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LETTER XXX.

FOUNDATIONS OF THE ART OF SPEAKING.

INSTINCTIVELY you will change the structure of the sentences, and even the words, to express the self-same thought in talking, in writing, or 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 to rapid understanding and still more rapid reasoning; how the feelings must be at once powerful and under perfect control; how the voice must be trained to give the full expression, and the taste to impart the true tones, infinitely varied, to the entire of the discourse. Then the mind must be exercised to a rapid flow of ideas. and to the instant composition of sentences wherein to clothe them; add to these, a voice attuned to sweetness as well as power, and the limbs tutored to graceful action, and you have a short summary of the acquirements necessary for an orator.

You will see from this that there is a task before you that will demand all your energies and perseverance, for it will be a work of long labour. You will say, perhaps, that there are books and teachers enough to help you to your object-books that profess to impart the whole art of oratory, and teachers of elocution who promise to make you an accomplished speaker in a certain number of lessons. As I have stated in the preceding letters on the Art of Reading, I have looked with care into many of these books, and listened to some of these teachers, and I must confess that I have found in them very little that was calculated to train a student to oratory. The rules propounded are usually pedantic and often impracticable. Inasmuch as every student requires a different training, according to the specialities of his natural gifts—his peculiar intellect, temperament and physique—very few general rules can be prescribed; so few, indeed, that it would be better to abolish the term and substitute merely hints and suggestions for strict formulas. Teachers of elocution too often impart to their pupils a mannerism that is more disagreeable than even positive incapacity. It is less painful to listen to an awkward or stumbling speaker than to a stiff, constrained and artificial orator, who is manifestly talking by rule.

But the foundations of the Art of Oratory may be described in a few words.

The first qualification of an Orator is to have something

to say.

The second is to sit down when he has said it.

These have been already described at some length in my Third Letter; to that I refer you, asking you at this place to render repetition unnecessary by turning back to those pages, and reperusing them, for they cannot be too firmly imprinted upon your memory.

196

LETTER XXXI.

THE ART OF SPEAKING-WHAT TO SAY

COMPOSITION.
It seems like a truism to tell

you
that before

you speak you should have something to say. But it is a necessary caution; nothing is more common than to hear a man speak for a long time and utter nothing but wordswords—words—without a grain of thought at the heart of them. The popular ear so readily mistakes fluency for eloquence, and copious language for abundant wisdom, that ignorance and emptiness may be well excused for venturing where real ability fears to tread. Now, as there is nothing easier than "bald disjointed chat," or speech “ full of sound and fury, signifying—nothing,” there is some danger of your falling into it, unless you resolve, from the beginning of your career, never to speak unless you have something to say, then to say what you have to say, and to sit down again when you have said it..

All this appears very easy on paper, but it is very difficult in practice. A true orator must possess the full mind as well as the ready mind. He must know much, and think much; he must open his eyes and ears to receive knowledge of all kinds from all quarters, and his mind must be ever busily at work reflecting upon the knowledge thus acquired. Indeed, there is no sort of intelligence that will not come into use at some time. I can, therefore, propose to you no scheme of studies wherewith to lay the foundation of oratory, for it is to be pursued everywhere, and comprises everything. The only rule I can give you is, to learn all you can, from all sources and of all kinds. Practise the art of writing, as already suggested to you, diligently, as being the best preparation for oratory. The instructions there given are to be pursued, but with another purpose. The Art of Writing will assist you to the Art of Speaking; but it is not all that you require, and you must rightly understand and carefully keep in view the differences between them, which I will now endeavour to explain to you.

There are three ways of expressing your thoughts, talking, writing and speaking. I use the familiar terms, because they convey my meaning more accurately than finer phrases. If you were required to express the same thought, or tell the same story, first, to a fireside circle, afterwards, in an article for a newspaper, and finally, in a speech to an assembly, you would certainly do so in three very different forms of composition, and in two, if not three, sets of words. If you had made no preparation for either performance, you would fall unconsciously into the natural style appropriate to each situation. Only when you may have educated yourself into a bad habit of confounding the styles, would you spout an essay or talk a speech.

Talk differs from writing or a speech in this, that it is a broken, and not a continuous, stream of thought. Talking implies the participation of others in the dis

If you have all the talk to yourself, it is not talking, but declamation or preaching; that is to say, it is not an interchange of thoughts, but merely the

a

course.

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