INTRODUCTION AFTER-DINNER SPEECHES--ANCIENT AND MODERN
VALUE OF A GOOD STORY AND HOW TO INTRODUCE IT
PURPOSE OF AFTER-DINNER SPEAKING
SOME A B C DIRECTIONS FOR MAKING SPEECHES TOASTS AND RESPONSES
Fourth of July
ADDRESSES OF WELCOME
WEDDING AND OTHER ANNIVERSARIES
Sentiments Suggested by a Toast
Centennial or Semi-Centennial
Dedication of a Monument or Unveiling a Statue
Responses to Toasts at a Dinner
Responses to Toasts to The Navy
Responses to Toasts to General Jackson
Responses to Toasts to The Workingman
Nominating a Candidate
Accepting a Nomination
Speech in a Political Canvass
Speech after a Political Victory
Speech after a Political Defeat
A Chairman's or President's Speech
For Any Occasion
ILLUSTRATIVE AND HUMOROUS ANECDOTES
INDEX OF TOASTS
INDEX OF ANECDOTES
The author of this manual has at various intervals prepared several
treatises relating to the art of speech. Their wide circulation is an
indication of the demand for works upon this subject. They were intended
to embrace the principles which govern speech-making in the forum in the
pulpit or at the bar. While these do not differ essentially from the
principles applicable to occasions where the object is only entertainment
yet there are certain well-defined differences which it is the purpose of
this little volume to point out. We hope thus to render the same service to
a person who is called upon to offer or respond to a toast in a convivial
assembly as the author's previous volumes rendered to those preparing to
speak upon subjects of a serious and practical nature.
That help is needed and may be afforded no one will deny. A novice called
upon to participate in the exercises of a public banquet an anniversary
or other entertainment unless he has an experienced friend to give him a
few hints or advice is apt to be dismayed. He does not even know how to
make a start in the work of preparation and his sense of inability and
fear of blundering go far to confuse and paralyze whatever native faculty
he may have. A book like this comes to him at such a time as reinforcements
to a sorely pressed army in the very crisis of a battle. As he reads some
ideas which seem practical flash upon him. He learns what others before
him have done. If he is to offer a toast he examines the list furnished
in this volume finding one perhaps that pleases him or one is suggested
which is better adapted to his purpose than any in the book and he wonders
at the stupidity of the author in omitting it. Soon he becomes quite
interested in this suggested toast and compares it with those in the list
to find out wherein it differs. Thus gradually and unconsciously he has
prepared himself for the part he is to perform.
Or if invited to respond to a toast he passes through a similar
experience. He may find the outline of a speech on that very topic; he
either uses it as it is printed or makes an effort to improve it by
abridgment or enlargement. Next he looks through the treasury of anecdotes
selects one or calls to mind one he has read elsewhere which he considers
better. He then studies both of them in their bearings on the subject
upon which he is to speak and longs for the hour to arrive when he will
surprise and delight his friends by his performance. He rises to speak
conscious that he knows a great deal not only about the toast assigned to
him but about other toasts as well--feels that he has something to say
which at least will fill in the time and save him from confusion and
discredit. He even hopes to win applause by means of the stories and happy
turns with which his speech is interspersed.
He has thus satisfactorily taken the first step toward becoming a ready and
entertaining after-dinner speaker. The sense of knowing how to do what is
expected of him has a wonderfully quieting effect upon his nerves; and thus
the study of this book will greatly add to the confidence of a speaker and
the effectiveness of his delivery. Whatever graces of manner he possesses
will become available instead of being subverted by an overmastering fear.
It is not easy to mention all the uses of such a manual. One who has been
accustomed to speaking but fears he is getting into a rut can turn to
this text-book and find something which is _not_ so distressingly his
own that his friends expect him to parade it before them on all occasions.
He may glance over the outline of a speech altogether new and strange to
him and endeavor to adapt it to his own use; or he may weave together
fragments of several speeches or take the framework of one and construct
upon it a speech which will enable him to make a new departure. A writer
sometimes after years of practice finds it difficult to begin the
composition of some simple reception or commemorative address; but the
reading of a meagre outline not one word or idea of which may be directly
used serves to break the spell of intellectual sloth or inertia and
starts him upon his work briskly and hopefully.
