Said Francis Bacon, the author of "Novum Organum," "Reading maketh a

full man, writing an exact man, and conversation a ready man."

The first in importance of these is to be "a full man." The lecturer

should not deliver himself on any subject unless he has read about all

there is of value on that question.

If, when you read, the words all run together in the first few minutes,

or, you invariably get a headache about the third page, let lecturing

alone. Remember that there must be listeners as well as lecturers, and

you may make a good listener, a quality none too common, but, as for

lecturing, you have about as much chance of success as a man who could

not climb ten rungs of a ladder without going dizzy, would have as a


The speaker who writes out his speech and commits it to memory and then

recites it, has at least, this in his favor: his performance represents

great labor. An audience usually is, and should be, very lenient with

anyone who has obviously labored hard for its benefit.

Writing out a speech has many advantages, and beginners especially

should practice it extensively. It gives one precision or, as Bacon puts

it, makes an "exact" man. It gives one experience in finding the correct


If you have not learned to find the right word at your desk where you

have time to reflect, how do you suppose you will find it on the

platform where you must go on?

In trying a passage in your study it is well to stand about as you would

on a platform. My friend Jack London assured me that when he took to the

platform his chief difficulty arose from never having learned to think

on his feet.

Writing is also a great test of the value of a point. Many a point that

looks brilliant when you first conceive it turns out badly when you try

to write it out. On the other hand, an unpromising idea may prove quite

fertile when tried out with a pen. It is better to make these

discoveries in your study than before your audience.

As to conversation and its making a "ready" man, a better method

perhaps, is to argue the matter out with a mirror, or the wall, in about

the same manner and style as you expect to use on the platform.

To practice before one or two persons in the style you expect to adopt

before an audience is so inherently incompatible with the different

circumstances, that I don't believe anybody ever made it succeed. It is

far better to be alone, especially when working out your most important

points, and building your opening and closing sentences.

Probably the best form of lecturing is to speak from a few pages of

notes. A clearly defined skeleton, in a lecture, as in an animal, is the

sure sign of high organization, while it is desirable to fill in the

flesh and clothes with a pen beforehand, it will be well to learn to

deliver it to the public with nothing but the skeleton before you.

In course lectures, quotations must be read, as a rule, as there is not

time enough between lectures to commit them to memory. But where the

same lecture is given repeatedly before different audiences, this

condition does not exist, and the quotations should be memorized.

Frequent quotations, from the best authorities, is one of the marks of a

good lecture, as of a good book.

A good plan is to write out the skeleton of the lecture fully at first,

say fifteen or twenty note book pages, then think it carefully over and

condense to about ten. A really good, well organized lecture where the

lecturer has had ample time, or when he has already delivered it a few

times, should be reducible to one or two pages of notes.

This skeletonizing is a good test of a lecture. A mere collection of

words has no skeleton. Instead of comparing with a mammal at the top of

the organic scale, it is like a formless, undifferentiated protozoon at

the bottom.

As an example of a skeleton, here are the notes of the lecture with

which I closed the season at the Garrick in May, 1907:


(1) The general confusion on this question.

(2) The inroads of positive science into this field.

(3) The historical schools of Ethics:

(1) The Theological.

(2) The intuitional.

(3) The utilitarian.

(1) Define these;

(2) explain;

(3) criticise.

(4) Modern science endorses utilitarianism.

(5) This still leaves unsettled the problem of who

shall determine what is of utility to society?

(6) Marx gave the answer--The ruling class.

(7) They rule because they control society's foundation,

its mode of production.

(8) The working class, in order to enforce its own

ethics must control society at its base; it must take

possession of the means of production.

When I first delivered this lecture I had about twenty pages of notes

nearly twice the size of this book page, the three items, "define,"

"explain," "criticize," taking half a dozen.

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