The Art of Public Speaking HTML version
Lulled in the countless chambers of the brain, Our thoughts are linked by many a hidden chain; Awake but
one, and lo! what myriads rise! Each stamps its image as the other flies!
* * * * *
Hail, memory, hail! in thy exhaustless mine From age to age unnumber'd treasures shine! Thought and her
shadowy brood thy call obey, And Place and Time are subject to thy sway!
--SAMUEL ROGERS, Pleasures of Memory.
Many an orator, like Thackeray, has made the best part of his speech to himself--on the way home from the
lecture hall. Presence of mind--it remained for Mark Twain to observe--is greatly promoted by absence of
body. A hole in the memory is no less a common complaint than a distressing one.
Henry Ward Beecher was able to deliver one of the world's greatest addresses at Liverpool because of his
excellent memory. In speaking of the occasion Mr. Beecher said that all the events, arguments and appeals
that he had ever heard or read or written seemed to pass before his mind as oratorical weapons, and standing
there he had but to reach forth his hand and "seize the weapons as they went smoking by." Ben Jonson could
repeat all he had written. Scaliger memorized the Iliad in three weeks. Locke says: "Without memory, man is
a perpetual infant." Quintilian and Aristotle regarded it as a measure of genius.
Now all this is very good. We all agree that a reliable memory is an invaluable possession for the speaker. We
never dissent for a moment when we are solemnly told that his memory should be a storehouse from which at
pleasure he can draw facts, fancies, and illustrations. But can the memory be trained to act as the warder for
all the truths that we have gained from thinking, reading, and experience? And if so, how? Let us see.
Twenty years ago a poor immigrant boy, employed as a dish washer in New York, wandered into the Cooper
Union and began to read a copy of Henry George's "Progress and Poverty." His passion for knowledge was
awakened, and he became a habitual reader. But he found that he was not able to remember what he read, so
he began to train his naturally poor memory until he became the world's greatest memory expert. This man
was the late Mr. Felix Berol. Mr. Berol could tell the population of any town in the world, of more than five
thousand inhabitants. He could recall the names of forty strangers who had just been introduced to him and
was able to tell which had been presented third, eighth, seventeenth, or in any order. He knew the date of
every important event in history, and could not only recall an endless array of facts but could correlate them
To what extent Mr. Berol's remarkable memory was natural and required only attention, for its development,
seems impossible to determine with exactness, but the evidence clearly indicates that, however useless were
many of his memory feats, a highly retentive memory was developed where before only "a good forgettery"
The freak memory is not worth striving for, but a good working memory decidedly is. Your power as a
speaker will depend to a large extent upon your ability to retain impressions and call them forth when
occasion demands, and that sort of memory is like muscle--it responds to training.
What Not to Do