In concluding this series I will group several items of importance which
did not suggest themselves under any previous head.
Gestures should be carefully watched, especially at the beginning, when
future habits are in the process of formation. They should not be
affected or mechanical like those of the child reciting something of
which it does not understand the sense.
A good story is told of the old preacher who could weep at will and
marked his manuscript "weep here;" but, on one unfortunate occasion, to
the great consternation of his congregation, got his signals mixed, and
wept profusely during a reference to the recent marriage of two of his
Never allow your thumb and fingers, especially the thumb, to stick out
from the palm at right angles like pens stuck in a potato.
Never work the forearm from the elbow "pump-handle" fashion, but always
move the arms from the shoulders. Do not move the palms of your hands
toward yourself as if you were trying to gather something in, mesmerist
fashion, but always outward as is natural in giving something forth.
Cultivate a narrative style. History, poetry, and all forms of
literature take their origin in the story-teller who once discharged all
their functions. The so-called dry facts of science, well told, make a
"story" of surpassing interest.
If young, let no man despise thy youth. Plunge boldly in, blunder if
needs be, but do something; experiment with your theories. Let the
veteran who has no sympathy with your crude efforts "go to pot." The
lapse of years has made his early inflictions look to him like the
masterpieces of Burke and Chatham.
Never slight a small audience. Do your best as though you had a crowded
theater. If you speak listlessly to a small gathering in a town, depend
on it next time you go there it will be still smaller.
Preserve your health and take especial care of your throat. The speaker
who doesn't smoke has a great advantage, and when the throat is at all
relaxed smoking should be eschewed. The most dangerous time to smoke is
immediately after the close of a lecture. Then the cells are all exposed
from recent exercise, and it is positively wicked to so abuse them with
tobacco fumes when they have served you so well. It is equally wicked to
scald them with "straight" liquor. Any speaker who persists in either of
these habits will pay a heavy penalty. If these things must be done, at
least wait an hour or two after speaking.
All this is just so much more true of street speaking as the throat is
more exhausted by the louder tone.
When you have worked out your lecture, and are waiting for the hour to
strike, test its merit by this question: Does it contain enough valuable
information to make a distinct addition to the education of an average
listener? If you cannot affirm this, whatever merits otherwise it may
have, fundamentally, it fails. When the enthusiasm has worn off, your
audience should be able to decide that, in its acquaintance with modern
knowledge, a distinct step forward has been made. Anything else is
building on sand.
Always be firm, positive, courageous. First get a mastery of the
question, and then let your audience realize that you know what you are
talking about. The great merit of a certain speaker of long ago, seems
to have been that "he spake with authority." Remember truth is not
decided by counting heads, and if you are correct, even though the
majority, in some cases in your own audience, may be against you, they
will be obliged eventually to come to your position. True, in the
meantime you may be obliged to suffer a temporary eclipse, but this is
one of the permanent possibilities of the career of the real teacher.
Weigh carefully, investigate thoroughly, consult the authorities, be
sure of your ground and prepared to defend it against all comers, and
"Plunge deep the rowels of thy speech,
Hold back no syllable of fire."
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