The field covered by the present volume is not entirely unoccupied. One of
the earliest publications in this line is an anonymous English work very
dignified and conservative. The speeches it furnishes are painstaking but
a trifle heavy and savor so much of English modes of expression as well
as thought and customs as to be poorly adapted to this country. Two works
have appeared in this country also one being intended apparently for
wine parties only; the other while containing a number of gem-like little
speeches fails to give the aid which is sought by the ordinary tyro and
is calculated rather to discourage him; giving him the impression that it
is more difficult to become an acceptable after-dinner speaker than he had
ever supposed. While a few of the best things in the latter volume are
availed of a different method is pursued in the present work. Outlines
of speeches are preferred to those which are fully elaborated; and the
few plain rules by which a thing so informal and easy as an after-dinner
speech may be produced are so illustrated as to make their application
almost a matter of course. Good-humor and brevity an outline and a
story--what more is needed unless it be that serene self-confidence which
enables a speaker to say even foolish and absurd things with the assurance
that all goes down at a public dinner? What if you are not the most
brilliant humorous and stirring speaker of the evening? Aim to fill your
place without discredit; observe closely those who make a great success;
the next time you may have a better outline or more telling story and
become before you know it the leader of the evening.
It is not intended to give rules or directions for the order either
of drinking or feasting. That field is fully occupied. But the custom
of making addresses at the close of a feast has been so thoroughly
established and so frequent are these occasions that a gentleman is not
fully equipped for a place in society if he cannot gracefully offer or
respond to a toast or preside at a gathering where toasts or other forms
of after-dinner speaking are expected. It is the aim of this manual to help
the beginner in this field.
AFTER-DINNER SPEECHES--ANCIENT AND MODERN
An idea of the real meaning of after-dinner speaking may be obtained from
the feudal feasts of earlier times. The old lord or baron of the Middle
Ages partook of his principal meal in the great hall of his castle
surrounded by guests each being assigned his place in formal order and
with no small degree of ceremony. This hall was the main feature of the
castle. There all the family and guests met on frequent festal occasions
and after the feasting and the hour of ceremony and more refined
entertainment was over retired to rest in comparatively small and humble
apartments adjoining though sometimes they would simply wrap their cloaks
about them and lie down to sleep on the rushes that littered the floor of
the great hall.
After the "rage of hunger was appeased"--which then as in our day and
back even as far as the time of the ancient Greeks was the first business
in order--came the social hour which meant much to the dwellers in those
dull comfortless old barracks--for the great castles of that day were
little better than barracks. The chief gave the signal for talk music or
story previous to which any inquiries or conversation other than the
briefest question and answer about the food or other necessary things
would have been considered inappropriate and disrespectful. There probably
was present some guest who came under circumstances that awakened the
strongest curiosity or who had a claim upon his entertainer. Such a guest
was placed at the board in a position corresponding to his rank.
After resting and partaking of the repast it was pertinent to hear what
account he could give of himself and courtesy permitted the host to
levy an intellectual tax upon him as a contribution to the joy of the
hour. Seated at the head of the table the chief or in his absence a
representative made the opening speech--the address of welcome to use the
term familiar to ourselves. This might be very brief or at considerable
length; it might suggest inquiries of any of the company or merely pledge
an attentive and courteous hearing to whatever the guest might utter; it
might refer to the past glory of the castle and its lord or vaunt its
present greatness and active occupation.
But whatever form it might take it was sure to consist--as addresses of
welcome in all ages have done--of two words by dexterously using which
any man can make a good speech of this character. These two words are "We"
and "You;" and all else not connected with these is irrelevant and useless.
They do not constitute two parts of the same speech but ordinarily play
back and forth like a game of battledore. Who "we" are; what "we" have
done; how "we" saw "you;" what "we" have heard of "you;" how great and good
"you" are thought to be; the joy at "your" coming; what "we" now want to
learn of "you;" what "we" wish "you" to do; how "we" desire a longer stay
or regret the need of an early departure--all is a variation of the one
theme--"we" and "you."
The old Baron probably said all of this and much more in a lordly way
occupying a longer or shorter time without ever dreaming that he was
making a speech. It was his ordinary after-dinner talk to those whom chance
or fortune brought within his walls. Or if he prided himself upon being a
man of few words scorning these as fit only for women and minstrels he
would simply remind the guest that he was now at liberty to give such an
account of himself and to prefer such requests as seemed agreeable to him.
The guest was then expected to respond though this by no means was the
rule. The host might wish first to call out more of his own intellectual
treasures. This he would do by having other occupants of the castle speak
further words of welcome or would call upon a minstrel to sing a song or
relate some deed of chivalry.
When the guest at last rises to speak it is still the two pronouns with
slightly changed emphasis that play a conspicuous part. The "we" may become
"I;" but this is no essential change. Where "I" or "we" have been; what "I"
have done suffered or enjoyed; how and why "I" came here; how glad "I" am
to be here; what "I" have known and heard of "you;" how "we" may help each
other; what great enterprises "we" can enter upon; how thankful for the
good cheer and good words "we" hear.
In the baronial hall which foreshadowed the family fireside of later
days the drinking was free and copious whilst the other portions of the
entertainment were of a general character and quite protracted. Mirth
song the rude jest anecdotes of the chase or of a battle or a rehearsal
of the experiences of every-day life were all in place. Sometimes the
guests overpowered by their libations are said to have fallen under the
table and to have slumbered there till surprised by the pale morning light.
