« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
and a speaker is apt to be misled by his enthusiasm to make out a good case and unduly influence votes by representing his side in a too favorable light. But nevertheless we indulge such championship even to the extent of partisanship, feeling that full discussion is better than none at all and trusting that in the long run “ever the right comes uppermost, and ever is justice done.”
With purely extemporaneous speaking we have nothing to do except in so far as the practice of writing speeches may assist in the development of an oratorical style. For speeches —even after-dinner speeches, even stump speeches — are written or prepared beforehand, the great majority of them. A really good extemporaneous speech is rare, for it requires the happy combination of a rare man and a rare occasion. Given this combination, you have an ideal address.
Right here we get a clew to the secret of writing a successful oration : we must make it conform as nearly as possible to our ideal of an extemporaneous one. That there should be certain differences between written discourse and spoken discourse, that is, between that which is intended to be read and that which is intended to be heard, few will deny. In delivering an address you will have to face an audience, look people in the eye, hold their attention, play on their feelings, endure their displeasure or receive their applause. In preparing the address beforehand all this should be borne in mind. Imagine as vividly as you can that you
have your audience before you ; do not lose sight of it for a moment; write to it as you will have to talk to it; use terms of direct address — gentlemen, friends, fellowcitizens wherever they seem natural and not over
formal ; be genial, frank, gracious yet earnest, familiar yet dignified. The advantages of personal directness of address, of getting so close to your audience that they will almost feel as if you held them by the hand, cannot be over-estimated. One of the most telling stump-speeches the present writer ever heard was addressed almost throughout to a particular person in the audience who was a good type of the class whom the speaker wished to reach. He proceeded in about this style:
You know how it is, sir — you, sir, sitting there in the fourth row of seats on the right of the aisle. You will remember that just four years ago this fall I was driving through the country here and staid over night with you. You remember how you were disposed to complain then because you had not realized enough on your abundant wheat harvest to pay for the machinery you had bought that year and because you couldn't see how the corn-crop was going to clothe your family through the winter. I asked you how you were voting and you said that had nothing to do with the matter. And then I said that if you thought that had nothing to do with the matter you surely could not see any harm in making the experiment of voting the other way and of getting a hundred other farmers to make the experiment with you. Did you make the experiment? I am afraid not. Certain it is that the hundred others did not, for when returns from the district came in you had rolled up the same old majority. And what is the result? Your receipts are just as far from covering your expenditures to-day as they were four years ago today. Deny it if you can.
Eloquence is oratory at its best; it is difficult to define it more accurately than that. True eloquence
does not lie in words alone; nor in the speaker alone; nor yet in the hearer or the occasion. Rather it seems to lie in all of these. For the same words uttered by the same man will seem sublime at one time and ridiculous at another, or will ring eloquent in the ears of one man, bombastic in the ears of another. When a man's words move and stir us to the very depths of our being, when they make us forget ourselves completely, so that we are ready to laugh and weep, even to rise and follow, at his command, we say that man is eloquent. But we do not analyze the spell he casts over us nor attempt to wrest from him the whole secret of his power.
But if we do not know just what eloquence is, we know some things that it is not. We know for one thing that it is not grandiloquence. Long, sonorous words and lofty, high-sounding phrases are no necessary part of it; they are rather apt to be fatal to it. There may be more eloquence in one fitly spoken word, nay in silence itself, than in the most ingenious rhetoric. Read the twentieth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John and feel the effect of one word which Jesus utters : Jesus saith unto her, Mary. And can anything be more simple and more sublime than the prayer from the same lips as the rabble reviled him gathered about the cross, Father, forgive them ; for they know not what they do.
Strained figures are as fatal to eloquence as fantastic words. It may be questioned whether a deliberate figure of speech is ever found in passages where eloquence takes its highest flight. Indeed, violence of any kind, in words as well as in utterance and gesture, is to be sedulously avoided ; ranting and spread-eagleism find favor only with the indiscriminating few. This does
not mean that there is to be no exhibition of life or energᎩ• On the contrary, this is usually a most essential thing in oratory. The precaution refers only to that affected energy or that excess of energy
which overshoots its mark.
If we may draw any principle from these observations, it would seem to be that fundamental principle of all literary effort, Be natural ; be true to yourself, to your audience, and to your theme. Fine language is well enough if it flows from lips familiar with its utter
Sentiment is well enough if it springs from the heart. Fervor and enthusiasm are all right so long as they are sincere. Indeed, it is wholly useless to attempt to feign these things. 'Eloquence is not like a glove, to be put on and off at pleasure. Few men can be imposed upon by a display of false sentiment. Assume an emotion you do not feel and the chances are ten to one that the deception will be detected at once and resented. Betray an emotion that the occasion does not warrant and the result will be equally disastrous.
In the particular kind of oratory had in view in the present exercise, namely, the pleading of an advocate at the bar of justice, argument will naturally constitute the staple of the material. But, as the ultimate object is not merely to demonstrate truths, but to persuade juries to act according to those truths, other than purely argumentative elements can not be excluded : the plea is bound to take on more or less of the nature of an appeal. It is difficult to suggest subjects for this work. The best method of getting material is to conduct a mock trial. Another method is to try some historical character before an imaginary tribunal for certain alleged acts of his or hers.
We give below an extract from a speech made by Daniel Webster before a jury in 1830. J. F. Knapp and J. J. Knapp were charged with the murder of Captain Joseph White. J. J. Knapp confessed that one Richard Crowninshield had been hired by them to commit the murder, whereupon Crowninshield committed suicide. The confession was then withdrawn and the Knapps were indicted, with the result that they were convicted and executed. Webster spoke for the prosecution.
Against the prisoner at the bar, as an individual, I cannot have the slightest prejudice. I would not do him the smallest injury or injustice. But I do not affect to be indifferent to the discovery and the punishment of this deep guilt. I cheerfully share in the opprobrium, how much soever it may be, which is cast on those who feel and manifest an anxious concern that all who had a part in planning or a hand in executing this deed of midnight assassination may be brought to answer for their enormous crime at the bar of public justice.
This is a most extraordinary case. In some respects it has hardly a precedent anywhere, certainly none in our New England history. This bloody drama exhibits no suddenly excited, ungovernable rage.
An aged man, without an enemy in the world, in his own house, and in his own bed, is made the victim of a butcherly murder for mere pay. Truly, here is a new lesson for painters and poets. Whoever shall hereafter draw the portrait of murder, if he will show it as it has been exhibited in an example, where such example was last to have been looked for, in the very bosom of our New England society, let him not give it the grim visage of Moloch, the brow knitted by revenge, the face black with settled hate, and the blood-shot eye emitting livid fires of malice. Let him draw, rather, a decorous, smooth-faced, bloodless demon ; a picture in repose, rather than in action ; not so much an example of human nature in its depravity, and in its paroxysms of crime,