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them that your audience may listen to you willingly. To do this is not wholly a gift of nature, though many of nature's gifts are needed for its accomplishment. It is an art, to be learned by careful study and laborious practice. I do not assert that it can be acquired by all who may desire its attainment; on the contrary, it is certain that many are by nature disqualified from even tolerable proficiency in it. But if you possess the qualifications, mental and physical, requisite for the work, it is certain that you may advance to much greater proficiency in the art by pursuing it as an art, instead of leaving it, as is the too frequent practice, to be developed by accident and cultivated by chance.
When I was entering, as you are now, upon the study of my Profession, conscious of the necessity for acquiring the art of speaking, I sought anxiously in the libraries for a teacher. I found many books professing to elucidate the mysteries of elocution, and each contained some hints that were useful, amid much that was useless. But none supplied the information I wanted.
One was great upon inflexions of the voice; another was learned upon logic; a third discoursed eloquently on rhetoric; and a fourth 'professed to teach the composition of a sentence. All were illustrated by extracts from plays, poems, sermons, and stock speeches of long past parliamentary oracles. There was no harm in all this, it is true—it was not wholly worthless; but it did not supply what I required. I wanted to be told what I was to do, how to do it, and how to learn to do it. After pondering over the pages of my many masters, I did not feel myself better qualified to stand up and make a speech ; on the contrary, I was perplexed by the multitude of counsellors, and the variety and often the contradictions of their counsel, and I felt that if it was necessary that I should, while speaking, think of a twentieth part of the propounded rules, I should have no time to think what to say. I turned the key of my door and attempted to put those rules into practice where failure would not be ruin, and I found that neither language, nor voice, nor gesture, as prescribed in the books, was natural, or easy—but pedantic, stiff and ungainly. After patient trial, I threw aside the books and sought to acquire the art of speaking by another process—by writing, to give me facility and correctness of expression ; and by reading aloud, to give me the art of utterance.
Success was, however, but partial. No practical guidance in the arts of writing or of reading could be obtained from the works that professed to teach them. I had to grope my way to the object, halting and stumbling, moving on and trying back, but nevertheless making some progress. I learned as much (or more) from failures as from successes, for thus I was taught what not to do. Assistance was eagerly sought in every quarter whence help could come. I read books and listened to lectures, “sat under eloquent preachers, watched famous actors, frequented public meetings, political and religious, and even practised in a small way to worthy and independent electors who were too tipsy to be critical. From all this I gathered a great deal of information, not to be found in scientific treatises, of the manner in which a man must talk if he would persuade his fellow-men. Subsequent experience has much enlarged that knowledge. The requirements of my Profession provided me with almost daily opportunities for seeing and hearing orators of all ranges of power and skill, observing audiences of all classes and capacities, and noting the treatment of sub
jects of infinite variety to kindle the speaker and attract the hearers. When I was a listener, the question was ever present to
my mind, “How are we, the hearers, affected by this ? Are you, the speaker, going to work in the right way to effect your purpose ? ” If it was a failure, I have asked myself, wherefore it was so ? If a success, what was the secret of it ?
My personal experiences have not been large, but they have been very valuable to me as means for making trial of suggestions gathered from listening to the efforts of others. They have been still more useful by proving to me, that it is one thing to know what ought to be done, and another thing to do it.
Diligent study had taught me a great deal of what I ought to do, but I could achieve only partial success in the doing of it. Performance fell very far indeed short of knowledge. I made the unpleasing discovery—that faults which are personal are not removed by mental recognition of the right. I felt painfully, from the first, that I could not act up to ny own intentions nor put into practice that which I was able to present accurately
I state this that you may understand wherefore I presume to teach what I confess myself incompetent to practise ; and why, being but an indifferent speaker, I venture to treat of the art of speaking. Plainly, then, it is in this wise. From my youth up I have devoted much time and thought to the subject. By observation, reading, experience and reflection, I have obtained some practical knowledge how the art of speaking may be studied and should be practised, which, collected and arranged and set forth as clearly as I can, may, perhaps, save you much of the labour that was lost to myself for the want of an assistant and guide. In a few letters I may possibly be enabled to convey to you the fruit of years of unassisted toil; and although I cannot hold out to you the promise that any amount of instruction can, without long and large practice, accomplish you as an Orator, I am not without hope that you may so far profit by my hints as to escape many of the difficulties and some of the errors that have beset myself and into which the unguided steps of a learner are sure to fall.
THE OBJECTS, USES AND ADVANTAGES OF THE
ART OF SPEAKING.
I must again remind you that the art of speaking is the business of the barrister and the clergyman; it is only an accomplishment with other men, but an accomplishment of such incalculable worth, that a stranger would suppose it to form a necessary part of every scheme of education. Strange to say, it is, on the contrary, almost wholly neglected, even by those with whom some skill in it is a part of their profession. It is not taught in our schools. Not one in a hundred of those who study for the Church or the Bar thinks it incumbent
him to learn how to write, read and speak, although he will labour sedulously, with the help of the best masters, to obtain other needful knowledge. We see multitudes industriously setting themselves to learn the art of singing : it appears not to be known that the arts of writing, reading and speaking demand equally patient study, and equally good instruction, and are vastly more useful when they are attained.
You will be astonished if you attempt to measure the extent of this neglect in England of the arts of reading