There was little need of ceremony in such feasts and there is little need
of formality or constraint in the far different festal occasions of the
When no guest either by chance or invitation came to the castle less
variety could be given to the after-dinner entertainment and many
expedients were required to pass the long hours that sometimes hung heavily
on their hands. Then the use of "Toasts" became an important feature. The
drinking also was expected to arouse interest but if it went on in silence
and gloom or amid the buzz of trivial conversation in different parts
of the hall the unity of the hour was marred and the evening was voted
dull--the lord himself then having no more honor than his meanest vassal.
But the toast--no matter how it originated--remedied all this. A compliment
and a proverb a speech and a response however rude fixed the attention
of every one at the table and enabled the lord to retain the same
leadership at the feast that he had won in the chase or in battle. He might
himself propose a toast of his own choice or give another permission to
propose it. He might then designate some humorous or entertaining clansman
to respond; he might either stimulate or repress the zeal of the guests
and give unity to each part of the entertainment and to the whole feast.
For these reasons the toast rose into popularity and is now often
used--possibly it might be said generally used if our own country alone be
considered--even when no drinking at all is indulged in.
Let us now take a look at an after-dinner hour of the present day; one
of the very latest and most approved pattern. The contrast will not be
without interest and value. The fare at the dinner is always inviting. The
company is large. Good speakers are secured in advance. Each is given an
appropriate toast either to propose or respond to. Suppose it is a New
England society celebrating Forefathers' Day in New York. The chairman (who
is usually the president of the society) rises and by touching a bell
rapping on the table or in some other suitable manner attracts all eyes
to himself. He then asks the meeting to come to order or if he prefers the
form to give attention. Then he utters a few graceful commonplaces and
calls upon a guest to offer the leading toast--not always the chief or most
interesting one. When one is reached in which there is a lively interest
some distinguished person such as Chauncey M. Depew the prince of
after-dinner speakers comes to the front. We give an outline of one of his
addresses on Forefathers' Day delivered December 22d 1882 in response to
the toast "The Half Moon and the Mayflower."
In reading this address the "We" and "You" cannot fail to be noted. Mr.
Depew said he did not know why he should be called upon to celebrate his
conquerors. The Yankees had overcome the Dutch and the two races are
mingled. The speaker then introduced three fine stories--one at the expense
of the Dutch who are slow in reaching their ends. A tenor singer at the
church of a celebrated preacher said to Mr. Depew "You must come again
the fact is the Doctor and myself were not at our best last Sunday
morning." The second related to the inquisitiveness of a person who
expressed himself thus to the guide upon the estate of the Duke of
Westminster: "What you can't tell how much the house cost or what the farm
yields an acre or what the old man's income is or how much he is worth?
Don't you Britishers know anything?" The third story near the close set
off Yankee complacency. A New England girl mistook the first mile-stone
from Boston for a tombstone and reading its inscription "1 M. from
Boston" said "I'm from Boston; how simple; how sufficient."
The serious part of the discourse was a rapid statement of the principles
represented by the Dutch pioneer ship "Half Moon" and the Pilgrim
"Mayflower;" the elements of each contributed to national character and
progress. (For speech in full see _Depew's Speeches_ Vol. I.)
Other toasts and responses followed; eloquence and humor mingled until the
small hours of the night. Probably not one of that pleased and brilliant
assemblage for a moment thought that they were doing at this anniversary
what their old barbaric ancestors did nightly while resting after a
border foray or Viking sea raid.
THE VALUE OF A GOOD STORY AND HOW TO INTRODUCE IT.
No matter how inexperienced a speaker may be or how stammering his
utterance if he can tell a good story the average dinner party will
pronounce him a success and he will be able to resume his seat with a
feeling of satisfaction. The efforts often made to bring in an entertaining
story or a lively anecdote are sometimes quite amusing but if they come
in naturally the effect will unquestionably be happy. Almost any story by
using a little skill can be adapted to nearly every occasion that may
arise. We may mention a few among which a speaker can scarcely fail to find
something to serve his purpose.
It is necessary always to be thoroughly familiar with the story and to
understand its exact point. No matter how deliberately or with what
difficulty you approach that part of your speech where the fun is to
be introduced--yet when that point _is_ reached there must be no
hesitation. It is well to memorize carefully the very words which express
the pun or the flash of wit or humor which is the climax of the story. The
story itself may be found in such a manual as this or in some volume of
wit and humor.
There is no disadvantage in using wit gathered from any source if it has
not been so often used as to be completely worn out. When a good story is
found anywhere and fully memorized and all its bearings and fine points
thoroughly understood there are two ways of getting it before an audience.
