His Manner of Speaking
So many thousands have seen and heard him, in so many places and on so many subjects, that it seems hardly worth while here to speak of his manner and method on the platform – only to say that as an orator he was the embodiment of natural ease and grace, poise and power.
He used few gestures, – was not a desk-pounder, an air-sawyer, or a stage-strutter. He was not declamatory, – did not rant, or rage, or “tear a passion to tatters, to very rags,” as the manner of some is, but following Hamlet’s advice to the players, he “used all gently, acquiring and begetting a temperance that should give all smoothness.”
His aim was to “hold the mirror up to nature,” and he did it wonderfully. In his flights of eloquence he carried his audiences with him, lifting them to the highest pinnacles of enthusiasm, or stirring them to the deepest recesses of their being.
With his pathos he melted them to tears and ere the drops were dry, by his sparkling wit and humor, transformed the pearls of pity into smiles of joy, or peals of laughter. He was indeed a master-musician who played upon every human heart-string.
It was a fine study to note him in the ante-room both before and after the giving of a lecture. Before, he was eager, expectant, almost exultant at the prospect of again delivering his message. His mood was cheerful and happy, his countenance radiant with the anticipated pleasure. He seemed at peace with himself and with all the world.
After, when many of his friends gathered to offer their congratulations and express their admiration, he accepted their praise with unfeigned satisfaction and the candor of a happy child pleased with the praise of a parent over some worthy performance.
It was no task for him to speak. He loved to speak. It was to him an exultation. He knew he had something to say and that he knew how to say it. He usually carried his notes to the platform. These notes were often in mere outline prepared from dictation to his secretary, but sometimes quite fully printed in large type. He was not a slave to his manuscript – seldom followed it closely any distance.
No one lecture was precisely the same in its repeated deliveries. After one or two presentations of a new lecture he had it by head and tongue and heart and, needed no prompting thereafter.