How to Speak Well in Public: The Elocution Movement Begins in Earnest

Paula McDowell

in The Invention of the Oral

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2017 | ISBN: 9780226456966
Published online January 2018 | e-ISBN: 9780226457017 | DOI:
How to Speak Well in Public: The Elocution Movement Begins in Earnest

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This chapter examines English contributors to the elocution movement after John Henley, as well as their French precursor Michel le Faucheur. After the Toleration Act granted freedom of worship to Protestant Dissenters, Anglicans argued that their clergy needed to pay greater attention to the oral delivery of their sermons, or they would lose audiences to charismatic Dissenting preachers. Anglicans debated the use of action (gesture) in the pulpit, and they critiqued Methodist preachers for their use of gesture and media-savvy use of print. The chapter considers the later eighteenth-century transformation of the elocution movement. While Thomas Sheridan is now often assumed to be the founder of the movement, this chapter shows how Sheridan took over where Henley left off. After Henley died, Sheridan delivered lectures on elocution, then published them as A Course of Lectures on Elocution. Sheridan expanded Henley's market for public speaking by tying it to the cause of nationalism, and unlike Henley, he praised speech at the expense of writing and print. Indebted to the elocutionists' legacy, clergyman and rhetorician Hugh Blair introduced the new elocution-focused rhetoric to Scottish universities, yet he warned against the new public debating societies, which he viewed as fomenting social disorder.

Keywords: action in rhetoric; Hugh Blair; debating societies; Dissenters; elocution; English language; gesture; preachers; public speaking; Thomas Sheridan

Chapter.  12147 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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