The direct way is to say frankly that you have read a story and will tell
it. This will answer very nicely when called upon for a speech. Few festive
audiences are unwilling to accept a story for a speech and a proposal to
compromise on such terms is very likely in itself to bring applause. But
the story in this case should be longer than if it is given as part of a
speech. If however it should prove a failure your performance will make
a worse impression than when a poor story is introduced into a speech
although the story may only feebly illustrate any portion of it.
For these as well as other reasons most persons will prefer to make an
address even if it be very brief and will endeavor to make the story fit
into it. All stories that suggest diffidence modesty backwardness or
unwillingness to undertake great things can be introduced to show how
reluctant the speaker is to attempt a speech and if these characteristics
are only slightly referred to in the story it may still be used effectively
and will leave a favorable impression.
If a topic a toast or a sentiment is given for a response any of them
may suggest a story; and after a good story has been told--one that has
real point--it will be better to stop without making any attempt at
application or explanation.
A great help is often found in the utterances of previous speakers. If
these have done well they may be complimented and the compliment so
contrived as to lead directly up to the story that is lying in wait; or
something being said with which you heartily agree--however slight a
portion of the address it may be--this harmony of views can be used in the
same manner. On the other hand if you disagree with any of the speakers
the mere reference to it will excite a lively interest. If this difference
is used not as the basis of a serious argument but only to drag in a
story illustrating the disagreement the story will nevertheless appear to
be very appropriate.
If you happen to be the first speaker you are by no means without
resources. You can then imagine what other speakers are going to say and
if you can slip in a humorous or good-natured hit at the expense of some of
the prominent speakers it will be highly relished. If you describe what
they are likely to say it will be enjoyed while if you should happen to
mention the very opposite this will be set down as your intention. You may
even describe the different speakers and be reminded of things that will
bring in the prepared story very appropriately.
The writer once knew of a very dull speaker who scored a great success in
a popular meeting by describing the eloquent speaker who was to follow.
He began by telling how he was accustomed when a boy to take a skiff and
follow in the wake of a steamer to be rocked in its waves but once
getting before the huge vessel his boat was swept away and he was nearly
drowned. This unfortunately was his situation now and he was in danger of
being swept aside by the coming flood of eloquence. But he asked who is
this coming man? It was the first time he had heard of him--then followed
the story he had been trying to work in--a story wherein the eloquent man
was described as "one who could give seventeen good reasons for anything
under heaven." The story was a great success. In dumb show the speaker he
referred to begged for mercy. This only delighted the audience still more
and when the dull speaker finished it was admitted that for once he had
escaped being stupid or commonplace. He had also forced upon the next
speaker the necessity of removing the unpleasant effects of the jokes made
at his expense a task that required all his cleverness.
The manner of introduction by the chairman his name or general position
the appearance of any one of the guests the lateness or earliness of
the hour events of the day that attract interest the nature of the
entertainment or assemblage--all of these will offer good hooks by which
to draw in the story. But let the story be good and thoroughly mastered.
Of course the work of adaptation will be much easier if you have several
stories in reserve. A story must not be repeated so often that it becomes
known as belonging to you for then a preceding speaker might get a laugh
on you by telling it as yours leaving you bankrupt.
Jones and Smith once rode several miles in a carriage together to a town
where both were to make addresses. Jones was quite an orator; Smith had
a very retentive memory. Jones asked Smith about his speech but Smith
professed not to have fully decided upon his topic and in turn asked Jones
the same question. Jones gave a full outline of his speech Smith getting
him to elaborate it by judicious inquiries as to how he would apply one
point and illustrate another. The ride thus passed pleasantly for both
parties. Smith was called upon to speak first and gave with telling effect
what he had gathered from Jones to the delight of everybody but poor
Jones who listened in utter consternation and had not strength enough
left even to reclaim his stolen property.
If your speech is to be a story it is especially advisable to have
a reserve on hand for stories are easily copied and apt to be long
remembered. Care also must be taken that the story is not one with which
persons generally are familiar. A gentleman was in the habit of telling a
story which has already been quoted the point of which lies in the phrase
"I'm from Boston." Some of his more intimate companions in self-defense
would exclaim when he proposed a story "Is it a mile from Boston?"
The definition of the toast itself or of any of the words in the sentiment
which is the speaker's topic may be made the occasion for drawing in the
The manner of ending a good story is also worthy of careful study. When an
audience is applauding a palpable "hit" it does not seem an appropriate
time to stop and take one's seat; but it often is the best course. To do
this appears so abrupt that the novice is apt to make a further effort
to finish up the subject till he has finished up his audience as well.
An attempt to fully discuss a topic under such circumstances is not
successful once in a hundred times. The best course is to follow an apt
story by some proverb a popular reference or a witty turn and then to
close. But no abruptness will be disliked by your hearers half so much
as the utterance of a string of commonplaces after you have once secured
their attention. The richness of the dessert should come at the close not
at the beginning of the oratorical feast.