were alike subdued by him. Hume, Franklin, Bolingbroke, Hervey and Romaine, Chesterfield and Pulteney, the courtier and the fop, countesses and footmen, owned his power. The peasants of the mountain, the mechanics of the town, the colliers from the mine, the coterie of the boudoir, the master and the servant girl, the wit, and the negro, all hung upon his lips. He could make them for the time, what he wished, sad or happy, penitent or joyful, hopeful or despairing: no flight of oratory was too bold for him, no repetition of a sermon weakened its power.

Men heard the same words and saw the same gestures, again and again, and still went away impressed and delighted.

What was the secret of this power? It is worth an enquiry. Certainly it was no stage trick, no skill of acting. The cambric handkerchief, the simulated tears —the tawdry sentiment--the laboured gesture, were not his weapons--these only excite contempt.

Two things are indispensable for the orator, a good subject, and a strong conviction. If a man is deficient in either of these, he fails. He may have the grace of Chesterfield, or the silver voice of Bolingbroke, he will not keep hold of his audience. But, where these two things are united, a man has the foundation of success. Then every advantage, natural and acquired, tells.

Nay, where there are great natural defects, success may be attained. A bad voice, a faulty accent, wiry tones, ungainly action, will not paralyze the orator. He

may force his way over these faults. Such cases, many may remember in Parliament. Such examples we have had from the pulpit. Yet more-a man’s thoughts may be feeble, and his words few, yet the grandeur of his theme and the earnestness of his thoughts will give him

sway over his audience. The weakness of his mind or manner are made up by the dignity of the subject, and the intensity of his feelings. But when, on a good foundation, good materials are laid—when the speaker adds voice, manners, thoughts, words, to a great subject, of which his heart is full, the effect is incalculable. It is thus that we learn the true power of eloquence.

In reading, one man will read the Liturgy, so as to send us to sleep; another will thrill a congregation with emotion. One man reads Shakspeare so that we have to run out of the room; another makes us tremble and Weep.*

But if the difference caused, by the mere reading of other men's thoughts, is so great, how vastly is this increased, when we have to deliver our own. On this

* I wish this were attended to by young men designing to enter the church. It is intolerable to find so many, whose reading is bad. What would be said of them, if they could not spell? Better that, than drawl or clip their words, so as to destroy them. What is the use of truth in such hands ? It would be idle to argue seriously on the propriety of intoning our services. The fashion is utterly undeserving of an argument. Intoning in an enormous cathedral an unintelligible service, as the Church of Rome does, is reasonable: in our cathedrals, it is unavoidable, from their size. To debase our Liturgy into the drawl of a nasal whine, is an abuse which needs no exposure.

point there is a distinction to be noticed. Men may deliver their thoughts in one of two ways. They may think at home, and then read or repeat them to an audience. Or they may work out their thoughts, as they speak, before the hearers. There is a far higher interest in the latter process, provided the work be well done. It lets us into the mysteries of thought; it lays open the processes and powers of the mind, and electrifies us with the lightning of the faculties. We sympathize intensely with the difficulties of the speaker, and exult in his triumphs. But great hazards attend this effort ;—the peril of a feeble fluency is always lying in wait for the speaker ; and if men are led into this, and lapse into a weak slip-slop garrulity, it nauseates the audience.

There is the opposite risk of hesitation and a nervous embarrassment. The mind, oppressed with the weight of its efforts, and the sight of the audience, is unable to act; it becomes weak; a dull broken expression of thought ensues—the hearer anticipates and abandons the speaker, and all sympathy between them is lost. This is a painful spectacle. The mind of the speaker is like a prisoner working in chains on the highway—and we look on this degradation with pain.

Speakers at times avoid this evil by another. They get their speech by heart, and unite, as they imagine, the force of elaborate thought, and extemporary impression. But once let the audience detect the truth, and

detect it they always do,) they are offended. They feel it to be a sham. It professes to be what it is not. But it injures the speaker, as much as it annoys the audience. Not one man in a thousand can deliver, with genuine emotion, the speech which he has committed to memory. He is thinking of his task, not of his topic-he is recalling a string of words, where he should be dealing with human feelings. He becomes formal, cold, and ineffective. Abad effect is often produced by speakers, who, when delivering really extemporaneous speeches, do it as coolly as if they were sitting in their arm-chair at home. This might seem the perfection of oratory, but it fails, and it must always fail. For, if a man is cool, because he is cold; because he takes no interest in his audience, or has undue confidence in himself, his command of intellect will not produce emotion. He may say what is true, and say it well, but, if he speaks as if he did not feel, he will fail. We cannot move the heart, but through the heart. The power of the true orator is never seen, until he adds his own heartfelt emotion to strong intel

lectual power.



The qualifications which I have presumed to describe, as belonging to oratory, were, in Whitefield, singularly combined. He had all natural gifts,-a fine voice, of great compass, rare flexibility, wide range of tones, and under perfect command. His action was admirable; natural, because gained by the instinct of genius, and improved by observation. His mind wrought intensely, yet had the use of all its powers; and this, not because he was unimpassioned, but because his soul, possessed with his subject, had no room for the littleness of self. His audiences could not but be moved by a speaker, who was himself full of emotion. He spoke without nervousness, because he had a deep sympathy with his audi

He could not think of their opinion of himself, who was trembling under an intense anxiety for them. Nor could he stop to be depressed by nervous fear, who was hurrying to snatch others from an appalling doom.


« VorigeDoorgaan »