Public Speaking by Irvah Lester WinterPrinciples and Practice

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This book is designed to set forth the main principles of effective platform delivery, and to provide a large body of material for student practice. The work laid out may be used to form a separate course of study, or a course of training running parallel with a course in debating or other original speaking. It has been prepared with a view also to that large number who want to speak, or have to speak, but cannot have the advantage of a teacher. Much is therefore said in the way of caution, and untechnical language is used throughout.

The discussion of principles in Part One is intended as a help towards the student’s understanding of his task, and also as a common basis of criticism in the relation between teacher and pupil. The preliminary fundamental work of Part Two, Technical Training, deals first with the right formation of tone, the development of voice as such, the securing of a fixed right vocal habit. Following comes the adapting of this improved voice to the varieties of use, or expressional effect, demanded of the public speaker. After this critical detailed drill, the student is to take the platform, and apply his acquired technique to continued discourse, receiving criticism after each entire piece of work.

The question as to what should be the plan and the content of Part Three, Platform Practice, has been determined simply by asking what are the distinctly varied conditions under which men most frequently speak. It is regarded as profitable for the student to practice, at least to some extent, in all the several kinds of speech here chosen. In thus cultivating versatility, he will greatly enlarge his power of expression, and will, at length, discover wherein lies his own special capability.

The principal aim in choosing the selections has been to have them sufficiently alive to be attractive to younger speakers, and not so heavy as to be unsuited to their powers. Some of them have proved effective by use; many others are new. In all cases they are of good quality.

It is hoped that the new features of the book will be found useful. One of these is a group of lighter after-dinner speeches and anecdotes. It has been said that, in present-day speech-making, humor has supplanted former-day eloquence. It plays anyway a considerable part in various kinds of speaking. The young speaker is generally ineffective in the expression of pleasantry, even his own. Practice in the speaking of wholesome humor is good for cultivating quality of voice and ease of manner, and for developing the faculty of giving humorous turn to one’s own thought. It is also entertaining to fellow students. Other new features in the book are a practice section for the kind of informal speaking suited to the club or the classroom, and a section given to the occasional poem, the kind of poem that is associated with speech- making.

A considerable space is given to argumentative selections because of the general interest in debating, and because a need has been felt for something suited for special forensic practice among students of law. Some poetic selections are introduced into Part Two in order to give attractive variety to the student’s work, and to provide for the advantage of using verse form in some of the vocal training. The few character sketches introduced may serve for cultivating facility in giving entertaining touches to serious discourse. All the selections for platform practice are designed, as seems most fitting, to occupy about five minutes in delivery. Original speeches, wherein the student presents his own thought, may be intermingled with this more technical work in delivery, or may be taken up in a more special way in a subsequent course.

It should, perhaps, be suggested that the plan of procedure here prescribed can be modified to suit the individual teacher or student. The method of advance explained in the Discussion of Principles is believed to be the best, but some who use the book may prefer, for example, to begin with the second group of selections, the familiar, colloquial passages, and proceed from these to those more elevated and sustained. This or any other variation from the plan here proposed can, of course, be adopted. For any plan the variety of material is deemed sufficient, and the method of grouping will be found convenient and practical.

The making of this kind of book would not be possible except for the generous privileges granted by many authors and many publishers of copyrighted works. For the special courtesies of all whose writings have a place here the editor would make the fullest acknowledgment of indebtedness. The books from which extracts are taken have been mentioned, in every case, in a prominent place with the title of the selection, in order that so far as possible students may be led carefully to read the entire original, and become fully imbued with its meaning and spirit, before undertaking the vocal work on the selected portion. For the purpose of such reading, it would be well to have these books collected on a section of shelves in school libraries for easy and ready reference.

The publishers from whose books selections have been most liberally drawn are, Messrs. Houghton Mifflin Company, Messrs. Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, Messrs. Little, Brown, and Company, of Boston, and Messrs. Harper and Brothers, Messrs. Charles Scribner’s Sons, Messrs. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, Messrs. G. W. Dillingham Company, Messrs. Doubleday, Page and Company, and Mr. C. P. Farrell, New York. Several of the after-dinner speeches are taken from the excellent fifteen volume collection, “Modern Eloquence,” by an arrangement with Geo. L. Shuman and Company, Chicago, publishers. In the first three volumes of this collection will be found many other attractive after-dinner speeches.






Establishing the Tone
Vocal Flexibility
The Formation of Words
Making the Point
Indicating Values and Relations
Expressing the Feeling
Showing the Picture
Expression by Action

The Formal Address
The Public Lecture
The Informal Discussion
Argumentative Speech
The After-Dinner Speech
The Occasional Poem
The Making of the Speech



O Scotia!…………………….. _Robert Burns_ O Rome! My Country!……………. _Lord Byron_ Ring Out, Wild Bells!………….. _Alfred Lord Tennyson_ Roll On, Thou Deep!……………. _Lord Byron_ Thou Too, Sail On!…………….. _Henry W. Longfellow_ O Tiber, Father Tiber!…………. _Lord Macaulay_ Marullus to the Roman Citizens….. _William Shakespeare_ The Recessional……………….. _Rudyard Kipling_ The Cradle of Liberty………….. _Daniel Webster_ The Impeachment of Warren Hastings. _Edmund Burke_ Bunker Hill…………………… _Daniel Webster_ The Gettysburg Address…………. _Abraham Lincoln_

Cæsar, the Fighter…………….. _Henry W. Longfellow_ Official Duty…………………. _Theodore Roosevelt_ Look Well to your Speech……….. _George Herbert Palmer_ Hamlet to the Players………….. _William Shakespeare_ Bellario’s Letter……………… _William Shakespeare_ Casca, Speaking of Cæsar……….. _William Shakespeare_ Squandering of the Voice……….. _Henry Ward Beecher_ The Training of the Gentleman…… _William J. Tucker_

Brutus to the Roman Citizens……. _William Shakespeare_ The Precepts of Polonius……….. _William Shakespeare_ The High Standard……………… _Lord Rosebery_ On Taxing the Colonies…………. _Edmund Burke_ Justifying the President……….. _John C. Spooner_ Britain and America……………. _John Bright_

King Robert of Sicily………….. _Henry W. Longfellow_ Laying the Atlantic Cable………. _James T. Fields_ O’Connell, the Orator………….. _Wendell Phillips_ Justification for Impeachment…… _Edmund Burke_ Wendell Phillips, the Orator……. _George William Curtis_ On the Disposal of Public Lands…. _Robert Y. Hayne_ The Declaration of Independence…. _Abraham Lincoln_

Northern Greeting to Southern Veterans. …………………………….. _Henry Cabot Lodge_ Matches and Overmatches………… _Daniel Webster_ The Coalition…………………. _Daniel Webster_ In His Own Defense…………….. _Robert Emmet_ On Resistance to Great Britain….. _Patrick Henry_ Invective against Louis Bonaparte.. _Victor Hugo_

Mount, the Doge of Venice!……… _Mary Russell Mitford_ The Revenge…………………… _Alfred Lord Tennyson_ A Vision of War……………….. _Robert G. Ingersoll_ Sunset Near Jerusalem………….. _Corwin Knapp Linson_ A Return in Triumph……………. _T. De Witt Talmage_ A Return in Defeat…………….. _Henry W. Grady_

In Our Forefathers’ Day………… _T. De Witt Talmage_ Cassius against Cæsar………….. _William Shakespeare_ The Spirit of the South………… _Henry W. Grady_ Something Rankling Here………… _Daniel Webster_ Faith in the People……………. _John Bright_ The French against Hayti……….. _Wendell Phillips_ The Necessity of Force…………. _John M. Thurston_ Against War with Mexico………… _Thomas Corwin_ The Murder of Lovejoy………….. _Wendell Phillips_

A Tale of the Plains…………… _Theodore Roosevelt_ Gunga Din…………………….. _Rudyard Kipling_ Address of Sergeant Buzfuz……… _Charles Dickens_ A Natural Philosopher………….. _Maccabe_ Response to a Toast……………. _Litchfield Moseley_ Partridge at the Play………….. _Henry Fielding_ A Man’s a Man for a That……….. _Robert Burns_ Artemus Ward’s Lecture…………. _Charles Farrar Brown_ Jim Bludso, of the Prairie Belle… _John Hay_ The Trial of Abner Barrow………. _Richard Harding Davis_



The Benefits of a College Education _Abbott Lawrence Lowell_ What the College Gives…………. _Le Baron Russell Briggs_ Memorial Day Address…………… _John D. Long_ William McKinley………………. _John Hay_ Robert E. Lee…………………. _John W. Daniel_ Farewell Address to the United States Senate. ………………………………_Henry Clay_ The Death of Garfield………….. _James G. Blaine_ The Second Inaugural Address……. _Abraham Lincoln_ The Death of Prince Albert……… _Benjamin Disraeli_ An Appreciation of Mr. Gladstone… _Arthur J. Balfour_ William E. Gladstone…………… _Lord Rosebery_ The Soldier’s Creed……………. _Horace Porter_ Competition in College…………. _Abbott Lawrence Lowell_

A Master of the Situation………. _James T. Fields_ Wit and Humor…………………. _Minot J. Savage_ A Message to Garcia……………. _Elbert Hubbard_ Shakespeare’s “Mark Antony”…….. _Anonymous_ André and Hale………………… _Chauncey M. Depew_ The Battle of Lexington………… _Theodore Parker_ The Homes of the People………… _Henry W. Grady_ General Ulysses S. Grant……….. _Canon G. W. Farrar_ American Courage………………. _Sherman Hoar_ The Minutemen of the Revolution…. _George William Curtis_ Paul Revere’s Ride…………….. _George William Curtis_ The Arts of the Ancients……….. _Wendell Phillips_ A Man without a Country………… _Edward Everett Hale_ The Execution of Rodriguez……… _Richard Harding Davis_

The Flood of Books…………….. _Henry van Dyke_ Effectiveness in Speaking………. _William Jennings Bryan_ Books, Literature and the People… _Henry van Dyke_ Education for Business…………. _Charles William Eliot_ The Beginnings of American Oratory. _Thomas Wentworth Higginson_ Daniel Webster, the Man………… _Thomas Wentworth Higginson_ The Enduring Value of Speech……. _Thomas Wentworth Higginson_ To College Girls………………. _Le Baron Russell Briggs_ The Art of Acting……………… _Henry Irving_ Address to the Freshman Class at Harvard University ………………………………_Charles William Eliot_ With Tennyson at Farringford……. _By His Son_ Notes on Speech-Making…………. _Brander Matthews_ Hunting the Grizzly……………. _Theodore Roosevelt_


