Toasts and Forms of Public Address


Another wide field for the oratory of entertainment is to be found in the various celebrations that mark the passage of specific or notable portions of time–centennial, semi-centennial, and quadrennial; likewise weddings, annual, tin, paper, crystal, silver, and golden. The speeches for these differ widely in character. They may take the form of congratulatory addresses, of toasts and responses, or more formal addresses. All dedications come in the same category. Generally the shorter intervals call for light and humorous speeches, while the longer ones demand something more grave and thoughtful.

The following speech and response for a wooden (fifth) wedding anniversary is taken from a volume of ready made speeches. It is a fine example of that wit and play upon words which is never more suitable or more highly appreciated than on such an occasion.


If it is a good maxim not to halloo till you are out of the woods, our kind host and hostess must be very quiet this evening, for it seems to me that they are in the thick of it. If their friends had been about to burn them alive instead of to wish them joy on their fifth wedding-day, they could scarcely have brought a greater quantity of combustible material to the sacrifice. What shall we say to them on this ligneous occasion? Of course, we must congratulate them on their willingness to renew their matrimonial vows after five years of double-blessedness. In this age of divorce it is something worthy of note, that a pair who have been one and inseparable for even so short a period as the twentieth part of a century, should stand up proudly before the world and propose to strengthen the original compact with a new one. They look as happy and contented as if they had never heard of Chicago, or seen those tempting little advertisements in the newspapers that propose to separate man and wife with immediate dispatch for a reasonable consideration. Instead of going to court to cut the nuptial bond in twain, it appears that they have been _courting_ for five years with the view of being remarried this evening. Vaccination, it is said, wears out in seven years, but matrimony, we see, in this instance, at least, takes a stronger hold of the parties inoculated as time rolls on; and although in this case they are willing to go through the operation again, it is not for the sake of making assurance doubly sure, but in order to enjoy marriage as a luxury. With this happy specimen of a wooden wedding before them our young unmarried friends will see that they can go into the _joinery_ business with but little risk of getting into the wrong box. In fact, it is because connubial bliss beats every other species of felicity all hollow that we have met this evening to requite it with hollow-ware. In the name of all their friends I affectionately congratulate the doubly-married pair on their past happiness and future prospects, and hope they may live to celebrate their fiftieth wedding day and receive a _golden_ reward.


“For self and partner”–as men associated in business sometimes conclude their letters–I offer to you and all our friends who have obliged us with their presence, the thanks of the firm which renews its articles of partnership this evening. We welcome you heartily to our home, well knowing that your kind wishes are not like–your useful and elegant tokens of remembrance–_hollow-ware_. When Birnam Wood came to Dunsinane, Macbeth was conquered, and it seems to me that you have come almost as well provided with timber as Macduff and Malcolm were. Your articles, however, although of wood, are not of the Burn ’em kind, and I am not such a Dunce inane as to decline accepting them. Indeed, my wife, who, notwithstanding her matrimonial vows, has a _single eye_–to housekeeping–would not permit me to refuse them were I so inclined. She knows their value better than I do, and with the assistance of her kitchen cabinet will, I have no doubt, employ them usefully.

The speech closes with thanks and good wishes in return.


A toast may be given either with or without sentiment attached, and in either case a response equally fitting; but in the former the subject is narrowed and defined by the nature of the sentiment. Yet the speaker need not hold himself closely to the sentiment, which is often made rather a point of departure even by the ablest speakers. Indeed, the latitude accorded to after-dinner speeches is very great, and a sentiment which gives unity and direction to the speech made in response to it is, on that account, of great value.

To illustrate these points we will take the toast “Our Flag.” A speech in response would be practically unlimited in scope of treatment. Anything patriotic, historical or sentimental, which brings in some reference to the banner, would be appropriate. But let this sentiment be added: “May the justness and benevolence which it represents ever charm the heart, as its beauty charms the eye,” and the outline of a speech is already indicated. Has our nation always been just and kind? Where and how have these qualities been most strikingly manifested? Why have we seemed sometimes to come short of them, and how should such injustice or harsh dealing be remedied, with as much rhetorical admixture of the waving folds and the glittering stars as the speaker sees fit to employ.