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It is often said that oratory is on the decline. The occasions are rare, we are told, when there is a real demand for it. The newspaper, the magazine, and the popular novel have come, usurping the function performed by the orator of the olden time. When, as in our day, many can write and practically all can read, why should any speak? It is doubtless true that oratory -in the sense of heightened appeal to the feelings—is not so often heard as formerly. It has almost disappeared from legislative halls and has become less frequent in courts of law and in some other places where it once flourished. But in the meantime, in these and a thousand other places, public speech of a less pretentious and less ardent sort,addressed primarily not to the feelings, but to the reason,—has become almost a daily necessity. This increase in the number of situations calling for public address is due to the complexity of modern life. All of our professions and trades, all of our enterprises,-political, religious, philanthropic, educational, and social,

even our pleasures and sports, are highly organized. Each has its stated meetings, each its occasions for the oral communication of ideas and feelings. There probably never was a time when these occasions were half so numerous as they are today. As a result, the art of public speech has become less of a profession, less a matter of set rules and formulæ, less the possession of a particular class of people exclusively devoted to its cultivation, and more of a staple need of the many. A good reason, this, why every educated person should wish to learn more about it. Carlyle congratulated the English on the fact that they were a nation of poor speakers. He thought that the less talking there was, the greater would be the amount of useful work accomplished. But since some talking is inevitable in order that work may be directed into channels that are worth while, it seems a strange reason for pride in any nation, or in any individual, that the thing is done poorly. Carlyle's friend, Emerson, had a better word for his countrymen, when he wrote that "if there ever was a country where eloquence was a power, it is in the United States. Here is room for every degree of it, on every one of its ascending stages,—that of useful speech in our commercial, manufacturing, railroad, and educational conventions; that of political advice and persuasion on the grandest theatre, reaching, as all good men trust, into a vast future, and so compelling the best thought and noblest administrative ability that the citizen can offer. And here are the services of science, the demands of art, and the lessons of religion, to be brought home to the instant practice of thirty millions of people. Is it not worth the ambition of every generous youth to train and arm his mind with all the resources of knowledge, of method, of grace, and of character, to serve such a constituency ?”


In the quotation just given, Emerson suggests a classification of speeches. The principle of his classification is the relative importance of their subject matter.

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