On Retaining the Philippine Islands _George F. Hoar_ On Retaining the Philippine Islands _William McKinley_ Debate on the Tariff…………… _Thomas B. Reed_ Debate on the Tariff…………… _Charles F. Crisp_ South Carolina and Massachusetts… _Robert Y. Hayne_ South Carolina and Massachusetts… _Daniel Webster_ The Republican Party…………… _John Hay_ Nominating Ulysses S. Grant…….. _Roscoe Conkling_ The Choice of a Party………….. _Roscoe Conkling_ Nominating John Sherman………… _James A. Garfield_ The Democratic Party…………… _William E. Russell_ The Call to Democrats………….. _Alton B. Parker_ Nominating Woodrow Wilson………. _John W. Wescott_ Democratic Faith………………. _William E. Russell_ England and America……………. _John Bright_ On Home Rule in Ireland………… _William E. Gladstone_

The Dartmouth College Case……… _Daniel Webster_ In Defense of the Kennistons……. _Daniel Webster_ In Defense of the Kennistons, II… _Daniel Webster_ In Defense of John E. Cook……… _D. W. Voorhees_ In Defense of the Soldiers……… _Josiah Quincy, Jr._ In Defense of the Soldiers, II….. _Josiah Quincy, Jr._ In Defense of the Soldiers, III…. _Josiah Quincy, Jr._ In Defense of Lord George Gordon… _Lord Thomas Erskine_ Pronouncing Sentence for High Treason
…………………………….. _Sir Alfred Wills_ The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson.. _George S. Boutwell_ The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson.. _William M. Evarts_ The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, II
…………………………….. _William M. Evarts_

At a University Club Dinner…….. _Henry E. Howland_ The Evacuation of New York……… _Joseph H. Choate_ Ties of Kinship……………….. _Sir Edwin Arnold_ Canada, England and the United States
…………………………….. _Sir Wilfred Laurier_ Monsieur and Madame……………. _Paul Blouet (Max O’Rell)_ The Typical American…………… _Henry W. Grady_ The Pilgrim Mothers……………. _Joseph H. Choate_ Bright Land to Westward………… _E. O. Wolcott_ Woman………………………… _Theodore Tilton_ Abraham Lincoln……………….. _Horace Porter_ To Athletic Victors……………. _Henry E. Howland_

Charles Dickens……………….. _William Watson_ The Mariners of England………… _Thomas Campbell_ Class Poem……………………. _Langdon Warner_ A Troop of the Guard…………… _Hermann Hagedorn, Jr._ The Boys……………………… _Oliver Wendell Holmes_

The Mob Conquered……………… _George William Curtis_ An Example of Faith……………. _Henry W. Grady_ The Rail-Splitter……………… _H. L. Williams_ O’Connell’s Wit……………….. _Wendell Phillips_ A Reliable Team……………….. _Theodore Roosevelt_ Meg’s Marriage………………… _Robert Collyer_ Outdoing Mrs. Partington……….. _Sidney Smith_ Circumstance not a Cause……….. _Sidney Smith_ More Terrible than the Lions……. _A. A. McCormick_ Irving, the Actor……………… _John De Morgan_ Wendell Phillips’s Tact………… _James Burton Pond_ Baked Beans and Culture………… _Eugene Field_ Secretary Chase’s Chin-Fly……… _F. B. Carpenter_



Happily, it is no longer necessary to argue that public speaking is a worthy subject for regular study in school and college. The teaching of this subject, in one form or another, is now fairly well established. In each of the larger universities, including professional schools and summer schools, the students electing the courses in speaking number well into the hundreds. These courses are now being more generally placed among those counted towards the academic degrees. The demand for trained teachers in the various branches of the work in schools and colleges is far above the present supply. Educators in general look with more favor upon this kind of instruction, recognizing its practical usefulness and its cultural value. The question of the present time, then, is not whether or not the subject shall have a place. Some sort of place it always has had and always will have. Present discussion should rather bear upon the policy and the method of that instruction, the qualifications to be required of teachers, and the consideration for themselves and their work that teachers have a right to expect.

Naturally, public speaking in the form of debating has received favor among educators. It seems to serve the ends of practice in speaking and it gives also good mental discipline. The high regard for debating is not misplaced. We can hardly overestimate the good that debating has done to the subject of speaking in the schools and colleges. The rigid intellectual discipline involved in debating has helped to establish public speaking in the regular curriculum, thus gaining for it, and for teachers in it, greater respect. To bring training in speech into close relation with training in thought, and with the study of expression in English, is most desirable. This, however, does _not_ mean that training in speech, as a distinct object in itself, should be allowed to fall into comparative neglect. It is quite possible that, along with the healthy disapproval of false elocution and meaningless declamation, may come an underestimation of the important place of a right kind and a due degree of technical training in voice and general form.

In a recent book on public speaking, the statement is made that it is all well enough, if it so happens, for a speaker to have a pleasing voice, but it is not essential. This, though true in a sense, is misleading, and much teaching of this sort would be unfortunate for young speakers. It would seem quite unnecessary to say that beauty of voice is not in itself a primary object in vocal training for public speaking. The object is to make voices effective. In the effective use of any other instrument, we apply the utmost skill for the perfect adjustment or coordination of all the means of control. We do this for the attainment of power, for the conserving of energy, for the insuring of endurance and ease of operation. This is the end in the training of the voice. It is to avoid friction. It is to prevent nervous strain, muscular distortion, and failing power, and to secure easy response to the will of the speaker. The point not wholly understood or heeded is that, as a rule, the unpleasing voice is an indication of ill adjustment and friction. It denotes a mechanism wearing on itself–it means a voice that will weaken or fail before its time–a voice that needs repair.

Since speech is to express a speaker’s thought, training in speech should not be altogether dissociated from training in thinking. It ought to go hand in hand, indeed, with the study of English, from first to last. But training in voice and in the method of speech is a technical matter. It ought not to be left to the haphazard treatment, the intense spurring on, of vocally unskilled coaches for speaking contests. Discussions about the teaching of speaking are often very curious. We are frequently told by what means a few great orators have succeeded, but we are hardly ever informed of the causes from which many other speakers have been embarrassed or have failed. A book or essay is written to prove, from the individual experience of the author, the infallibility of a method. He was able to succeed, the argument runs, only by this or that means; therefore all should do as he did. It seems very plausible and attractive to read, for instance, that to succeed in speaking, it is only necessary to plunge in and be in earnest. But another writer points out that this is quite absurd; that many poor speakers have not lacked in intense earnestness and sincerity; that it isn’t feeling or intense spirit alone that insures success, but it is the attainment as well of a vocal method. Yet he goes on to argue that this vocal method, this forming of a public speaking voice and style, cannot be rightly gained from the teachers; it must be acquired through the exercise of each man’s own will; if a man finds he is going wrong he must will to go right–as if many men had not persistently but unsuccessfully exercised their will to this very end. It is so easy, and so attractive, to resolve all problems into one idea. President Woodrow Wilson, of Princeton University, once said that he always avoided the man or the book that proclaimed one idea for the correcting of society’s ills. These ideas on which books or essays are written are too obviously fallacious to need extended comment; the wonder is that they are often quoted and commended as being beneficial in their teaching. If we want to row or sprint or play golf, we do not simply go in and do our utmost; we apply the best technical skill to the art; we seek to learn how, from the experience of the past, and through the best instructors obtainable. Both common sense and experience show that the use of the human voice in the art of speaking is not the one thing, among all things, that cannot be successfully taught. The results of vocal teaching show, on the contrary, from multitudes of examples, from volumes of testimony, that there are few branches of instruction wherein the specially trained teacher is so much needed, and can be so effective as in the art of speaking.

In an experience extending over many years, an experience dealing with about all the various forms of public speaking and vocal teaching, the present writer has tried many methods, conducted classes on several different plans, learned the needs, observed the efforts, considered the successes and failures, of many men and women of various ages and of many callings. The constant and insistent fact in all this period of experience has been that skillful, technical instruction, as such, is the one kind of instruction that should always be provided where public speaking is taught, and the one that the student should not fail to secure when it is at hand. Other elements in good speech-making may, if necessary, be obtained from other sources. The teacher of speaking should teach speech. He should teach something else also, but he should, as a technician, teach that. The multitude of men and women who, in earlier and later life, come, in vocal trouble, to seek help from the experienced teacher, and the abundance of testimony as to the satisfactory results; the repeated evidences of failure to produce rightly trained voices wholly by so-called inspirational methods; the frequent evidences of pernicious vocal results from the forcing of young voices in the overintense and hasty efforts made in preparing for prize speaking, acting, and debating,–all these may not come to the understanding of the ordinary observer; they may not often, perhaps, come within the experience of the exceptionally gifted individuals who are usually cited as examples of distinguished success; they cannot impress themselves on educators who have little or no relation with this special subject; they naturally come into the knowledge and experience of the specially trained teacher of public speaking, who is brought into intimate relations with the subject and deals with all sorts and conditions of men. Out of this experience comes the strong conviction that the teacher of public speaking should be a vocal technician and a vocal physician, able to teach constructively and to treat correctively, knowing all he can of all that has been taught before, but teaching only as much of what he knows as is necessary to any individual.

For the dignity and worth of the teaching, the teacher of speaking should be trained, and should be a trainer, as has been indirectly said, in some other subject–in English literature or composition, in debating, history, or what not. He should be one of the academic faculty–concerned with thought, which speech expresses. He should not, for his other subject, be mainly concerned with gymnastics or athletics; he should not, for his own good and the consequent good of his work, be wholly taken up merely with the teaching of technical form in speaking. He should not be merely–if at all–a coach in inter- collegiate contests; nor should his service to an institution be adjudged mainly by the results of such contests. He should be an independent, intellectually grown and growing man, one who–in his exceptionally intimate relations with students–will have a large and right influence on student life. The offer recently held out by a university of a salary and an academic rank equal to its best, to a sufficiently qualified instructor in public speaking, was one of the several signs of a sure movement of to-day in the right direction–the demand for a man of high character and broad culture, specially skilled in the technical subject he was to teach, and the providing of a worthy position.

One fact that needs to be impressed upon governing bodies of school and college is that the cultivation of good speaking cannot but be unsatisfactory when it is continued over only a very brief time. It may only do mischief. A considerable period is necessary, as is the case with other subjects, for reaching the student intelligence, for molding the faculties, for maturing the powers, for adapting method to the individual, and for bringing the personality out through the method, so that method disappears. Senator George F. Hoar once gave very sensible advice in an address to an audience of Harvard students. He did not content himself with dwelling on the inevitable platitude, first have something to say, and then say it; he said he had been, in all his career, at a special disadvantage in public speaking, from the want of early training in the use of his voice; and he urged that students would do well not only to take advantage of such training in college, but to have their teacher, if it were possible, follow them, for a time, into their professional work. This idea was well exemplified in the case of Phillips Brooks–a speaker of spontaneity, simplicity, and splendid power. It is said that, in the period of his pulpit work, in the midst of his absorbing church labors, he made it a duty to go from time to time for a period of work with his teacher of voice, that he might be kept from falling back into wrong ways. It is often said that, if a man has it in him, he will speak well anyway. It is emphatically the man who has it in him, the man of intense temperament, like that of Phillips Brooks, who most needs the balance wheel, the sure reliance, of technique. That this technique should not be too technical; that form should not be too formal; that teaching should not be too good, or do too much, is one of the principles of good teaching. The point insisted on is that a considerable time is needed, as it is in other kinds of teaching, for thoroughly working out a few essential principles; for overcoming a few obstinate faults; for securing matured results by the right process of gradual development.

