The Art of Public Speaking HTML version
eloquent, then self-devotion is eloquent. The clear conception outrunning the deductions of logic, the high
purpose, the firm resolve, the dauntless spirit, speaking on the tongue, beaming from the eye, informing every
feature, and urging the whole man onward, right onward to his subject--this, this is eloquence; or rather, it is
something greater and higher than all eloquence; it is action, noble, sublime, godlike action."
When traveling through the Northwest some time ago, one of the present writers strolled up a village street
after dinner and noticed a crowd listening to a "faker" speaking on a corner from a goods-box. Remembering
Emerson's advice about learning something from every man we meet, the observer stopped to listen to this
speaker's appeal. He was selling a hair tonic, which he claimed to have discovered in Arizona. He removed his
hat to show what this remedy had done for him, washed his face in it to demonstrate that it was as harmless as
water, and enlarged on its merits in such an enthusiastic manner that the half-dollars poured in on him in a
silver flood. When he had supplied the audience with hair tonic, he asked why a greater proportion of men
than women were bald. No one knew. He explained that it was because women wore thinner-soled shoes, and
so made a good electrical connection with mother earth, while men wore thick, dry-soled shoes that did not
transmit the earth's electricity to the body. Men's hair, not having a proper amount of electrical food, died and
fell out. Of course he had a remedy--a little copper plate that should be nailed on the bottom of the shoe. He
pictured in enthusiastic and vivid terms the desirability of escaping baldness--and paid tributes to his copper
plates. Strange as it may seem when the story is told in cold print, the speaker's enthusiasm had swept his
audience with him, and they crushed around his stand with outstretched "quarters" in their anxiety to be the
possessors of these magical plates!
Emerson's suggestion had been well taken--the observer had seen again the wonderful, persuasive power of
Enthusiasm sent millions crusading into the Holy Land to redeem it from the Saracens. Enthusiasm plunged
Europe into a thirty years' war over religion. Enthusiasm sent three small ships plying the unknown sea to the
shores of a new world. When Napoleon's army were worn out and discouraged in their ascent of the Alps, the
Little Corporal stopped them and ordered the bands to play the Marseillaise. Under its soul-stirring strains
there were no Alps.
Listen! Emerson said: "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Carlyle declared that "Every
great movement in the annals of history has been the triumph of enthusiasm." It is as contagious as measles.
Eloquence is half inspiration. Sweep your audience with you in a pulsation of enthusiasm. Let yourself go. "A
man," said Oliver Cromwell, "never rises so high as when he knows not whither he is going."
How are We to Acquire and Develop Enthusiasm?
It is not to be slipped on like a smoking jacket. A book cannot furnish you with it. It is a growth--an effect.
But an effect of what? Let us see.
Emerson wrote: "A painter told me that nobody could draw a tree without in some sort becoming a tree; or
draw a child by studying the outlines of his form merely,--but, by watching for a time his motion and plays,
the painter enters his nature, and then can draw him at will in every attitude. So Roos 'entered into the inmost
nature of his sheep.' I knew a draughtsman employed in a public survey, who found that he could not sketch
the rocks until their geological structure was first explained to him."
When Sarah Bernhardt plays a difficult role she frequently will speak to no one from four o'clock in the
afternoon until after the performance. From the hour of four she lives her character. Booth, it is reported,
would not permit anyone to speak to him between the acts of his Shakesperean rôles, for he was Macbeth
then--not Booth. Dante, exiled from his beloved Florence, condemned to death, lived in caves, half starved;
then Dante wrote out his heart in "The Divine Comedy." Bunyan entered into the spirit of his "Pilgrim's
Progress" so thoroughly that he fell down on the floor of Bedford jail and wept for joy. Turner, who lived in a