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THE question of epithets covers so wide a range of morals, manner of mind as well as policy of speech, that several considerations are necessary to adequately understanding it.  At every step an observing student is admonished how conscientiously a man will say things he will one day wish he could recall.  Carleton tells truly —

Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds;
You can't do that way when you're flying words.
Careful with fire is good advice we know;
Careful with words is ten times doubly so,
Thoughts unexpress'd may sometimes fall back dead,
But God Himself can't kill them once they're said.

    Many enter the quagmire of recrimination without adequate reflection.  The question is commonly put, 'Ought we not to state all we know to be true?'  Not unless it can be shown to be useful.  Every man knows a thousand things which are true, but which it would advantage nobody to hear.  When we speak, the rule is absolute that we speak the truth, but what truth we will voluntarily communicate good sense must be the judge.  If all truth must be published, without regard to fitness or justice, William Rufus, who drew a tooth a day from a rich Jew's head to induce him to tell truly where his treasures were concealed, was a great moral philosopher.  'Well, but what a man believes to be true and useful may he not state?' will be asked by some.  Not unless he can prove it.  If every man stated his suspicions, no character would be safe from aspersion, all society would be a school of scandal.  Suspicion is the food of slander.  There is already more evil in existence than the virtuous are likely soon to correct, and little necessity exists for suspicion to supply hypothetical cases.  'But,' observes the reader, 'if two disputants have respectively proved the fitness of the epithets they have mutually applied, are they not justified in having used them?'  Better leave that to the audience, unless, as has been said, the object is to end the discussion, for the auditors being assured they have two rascals before them, will leave the room.  No disputant should unite the offices of witness, jury and judge, giving his own evidence, returning his own verdict, and pronouncing the sentence in his own favour.  It is this habit which has been the discredit of religious, political and literary discussions.  Lawyers are the philosophers of disputes, and have wisely taken out of the hands of interest, petulance and prejudice, the power of deciding upon their own case.  Yet disputants will do that unhesitatingly with regard to each other which, in a court of justice, would long tax the patience and discernment of twelve uninterested, dispassionate men.  The difficulty of being right as to epithets shows the necessity of being sparing in their use.  Epithets are more safely applied to the characterisation of opinions than of persons.  If you accuse stones of a certain property which is not possessed by all, the exceptional stones will not be scandalised, as the same number of men would whom you happened to include in a carelessly-worded, disparaging, general assertion.  The wrongly accused are not pacified by your saying, 'Oh, I did not mean you; I meant to allow that there were exceptions.'  Never forget that 'all' means everyone.

    It is a wise maxim in law — in rhetoric as well — that ten guilty men had better escape than that one innocent man should suffer.  So with personal judgments.  The one innocent man condemned will do both judge and justice more harm than the ten guilty who escape.

    Persons who deem duels with daggers or pistols absurd and murderous will fight duels with their tongues or pens, though tragedies of domestic alienation, or public hatred and wreck of parties frequently follow therefrom.  Since the perfect style of public invective can no longer be employed, why should the habit still linger?  After Grattan had denounced Corrie as a liar, all progress in discussion was arrested until the two orators had attempted to murder each other.

    Professor A. de Morgan, in his reply to Sir W. Hamilton, in their discussion on the origination of Formal Logic, makes these useful remarks: —

'In the days of swords it was one of the objects of public policy to prevent people from sticking them into each other's bodies on trivial grounds.  We now wear pens; and it is as great a point to hinder ourselves from sticking them into each other's characters, without serious and well-considered reasons.  To this end I have always considered it as one of the first and most special rules, that conviction of the truth of a charge is no sufficient reason for its promulgation.  I assert that no one is justified in accusing another until he has his proof ready; and that in the interval, if indeed it be right that there should be any interval between the charge and the attempt at substantiation, all the leisure and energies of the accuser are the property of the accused.'

    Improvement and not mortification of person or character should govern the employment of epithets as well as arguments.  Disagreements are human and inevitable.  Differences are in themselves as natural and as innocent as variation in form, colour or strength.  It is the manner in which those who differ seek to adjust their differences that constitutes any disgrace there may be in any divergence of opinion or belief.  Philosophy has been preached to us in vain, if we ever take up arms against an opponent without at the same time keeping justice to him in view, as well as our own defence.  To promote the welfare of those who probably hate us, is generous but difficult.  Addison called his opponents 'miscreants,' Dr Clarke 'crazy,' Paley 'insane,' which did not produce amity or instruction.  The profit of controversy lies in contrast of argument ever fresh and instructive.  Recrimination, if common to both disputants, has, like the common quantities in an equation, to be struck out of the dispute as only making more difficult the finding of the true result.  Epithets are better confined to error.  Even in Parliament the Speaker seems to possess no dictionary of epithets.  Members are not always checked when they use inadmissible terms, and when attention has been called to them the Speaker, for the time being, has not always been ready with a definition of the disputed word, and has sometimes been wrong when he has given it.  Leaders of the House have sometimes been unready in supplying a decisive meaning, which shows that there is no Parliamentary Code of epithets in existence, and neither Sir Erskine May nor Mr Palgrave, who have written on Parliamentary procedure and practice, appear to have compiled any such work.  Mr Gladstone, who appears to know the meaning of every word, and never errs in terms of imputation, might compile such a code at will.  Indeed, one might be made from episodes in his speeches.  Take two instances.  Sir Stafford Northcote one day complained of what Mr Gladstone had just said.  'Of what do you complain?' Mr Gladstone asked.  'Of misrepresentation, answered Sir Stafford.  'The right honourable gentleman does not mend the matter by that rather rude expression.'  Misrepresentation implies an intentional perversion of another's meaning.  Speaking in reply to Lord R. Churchill, Mr Gladstone remarked — 'My reference was this.  The noble lord distinctly accused me and accused the Liberal party of traducing an adversary.  It is impossible to conceive a charge more disgraceful.  It is a charge which implies falsehood in the first place.  There is no traducing by error.  Traducing is a wilful act, and that wilful act is imputed to me by the noble lord.'

    A few examples of the meaning of terms disparaging or dishonouring may show the student the sort of attention which epithets meant to wound (the kind here considered) require.

    Liar means that a person says what is not true and knows it to be untrue, and that he consciously and deliberately says what he does say with a view to deceive.  'Liar' is a favourite epithet with the lowest class of opponents.  It puts a man who uses it out of any court save a court of law.  No court of honour would adjudicate upon it.  It would be referred to a court of scavengers, whose business it would be to remove it.  The term is not a matter of taste; it is a breach of the peace, and would be resented by a blow, or a duel, or contempt which would keep him inexorably at a distance who used it.  If a man thought his adversary was not to be believed on his word he might say so.  But then he puts an end to the controversy, which it is useless to continue when one disputant does not believe what the other says.  It is like cheating at cards.  The playing is over, as soon as the charge of cheating is made.  One who wrote with authority said, if one says to another 'You lied there,' and we regard only the principle signification of that expression, it is the same thing as if he had said to him, 'You know the contrary of what you say.'  But besides this principal signification, these words convey an idea of contempt and outrage; and they inspire the belief that he who uttered them would not hesitate to do us harm, which renders them offensive and injurious.'

    The minor terms of turpitude are many, which contain dishonouring imputations. Of such is the term 'traduce.' To say another traduces you, implies that he vilifies and defames you, not only falsely but knowingly. I have seen a memorial addressed to Lord Palmerston, in which he was accused of 'duplicity.' The term killed the memorial. What Minister could look at a request from persons who affixed to him the stigma of double dealing? To charge an opponent with 'quibbling ' is to say he knows the truth is against him, and that he seeks to evade it. To accuse an adversary of 'garbling' is equally offensive. It means that he knowingly quotes what gives a false impression. It is lawful to warn an opponent that what he imputes to you, you regard as insulting; but to say he insults you is to charge him with an outrage upon you, and if he be a person of self-respect he will not hold further intercourse with you while you persist in the charge. A 'falsehood' is not only something untrue, but known to be untrue by the teller. If it is not intended to imply this, the statement must be described as untrue, erroneous, or founded on misinformation.

Any man of reflection can tell by one test whether a term is fit to be applied to another by asking himself whether he would submit to have it applied to himself. No term that implies consciousness of moral wrong can be used towards another without outrage. But there are a class of words which relate to errors of the mind which touch a man's capacity, and not his honour, which may be used. A sensible man is instructed by the most penetrating criticism or characterisations of his inconsistencies or narrowness of knowledge. To say a man is economical in the use of truth refers to the smallness of his hoard of it, and not to a fraudulent reservation of it. It may be allowable to refer to malformation in the mind in which the backbone of fact is evidently crooked. I have said to an adversary whom I did not intend to accuse of wilful misrepresentation, that he had a refracting mind.' The straightest stick put into a pail of water appears bent, and the straightest fact put before some minds will appear distorted; the trouble being with the medium and not with the intent.

Take a familiar instance of the difficulties of explicit expression. 'I said the gentleman lied, it is true. I am sorry for it.' What is true? Did the gentleman lie? I said I was sorry for it. Does it mean he did not lie, and that I was sorry I said he did, or that it is true he did lie, and that I am sorry to have to admit it? This is a case which shows how difficult it is sometimes to say straight off what is intended.

If men understood half the trouble there is in making out what the truth really is, and half the trouble there is in making it plain to other.?, so that they cannot possibly misunderstand it, there would not be half the anger or half the wonder there now is when one person differs from another in opinion — and more hesitancy in applying disparaging epithets upon first impressions.

There is a point of extreme interest attaching to this question which it may be useful to mention, but irrelevant to discuss. What is to be done with persons who make dishonouring imputations? Should they be noticed? If persons 'of no importance' — as Oscar Wilde would say — should be raised from their noisome obscurity by reference to them as though they were authorities on manners and their opinion had weight, imputation would be good policy for the obscure. Should a man like Thackeray, having cause of offence against Edmund Yates, withdraw from his club unless Mr Yates was expelled? When a person who has a character to lose, uses aspersive words towards another, it seems sufficient to show they were unfounded, when their untruth must be admitted, or it is the asperser who is damaged and not the aspersed. The asperser is regarded as belonging to a class who have no sense of honour in the use of terms.

When a young man, I was appointed secretary to the Garibaldi Committee. Hearing one day an inquiry as to the accounts, I made them up and sent a cheque for the balance to the treasurer; whereupon a member of the committee, then in Parliament and afterwards in the Cabinet, came down and expressed vehement indignation saying gentlemen were not like other people who go by suspicion, but act on facts, and what I had done was an imputation upon them — adding, in a cordial tone, ' Remember, if I had not had great respect for you I would not have taken the trouble to express this resentment.' The storm broke in a compliment. But I never forgot the lesson that with a sensible man personal dissent from you, the rectification of your error, depends upon the respect in which an adversary holds the person to be put right. In a society like that of the co-operators a good deal turns upon how far a man should tolerate the comradeship of those who have made aspersive charges. Excellent and most useful members of a party will resign and leave it very much the poorer by their loss, because of some offensive thing said of them. We see this done in the House of Commons, and sometimes those driven from their party seek to destroy it in resentment. Why is it that some dishonouring epithet used by some coarse-minded, ill-tempered, inconsiderate member of a party should have conceded to it the power of driving its best members out of it, and even of breaking it up? This is not the place to pursue the subject, but so much as is said may serve to show the danger that lurks in evil epithets and phrases. It is worth while asking — Cannot honour protect itself; cannot it stand upon its own well-earned repute without the hot explosion which a vicious epithet often calls forth? Lord Coleridge had. the most silvery tongue on the Bench, but if assailed he could defend himself with words which had vitriol in them and burnt where they fell; yet he did not intend that the object of his resentment should beheve all he said. How often are noble friendships cancelled, acts of kindness and generosity obliterated, and all for a word, probably spoken in choler, or under excitement, misinformation, or pressure of care which paralyse, if not unhinge, the mind. There is a good deal of empty, mean, timid pride which goes by the name of ' honour.'

Let two persons talk together with all deliberation and caution, and note how many expletives they employ — how many errors they commit — how insequential are their thoughts, and often how inexact their language. How few ready writers or speakers are precise — how few are continuously coherent — how much is said which is never meant, even by those who are careful! How few acquire the habit of thinking before they speak! Does not the lawyer, whose life is a study of accuracy, find the carefully debated Act of Parliament open to three or four interpretations? And does not the philosopher daily regret the vagueness of human language? Then on what principle of good sense can men, without careful inquiry as to the actual meaning of others, hurl at them noxious epithets? All might usefully bear in mind the Arab saying (which, indeed, is the moral of this chapter) lately rendered by Constantia Brooks in the Century: —

Remember, three things come not back:
The arrow sent upon its track —
It will not swerve, it will not slay
Its speed; it flies to wound or slay.

The spoken word, so soon forgot
By thee; but it has perished not;
In other hearts 'tis living still,
And doing work for good or ill.

And the lost opportunity,
That Cometh back no more to thee.
In vain thou weepest, in vain dost yearn,
Those three will never more return.




METHOD is policy in statement, and relates mainly to arrangement of the parts of a discourse.  When I was a Social Missionary in Robert Owen's days, one of my colleagues was a tailor — Mr Speir — who had only such knowledge as a person of his occupation could acquire himself; but he had so fine a faculty of method that what he did know relating to any subject he spoke upon, was set forth with such masterly lucidity — each succeeding part following from the preceding one — that he produced more conviction than other lecturers with many times his knowledge.  When I was a learner and a listener to lectures in the Birmingham Mechanics' Institution, I observed that when a man of great repute in his department addressed us, he was the simplest and most lucid of all — said the least, and taught us most.

