Rhetoric and Feeling

When I was growing up, the idea of praying a written prayer was ridiculous. We're supposed to mean what we pray, aren't we? And you cant very well mean it if you are reading it off of a piece of paper! This idea is widely held in our culture, not only about prayers, but speeches and other forms of communication as well. Chesterton dismantles this kind of reasoning in this section from A Short History of England:

"We cannot understand the eighteenth century so long as we suppose that rhetoric is artificial because it is artistic. We do not fall into this folly about any of the other arts. We talk of a man picking out notes arranged in ivory on a wooden piano "with much feeling," or of his pouring out his soul by scraping on cat-gut after a training as careful as an acrobat's. But we are still haunted with a prejudice that verbal form and verbal effect must somehow be hypocritical when they are the link between things so living as a man and a mob. We doubt the feeling of the old-fashioned orator, because his periods are so rounded and pointed as to convey his feeling." G.K. Chesterton

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