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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 my 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 meetings in the order of complexity, beginning with those not usually honoured by the presence of bonnets.
The Parish Meeting will include all the public meetings of the same nature—free assemblies open to all comers, for the expression of opinion upon the subject it is summoned to consider. Local business is the most frequent of these, as vestries, municipalities and such like. Holden for the transaction of business, generalities, platitudes and declamatory eloquence, are out of place. You must address them in a business-like fashion, merely talking upon your legs, strictly limiting your talk to the matter in hand, and saying what you have to say in the fewest words. You will not thus obtain the fame of an orator, but you will win the more useful reputation among your neighbours of being a sensible man, whose speech is worth listening to, and a man of business, whose advice is worth taking. Eschew the oratorical in matter and manner; study simplicity in language and in style; put your arguments very plainly, and above all, come well prepared with your facts and figures.
say, are somewhat difficult conditions. They are so, and accordingly they are not frequently fulfilled. They, who have never tried it, think that anybody who can open his lips upstanding could make a speech good enough for a parish meeting ; but they will find it to be otherwise in practice, and as the personal advantages of capacity in this class of speaking are very great to all, but especially to a professional man seeking advancement in the world, it will well repay some study on your part.
The difficulty is precisely that which attaches to all endeavours to be natural. It is much more difficult to be plain than to be ornate, to be simple than to be
artificial, to be what you are than what you are not. Savagery delights in tinsel ; it is the last triumph of civilisation to bring us back to nature.
Political meetings, and quasi political meetings, require a different treatment; but, to avoid repetition, I will reserve them for consideration with the subjects to which they are mainly allied, and pass to the assemblies of which ladies usually form the most considerable part.
Religious, charitable, and social meetings have a platform oratory of their own, brought probably to their present fashion by the fact that the majority of the hearers are of the sex whom the speaker is most desirous to please, and to whose tastes and capacities he more or less consciously moulds his discourse.
There is a speciality in the Religious Meetings of which it is not my design to treat ; but of whose existence you must be informed, or you will come to grief should
venture an address to one of them. Their language is singularly conventional. They have a phraseology of their own that is almost unintelligible to the uninitiated. It is the very opposite of simplicity. A considerable portion of their vocabulary differs from the language of common life. There are two words, and two only, that express it; but I am reluctant to use them, because they have come to be employed in an offensive sense, and I do not by any means design or desire to imply ridicule or reproach. Suffice it to say, that in the religious meeting this phraseology performs the same office as slang in the sporting world and patter among the gipsies ; it has come to convey more readily and more accurately to the initiated the ideas which the speaker seeks to convey, than does the language of daily
life. It is almost a condition of success in those gatherings that the platform should resound with these conventional phrases.
Another characteristic of these meetings is a certain grave humour, which has been growing into fashion for some time past, and now reigns supreme. Gravity by no means distinguishes the orators at religious meetings; on the contrary, a grave man, who never said a funny thing to make his audience laugh, would be voted a bore ; and in this you will see another striking illustration of a remark I have had occasion to make more than
that the gravest moments, when the most serious subjects are in progress, are precisely those at which we are the most easily moved to laughter; the philosophical reason for which is, that humour, which is the provocative of laughter, is a keen sense of the contrast between two very dissimilar ideas unexpectedly presented to the mind.
With these additions, the Oratory of the Platform at mixed meetings requires the same qualifications, and is to be cultivated in the same manner, as for most other meetings composed of both sexes, and in treating of their characteristics, I shall be compelled somewhat to sacrifice gallantry to truth.
If I were to advise you to address your discourse to the men, and not to the women, who are seated before your platform, I am sure you would not adopt my advice, and therefore I will assume the actual instead of the ideal state of a platform orator, and direct my hints to helping you in the situation in which you will find yourself in practice.
You may now declaim to your heart's content. The less of argument the better. You must hope not to