    Coleridge asks, 'What is it that first strikes us, and strikes us at once, in a man of education, and which, among educated men, so instantly distinguishes the man of superior mind?  Not always the weight or novelty of his remarks, nor always the interest of the facts which he communicates — for the subject of conversation may chance to be trivial, and its duration to be short.  Still less can any just admiration arise from any peculiarity in his words and phrases.  The true cause of the impression made on us is that his mind is methodical.  We perceive this in the unpremeditated and evidently habitual arrangement of his words, flowing spontaneously and necessarily from the clearness of the leading idea, from which distinctness of mental vision, when men are fully accustomed to it, they obtain a habit of foreseeing at the beginning of every sentence how it is to end, and how all its parts may be brought out in the best and most orderly succession.  However irregular and desultory the conversation may happen to be, there is method in the fragments.'  Those who try it will find that a little method is worth a great deal of memory.

    'Since custom,' says the wise Bacon, 'is the principal magistrate of a man's life, let him, by all means, endeavour to obtain good customs.'  Digressiveness is the natural action of the human faculties, till custom or habit come in to give them a settled direction.  Man is as liable, and more liable, to be influenced by the last impression as by any preceding one; and the liability of man is the characteristic of children.  The teacher knows this.  It is the object of discipline to check the tendency to digression, and give stability to method.  A man may be made to perceive method, but not to follow it, without the power of discipline.  A child accustomed to it will go to bed in the dark with peace and pleasure, but all the rhetoric in the world would not accomplish the same end without habit.  Nothing but habit will give the power of habit.

    Drawing characters in novels or dramas is a matter of method.  An original character of general interest is not easily conceived.  Heroes or heroines must have some characteristic of speech or — better and more difficult to sustain — some manner of mind, by which the reader knows them whenever they appear.  The method of the successful author is to keep these characteristics in sight.  Coleridge has shown that the character of Hamlet is decided by the constant recurrence, in the midst of every pursuit, of philosophic reflections.  Mrs Quickly's talk is marked by that lively incoherence so common with garrulous women, whereby the last idea suggests the successor, each carrying the speaker further from the original subject.  After this manner: — 'Speaking of tails — we always like them that end well — Hogg's for instance — speaking of hogs — we saw one of these animals the other day lying in the gutter, and in the opposite one a well-dressed man; the former had a ring in his nose, the latter had a ring on his finger.  The man was drunk, the hog was sober.  A man is known by the company he keeps.'  As Dr Caius clips English, some of Bulwer's characters amplify periods.  Scott makes Dominie Sampson exclaim 'Prodigious.'  Dickens's Sam Weller talks droll slang.  In other and highest forms of art, an overwhelming passion pervades a character, or an intellectual idiosyncrasy is the peculiar quality, leading the possessor to look at everything in a given light.  But whatever may be the feature fixed upon, its methodical working out constitutes individuality of character.

    In the preceding paragraph the reader has met with this sentence: 'We saw the other day one of these animals (a pig) lying in the gutter, and in the opposite one a well-dressed man; the former had a ring in his nose, the latter had a ring on his finger.'  He who would cultivate directness and vigour of speech, his method should be to avoid these hateful trouble-giving words 'former' and 'latter,' and even 'one' and 'other,' as representing things cited, unless they are close at hand and immediately before the eyes, as in Hamlet's remark, 'look on this picture and on that.'  'Former' and 'latter' are always detestable, as they interrupt attention while it goes back to look for the thing referred to.  Suppose the pig sentence above quoted was put thus: We saw the other day a pig lying in the gutter, and in the opposite gutter a well-dressed man.  The pig had a ring in his nose — the man had a ring on his finger.  Here is methodical directness, and no doubts raised as to whether 'one' refers to pig or gutter, and no doubt as to the two animals referred to.

    Next to those who talk as though they would never come to the point, are a class of bores who talk as though they did not know what the point was.  Before they have proceeded far in telling a story, they stumble upon some Mr What's-his-name, whom they have forgotten, and, though it does not matter whether he had a name or not, the narrative is made to stand still until they have gone through the tiresome and fruitless task of trying to remember it — in which they never succeed.

    When Fadladeen is asked his critical opinion on the poem of Feramoz he commences thus: — 'In order to convey with clearness my opinion of the story this young man has related, it is necessary to take a review of all the stories that ever were told — ' 'My good Fadladeen!' exclaimed Lalla Rookh, interrupting him, 'we really do not deserve that you should give yourself so much trouble.  Your opinion of the poem we have just heard will, no doubt, be abundantly edifying, without further waste of your valuable erudition.'  'If that be all,' replied the critic — evidently mortified at not being allowed to show how much he knew — 'if that be all that is required, the matter is easily dispatched.'  He then proceeded to analyse the poem.  The wit of Moore here satirises a discursiveness common to the learned as well as to the uninstructed.

    Prolixity, says Bentham, may be where redundancy is not.  Prolixity may arise, not only from the multifarious insertion of unnecessary articles, but from the conservatism of too many necessary ones in a sentence; as a workman may be overladen not only with rubbish, which is of no use for him to carry, but with materials the most useful and necessary, when heaped up into loads too heavy for him at once.  There is a limit to the lifting powers of each man, beyond which all attempts only charge him with the burthen to him immovable.  There is in like manner a limit to the grasping power of man's apprehension, beyond which, if you add article to article, the whole shrinks from under his utmost efforts.  'Too much is seldom enough,' say the authors, of Guesses at Truth.  'Pumping after your bucket is full prevents it keeping so.'  It belongs to method to limit information to the capacity of the hearers to deal with it, as well as to the capacity of the speaker to dispense it.  The mind is often stricken with a palsy of thought; sometimes with a paralysis by weight of information which prevents it thinking.  It was probably knowledge of this nature that made Hobbes exclaim, 'If I read as much as my neighbours I should be as ignorant as they are.'  The word 'cramming' excludes a selection of knowledge for choice in use.  Cramming is filling the mind with all the information relating to many subjects, so that thought has no room or power to move on any.  It was said — when he became cantankerous — by Mr Somerville, the 'Whistler at the Plough,' that Mr Cobden employed him to cram him on Corn-Law questions.  If Mr Cobden employed him to collect outlying facts for him, he did wisely.  Cobden always kept his mind disengaged and free to deal with relevant facts, as was manifest in his judgment and decision in what he brought forward in argument.  Mr Spurgeon employed a reader at the British Museum to look up for him droll sayings of humorous preachers, which he used with a discretion and fitness which made them his own.  It is method which directs an orator in the uses of illustration, and keeps them from becoming the substance instead of the light of a discourse.

    Method in common things is often important.  A good deal may depend on how you place your facts.  Some years ago it was the custom in Glasgow, when a fire broke out in the evening, for the police to enter the theatre and announce the fire and the locality, that if any person concerned was present, he might be apprised of his impending loss.  On one occasion, when the watch commenced to announce 'Fire — 45 Candleriggs,' the audience took alarm at the word 'Fire,' and concluded that it applied to the theatre.  A rush ensued, which prevented the full notice being heard, and several persons lost their lives.  The inversion of the order of announcement, '45 Candleriggs on Fire,' would have prevented the disaster.  But afterwards, the practice of such announcements was forbidden, it being impossible, I suppose, to reform the rhetoric of policemen.

    A like want of method appeared on the tombstone of a preacher who died in India, which ran thus: 'Sacred to the memory of the Rev. David Zelus, who, after twenty years of unremitting labour as a missionary, was accidentally shot by his steward.'  Then followed the line, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant.'  The object was not to praise the man for killing his minister, but the line was so placed as to do it.

    What eloquence is more touching, as a rule, than that of a simple tale of actual wrong?  Dispassionateness gives the air of truth.  The presence of passion leads us to suspect the partisan.  Invective is the twin brother of exaggeration.  The suffrage of mankind is always on the side of dignity.  When a man feels that he has a strong case, we have less excitement and no self-returned verdict.  A man who thinks he has a clear case can safely leave it to the judgment of others.  No barrister makes a long speech to the jury when the evidence is all on his side.  Sir Fitzroy Kelly never shed tears except when he had a Tawell to defend, nor did Sergeant Phillips weep save when he knew Courvoisier guilty.

    As has been said, earnestness is an element of force; but earnestness must go only as far as the hearers will believe it to be real.  No assembly is moved by an intensity they do not feel to be well founded and cannot share.  It is not only in vain you say more than your hearers will believe; it is against you.  For those who distrust your judgment cease to be under your influence.

    Art in statement is like cultivated taste in exhibiting treasures.  The picture or statuette must be seen with the glory of space around it.  All crowding is distraction and detraction.  Multiplicity is not magnificence, as the uneducated think.  All details have their place in statement.  Out of place they are meaner things crowding about the nobler, hiding the proportions of beauty, distracting, tormenting and outraging the trained eye or ear.  The mariner sees a revolving light easier than a fixed one.  An object alternately dark and light is seen more clearly and noticed longer than uniformity of brightness.  In the English International Exhibition there were ten times more objects of art and of industrial invention and skill than in the French Exhibition of the same character.  But the French produced ten times more effect than we did, because the English less understand that space is a part of splendour.  Thus in literature and eloquence, as well as in art, it is a rule of method to let the main points be distinctly seen without impedimentary obstacles or the shadow of an alien attraction.  Bear in mind that diversion is dispersion of power.

    On the principle of method, things related should go together, and this relationship kept in view not only assists the understanding of the hearer, but aids the memory of the speaker.  Forty years ago (October 1854), the Quarterly Review gave the following instance without showing or knowing its origin or lesson.  Macklin, himself a great actor, one evening gave a lecture on 'Memory in Connection with Oratory,' said that he had a system of memory by which he could repeat anything after once hearing it.  Whereupon Foote, a wit of that day, handed him a paper, asking him to read and then repeat it from memory.  The paper contained these words: —

'So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf, to make an apple-pie: and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop.  "What?  No soap."  So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber, and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garcelies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top; and they all fell to playing the game of catch as catch can, till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots.'

    Macklin's Art of Memory failed him straightway.  The utter disconnection of every idea presented with that which went before — the total absence of all relationship defeated him.  Relationship, the principle of method, is the handmaid of memory.  The very rudiment of method is to have a point and keep to it — that is, to let the march of speech lead direct to it.  Remember, the shortest distance to any point is a straight line.  One who knew says: 'Keep always to the point, or with an eye upon it;' and instead of saying things to make people stare and wonder, say what will withhold them hereafter from wondering and staring.  To make remote things tangible, common things extensively useful, useful things common, is philosophy.

    If you wish a traveller to reach a distant town — by a way unknown to him — you endeavour to select for him a way free from cross-roads, lest he may turn aside and lose himself.  An exordium should be of this character, that the understanding may pass uninterruptedly into the heart of the subject.  Motley terms, questionable assertions, disputable dogmas, are the cross-roads; so much like the real road that the traveller after truth often loses himself before half way on his journey.

    A discerning writer, John Morley, I think, in his book on Burke, says: —

'Of the effect of the want of method in neutralising the most magnificent powers, Burke is a remarkable instance.  As an orator, Burke dazzled his hearers, then distracted them, and finished by fatiguing or offending them.  And it was not uncouth elocution and exterior only which impaired the efficacy of his speeches.  Burke almost always deserted his subject before he was abandoned by his audience.  In the progress of a long discourse he was never satisfied with proving that which was principally in question, or with enforcing the single measure which it was his business and avowed purpose to enforce — he diverged to a thousand collateral topics — he demonstrated as many disputed propositions — he established principles in all directions — he illuminated the whole horizon with his magnificent, but scattered, lights.  Having too many points to prove, his auditors in their turn forgot that they had undergone the process of conviction upon any.'

    But how can method in oratory be better illustrated than in the following passage from a morning sermon at South Place Chapel, London, delivered by W. J. Fox when he was preacher there? —

'From the dawn of intellect and freedom Greece has been a watchword on the earth.  There rose the social spirit to soften and refine her chosen race, and shelter as in a nest her gentleness from the rushing storm of barbarism; there liberty first built her mountain throne, first called the waves her own, and shouted across them a proud defiance to despotism's banded myriads; there the arts and graces danced around humanity, and stored man's home with comforts, and strewed his path with roses, and bound his brows with myrtle, and fashioned for him the breathing statue, and summoned him to temples of snowy marble, and charmed his senses with all forms of eloquence, and threw over his final sleep their veil of loveliness; there sprung poetry, like their own fabled goddess, mature at once from the teeming intellect, gilt with arts and armour that defy the assaults of time and subdue the heart of man; there matchless orators gave the world a model of perfect eloquence, the soul the instrument on which they played, and every passion of our nature but a tone which the master's touch called forth at will; there lived and taught the philosophers of bower and porch, of pride and pleasure, of deep speculation, and of useful action, who developed all the acuteness and refinement, and excursiveness, and energy of mind, and were the glory of their country when their country was the glory of the earth.'

    Here the student discerns the hand of a master of method.  There was no cheering at the close of this splendid period, but the rustle of dresses and stir of admiration as the congregation, who had bent forward, sat upright again, told of the enchantment diffused by the brilliant relevance of the preacher.




NO one can have tact who has not taste.  How can a man tell which is the best thing to do who has no intelligent preferences?  Tact consists in graceful conciliation.