There is much cause for gratification in the evidences of a growing appreciation, in all quarters, of the place due to spoken English, as a study to be taught continuously side by side with written English. Much progress has also been made toward making youthful platform speaking, as well as youthful writing, more rational in form, more true in spirit, more useful for its purpose. In good time written and spoken English, conjoined with disciplinary training in thought and imagination, will both become firmly established in their proper place as subjects to be thoroughly and systematically taught. Good teaching will become traditional, and good teachers not rare. And among the specialized courses in public speaking an important place should always be given to an exact training in voice and in the whole art of effective delivery.





The common trouble in using the voice for the more vigorous or intense forms of speaking is a contraction or straining of the throat. This impedes the free flow of voice, causing impaired tone, poor enunciation, and unhealthy physical conditions. Students should, therefore, be constantly warned against the least beginnings of this fault. The earlier indications of it may not be observed, or the nature of the trouble may not be known, by the untrained speaker. But it ought to have, from the first, the attention of a skilled teacher, for the more deep-seated it becomes, the harder is its cure. So very common is the “throaty” tone and so connected is throat pressure with every other vocal imperfection, that the avoiding or the correcting of this one fault demands constant watchfulness in all vigorous vocal work. The way to avoid the faulty control of voice is, of course, to learn at the proper time the general principles of what singers call voice production. These principles are few and, in a sense, are very simple, but they are not easily made perfectly clear in writing, and a perfect application of them, even in the simpler forms of speaking, often requires persistent practice. It will be the aim here to state only what the student is most likely to understand and profit by, and to leave the rest to the personal guidance of a teacher.

The control of the voice, so far as it can be a conscious physical operation, is determined chiefly by the action of the breathing muscles about the waist and the lower part of the chest. The voice may be said to have its foundation in this part of the physical man. This foundation, or center of control, will be rightly established, not by any very positive physical action; not by a decided raising of the chest; not by any such marked expansion or contraction as to bring physical discomfort or rigid muscular conditions. When the breath is taken in, by an easy, natural expansion, much as air is taken into a bellows, there is, to a certain degree, a firming of the breathing muscles; but this muscular tension is felt by the speaker or singer, if felt at all, simply as a comfortable fullness around, and slightly above, the waistline, probably more in front than elsewhere. An eminent teacher of singing tells his pupils to draw the breath into the stomach. That probably suggests the sensation. When the breath has been taken in, it is to be gently withheld,–not given up too freely,–and the tone is formed on the top, so to speak, of this body of breath, chiefly, of course, in the mouth and head. For the stronger and larger voice the breath is not driven out and dissipated, but the tone is intensified and given completer resonance within–within the nasal or head cavities, somewhat within the pharynx and chest. This body of breath, easily held in good control, by the lower breathing muscles, forms what is called the vocal “support.” It is a fixed base of control. It is a fundamental condition, and is to be steadily maintained in all the varied operations of the voice.

Since this fundamental control of voice is so important, breathing exercises are often prescribed for regular practice. Such exercises, when directed by a thoroughly proficient instructor, may be vocally effective, and beneficial to health. Unwisely practiced, they may be unfitted to vocal control and of positive physical harm. Moderately taking the breath at frequent intervals, as a preparation or reënforcement for speaking, should become an unconscious habit. Excessive filling of the lungs or pressing downward upon the abdomen should be avoided. In general, the hearing of the voice, and an expressional purpose in making the voice, are the better means of acquiring good breathing. For the purposes of public speaking, at least, it is seldom necessary to do much more, in regard to the breathing, than to instruct a student against going wrong. The speaker should have a settled feeling of sufficiency; he should hold himself well together, physically and morally, avoiding nervous agitation and physical collapse; he should allow the breath freedom rather than put it under unnatural constraint. Perfect breathing can only be known by certain qualities in the voice. When it is best, the process is least observed. The student learns the method of breathing mainly by noting the result, by rightly hearing his voice. He must, after all, practice through the hearing.

The discussion of vocal support has brought us to the second main principle, the government of the throat. The right control of the voice, by placing a certain degree of tension upon the breathing muscles, tends to take away all pressure and constraint from the throat, leaving that passage seemingly open and free, so that the breath body or column; as some conceive it, seems almost unbroken in continued speech, much as it is, or should be, in prolonging tone in singing. The throat is opened in a relaxed rather than a constrained way, so as to give free play for the involuntary action of the delicate vocal muscles connected with the larynx, which determine all the finer variations of voice. Whatever kind of vocal effort is made, the student should constantly guard himself against the least throat stiffening or contraction, against what vocalists call a “throat grip.” He is very likely to make some effort with the throat, or vocal muscles, when putting the voice to any unusual test–when prolonging tone, raising or lowering the pitch, giving sharp inflections, or striking hard upon words for emphasis. In these and other vocal efforts the throat muscles should be left free to do their own work in their own way. The throat is to be regarded as a way through; the motive power is below the throat; the place for giving sound or resonance, to voice, for stamping upon words their form and character, is in the mouth, front and back, and especially in the head.

The last of the three main considerations, the concentration of tone where it naturally seems to be formed, is often termed voice “placing,” or “placement.” The possible objection to this term is that it may suggest a purely artificial or arbitrary treatment or method. Rightly understood, it is the following of nature. Its value is that it emphasizes the constancy of this one of the constant factors in voice. Its result is a certain kind and degree of monotony; without that particular kind of monotony the voice is faulty. When the tone is forced out of its proper place, it is dissipated and more or less lost. A student once told the writer, when complimented on the good placement of his voice, that he learned this in his summer employment as a public crier at the door of a show tent. He said he could not possibly have endured the daily wear upon the voice in any other way. Voices are heard among teamsters, foremen on the street, and auctioneers, that conform to this and other principles perfectly. We may say that in such cases the process of learning is unconscious. In the case of the untaught student it was conscious, and was exactly what he would have been instructed to do by a teacher. The point is that many cannot learn by themselves, and our more unconscious doings are likely to become our bad habits.

Just what this voice placement is can perhaps be observed simply by sounding the letter “m,” or giving an ordinary hum, as the mother sings to the child. It is merely finding the natural, instinctive basal form of the voice, and making all the vowels simply as variations of this form. The hum is often practiced, with a soft pure quality, by singers. It is varied by the sound of “ng,” as in “rung” or “hung,” and the elemental sound of “l.” The practice should always be varied, however, by a fuller sounding of the rounder vowels, lest the voice become too much confined or thinned. The speaker, like the singer, must find out how, by a certain adjustment all along the line from the breathing center to the point of issue of the breath at the front of the mouth, he can easily maintain a constant hitting place, to serve as the hammer head; one singing place for carrying the voice steadily through a sustained passage; one place where, as it were, the tone is held in check so it will not break through itself and go to pieces,–a “placing of the voice,” which is to be preserved in every sort of change or play of tone, whether in one’s own character or an assumed character; a constant focus or a fixed center of resonance, a forming of tone along the roof of the mouth and well forward in the head, the safeguard and, practically, the one most effective idea in the government of voice.

And now it should be hastily stated that this excellent idea, like other good things, may be easily abused. If the tone is pushed forward or crowded into the head or held tight in its place, in the least degree, there is a drawing or a cramping in the throat; there is a “pressing” of the voice. It should be remembered that the constancy of high placement of tone depends upon the certainty of the tone foundation; that, after all, the voice must rest upon itself, and must not sound as if it were up on tip-toe or on stilts; that tone placement is merely a convenient term for naming a natural condition.

As a final word on this part of the discussion, the student should of course be impressed with the idea that though these three features of vocal mechanism have been considered separately, all ideas about voice are ultimately to become one idea. The voice is to be thought of as belonging to the whole man, and is to become the spontaneous expression of his feelings and will; it should not draw attention to any particular part of the physical man; whatever number of conditions may be considered, the voice is finally to be one condition, a condition of normal freedom.

A lack of freedom is indicated in the voice, as in other kinds of mechanism by some sign of friction–by a harsh tone from a constrained throat; by a nasal or a muffled tone, from some obstruction in the nasal passages of the head, either because of abnormal physical conditions, or because of an unnatural direction of the breath, mainly due probably to speaking with a closed mouth; by a bound-up, heavy, “chesty” tone, resulting from a labored method of breathing.

Voice in its freer state should be pure, clear, round, fairly musical, and fairly deep and rich. Its multitude of expressive qualities had better be cultivated by the true purpose to express, in the simplest way, sentiments appropriated to one’s self through an understanding and a comprehensive appreciation of various passages of good literature. As soon as possible all technique is to be forgotten, unless the consciousness is pricked by something going wrong.

Voices in general need, in the larger development, to be rounded. The vowel forms “oo” as in moon, “o” as in roll, and “a” as in saw, greatly help in giving a rounded form to the general speech; for all vowels can be molded somewhat into the form of these rounder ones. The vowels “e” as in meet, “a” as in late, short “e” as in met, short “a” as in sat, are likely to be made very sharp, thin, and harsh. When a passage for practice begins with round vowels, as for example, “Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll!” the somewhat rounded form of the lips, and the opened condition of the throat produced in forming the rounder vowels, can be to some extent maintained through the whole of the passage, in forming all the vowels; and this will give, by repeated practice, a gradually rounded and deepened general character to the voice. On the other hand the thinner, sharper vowels may serve to give keenness and point to tones too thick and dull. In applying these suggestions, as well as all other vocal suggestions, moderation and good sense must be exercised, for the sake of the good outward appearance and the good effect of the speaking. The chief vowel forms running from the deepest to the most shallow are: “oo” as in moon, “o” as in roll, “a” as in saw, “a” as in far, “a” as in say, “e” as in see.

Since the making of tones means practically the shaping of vowels, something should here be said about vowel forms. The mouth opening should of course be freely shaped for the best sounding of the vowels. For the vowel “a” as in far, the mouth is rather fully opened; for “a” as in saw, it is opened deep, that is, the mouth passage is somewhat narrowed, so as to allow increased depth. The vowel “o,” as in no, has two forms, the clear open “o,” and the “o” somewhat covered by a closer form of the lips, Commonly, when the vowel is prolonged, the initial form, that is the open “o,” is held, with the closed form, like “oo” in moon, touched briefly as the tone is finished. So with long “i” (y), as in thy, and “ou,” as in thou–the first form is like a broad “a” as in far, with short “i” (sit) ending the “i” (y), and “oo” (moon) ending the “ou.” This final sound, though sometimes accentuated for humorous effect, is usually not to be made prominent. The sound of “oi,” as in voice, has the main form of “aw” as in saw, and the final form in short “i,” as in pin. The vowel “u” is sounded like “oo” (moon) in a few words, as in rule, truth. Generally, it sounds about like “ew” in new or mew. In some of the forms the front of the mouth will be open, in some half open, and in some, as in the case of long “e” (meet), nearly closed. Whatever the degree of opening, the jaw should never be allowed to become stiffly set, nor the tongue nor lips to be held tight, in any degree or way. These faults cause a tightening in the throat, and affect the character of the tone. It will generally be advantage to the tone if the lips are trained to be very slightly protruding, in bell shape, and if the corners of the mouth be not allowed to droop, but be made very slightly to curve upward. The tongue takes of course various positions for different vowels. For our purposes, it may be sufficient to say that it will play its part best if it be not stiffened but is left quite free and elastic, perhaps quite relaxed, and if the tip of it be made to play easily down behind the lower teeth.

