturally out of one another, with a definite beginning and a definite end.
This done, expand the “headings” into a speech, still bearing in mind that you are supposed to be talking, not writing. When it is completed, stand up, paper in hand, and spout your performance to the tables and chairs. Thus you will learn if it comes trippingly on the tongue, and likewise something of its sound. As yet you need not be over-critical upon its merits as a composition. Doubtless it is full of faults ; somewhat stilted, flowery in language, abounding in what the Americans call “bunkum," and on the whole unsatisfactory. Every young orator falls into these faults. Fine talking and fine writing are the universal sins of inexperience, certain to be corrected by time. There is only one defect that is never cured, one fault for which there is no hope—the penny-a-lining style, significantly called “ the high polite." The mind once taken possession of by that modern jargon, never throws it off ; perhaps because the infection can be caught only by a mind essentially vulgar and conceited, and the presence of it proves incapacity even for the appreciation of something better.
Your language cannot be too simple, by which I mean, plain, pure Saxon English. It is at once intelligible to the common people, and pleasing to the educated taste. It is one of the secrets of the success of all the great popular orators. English--the English of the Bible, of Shakespeare, of Defoe, of Bunyan, of Dryden, of Swift-is singularly expressive and pictorial ; and being for the most part the language of daily life, it is instinctively understood by an audience who are not required to pause upon a word to reflect what the
speaker means by it, thus certainly falling behind him in the discourse. After you have written your imaginary speech, read it over twice or thrice, for the sole purpose of detecting and changing words for which a homely expression can be found, and do not rest content with your performance until every foreign word for which there is a Saxon equivalent has been banished ; and whenever you alight upon a “high polite” word or phrase, out with it, even if you are obliged to substitute the longest word in the dictionary. Magniloquence is simply silly; the penny-a-lining style is horribly vulgar.
Carefully eschew metaphors, similes, and the flowers of speech. The tendency of all young orators, as of young writers, is to lavish them profusely, and they are wont to measure their own merits, and perhaps the merits of others, by the extent of that kind of ornament. Good taste does not banish them altogether, but it prescribes the use of them so rarely, and only on such appropriate themes and special opportunities, that your safest course will be to exclude them wholly from your first endeavours, and only to permit their introduction when you have made more progress, and then rarely and where their aptitude is very apparent. A flowery speaker may attract at first, but he soon wearies ; and wheresoever oratory is to be applied to the practical uses of life, as in the Senate or at the Bar, the orator who indulges largely in ornament of this kind will soon weary and disgust an audience intent upon business.
These hints for the general structure of a speech may perhaps assist you in that which I again recommend to you for your first lesson—the writing of a speech, as nearly as you can in the very words in which
you would desire to speak it.
THE ART OF SPEAKING_FIRST LESSONS.
The speech being thus written, stand and speak it, giving full play to the voice, but using no action. Imagine the furniture to be an audience, and “get up” all the fervour you can to address them. The object of this is two-fold : partly to practise you in the mechanics of oratory, but mainly to enable you to detect faults in your composition that might not be discovered by the eye or the mind. When you utter it aloud, your tongue and your ear together will speedily inform you you are wanting in some of the graces of oratory, or have indulged too much in its conceits. A sentence, smooth to the mental ear when read “ to yourself,” will tune harsh discords and unpleasing notes when spoken by the tongue; a phrase that seemed most potent when you conceived it, is found to be most pitiful when you bring it forth ore rotundo ; a sentiment that occupied a quarter of an hour in its development, stumbles upon the lips and falls flat upon the ear.
As you discover these defects, mark them upon the manuscript and correct them. Then read again, and observe the improvements