    The distinction between method and tact is illustrated by the following practical remarks of Paley: — 'For the purpose of addressing different understandings — for the purpose of sentiment — for the purpose of exciting admiration of our subject we diversify our views, we multiply examples.  [This is tact.]  But for the purpose of strict argument one clear instance is sufficient; and not only sufficient, but capable, perhaps, of generating a firmer assurance than what can arise from a divided attention.'  [This is method.]  When an opponent urges an objection, one way of replying to it is to prove that the assertion contained in the objection is not true.  Another is to show that if even the assertion be true, it is no objection to the position taken.  It sometimes happens that the argument advanced against an opponent is really an argument in his favour.  Tact discovers and avails itself of these advantages.  Method arranges the materials, tact applies the resources of reasoning.

    An obituary notice of Sir William Follet said: —

'We do not, by any means, mean to say that at any period of his life he could be described as a scientific lawyer.  His professional position was attributed neither to the superiority of his professional knowledge nor to any talent above his contemporaries.  In Parliament he displayed no stores of political, literary and economical information, nor versatility, nor vigorous invective.  It must be admitted that he was neither an orator, nor a man of genius, nor a man of learning, apart from the speciality of his profession.  He had neither passion, nor imagination of the fancy or of the heart.  In what, then, lay his barristerial superiority?  His great skill consisted in presenting his case in the most harmonious and fair-purposed aspect.  If there was anything false or fraudulent, a hitch, or a blot in his cause, he kept it dexterously out of view, or hurried it trippingly over, but if the blot was on the other side, he had the eye of the lynx and the scent of the hound to detect and run down his game.  He had the greatest skill in reading an affidavit, and could play the "artful dodger" in a style looking so like gentlemanly candour, that you could not find fault; but in reading an affidavit on the opposite side, he was cunning of fence.'

    Such an example illustrates legal tact.  Tact so employed may denote a clever lawyer, but a very indifferent man.

    Thom, the weaver poet, told a story in the best vein of Scotch shrewdness.  He was one day recounting an anecdote of Inverary, or old Aberdeen — the point of the story rested on a particular word spoken in a fitting place.  When he came to it he hesitated, as though at a loss for the term.  'What is it you say under these circumstances?' he asked; 'not this — nor that,' he remarked, as he went over three or four terms by way of trial, as each was endeavouring to assist him.  'Ah,' he added, apparently benevolent towards the difficulty into which he had thrown his hearers, 'we say! for want of a better word.'  This of course was the word wanted, the happiest phrase the language afforded.  He gained several things by this finesse.  He enlivened a regular narrative by an exciting digression, which increased the force and point of the climax.  He created a difficulty for his auditors, who, when suddenly asked, would be unable to find a term which seemed denied to his happy resource, or, finding it, would distrust it and not have the courage to present it to such a fastidious epithetist.  Thom thus exalted himself by finding what appeared out of their power, and excited an indefinite wonder at his own skill in bringing a story to so felicitous an end by the employment of a make-shift phrase.  What would he have done if he could have found the right one? was naturally thought.  This was tact.  It was a case analogous to that given by Dickens in one of his early papers, where the president, at an apparent loss for a word, asks, 'What is that you give a man who is deprived of a salary which he has received all his life for doing nothing; or, perhaps worse, for obstructing public improvement?'  'Compensation,' suggests the Vice.

    To do by design what Thom did it is necessary to choose some rare and happy word to use in some intended remarks, and keep in memory two or three other words which might be tolerable in that place.  Hesitate on coming to the right term, inquire for it, and repeat the inferior words one by one and dismiss them; then name, as though it was just thought of, the fitting word.  Spontaneity is the charm of the incident, but all is spoiled if calculation is perceived in it.  As a device such experiments are useful to the student, since the difficulty of finding the right word at a critical point constantly occurs, when hesitation is not artifice but inevitable.  As an artifice it begets distrust.

    There is tact in the use of phrases free from any objection.  E. S. Dallas cites Saint Beuve as throwing out his meaning in a happy phrase, which being insufficient, he tries another.  That is not quite right.  By one phrase which falls short, by another that goes too far, and others which are beside the mark, he indicates what he would be at.

    It is the judicious application of means that constitutes tact.  In journalism tact is indispensable.  The history of Mr Murray's daily paper, the Representative, published for six or eight months in Lord Byron's day, is proof that unlimited command of capital, great literary ability in every branch of knowledge, and the highest patronage, are all insufficient to establish a paper without tact.  Mr Murray's regal and legal, ermined and coroneted, lay and clerical, civil and military friends, lacked that essential gift, or the editor did.

    There is tact in reply, as when a gentleman who had been out shooting over a friend's estate with ill-success, and was anxious to learn the gamekeeper's opinion, inquired ingratiatingly whether he had ever seen a worse shot.  The gamekeeper, unwilling to make an admission which might be discomforting to his master's guest, answered, 'Oh, yes, I have met with many much worse, for you misses them so cleanly.'  An Irishman being asked by two ladies 'which he thought the older?' saw, with the quickness of his race, that if he answered the question he should get into trouble with one of them, replied brightly, 'To tell you the truth, you each look younger than the other.'  With such an assurance both were satisfied.  Douglas Jerrold excelled in extricating himself from a difficulty on the spur of the moment.  Overtaking one whom he took to be a familiar friend, he slapped him on the back.  The gentleman turned round, looking as black as a judge's hanging cap.  Jerrold said, 'I beg your pardon, I thought I knew you — but I am glad I don't.'  Tact of this kind depends on brightness and self-possession, qualities capable of cultivation.

    It never occurs to some people that gaiety of mind is a charm on the platform as well as in the household.  They do not understand that cheerfulness is a duty towards others, and tells upon an audience as well as upon friends.  The grave are always dull.  They belong to the charnel-house side of life.  Others have hedgehog manners, and prick all who approach them.  Hedgehogs are good roasted, but nobody thinks of embracing one in its natural state.  No one doubts that a moderate sense of tact would alter this.

    The tact of consideration of others — in the respect of personal courtesies — goes a long way in politics, as in social life.  The effect of the want of it Lord Lytton depicts in his 'New Timon' in describing Lord John Russell: —

How formed to lead, if not too proud to please,
His fame would fire you, but his manners freeze;
Like or dislike, he does not care a jot,
He wants your vote, but your affections not;
Yet human hearts need sun, as well as oats, —
So cold a climate plays the deuce with votes;
And while his doctrines ripen day by day,
His frost-bit party pines itself away.

Public geniality had been good policy.  Lord Lytton measured political duty by the standard of fashion, which regulates votes, not by principle, but by the courtesies of ministers.  That Lord Russell had amenity of manners when duties of State left him leisure, is proved by his light-hearted and changeless friendship for men like Thomas Moore and Leigh Hunt, whose spirits were all sunshine.

    Lately, when a distinguished peer explained a passage in a speech which was construed against him by adversaries, Mr Courtney said a man might do three things.  'The first was to stick to the assertion.  Any fool could do that: but all the same, very few fools did.  Second, he might say openly that when he came to reflect he found that his words went further than his thoughts.  That was the heroic method.  The third way was not withdrawing the words, but attenuating the meaning.'  The best tact in a difficulty of misapprehension is frankness.

    Everybody knows the difference between things said or done anyhow, and said or done with consideration.

Hearts in love use their own tongues;
Let every eye negotiate for itself,
And trust no agent.

    Shakspere understood tact in love.

    Everyone has tact, more or less, when they are interested — and reflection and good sense will make it an acquisition.  It has been well said that no one learns to think by getting rules for thinking, but by getting materials for thought.




IT is of no mean importance to an orator or speaker, who is invited to address a meeting, to make himself acquainted how that meeting is likely to be conducted, and who are announced or are likely to address it.  If there are many speakers, he who speaks first, or second, or at any time, must be brief, in courtesy to others.  If the speakers are not brief, the orator who has decided upon, and arranged the order of his arguments, will find that he has to drop out, one by one, points he deems important.  It is the duty of a chairman to take care that the meeting — unless one of unusual importance in the eyes of the auditors — should not exceed two or two and a half hours.  It is the duty of the chairman to see the list of speakers invited to address the meeting, and arrange with the convenors of the meeting what time should be given to each, and notify to each that when that time is nearly up he will make known the same to him.  Not one chairman in ten ever does this, nor reflects that, as the audience is responsible to him for maintaining order in the meeting, he is responsible to the audience for keeping time on the platform.  For want of this thought half an hour of time is commonly wasted, which to a meeting of five hundred persons means a loss of twenty-five days of ten hours each.  In fact, meetings are frequently prolonged till eleven o'clock, which might have been concluded at ten, which to an audience of a thousand persons implies a loss of fifty working days of ten hours.  This needless extension of the duration of the meeting means the adulteration of the proceedings, by prolixity, decrease of animation, and weariness to hearers, who become less inclined to attend meetings which no one knows when they will end.  The speaker who is called upon late should understand these contingencies, and take them into account by speaking with what directness and energy he can.  I have heard Mr Bright kindle a fire of enthusiasm at a Birmingham meeting which was breaking up late and listlessly.  But this is only possible to orators of the type of those whom Mark Antony said once stirred the stones of Rome.  Under such circumstances the ordinary speaker would be ineffectual; and late speakers at exhausted meetings will do well to say little or nothing — for a speech which would be successful when the meeting was fresh or unwearied, will command no attention later.

    Sometimes a special paper is read at a meeting, under an announcement that no paper is to exceed twenty minutes in length.  It will probably extend to forty or fifty minutes; and those who gave the pledge that twenty minutes should be its limit will actually print the extended paper and deliver it to, the appointed reader, although they see that no one could gabble through it audibly in the prescribed period.  Thus the succeeding commenters on the paper confront an assembly of wearied and baffled listeners, who have failed to retain its excess of matter in their minds.  It is well that succeeding speakers understand this, lest they interpret the listlessness of the hearers as indifference to them.  There is another liability from which a speaker whose voice is not loud must protect himself, by profiting from what he may know of the vocal capacity of others likely to precede him.  If he is allotted to follow a Boanerges (a son of thunder) of the platform, the contrast will be against him — say what he will.  But if he speaks before them he will be heard on his merits.  Frequently, a public meeting is called to consider and discuss some question of importance.  Then the trouble is cast upon the chairman of discerning what the main point or points are which he should state to the meeting — since it is his duty to see that speakers keep to them.  Anyone intending to speak should get clear ideas on the subject himself, since he will speak most effectively who knows what the question is and keeps to it.  The business of those who speak at conference or discussion is to consider alone the question stated by the chairman or other responsible person — the reader of a paper or the opener of the question — and not the speeches of others, except so far as they relate to the main point at issue.  A speaker who understands these things can attain ascendency in the meeting, for all are ready to applaud anyone who sees clearly, clears up confusion, and leads distracted public attention back to the point.

    When a speech or lecture is thrown open to criticism, each critic commonly expects to occupy the same time as the speaker, which often prevents more than one being heard in reply.  In co-operative meetings this is prudently prevented by limiting the time of each speaker.  It is not the work of any one speaker, but the work of many, to appraise and comment upon a whole lecture or paper, and each critic should select a leading point, and ten minutes would afford time for an effective objection if one could be raised.  A speaker, therefore, who has talent by which he can advance a cause, or add to the public information, should seek, beforehand, conditions which give him a fair opportunity consistent with the equal chances of others.

    At public meetings, where opposing parties often struggle to be heard, confusion, delay and ill-feeling might be obviated by each party pre-appointing a representative of ability, in whom confidence could be reposed, to speak on their behalf, and by those calling the meeting being made acquainted with and consenting to the arrangement — the views of half a dozen parties could be advocated, where the views of one are heard but inadequately and impatiently now.

    Sometimes a speaker is confused and disconcerted at a public meeting by hearing loud calls for another person to speak, and thinks — as I have known a reverend orator do — the audience are impatient with him and want to hear some one else.  All the while it was the plot of an ambitious publicist, who had personal admirers whom he encouraged to attend meetings and call for him, giving the impression that he was in public demand.  There is the story of the auditor, at an American meeting, who kept calling, 'Mr Corkles; let Mr Corkles speak.'  At length the Chairman said, 'Can't you be quiet?  Mr Corkles is now speaking.'  'That Mr Corkles?' said the astonished interrupter, 'why, that is the man who engaged me to holler out his name.'

    A case occurred at a northern meeting some time ago, where the hall was so crowded that those wedged far in wished they were outside.  One man who tried in vain to make his way to the door, and for whom no one would make an opening, began to call out 'What did Mr Gladstone say?  What did Mr Gladstone say?' until the speaker on the platform could not be heard and the audience were incensed.  Whereupon cries arose, 'Turn him out,' and the man so anxious to hear 'what Mr Gladstone said,' was turned out.  When one who had assisted in his ejection said to him, 'What was it Mr Gladstone said?'  'I have no idea,' was the answer.  'Then why did you call' out?'  The reply was, 'Because I wanted to get out; when by my becoming an interrupter everybody made way for me.'  If the arts and expedients of public meetings are understood by a speaker, he will not be needlessly perturbed by interruptions.  Many persons cry out whose object is not at once apparent, and whose intentions are not at all implied in what they say.

    Public meetings in the country, and in the town also, are conducted on the crudest principles.  If many men were disposed to take part in the meeting, it would be impossible that any business could be transacted under several days.  The assumption that every man has a right to be heard could not be acted upon if half who usually attend public meetings were to enforce that 'right.'  In Saxon days, when a public meeting consisted of a small number of villagers under a tree, every one having a right to speak caused no inconvenience.  It is strange that this right should remain in force after 1,000 years, when public meetings consist of 30,000 persons, as was the case at Bingley Hall, Birmingham, when Mr Gladstone spoke there.  Had each claimed the right to be heard, and insisted on it, the meeting had lasted six months.




