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The books now extant on the subject of public speaking are either, first, what are termed “Speakers,” which contain selected passages, usually perorations of celebrated speakers; second, compilations of orations and addresses; or, third, treatises on the art or practice of oratory, full of suggestions, but totally devoid of examples or illustrations to sustain them.
The objection to the first class is that the reader is left in the dark as to what part of the speech the extract belongs; the fault of the second is that the speeches are beyond the comprehension of the student, and the vice of the third is that so many suggestions and traditions are presented that the reader obtains a confused idea of the subject. In the latter class, also, favored theories are often dwelt upon to the exclusion of actual illustrations taken from speeches themselves.
In one treatise, for example, chapter after chapter is devoted to “ Deep and Musical Tones," while another author extols the address of Abraham Lincoln, on the occasion of the dedication of the Soldiers' Cemetery at Gettysburg, but fails to give the speech itself or point out in what its excellence consists.
Outside of aiding the memory and inducing a certain confidence in delivery, the school “Speaker” affords little or no assistance to one ambitious to learn the orator's art, while compilations and suggestive treatises pursue no definite plan which the student can follow with certainty.
My purpose in the present work has been to examine each speech by itself, and from it alone to obtain safe directions for the beginner. Following this plan, it will be found that every good speech has a proper opening, a clear statement of propositions to be discussed, and closes with a well-worded peroration. It will be found, also, that these three elements go hand in hand together; if any one of them be wanting, the effort will not be up to the standard of a great speech. I have drawn on the greatest orations of ancient and modern times to sustain this view, and if the selections do not bear me out in this method, the reader is at liberty to discard the description and adhere to the model.
In developing this system, I have shown when, where and how oratorical skill is displayed. I have endeavored to show that it comes from a well-trained mind, a noble purpose and a natural elocution.
I believe a speech, like an edifice, should have a solid foundation, a substantial superstructure and a suitable finish.
The necessity, utility and importance of public speaking are the first subjects considered in this volume; but in addition, I might say that the remarks of Cicero, in speaking of Roman oratory, that, while distinguished names shone out in all branches of learning, such as mathematics, generalship, music and philosophy, Rome had few great orators, has no application to America. No country can present a finer array of men of the highest eminence in this art. And such being the case, it is an additional incentive to the student to excel. John Goss.
Santa Rosa, Cal., May, 1891.
ORATORS REFERRED TO IN THIS VOLUME.