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intention of his speech. While the orator understands the subject much better than the generality of his audience (or wherefore speak?) he must seem to express their sentiments, to be the echo of their thoughts, and enforce his views by arguments adapted to their habits and hopes. We do not, let it be well understood, counsel cunningly devised speech and intriguing machinations for the accomplishment of base ends by base means, but we assert that versatility of talent and talk, attractive statement, and an agreeable matiner, exert great influence in engaging the prepossessions of
A good platform orator must have address to persuade, power to convince, acuteness to anticipate, and agility to evade objections, and should be able to mingle in due proportions vivacity and gravity, lightness of style and uprightness of purpose, sprightliness of humour and solidity of judgment. But Horace has already said this far better than we are able :
“Ergo non gatis est risu diducere rictum
Sermonum, lib. i. 10. 7-15. The propriety of this variation of address is obvious on a moment's reflection. Hearers come together, in general, without any special tie to the orator ; unless sometimes there may happen to be the loose feeling of common sympathy in one object, or the slight admiration filtered into them by report as to the orator s ability and success. Often they enter the hall with no feeling on the subject, or about the person, except the merest curiosity -which may even not be very lively. At other times there are adverse feelings in pre-existent activity against the speaker. Here, of course, the orator has the sympathy of numbers, which gives the platform speaker power and confidence, but it is not a unity of sympathy. The great primary object, then, is to work into the sympathies of the auditors, and to concentrate them, without loss of energy or activity, in favour of the objects in advocacy of which he speaks. Hence a witty and agreeable style, in which signs are given
* “It is not, therefore, satisfactory to provoke the broad laughter of the listener, although there is also a kind of merit in that: conciseness is requisite, that the sentence may flow on, nor embarrass itself with words that burden the wearied ears: there is need also for a style at once solid and playful, employing by turns the manner of a declaimer and a poet---sometimes that of the polished speaker, reserving his strength, and purposely refining it.
Joking decides great things
to wield the language of vehement invective against disturbers, to attack the mischievous and strike the contemptible, to use the phrases of conciliation towards honest opponents, and to employ the sportiveness of easy jocosity to overcome trifles, is the best a platform speaker can cultivate; for it makes him master of the general situation, and tact will soon tell him how to proceed, and with what forces to advance. A little adroit maneuvring, trying the gamut of the meeting's sympathies, will enable the orator to attune himself to the taste of the audience, and supply the keynote for his future address. Sense and intelligence, discrimination and amenity, are the feelers which an orator keeps in constani activity and restless use, to probe the sympathies of his auditors, and learn on what healthy and honourable one he can calculate, in dependence upon which, by skill and prudence, he can advance, from the opinions generally and willingly accepted and held as granted, to those farther reaches of advocacy, in a desire to carry his
hearers to which he occupies the platform. Having found this, the progress of a speaker is easy; for the sympathies of men follow the current of the hour, and a simultaneity of impressions produces in due time a similarity of impulses and proneness, so that the orator can readily carry his audience along with him.”
The second requisite in a successful platform orator is the power of laying hold of the popular sentiment of the place, time, and people. Popular sentiment and prevailing opinions reach the midlevel of an argument, but seldom higher. The ordinary ideas of men are acquired by slow degrees from the great intelligences of preceding ages. Like the rivers whose sources are in high moun. tains, and which descend to the lower levels, so are great thoughts; they flow down to the lower ranks of society, and the ideas of a Bacon or a Shakspere become the proverbs of the people. The rays of the rising sun gild first the peaked summits of highland Tanges, then slope into the valley lands, and make them rich with a borrowed beauty. Similarly do great ideas flash their light upon giant minds, and flow down gradually into the common working ranks of life, to stir and vitalize them. He who would move the mass to thought must be content to catch their thoughts as he best may, or he will never lead them captive; hence the value of the power of sympathy on which we have insisted—sympathy which places the spirit in relation not only with great thinkers but with ordinary minds.
Every notable platform speaker recurs to the popular sentiments of the day, and links his thoughts to those which are admitted and ordinary. Every orator successful with the masses acquires the art of making up his thoughts into concise and expressive epigramscompact pellets of truth,--and putting them down as due continuastions of commonly received ideas, or distinct analogues of already granted maxims. Hence it is that catchwords, proverbs, wise saws, quotations from popular poets or writers, sayings of sages or his. toric personages, hold such a prominent place in platform oratory,
and prove so effective in addresses at public meetings. Hence it is that local allusions and illustrations take so well, and that concrete examples are always instanced as the premises whence are deduced the abstract truths which are sought to be inculcated. Hence the power of commonplaces on the platform that are effectless upon paper, and the stir and bustle of emotion on the mention of names as advocates of ideas, or the clinching of an argument by an apt. quotation, a proverbial expression, or even a slang phrase.
For the same reason, farfetched similitudes—learned, or, as they are sometimes called, lampish exordiums and perorations-almost always fail. They do not catch upon the sympathies of the listeners, they do not fall into the ranks with their usual army of arguments, - they are foreign auxiliaries, and not entirely trustworthy. The same fact gives the law of speech to the platform orator. His usual diction must be pithy and Saxon. It must have the flavour and smack of life in it, be racy of the soil, be tbe vernacular of the people addressed. The sentences must be short and plain, free from involution and parenthesis. The grammatical construction may be somewhat loose, but ought never to be faulty. Wherever it is possible, the style should be direct and forthright, forcible and clear, and, when occasion serves, ornate, and yet chaste and fluent, though fervent. Eloquence should be the utterance of thought
“In language as the need should be;Now poured at once forth in a burning flow,
Now piled up in a grand array of words." But care must be taken that the gorgeous phraseology of the rhetoricians is used as an agent to reveal thought, not to conceal the want of it.
