14 AUGUST 1830, Page 15


WE have been much amused with some directions for public speaking, in an account of JACOTOT.S method of Universal Instruc- tion. M. JACOTOT recommends speakers to speak badly without fear, scruple, or hesitation, as the essential preparation for speak- ing well. He thinks folly must be dared before the enunciation of wisdom can be mastered. We apprehend that in practice too many persons accomplish themselves in the first step of his in- structious only. Little SALOMONS, the musician, told the late Duke of York, in reply to an inquiry of his Royal Highness respecting his progress on the violin, "There are three stages of violin playing, please your Royal Highness,—the first play not at all ; the second play very bad ; the third play very well. Now your Royal Highness has made very great progress in the second stage, play very bad." In oratory there would seem, according to JACOTOT, to be three similar conditions,—first, speak not at all ; second, speak very badly ; and, thirdly, speak well. The second is the point of advance commonly attained. M.JACOTOT lays down some indisputable truths :- " 'Every one who speaks in society would speak a very long time, if be were not interrupted, when animated ; that is to say when he is altogether absorbed in that which he says, and does not experience any distraction ; and even interruption sometimes but animates him the more. But the silence of his auditory, when once he perceives it, produces a very contrary effect. All eyes being fixed on him, he is embarrassed, he stammers, and at length becomes dumb : but this is not a defect of genius, it is merely, I repeat it, a want of self-possession. He is a weak man; he is not master of his palpitating heart ; he has lost his self-possession ; his calm judg- ment has abandoned him : hence he sees nothing that he ought to see ; lie. can compare nothing; he has lost the standard by which he ought to measure himself and others; he has lost genius, because he has lost the balance of judgment. Hence the first rule of improvisation : Acquire the tnastership of your own feelings : ' (in other words, M. Jacotot means, that the secret of success in oratory, as indeed in every thing else requiring energy of intellect, depends= the-mastery of the will.) " The prevailing weakness above described, is one which though generally, we might say universally felt, it is not easy to explain. Why does a person feel oppressively embarrassed in addressing a number of people, though he is conscious that there is not one of the assembly in communicating with whom he would labour under the slightest degree of awe, or for whose judgment he would ac- knowledge any timid deference ? He well knows that there is no aggregate criticism in his auditory ; he knows that his hearers have no present opportunity of comparing their ideas of his speech, and assisting each other's judgments upon its merits. These things he knows, and yet he trembles at addressing an assembly as if it had the combined knowledge of its numbers and the mind of one man. By experience and practice this fear is materially overcome ; but many distinguished public speakers have declared that they never rose without trepidation.

" Tfritiiss and speaking,' says M. Jacotot, are two different talents.. To write well, it is necessary to revise, it may be twenty times, the work in hand : to become a public speaker, it is not necessary that we should alter a single word, however loose or inapposite. We do not erase a single word : the least hesitation Spoils all: speak even badly, hut speak on with- out stopping : from the first minute endeavour to be master of yourself; whatever folly escapes you, let it not distract you from your object. Hence the third rule of improvisation: Commence, cantinue,and finish as you may, but continue andfinish ; speak but one minute if you will, but let what you say, however brief, be one complete whole in itself without solution of continuity. Let not a mauvaise honte, above all things, restrain you ; take care that you be not the puppet of distraction. It is in the corn- mencement particularly that we should make the pupil exercise audacity against himself, aga;nst his pride, and his pretensions to intellectual supe-

y. The young orator feels that some foolish saying is on his lips : he wishes to prevent the utterance of it, for he fears that it might expose him to the imputation of being a booby : he accordingly is silent. This, then, is one day lost.

" He knows not bow to conquer himself; be has not courage to utter a solecism : how, indeed, is it to be expected that he should not fear the sarcasms of his companions ? Then reason is said to come to his aid. "I cannot," he says, "bring myself to pronounce a mass of words with- out order or connexion : reason would prevent me." But is it true, all this time, young man, that it is reason which restrains you ? You blush— you tremble—lest you should speak malapropos ; but we all know that you can speak if you give yourself fair play. Did you not promise that you would muster up courage to speak on even at the risk of speaking ill ? but when the moment of trial arrived, did you not hesitate and stammer ? Was it reason or pride that occasioned your embarrassment ? Mind, till you have courage to speak ill, you will never learn to speak well : in other words, as long as you are the slave of your vanity, you will be the slave of all the world.' " This is all very good advice for the speaker, but the auditory is too little considered in it. Supposing all conceivable audacity and hazard of nonsense in the orator, what ieason has he to speculate on the patience of his hearers, and their sufferance of a repetition of his essays. A man would learn to speak confidently, and well or ill according to the quality of the matter in him, if people would have patience to submit to his niaiseries in the pro- cess of' acquiring self-possession. But here it is that the practica- bility of the method halts, and it is easier to prevail upon one man to muster impudence and hazard nonsense, than to prevail upon a dozen to command patience, and listen to the tyro's crudities or unconnected rhapsodies.

Debating societies only, which are joint-stock sufferance com- panies, afford the audience requisite ; and they are to young orators what a rocking-horse is to infant riders,—some inanimate likeness of the real thing, but no preparation for it. The youth who has see-sawed on those patient bodies, attempts the living thing, and is shaken off his balance or flung at the first motion. Too much and too little are expected in debating societies,—too much arrangement and style in the speaker, and too little impa- tience in the auditory: The desirable school would be a debating society where discussions should resemble the conversation of a dinner-table, allowing a little more length to the speakers. This would give confidence and the habit of producing ideas, if ideas there are to produce, without mannerism, or that rubbish of am- plification which constitutes half the labour of a tyro's speech. A single sentence may throw the true light upon a debate ; but a single sentence is what a spouter is ashamed to utter, and if he cannot draw it into length, he suppresses it altos-ether as unworthy of enunciation. The orator shares in the modesty of the scholar in HIEROCLES, who, seeing a great crowd attracted to the funeral of his child, apologized forr*bringins. forth so small a dead body to so large a multitude. From the ha-bit of spouting set speeches at long-winded length, reason or truth in a small space is accounted unworthy of delivery. Much time is thus lost in public discus- sion, and much ingenuity wasted in misapplication ; for the mind is directed to dressing up a thought instead of confining itself simply to the complete expression of it.

The idea of what is necessary to acceptation, renders many speeches as unnecessarily prolix as the pay per sheet has tended to lengthen papers in periodical publications. Look, for example, at the first and the last number of the Edinburgh Review, and mark the disappearance of those articles which said only just as much as the subject required, and which were produced when the jour- nal was written by a coterie who shared profits in a certain propor- tion, and before the system of paying by the sheet was adopted in it. The early notices often occupied a half or a third of a page, and no force was lost by the compression. Where space was re- quisite, space was given ; but otherwise brevity was allotted to slight occasions for remark.