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The Training of a Public Speaker

The Training of a Public Speaker
Category: Oratory
Title: The Training of a Public Speaker
Release Date: 2006-04-28
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 25 March 2019
Count views: 28
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[Pg iii]




Formerly Instructor in Public Speaking at Yale Divinity
School, Yale University. Author of "How to Speak
in Public," "Great Speeches and How to Make
Them," "Complete Guide to Public Speak-
ing," "How to Build Mental Power,"
"Talks on Talking," etc., etc.


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[Pg iv]

Copyright, 1920, by


[Printed in the United States of America]

Published, February, 1920


Copyright Under the Articles of the Copyright Convention of thePan-American Republics and the United States, August 11, 1910


[Pg v]


The power of eloquence to move and persuade men is universallyrecognized. To-day the public speaker plays a vital part in the solutionof every great question and problem. Oratory, in the true sense, is nota lost art, but a potent means of imparting information, instruction,and persuasion.

Eloquence is still "the appropriate organ of the highest personalenergy." As one has well said, "The orator is not compelled to waitthrough long and weary years to reap the reward of his labors. Histriumphs are instantaneous."

And again, "To stand up before a vast assembly composed of men of themost various callings, views, passions, and prejudices, and mold them atwill;[Pg vi] to play upon their hearts and minds as a master upon the keys ofa piano; to convince their understandings by the logic, and to thrilltheir feelings by the art of the orator; to see every eye watching hisface, and every ear intent on the words that drop from his lips; to seeindifference changed to breathless interest, and aversion to rapturousenthusiasm; to hear thunders of applause at the close of every period;to see the whole assembly animated by the feelings which in him areburning and struggling for utterance; and to think that all this is thecreation of the moment, and has sprung instantaneously from his fierybrain and the inspiration imparted to it by the circumstances of thehour;—this, perhaps, is the greatest triumph of which the human mindis capable, and that in which its divinity is most signally revealed."[Pg vii]

The aims and purposes of speaking to-day have radically changed fromformer times. Deliberative bodies, composed of busy men, meet now todiscuss and dispose of grave and weighty business. There is littlenecessity nor scope for eloquence. Time is too valuable to permit ofprolonged speaking. Men are tacitly expected to "get to the point," andto be reasonably brief in what they have to say.

Under these circumstances certain extravagant types of old-time oratorywould be ineffectual to-day. The stentorian and dramatic tones, withhand inserted in the breast of the coat, with exaggerated facialexpression, and studied posture, would make a speaker to-day an objectof ridicule.

This applies equally to speech in the law court, pulpit, on the lectureplatform, and in other departments of pub[Pg viii]lic address. The implicitdemand everywhere is that the speaker should say what he has to saynaturally, simply, and concisely.

This does not mean, however, that he must confine himself to plainstatement of fact, with no manifestation of feeling or earnestness. Menare still influenced and persuaded by impassioned speech. There isnothing incompatible between deep feeling and clear-cut speech. A manhaving profound convictions upon any subject of importance will alwaysspeak on it with fervor and sincerity.

The widespread interest in the subject of public speaking has suggestedthis adaptation of Quintilian's celebrated work on the education of theorator. This work has long been regarded as one of the most valuabletreatises ever written on oratory, but in its original form it isponderous and[Pg ix] inaccessible to the average reader. In the presentabridged and modernized form it may be read and studied with benefit byearnest students of the art of public speaking.

A brief account of Quintilian says: "Quintilianus, M. Fabius, was bornat Calagurris, in Spain, A. D. 40. He completed his education at Rome,and began to practise at the bar about 68. But he was chieflydistinguished as a teacher of eloquence, bearing away the palm in hisdepartment from all his rivals, and associating his name, even to aproverb, with preeminence in the art. By Domitian he was invested withthe insignia and title of consul, and is, moreover, celebrated as thefirst public instructor who, in virtue of the endowment by Vespasian,received a regular salary from the imperial exchequer. He is supposed tohave died about 118. The great work[Pg x] of Quintilian is a complete systemof rhetoric, in twelve books, entitled De Institutione Oratoria LibreXII, or sometimes Institutiones Oratoriæ, dedicated to his friendMarcellus Victorius, himself a celebrated orator, and a favorite atCourt. This production bears throughout the impress of a clear, soundjudgment, keen discrimination, and pure taste, improved by extensivereading, deep reflection, and long practise."

The text used for this condensation is from the version of J. Patsall,A.M., London, 1774, according to the Paris edition by Professor Rollin.Many parts of the original work have been re-written or abridged, whileseveral chapters have been entirely omitted.

Grenville Kleiser

New York City,
August, 1919.

[Pg 15]



Rhetoric has been commonly defined as "The power of persuading." Thisopinion originated with Isocrates, if the work ascribed to him be reallyhis; not that he intended to dishonor his profession, tho he gives us agenerous idea of rhetoric by calling it the workmanship of persuasion.We find almost the same thing in the Gorgias of Plato, but this is theopinion of that rhetorician, and not of Plato. Cicero has written inmany places that the duty of an orator is to speak in "a manner properto persuade"; and in his books of rhetoric, of which undoubtedly he doesnot approve himself, he makes the end of eloquence to consist inpersuasion.[Pg 16]

But does not money likewise persuade? Is not credit, the authority ofthe speaker, the dignity of a respectable person, attended with the sameeffect? Even without speaking a word, the remembrance of past services,the appearance of distress, a beautiful aspect, make deep impressions onminds and are decisive in their favor.

