March 19, 2016

The eloquence of the scripted impromptu

Henry Grattan by James Gillray
It was said of Henry Grattan:
"Like his friend Henry Flood, Grattan worked on his natural eloquence and oratory skills by studying models such as Bolingbroke and Junius."
To speech in prose, practice. Moliere said:
"For more than forty years I have been speaking prose without knowing it."
The speech of Thomas Kettle was described as such, "scripted impromptu." That's an oxymoron; because the impromptu is supposed to be the inverse of rehearsed and verbatim. But that's the secret to good public speaking.  The official biographer of T.S. Eliot wrote:
"In Ireland… Seamus Heaney told me once how his teachers gave him snippets of Eliot’s influential prose “in capsule form, to carry on to the battlefield”. Heaney reacted against this. His early “bog poems” are a long way from the humour of some of Eliot’s mudless early poems; yet even those bog poems, as with other works by Heaney, show the present as a repetition and reinterpretation of primitive ritual. Such repetition obsessed Eliot, and is indicative of why, when he was constructing The Waste Land, he responded so excitedly to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring."
Christopher Buckley wrote:
"When [Christopher Hitchens] made a date for a meal over the phone, he’d say, “It will be a feast of reason and a flow of soul.” I never doubted that this rococo phraseology was an original coinage, until I chanced on it, one day, in the pages of P. G. Wodehouse, the writer Christopher perhaps esteemed above all others."

Read my previous post on the Elements of Eloquence here. Read my post on the eloquence of Yeats and Oscar Wilde here. Maria Popova on aesthetic eloquence here.

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