Published on [Permalink]

New at IWP Books: Desmond MacCarthy, Experience, 1935. Three Parts: Of Human Nature; During the War; Digressions of a Reviewer. From the Chapter on Making Speeches:

What daunts me when I get upon my feet to speak is not that I am unaccustomed to public speaking, but that all my previous speeches have been failures. And yet I think, or rather, to use the formula of words which was constantly on the lips of that cautious metaphysician Sir William Hamilton, — “It seems to me that I think I believe,” that there is the making of a speaker in me. In the first place, why otherwise should I continue to be asked from time to time to address audiences if there were not still a faint glimmer of hope animating those who know me that I might be worth hearing? And secondly, I am certainly endowed with two-o’clock-in-the-morning eloquence — solitary eloquence. But I believe this faculty is not uncommon. When kept awake by indignation or anger I am able to give absent persons a trouncing, which in my opinion falls little short of Chatham or Cicero in that line. Quicken me at that dark hour with a small personal grievance or a gigantic public scandal (like the behaviour of the British in Ireland), and off I go. Sentences of trenchant invective, unforgettable sarcasm, polished irony and thumping directness flow from me easily. Yet at an earlier hour, in the presence of other human beings, it is as much as I can do to stutter through the tamest statement of my case. How is this? What is the explanation? What paralyses me — the sound of my own voice or the eyes of an audience?