The Art of Public Speaking HTML version

To think, and to feel, constitute the two grand divisions of men of genius--the men of reasoning and the men
of imagination.
--ISAAC DISRAELI, Literary Character of Men of Genius.
And as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen Turns them to shapes and gives
to airy nothing A local habitation and a name.
--SHAKESPEARE, Midsummer-Night's Dream.
It is common, among those who deal chiefly with life's practicalities, to think of imagination as having little
value in comparison with direct thinking. They smile with tolerance when Emerson says that "Science does
not know its debt to the imagination," for these are the words of a speculative essayist, a philosopher, a poet.
But when Napoleon--the indomitable welder of empires--declares that "The human race is governed by its
imagination," the authoritative word commands their respect.
Be it remembered, the faculty of forming mental images is as efficient a cog as may be found in the whole
mind-machine. True, it must fit into that other vital cog, pure thought, but when it does so it may be
questioned which is the more productive of important results for the happiness and well-being of man. This
should become more apparent as we go on.
Let us not seek for a definition, for a score of varying ones may be found, but let us grasp this fact: By
imagination we mean either the faculty or the process of forming mental images.
The subject-matter of imagination may be really existent in nature, or not at all real, or a combination of both;
it may be physical or spiritual, or both--the mental image is at once the most lawless and the most law-abiding
child that has ever been born of the mind.
First of all, as its name suggests, the process of imagination--for we are thinking of it now as a process rather
than as a faculty--is memory at work. Therefore we must consider it primarily as
1. Reproductive Imagination
We see or hear or feel or taste or smell something and the sensation passes away. Yet we are conscious of a
greater or lesser ability to reproduce such feelings at will. Two considerations, in general, will govern the
vividness of the image thus evoked--the strength of the original impression, and the reproductive power of one
mind as compared with another. Yet every normal person will be able to evoke images with some degree of
The fact that not all minds possess this imaging faculty in anything like equal measure will have an important
bearing on the public speaker's study of this question. No man who does not feel at least some poetic impulses
is likely to aspire seriously to be a poet, yet many whose imaging faculties are so dormant as to seem actually
dead do aspire to be public speakers. To all such we say most earnestly: Awaken your image-making gift, for
even in the most coldly logical discourse it is sure to prove of great service. It is important that you find out at
once just how full and how trustworthy is your imagination, for it is capable of cultivation--as well as of