Type of Suggestions in English Page 2
HOW TO SPEAK AND WRITE CORRECTLY by JOSEPH DEVLIN, M.A.
CHAPTER X Page 2: SUGGESTIONS
Henry M. Stanley was a poorhouse waif whose real name was John Rowlands. He was brought up in a Welsh workhouse, but he had ambition, so he rose to be a great explorer, a great writer, became a member of Parliament and was knighted by the British Sovereign.
Have ambition to succeed and you will succeed. Cut the word “failure” out of your lexicon. Don’t acknowledge it. Remember
“In life’s earnest battle they only prevail
Who daily march onward and never say fail.”
Let every obstacle you encounter be but a stepping stone in the path of onward progress to the goal of success.
If untoward circumstances surround you, resolve to overcome them. Bunyan wrote the “Pilgrim’s Progress” in Bedford jail on scraps of wrapping paper while he was half starved on a diet of bread and water. That unfortunate American genius, Edgar Allan Poe, wrote “The Raven,” the most wonderful conception as well as the most highly artistic poem in all English literature, in a little cottage in the Fordham section of New York while he was in the direst straits of want. Throughout all his short and wonderfully brilliant career, poor Poe never had a dollar he could call his own. Such, however, was both his fault and his misfortune and he is a bad exemplar.
Don’t think that the knowledge of a library of books is essential to success as a writer. Often a multiplicity of books is confusing. Master a few good books and master them well and you will have all that is necessary. A great authority has said: “Beware of the man of one book,” which means that a man of one book is a master of the craft. It is claimed that a thorough knowledge of the Bible alone will make any person a master of literature. Certain it is that the Bible and Shakespeare constitute an epitome of the essentials of knowledge. Shakespeare gathered the fruitage of all who went before him, he has sown the seeds for all who shall ever come after him. He was the great intellectual ocean whose waves touch the continents of all thought.
Books are cheap now-a-days, the greatest works, thanks to the printing press, are within the reach of all, and the more you read, the better, provided they are worth reading. Sometimes a man takes poison into his system unconscious of the fact that it is poison, as in the case of certain foods, and it is very hard to throw off its effects. Therefore, be careful in your choice of reading matter. If you cannot afford a full library, and as has been said, such is not necessary, select a few of the great works of the master minds, assimilate and digest them, so that they will be of advantage to your literary system. Elsewhere in this volume is given a list of some of the world’s masterpieces from which you can make a selection.
Your brain is a storehouse, don’t put useless furniture into it to crowd it to the exclusion of what is useful. Lay up only the valuable and serviceable kind which you can call into requisition at any moment.
As it is necessary to study the best authors in order to be a writer, so it is necessary to study the best speakers in order to talk with correctness and in good style. To talk rightly you must imitate the masters of oral speech. Listen to the best conversationalists and how they express themselves. Go to hear the leading lectures, speeches and sermons. No need to imitate the gestures of elocution, it is nature, not art, that makes the elocutionist and the orator. It is not how a speaker expresses himself but the language which he uses and the manner of its use which should interest you. Have you heard the present day masters of speech? There have been past time masters but their tongues are stilled in the dust of the grave, and you can only read their eloquence now. You can, however, listen to the charm of the living. To many of us voices still speak from the grave, voices to which we have listened when fired with the divine essence of speech. Perhaps you have hung with rapture on the words of Beecher and Talmage. Both thrilled the souls of men and won countless thousands over to a living gospel. Both were masters of words, they scattered the flowers of rhetoric on the shrine of eloquence and hurled veritable bouquets at their audiences which were eagerly seized by the latter and treasured in the storehouse of memory. Both were scholars and philosophers, yet they were far surpassed by Spurgeon, a plain man of the people with little or no claim to education in the modern sense of the word. Spurgeon by his speech attracted thousands to his Tabernacle. The Protestant and Catholic, Turk, Jew and Mohammedan rushed to hear him and listened, entranced, to his language. Such another was Dwight L. Moody, the greatest Evangelist the world has ever known. Moody was not a man of learning; he commenced life as a shoe salesman in Chicago, yet no man ever lived who drew such audiences and so fascinated them with the spell of his speech. “Oh, that was personal magnetism,” you will say, but it was nothing of the kind. It was the burning words that fell from the lips of these men, and the way, the manner, the force with which they used those words that counted and attracted the crowds to listen unto them. Personal magnetism or personal appearance entered not as factors into their success. Indeed as far as physique were concerned, some of them were handicapped. Spurgeon was a short, podgy, fat little man, Moody was like a country farmer, Talmage in his big cloak was one of the most slovenly of men and only Beecher was passable in the way of refinement and gentlemanly bearing. Physical appearance, as so many think, is not the sesame to the interest of an audience. Daniel O’Connell, the Irish tribune, was a homely, ugly, awkward, ungainly man, yet his words attracted millions to his side and gained for him the hostile ear of the British Parliament, he was a master of verbiage and knew just what to say to captivate his audiences.
It is words and their placing that count on almost all occasions. No matter how refined in other respects the person may be, if he use words wrongly and express himself in language not in accordance with a proper construction, he will repel you, whereas the man who places his words correctly and employs language in harmony with the laws of good speech, let him be ever so humble, will attract and have an influence over you.
The good speaker, the correct speaker, is always able to command attention and doors are thrown open to him which remain closed to others not equipped with a like facility of expression. The man who can talk well and to the point need never fear to go idle. He is required in nearly every walk of life and field of human endeavor, the world wants him at every turn. Employers are constantly on the lookout for good talkers, those who are able to attract the public and convince others by the force of their language. A man may be able, educated, refined, of unblemished character, nevertheless if he lack the power to express himself, put forth his views in good and appropriate speech he has to take a back seat, while some one with much less ability gets the opportunity to come to the front because he can clothe his ideas in ready words and talk effectively.
You may again say that nature, not art, makes a man a fluent speaker; to a great degree this is true, but it is art that makes him a correct speaker, and correctness leads to fluency. It is possible for everyone to become a correct speaker if he will but persevere and take a little pains and care.
At the risk of repetition good advice may be here emphasized: Listen to the best speakers and note carefully the words which impress you most. Keep a notebook and jot down words, phrases, sentences that are in any way striking or out of the ordinary run. If you do not understand the exact meaning of a word you have heard, look it up in the dictionary. There are many words, called synonyms, which have almost a like signification, nevertheless, when examined they express different shades of meaning and in some cases, instead of being close related, are widely divergent. Beware of such words, find their exact meaning and learn to use them in their right places.
Be open to criticism, don’t resent it but rather invite it and look upon those as friends who point out your defects in order that you may remedy them.
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