If, however, the question be narrowed down to which are the three best books on this subject? without pretending to give a decisive answer to this difficult question we have no hesitation in saying that, for the ecclesiastical student, “Potter’s Sacred Eloquence,” “The Making of an Orator,” by Mr. John O’Connor Power, and Mr. McHardy Flint’s little work, “Natural Elocution,” will be found most useful.
Some of the thoughts in this chapter are borrowed from the last two authors.
With this general acknowledgment both gentlemen will, we are sure, be content when we spare the reader repeated references to either titles or pages of their works.
[Side note: What is rhetoric?]
[Side note: Cicero]
At the threshold of our subject we are met by the question—What is rhetoric? Mr. Power gives the answer—“The resources of rhetoric are natural resources, and rules for composition are only records intended for the guidance of those who have not discovered the originals for themselves. The first speakers had no rules and no experience to draw upon but their own. In course of time speeches came to be reported, and then the secret of their eloquence disclosed itself. All the qualities of the orator were then observed; the highest and the best were chosen and combined and erected into an art, which was named Rhetoric. This art was designed to aid speakers and not as a means of fettering their natural ability.” Cicero has put almost the same thoughts in different words—“I consider that, with regard to all precept, the case is this; not that orators by adhering to them have obtained distinction in eloquence, but that certain persons have noticed what men of eloquence have practised of their own accord, and formed rules accordingly; so that eloquence has not sprung from art, but art from eloquence.” This is not only sound theory, but sound sense. It shatters a time-worn fallacy and gives hope and encouragement to the student. Every man can become an orator in a greater or a less degree. The powers slumber within him; and the teacher’s duty is not to create but awaken, draw out, develop and guide these inborn gifts.
Now, the question is—By what standard shall the speaker be trained? The master-hand of Shakespere has framed a set of rules that will stand for all time as the most pregnant piece of wisdom ever penned on the art of elocution. Though Hamlet’s advice is addressed to actors, there is scarcely a line which the young orator can afford to ignore. He would do well to commit the entire piece to memory.
[Side note: Shakespere’s advice to speakers]