Since voice has here been discussed in an objective sort of way, it is fitting to emphasize the importance of what is called naturalness, or more correctly, simplicity. Everybody desires this sort of result. It can readily be seen, however, that about everything we do is a second nature; is done, that is to say, in the acquired, acceptable, conventional way. Voice and speech are largely determined by surrounding influences, and what we come to regard as natural may be only an acquired bad habit, which is, in fact, quite unnatural. Voice should certainly be what we call human. Better it should have some human faults than be smoothed out into negative perfection, without the true ring, the spunk of individuality. There is, nevertheless, a best naturalness, or second nature, and a worst. The object of training is to find the best.

In this discussion of voice some of the ideas often applied to the first steps in the cultivation of singing have been presented, as those most effective also for training in speech. Although, on the surface, singing and speaking are quite different, fundamentally they are the same. Almost all persons have, if they will use it, an ear for musical pitch and tone, and the neglect to cultivate, in early life, the musical hearing and the singing tone is a mistake. To prospective public speakers it is something like a misfortune. The best speakers have had voices that sang in their speaking. This applies distinctly to the speaking, for example, of Wendell Phillips, who is commonly called the most colloquial of our public speakers. It has often been commented on in the case of Gladstone, and applies peculiarly to some of our present-day speakers, who would be called, not orators, but impressive talkers. The meaning is, not of course that speaking should sound like singing, or necessarily like oratory, but that to the trained ear the best speaking has fundamentally the singing conditions, and the voice has singing qualities; and the elementary exercises designed for singing are excellent, in their simpler forms and methods, for the speaking voice. In carrying out this idea in voice training, the selections here given for the earliest exercises, are such as naturally call for some slight approach to the singing tone. Some are in the spirit and style of song or hymn; others are in the form of address to distant auditors, wherein the reciter would call to a distance, or “sing out,” as we say. This kind of speaking is a way of quickly “bringing out” the voice. Young students especially are very apt in this, getting the idea at once, though needing, as a rule, special cautions and guidance for keeping the proper vocal conditions, so as to prevent “forcing.” The passages are simple in spirit and form. They carry on one dominant feeling, needing little variation of voice. The idea is to render them in a way near to the monotone, that the student may learn to control one tone, so to speak, or to speak nearly in one key, before doing the more varied tones of familiar speech or of complex feeling. We might say the passages are to be read in some degree like the chant; but the chant is likely to bring an excess of head resonance and is too mechanical. The true spirit of the selections is to be given, from the first, but reduced to its very simplest form. Difficulties arise, in this first step, in the case of two classes of student: those who lack sentiment or imagination, or at least the faculty of vocally expressing it, and those with an excess of feeling. The former class have to be mentally awakened; for some motive element, aesthetic appreciation or imaginative purpose, should play a part, as has been said, even in technical vocal training. The latter class must be restrained. Excessive emotion either chokes off expression, or runs away with itself. Calmness, evenness, poise, the easy control that comes from a degree of relaxation, without loss of buoyancy,–these are the conditions for good accomplishment of any kind. This self-mastery the high-strung, ardent spirit must learn, in order to become really strong. This is accomplished, in the case of a nervous temperament, not by tightening up and trying hard, but by relaxing, by letting down. In the use of these passages the voice will be set at first slightly high in pitch, in order to help in keeping a continuous sounding of tone against the roof of the mouth and to a proper degree in the head. This average pitch, or key, or at least the character of the tone, will be maintained without much change, and with special care that the tone be kept up in its place at the ends of lines or sentences, and be kept well fixed on its breath foundation. The simpler inflections indicating the plain meaning, will of course be observed, the tone will be kept easily supported by the frequently recovered breath that is under it. The back of the mouth will seem to be constantly somewhat open. There will be no attempt at special power, but only a free, mellow, flowing tone of moderate strength. In the exercise each voice will be treated, in detail, according to its particular needs, and in each teacher’s own way.

At the time of student life, when physical conditions are not matured, the counsel should repeatedly be given, not only that the voice, though used often and regularly, should be used moderately, but also that the voice should be kept youthful–youthful, if it can be, even in age–but especially in youth, whatever the kind of literature used for practice. Also youth should be counseled not to try to make a voice like the voice of some one else, some speaker, or actor, or teacher. It will be much the best if it is just the student’s own.


In the earliest exercises here given the tone will be, for the best and most immediate effect, kept running on somewhat in a straight line, so to speak; will have a certain sameness of sound; will be perhaps somewhat monotonous, because kept pretty much in one key, or in one average degree of pitch. It will perhaps be necessary to make the utterance for the time somewhat artificial. The voice is in the artificial stage, as is the work of an oarsman, for example, in learning the parts of the stroke, or that of a golfer in learning the “swing,” although in the case of some students, when the vocal conditions are good and the tone is well balanced, very little of the artificial process is necessary. In that case the voice simply needs, in its present general form, to be developed.

The next step in the training is to try a more varied use of the voice, without a loss of what has been acquired as to formation of tone. The student is to make himself able to slide the voice up and down in pitch, by what is called inflection, to raise or lower the pitch by varied intervals, momentarily to enlarge or diminish the tone, in expressive ways; in short, to adapt the improved tone, the more effective method of voice control, to more varied speech. In the early practice for getting tone variation, the student must guard most carefully against “forcing.” Additional difficulties arise when we have vocal changes, and moderate effort, in the degree of the change, is best. In running the tone up, one should let the voice take its own way. The tone should not be pushed or held by any slightest effort at the throat. The control should, as has been said, be far below the throat. In running an inflection from low to high, the tone may be allowed, especially in the earlier practice, to thin out at the top. And always when the pitch is high the tone should be smaller, as it is on a musical instrument, though it should have a consistent depth and dignity from its proper degree of connection with the chest. This consistent character in the upper voice is attained by giving the tone a bit of pomp or nobleness of quality. In taking a low pitch there is, among novices, always a tendency to bear down on the tone in order to gain strength or to give weight to utterance. The voice is thus crowded into, or on, the throat. The voice should never be pushed down or pressed back in the low pitch. This practice leads to raggedness of tone, and finally to virtual loss of the lower voice. The voice should fall of itself with only that degree of force which is legitimately given by the breath tension, produced easily, though firmly, by the breathing muscles. Breadth will be given to the tone by some degree of expansion at the back of the mouth, or in the pharynx. As soon as can be, the speech should be brought down to the utmost of simplicity and naturalness, so that the thought of literature can be expressed with reality and truth; can be made to sound exactly as if it came as an unstudied, spontaneous expression of the student’s own mind, and yet so it can be heard, so it will be adequate, so it will be pleasing in sound. The improved tone is to become the student’s inevitable, everyday voice.


The term enunciation means the formation of words, including right vocal shape to the vowels and right form to the consonants. Pronunciation is scholastic, relating to the word accent and the vowel sound. Authority for this is in the dictionary. Enunciation, belonging to elocution, is the act of forming those authorized sounds into finished speech.

There is a common error regarding enunciation. It is usual, if a speaker is not easily understood, to say that he should “articulate” more clearly; that is, make the consonants more pronounced, and young students are thus often urged into wrongly directed effort with the tongue and lips. Sometimes in books, articulation “stunts,” in the form of nonsense alliterations, are prescribed, by which all the vowels are likely to be chewed into consonants. The result is usually an overexertion, and a consequent tightening, of the articulating muscles. At first, and for a time, it may appear that this forcing of the articulation brings the desired result of clearer speech, but it will, in the end, be destructive to voice and bring incoherent utterance. Articulation exercises too difficult for the master, should not be given to the novice. All teachers of singing train voices, at first, on the vowel, and it should be known that, without right vowel, or tone, formation, efforts at good articulation are futile. Every technical vocal fault must be referred back to the fundamental condition of right formation of tone, that is, the vowel. Sputtering, hissing, biting, snapping, of consonants is not enunciation. The student should learn how without constraint, to prolong vowels; learn, if you please, the fundamentals of singing, and articulation, the formation of consonants, the jointing of syllables, will become easy. The reason for this is that when the vowel tone is rightly produced, all the vocal muscles are freed; the tongue, lips, and jaw act without constraint.

The principle of rhythm simplifies greatly the problem of enunciation. It is easier, not only to make good tone, but also to speak words, in the reading of verse than of prose. It is much easier to read a rhythmical piece of prose than one lacking in rhythm. All prose, then, should be rendered with as much rhythmical flow as is allowed consistently with its spirit and meaning. Care must be taken of course that no singsong effect occurs; that the exact meaning receives first attention. In case of long, hard words, ease is attained by making a slight pause before the word or before its preposition or article or other closely attached word, and by giving a strong beat to its accented syllable or syllables, with little effort on the subordinate syllables.

The particular weakness among Americans, in the speaking of words, is failure adequately to form the nasal, or head, sounds. The letters “l,” “m,” “n,” are called vowel consonants. They can be given continuous sound, a head resonance. This sounding may be carried to a fault, or affectation; but commonly it is insufficiently done, and it should be among the first objects of cultivation in vocal practice. The humming of these head sounds, with very moderate force, is excellent for developing and clearing this resonance. The “ng” sound, as in rung, may be added.

Improper division of words into syllables is a common fault. The word “constitution,” for example, is made “cons-titution,” instead of “con- stitution;” “prin-ciple” is pronounced “prints-iple.” A clean, correct formation should be made by slightly holding, and completing the accented syllable. The little word “also” is often called “als-o” or “als-so” or “alt-so”; chrysanthemum is pronounced “chrysant-themum”; coun-try is called “country,” band so forth. In the case of doubled consonants, as in the word “mellow,” “commemorate,” “bubble,” and the like, a momentary holding of the first consonant, so that a bit of separate impulse is given to the second, makes more perfect speaking. There is a slight difference between “mel-low” and “mel-ow,” “bub-ble” and “bub-le,” “com-memorate” and “com-emorate.” These finer distinctions, if one cares to make speech accurate and refined, can be observed in words ending in “ence” and “ance” as in “guidance” and “credence”; in words with the ending “al,” “el,” or “le,” as in “general,” “principal,” “final,” “vessel,” “rebel,” “principle,” and “little.” If that troublesome word “separate” were from the beginning rightly pronounced, it would probably be less often wrongly spelled. One should hasten to say, however, that over-nicety in enunciation, pedantic exactness, obtrusive “elocutionary” excellence, or any sort of labored or affected effort should be carefully guarded against. The line of distinction between what is perfect and what is slightly strained is a fine one. Very often, for example, one hears such endings as “or” in “creator,” “ed” in “dedicated,” “ess” in “readiness,” “men” in “gentlemen,” pronounced with incorrect prominence. These syllables, being very subordinate, should not be made to stand out with undue distinctness, and though the vowels should not be distorted into a wrong form, they should be obscured. In “gentlemen,” for example, the “e” is, according to the dictionary, an “obscure” vowel, and the word is pronounced almost as “gentlem’n,”–not “gentle_mun_,” of course, but not “gentlem_e_n.” The fault in such forms is more easily avoided by throwing a sharp accent on the accented syllable, letting the other syllables fall easily out. The expression of greeting, “Ladies and gentlemen,” should have a strong accent on each first syllable of the two important words, with little prominence given to other syllables or the connecting word; as, “La’dies ‘nd gen’tlem’n.”