EVERY public speaker or debater is sure, sooner or later, to come in contact with the press.  He will need it to assist in making known his view, or in vindicating himself against the adverse criticisms of opponents, or in correcting erroneous reports of what he has said.  Even John Arthur Roebuck, the most direct speaker of his day, had to do this.  Even Mr Cobden, whom it was difficult to misconstrue or misunderstand, had to do this.  Even Mr Gladstone, the most circumambient speaker of all — that is, he travels all round his main idea, and not only explains it, but illustrates it — has had to write to the press, from time to time, in vindication of his meaning.  Therefore humbler speakers, who may one day be publicists, may be interested in knowing something of the art of communicating to the press, with fewer of those disappointments usually ascribed to editorial malevolence or neglect of rising genius, when the fault is in the writer.

    Every attempt at expressing opinion by the pen, however ill it may succeed, is a part of the process of self-education, and often the only mode available to the poor.  Whatever shall render this more practicable and common among the people does good, and to this end a few rules are submitted for the guidance of correspondents unaccustomed to write to the press.  Literature is a republic where all eminence is honourable, where none can attain distinction save by effort and patience, which are the chief forces of genius.  But by reason of the necessary conditions of admission being overlooked, many sustain disappointment, which to them is inexplicable.  The conditions, which are very simple, I have heretofore expressed for students thus: —

1.    Use large note-size paper, because a larger sheet covers the printer's case, and hinders his work.

2.    Do not write on the back of the paper, as while one side is being 'set up' what is written on the back cannot be 'gone on with.'

3.    Write with dark-black ink, for an editor will read with reluctance what he sees with difficulty, and the compositor, for the same reason, will dislike to set it up.

4.    Always write a plain, bold hand; if you send an undistinguishable scrawl, it will be thrown aside until the editor has leisure to make it out, which may not be until the 'interest of the article has passed away,' and it may be too late to print it.

5.    Remember, that whatever gives an editor trouble at his desk, may double expense in the printing office; the printers and readers waste time in deciphering bad MS., and out of any failure in interpretation commonly grows a charge against the journal for 'misrepresenting' the writer.

6.    If you know that the editor will take any trouble to oblige you, and you have no scruples, give him any trouble you please.  If you are rich, and can send the printers a guinea for making out your letter, you may scrawl like a gentleman.  If you have a great name, so that the responsibility of anything you write will attach to yourself and not reflect on the paper, express yourself how you will; you may scribble with a pin on butter paper, and the editor will try to make it out.  But if the editor is under no obligation to you, if you have no guineas to spare, if you are not so popular that anything must be printed that bears your name, you had better cleave to good sense, good taste, clear expression, black ink, and a plain hand.  If you cannot write plainly, have your communication copied by someone who can.  Never fear that an editor will omit or abridge your communication without cause.  If it have value he will be glad of it.  If it contains only relevant facts, and be, as all relations of facts ought to be, briefly told, without declamation, digression, or personal imputation on others, it will be impossible to abridge it.  A well-written letter or narrative is incapable of being altered or abbreviated for the better.  Hardly anything is ever refused, if well written.  The artistic taste of an editor for the literary perfection of his paper is a ruling passion, stronger than personal feeling or political prejudice, and next to the love of fair play he is attracted by a communication which is well done.

    It is common to new writers to put all they have to say into one sentence.  A long sentence is most difficult to construct clearly — and that is what the inexperienced first attempt, though not knowing how to separate distinct pieces of information.  After a while, young writers discover that every separate idea should be separately expressed, in separate sentences.  Long sentences are wearisome to read, difficult to understand, and almost impossible to correct.  This fault in writing prevents many useful articles from appearing in print.  Editors cannot find time for re-writing such papers.  It is a common complaint that editors strike out the 'best parts' of papers sent them.  They do this seldomer than is supposed, for editors in their own interest are commonly good judges of the 'best parts' of letters or other communications calculated to interest or allure readers.

    In Mavor's History of Greece, which used to be a common school-book for young students, may be read in Chapter XI. such sentences as the following: —

    'Nicias asked merely for quarter for the miserable remains of his troops who had not perished in the Asinarius, or upon its banks.'  No one need be at loss to discover the superfluous information given that Nicias asked for quarter for 'those who had not perished.'  No general asks for quarter for those who have.  The same writer tells us that 'discipline yielded to the pressure of necessity.  They hurried down the steep in confusion and without order, and trod one another to death in the stream.'  Necessity is all 'pressure,' and it is not necessary to specify the essence of a thing as operative.  It is needless to tell us, that men all 'in confusion' 'were without order.'  It had been better for Mavor's history and his own reputation had some editor put his pen through these silly superfluous words.

    When we discover a number of emphatic words employed, we know the writer or speaker has no sense of measure.  'When Rigby,' says Disraeli, 'was of opinion he had made a point, you may be sure the hit was in italics, that last resource of the forcible feebles.'  'Ordinarily,' says Schlegel, 'men entertain a very erroneous notion of criticism, and understand by it nothing more than a certain shrewdness in detecting and exposing the faults of a work of art.  Art cannot exist without nature, and man can give nothing to his fellow-men but himself.'  This explains all the student need take to heart at this point.  If he will give 'himself in his communications he will be interesting.  Cobbett said, 'the secret of good writing is to talk with the pen.'  If a writer will put down his sentences in the free, natural, unaffected way he would speak them to a friend in talking over what interests him, he will find favour with editors.  If a man is dull, and his dulness is absolute, perfect, complete in all its parts, and coherent — he will often obtain a hearing, like Mirabeau's head, whose entire ugliness rendered it alluring.  Perfect stupidity or relevant, unaffected good sense will win attention.  It is the mixture that gives editors trouble.  Delane, the editor of the Times, once struck out a weak sentence and an irrelevant remark in a letter of mine, to my great advantage.  I was very grateful for it.  But it is rarely an editor will do this.  The writer is almost sure to charge him with emasculating his communication, and rather than risk this, the editor leaves out the letter.

    One thing the correspondent of a newspaper should bear in mind is — not to make any dishonouring imputation upon the persons he writes about.  Even if he thinks he has been wilfully misrepresented by an adversary, a reporter, or by the editor, he had better not say so.  First, because he can hardly ever be sure of it.  Second, because he can hardly ever prove it, and it is a serious thing to make a charge of dishonourable wilfulness, if you cannot prove it.  Third, because human capacity for seeing things the wrong way, and drawing the wrong conclusion from the plainest premises, is so universally diffused among mankind that you can hardly ever be quite sure that a perversion of what has been said is really wilful.  The Dutch proverb says, 'It is misapprehension which brings lies to town.'  Now, the power of honest misapprehension is very strong in well-meaning people.  Besides, the editor has to be consulted.  To publish a personal imputation might render him liable to an action, and he may not like it.  If he inserted the imputation, the person assailed might claim the right of reply, and might give his assailant 'as good as he had sent,' which might convert the journal into a bear garden, and the readers might not like this.

    Finally, it may be worth while to consider what kind of person the editor to whom you write is.  If he has strong prejudices, it is wisdom to say as little as you can which may excite him, and as much as you can which may conciliate him.  If you wanted to borrow half a guinea you would not think of asking the first person you met, but would cast about among all the persons you knew for one likely to have half a guinea about him, and give some thought as to the best way of addressing him likeliest to induce him to part with the same.  An editor's compliance with your request may in one way or other, sooner or later, be worth many half-guineas.  Thus editors are worthy of consideration in the way in which they are addressed, and especially in the nature and expression of the communication sent to them.




TASTE is a part of good oratory, and is no mean equipment of a great speaker.  No man goes far in a speech without betraying to the auditor his coarseness or refinement.  A man may be an orator without taste and command applause, but he never commands respect without it.  An orator may ruin a cause by a single phrase.  A secretary of a great political party in Manchester lost the election of its candidates by a single expression which wounded the self-respect of the city.  When Mr Blane was presidential candidate in America his election was lost by one of his advocates, the Rev. Dr Burchard, who had coined an alliterative phrase, which he thought much of, but had never thought how it would be regarded by the great assembly to whom it was addressed.  The publicans, the Catholics, and the southern party had been won over in sufficient numbers to give Blane a majority, when Dr Burchard must say that Blane would be victorious over 'Rum, Romanism and Rebellion.'  This rendered the publicans furious, the Catholics indignant, the south vindictive; and so Blane's majority was dissolved by this odious and high-sounding phrase.  The phrase cited was said to be 'bad taste.'  But bad taste means bad judgment, bad knowledge, and disregard for the feelings of others.  To assail the self-respect of adversaries is not an act of taste — it is an outrage.  Taste is preference and selection in personal things, of that which neither annoys nor harms others.  Persons who seek to excuse or escape the responsibility of the preferences of themselves or others, will say 'there is no accounting for tastes.'  Yes, there is.  Taste has its roots in habit, in education, and has its laws and standards.  Town councillors who put and keep up hideousness in the town they are appointed to improve, no sooner visit the Continent than they acquire taste in streets and picturesque open spaces.  Space is the first condition of a fine street.  If dignity cannot be given to a town, gleams of brightness may be let into it, and it need not have monotonousness perpetuated in it.  Bad taste in towns can be accounted for.  It is owing to the ignorance of its chief inhabitants.

    Taste in writing has its laws.  There must be distinctness.  There is writing so elegant that it cannot be read.  The first law of writing is that every letter is distinct in form from every other letter.  One form of letter should be decided on and not departed from.  Neatness and plainness follow.  Taste in writing is founded on the standard that it can be read easily without trouble or effort, and no single letter in it can be mistaken for any other letter.

    Taste in truth depends on accuracy, clearness, vitalness — that is its usefulness and relevance.

    Taste in books is determined by width of margin, clearness of type, strength and durability of paper, apart from the binding and contents.

    Taste in mind has conditions of vividness, perspicacity, force, the sense of proportion, veracity and integrity.

    Taste in manlikeness has reference to symmetry, grace of movement, resilience and health.

    Taste, therefore, is not wantonness of choice, but depends on knowledge; and there would be better taste if it was understood that the quality of taste is the outward and visible sign by which a person betrays his attainments.

    Taste in oratory has also its laws and conditions.  One is that no illustration should be used without reference to the subject.  If the object is to lower the pretension of a person or thing, the illustration should do it.  If the purpose is to exalt, the illustration should elevate it.  I knew an agitator of no mean qualities of mind defend himself before a judge by quoting the simile of Bishop Warburton, who compared him to swine, which, though not popular animals, were yet useful in routing up acorns and fertilising trees.  For the defendant to compare himself to unsavoury swine was to confirm the court in its unpleasant impression of him; whereas his interest was to exalt the character and services of the agitator, whom he might have compared to the explorer, who risks his reputation, and not unfrequently life or liberty, to discover new advantages or opportunities for his countrymen, who may never know him, and if they do neither regard him nor requite him.  Such an illustration would be in good taste, having regard to the defendant's purpose. The first illustration was in bad taste, and he who used it, who was an orator by nature, would have seen it to be so had he reflected; by which I want the student to see that one of the conditions of good taste is reflection.

    Proportion is one form of taste.  To those who have that sense in art or eloquence, disproportion is an outrage, and he who is guilty of it loses the power of being impressive.  Measured and relevant words intensify rather than decrease vividness and imagination.  We are told of Dante that, great and various as his power of creating pictures in a few lines unquestionably was, he owed that power to the directness, simplicity and intensity of his language.  In him 'the invisible becomes visible,' as Leigh Hunt says, — 'darkness becomes palpable, silence describes a character, a word acts as a flash of lightning, which displays some gloomy neighbourhood where a tower is standing, with dreadful faces at the window.'

    'In good prose' (says Frederic Schlegel) 'every word should be underlined' — that is, every word should be the right word; and then no word would be righter than another.  It comes to the same thing, where all words are italics, one may as well use roman.  There are no italics in Plato, because there are no unnecessary or unimportant words.  It is a sign of taste in writing or speaking that it needs few italicised or emphatic words.

    Taste is also part of the art of commendation.  Most persons carry a stock of hate on hand.  Censure is always ready-made.  But praise is a different thing.  It only proceeds from generosity or gratitude, and those are deliberate sentiments.  A man may rage without art, but he cannot applaud sensibly without it.  This is why the quality of a man's mind is more easily seen in his praise than in his censure.  Defamation shows his feeling, praise his understanding; and, if he wishes to give an idea of his strong sense of a service rendered him, he can best do it by showing that he accurately estimates it, and this is the only praise anyone, not vain, cares to receive, or which is an actual tribute to him who receives it.  Taste in praise is rare.  Its principle is that there can be no praise except from equals or superiors who can measure the difficulties overcome in the attainment of excellence.  Inferiors may admire.  Mrs Barbauld recognised this in her admirable line in reference to the inadequacy of the creature professing to praise the Creator.  She wrote —

Silence is our least injurious praise.

    Taste in manners is no mean attainment, and goes for much in the public estimation of the orator.  'Do manners matter?' ask some who have not thought much upon the subject.  There is reason to think manners do matter.  The proverb says, 'Manners make the man.'  No careful speaking man would say this.  There are persons whose manners are coarse or brutal at times, quick, hasty, abrupt and inconsiderate, who are yet tender, full of feeling for others and generous.  There are others who are all suavity and courtesy, whose souls are base and selfish.  Men must be judged by what they do, as well as by what they seem.  Nevertheless, good manners are good as far as they go.  Everybody knows this; even those who affect to despise courtesy as servility or mealy-mouthedness, are quickly stung themselves and irritated and implacable, if they find themselves treated with discourtesy.  Bad manners give a bad impression of a good heart, and a bad presentment gives a bad impression of a good cause.

