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 ?