In the same class of errors is that of making an extra syllable in such words as “even,” “seven,” “heaven,” “eleven,” and “given,” where properly the “e” is elided, leaving “ev’n,” “heav’n,” and so forth. The mouth should remain closed when the first syllable is pronounced; the “n” is then simply sounded in the head. The same treatment should be given to such words as “chasm” and “enthusiasm.” If the mouth is opened after the first part of the word is sounded, we have “chas-_u_m,” “enthusias-_u_m.” The little words “and,” “as,” “at” and the like should, of course, when not emphatic, be very lightly touched, with the vowel hardly formed, and the mouth only slightly opened. The word “and” is best sounded, where not emphatic, with light touch, slight opening of the mouth, and hardly any forming of the vowel; almost like “‘nd.” These words should be connected closely with the word which follows, as if they were a subordinate syllable of that word.

Often we hear such words as “country,” “city,” and their plurals, pronounced “countree,” “citee,” and “citees”; “ladies” is called “ladees.” The sound should properly be that of short “i” not of long “e.” The vowel sound, short “a,” as in “cast,” “fast,” “can’t,” must be treated as a localism, and yet it is hardly necessary to adhere to any decided extreme because of local associations. Vocally, the very narrow sound of short “a,” called “Western,” is impossible. It can’t be sung; in speech it is usually dry and harsh. As a matter of taste the very broad sound of the short “a,” when it is made like “a” in “far,” is objectionable because it is extraordinary. There is a form between these extremes, the correct short “a”; this ought to be acceptable anywhere. It is suggestive to observe that localisms are less pronounced among artists than among untrained persons. Trained singers and actors belonging to different countries or sections of country, show few differences among themselves in English pronunciation. Among localisms the letter “r” causes frequent comment. In singing and dramatic speaking, this letter is best formed at the tip of the tongue. In common speech it may be made only by a very slight movement at the back of the tongue. A decided throaty “burr” should always be avoided. In the case of vigorous dramatic utterance, the “r” may be quite decidedly rolled, on the principle that, in such cases, all consonants become a means of effectiveness in expression. In the expression of fine, delicate, or tender sentiment, all consonants should be lightly touched or should be obscured. Enumeration of the many kinds of carelessness of speech would be to little purpose. Scholarly speech requires a knowledge of correct forms, gained from the dictionary, and vocal care and skill in making these forms clear, smooth, and finished in sound.

This discussion has perhaps suggested the extreme of accuracy in speech. But as has already been said, any degree of overnicety, of pedantic elegance, of stilted correctness, is especially irritating to a sensitive ear. Excessive biting off of syllables, flipping of the tongue, showing of the teeth, twisting of the lips, is carrying excellence to a fault. The inactive jaw, tongue, and lips must be made mobile, and in the working away of clumsiness and slovenliness of speech, some degree of stiltedness must perhaps, for a time, be in evidence, but matured practice ought finally to result, not only in accuracy and finish, but in simplicity and ease in speaking.


When the student has made a fair degree of progress in the more strictly mechanical features of speech, the formation of tone, and the delivery of words, he is ready to give himself up more fully to the effective expression of thought. Of first importance to the speaker, as it is to the writer, is the way to make himself clear as to his meaning. The question has to be put again and again to the young speaker, What is your point? What is the point in the sentence? What is the point in some larger division of the speech? What is the point, or purpose, of the speech as a whole? This point, or the meaning of what is said, should be so put, should be so clear, that no effort is required of a listener for readily apprehending and appreciating it. Discussing now only the question of delivery, we say that the making of a point depends mainly upon what we commonly call emphasis. Extending the meaning of emphasis beyond the limit of mere stress, or weight, of voice, we may define it as special distinctness or impressiveness of effect. In the case of a sentence there is often one place where the meaning is chiefly concentrated; often the emphasis is laid sharply upon two or more points or words in the sentence; sometimes it is put increasingly on immediately succeeding words, called a climax, and sometimes the stress of utterance seems to be almost equally distributed through all the principal words of the sentence.

The particular point of a sentence is determined, not so much by what the sentence says as it stands by itself, as by its relation to what goes before or what follows after. The first thing, then, for the student to do is to become sure of the precise meaning of the sentence, with reference to the general context. Then he must know whether or not he says, for the understanding of others, exactly what is meant. The means of giving special point to a statement is in some way to set apart, or to make prominent, the word or words of special significance. There are several ways in which this is done. Commonly a stress or added weight of voice is put upon the word; generally, too, there is an inflection, a turning of the tone downward or upward; there is frequently a lengthening out of the vowel sound, and a sudden stop after, in some cases before, the word. Any or all these special noticeable vocal effects serve to draw attention to the word and give it expressive significance. These effects are everywhere common in good everyday speech. In the formal art of speaking, they have to be more or less thought out and consciously practiced.

Emphasis is determined by the comparative importance of ideas. An idea is important when, being the first to arise in the mind, it becomes the motive for utterance. We see an object, the idea of high or broad or beautiful arises in the mind; we so form a sentence as to make that idea stand forth; this idea, or the word expressing it, becomes vocally emphatic. In this sentence, “He has done it in a way to impress upon the Filipinos, so far as action and language can do it, his desire, and the desire of our people, _to do them good_,” the idea “to do them good” is the one that arose first in the mind of the speaker and called up the other ideas that served to set this one prominently forth. It is the emphatic idea. It should be carried in the mind of the student speaker from the beginning of the sentence. Again, an idea is important when it arises as closely related to the first, and becomes the chief means of giving utterance concerning the first. This second idea may be something said about the first; it may be compared or contrasted with the first. Being matched against the first, it may become of equal significance with it. “Who is here so _base_ that would be a _bondman_?” Here the idea “base” is used to emphasize the quality of “bondman,” and becomes equally emphatic with that idea. Other ideas, or other words expressing them, being formed around these principal ones, will be subordinated or more loosely run over, since they simply serve as the setting for the principal ones, or the connecting links, holding them together. Sometimes an idea arising in the mind grows in intensity, asserting itself by stronger and stronger successive words. For example, “He _mocks_ and _taunts_ her, he _disowns, insults_ and _flouts_ her”; and, “I impeach him in the name of human nature itself, which he has cruelly _outraged, injured_, and _oppressed_, in both sexes in every _age, rank, situation_, and _condition of life_.” The impressiveness in delivering these successive words is increased not because they are in the form of a climax, but they are in the form of a climax because the thought is so insistent as to require new words for its expression. The student will be true and sure in his emphasis only when he takes ideas into his mind in the natural way; that is, he should seize upon the central idea before he gives utterance to any part of a statement. If that idea is constantly carried foremost in the mind, he will then, in due time, give it its true emphasis. So, in the case of a climax, he must realize the spirit and force behind the utterance, and not depend upon any mechanical process of merely increasing the strength of his tones.

Sometimes emphasis must be made to stand so strong as not merely to arrest the movement of thought, and fix the mind of the hearer upon a point, but to turn the attention of the hearer for the moment aside; to draw his mind to the thought of something very remote in time or place or relation, as in the case of making momentary reference to some historic fact or some well-known expression of literature. Allusions and illustrations, then, should be given, not only with color but also with special emphasis. Byron, contemplating the ruins of Rome, calls her “the _Niobe_ of nations.” The hearer’s mind should be arrested, his imagination stirred, at that word. Words used in contrast with one another are given opposing effect by contrasting emphasis: “Not that I loved _Cæsar_ less, but that I loved _Rome more_.” “My _words fly up_; my _thoughts remain below_.” When words are used with a double meaning, as in the case of a pun, or with a peculiar implication, or are repeated for some peculiar effect of mere repetition,–when we have, in any form, what is called a play upon words,–a peculiar pointedness is given, wherein the circumflex inflection plays a large part. “Now is it _Rome_ indeed and _room_ enough, when there is in it but one only man.” “I had rather _bear with_ you than _bear_ you; yet if I did bear you, I should bear no _cross_, for I think you have no _money_ in your purse.” “But, sir, the _Coalition_! The _Coalition_! Aye, the _murdered Coalition_!”

Although, as has been said, the usual method of making a point is to give striking force to an idea, very often the same effect, or a better effect, is produced by a striking sudden suppression of utterance, by way of decided contrast. When the discourse has been running vigorously and inflections have been repeatedly sharp and strong, the sudden stop, and the stilled utterance of a word, are most effective. Only, the suppressed word must be set apart. There must be the pause before or after, or both before and after. Robert Ingersoll, when speaking with great animation, would often suddenly stop and ask a question in the quietest and most intimate way. This gave point to the question and was impressive.

We have been considering thus far only primary or principal emphasis. Of equal importance is the question of secondary emphasis. The difference in vocal treatment comes in regarding the principal emphasis as absolute or final, as making the word absolved from, cut off from, the rest of the sentence following, and having a final stop or conclusive effect, while the secondary may be regarded as only relatively emphatic, as being related in a subordinate way to the principal, and as maintaining a connection with the rest of the sentence, or as hanging upon the words which follow, or as being a step leading up to the main idea. The vocal indication of this connective principle is the circumflex inflection. The tone will be raised, as in the principal emphasis, but instead of being allowed to fall straight to a finality, it is turned upward at the finish, to hook on, as it were, to the following. The weight of voice will be less marked, the inflection less long, and the pause usually less decided, than in the case of the primary emphasis. “Recall _romance_, recite the names of heroes of legend and _song_, but there is none that is his peer.” At the words romance and song there is a secondary emphasis; the voice is not dropped, it is kept suspended with the pause.