    A definition should not only help you to find a thing, but help you to know it when you do find it.  How many definitions of politeness and good breeding have you not heard, but who has defined it in such words of light and guidance as Swift, who said, 'Whoever makes the fewest persons uneasy, is the best bred man in the company where he is.'

    Politeness is thoughtfulness for others and forgetfulness of yourself.  Good breeding is consideration for the pleasure of those about you.  It is the same in palace and cottage; in the highest assembly and the lowest; in Parliament or a town council; in pulpit or on the platform: at the fireside or in the street.  It is possible to all in the workshops, in the mill, or in the store.  It is not rank, it is not wealth, it is not learning that constitutes good breeding.  Good breeding is good feeling, and it is good taste to remember it.




PREMEDITATION is but thoughtfulness in speech, and he who speaks without thought will soon have hearers who will pay him no attention.  He who speaks without preparing what he will say is but a gambler in oratory who trusts to the right dice turning up as he proceeds.  Preparation is premeditation.

    A book is not written — a poem is not written — a play is not written — a picture is not painted — without premeditation.  If they are, the book will lack arrangement — the poem will be wanting in grace, the play will be deficient in construction, and the picture will not be the best expression of the artist's powers.  Of course there are exceptions.  Inspiration may come like a flash of light and reveal a remarkable design; but though premeditation is not in it, and could not produce it, meditation alone can perfect the design.  Speeches are the better for premeditation.  Even sermons are improved by it.  A young candidate for holy orders had to preach his trial sermon before Archbishop Whately.  That experienced prelate discovered crudeness of arrangement and want of finish of expression in what he heard, and asked the young preacher whether he was accustomed to prepare his discourses.  He answered that he was not, as he trusted to the divine promise — 'In the hour in which you have to speak it shall be given to you what you shall say.'  The Archbishop remarked that that promise was given to the Apostles, and unless he was sure that he was an apostle it might not apply to him.  The candidate had trust and piety, without which preaching is ineffective, but the shrewd prelate knew that without preparation piety could seldom commend its cause in the pulpit.

    Orators of renown have not disdained to premeditate their speeches, both in Parliament and on the platform.  Porson said that 'Pitt carefully considered his sentences before he uttered them, but that Fox threw himself into the middle of his, and left it to God Almighty to get him out again.'  But those who lack the splendid confidence of Charles James Fox had better acquire that sureness in speech affirmed of a certain French speaker, whose sentences were like cats — he showered them into the air and they found their feet without trouble.

    There is reason to believe that the greatest masters of oratory have been sensible of the value, and have practised premeditation.  It is only the young, would-be speaker who expects to be great without effort, or whose vanity leads him to impose upon others the belief that he is so — who affects to despise preparation.  One of the biographers of Canning tells us that he was himself fastidious to excess about the slightest terms of expression.  He would correct his speeches and amend their verbal graces.  He was not singular in this.  Burke, whom he is said to have closely studied, did the same.  Sheridan always prepared his speeches; the highly-wrought passages in his speech on the Hastings impeachment were written beforehand and committed to memory, and the differences were so marked that the audience could readily distinguish between the extemporaneous passages and those that were premeditated.  Canning's alterations were frequently so minute and extensive that the printers found it easier to recompose the matter afresh in type than to correct it.  This is to be amendment mad.  Frugality in revision is as much a mark of sanity as frugality in metaphors.

    Oratory in this country is less good than it would be owing to the foolish contempt for 'cut and dried speeches,' till it has come to be considered a sign of weakness for a man to think before he speaks.  Those who travelled with Shiel when he spoke in the country, could hear him in the morning repeating his intended oration in his dressing-room.  Disraeli said in the Young Duke, 'Mr Shiel's speech in Kent was a fine oration, and the boobies who taunted him for having got it by rote were not aware that in doing so he wisely followed the example of Pericles, Demosthenes, Lycias, Isocrates, Hortensius, Cicero, Cζsar, and every great orator of antiquity.'

    The orations or compositions of Demosthenes are not distinguished by ornament and splendour.  It is an energy of thought which raises him above his species.  He appears not to attend to words but to things.  We forget the orator, and think of the subject.  Demades says, that Demosthenes spoke better on some few occasions when he spoke unpremeditatedly.  Probably he spoke well in some of these instances, but it was the result of power acquired by the habit of preparation.  As a general rule, he who thinks twice before speaking once, will speak twice the better for it.

    When Macaulay was about to address the House of Commons his anxious and restless manner betrayed his intention.  Still, he was regardless of the laugh of the witlings, and continued intent on his effort.  This is the real courage that does things well — the courage that is neither laughed nor frowned from its purpose.

    Macaulay spoke early in the evening, before the jarring of the debate confused him, or long attention enfeebled his powers.  When the great Lord Chatham was to appear in public he took much pains about his dress, and latterly he arranged his flannels in graceful folds.  It need not then detract from our respect for Erskine, says Lord Campbell, in his Lives of the Chancellors, that 'when he went down into the country on special retainers, he examined the court the night before the trial, in order to select the most advantageous place for addressing the jury.  On the cause being called, the crowded audience were perhaps kept waiting a few minutes before the celebrated stranger made his appearance; a particularly nice wig, and a pair of new yellow gloves, distinguished and embellished his person beyond the ordinary costume of the barrister of the circuit.'

    Amid the applause bestowed upon premeditation, it would not be just to omit the ridicule with which it has been visited by Sydney Smith.  'It is only by the fresh feelings of the heart that mankind can be very powerfully affected.  What can be more ludicrous than an orator delivering stale indignation and fervour of a week old? turning over whole pages of violent passions, written out in German text; reading the trophes and apostrophes into which he is hurried by the ardour of his mind, and so affected at a preconcerted line and page that he is unable to proceed any further.'  True, 'it is only by the fresh feelings of the heart that mankind can be very powerfully affected.'  But nature is always fresh; and he who reproduces nature will always be effective.  Macready never stabbed his daughter to preserve her honour.  Yet every man was moved at his Virginius.  As Othello, Macready's 'indignation' at lago was a glory of the stage for years; yet men were as much affected by its intensity as on the first day when he displayed it.  The speech of Antony over the dead body of Cζsar was 'written in German text' in the days of Queen Elizabeth; it was 'cut and dried' near three hundred years ago.  Yet, whatever our satirical canon may say, the idea of premeditation is extinguished by the charm of perfect expression and the passion excited, in those capable of realising its fitness and force, is fresh to every generation of hearers.  Lord Brougham wrote out the last passages of his speech for the defence of Queen Caroline nine times.  Its effect was a triumph of preparation.

    When Dr Black had a class of young men at the Reform Association, he disciplined them in rhetoric by causing each to marshal his discourse on a chosen theme under certain heads.  These once gone over, he required these heads to be spoken upon by inversion, beginning probably with the peroration, continuing with the argument, taking afterwards the statement, or other division belonging to the theme, and ending with the exordium.  Not until a member could speak well on any one head, and in any order, was he deemed master of his subject.

    Professor de Morgan remarks in a paper which he furnished to Dr Lardner's Geometry, that to number the parts of propositions is the only way of understanding them.  To identify details and grasp the whole are the two indices of proficiency.

    Margaret Fuller relates how backwoodsmen of America, whom she visited, would sit by their log-fire at night and tell 'rough pieces out of their lives.'  This disintegration of events by men strong of will and full of matter, in order to set distinct parts before auditors, is a sign of that power which we call mastery.  Ability is, always, power under command.

    Elsewhere, in describing Colonel John Hay's account of Abraham Lincoln, I have said: — It has never been made so clear in what way, and by what qualities, the gaunt rail-splitter attained the Presidency.  His speeches show that he excelled in seeing all the way into a State problem and in power of perfect statement of it.  His account of his self-education is one by which many students may profit to-day.  Lincoln said, 'When a child I used to get irritated when anyone talked to me in a way I could not understand; that always disturbed my temper, and has ever since.'  He 'hunted after the idea in a dark saying' until he thought he had caught it, and was not satisfied until he had put it into language 'plain enough for any boy to understand it.'  That was Lincoln's answer as to how he acquired the art of 'putting things' — which does not come by nature, but by education.  In studying law-books, he came upon the word 'demonstrate,' which excited his curiosity, and he studied Euclid until he had mastered what demonstration meant in geometry, and afterwards applied the knowledge in argument.

    Gather relevant knowledge anywhere.  Every man is indebted to others for much information.  No man knows everything by his own research and verification, unless it be Mr Gladstone.

    Preparation is power; nor does the hesitation which the desire of exactness sometimes begets, tell against the speaker.  Mr T. P. O'Connor says of Mr Sexton on a famous occasion: —

'He spoke, I say, slowly — but at the same time it was evident that he had his mind well fixed on the end which he wished to reach.  Nothing adds so much to the effectiveness of oratory as the sense that the man who is addressing you, is thinking at the very moment he is speaking.  You have the sense of watching the visible working of his inner mind; and you are far more deeply impressed than by the glib facility which does not pause, does not stumble, does not hesitate, because he does not stop to think.'

    Humanity is the instrument upon which the orator has to play, and he had better learn what notes it is capable of before he begins.  Experience in Parliament and on the platform will soon teach any observer, that few speakers are worth hearing who do not prepare, and prepare carefully, what they want to say.

    In writing we may be brief and suggestive, because each word remains to be pondered over.  But that which falls on the ear not being so permanent as that which falls on paper, fulness, premeditation and varied treatment are indispensable.




REPETITION has its uses and necessities, and is excellent in a speaker provided he does not repeat himself.  Few persons, as a rule, ever understand anything on its first saying.  It is by many repetitions in many forms that a new idea is comprehended.  Leaders of opinion, even of the soberer sort, have within my knowledge been so captivated by reason, as to overlook the conditions under which reason acts.  They have been so moved when the reason of a thing has become plain to them, that they have had no doubt that all men could be at once convinced by the same exposition of the facts.  The processes of education should have taught them differently.  First elementary principles are acquired, then successive stages are reached until the whole subject looms before the mind, impressing it by its completeness.  Every step, like the steps in Euclid, recall — with less precision than in Euclid — but they do recall and repeat what has gone before.

    The repetition here explained and commended is really variation in statement, and means presenting the same idea under different aspects. Every important principle has many relations and applications. To trace these and show them is to recall the cardinal idea without wearying the hearer, who, indeed, is often charmed with the range of view which reveals the same fact operative in divers circumstances. Bishop Hall said of moderation that it was the 'silken string running through the pearl chain of all our virtues.'  To trace this silken cord wherever it runs in the channels of possible applications, is the kind of repetition meant in this chapter.  It keeps one idea always in view under a brilliant diversity which instructs and charms.  There is a 'damnable iteration' spoken of in the play.  That is when the same thing is said in the same way in season and out of season.  He who is always obtruding the same view upon others soon becomes tiresome, and people avoid him and his subject.  Repetition as a part of rhetoric is an art, and is limited to one object, that of varying attention on a point until it is understood and no further.  To go further is to provoke resentment and dislike.  Robert Owen laid down five fundamental facts and twenty laws of human nature.  There were a million ideas in them, but because he often repeated them in the same language, unrelieved by variation and illustration, he was regarded as a man of 'one idea.'  Another generation who may look into his works, sayings and designs, will be of a different opinion.  Splendid enthusiasts forget themselves in their desire to serve others, and leave it to posterity, who reap the advantages of their disinterested devotion, to do them justice — if so minded.

    History acquaints us with the wondrous effects of eloquence upon multitudes, carried away to far crusades by the oratory of a hermit.  Even in grave political assemblies and parliaments, a great speaker can persuade so that majorities hang upon his words.  Persuasion is a task of skill.  'Inculcating an idea to disseminating it — winning conviction first, and inspiring enthusiasm after — is often like the dropping of a seed, and patiently waiting till it grows — fostering it , watering it, protecting it, until it expands into stem and flower.  Such,' said the Daily News years ago, 'is the political eloquence of modern times.  He who discovered it, and who practises it, is — Richard Cobden.'  It is hardly true that Mr Cobden 'discovered' it.  He was its greatest illustrator, but it has grown with the growth and commercial character of the nation.  Long before Cobden's time, the magic fancy of Burke, the ceaseless sentences of Pitt, the thundering declamation of Fox, all had like features in lesser degree.  The king of American transcendentalists has said, that 'eloquence at first and last must still be at bottom a statement of facts.  All audiences soon ask, "What is he driving at?" and if this man does not stand for anything, he will be deserted.'  And he will be deserted unless his hearers see the same facts stand firm in different lights.

Matthew Arnold, says a writer in Scribner, had a repellent endowment of one kind of courage — 'the courage of repeating yourself over and over again.' It is , a sound forensic maxim — tell a judge twice whatever you want him to hear; tell a special jury thrice, and a common jury half a dozen times, the view of a case you wish them to entertain. 'Mr Arnold treated the middle-class as a common jury, and addressed them with remorseless iteration.' In introducing a new topic to an auditory, it is well to repeat the main idea in different forms of expression, each in itself brief, but all together affording an expansion of the sense to be conveyed, and detaining the mind upon it.

It is given to well-calculated reiteration to accomplish that which is denied to power. The reputation of Robespierre — now breaking a little through clouds of calumny as dense and dark as ever obscured human name — is a striking illustration of the omnipotence of repetition. The most eloquent of his vindicators has thus sketched his triumph: —

'Still deeper in the shade, and behind the chief of the National Assembly, a man almost unknown began to move.  Agitated by uneasy thoughts, which seemed to forbid him to be silent, he spoke on all occasions, and attacked all speakers, indifferently, including Mirabeau himself.  Driven from the tribune, he ascended it next day; overwhelmed with sarcasm, coughed down, disowned by all parties, lost amongst the eminent champions who fixed public attention, he was never dispirited.  It might have been said, that an inward and prophetic genius revealed to him the omnipotence of a firm will and unwearied patience, and that an inward voice said to him, "These men who despise thee are thine: all the changes of this revolution, which now will not deign to look upon thee, will eventually terminate in thee, for thou hast placed thyself in the way like the inevitable excess in which all impulse ends."'

