Tuesday, November 22, 2016


First published in  1895, this  battered    1921  seventeenth   edition ,   found  in  a  book and  oddities  search  in    North  Queensland , came  complete with  a  pressed  and  very  desiccated  spider  within  its  foxed pages. Born in Birmingham  , George Jacob   Holyoake  (1817-1906)   , who at  eight years of age had started work in  the foundry where  his father toiled, became a newspaper  editor ,  coined the terms  secularism and  jingoism and  was the last person convicted  for public  blasphemy in answering a question  at  an  1842  lecture , taken away in chains .  His autobiography was  entitled    Sixty Years  Of  An Agitator's  Life.
Wikipedia states he was an ancestor of  the  New Zealand  Prime Minister , Sir  Keith Holyoake . Another point of interest is that he  was the uncle of  the independent  MP and  convicted  fraudster  Horatio  Bottomley  who manipulated the share market with  glowing reports about  his  dodgy mining ventures in the Northern  Territory  and   Western  Australia.

In the introduction he points out that many years ago he had printed  an outline book on  the   subject of  public speaking  and debate  for   persons  who found learned  treatises on  oratory uninteresting  or too  profound. It had been  reprinted  in America  and in  1853 the  New York Times  had described it as unpretentious  and  practical . 

In 1862, the Reverend  Mr Vickers of  Boston ,  visiting England , had  informed   him that  in a  New York bookshop  he had bought a copy of a  work entitled Public  Speaking and Debate,  by  John Bower.  However, upon opening the  book , it  was   found to  be  an American edition  of  Public Speaking  and Debate by  G. J. Holyoake  ..."This, I hope, may be taken as proof that the book was  thought  useful  by  the  new  author ."

In a  chapter on  parliamentary oratory , Holyoake  comments on the  debating  style of  many leading British politicians - John Stuart Mill, Lord John Russell , Disraeli , Lord Beaconsfield , Shiel , O'Connor and other prominent   figures of the day including  poets, authors and  leading preachers .   He   mentions  the  platform  artifice of  Lord Palmerston , after   whom   Darwin  in the Northern Territory was  first named , when  answering  a  question .

Holyoake   said  no member   of  Parliament  in his time  won  in so short a  time  the reputation  of  an orator as  Joseph Cowen in  the House  of Commons  on a Bill  to give the  title   of  Empress   to  the  Queen . While the house was  impatient    to  quickly  vote  on   the  motion:

" His argument was historical,  compact, brief , in which three things were said never before or since  heard in  that  House . He spoke to the Prince  Napoleon as 'the  son  of a usurper '; he said 'the divine right of kings was killed on the scaffold  with Charles  l '; and declared  that the ' superstition of  royalty  had never taken deep hold on  the people of this country '. All this was  unusual and bold ."  

There  is a fascinating chapter ,WRITING FOR THE PRESS  , saying every public speaker  or debater is  likely , sooner or later, to come in contact with the press , to assist in making known  his view , or in vindicating himself against adverse  criticism  of  opponents , or  in correcting erroneous reports  of what was  said .

 Even  PM Gladstone, the most circumambient  speaker of  all -that is, he travels  all round his main idea , and not only explains it,  but illustrates  its purport - has had to write to the press , from time  to time , in vindication of  his meaning.

Tips on how to communicate with the press would result in fewer disappointments  ascribed to  editorial malevolence  or neglect of rising genius , when  the  fault  is  in  the writer.  In  sending a letter to an editor ,  dark black ink should be used  and  be  written  in a  bold , clear hand .    On the other  hand , if   you scribble , know the editor  and  are  rich , you can send  the  printers  " a  guinea" for  deciphering your letter , enabling  you  to  scrawl  like  a  gentleman .

Speaking in defence of  the art  and character  of  agitation, Holyoake  wrote that he hoped the book would lead to an increase in wise , reasoning  voices  being heard  in  the land , as  sure-footed  democracy  advances.

However, it seemed the  Archbishop of Canterbury , apparently only acquainted with the  bad meaning of the  term , had spoken  contemptuously of 'agitators'. This had prompted  Reverend Stewart Headlam  to justly ask if not Paul and  the Lord  Himself were agitators . Surely it depended upon what you agitate for , and how you agitate , as to whether an "agitator " is to be condemned  or praised....Just minded agitation prevented  the  putrefaction of opinion,  which is as fatal  to  States  as  to  Truth .
It  is interesting to speculate  about  the  identity of  the person  who first had this book, sold through Barker's Brisbane Bookstores and  unearthed  in Tully , which receives so  much precipitation  it is an ideal place in which to curl up with a library  and  listen  to  the  rain drumming on the roof  for a week or more . Could  it  have  been  an  early  politician  , an  activist , or an agitator  ?