A common failing among students is an inability to avoid a frequent absolute emphatic inflection when it is not in place. Many are unable steadily to sustain a sentence till the real point is reached. They fail to keep the voice suspended when they make a pause. It is very important that a student should have a sure method of determining what the principal emphasis is. He should, as has already been said, follow, in rendering the thought of another, the method of the spontaneous expression of his own ideas. He should take into his mind the principal idea or ideas, before he speaks the words leading thereto. He should then, at every pause, keep the thought suspended, incomplete, till he reaches that principal idea; he should then make the absolute stop, with the effect of finality, afterwards running off in a properly related way, such words as serve to complete the form of expression. Take the following sentence: “I never take up a paper full of Congress squabbles, reported as if sunrise depended upon them, without thinking of that idle English nobleman at Florence, who when his brother, just arrived from London, happened to mention the House of Commons, languidly asked, Ah! is that thing still going?” It is rather curious that very rarely will a student keep the thought of such a sentence suspended and connected until he arrives at the real point at the end. He will first say that he never takes up a paper, though of course he really does take up a paper. Then he says he never takes up this kind of paper; and this he does not mean. So he goes on misleading his audience, instead of helping them properly to anticipate the form of statement and so be prepared for the point at the right moment. He should not, as a general rule, let his voice take an absolute drop at the places of secondary emphasis.

In reference to the emphatic point in a larger division of the speech, and to the main or climactic points of the whole speech, the principles for emphasis in the sentence are applied in a larger way. And the way to make the point is, first of all, to think hard on what that point is, what is the end or purpose to be attained. If this does not bring the result–and very often it does not–then the mechanical means of producing emphasis should be studied and consciously applied–the increase, or perhaps the diminution, of force, the lengthening or shortening of tones on the words; a change in the general level of pitch; the use of the emphatic pause; and a lengthening of the emphatic inflection. A more impressive general effect must, in some way, be given to the parts of greater importance.


Perhaps the most commonly criticized fault among beginners in speaking is that of monotony. Monotony that arises from lack of inflection of voice or from lack of pointed-ness or emphasis in a sentence, will presumably be corrected in the earlier exercises. The monotony that is caused by giving to all sentences an equal value, saying all sentences, or a whole speech, in about the same force, rate, and general pitch, is one that may be considered from another point of view. One fault in the delivery of sentences–perhaps the most frequent one–is that of running them all off in about the same modulation. By modulation we mean the wavelike rise and fall of the voice that always occurs in some degree in speech,–sometimes called melody–and the change of key, or general pitch, in passing from one sentence, or part of a speech, to another. Frequently, novices in speaking and in reading, will swing the voice upward in the first part of every sentence, give it perhaps another rise or two as the sentence proceeds, and swing it down, always in precisely the same way, at the end. The effect of this regular rising at the beginning, and this giving of a similar concluding cadence at the end, is to make it appear that each sentence stands quite independent of the others, that each is a detached statement; and when, besides, each sentence is given with about the same force and rate of speed, they all seem to be of about equal importance, all principal or none principal, but as much alike as Rosalind’s halfpence. Sentences that have a close sequence as to thought should be so rendered that one seems to flow out from the other, without the regular marked rise at the beginning or the concluding cadence at the end. Sentences, and parts of sentences, which are of less importance than others with which they are associated, should be made less prominent in delivery. Often students are helped by the suggestion that a sentence, or a part of a sentence, or a group of sentences, it may be, be dropped into an undertone, or said as an aside, or rapidly passed over, or in some way put in the background–said, so to speak, parenthetically. Other portions of the speech, or the sentence, the important ones, should, on the same principle, be made to stand out with marked effect.

Notice, in the following quotation, how the first and the last parts arc held together by the pitch or key and the modulation of the voice, and the middle part, the group of examples, is held together in a different key by being set in the background, as being illustrative or probative. “Why, all these Irish bulls are Greek,–every one of them. Take the Irishman carrying around a brick as a specimen of the house he had to sell; take the Irishman who shut his eyes, and looked into the glass to see how he would look when he was dead; take the Irishman that bought a crow, alleging that crows were reported to live two hundred years, and he meant to set out and try it. Well, those are all Greek. A score or more of them, of the parallel character, come from Athens.”

The speaker should cultivate a quick sensitiveness as to close unity and slight diversity, as to what is principal and what is subordinate, as to what is in the direct, main line of thought, and what is by the way, casual, or merely a connecting link. This sense of proportion, of close or remote relation, of directness and indirectness, the feeling for perspective, so-called, can be acquired only by continued practice, for sharpening the faculty of apprehension and appreciation. It is usually the last attainment in the student’s work, but the neglect of it may result in a confirmed habit of monotony. The term transition is commonly used to denote a passing from one to another of the main divisions of the discourse. The making of this transition, though often neglected, is not difficult. The finishing of one part and the making of a new beginning on the next, usually with some change of standing position, as well as of voice, has an obvious method. The slighter transition, or variation, within a main division, and the avoidance of the slight transition where none should be made, require the keener, quicker insight.

Sentences will have many other kinds of variation in delivery according to the nature and value of the thought. Some will flow on with high successive waves; some will be run almost straight on as in a monotone. Some will be on a higher average tone, or in a higher key; others will be lower. Some will have lengthened vowel sound, and will be more continuous or sustained, so that groups of successive words seem to run on one unbroken tone; others will be abrupt and irregular. Some will be rapid, some slow; some light, others weighty; some affected by long pauses, others by no pause, and some will be done in a dry, matter-of- fact, or precise, or commonplace, or familiar manner, others will be touched with feeling, colored by imagination, glowing with persuasive warmth, elevated, dignified, or profound. A repetition of the selections to be learned, with full expression by voice and action, repetition again, and again, and again, until the sentiment of them becomes a living reality to the speaker, is the only way to acquire the ability to indicate to others the true proportions, the relative values, and the distinctive character, of what is to be said.


We are in the habit of distinguishing between what proceeds from mere thinking, what is, as we say, purely intellectual, and what arises more especially from feeling, what we call emotional. We mean, of course, that one or the other element predominates; and the distinction is a convenient one. The subject, the occasion, to a great extent the man, determine whether a speech is in the main dispassionate or impassioned, whether it is plain or ornate in statement, whether it is urgent or aggressive, or calm and rather impassive. It would be beyond our purpose to consider many of the variations and complexities of feeling that enter into vocal expression. We call attention to only a few of the simpler and more common vocal manifestations of feeling, counselling the student who is to deliver a selected speech, to adapt his speaking to the style of that speech. In so doing he will get a varied training, and at length will find his own most effective style.

The speech which is matter-of-fact and commonplace only, has characteristically much short, sharp inflection of voice, with the rapidly varying intervals of pitch that we notice in one’s everyday talking. As the utterance takes on force, it is likely to go in a more direct line of average pitch, with stronger inflection on specially emphatic words. As it rises to sentiment, the inflections are less marked, and in the case of a strain of high, nobler feeling, the voice moves on with some approach to the monotone. According as feeling is stronger and firmer, as in the expression of courage, determination, firm resolve, resistance, intense devotion, the voice is kept sustained, with pauses rather abrupt and decisive; if the feeling, though of high sentiment, is tranquil, without aggressiveness, the voice has more of the wavelike rise and fall, and at the pausing places the tone is gradually diminished, rather than abruptly broken off. In the case of quickly impulsive, passionate feeling, the speech is likely to be much varied in pitch, broken by frequent abrupt stops, and decisive inflections. In the case of the expression of tenderness or pathos, there is a lingering tone, with the quality and inflection of plaintiveness, qualified, in public speech, by such dignity and strength as is fitting. In all cases the quality of voice is of course the main thing, and this, not being technical or mechanical, must depend on the speaker’s entering into the spirit of the piece and giving color, warmth, and depth to his tones. The spirit of gladness or triumph has usually the higher, brighter, ringing tone; that of gravity, solemnity, awe, the lower, darker, and less varied tone.

In the case of the expression of irony, sarcasm, scorn, contempt, and kindred feelings, the circumflex inflection is the principal feature. This is the curious quirk or double turn in the voice, that is heard when one says, for example, “You’re a _fine_ fellow,” meaning, “You are anything but a fine fellow.” In the earlier part of Webster’s reply to Hayne are some of the finest examples of irony, grim or caustic humor, sarcasm, and lofty contempt. They need significant turns and plays of voice, but are often spoiled by being treated as high declamation.

In the expression of the various kinds and degrees of feeling there may be a fully expressed force or a suppressed or restrained force. Often the latter is the more natural and effective. This is intense, but not loud, though at times it may break through its restraint. It is most fitting when the hearers are near at hand, as in the case of a jury or judge in court, when the din of loudness would offend.

The climax is a gradually increasing expression of feeling. It may be by a gradual raising of the voice in pitch; it may be by any sort of increasing effectiveness or moving power. It is rather difficult to manage, and may lead to some strained effort. The speaker should keep a steady, controlled movement, without too much haste, but rather a retarded and broadened utterance as the emphatic point is approached; and always the speaker should keep well within his powers, maintaining always some vocal reserve.

The practice of emotional expression gives warmth, mellowness, sympathy and expansiveness to the voice, and must have considerable cultural value.


A difficult attainment in speaking is that of vividness. The student may see the picture in his own mind’s eye, but his mode of expression does not reveal the fact to others. Imagination in writing he may have, with no suggestion of it in the voice. Too often it is erroneously taken for granted that the human voice, because it is human, will at any call, respond to all promptings of the mind. It will no more do so, of course, than the hand or the eye. It must be trained. Often it is a case not merely of vocal response, but of mental awakening as well, and in that case the student must, if he can, learn to see visions and dream dreams.

A way to begin the suiting of speech to imaginative ideas is to imitate; to make the voice sound like the thing to be suggested. Some things are fast, some slow, some heavy, some light, some dark and dismal, some bright and joyous; some things are noisy, some still; some rattle, others roar; the sea is hoarse; the waves wash; the winds blow; the ocean is level, or it dashes high and breaks; happy things sing, and sad things mourn. All life and nature speak just as we speak. How easy it ought to be for us to speak just as nature speaks. And when our abstract notions are put in concrete expression, or presented as a picture, how easy it would seem, by these simple variations of voice, to speak the language of that picture, telling the length, breadth, action, color, values, spirit of it. That it is a task makes it worth while. It affords infinite variety, and endless delight.

One necessary element in so-called word-painting is that of time. When a speaker expresses himself in pictures for the imagination he must give his hearers time to see these pictures, and to sufficiently see and appreciate the parts, or lines of them, and the significance of them. It is a common fault to hasten over the language of imagination as over the commonplace words. The speaker or reader had better be sure to see the image himself before, and indeed after, he speaks it. Others will then be with him. Although among most young speakers the tone of imagination is lacking, yet often young persons who become proficient vocally are fain greatly to overdo it, till the sound that is suited to the sense becomes sound for its own sake, and thereby obscures the sense. Regard for proportion and fitness, in relation to the central idea or purpose, should control the feeling for color in the detail.


