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"You sur"Not only
feeling sure the lecturer knew him well, saluted him accordingly. "I regret I have not the pleasure of your acquaintance," said M. Arago. prise me," replied the young student. am I most regular in my attendance at your lectures, but you never take your eyes off me from the beginning to the end." When each hearer is thus made to imagine that this special devotion is his, the orator easily wins his cause.
The presence of the modern reporter, so far as the speaker gives him any thought, no doubt interferes with a true popular expression. Macaulay called attention to this, which, if an evil in his day, is still more so in our time. He says:
"Our legislators, our candidates, on great occasions even our advocates, address themselves less to the audience than to the reporters. They think less of the few hearers than of the innumerable readers. At Athens the case was different; there the only object of the speaker was immediate conviction and persuasion."
Likewise, a needless show of learning is a blow at popularity. Says John Randolph, as reported by Josiah Quincy:
"It is a great blunder for a speaker to allude to books which are not familiar to his audience. A quotation from Horace or Juvenal will do in the British Parliament. The members are all graduates from Oxford and Cambridge, and they understand it. But what folly it would be to quote the classics to an average American audience. I know of only three books with which all decently educated Americans are familiar: these are the Bible, Shakespeare, and Milton. Now I want you to notice a fine passage from
Burke, which I will repeat, and you will find that he has used thought or language from these three books. in its construction."
In pulpit oratory, this modesty in bearing and expression, and this community of interest, are especially demanded. The preacher who is more in sympathy with his subject than with his people, and who by learned exegesis offsets the ignorance of the people with his own skill and knowledge, violates one of the first laws of popularity, and is sure to have a dull auditory. It was said of one of John Foster's profound discourses when published, that it should have been addressed to an audience created for the purpose." Such a preacher, however talented he may be, cannot be popular.
The preaching of the Great Teacher, on the other hand, was popular, attracting such crowds as compelled him to take to a boat or to the mountain side. His simplicity, purity, grace, cheerfulness, mercy, and earnestness; his comforting and inviting words when addressing the struggling and penitent, and his severity when addressing hypocrites, conquered the popular heart, giving him such a following as the world had hardly known. See Mark xii. 37, and compare Matt. iii. 5, 6: Acts xiii. 42.
Genuine popularity may, therefore, be legitimately striven for by the aspirant for oratorical honors. There should be a close and constant study and imitation of the character and methods of all the popular orators, pulpit and secular.
In seeking for popularity, even by legitimate
methods, the young orator will perhaps be placed under suspicion. But let him fear not. A quickwitted but generous-souled occupant of a small village pulpit,—who has ability enough to shine in a much larger field, but a heart equal to its duty anywhere, once remarked: "There is one thing
I find which a certain class of clergymen can never forgive in a brother: that he should preach to three thousand people while they preach to three hun-. dred."
Nevertheless, seek most diligently to preach to the three thousand. When men ask for bread, it is not necessary to give them a stone, nor a scorpion for a fish.
XXI. The ideal orator in a given oration is expected to conform to the following require
1. He should have a thorough knowledge of the persons addressed. Audiences, like individuals, differ. The "business-talk" of the British Parliament appears extremely tame to the average American. "Become all things to all men," is as much a fundamental rule in eloquence as in religious inter
2. The aim from the start should be to shorten as much as possible, the distance, figurative and literal, between the speaker and hearer. The utterance, especially in the introduction, of a single word that tends to antagonize the audience is, in oratory, a breach of common sense.
3. The aim, when possible, should be single. If the orator when standing before the people is possessed with " one lone idea," and that a fundamental one; if his purpose is firm and definite, and if he comes to the main issue without delay, he will be quite sure to gratify the wishes and tastes of a modern audience. He will also be equally sure of
escaping most of the common elocutionary vices. Dr. John Hall suggests that if a speaker is sure of his target and his bullet, his success is guaranteed.
But slight observation, however, discloses the fact that the inexperienced pleader is strongly tempted, for instance in a case involving "an ejectment for ten acres," to begin by discoursing at length upon the voyage of Columbus, the discovery of America, or the Revolutionary war. "May it please your honor, when the race commenced its eventful career in the Garden of Eden," began the young lawyer, "Will the counsel," interrupted the judge, "commence this time at the flood?"
The pulpit, however, is in this matter, far more faulty than either the platform or the bar. It will have to be acknowledged that one of the chief reasons why churches are deserted, is not so much the depravity of the hearers, as the want of a controlling and well-defined purpose on the part of the preacher. He aims at nothing, and in a bungling way hits it. Dr. J. H. Newman, in Lectures upon University Subjects, gives wise counsel.
"I would go the length of recommending a preacher to place a distinct categorical proposition before him, such as he can write down in a form of words, and to guide and limit his preparation by it, and to aim in all he says to bring it out, and nothing else. . . . Nor will a preacher's earnestness show itself in anything more unequivocally than in his rejecting, whatever be the temptation to admit it, every remark however original, every period however eloquent, which does not in some way or other tend to bring out this one distinct proposition which he has chosen.