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The Training Of A Public Speaker by Grenville Kleiser


Knowledge of the civil law will, likewise, be necessary for the orator whom we have described, and together with it knowledge of the customs and religion of the commonwealth of which he may take charge, for how shall he be able to give counsel in public and private deliberations if ignorant of the many things which happen together particularly to the establishment of the State? And must he not falsely aver himself to be the patron of the causes he undertakes, if obliged to borrow from another what is of greatest consequence in these causes, in some measure like those who repeat the writings of poets? And how will he accomplish what he has so undertaken if the things which he requires the judge to believe, he shall speak on the faith of another, and if he, the reputed helper of his clients, shall himself stand in need of the help of another?


But we will suppose him not reduced to this inconvenience, having studied his cause sufficiently at home, and having thoroughly informed himself of all that he has thought proper to lay before the judges: yet what shall become of him when unforeseen questions arise, which often are suddenly started on the back of pleadings? Will he not with great unseemliness look about him? Will he not ask the lower class of advocates how he shall behave? Can he be accurate in comprehending the things then whispered to him, when he is to speak on them instantly? Can he strongly affirm, or speak ingenuously for his clients? Grant that he may in his pleadings, but what shall be his fate in altercation, when he must have his answer ready and he has no time for receiving information? And what if a person learned in the law is not assisting? What if one who knows little of the matter tells him something that is wrong? And this is the greatest mischief in ignorance, to believe such a monitor intelligent.

Now, as we suppose the orator to be a particularly learned and honest man, when he has made sufficient study of that which naturally is best, it will give him little trouble if a lawyer dissents from him in opinion, since even they are admitted to be of different opinions among themselves. But if he desires to know their sentiments on any point of law, he need only read a little, which is the least laborious part of study. If many men who despaired of acquiring the necessary talents for speaking in public, have engaged in the study of law, with how much more ease will the orator effect this, which may be learned by those who from their own confession could not be orators?

M. Cato was as much distinguished by his great eloquence as by his great learning in the law. Scaevola and Servius Sulpitius, both eminent lawyers, were also very eloquent. Cicero not only in pleading never appeared at a loss in knowledge of the law, but also began to write some tracts on it. From all these examples it appears that an orator may not less attend to the teaching than the learning of it.


I would not have him who is to speak rise unconcerned, show no change of color, and betray no sense of danger, -- if they do not happen naturally, they ought at least to be pretended. But this sense should proceed from solicitude for performing well our duty, not from a motive of fear; and we may decently betray emotion, but not faint away. The best remedy, therefore, for bashfulness, is a modest assurance, and however weak the forehead may be, it ought to be lifted up, and well it may by conscious merit.


There are natural aids, as specified before, which are improved by care, and these are the voice, lungs, a good presence, and graceful action, which are advantages sometimes so considerable as to beget a reputation for wit. Our age produced orators more copious than Trachallus, but when he spoke he seemed to surpass them all, so great was the advantage of his stature, the sprightliness of his glance, the majesty of his aspect, the beauty of his action, and a voice, not as Cicero desires it should be, but almost like that of tragedians, and surpassing all the tragedians I ever heard. I well remember that when he once pleaded in the Julian Hall before the first bench of judges, and there also, as usual, the four classes of judges were then sitting, and the whole place rang with noise, he was not only heard distinctly from the four benches, but also was applauded, which was a disparagement to those who spoke after him. But this is the accumulation of what can be wished for, and a happiness hard to be met with, and as it can not fall to every one's lot, let the orator strive at least to make himself heard by those before whom he speaks.


Above all, as happens to a great many, let not desire for temporary praise keep our orator from having an eye to the interest of the cause he has undertaken. For as generals in waging wars do not always march their armies over pleasant plains, but often must climb rugged hills, must lay siege to forts and castles raised on steep rocks and mountains, and fortified both by nature and by art: so an orator will be pleased with an opportunity to make great excursions, and when he engages on champion ground, he will display all his forces so as to make an exceedingly fine appearance; but if under the necessity of unraveling the intricacies of some points of law, or placing truth in a clear light from amidst the obscurity thrown around it, he will not then ostentatiously ride about, nor will he use a shower of pointed sentences, as missive weapons; but he will carry on his operations by frustrating his enemy; by mines, by ambuscade, and by stratagem: all of which are not much to be commended while they are being used, but after they have been practised. Whence those men benefit themselves most, who seem least desirous of praise; for when the frivolous parade of eloquence has ceased its bursts of thunder among its own applauders, the more potent applause of true talents will appear in genuine splendor; the judges will not conceal the impressions which have been made on them; the sense of the learned will outweigh the opinion of ignorance: so true it is that it is the winding up of the discourse, and the success attending it, that must prove its true merit.