The third essential in platform oratory is the power of recurrent reasoning. First principles lie at the foundation of all thought. They are present by implication in every discussion. The successful platform orator should plan all his address so as to show the rise of every idea he wishes to impress upon the minds of others out of acknowledged or easily understood and proven first truths. It is advisable in almost all cases to start with the most obvious and indisputable maxim possible-something so palpable as to be undeniable, and from that to rise up to the height of any argument requiring to be built upon it, then to retrace the progress made to: that first starting point in thought; analysis and synthesis being, thus both exercised in the eliciting and probation of the opinions expressed. This recurrence of thought to its fountain-source in previous truths or maxims has the further utility of impressing the ideas by a non-apparent repetition, and of bringing into activity, in the course of an exposition, a greater amount of mental energy. Recurrent reasoning, by revising while reversing the process of argumentation, imparts a greater sense of security to the bearer, and gives an increased appearance of trustworthiness to the speaker, who is by this simple expedient listened to with the hearer's approval as one sure not to disdain the criticism of his opinions in any light. It has another and perhaps a higher recommendation-it keeps the speaker closer to the actual outcome of his postulated premises, and prevents highflying and specious excursions beyond the line and limit of the field under survey. On one idea being thoroughly exhausted, another is to be laid down as acceptable, and tried, argued from in the same manner, and traced back, so that at last the whole course of thought may resemble a well-arched bridge,-at once a short and safe way, from the opinions already entertained and admitted, to that or those to which the speaker intended to lead his hearers. We are no advocates of dialectics in public speaking before a general audience. A formal parade of logic defeats its own aim. Logic is reasoning closely-knit and unadorned. Rhetoric is reasoning applied to persuasion, and therefore ornate and more diffuse-not less truly but less intricately interwoven, with graceful filling up, to add delight, but not to lessen right. Logic should build up the framework, but Rhetoric should raise upon it the attractive fabric; thus, by variety of means, striving to secure the end of all oratory-persuasion. The matters chiefly to be avoided in platform speaking are evasive constructions, over-subtle refinements, elaborately unmeaning phraseology, impetuosity of thought, leading to the overleaping of steps in argument, or the play of the fancy unguided by reason. Specious arguments and false analogies, sonorous but ineffective declamation, affectation of method or pretence of carelessness, are each almost equally fatal to platform success.
And here we must enter a caveat against the introduction of apologetical exordia, or advertisements of want of preparation. No man, unless specially and unexpectedly called upon, either by the audience, or from a sense of duty, or by being the object of personal or official remark, has any right to address a public meeting without due preparation, or without sufficient forewarning: It is, in many cases, either asserting too much of one's self, or thinking too little of the audience, or using the figures of rhetoric as covers for falsehood, to plead an appearance before the public unprepared. Due intimation is in general both given and received, and if the man who is named as expected, or who intends to speak, does not prepare himself for the part he has undertaken, he acts unjustly both to himself and the public. It is permissible to apologize when truth requires it; but even then we question the policy of apology-unless it be as a mere parenthesis, casually, as it were, dropped into the address, without stress laid on it, or importance attached to it. In men of culture, and habituated to public oratory, it is reprehensible as affectation, if untrue,-as being beside the question, if a genuine statement. Either they understand the subject or they do not. If the former, let them speak out their thoughts; if the latter, why speak at all? On most subjects of importance sufficient to excite general interest, warranting the calling of a public meeting, such men should have their ideas constantly in a presentable shape, and false delicacy ought not to be employed upon a matter involving
mere affair of personal vanity or pride. What the audience requires are thoughts on the question-matured thoughts, of course, if possible; cultured ones, if the former cannot be had; but not indi. gested ones; least of all do they desire their minds to be taken off the question in admiring criticism of the orator's facility and fertility.
Oratory should excite immediate admiration, not of the speaker but of the thought. “If," said the ancient orator Rufus, have leisure to admire me, I have spoken effectlessly.", An apology is, in the vast majority of cases, merely an aside of self-gratulation, -of undue self-depreciation, to acquire an equally undue public appreciation. It is essentially a mistake: an apology ought never to be used unless when the cause in agitation would suffer if some apologetic statement were not made. We are perfectly aware of the power of fashion, but the decision of reason is given against apologies as rhetorical artifices, because they fall effectless as blunted arrows on the hearers, and they, even when true, seldom affect the argument, although they may the person. They have also the disastrous effect of making it impossible to find a believing audience when the real occasion for an apology occurs. form orators, like the ancient epic poets, dash into the advocacy on which they are bent at once and without preface. They will then show that the interests of truth, in their regard, outweigh the pettiness of personal vanity, convenience, or applause-catching, and they will not only persuade their auditors better on the points at issue, but also convince them more readily and truly of their own individual power
" To wield the thunder of Demosthenes." In all cases in which preparation is possible we commend writing out any intended speech. Not that we advise the sedulous employment of caligraphy and memoriter repetition ; for this gives stiffness and pedantic unimpressibility to the finest composition. We recommend an orator to write out his speeches (or at least the chief portions of them), even although he may never deliver a word he has put upon paper. Writing promotes deliberation, induces methodicalness, and tends to brevity, correctness, and strength. The noblest orations of antiquity are concise, pithy, to the point, and stirring. The olden orators never allowed the energies of their hearers to evaporate into inane admiration. They eschewed everything foreign to their main object, and they did not weaken their own and their auditors' powers of resolve by diffuse and random utterances, flexile irrelevances, or blatant and flatulent commonplaces. What is called "spinning out” they were too wise to attempt. They struck with the clenched fist, not with the open palm. They triumphed by the force, not by the length of their discourse. Their thoughts were
"Like bars of sunshine in shut rooms,
Mid gloom all glory." The success of platform oratory depends, so far as the speaker is