Memory Training. Part 3
The Reign Of The Common People
I do not suppose that if you were to go and look upon the experiment of self-government in America you would have a very high opinion of it. I have not either, if I just look upon the surface of things. Why, men will say: "It stands to reason that 60,000,000 ignorant of law, ignorant of constitutional history, ignorant of jurisprudence, of finance, and taxes and tariffs and forms of currency - 60,000,000 people that never studied these things - are not fit to rule. Your diplomacy is as complicated as ours, and it is the most complicated on earth, for all things grow in complexity as they develop toward a higher condition. What fitness is there in these people? Well, it is not democracy merely; it is a representative democracy. Our people do not vote in mass for anything; they pick out captains of thought, they pick out the men that do know, and they send them to the Legislature to think for them, and then the people afterward ratify or disallow them.
But when you come to the Legislature I am bound to confess that the thing does not look very much more cheering on the outside. Do they really select the best men? Yes; in times of danger they do very generally, but in ordinary time, "kissing goes by favor." You know what the duty of a regular Republican-
Democratic legislator is. It is to get back again next winter. His second duty is what? His second duty is to put himself under that extraordinary providence that takes care of legislators' salaries. The old miracle of the prophet and the meal and the oil is outdone immeasurably in our days, for they go there poor one year, and go home rich; in four years they become moneylenders, all by a trust in that gracious providence that takes care of legislators' salaries. Their next duty after that is to serve the party that sent them up, and then, if there is anything left of them, it belongs to the commonwealth. Someone has said very wisely, that if a man traveling wishes to relish his dinner he had better not go into the kitchen to see where it is cooked; if a man wishes to respect and obey the law, he had better not go to the Legislature to see where that is cooked.
Henry Ward Beecher. Prom a lecture delivered in Exeter Hall, London, 1886, when making his last tour of Great Britain.
In Case Of Trouble
But what are you to do if, notwithstanding all your efforts, you should forget your points, and your mind, for the minute, becomes blank? This is a deplorable condition that sometimes arises and must be dealt with. Obviously, you can sit down and admit defeat. Such a consummation is devoutly to be shunned.
Walking slowly across the platform may give you time to grip yourself, compose your thoughts, and stave off disaster. Perhaps the surest and most practical method is to begin a new sentence with your last important word. This is not advocated as a method of composing a speech - it is merely an extreme measure which may save you in tight circumstances. It is like the fire department - the less you must use it the better. If this method is followed very long you are likely to find yourself talking about plum pudding or Chinese Gordon in the most unexpected manner, so of course you will get back to your lines the earliest moment that your feet have hit the platform.
Let us see how this plan works - obviously, your extemporized words will lack somewhat of polish, but in such a pass crudity is better than failure.
Now you have come to a dead wall after saying: "Joan of Arc fought for liberty." By this method you might get something like this:
"Liberty is a sacred privilege for which mankind always had to fight. These struggles [Platitude - but push on] fill the pages of history. History records the gradual triumph of the serf over the lord, the slave over the master. The master has continually tried to usurp unlimited powers. Power during the medieval ages accrued to the owner of the land with a spear and a strong castle; but the strong castle and spear were of little avail after the discovery of gunpowder. Gunpowder was the greatest boon that liberty had ever known."
Thus far you have linked one idea with another rather obviously, but you are getting your second wind now and may venture to relax your grip on the too-evident chain; and so you say:
"With gunpowder the humblest serf in all the land could put an end to the life of the tyrannical baron behind the castle walls. The struggle for liberty, with gunpowder as its aid, wrecked empires, and built up a new era for all mankind."
In a moment more you have gotten back to your outline and the day is saved.
Practising exercises like the above will not only fortify you against the death of your speech when your memory misses fire, but it will also provide an excellent training for fluency in speaking. Stock up with ideas.
Questions And Exercises
1. Pick out and state briefly the nine helps to memorizing suggested in this chapter.
2. Report on whatever success you may have had with any of the plans for memory culture suggested in this chapter. Have any been less successful than others?
3. Freely criticise any of the suggested methods.
4. Give an original example of memory by association of ideas.
5. List in order the chief ideas of any speech in this volume.
6. Repeat them from memory.
7. Expand them into a speech, using your own words.
8. Illustrate practically what would you do, if in the midst of a speech on Progress, your memory failed you and you stopped suddenly on the following sentence: "The last century saw marvelous progress in varied lines of activity."
9. How many quotations that fit well in the speaker's tool chest can you recall from memory?
10. Memorize the poem on page 42. How much time does it require?