Industry Necessary to the Attainment of Eloquence by Henry Ware Jr. (1794 – 1843) Minister, early member of the faculty of Harvard Divinity School, and first president of the Harvard Musical Association. He was a mentor of Ralph Waldo Emerson when Emerson studied for the ministry in the 1820s.
The history of the world is full of testimony to prove how much depends upon industry; not an eminent orator has lived but is an example of it. Yet, in contradiction to all this, the almost universal feeling appears to be, that industry can effect nothing, that eminence is the result of accident, and that everyone must be content to remain just what he may happen to be. Thus multitudes, who come forward as teachers and guides, suffer themselves to be satisfied with the most indifferent attainments, and a miserable mediocrity, without so much as inquiring how they may rise higher, much less making any attempt to rise. For any other art they would have served an apprenticeship, and would be ashamed to practice it in public before they had learned it. If anyone would sing, he attends a master, and is drilled in the very elementary principles; and only after the most laborious process dares to exercise his voice in public. This he does, though he has scarce anything to learn but the mechanical execution of what lies in sensible forms before the eye. But the extempore speaker, who is to invent as well as to utter, to carry on an operation of the mind as well as to produce sound, enters upon the work without preparatory discipline, and then wonders that he foils! If he were learning to play on the flute for public exhibition, what hours and days would he spend in giving facility to his fingers, and attaining the power of the sweetest and most expressive execution! If he were devoting himself to the organ, what months and years would he labor, that he might know its compass, and be master of its keys, and be able to draw out, at will, all its various combinations of harmonious sound, and its full richness and delicacy of expression! And yet he will fancy that the grandest, the most various and most expressive of all instruments, which the infinite Creator has fashioned by the union of an intellectual soul with the powers of speech, may b played upon without study or practice; he comes to it a mere uninstructed tyro, and thinks to manage all its stops, arid command the whole compass of its varied and comprehensive power! He finds himself a bungler in the attempt, is mortified at his failure, and settles it in his mind forever, that the attempt is vain.
Success in every art, whatever may be the natural talent, is always the reward of industry and pains. But the instances are many, of men of the finest natural genius, whose beginning has promised much, but who have degenerated wretchedly as they advanced, because they trusted to their gifts, and made no efforts to improve. That there have never been other men of equal endowments with Demosthenes and Cicero, none would venture to suppose; but who have so devoted themselves to their art, or become equal in excellence? If those great men had been content, like others, to continue as they began, and had never made their persevering efforts for improvement, what would their countries have benefited from their genius, or the world have known of their fame? They would have been lost in the undistinguished crowd that sunk to oblivion around them. Of how many more will the same remark prove true! What encouragement is thus given to the industrious! With such encouragement, how inexcusable is the negligence, which suffers the most interesting and important truths to seem heavy and dull, and fall ineffectual to the ground, through mere sluggishness in their delivery! How unworthy of one, who performs the high functions of a religious instructor, upon whom depend, in a great measure, the religious knowledge, and devotional sentiments, and final character, of many fellow-beings,— to imagine, that he can worthily discharge this great concern, by occasionally talking for an hour, he knows not how, and in a manner which he has taken no pains to render correct, impressive, and attractive; and which, simply through want of that command over himself, which study would give, is immethodical, verbose, inaccurate, feeble, trifling. It has been said of the good preacher, that” truths divine come mended from his tongue.” Alas! they come ruined and worthless from such a man as this. They lose that holy energy, by which they are to convert the soul and purify man for heaven, and sink, in interest and efficacy, below the level of those principles, which govern the ordinary affairs of this lower world.