For some time I have been besieged with requests to open a "Speakers'
Class" or "A School of Oratory," or, as one ingenious correspondent puts
it, a "Forensic Club." With these requests it is impossible to comply
for sheer lack of time.
I have decided, however, to embody in these pages the results of my own
experience, and the best I have learned from the experience of others.
There are some things required in a good lecturer which cannot be
imparted to a pupil by any teacher, and we may as well dispose of these.
One is a good voice. Modern methods, however, have done much to make the
improvement of the voice possible. While it is probably impossible in
the great majority of cases to make a very fine voice out of a very poor
one, no one, with an average voice, need be afraid of the platform, for
time and training will greatly increase its range and resonance. It is
said that the great Greek orator, Demosthenes, developed his magnificent
voice by shouting above the roar of the sea near which he lived, but it
is probable that he had a better voice to begin with than the tradition
represents. In the absence of sea waves, one's voice may be tested and
strengthened by trying to drown the noise of the electric cars at a
street meeting. Most poor voices are produced in the upper part of the
throat or, still worse, in the roof of the mouth, while deep and
thrilling tones can only be obtained from further down. The transition
from the upper throat or palate to the deeper tones is not nearly so
difficult as might be supposed. Placing the hand across the chest during
practice will help to locate the origin of the sounds produced.
The one thing, however, which no training seems to create, but which is
wholly indispensable in a good speaker, is that elusive, but potential
something which has been named personal magnetism. This is probably only
another way of saying that the great orator must also be a great man.
His imagination and sympathy must be great enough to take possession of
him and make him the mere instrument of their outpouring.
If nature has omitted these great qualities, no amount of training will
create them. This is why, among the great number who wish to be
speakers, only a few scale the heights.
But men with small personal magnetism and good training have done quite
well, while others with large personal magnetism and no methods, have
made a complete failure, and herein lies the justification for this