It should always be borne in mind that gesture means the bearing or the action of the whole man. It does not mean simply movement of the arm and hand. The practice of gesture should be governed by this understanding of the term. A thought, an emotion, something that moves the man from within, will cause a change, it may be slight, or it may be very marked, in eye, face, body. This is gesture. This change or movement may, from the strength of the feeling that prompts it, extend to the arm and hand. But this latter movement, in arm and hand, is only the fuller manifestation of one’s thought or feeling–the completion of the gesture, not the gesture itself. Arm movement, when not preceded or supplemented by body movement, or body pose, is obtrusive action; it brings a member of the body into noticeable prominence, attracting the auditor’s eye and taking his mind from the speaker’s thought. Better have no gesture than gesture of this kind. The student, then, should first learn to appreciate the force of ideas, to see and feel the full significance of what he would say, and indicate by some general movement of body and expression of face, the changing moods of mind. Then the arm and hand may come–in not too conspicuous a way–to the aid of the body. When Wendell Phillips pointed to the portraits in Faneuil Hall and exclaimed: “I thought those pictured lips would have broken into voice to rebuke the recreant American,–the slanderer of the dead,” it was not, we may be sure, the uplifted arm alone, but the pose of the man, the something about his whole being, which bespoke the spirit within him, and which was really the gesture. In less positive or striking degrees of action, the body movement will, of course, be very slight, at times almost imperceptible, but the principle always holds, and should be from the first taught. In gesture, the bodily man acts as a unit.

The amount of gesture is, of course, determined by the temperament of the speaker, the nature of the speech, the character of the audience, and the occasion of the address. One speaker will, under certain conditions, gesticulate nearly all the time; another will, under the same conditions, seem seldom to move in any way. The two may be equally effective. A speech that is charged with lively emotion will usually be accompanied by action; a speech expressive of the profound feeling that subdues to gravity, or resignation, would be comparatively without action. The funeral oration by Mark Antony is full of action because it is really intended to excite the will of his audience; in a funeral address simply expressive of sorrow and appreciation, gesture would, as a rule, be out of place. A sharply contested debate may need action that punctuates and enforces; the pleasantry of after-dinner talk may need only the voice. So, one audience, not quick in grasping ideas, may need, both in language and action, much clear, sharp indication of the point by illustration, much stirring up by physical attack, so to speak, while another audience would be displeased by this unnecessary effort to be clear and expressive. Yet again, given a certain speaker and a certain subject and a certain audience, it is obvious that the occasion will determine largely how the speaker will bear himself. The atmosphere of a college commencement will be different from that of a barbecue, and the speaker would, within the limits set by his own personality and his own dignity, adapt himself to the one or the other. The general law of appropriateness and good taste must determine the amount of gesture.

For the purposes of this work there is probably very little, if any, value in a strict classification of gestures. It may, at times, be convenient to speak of one gesture as merely for emphasis, of another as indicating location, of another as giving illustration, of one as more subjective, expressing a thought that reflects back upon the speaker, or is said more in the way of self-communion, of another as objective, concerned only with outer objects or with ideas more apart from the person or the inward feeling of the speaker. But it can easily be shown that one idea, or one dominant feeling, may be expressed by many kinds of action, in fact, so far at least as prescribed movements are concerned, in directly opposite kinds, and gesture is so largely a matter of the individual, and is governed so much by mixed motive and varying circumstance, that the general public speaker will profit little by searching for its philosophic basis, and trying to practice according to any elaborated system. The observing of life, with the exercise of instinct, taste, sense, above all of honest purpose–these, with of course the help of competent criticism, will serve as sufficient practical guides in the cultivation of expressive action.

Some observations, or perhaps general principles, may be offered as helpful. When a speaker is concerned with driving ideas straight home to his audience, as in putting bare fact in a debate, his action will be more direct; it will move in straighter lines and be turned, like his thought, more directly upon his audience. As his statement is more exactly to a point, so his gesture becomes more pointed and definite. When the speaker is not talking to or at his audience, to move them to his will, but is rather voicing the ideas and feelings already possessed by them, and is in a non-aggressive mood, he is likely to use less of the direct and emphasis-giving gesture, and to employ principally the gesture that is merely illustrative of his ideas, more reposeful, less direct, less tense.

To consider more in detail the principle that the man, and not the arm, is the gesture, a man should look what he is to speak. The eye should always have a relation to gesture. The look may be in the direction of the arm movement or in another direction. No practical rule can be given. It can only be said that the eye must play its part. Observing actions in real life, we see that when one person points out an object to another, he looks now at the object, now at the person, as if to guide that person’s look. When he hears a sound he may glance in the direction of it, but then look away to listen. Often a suspended action, with a fixed look of the face, will serve to arrest the attention of auditors and fix it upon an idea. One should cultivate first the look, then the supporting or completing action.

As to the movement of the arm and the form of the hand, one should be careful not to become stiff and precise by following exact rules. In general, it may be said that the beginning of the arm movement, being from the body, is in the upper arm; the finish of it is at the tips of the fingers, with the forefinger leading, or bringing the gesture to a point. There is generally a slightly flexible, rythmical movement of the arm and hand. This should not, as a rule, be very marked, and in specially energetic action is hardly observable. In this arm action there is an early preparatory movement, which indicates or suggests, what is coming. Often a moment of suspense in the preparation enhances the effect of the finish, or stroke, of the gesture, which corresponds usually to the vocal emphasis. At the final pointing of the action, the hand is, for a moment or for moments, fixed, as the mind and the man are fixed, for the purpose of holding the attention of the auditor; then follows the recovery, so-called, from the gesture, or it may be, the passing to another gesture. And all the while, let it again be said, slight changes of bodily pose with proper adjustments of the feet, will make the harmonious, unified action. It should be remembered that, as in viewing a house or a picture we should be impressed by the main body and the general effect, rather than by any one feature, so on the same principle, no striking feature of a man’s action should attract attention to itself. On the same principle, no part of the hand should be made conspicuous–the thumb or forefinger should not be too much stuck out, nor the other fingers, except in pointing, be very much curved in. Generally, except in precise pointing, there is a graduated curving, not too nice, from the bent little finger to the straighter forefinger. As the gesture is concerned with thought more delicate, the action of the hand is lighter and tends more to the tips of the fingers; as it is more rugged and strong, the hand is held heavier. It is bad to carry the arm very far back, causing a strained look; to stretch the arms too straight out, or to confine the elbow to the side. The elbow is kept somewhat away even in the smallest gesture. While action should have nerve, it should not become nervous, that is, over- tense and rigid. It should be free and controlled, with good poise in the whole man.

Before leaving this subject, in its physical aspect, let us consider somewhat the matter of standing and moving on the platform. Among imperfections as regards position, that kind of imperfection which takes the form of perfectly fixed feet, strictly upright figure, hands at the side, head erect, and eyes straight-of all bad kinds, this kind is the worst. This is often referred to as school declamation, or the speaking of a piece. We have discarded many old ideas of restriction in education. Let us discard the strait-jacket in platform speaking. Nobody else ever speaks as students are often compelled to speak. Let them speak like boys–not like men even–much less like machines. There is of course a good and a bad way of standing and moving, but much is due to youth, to individuality, and to earnest intention, and a student should have free play in a large degree.

In walking, the step should neither be too fast nor too slow, too long nor too short, too much on the heel or too much on the toe. A simple, straightforward way of getting there is all that is wanted. The arms are left to swing easily, but not too much; nor should one arm swing more than the other. The head, it will be noted, may occasionally rise and fall as one goes up or down steps or walks the platform. Before beginning to speak, one should not obviously take a position and prepare. He should easily stop at his place, and, looking at his auditors, begin simply to say something to them. As to the feet, they will, of course, be variously placed or adjusted according to the pose of the body in the varying moods of the speech. In general, the body will rest more on one foot than on the other. In a position of ease, as usually at the beginning of a speech, one foot will bear most of the weight. In this case, this foot will normally be pointed nearly to the front; the other foot will be only very slightly in advance of this and will be turned more outward. The feet will not be close together; nor noticeably far apart. They need not–they had better not–as it is sometimes pictured in books, be so set that a line passing lengthwise through the freer foot will pass through the heel of the other foot. As a man becomes earnest in speaking, his posture will vary, and often he will stand almost equally on his two feet. In changing one’s position, it is best to acquire the habit of moving the freer foot, the one lighter on the floor, first, thus avoiding a swaying, or toppling look of the body.

In connection with the subject of standing, naturally comes the question of the arms in the condition of inaction. It is possibly well to train one’s self, when learning to speak, to let the arms hang relaxed at the side, but speakers do not often so hold the arms. Usually there is a desk near, and the speaker when at rest drops one hand upon this, or he lets one arm rest at the waist, or he brings the two hands together. Any of these things may be done, if done simply, easily, without nervous tightening, or too frequent shifting. One thing, for practical reasons, should not be allowed, the too common habit of clasping the hands behind the back. It will become a fixed mannerism, and a bad one, for the hands are thus concealed, the shoulders and head may droop forward, and the hands may be so tightened together behind the back as to cause nervous tension in the body and in the voice. The hands should be in place ready for expressive action. The back is not such a place.

Nearly every movement that a man makes in speaking should have some fitting relation to what he is at the moment saying. These movements will then be varied. When certain repeated actions, without this proper relation, are acquired, they are called mannerisms. They have no meaning, and are obtrusive and annoying. Repeated jerking or bobbing of the head, for a supposed emphasis; regularly turning the head from side to side, for addressing all the audience; nervous shaking of the head, as of one greatly in earnest; repeated, meaningless punching or pounding of the air, always in the same way; shifting of one foot regularly backward and forward; rising on the toes with each emphatic word,–although single movements similar to these often have appropriate place, none of these or others should be allowed to become fixed mannerisms, habitually recurring movements, without a purpose. We are sometimes told that certain manneristic ways are often a speaker’s strength. Probably this is at least half true. But eccentricities should not be cultivated or indulged. They will come. We should have as few as possible, or they won’t count. One thing, however, should here be said. Positive strength, with positive faults, is much better than spiritless inoffensiveness. One should not give all his attention to the avoiding of faults.

In the application of gesture to the expression of ideas, one is helped, as has been said, by constantly heeding the general principle of suiting the form of the gesture to the nature of the thought, or of suiting the action to the word. Inasmuch as gesture so generally takes the form of objects or actions, it is undoubtedly easier to begin with the more concrete in language, or with the discussion of tangible objects, and work from these to the more abstract and remotely imaginary–from the more, to the less, familiar. Let the student indicate the location, or the height, or the width, or the form of an object. His action will probably be appropriate. Let him apply similar, probably less definite, action to certain abstract ideas. Let him pass to ideas more remote and vague, by action largely suggestive, not definite or literal.

The most important, because the most fundamental, principle to be borne in mind is that gesture should be made to enforce, not the superficial, or incidental, ideas appearing in a statement, but the ideas which lie behind the form of expression and are the real basis, or inhere in the fundamental purpose, of the speaker’s discourse.