    Robespierre had power of thought, distinction of person; for, though a democrat, he was scrupulously careful of his dress and of his language, which was never mean or inexact.  Had he not had unusual qualities, his pertinacity had done nothing for him.  He had sunk into obscurity, or have been remembered only as an irrepressible fool.  His relevance of thought, and his studied precision of expression, were the qualities which at last commanded attention.

    In his Historical Characters, Sir H. L. Bulwer (Lord Bailing) remarks: — 'Napoleon complained of Talleyrand's repetitions, saying he could not conceive how people found M. de Talleyrand eloquent. "II tournait toujours sur la meme idle." (He always turned round the same idea.)  But this was a system with him, as with Fox, who laid it down as the great principle for an orator who wished to leave an impression.

    When the columns of the Times were crowded for five days with reports of the trial of Palmer of Rugeley, the leading article upon it, on the sixth day, when the trial had ended, gave a reiterated account of the fat, rascally, horseracing surgeon who poisoned Cook, an article which the busy man could understand, though he had never read a line of the reports.  The article was like a Scotch house — self-contained.  It was lighted up, as it were, by freshness of statement, still but a reflection of facts the readers had seen day by day, but could not recall in the same order or with the same effect.  One object of repetition is to bring into view all that is necessary to present a complete case to auditor or reader.  It is of no use listening to a speaker or reading an author, if you require first to hear or read some one else to understand him.

    Reiteration, done without tiresomeness, is not only an advantage but a force.  One who knew all things pertaining to the art of persuasion, wrote: —

Truth can never be confirmed enough.
Though doubt itself were dead.




DR BLACK'S test of mastery (cited in Chapter XX.) is excellent, though arduous.  But one instance alone is not sufficient to impress the reader with the advantages of mastery and the signs thereof.

    A speaker, like an actor, is liable to the criticism of a casual hearing.  The auditor who hears you but once may form an opinion of you for ever.  Against this there is no protection but in acquiring such a mastery over your powers as to be able always to exert them well, and to impress a hearer, in some respect or other, at every appearance.  He, therefore, who has a reputation to acquire or preserve, will keep silence whenever he is in danger of speaking indifferently.  He will practise so in private, and train himself so perseveringly, that perfection will become a second nature, and the power of proficiency never desert him.  Those who think genius is an impulsive effort that costs nothing, little dream with what patience the professional singer or actor observes regular habits and judicious exercise; how they treasure all their strength and power for the hour of appearance.  There must, of course, be natural power of personation in an actor, a fine voice in a singer, and that instinctive aptitude and capacity of excellence which men call genius, or no cultivation will produce more than talent.  At the same time, the highest natural endowment of genius will spend itself without effect, and perish devoid of renown, unless application and study develop and mature it.

    The triumphs of application are as remarkable as the triumph of genius.  One day, an acquaintance, in speaking of Curran's eloquence, happened to observe that it must have been born with him.

    '"Indeed, my dear sir," replied Curran, "it was not; it was born three-and-twenty years and some months after me.  When I was at the Temple a few of us formed a little debating club.  Upon the first night of meeting I attended, my foolish heart throbbing with the anticipated honour of being styled 'the learned member that opened the debate,' or 'the very eloquent gentleman who has just sat down,' I stood up — the question was the Catholic claims or the slave trade, I now forget which, but the difference, you know, was never very obvious — my mind was stored with about a folio volume of matter, but I wanted a preface, and for want of a preface the volume was never published.  I stood up, trembling through every fibre; but, remembering that in this I was but imitating Tully, I took courage, and had actually proceeded as far as 'Mr Chairman,' when, to my astonishment and terror, I perceived that every eye was turned upon me.  There were only six or seven present, and the room could not have contained as many more; yet was it, to my panic-struck imagination, as if I were the central object in nature, and assembled millions were gazing upon me in breathless expectation.  I became dismayed and dumb.  My friends cried 'Hear him!' but there was nothing to hear.  My lips, indeed, went through the pantomime of articulation, but I was like the unfortunate fiddler at the fair, who, upon coming to strike up the solo that was to ravish every ear, discovered that an enemy had maliciously soaped his bow.  So you see, sir, it was not born with me.  However, though I was for the time silenced, I still attended our meetings with regularity, and even ventured to accompany the others to a more ambitious theatre, the club of Temple Bar.  One of them was on his legs; a fellow of whom it was difficult to decide whether he was most distinguished for the dirtiness of his person or the flippancy of his tongue — just such another as Harry Flood would have called 'the highly-gifted gentleman with the dirty cravat and greasy pantaloons.'  I found this learned personage in the act of calumniating chronology by the most preposterous anachronisms.  He descanted upon Demosthenes, the glory of the Roman forum; spoke of Tully as the famous contemporary and rival of Cicero; and, in the short space of one half-hour, transported the Straits of Marathon three several times to the plains of Thermopylζ.  Thinking I had a right to know something of these matters, I looked at him with surprise.  When our eyes met, there was something like a wager of battle in mine; upon which the erudite gentleman instantly changed his invective against antiquity into an invective against me, and concluded by a few words of friendly counsel to "orator mum, who, he doubted not, possessed wonderful talents for eloquence, although he would recommend him to show it in future by some more popular method than his silence."  I followed his advice, and, I believe, not entirely without effect.  So, sir, you see that to try the bird the spur must touch his blood.'

    But Curran had the blood of oratory in his veins, or the spur had pricked him in vain.  The pretentious ignorance of the previous speaker afforded the very 'preface' that Curran wanted to his volume.  Many persons of real power of speech can never present themselves to an audience unless called upon or provoked by some egregious thing said, or incited by a sense of duty that something not said ought to be said.  Then the effect will be according to the knowledge, capacity and practice of the speaker.

    Curran's defect in enunciation (at school he went by the cognomen of 'Stuttering Jack Curran') he corrected by a regular system of daily reading aloud, slowly, and with strict regard to pronunciation.  His person was short, and his appearance ungraceful and without dignity.  To overcome these disadvantages, he recited and studied his postures before a mirror, and adopted a method of gesticulation suited to his appearance.  Besides a constant attendance at the debating clubs, he accustomed himself to extemporaneous eloquence in private, by proposing cases to himself, which he debated with the same care as if he had been addressing a jury.  It was thus the great advocate won his self-possession and power.

    Professor de Morgan's rule was, when he wanted a pupil to work well seven places of decimals, to practise him in working fifteen.  When Malibran was introduced to Rossini, as a girl of fourteen, by her father, Garcia, having sung a cavatina, the grand maestro said: 'Practise, mademoiselle, and you must inevitably rise to the highest point of your profession.'

    Mr Vere Foster, an authority on copy-book art, remarks that 'the grand secret in teaching writing is to bestow much attention upon a little variety.  The necessity of a continued repetition of the same exercise till it can be executed with correctness, cannot be too strongly insisted on.  But, as this reiteration is tedious for an age so fond of novelty as that of childhood, we should keep as close to the maxim as possible, and by a judicious intermixture of a few slightly differing forms, contrive to fix attention and to insure repetition.'  'The method of teaching anything to children,' says Locke, 'is by repeated practice, and the same action done over and over again until they have got the habit of doing it well, a method that has so many advantages, which ever way we come to consider it, that I wonder how it could possibly be so much neglected.'  This rule is also true in elocution, for on the verge of a new art men themselves are distrustful of their own powers.

    Mastery in any art can only come by practice.  When Demosthenes was asked what was the secret of success on the platform, he is said to have answered: 'Action, action, action.'  But action gives no power, and Dr Clair J. Grece must be right when contending that the answer of the great orator should be translated: 'Practice, practice, practice,' for there skill comes in.  A man who wishes to speak well at a moment's notice should speak every night if he has an opportunity.  Preachers and barristers speak better at will than other persons.

    In speaking, as one writer has observed, it has often been a matter of curious consideration, that a person will explain his views to a single individual in such terms as to force conviction in many instances, and where he fails the exposition would be just such an one as would please an audience.  At the same time it is notorious that what will not convince one or two will be most effective on many persons; yet when he who can succeed in the more difficult task with one or two, when he comes before an audience he is totally abashed, and cannot utter two consecutive sentences with propriety, energy or sense.  Nevertheless, this incapacity will vanish at once under a sense of duty.  Paul says perfect love casteth out fear; so does a sense of duty in speaking.  But where the motive is not an incentive, there is no remedy for confusion of mind before an audience save practice and deliberation; practice gives confidence, and deliberation gives capacity a chance of manifesting itself — provided the assembly is not too large for the compass of the speaker's voice.  No man speaks with confidence who is not sure that he is heard.

    Whewell held that we are never master of anything till we do it both well and unconsciously.  But there is no test of proficiency so instructive as that put by George Sand into the mouth of Porpora, in her novel of Consuelo.  When Consuelo, on the occasion of a trial performance, manifests some apprehension as to the result, Porpora reminds her that if there is room in her mind for misgiving as to the judgment of others, it is a proof that she is not filled with the true love of art, which would so absorb her whole thoughts as to leave her insensible to the opinion of others, and if she distrusted her own powers, it was plain they were not yet her powers, else they could not play her false.

    Mastery is manifest when we have no misgiving as to the trial of our powers; we are then rather anxious for the opportunity and confident as to the result.  In George Eliot's Deronda there is the little Jewess who sings for the first time undismayed before a critical assembly met to judge her capacity.  On being asked why she was so unapprehensive, she answered, 'Because I knew what I could do, and because the audience, being well-informed, knew what I was doing, knew the difficulties I had overcome, and could appreciate what I did.  I am never afraid of singing before those who know.'

    In the first Lord Lytton's day there was a fashionable figure in society whom everybody regarded as a 'superior person.'  Chancing next day to call on Lord Durham, Lytton said, 'I spent six mortal hours with Lord Spraggles' (the superior person), 'and I don't think there is much in him.'  'Good heavens!' exclaimed Lord Durham, 'how did you find that out?  Is it possible he could have — talked?'  The superior person had mastered nothing, and when he spoke it was apparent.




A GREAT oration has a great subject stated in a great way; it deals with large ideas in a large manner.  Each orator of mark may move in a different orbit, but he is luminous in it, and shines by a light which is his own.  Mr Cobden commanded attention by force of argument based on unnoticed facts.  Mr Bright was volcanic, and suggested to landlords the danger of allowing explosive materials to accumulate under them.  Mr Disraeli flashed with epigram and satire.  Mr Gladstone is circumambient, compelling conviction by considerations drawn from a larger field than any other man is able to survey.  In each, newness of insight and force of statement are the qualities by which concurrence was won.

    No one in the House of Commons could ever tell whether Disraeli had sincerity — the key of all influence in oratory.  Certainly he never gave anyone the impression that he had it.  He charmed, he intimidated, but never convinced adversaries.  As a clever writer in the Fortnightly said: 'You feel that he has come from another world, and that he must be judged by the law of his domicile.'  In one thing he was human; he was, as Justin M'Carthy has said, 'master of the art of epithets.'  In destroying any who stood in the way of the ascendency of himself, he had real passion.  Had he had it in public affairs, he had moved the heart of the nation, and kept a lasting place there.  What is it that wins for the orator public affection?  It is the burning word of passion.  It knows no high, no low, no rich, no poor, no citizen, no alien, no foreigner, no class, no colour.  Savage and civilised, learned and illiterate (the accidents of condition), sink into insignificance when man speaks to humanity.  The orator penetrates to the heart of the race.  It was said of Mr Cowen in Parliament that he had the great qualities rare among orators, 'fire, colour and imagination.'  He had also conviction, which alone wins adherents, or retains them when won.

    John Arthur Roebuck, whose own oratory in its coherence and cogency more resembled that of Demosthenes than any other orator of his day, says, in his History of the Whig Ministry of 1830

'The style of Lord Brougham, though vigorous and sometimes happy, was too often diffuse, loose and cumbrous, and always wanting in that exquisite accuracy, simplicity, and constantly equal and sustained force of his more sedate and self-collected antagonist.  Looking back, however, and calmly weighing the merits of these celebrated efforts of these the two most distinguished orators of that day (Lyndhurst and Brougham), we cannot, I think, fail to feel that although in Lord Lyndhurst's speech there was nothing superfluous — that all was severity — and, if I may use the expression, serenely great — yet that in the higher, I ought to say the highest excellence of impassioned reasoning, his rival (Lord Brougham) was eminently superior.  The cold sagacity of Lord Lyndhurst shines steadily throughout the whole of his discourse; but we feel no enthusiasm — we are not touched by any appeal to a generous sentiment — we never appear to ourselves exalted by being called upon to share in and sympathise with any large and liberal policy. The speech of Lord Brougham produces effects of a very different description.  Discursive, sometimes even trivial, it contains splendid and exciting appeals — wise and generous sentiments — cogent, effective argument; and we are anxious to believe him right, because, while he attempts to satisfy the understanding, he enlists in his favour the emotions of his hearers by exhibiting an earnest solicitude for the well-being of his country and his kind.'

