Faraday was a made, not a born, lecturer. From his apprentice years on he wrote shrewdly and thought deeply on the art and craft of the lecture. By common consent he made himself one of the great lecturers (and lecture demonstrators) of all time.
It may perhaps appear singular and improper that one who is entirely unfit for any such office himself, and who does not even pretend to any of the requisition for it, should take upon himself to censure and to commend to others .... If I am unfit for it, 'tis evident that I have yet to learn, and how learn better than by observation of others.
As practised by the Society, lecturing is capable of improving not only those who are lectured, but also the lecturer. He makes it, or he ought to make it, an opportunity for the exertion of his mental powers, that so by using he may strengthen them; and if he is truly in earnest, he will do as much good to himself as to his audience.
A lecturer should exert his utmost effort to gain completely the mind and attention of his audience, and irresistibly make them join in his ideas to the end of the subject. He should endeavour to raise their interest at the commencement of the lecture and by a series of imperceptible gradations, unnoticed by the company, keep it alive as long as the subject demands it..... A flame should be lighted at the commencement and kept alive with unremitting splendour to the end.
I was instructed at the lecture, but expected to see (hear) more of the particular nature of the alkalies, the subject was copious enough. Order was not sufficiently attended to.
..... This done, I have a series of major and minor heads in order, and from these I work out my subject matters. Now this method, unfortunately, though it will do very well for the mere purpose of arrangement and so forth, yet introduces a dryness and stiffness into the style of the piece composed by it; for the parts come together like bricks, one flat on the other, and though they may fit, yet they have the appearance of too much regularity..... I would, if possible, imitate a tree in its progression from roots to a trunk, to branches, twigs, and leaves, where every alteration is made with so much care and effect that though the manner is constantly varied, the effect is precise and determined.
A lecturer should appear easy and collected, undaunted and unconcerned, his thoughts about him and his mind clear for the contemplation and description of his subject. His action should be slow, easy and natural, consisting principally in changes of the posture of the body, in order to avoid the air of stiffness or sameness that would be otherwise unavoidable.
The most prominent requisite to a lecturer, though perhaps not really the most important, is a good delivery; for though to all true philosophers science and nature will have charms innumerable in every dress, yet I am sorry to say that the generality of mankind cannot accompany us one short hour unless the path is strewed with flowers.
"Never to repeat a phrase"
"Never to go back to amend"
"If at a loss for a word, not to ch-ch-ch or eh-eh-eh, but to stop and wait for it. It soon comes, and the bad habits are broken, and fluency soon acquired."
With respect to the action of the lecturer, it is requisite that he have some, though it does not here bear the importance that it does in other branches of oratory; for though I know of no other species of delivery that requires less motion, yet I would by no means have a lecturer glued to the table or screwed to the floor. He must by all means appear as a body distinct and separate from the things around him, and must have some motion apart from that which they possess.
A lecturer may consider his audience as being polite or vulgar ..... learned or unlearned (with respect to the subject) listeners or gazers. Polite company expect to be entertained..... The vulgar - that is to say in general those who will take the trouble of thinking and the bees of business - wish for some-thing that they can comprehend. This may be deep and elaborate for the learned but for those who are as yet tyros and unacquainted with the subject must be simple and plain. Lastly listeners expect reason and sense, whilst gazers only require a succession of words.
Evening opportunities - interesting, amusing; instruct also: - scientific research - abstract reasoning, but in a popular way - dignity; - facilitate our object of attracting the world, and making ourselves with science attractive to it.
I might ... have chosen, from among the brilliant experiments it presents, a numerous series well calculated to please the eye and amuse the ear but ... I will never sacrifice the real importance and integrity of my subject to noise and splendour.
In lectures, and more particularly experimental ones, it will at times happen that accidents or other incommoding circumstances will take place. On these occasions an apology is sometimes necessary, but not always. I have several times seen the attention of by far the greater part of an audience called to an error by the apology which followed it.
A lecturer falls deeply beneath the dignity of his character when he descends so low as to angle for claps and ask for commendation. Yet I have seen a lecturer even at this point.
Digressions and wanderings produce more or less the effects of a complete break or delay in the lecture, ..... they take the audience from the main subject and you then have the labour of bringing them back again (if possible). For the same reason (namely, that the audience should not grow tired) I disapprove of long lectures. One hour is enough for anyone, and they should not be allowed to exceed that time.
And finally, the closing words of The Chemical History of a Candle
Indeed, all I can say to you at the end of these lectures (for we must come to an end at one time or other) is to express a wish that you may, in your generation, be fit to compare to a candle; that, in all your actions, you may justify the beauty of the taper by making your deeds honorable and effectual in the discharge of your duty to your fellow-men.