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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Further Hints on Lecturing
By Francisque Sarcey (1827–1899)
From ‘Recollections of Middle Life’

YOU have to speak, we will suppose, of ‘Le Cid’ by Corneille. Do not weary yourself at first by reading all that has been written on ‘Le Cid’: steep yourself in the play, think of it, turn it over and over, go to see it if it is being played: if neither the reading nor the representation of the drama suggests to you any impression that is properly yours—good gracious, my friend! what would you have me say? Don’t meddle with lecturing either on ‘Le Cid’ or any other theme drawn from literature. Manifestly you are not born for the trade.  1
  But if you have shuddered and thrilled at a given passage; if there has been presented to your mind some comparison that has, so to speak, sprung from the depths of your reading; if you have yourself formed an opinion upon the whole or upon some scenes of the work,—you must cling to that: it is that which must be told, it is that which I call having something to say.  2
  Do not trouble yourself to know if others have thought it before you, and have said it perhaps even better than you will say it yourself. That is not the question. The idea, however old it may be, will appear new; and will be so, indeed, because you will strongly impress upon it the turn of your mind, because you will tinge it unconsciously with the colors of your imagination.  3
  As you will have made it flash from the reading, as you will yourself have drawn this truth from its well, your passion will go out to it, you will naturally put into its expression a good faith, a sincerity, a transport, the heat of which will be communicated to the public.  4
  Not until you have performed this first task, the only necessary one, the only efficacious one, shall I permit you—pay attention: permit you, not advise you—to read what your predecessors have thought of ‘Le Cid,’ and written about it. If by chance you run across some interesting point of view that had escaped you, and that strikes you, take care, for the love of heaven, not to transfer it just as it is to your lecture, where it would have the mischievous effect of second-hand and veneer. No: take up ‘Le Cid’ anew; re-read it with this idea, suggested by another, in mind; put that back into the text in order to draw it out yourself, rethink it, make it something of your own; forget the turn and the form given it by Sainte-Beuve, from whom it first came to your notice. If you cannot succeed in taking possession of it, in melting it so well in the crucible of your mind that it will be no longer distinguished from the matter in fusion which is already bubbling there, better discard it, however pleasing, however ingenious it may be.  5
  Be assured there will be nothing good in your lecture but what you shall have thought for yourself; and what you shall have thought for yourself will always have a certain seal of originality. You have thought that Chimène sacrifices her love to her duty, that Rodrigue is a hero boiling over with love and youth, that Don Diègue is an epic Gascon. Do not embarrass yourself with scruples, and repeat to yourself in a whisper, “But every one has said that.”  6
  Every one has said it! So much the better, because there is some chance that your audience will be enchanted, seeing you plunged up to your ears in the truth. But every one has not said it as you will say it; for you will say it as you have thought it, and you have thought it yourself.  7

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