    Lord Karnes said the 'plainest man agitated with passion affects us more than the greatest speaker without it.'  It is the passion of conviction which is meant.  A man cannot acquire it by will.  The spur of necessity will beget fervour, and interest in the welfare of others will beget convictions.  But if a man has no convictions, he may as well keep silence, for he never can produce the highest effects nor any effect honourable to him.  Lord Hartington was too rich to be in earnest about public affairs.  He spoke half-asleep, and gave you the impression that he thought having to speak a bore, and he often bored his hearers.  He had twelve famous or luxurious country seats — a fresh one every month for a change.  You always heard these seats in his slothful speeches.  What an audience like, is what Douglas Jerrold called the 'flesh and blood' of a speaker's thought, and they are not content unless they feel the strong bones of his meaning in great passages.

    Great actors confess that they take time before stepping on the stage to possess their minds with the story, purport and genius of the play.  Mrs Siddons used to stand at the wings and listen to the dialogue going on, so as to possess herself of the spirit of the piece, that when she had to appear she shared and exalted its excitement.  Wordsworth said of Goethe that he was not 'inevitable enough.'  Now inevitability is the first test of oratory, both as to speech and matter.  To see that a man can't help speaking immediately arrests attention, and if the matter of the speech, its ideas and expressions, appear inevitably to belong to the subject and to be inseparable from it when said, the speaker has the fibre of the orator.  Fire, compression and relevance are the elements of inevitableness and inevitableness in speech is oratory.  Mr Gladstone has it.  It has been rightly said of him that 'he is the only man in Parliament who is an orator in the proper sense of the word — that is to say, to whom oratory is his element, natural to him as air is to a bird.' [7]

    Eloquence is the talent of giving force to reason.  Oratory compels action after argument has made duty clear.  Health is a condition of most human efforts; but in oratory it is essential.  In the cold thinness of a morning audience, mere energy and mellowness are inestimable; wisdom and learning would be harsh and unwelcome compared with a substantial man, who has radiant warmth of manner.  What would Danton have been without his cannon voice?  When Mirabeau spoke, his voice was like the voice of destiny, falling on the alarmed ear like broken thunder.  He seemed as if moulded to be the orator of nature.  It was his lion roar that gave him his splendid place in history.  But without the ideas behind it, the voice would have been a nuisance.  Yet the ideas without the voice would scarcely have made themselves legible on the great surface of obscurity which covers so many reputations, but upon which Mirabeau's name remains conspicuous.  Bright's massive head, his clear sagacious glance, firm mouth, his organ tones, at once excited attention; while his slowly-spoken, deliberate words fell like the large drops of rain which precede a thunder-storm.

    Bulk talking produces a greater effect than Bones talking.  A large figure will have twice the advantage of a small figure when the intellectual power is equal in both.  Of course health, nor stature, nor vocal power are to be had at will, but there are qualities of mind which cultivation will make capable of giving fame in speech, though not oratorical fame.  In personal appearance, Hooker is described as a man of small stature and stooping gait.  As a preacher his manner was grave.  His eyes were always fixed on one place, and he seemed to think out his discourse as he proceeded.  His sermons were marked by brevity and simplicity, and were designed to convince and persuade rather than frighten men into goodness.  He had a weak voice and an ineffective manner, but the weight and wisdom of his matter and the fascination of his composition did much to counteract these disadvantages.  The arrangement of his sentences reveals a fine sense of proportion, and such mastery of expression that Ruskin might have taken him as a model.  It has been finely said that 'the sweep and ease of his movements in the highest regions of thought, give him rank among the great philosophical thinkers and intellectual princes of all time.'  The reader will see more to the same effect in Mr Ritson's article on Hooker. [8]  It was from his rare faculty of discerning what was possible and what was probable that the author of Ecclesiastical Policy was named the 'Judicious Hooker,' whose reputation has endured three centuries.

    An orator has everything for his purpose when he has stature, voice and sense.  Bulk is imposing, but does not last unless mind goes with it.  A great voice commands attention, but does not keep it unless there is quality in the thing said.  To cite Mr Bright's sarcasm on one of these loud-voiced, idealess orators, 'He speaks extremely well, if you do not listen to what he says.'  Shiel has left a famous name, and yet he had a voice which squealed: it was his ideas and energy which saved him.  Energy is the soul of oratory; and energy depends on health.  Dr Samuel Johnson said, 'We can be useful no longer than we are well.'  Of the rhetorician it may as safely be said that he is effective no longer than he is well.  A variety of arts may be pursued in indifferent health; feebleness only prolongs execution; in rhetoric it mars the whole work.  Even in the matter of efficient thinking, health is worth attention.  The senses being the great inlets of knowledge, it is necessary that they be kept in health.  It will be idle to conceal from ourselves that the physical is the father of the moral man.  Morals depend greatly upon temperaments.  The patience necessary for investigation cannot be preserved with impaired nerves.  Long-continued wakefulness is capable of changing the temper, and mental disposition of the most placid nature.  The wise orator will as much attend to the exercise which gives him health as to the exercise which gives him skill.

    It may not be necessary, because Carneades took copious doses of hellebore as a preparative to refuting the dogmas of the Stoics, or because Dryden, when he had a grand design, took physic and parted with blood — that the searcher after truth should take a physician's opinion; yet it will be useful that some attention be paid to the physiology of the

―――――― intellect, whose use
Depends so much upon the gastric juice.

Since oratory pertains to large subjects, treated in a large manner, a stately manner of speaking about a small subject would be absurd, and bring oratory into disrepute.  No one having a sense of the fitness of things would think of speaking in a small room to a small audience as he would in a large hall to a great assembly.  Before a small audience the voice is lower and the manner more subdued.  Besides, the speaker should distinguish subjects.  Some need only information to be given about them; others need argument.  Lucidity and relevance are sufficient for making informing statements.  Animation and directness are sufficient for argument.  Oratory and stately language, passion and decision of purpose, pertain alone to issues which have pathos and tragedy in them.  There are more tragical subjects in the social life of the day than many suppose.  Preventable loss of life at sea, in mines, by neglect of sanitary precautions, poisonous trades, dwellings which have death in them, as well as the issues of politics, have materials of oratory in them.  Discrimination is needed in selecting the topics of oratory, and foresight in making it plain to the hearer that the issue before him has elements of danger to him in its neglect.

    The subject treated in these chapters is the art of persuading the minds of men by oratory, argument or statement.  Some may never excel in oratory, others do not excel when they might.  Description is almost as difficult as an oration.  Mr Bright acquired nearly as much fame by his descriptive as by his oratorical power.  To this day people remember famous passages in which he described the effect of the Crimean War.  Colonel Boyle was then member for Frome, and Colonel Blair member for a Conservative constituency.  Mr Bright, with the slightest touches, and with not less eloquent gestures towards the empty seats, asked, Where was Colonel Boyle? and answered, 'He has found a grave in the stormy Euxine, his wife is a widow, his children orphans.'  'Who is there,' he continued, 'that does not recollect the frank, courageous and manly countenance of Colonel Blair?  I doubt whether there were any men on either side of the House who were more capable of fixing the goodwill and affection of those with whom they were associated.  Well, but the place that knew him shall know him no more for ever.'

    Upon these instances the Daily News remarked: — 'These two are not famous passages from the speeches of Mr Bright, but they illustrate with great force a peculiar characteristic of his oratory, and one which has much to do with establishing its power.  It is a very simple gift to describe, and it is nearly as rare as it is simple.'

    One object of these pages is to promote the cultivation of the art of clear, relevant statement, without pretentiousness, yet at the same time with decision.  The student, aware of the nature and conditions of oratory, can, when fitting occasion occurs, employ that higher art.  One of his biographers, I think it is the Rev. Mr Wright, says: 'One characteristic of the Duke of Wellington strikes the reader.  Confident in his own capacity, he thinks, decides and acts while other men are hesitating and asking advice.  He is evidently conscious that decision and promptitude, even though sometimes a man may err for want of due deliberation, will, in the long run, more often conduct to success than a slow judgment that comes too late.'  Innumerable people will strike out a course, pursue it, while all goes well, but the temper of greatness places its life on the hazard of a well-chosen plan, and looks for failures and defeats, but relies on the 'long run' of persistency for success.

    In this country, where we have the ballot, a free press, a free platform, and a free parliament, violence is what Talleyrand called 'a blunder which is worse than a crime'—his meaning being, I suppose, the statesman can guard against a criminal easier than against a fool.  You know what the vicious will be at, but you never know what a fool will do.  A people with the four great instruments of freedom, above named, who cannot obtain public improvement without disorder, do not know their business.  The great power in their hands is speech.  To use a thought of Shakespeare, every speaker, by tongue or pen, in his own hand bears the means to cancel his captivity — if he be captive or wronged.  The art of expression by argument or oratory is a great and invincible instrument.  Orators in Parliament are estimated mainly by wealth and weight, or relevant and new knowledge.  Wealth, as a rule, has a large following — weight is measured by position, because position means influence, and influence means character of a determinate kind.  Mr Justin M'Carthy, in one of his admirable lectures on the House of Commons, says: 'Once let a man make it clear that he rose because he had something to say, and not because he had to say something, the House would soon give him a hearing.'  It was long said and believed that the workman in Parliament would be useless, and be disregarded.  This objection was urged mainly by those who did not wish to see him there.  There always are people who, having what they want, think that sufficient for others.  We have had in this country politicians who, like Bismarck, make a hole through which he can crawl to power, but stop it up as soon as he is through it; or, like Lassalle, who, having mounted, would kick down the ladder — it not being desirable that others should get up it; or, like Louis Napoleon, shoot those who got upon it.  It was honestly thought by many in this country that workmen must prove ineffective in Parliament.  But this misgiving has been dissipated.  Mr Burt has an easy force in speaking, and an accuracy of expression, which classical training does not always impart, but which often comes to a man from good reading, and an ear attentive to idiomatic terms in the speech of others.  Book-learning has nearly obliterated in men's minds the sense of that knowledge without books which experience gives to a man of natural powers, observant eyes and original understanding.  This kind of knowledge is so rare that it always makes a strong impression in the House of Commons.  Parliament consists of a company of gentlemen too brave to be intimidated; and contains so many members of great pride and great powers that it cannot be looked down upon; it simply disregards all who treat it with contempt or conceit.  But that assembly has to deal with subjects so many and so important that no member can pretend to know everything, and, therefore, the House will listen with respectful and greedy ears to any member who can give it information.  And therefore, when any member addresses it with relevance, with unpretendingness and modesty, yet with that clearness and directness, which is possible only when a man knows that he knows, the House of Commons respects him, listens to him, from the Premier to the last member below the gangway, and count him as a real addition to the collective knowledge of the House.

    Much has been said about working men going to the House of Commons.  It was predicted they would be foolish or bumptious, timid or leadable.  They proved to be neither the one nor the other, but independent without being impracticable, rightly regarding labour as one of the dignities of an honest state, and stand up for it with as much pride as they can do who represent rank or land.  Before their day a young draper's assistant rose to fame in England, America and India by oratory — a power which he owed to himself alone, and which was attained under circumstances entirely against him.  George Thompson was an anti-slavery reformer, an Indian reformer, a free trader, a political reformer, and a foremost man in all.  He had not only the courage of his opinions, he had that other courage which did not shrink before Boston mobs organised to lynch him in America — real mobs, who understood their business, and who had done that kind of thing before.  Learning eloquence, or discovering that the gift of it was natural to him, from a debating Clerkenwell coffeehouse debating society, he emerged from behind a desk, and became one of the first advocates in Europe in the days of Berryer, O'Connell and Brougham.  They were the compeers with whom he was compared.  I heard Lord Brougham say, on introducing him to an Exeter Hall audience, thirty years or more ago, that 'George Thompson was the most persuasive speaker to whom he had ever listened.'  I have heard him at the close of his speaking days address a meeting, in the National Hall, Holborn, at eleven o'clock at night, when three-fourths of the audience had gone home and only a wearied section was left, who were jaded, unexpectant, and longing for the vacation of the chair.  Thompson arrested them, inspired them, set them aflame, caps and hats rose in the air, and for years after the tale of the wonderful speech of that night was told in workshops and committee meetings.  Paralysis came upon him many years before his death.  Oft when travelling I met him — his fine powers of speech were arrested then.  I consoled him by telling him that his splendid orations would live in men's memories; and I write these words in proof of it.  He had his faults — as a few other persons I have known have; but he had the grand fervour of the orator.  He spoke as Malibran sang — it was the natural expression of his nature.  There was the accent of honesty and sincerity in his voice which neither O'Connel nor Brougham had in like degree.  In that respect there was all the difference between Thompson and them as there was between Gladstone and Beaconsfield.  There was a generation of slaves who would have died for Thompson.  What a splendid memory is that for a deathbed!  He did not exercise influence in Parliament like that which he did on the platform, but that was because he did not give his mind to that distinct kind of work.  Had he sought occasions, he could have won distinction there.  He had the orator's power of marshalling facts; and had he relinquished what he thought the wider sphere of influence in America and India, and the British platform, and laid in wait for parliamentary occasions, he had long been member for the Tower Hamlets, or elsewhere, at will.  People have talked of Thompson as a great outdoor orator who failed in the House.  He did not fail — he did not seek to succeed there.  That is the explanation.

    There was Serjeant Parry, whom I well knew.  He rose from the ranks.  As a Chartist orator he had fervour, readiness of speech, and a loud voice, but his style was loose wordy and gaseous.  We all thought that if he went to Parliament as he wished — and would have done had he lived — he would surely fail there.  Seeking distinction at the bar, he studied the nature and conditions of oratory and became a new man, the delight of clients and the admiration of courts.  I never knew such a transformation on the platform.  His style became compact, vigorous and exact.  His sentences, formerly gaseous, were solid as a cannon ball, and as he had ideas, a good presence, and a strong voice, he would have soon won a high place in the House of Commons.