At the close of Senator Thurston’s speech on intervention in behalf of Cuba, there is picturesque language for impressing the contention that force is justified in a worthy cause. The speaker cites graphically examples of force at Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, Shiloh, Chattanooga, and Lookout Heights. The student is here very likely to be led astray by the fine opportunity to make gesture. He may vividly see and picture the snows of Valley Forge, marked with bloodstained feet, and the other scenes suggested, but forget about the central idea, the purpose behind all the vivid forms of expression. Graphic, detailed gestures may have the effect of making the pictures in themselves the main object. The action here should be informal, unstudied, and merely remotely suggestive. The speaker should keep to his one central idea, and keep with his audience. Otherwise the speech will be insincere and purposeless, perhaps absurd. The fundamental, not the superficial, should determine the action. Young speakers almost invariably pick out words or phrases, suggesting the possibility of a gesture, and give exact illustration to them, as if the excellence of gesture were in itself an object, when really the thing primarily to be enforced is not these incidental features in the form of expression, but the underlying idea of the whole passage. It is as if the steeple were made out of proportion to the church, or a hat out of proportion to the man. This misconception of what gesture really means is doubtless, in large measure, the cause of making platform recitation often false and offensive. The remedy does not lie in omitting gesture altogether, as some seem to think, but in making gesture simple and true.

Finally, let the student remember that he goes to the platform, not to make a splendid speech and receive praise for a brilliant exhibition of his art, but that he goes there because the platform is a convenient place from which to tell the people something he has to say. Let him think it nothing remarkable that he should be there; let him so bear himself, entering with simplicity, honesty, earnestness, and modesty, into his work, that no one will think much about how his work is done. Spirited oratory, with the commanding presence, the sweeping action, and an overmastering force of utterance, may at times be called forth, but these are given to a man out of his subject and by the occasion; they are not to be assumed by him merely because he is before an audience, or as necessary features of speech-making. Let the student speak, first and always, as a self-respecting, thinking man, earnest and strong, but self-controlled and sensible.



The selections in the several sections for platform practice are to be used for applying, in appropriate combination, the principles heretofore worked out, one by one. The first group provides practice in the more formal style. The occasion of the formal address requires, in large degree, restraint and dignity. The thought is elevated; the mood serious, in some cases subdued, the form of expression exact and firm. The delivery should correspond. The tone should be, in some degree, ennobled; the movement deliberate, and comparatively even and measured; the modulation not marked by striking variations in pitch; the pauses rather regular, and the gesture always sparing, perhaps wholly omitted. The voice should be generally pure and fine; the enunciation should be finished and true. Whatever action there may be should be restrained, well poised, deliberate, with some degree of grace. In general it should be felt that carelessness or looseness or aggressiveness or undue demonstrativeness would be out of harmony with the spirit of the occasion. Good taste must be exercised at every step, and the audience should be addressed, from the outset, as in sympathy with the speaker and ready at once to approve. The spirit and manner of contention is out of place.

In this style of discourse the liability to failure lies in the direction of dullness, monotony, lack of vitality and warmth. This is because the feeling is deep and still; is an undercurrent, strong but unseen. This restrained, repressed feeling is the most difficult fittingly to express. In this kind of speech some marring of just the right effect is difficult to avoid. Simplicity, absolute genuineness, are the essential qualities. The ideas must be conveyed with power and significance, in due degree; but nothing too much is particularly the watchword regarding the outward features of the work.


In the public lecture the element of entertainment enters prominently. The audience, at first in a passive state, must be awakened, and taken on with the speaker. Probably it must be instructed, perhaps amused. The speaker must make his own occasion. He has no help from the circumstance of predisposition among his auditors. He must compel, or he must win; he must charm or thrill; or he must do each in turn. Animation, force, beauty, dramatic contrast, vividness, variety, are the qualities that will more or less serve, according to the style of the composition. Aptness in the story or anecdote, facility in graphic illustration, readiness in expressing emotion, happiness in the imitative faculty, for touching off the eccentric in character or incident, are talents that come into play, and in the exercise of these, gesture of course has an important place.

The lecture platform is perhaps the only field, with possibly the exception of what is properly the after-dinner speech, wherein public speaking may be viewed as strictly an art, something to be taken for its own sake, wherein excellence in the doing is principally the end in view. This means, generally, that individual talent, and training in all artistic requirements, count for more than the subject or any “accidents of office,” in holding the auditor’s interest. An animated and versatile style can be cultivated by striving to make effective the public lecture.


Informal discussion is the name chosen for the lecture or talk in the club or the classroom. It implies a rather small audience and familiar relations between audience and speaker. While the subject may be weighty, and the language may be necessarily of the literary or scientific sort, the style of speaking should be colloquial. It ought to bring the hearer pretty near to the speaker. If the subject and language are light, the speaking will be sprightly and comparatively swift.

Since the occasion for this kind of speaking is frequent, and the opportunity for it is likely to fall to almost any educated man, proficiency in it might well be made an object in the course of one’s educational training. The end aimed at is the ability to talk well. This accomplishment is not so easy as it may seem. It marks, indeed, the stage of maturity in speech-making. Since authoritative opinion from the speaker and interest in the subject on the part of the audience are prime elements in this form of discussion, little cultivation of form is usually given to this kind of speaking. The result is much complaining from auditors about inaudibleness, dullness, monotony, annoying mannerisms, or a too formal, academic tone that keeps the audience remote, a lack of what is called the human quality. A good talker from the desk not only has the reward of appreciation and gratitude, but is able to accomplish results in full proportion to all that he puts into the improvement of his vocal work. An agreeable tone, easy formation of words, clear, well-balanced emphasis, good phrasing, or grouping of words in the sentence, some vigor without continual pounding, easy, unstudied bodily movement without manneristic repetition of certain motions, in short, good form without any obtrusive appearance of form,–these are the qualities desired.


In the case of the forensic, we come nearer to the practical in public speaking. The speaker aims, as a rule, to effect a definite purpose, and he concentrates his powers upon this immediate object. Since the speech is for the most part an appeal to the reason, and therefore deals largely with fact and the logical relations of ideas, precision and clearness of statement are the chief qualities to be cultivated. But since the aim is to overcome opposition, and produce conviction, and so to impress and stir as to affect the will to a desired action, the element of force, and the moving quality of persuasion enters in as a reënforcement of the speaker’s logic. Generally the speech is very direct, and often it is intense. It has in greater degree than any other form the feature of aggressiveness. Some form of attack is adopted, for the purpose of overthrowing the opposing force. That attack is followed up in a direct line of argument, and is carried out to a finish. In delivery the continuous line of pursuit thus followed often naturally leads to a kind of effective monotone style, wherein the speaker keeps an even force, or strikes blow after blow, or sends shot after shot. The characteristic feature of the forensic style is the climax–climax in brief successions of words, climax in the sentence, climax in giving sections of the speech, climax in the speech as a whole.

Special notice should be taken of the fact that, in earnest argument, sentences have, characteristically, a different run from that in ordinary expository speaking. Whereas in the expository style the sentence flows, as a rule, easily forth, with the voice rising and falling, in an undulatory sort of way, and dropping restfully to a finish, in the heated forensic style, the sentence is given the effect of being sent straight forth, as if to a mark, with the last word made the telling one, and so kept well up in force and pitch. The accumulating force has the effect of sending the last word home, or of making it the one to clinch the statement.

The dangers to be guarded against in debate are wearying monotony, over-hammering–too frequent, too hard, too uniform an emphasis–too much, or too continued heat, too much speed, especially in speaking against time, a loss of poise in the bearing, a halting or jumbling in speech, nervous tenseness in action, an overcontentious or bumptious spirit. Bodily control, restraint, good temper, balance, are the saving qualities. A debater must remember that he need not be always in a heat. Urbanity and graciousness have their place, and the relief afforded by humor is often welcome and effective.

In no form of speaking, except that of dramatic recitation, is the liability to impairment of voice so great as it is in debating. One of the several excellent features of debating is that of the self- forgetfulness that comes with an earnest struggle to win. But perhaps a man cannot safely forget himself until he has learned to know himself. The intensity of debating often leads, in the case of a speaker vocally untrained, to a tightening of the throat in striving for force, to a stiffening of the tongue and lips for making incisive articulation, to a rigidness of the jaw from shutting down on words to give decisive emphasis. Soon the voice has the juice squeezed out of it. The tone becomes harsh and choked; then ragged and weak. The only remedy is to go straight back and begin all over, just as a golfer usually does when he has gone on without instruction. The necessity of going back is often not realized till later in life; then the process is much harder, and perhaps can never be entirely effective. The teacher in the course of his experience meets many, many such cases. The time to learn the right way is at the beginning.

Among the selections here offered for forensic practice, examples in debate serve for the cultivation of the aggressiveness that comes from immediate opposition; examples in the political speech for acquiring the abandon and enthusiasm of the so-called popular style; in the legal plea for practice in suppressed force. In the case of the last of these, it is well that the audience be near to the speaker, as is the case in an address to a judge or jury. The idea is to be forcible without being loud and high; to cultivate a subdued tone that shall, at the same time, be vital and impressive. The importance of a manner of speaking that is not only clear and effective, but also agreeable, easy to listen to, is quite obvious when we consider the task of a judge or a jury, who have to sit for hours and try to carry in their minds the substance of all that has been said, weighing point against point, balancing one body of facts against another. A student can arrange nearly the same conditions as to space, and can, by exercise of imagination, enter into the spirit of a legal conflict.


After-dinner speaking is another form that many men may have an opportunity to engage in. It can also be practiced under conditions resembling those of the actual occasion, that is, members of the class can be so seated that the speaking may become intimate in tone, and speeches can be selected that will serve for cultivating that distinctive, sociable quality of voice that, in itself, goes far in contributing to the comfort and delight of the after-dinner audience. The real after-dinner speech deals much in pleasantry. The tone of voice is characteristically unctuous. Old Fezziwig is described by Dickens as calling out “in a comfortable, rich, fat, jovial, oily voice.” Something like this is perhaps the ideal after-dinner voice, although there is a dry humor as well as an unctuous, and each speaker will, after all, have his own way of making his hearers comfortable, happy, and attentive. Ease and deliberation are first requisites. Nervous intensity may not so much mar the effect of earnest debate. The social chat is spoiled by it. Humor, as a rule, requires absolute restfulness. Especially should a beginner guard himself against haste in making the point at the finish of a story. It does no harm to keep the hearer waiting a bit, in expectation. The effect may be thus enhanced, while the effect will be entirely lost if the point, and the true touch, are spoiled by uncontrolled haste. The way to gain this ease and control is not by stiffening up to master one’s self, but by relaxing, letting go of one’s self. Practice in the speech of pleasantry may have great value in giving a man repose, in giving him that saving grace, an appreciation of the humorous, in affording him a means of relief or enlivenment to the serious speech.


The occasional poem is so frequently brought forth in connection with speech-making that some points regarding metrical reading may be quite in place in a speaker’s training. Practice in verse reading is of use also because of the frequency of quoted lines from the poets in connection with the prose speech.

To read a poem well one must become in spirit a poet. He must not only think, he must feel. He must exercise imagination. He must, we will say it again, see visions and dream dreams. What was said about vividness in the discussion of expressional effects applies generally to the reading of poetry. One will read much better if he has tried to write– in verse as well as in prose. He will then know how to put himself in the place of the poet, and will not be so likely to mar the poet’s