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I dare not be thinking of myself, and of the opinion formed of me, when I have such a momentous work in hand, as my Master's cause, and the salvation of souls.' The other, a little taken by surprise, admitted that this was what a christian minister ought to be occupied with; 'but,' said he, 'he may be allowed, surely, to feel doubts as to his own qualification for so high and important an office.' 'True,' replied A., 'but the proper time for such doubts is before he takes Orders; after that he should be thinking only of the work itself, and of striving to become more and more qualified for it.'
As for the greater degree of nervousness [bashfulness] felt in addressing a large assembly than a few, I beg leave to extract a passage from my Elements of Rhetoric, in which I have endeavoured to account for this remarkable phenomenon,— for surely it must be considered as such,—that a person who is able with facility to express his sentiments in private to a friend, in such language, and in such a manner, as would be perfectly suitable to a certain audience, yet finds it extremely difficult to address to that audience the very same words, in the same manner; and is, in many instances, either completely struck dumb, or greatly embarrassed, when he attempts it. 'Most persons are so familiar with the fact, as hardly to have ever considered that it requires explanation; but attentive consideration shows it to be a very curious, as well as important one; and of which no explanation, as far as I know, has been attempted. It cannot be from any superior deference which the speaker thinks it right to feel for the judgment of the hearers; for it will often happen that the single friend, to whom he is able to speak fluently, shall be one whose good opinion he more values, and whose wisdom he is more disposed to look up to, than that of all the others together. The speaker may even feel that he himself has a decided and acknowledged superiority over every one of the audience; and that he should not be the least abashed in addressing any two or three of them, separately; yet, still, all of them, collectively, will often inspire him with a kind of dread.
'Closely allied in its causes with the phenomenon I am considering, is that other curious fact, that the very same sentiments, expressed in the same manner, will often have a far more powerful effect on a large audience than they would have on any one or two of these very persons, separately. That is, in a great degree, true of all men, which was said of the Athenians, that they were like sheep, of which a flock is more easily driven than a single one.
'Another remarkable circumstance, connected with the foregoing, is the difference in respect of the style which is suitable, respectively, in addressing a multitude, and two or three even of the same persons. A much bolder, as well as less accurate, kind of language is both allowable and advisable, in speaking to a considerable number; as Aristotle has remarked,1 in speaking of the Chraphie and Agonistie styles,—the former, suited to the closet, the latter, to public speaking before a large assembly. And he ingeniously compares them to the different styles of painting: the greater the crowd, he says, the more distant is the view; so that in scene-painting, for instance, coarser and bolder touches are required, and the nice finish, which would delight a close spectator, would be lost . He does not, however, account for the phenomena in question.
'The solution of them will be found by attention to a very curious and complex play of sympathies which takes place in a large assembly; and (within certain limits), the more, in proportion to its numbers. First, it is to be observed that we are disposed to sympathize with any emotion which we believe to exist in the mind of any one present; and hence, if we are at the same time otherwise disposed to feel that emotion, such disposition is in consequence heightened. In the next place, we not only ourselves feel this tendency, but we are sensible that others do the same; and thus, we sympathize not only with the other emotions of the rest, but also with their sympathy towards us. Any emotion, accordingly, which we feel, is still further heightened by the knowledge that there are others present who not only feel the same, but feel it the more strongly in consequence of their sympathy with ourselves. Lastly, we are sensible that those around us sympathize not only with ourselves, but with each other also; and as we enter into this heightened feeling of theirs likewise, the stimulus to our own minds is thereby still further increased.
* The case of the Ludierous affords the most obvious illustra
Rhetoric, book iii.
tion of these principles, from the circumstance that the effects produced are so open and palpable. If anything of this nature occurs, you are disposed, by the character of the thing itself, to laugh; but much more, if any one else is known to be present whom you think likely to be diverted with it; even though that other should not know of your presence; but much more still, if he does know it; because you are then aware that sympathy with your emotion heightens his: and most of all will the disposition to laugh be increased, if many are present; because each is then aware that they all sympathize with each other, as well as with himself. It is hardly necessary to mention the exact correspondence of the fact with the above explanation. So important, in this case, is the operation of the causes here noticed, that hardly any one ever laughs when he is quite alone; or if he does, he will find, on consideration, that it is from a conception of the presence of some companion whom he thinks likely to have been amused, had he been present, and to whom he thinks of describing, or repeating, what had diverted himself. Indeed, in other cases, as well as the one just instanced, almost every one is aware of the infectious nature of any emotion excited in a large assembly. It may be compared to the increase of sound by a number of echoes, or of light, by. a number of mirrors; or to the blaze of a heap of firebrands, each of which would speedily have gone out if kindled separately, but which, when thrown together, help to kindle each other.
'The application of what has been said to the case before us is sufficiently obvious. In addressing a large assembly, yoo know that each of them sympathizes both with your own anxiety to acquit yourself well, and also with the same feeling in the minds of the rest. You know also, that every slip you may be guilty of, that may tend to excite ridicule, pity, disgust, &c, makes the stronger impression on each of the hearers, from their mutual sympathy, and their consciousness of it. This augment* your anxiety. Next, you know that each hearer, putting himself mentally in the speaker's place,1 sympathizes with this augmented anxiety; which is, by this thought, increased still further. And if you become at all embarrassed, the knowledge that there are so many to sympathize, not only with that embarrassment, but also with each other's feelings on the perception of it, heightens your confusion to the utmost.
1 Hence it is that ehy persons arc, as is matter of common remark, the more distressed by this infirmity when in company with those who are subject to tl* same.
* The same causes will account for a skilful orator's being able to rouse so much more easily, and more powerfully, the passions of a multitude: they inflame each other by mutual sympathy and mutual consciousness of it. And hence it is that a bolder kind of language is suitable to such an audience; a passage which, in the closet, might, just at the first glance, tend to excite awe, compassion, indignation, or any other such emotion, but which would, on a moment's cool reflection, appear extravagant, may be very suitable for the Agonistic style; because, before that moment's reflection could take place in each hearer's mind, he would be aware, that every one around him sympathized in that first emotion; which would thus become so much heightened as to preclude, in a great degree, the ingress of any counteracting sentiment.
'If one could suppose such a case as that of a speaker (himself aware of the circumstance), addressing a multitude, each of whom believed himself to be the sole hearer, it is probable that little or no embarrassment would be felt, and a much more sober, calm, and finished style of language would be adopted.'
There are two kinds of orators, the distinction between whom might be thus illustrated. When the moon shines brightly we are apt to say, 'How beautiful is this moon-light!' but in the day-time, 'How beautiful are the trees, the fields, the mountains!'—and, in short, all the objects that are illuminated; we never speak of the sun that makes them so. Just in the same way, the really greatest orator shines like the sun, making you think much of the things he is speaking of; the secondbest shines like the moon, making you think much of him and his eloquence.
'To use too many circumstances, ere you come to the matter, it
Bacon might have noticed some who never 'come to the matter.' How many a meandering discourse one hears, in which the speaker aims at nothing, and—hits it.
'If you dissemble sometimes your knowledge of that you are thought to know, you shall be thought, another time, to know that you know not.'
This suggestion might have come in among the tricks enumerated in the Essay on ' Cunning.'