« AnteriorContinuar »
"The eyes of other people are the eyes that ruin us."
What has just been said does not, however, preclude the necessity of studying models. The highest art is studious; it is able, however, to conceal art and become natural. Be artists and artless, is sound elocutionary advice. While the youthful speaker is to keep in the great oratorical highway, he is, nevertheless, not to tread slavishly in the footsteps of others.
XX. The ideal orator has the instincts and graces of popularity.
By popularity is meant something more than notoriety, or sensationalism. It is a something that almost defies perfect analysis, though when possessed it is easily recognized. Emerson thus describes the popular orator:
"A crowd of men go up to Faneuil Hall; they are all pretty well acquainted with the object of the meeting; they have all read the facts in the same newspapers. The orator possesses no information which his hearers have not; yet he teaches them to see the thing with his eyes. By the new placing, the circumstances acquire new solidity and worth. Every fact gains consequence by his naming it, and trifles become important. His expressions fix themselves in men's memories, and fly from mouth to mouth. His mind has some new principle of order. Where he looks all things fly into their places. What will he say next? Let this man speak, and this man only."
The primary meaning given to the word popularity conveys a tolerably accurate idea:
"The state of being suitable to or beloved by the people."-Webster.
Vinet makes the word popularity synonymous with familiarity. Vauvenargues, adopting the same idea, says; "There is not a better or more necessary school for the speaker than familiarity." The highest type of popularity is in reality based upon all the oratorical qualities heretofore enumerated. A high moral tone, courage, earnestness, poetic skill, and elocutionary tact, are especially indispensable. So likewise a prevailing under-tone arising from cheerfulness, charitableness, generosity, tenderness, and affection; and in case of the pulpit orator, an intense love for souls, will go far towards gaining the popular ear and heart; while on the other hand gloom, harshness, and selfishness are sure to doom the speaker.
Common sense, too, that deep sagacity and ready perception which instantly explores the whole community of thought and judgment respecting any matter under consideration, will be found underlying genuine popularity.
Now, it is a combination of these, and other oratorical excellencies already enumerated, which will give the speaker that inexplicable moral might which magnetizes and then entrances the audience. and leads it captive, there being no strength left to withhold applause.
The orator's rhetorical style, likewise, has much to do with his popularity. Language, according to Vinet, that has in it nothing rare or exceptional, but
is common and customary, is what engages and delights the popular ear. Thus also the qualities of naturalness, clearness, simplicity, conciseness, force, and poetic representation cannot be sought for too diligently by the orator.46 See also, Vol. I. pp. 125-142, inclusive, and present Vol. pp. 96, 97.
Subject-matter having to do with the humanities rather than the individualities of the race, and that comprehensive range which disdains mere hairsplitting discussion and sand-hill building, are thoroughly refreshing to the popular heart, and receive its praise. "Peace or war, vengeance for public wrongs, or mercy to prostrate submission, national honor and national gratitude, - topics appealing to the primal sensibilities of man, were, as De Quincey has observed, the themes of Greek and Roman oratory."
No one who has listened to Joseph Cook has failed to notice that he has mastery over his audience in proportion as he deals with the grand foundations upon which rest natural and revealed religion.
And further, it is vitally important that the orator, if he desires popularity, should make common cause with the people. He should aim to make his hearers care for all he cares for; this is done more effectually than otherwise by caring for what they care for. He should, therefore, be on guard lest the culture of the schools which he, nevertheless, cannot dispense with, shall separate him from the people whom he is to influence. The orator must learn to shake off the oppressive air of the school
room, and take off the glove of all sorts of distinction and extend his naked hand, especially if the people are ungloved. He is to talk not before, nor at, but with his audience.
"Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown proposed as things forgot." "In honor preferring one another," is a charming art in oratory, as well as the gem of Christian politeness. This sympathetic interest in others and respect for them, Starr King denominates a sixth sense. This same oratorical art was referred to by the Duke of Wellington when speaking thus of the elder Scarlett: "When Scarlett is addressing a jury there are thirteen jurymen." "This is both characteristic of the influence my father exercised when addressing juries," says the younger Scarlett, "an of the duke's terse manner of expressing himself." A thirteenth juryman would not necessarily bring over the other twelve. What the duke probably meant was, that Scarlett, suppressing the advocate, talked to them as one of themselves, and as having at heart the same object- the discovery of the truth. He did this so completely that the sense of his superiority was lost, and no suspicion broke upon them that they were under a spell woven by a master of his art.48 Anything, therefore, like a haughty bearing, a needless show of learning, or an undue deference to some particular personage or class in the audience, each of which oratorical vices tends to separate the speaker from the mass of his hearers, is fatal to genuine popularity.
Hence, too, the smile of the orator, often a successful artifice, is, when genuine, a remarkable aid in winning the popular heart to the cause advocated. Such a smile upon the face is what cheerfulness, generosity, and tenderness are in rhetorical style. It has characterized the great leaders of menAlexander, Cæsar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon. "The smiles that played about Bonaparte's mouth when he spoke," says Fox, "were delightful.” "His smile," said a correspondent from India, alluding to the Prince of Wales, "is worth a kingdom, and won all hearts." "If I value myself upon anything," says Hawthorne, "it is in having a smile that children love." There will be much risk, however, in trying to put on the smile while the spirit is really haughty. It will be like "a silver plate on a coffin." But when the smile glows upon the face because there is good will and sympathy for the audience in the heart, it will be a potent factor in the delivery of the speech.
An effort to make each hearer, even the humblest, feel that he is receiving special attention, is likewise regarded, upon the ground of popularity, a justifiable use of oratorical tactics. An anecdote related of M. Arago illustrates this thought. In order to test the clearness of his lectures, he made a rule to fix his eyes on the dullest-looking scholar he had. If he saw that he was understood by that pupil, he knew that the rest of his hearers had found him clear. One day, just after he had been alluding to this as his usual habit, a young man entered the room, and