Why then this barrenness? Mainly because of the criminal neglect of colleges in the past to cultivate the abundant material placed at their disposal; other contributory causes are cynical criticism and want of courageous ambition.
Colleges are now bestirring themselves—it is high time—but criticism has not died. Refined natures have heartstrings like the chords of Aeolian harps, sensitive to the faintest touch, responsive to the gentlest whisper of the evening breeze; such shrink in terror from the icy breath of the scoffer: the purpose is frozen dead within their souls. O criticism! what crimes have been committed in your name! How many noble careers have you blasted?
[Side note: The world’s greatest orators]
The man without ambition is not worth his salt. Some of the world’s greatest orators have been spurred on to triumph despite difficulties before which timid men would stand aghast.
The story of Demosthenes is too familiar to bear repetition.
A good voice and commanding presence are powerful auxiliaries towards oratorical success; but Curran’s appearance was so mean that he was once taken for a shoeblack. His stammering, blunders, and collapses in early life earned for him the nickname of “Orator Mum.” Yet to what a lofty eminence did not his sleepless endeavours lift him!
If Sheil’s portraits speak truly he must have closely resembled a starved sweep on a wet day, while Disraeli declares his voice was as unmusical as the sound of a broken tin whistle. Of him Lecky writes:—“Richard Lalor Shiel forms one of the many examples history presents of splendid oratorical powers clogged by insuperable natural defects. His person was diminutive and wholly devoid of dignity. His voice shrill, harsh, and often rising to a positive shriek. His action, when most natural, violent, without gracefulness, and eccentric even to absurdity."
 Lecky—“Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland,” p. 194.
In spite of these defects, and at a period when the nation’s ear was pampered to fastidiousness by the eloquence of Grattan, Flood and O’Connell, he began his upward struggle towards eminence. He not only succeeded in winning a foremost place, but in wreathing himself with deathless fame when laurels shaded the brows of giants alone.
In face of these encouraging examples who could lose heart when the trumpet of ambition blows—“struggle, struggle, struggle.”
“Scorn delights and live laborious days.”
THE ART OF ELOCUTION
The subject of preaching would be incomplete without a chapter on the important and graceful art of elocution.
[Side note: What books should we read?]
If asked what works would a student read on the subject, the wisest answer would be, every book he can lay hold of. The number of works dealing with rhetoric are few, but if a man can get half-a-dozen new ideas from any one of them his labour is more than repaid. Even should he meet the same thought repeated, the fact that it is clothed in different language and set in a new light invests it with a freshness that is sure to fix it permanently in his mind.