    Labour members have now become a power in Parliament, and have to be counted with by every Government.  Besides Mr Burt, Mr Broadhurst, Mr Howell, Mr John Burns, Mr Pickard, Mr J. H. Wilson, and others whom we have known on co-operative platforms, have abundantly vindicated the right of labour to personal representation.

    A word ought to be said of the influence of pleasantry of mind in the orator.  There are buffoons always in the House of Commons, and the other House also, like the late De Morny, the fellow-conspirator with Louis Napoleon, who on one occasion had to go into mourning.  For this purpose he required a new hat; but regarding himself as a man of fashion, he told his hatter that he wanted it to be a mourning hat, but with 'a little gaiety in the brim.'  There are wits in Parliament whose gaiety is in the brim, not in the brain.  English humour is hearty and unaffected; Irish, brisk as mercury, setting propriety at defiance, but always bright with imagination.  Scotch humour is sly, grave and caustic.  But every nation is capable of delight when their great speakers or authors are capable of vindicating serious principle with relevant wit or humour.

    When Sir Wilfrid Lawson entered Parliament, I was not aware that he belonged to a family in which humour was hereditary, and as it was known that he would represent the temperance cause, I ventured, needlessly, to suggest to him, that that cause would be much advanced by brightness and lightness of treatment.  Those who had preceded him had manifested an oppressive heaviness: they made dead pop speeches, which infected the house with flatness.  Their arguments were as tasteless as raw potatoes.  The House soon found that, with Sir Wilfrid Lawson, humour was a natural endowment.  He not only made temperance respectable, he made it entertaining, yet always keeping before the House the gravity of its issues.  During the years when I was much at the House of Commons, I studied the wits of Parliament, and observed that one thing was always true of Sir Wilfrid Lawson — he never jested with a principle, and he never gave us a jest instead of a principle.  Sir Wilfrid is not a jester, and he was more than a wit.  His wit was earnestness for the right, made radiant by the light of humour.  Some speakers tell us that truth lies at the bottom of a well, and they almost drown us in getting at it.  Sir Wilfrid Lawson always took us over land to it, and through a path so bright and pleasant that we were glad in our hearts to make the journey.

    Years ago there was a Mr Bernal, Chairman of Committees in the House of Commons, who said that 'law was morality shaped by Act of Parliament.'  What nobler occupation than that of speakers and orators whose business it is to convert morality into law?

    He who gives directions for the attainment of oratory is supposed, if a public speaker, to be capable of illustrating his own precepts.  He may be thought to challenge criticism, and his own performances may be condemned by a reference to his own precepts; or, on the other hand, his precepts may be undervalued through his own failures in their application.  Should this take place in the present instance, I have only to urge, with Horace, in his Art of Poetry, that a whetstone, though itself incapable of cutting, is yet useful in sharpening steel.  No system of instruction will completely equalise natural powers, and yet it may be of service towards their improvement.  The youthful Achilles acquired skill in hurling the javelin under the instruction of Chiron, though the master could not compete with the pupil in vigour of arm.

    But there is little danger in these days of serious judgment being passed upon the indifferent exemplar of the rhetorical maxims he lays down.  Our orators escape as our statues do.  Good public monuments are so scarce that the people are ill judges of art, and great speakers too seldom arise for the people to be good judges of oratory.  England has not reached the age of excellence in this respect.  Great events can excite it, but only a national refinement, including opulence, and a liberal philosophy, can sustain it.  Oratory ordinarily requires the union of intellect, leisure and health, discipline of thought, calculated expression and public spirit.

    The speeches of great leaders are to hearers like walking along a pier, out far into the sea.  Away from the air made dull and murky by mediocrity, the fresh breezes of reason like those of the ocean blow around the great questions of the day; everyone sees clearly the issue, and is braced to attain it.

    Americans are a quick people, ready to project themselves into the second thing before they have done with the first; yet they will sit quietly under speeches, the length of which would shorten the lives of Englishmen.  The French, who are yet brighter and more alert-minded, will keep their seats in patience under papers and speeches of seemingly endless length — and continue to live.  Lord Bacon says that 'short speeches are like darts which fly about and are thought to proceed from some secret intention, whereas long discourses are flat and not to be noted.'  French orators seem to place their trust in long orations.  It is wonderful how so mercurial a people as the French can sit during a protracted address, when no national interest makes men curious, and no enterprise of thought inspires it.

    At the first Co-operative Congress in France I had opportunity of observing characteristics of Parisian speaking.  The action of the French orators was superb.  When they sought the chairman's attention their arms were darted forward and upward, suddenly, as far as the arm could go.  It was as though they would reach the chairman with it.  Then one would leave his seat, and walk quietly and slowly down the meeting, soliloquising like Hamlet as he walked.  That was part of his speech.  Then facing the audience, the quiet stroller to the platform delivered entire volleys of sentences as though they were ejected from a culverin.  All at once the explosion stopped, and the speaker walked slowly back and sat down in his seat, just as though he had never left it.  Another orator had risen to answer him, when you saw that he who had walked to his seat so placidly had thrown back his ears like a hare, and had caught every word said behind him; and when you turned on hearing another decided volley of words you found that it was your placid-walking speaker, who had found his way back to the platform, and was answering the delegate who had differed from him.  When a speaker concluded, his gestures were often the wonder of the night to me.  Every motion of emphasis, earnestness, decision, prediction, malediction, or benediction, with which some concluded, were all expressed by miraculous and rapid motions of the arms above, below, around, in broad wave or graceful whirling curve, until arms and body seemed to disappear in the air, and the head of the orator alone remained recognisable.  In debates, a man in the gallery, or back of the meeting, would stroll down, or pass along the gangway, as though he was leaving the hall, but does not.  He continues walking aimlessly, and when you think he has gone out, he turns up near the president.  He watches anyone who is speaking, as an Indian looks out from the bush when he descries an enemy coming over the border of the plain.  The moment the speech ceases, the man near the president projects himself into prominence and pours out a volley of words as incessant and prolonged as the firing of artillery.  When it occurs to the new orator to return to his seat, he begins threading his way to the back of the meeting or gallery, whence he came, sometimes talking all along the pathway.  No Englishman's arm can make the easy, graceful, pliable curves a Frenchman knows how to produce.  In every way in which the arm can cleave the air or caress it — in whatever manner finger can point, or open palm or displayed hand can indicate emotion, emphasis, sentiment or argument — the French orator is master of that expression.

    All this shows how much oratory depends upon temperament for gesture and delivery.  But the elements of oratory, force of argument, vividness of speech, concentration and boldness of idea, remain the same in all countries and all time, though the splendour of delivery varies with national vivacity and grace.

    He who has listened to Italian oratory knows it is not the grand passion of impulse, which the French display — but the superb passion of the intellect.  An Italian is speaking — you cannot say 'he rises ' in his place.  He is so quick, you hear him but do not see him rise.  His movements are too rapid for that.  Anon a low-toned, enchanted voice is heard; soon it becomes eager, resonant, filling the hall with mellow, resilient tones, and all the grace of sculpture in the speaker's gestures.  Another appears with a bushy head of dark hair, handsome, well-cut features, and piqued beard; in person slender, tall and picturesque, with a penetrating voice and miraculous action.  His hair and beard vibrate; his arms make every motion known in conic sections; his whole frame is circular and revolving.  With outstretched arm and forefinger projected — now pointing laterally, now perpendicularly, then to the earth — anon the open palm is extended, entreating, darting, cleaving vacant space as though his purpose was to cut it into pieces, the voice orotund, beseeching, denouncing, declaiming.  No carding machine, no spinning-jenny, no steam engine at high pressure, nor the most intricate action invented, was ever capable of so many motions, and such continuous energy.  Next a bold, sonorous voice (like Gambetta's) would thunder through the hall, when people leaving returned, and others entering rush forward to see who has taken the floor, and learn what the surging intensity of tones, the polished energy, the controlled vehemence, and enchanted tumult of applause all means.  It was Signer Luzzatti who was speaking.  Italian oratory is a musical tempest.

    There is oratory in England equal to that of any nation, but more attention is given to its cultivation elsewhere than here.  Good delivery is more common than with us, and there is more freedom in gesture and tone.  Being alien to English taste to betray much emotion, we think it unreal in those to whom it is natural.  French speaking seemed to me to have more personal fervour; Italian speaking more intellectual fervour.  The French appear to speak with the force of feeling; the Italian from the force of conviction, who, in his most dramatic moods, maintains a certain dignity of self-possession.  An Englishman speaks as though his words had wings and flew about in the air, and at times escape him when he most wants them.  An Italian seems to carry his store of words within him, and delivers them at will, in full, melodious tones.  Spontaneity, however, is the main charm of spoken words.  The orator will have concentrated passages in his mind, but does not think too much of them — he may have seen all through his sentences when he first arranged them in his mind, but if the conclusion has passed for the moment from his mind — as was the case with Charles James Fox — he invents a new termination and extricates himself as best he can.  It has been well said 'a certain free handling and disdain of literal exactitude is only one grace the more in speaking, just as it is in sketching.  It is the human note.  The most effective speakers are often those who have the courage of their verbal inaccuracies, and who leave on the minds of their hearers the sense of over-mastering possession by the subject itself that seems to preclude all other concern.'  This is sometimes the case; but the student should not trust to it.  An orator trained to accuracy of expression finds that it never deserts him, and in the very blaze of passion such self-possession comes to him that he plays with every detail of speech, and says things with grace, qualification and illustration that never occurred to him before, and which he cannot often recall after.  At the same time the 'free handling' commended in this passage is good, and gives the impression of mastery.

    Mr William Hale White, who, like his father, wrote the best Parliamentary criticisms of his time, many years ago remarked, in a memorable passage: —

'Old men, who know that they have at the best but a little breathing space before they are no more and are forgotten, may be excused if their zeal for affairs diminishes.  They may ask themselves, "What does it matter to me?"  But in Mr Gladstone it is wonderful to see, and admirable to see, that men and ideas are of more importance now than they were when life was before him.  His enthusiasm on Tuesday reached that pitch of abandonment which is usually supposed to be characteristic of youth, but yet the centrifugal power was never so strong as to propel him into inanity.  Like the perfect orator he is, he was always master of himself, and came again in complete curve.  It was curious to see how his passion improved his style as he went along.  I have often observed with him, but never so signally as on this occasion, that he falls into the most idiomatic English when he gets thoroughly warm, and that the warmer he grows the simpler he becomes, so that all verbiage and sesquipedalism disappear, and he is as compressed and simple as Lord Bacon.  For example: "Gentlemen will recollect how we were fired with false rumours and mutilated telegrams.  First of all, Russia had been making some secret agreement.  Nothing so much excited the country as the statement that there were secret agreements between Russia and Turkey.  It would have been so wicked of Russia, would it not?"'

    His hearers knew that the pigeon holes in our Foreign Office were stuffed with secret treaties we had made.

    Let those who think an oration can be made at will, without premeditation or practice, read the following passage from one of the famous sermons of Massillon.  He had explained how men justify their conduct to their consciences because they live as the multitude live, and are no worse than others of their class and station.  Massillon then exclaims: —

'On this account it is, my brethren, that I confine myself to you who at present are assembled here; I include not the rest of men, but consider you as alone existing on the earth.  The idea which occupies and frightens me is this: I figure to myself the present as your last hour and the end of the world; that the heavens are going to open above your heads; our Saviour, in all His glory, to appear in the midst of this temple; and that you are only assembled here to wait His coming; like trembling criminals on whom the sentence is to be pronounced, either of life eternal or of everlasting death; for it is vain to flatter yourselves that you shall die more innocent than you are at this hour.  All those desires of change with which you are amused will continue to amuse you till death arrives, the experience of all ages proves it; the only difference you have to expect will most likely be only a larger balance against you than what you would have to answer for at present; and from what would be your destiny were you to be judged this moment, you may almost decide upon what will take place at your departure from life.  Now, I ask you (and connecting my own lot with yours I ask with dread), were Jesus Christ to appear in this temple, in the midst of this assembly, to judge us, to make the dreadful separation betwixt the goats and sheep, do you believe that the greatest number of us would be placed at His right hand?  Do you believe that the number would at least be equal?  Do you believe there would even be found ten upright and faithful servants of the Lord, when formerly five cities could not furnish so many?  I ask you.  You know not, and I know it not.  Thou alone, O my God, knowest who belong to Thee.  But if we know not who belong to Him, at least we know that sinners do not.  Now, who are, the just and faithful assembled here at present?  Titles and dignities avail nothing, you are stripped of all these in the presence of your Saviour.  Who are they?  Many sinners who wish not to be converted; many more who wish, but always put it off; many others who are only converted in appearance, and again fall back to their former courses.  In a word, a great number who flatter themselves they have no occasion for conversion.  This is the party of the reprobate.  Ah! my brethren, cut off from this assembly these four classes of sinners, for they will be cut off at the great day.  And now appear, ye just!  Where are ye?  O God, where are Thy chosen?  And what a portion remains to Thy share.'

    The resounding and commanding voice of the preacher — his penetrating and inevadable questions — his short clear sentences, which none could misunderstand, prevented the attention of any hearer from being diverted — his tones and gestures of alarm (for the fearful picture he drew had entered his own soul) overwhelmed his hearers with dismay and terror.  All would resolve on amendment, and happily many would persevere in it.

    There is an old Continental proverb which says: 'An Italian is wise before he undertakes a thing, the German while he is doing it, and a Frenchman when it is over.'  In oratory, and in other things, I could wish my countrymen to be both Italians and French — wise both in conception and act.


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