Did Antonius, pleading the cause of M. Aquilius, trust to the force ofhis reasons when he abruptly tore open his garment and exposed to viewthe honorable wounds he received fighting for his country? This act ofhis forced streams of tears from the eyes of the Roman people, who, notable to resist so moving a spectacle, acquitted the criminal. SergiusGalba escaped the severity of the laws by appearing in court with hisown little children, and the son of Gallus Sulpitius, in his arms. Thesight of so[Pg 17] many wretched objects melted the judges into compassion.This we find equally attested by some of our historians and by a speechof Cato. What shall I say of the example of Phryne, whose beauty was ofmore service in her cause than all the eloquence of Hyperides; for thohis pleading was admirable in her defense, yet perceiving it to bewithout effect, by suddenly laying open her tunic he disclosed the nakedbeauty of her bosom, and made the judges sensible that she had as manycharms for them as for others. Now, if all these instances persuade,persuasion, then, can not be the end of rhetoric.

Some, therefore, have seemed to themselves rather more exact who, in themain of the same way of thinking, define rhetoric as the "Power ofpersuading by speaking." It is to this that Gorgias, in the book abovecited, is at last reduced[Pg 18] by Socrates. Theodectes does not much differfrom them, if the work ascribed to him be his, or Aristotle's. In thisbook the end of rhetoric is supposed to be "The leading of men whereverone pleases by the faculty of speaking." But this definition is notsufficiently comprehensive. Many others besides the orator persuade bytheir words and lead minds in whatever direction they please.

Some, therefore, as Aristotle, setting aside the consideration of theend, have defined rhetoric to be "The power of inventing whatever ispersuasive in a discourse." This definition is equally as faulty as thatjust mentioned, and is likewise defective in another respect, asincluding only invention, which, separate from elocution, can notconstitute a speech.

It appears from Plato's Gorgias that he was far from regarding rhetoricas[Pg 19] an art of ill tendency, but that, rather it is, or ought to be, ifwe were to conceive an adequate idea of it inseparable from virtue. Thishe explains more clearly in his Phædrus, where he says that "The art cannever be perfect without an exact knowledge and strict observance ofjustice." I join him in this opinion, and if these were not his realsentiments, would he have written an apology for Socrates and theeulogium of those brave citizens who lost their lives in the defense oftheir country? This is certainly acting the part of an orator, and if inany respect he attacks the profession, it is on account of those whomake ill use of eloquence. Socrates, animated with the same spirit,thought it unworthy of him to pronounce the speech Lysias had composedfor his defense, it being the custom of the orators of those times towrite speeches for ar[Pg 20]raigned criminals, which the latter pronounced intheir own defense; thus eluding the law that prohibited pleading foranother. Plato, likewise, in his Phædrus, condemns the masters thatseparated rhetoric from justice, and preferred probabilities to truth.

Such are the definitions of rhetoric which have been principally setforth. To go through all of them is not my purpose, nor do I think itpossible, as most writers on arts have shown a perverse dislike fordefining things as others do or in the same terms as those who wrotebefore them. I am far from being influenced by a like spirit ofambition, and far from flattering myself with the glory of invention,and I shall rest content with that which seems most rational, thatrhetoric is properly defined as "The science of speaking well." Havingfound what is best, it is useless to seek further.[Pg 21]

Accepting this definition, therefore, it will be no difficult matter toascertain its end, for if it be "The science of speaking well," then "tospeak well" will be the end it proposes to itself.


The next question is on the utility of rhetoric, and from this point ofview some direct the bitterest invectives against it, and what is veryunbecoming, exert the force of eloquence against eloquence, saying thatby it the wicked are freed from punishment, and the innocent opprest byits artifices; that it perverts good counsel, and enforces bad; that itfoments troubles and seditions in States; that it arms nations againsteach other, and makes them irreconcilable enemies; and that its power isnever more manifest than when error and lies triumph over truth.[Pg 22]

Comic poets reproach Socrates with teaching how to make a bad causegood, and Plato represents Lysias and Gorgias boasting the same thing.To these may be added several examples of Greeks and Romans, and a longlist of orators whose eloquence was not only the ruin of privatepersons, but even destructive to whole cities and republics; and forthis reason it was that eloquence was banished from Sparta and sorestricted at Athens that the orator was not allowed to make appeal tothe passions.

Granting all this as sound argument, we must draw this necessaryinference, that neither generals of armies, nor magistrates, normedicine, nor philosophy, will be of any use. Flaminius, an imprudentgeneral, lost one of our armies. The Gracchi Saturninus, and Glaucia, toraise themselves to dignity, put Rome into an uproar. Physicians[Pg 23] oftenadminister poisons, and among philosophers some have been found guiltyof the most enormous crimes. Let us not eat of the meats with which ourtables are spread, for meats frequently have caused disease. Let usnever go into houses; they may fall and

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