It was customary with the ancients to hide their eloquence; and M. Antonius advises orators so to do, in order that they may be the more believed, and that their stratagems may be less suspected. But the eloquence of those times could well be concealed, not yet having made an accession of so many luminaries as to break out through every intervening obstacle to the transmission of their light. But indeed all art and design should be kept concealed, as most things when once, discovered lose their value. In what I have hitherto spoken of, eloquence loves nothing else so much as privacy. A choice of words, weight of thought, elegance of figures, either do not exist, or they appear. But because they appear, they are not therefore to be displayed with ostentation. Or if one of the two is to be chosen, let the cause rather than the advocate be praised; still the issue will justify him, by his having pleaded excellently a very good cause. It is certain that no one else pleads so ill as he who endeavors to please, while his cause displeases; because the things by which he pleases must necessarily be foreign to his subject.

The orator ought not to be so particular and vain as not to undertake the pleading of the smaller kind of causes, as beneath him, or as if a matter of less consequence should in any respect lessen the reputation he has acquired. Duty indeed is a just motive for his undertaking them, and he should wish that his friends were never engaged in any other kind of suits, which in the main are set off with sufficient eloquence when he has spoken to the purpose.


Some are very liberal in abuse of the advocate of the opposing party, but unless he has brought it upon himself, I think it is acting very ungenerously by him, in consideration of the common duties of the profession. Add to this that these sallies of passion are of no advantage whatever to him who pleads, the opponent having, in his turn, an equal right to abuse; and they may even be harmful to the cause, because the opponent, spurred on to become a real enemy, musters together all the forces of wit to conquer if possible. Above all, that modesty is irrecoverably lost which procures for the orator so much authority and belief, if once departing from the character of a good man, he degenerates into a brawler and barker, conforming himself not to the disposition of the judge, but to the caprice and resentment of the client.

Taking liberties of this kind frequently leads the orator to hazard some rash expressions not less dangerous to the cause than to himself. Pericles was accustomed to wish, with good reason, that no word might ever enter his mind which could give umbrage to the people. But the respect he had for the people ought in my opinion to be had for all, who may have it in their power to do as much hurt; for the words that seemed strong and bold when exprest, are called foolish when they have given offense.


As every orator is remarkable for his manner, the care of one having been imputed to slowness, and the facility of another to rashness, it may not be amiss to point out here a medium. Let him come for pleading prepared with all possible care, as it must argue not only neglect, but also a wicked and treacherous disposition in him, to plead worse than he can in the cause he undertakes, therefore he should not undertake more causes than he is well able to handle.

He should say things, studied and written, in as great a degree as the subject can bear, and, as Demosthenes says, deeply engraven, if it were possible, on his memory, and as perfect as may be. This may be done at the first pleading of a cause, and when in public judgments a cause is adjourned for some time before it comes to a rehearsing. But when a direct reply is to be made, due preparations are impracticable; and even they who are not so ready find what they have written to be rather a prejudice to them if anything unexpectedly is brought forward; for it is with reluctance that they part with what they have prepared, and keeping it in mind during the whole pleading, they are forced to continually wonder if anything can be taken from it to be included in what they are obliged to speak extempore. And tho this may be done, there will still be a lack of connection, and the incoherence will be discoverable from the different coloring and inequality of style. Thus there is neither an uninterrupted fluency in what they say extempore, nor a connection between it and what they recite from memory, for which reason one must be a hindrance to the other, for the written matter will always bring to it the attention of the mind, and scarcely ever follow it. Therefore in these actions, as country-laboring men say, we must stand firmly on our legs. For, as every cause consists of proving and refuting, whatever regards the first may be written, and whatever it is certain the opponent will answer, as sometimes it is certain what he will, may be refuted with equal care and study.

Knowing the cause well is one essential point for being prepared in other respects, and listening attentively to all the opponent states, is another. Still we may previously think of many particular incidents and prepare the mind for all emergencies, this being of special advantage in speaking, the thought being thereby the more easily transmitted and transferred.

But when in answering or otherwise there may be necessity for extempore speaking, the orator will never find himself at a loss and disconcerted, who has been prepared by discipline, and study, and exercise, with the powers of facility, and who, as always under arms and ready for engaging, will no more lack a sufficient flow of speech in the pleading of causes than he does in conversation on daily and domestic occurrences; neither will he ever, for lack of coming duly prepared, decline burdening himself with a cause, if he has time to learn the state of it, for with anything else he always will be well acquainted.

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