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Edward EveRETT HALE, Author of “The Man Without a
INTRODUCTIONS AND SPECIAL ARTICLES BY
THoMAS B. REED, HAMILTON WRIGHT MABIE,
ALBERT ELLERY BERGH.
Note.—A 'arge number of the most distinguished speakers of this country and Great Britain have selected their own best speeches for this Library These speakers include Whitelaw Reid, William Jennings Bryan, Henry van Dyke, Henry M. Stanley, Newell Dwight Hillis, Joseph Jefferson, Sir Henry Irving, Arthur T. Hadley, John D. Long, David Starr Jordan, and many others of equal note.
ORATORY PAST AND PRESENT
“An Oratour is he, that can or may speke or reason in euery question sufficetly, elegantly and to perswade properly, accordynge to the dygnitie of the thyng that is spoken of, the oppertunitye of tyme, and pleasure of them that be herers.”—SIR THomas ELYor, The Governor, book I, ch. XIII.
HE Republican party, and the protectionists generally, if, as they claim, they have reduced white paper to the low price which now prevails, have a heavy responsibility upon their consciences. Not only are books now within the reach of all, but miniature libraries are springing up on all hands, and very soon the wonder of carpets and handsome furniture in the homes of the men whose daily toil is their only resource, will give way to the new wonder of libraries in every household. Newspapers, also, are enlarging their fields of endeavor, and seem to be more than keeping pace with the movement of the time. So far have they gone, both in the greater and the smaller cities, that the venerable persons who come down to us from a former generation are in much doubt as to whether the great Sunday editions are a joy or an affliction. One would naturally suppose that the manifest change which has taken place in methods of displaying and receiving ideas would have left the old methods stranded high up on the shores of time. The earliest method of spreading information and moulding opinions, however, has not passed away. Men still talk to each other face to face, and oratory still plays a great part in the instruction of modern times. It is true that the orator reaches his largest audience by the aid of the newspaper, but the newspaper nowadays depicts the applause and dissent of the audience, and gives, so far as it can, the atmosphere with which the orator is surrounded, and makes the reader appreciate the full human nature involved in the whole scene. The very postures, also, of the orator are displayed. But, however well any article may be written, and however well any speech may be reported, there is a charm in the spoken word, in the utterance of the living man, which no beauty of style can imitate, and no collocation of words can equal. Probably AEschines never said: “You should have heard the lion himself,” when in exile he praised his superior, but if he was made to say it—if the story was invented—it was because the truth was deeper than the fact. What we call in America “Stump Oratory”—oratory in its roughest and most familiar shape—still plays a great part—a part which hardly seems to lessen in its influence over the people at large. To be fully satisfied, they must hear the man speak, and give themselves up to the sound of his voice. Whenever a campaign comes on, all the available vocal power is called into action, and whoever watches the effect will see that the oratory of the campaign is a very powerful and invigorating force. In 1872 a large number of the leading men and newspapers had placed themselves in opposition to General Grant, and there were weeks during which his election seemed more than doubtful; but the campaign orator had not been at work a fortnight before you could feel the change. Not only were there words, but you had looked into the face of the man who said them. When you read what is written, the power of the written word depends much upon your mood. When you hear a man speak, his power depends much on his mood. You naturally lend your thoughts to him. Moreover, the rest of your fellows in the audience do their part, and there comes on that irresistible power of human sympathy which gives you your share of the emotion of others and mingles your thoughts with theirs. Of course, oratory can never again have the relative importance which it had in the early days when there were fewer things to do and fewer things to think of. In those old days you could meet and harangue the whole deciding multitude; for Athens in its prime had but twenty thousand free citizens; eight thousand was good attendance; and the human voice could have reached them all. In New York, Cooper Union holds less than three thousand people, and Madison Square Garden thirteen thousand! If the orator could convert them all, he would hardly disturb the majority of either party. What a difference between an audience in either place and the audience Demosthenes addressed when, in the Oration on the Crown, he reached the summit of fame, whereon he has stood for three and twenty centuries in solitary and unapproached prečminence. Even Cicero himself, his only rival in historic renown, concedes that Demosthenes is the standard of perfection. His audience was all the people, and not an inappreciable fraction. His oration did not have to share place in Athenian minds with absorbing business and with newspapers laden with the doings of a world. So, the preacher, in the early days had the advantage of the influence of the next world, and a goodly portion of this. Men are so busy now with the things of earth that there is little room for thoughts of the hereafter. Chrysostom, he whose mouth was of gold, the great preacher of antiquity, would hardly be on the road to so wide a fame in this age as he was in the age wherein he lived. The advocate, also, is crowded into obscurity, and Hortensius and Sulpicius in the modern world would hardly preserve, in our age, what antiquity has given them, the shadow of a name, and even Cicero as an advocate would have to eke out his reputation at the bar with his fame as a statesman. Nevertheless, oratory survives and seems in as great demand as ever, though the prizes have grown smaller, or, perhaps, strictly speaking, the other prizes of human endeavor have grown larger. The lecture field is still open, and if oratory shares public attention more fully with other attractions and does not hold, as in the days of Beecher and Curtis and Wendell Phillips, its old prečminence, the audiences