Crowned Masterpieces of Eloquence


Oratory is pretty much a dead art. The idea that great speeches could somehow change the world seems laughably quaint now, something adult-cartoons like South Park use as an absurd 4th Wall Break/Dues Ex Machina to wrap up a 20 minute episode.

You’ll read historical accounts of some great speech defining an era, or being recorded by eager hands that it might be printed, purchased, and read across a country or oceans, or actively moving a crowd or parliament such that history is changed by the speech… And it’s almost completely incomprehensible to anyone today.

Sure we’ll read or watch Shakespeare and experience Marc Antony launch a coup by moving the crowds, or we’ll watch a Hollywood movie and see Aragorn, or some lesser character rally an army…

But these are fantastical stories for children. This isn’t Hollywood. Speeches don’t move history. It’s not some impassioned words by whatever State Department asset before congress that determines whether the American military will start a “police action” or whether we’ll have “Diplomacy”… its whether Raytheon and Lockheed Martin donated enough to right politicians last cycle.

And, in the back of our mind, we pretty much believe this is how its always been.

Sure historians might say Marc Antony actually did rally a crowd that was against him, or a a king rally a failing army; But we find it far more plausible to imagine they placed their chosen men and thugs to enforce their will, or that they bribed the right people at the right time.

This is the best thing I’ve read since I don’t know when. Grab a coffee and settle in for some fun.

35 Replies to “Crowned Masterpieces of Eloquence”

    1. Agree except for the grammatical errors. I didn’t know that “modern scholars have contested for 70+ years that the Anglo-Saxon people don’t even exist!”. Isn’t that a form of genocide? And did not know genetic science proved them wrong. I missed that whole battle. I can see a similar resolution of the gender- fluidity-is-fact nonsense. Ditto for climate alarmism.

      1. The erring grammar itself is also a testament to the lost art of eloquence.

        We live in an age where words have no meaning, clauses don’t matter, and emojis are a part of syntax.

  1. As I was reading this, a tweet showed up: “BREAKING: Joe Biden just announced his 2024 Presidential Run. If he wins, that would make him 85 by the end of his next term.”

    Trump vs bland Biden.

    1. No worries. Gropin’ Joe will get 104 million votes this time, or whatever it takes. Dominion can be quite accommodating.

  2. Good used book find. I don’t know if I would have bought it myself. That said, interesting read. Unfortunately, the editing mistakes cheapen the feel of the article some.

    “Even our national leaders and great statesmen are complete wrecks.”

    “Even”? I’d choose another word beginning w/ “E”: Especially. And “wrecks” is too polite by half.

    1. They are all wrecks because effective public speaking is NOT a political survival skill. They don’t need it to succeed. They only need to be willing to prostitute themselves for the real powers that have all the money and influence.

      1. Sociopathy is the most critical requirement for political success today. Tolerance for the opinions of others, particularly those who don’t share the vision of endless growth and reach of the state – betray a politically toxic reverence for liberty which has become irrelevant to the majority of voters typifying end stage democracy.

  3. There is this thing about translation, interpretation and who is doing what to whom.
    Just one example, Funeral Oration of Pericles, one of speeches that is most impressive, though the greek written by Thucydides is very hard to understand by the present Greeks. The syntax is the difficulty. Something akin to Shakespeare and today’s english syntax.
    There are so many varieties of the translation.
    All of them are basically saying the same thing, some more eloquently some less.

    Nonetheless, they should be paying attention to the magnificent speeches of earlier times, in high schools.
    Yeah, who cares, what do I need that for,
    The point of course is for the mind to get thinking, that leads to more thinking about other things.
    And there is not enough time in the day to cover all of that.

    1. they should be paying attention to the magnificent speeches of earlier times in high schools

      This was part of the Classical Tripos, (grammar, logic, and rhetoric). You might still be able to find old textbooks in libraries/used book stores that analyzed the persuasive appeal of master orators. American academic publishers were rolling them out in the sixties. The educational revolution took its toll on the subject. Very few new textbooks in the subject have been published since the eighties. Perhaps the subject isn’t being taught. I certainly doubt “speech class” is being taught in elementary schools, which was in the curriculum when I was a student.

  4. Agreed. It is the best thing I’ve read in a very long time. And best of all, the wokies will hate it with a white-hot passion, particularly when their noses are rubbed in who was the most powerful and effective public speaker of all time.

  5. Yup: … “Volume 1 begins by engaging in fierce and immediate combat with everything that has happened in academia and wider western civilization”

    January 22nd 2016: ”Trump, when asked for a recommended reading list…”

    The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
    Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein
    Freedom City by Philip Becnel
    The Art of War by Sun Tzu
    Rich Dad’s Guide to Financial Freedom by Robert T. Kiyosaki
    Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
    The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-40 by William Manchester
    No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin
    Essays and Lectures by Ralph Waldo Emerson
    The Amateur by Edward Klein
    Iacocca: An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca
    Rich Woman: A Book on Investing for Women, Take Charge Of Your Money, Take Charge Of Your Life by Kim Kiyosaki
    Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin
    The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
    The Watchman’s Rattle: A New Way to Understand Complexity, Collapse, and Correction by Rebecca D. Costa
    MAY 3rd 2011 _ “Trump, when asked to name a favorite book on China”:

    1. “The Party” by Richard McGregor
    2. “On China” by Henry Kissinger
    3. “Mao: The Untold Story” by Jung Chang
    4. “Tide Players” by Jianying Zha
    5. “One Billion Customers” by James McGregor
    6. “The Coming China Wars” by Peter W. Navarro
    7. “The Beijing Consensus” by Stefan Halper
    8. “China CEO” by Juan Antonio Fernandez and Laurie Underwood
    9. “Poorly Made in China” by Paul Midler
    10. “CHINA: Portrait of a People” by Tom Carter
    11. “The Man Who Loved China” by Simon Winchester
    12. “China Shakes the World” by James Kynge
    13. “Mr. China” by Tim Clissold
    14. “Country Driving” by Peter Hessler
    15. “The Dragon’s Gift” by Deborah Brautigam
    16. “Factory Girls” by Leslie T. Chang
    17. “The Heavenly Man” by Brother Yun
    18. “1421” by Gavin Menzies
    19. “Seven Years in Tibet” by Heinrich Harrer
    20. “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua

  6. The problem today and with modern times, is talk is cheap! Back then it was hard to put thoughts to paper or papyrus, not everyone was literate or could afford books (the wonderful recording and storage devices they are!) or the real estate to store them. Libraries were and remain a great concept to provide storage and access for the masses.

    Nowadays almost everyone can be a publisher and an “influencer”, the internet provides a vast medium to post, distribute and store words and ideas, for “content providers”, adding video and other technologies that just words and pictures can’t begin to compete to convey.

    But there exists loads of dross, garbage and intellectual junk food for the brain. Quantity vs. Quality, it has become easy for people to put their thoughts and ideas out there, which, while sounding good on paper, has some obvious drawbacks. It’s harder to separate the wheat from the chaff, plowing through the vast quantities of material that at once exist, don’t exist and cease to exist, in the digital realm of the internet..
    Vorsprung Durch Technik!

  7. An excellent read. And congrats to him on the find.
    I have found that the level of writing can be seen diminishing over time just in the encyclopedias sets that I have: 1925,1937, and the latest a 1965 World Book.
    I have a 2007 edition of “Speeches that Changed the World,” which I purchased partly because it had a CD with it. A later edition included a speech from Barack Obama.
    Also of note were some recent little books of compiled quotes. There is an “Abraham Lincoln, His Essential Wisdom.” Later on they put out one for Hillary Clinton. Imagine when they get one for Joe Biden. They can’t just take down what he said, or they will get “America can be defined in one word: (unintelligible).” Instead they will go to the speeches written for him and copy from there.

    Another point. How did he write this whole essay about public speakers ancient and modern, but not once did he mention Ronald Reagan?

  8. Oratory is dead, the intellect required to understand what is being said is also dead.

    1. Oratory is dead

      JFK was the last consciously and consistently oratorical president, in my view. Even in the one SOTA I have watched, he speaking style was classically persuasive, in style, substance, and delivery. Comparisons to present-day Biden would be as that between Hyperion and a satyr.

      It is true that Reagan also rose to the occasion in delivering a significant speech. His address to the nation after the Challenger disaster will be considered a lasting cultural artefact.

  9. Oratory matches societies language skills.
    Devolving from Shaespearian English to emogies we have no place or attention span for speeches that challenge us to think..
    We are evolving to a language skill level equivalent to “Point and Grunt”..
    Which leads,quite rationally to ,smash head of person ,of difficulty, and grunt approval at their new position.
    And with Dear Leader and friends banning words and dictating what we may say,naturally leads to “Kinetic Conversations”.
    When you know your enemies and seek to resolve your differences with them,by making them extinct, words no longer have any value.
    And seems like this is where we are,for our Progressive comrades have no tolerance for other peoples points of view.
    Any who do not obey the narrative, are “The Enemy”.
    Oratory,logic and reason..are useless against such .

  10. I suspect that with few exceptions Churchill was one of the last to write his own speeches consistently, all modern politicians rely too much on fucus groups, speechwriters who went to the same schools, and polling before they roll out their polished speeches every week.

  11. This is the best thing I’ve read since :

    <I?"Until this moment I have been forced to listen while media and politicians alike have told me "what Canadians think". In all that time they never once asked.
    This is just the voice of an ordinary Canadian yelling back at the radio – "You don't speak for me.""

  12. I’m sorry, Burke wasn’t a romantic philosopher, that was Frenchie Jean Jacques Rousseau. The French hate philosophy as much as they hate those from the other side of La Manche, land of true practical philosphy. That is why post-modernism is a purely French creation.

    Oh, the English and French love to hate each other.

  13. That was a good read. And my Liberal inlaws’ seething hatred and childish obsession with Trump pretty well reinforce her contention that The Great Orange One’s simple oratories have left a lasting mark; a far greater one than any of Obammy’s vacuous platitudes.

    But then again, I suppose memories of Old Joe Depends’ drivelled fantasies will outlast recollections of anything Obammy spouted.

  14. The greatest modern day orator is the Critical Drinker YouTube channel.

    Change my mind.