A toast may be given either with or without a sentiment attached, and in either case a response is equally fitting; but in the former the subject is narrowed and defined by the nature of the sentiment. Yet the speaker teed 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.
From these considerations may be deduced the rule that when the proposer of a toast wishes to leave the respondent the freedom of the whole subject he will give the toast alone, or accompanied by a motto of the most non-committal character. But if he wishes to draw him out in a particular direction he will put the real theme in the sentiment that follows the toast.
SENTIMENTS SUGGESTED BY A TOAST
Years ago a speaker provoked a controversy (maliciously and with no good excuse) which scarcely came short of blows, by proposing as a toast the name of a general of high rank, but who was unfortunate in arms. He was a candidate for office. Added to the toast was the sentiment, ” May his political equal his military victories.” This was in bad taste, in-deed, but it shows the use that can be made of the sentiment, when added to a toast, in fixing attention in a certain direction.
The number of sentiments suggested by the common and standard toasts is unlimited. Take the toast ” Home,” as an example.
Home: The golden setting in which the brightest jewel is ” Mother.”
Home: A world of strife shut out, and a world of love shut in.
Home: The blossoms of which heaven is the fruit.
Home: The only spot on earth where the faults and failings of fallen humanity are hidden under a mantle of charity.
Home: An abode wherein the inmate, the superior being called man, can pay back at night, with fifty per cent. interest, every annoyance that he has met with in business during the day.
Home: The place where the great are sometimes small, and the small often great.
Home: The father’s kingdom; the child’s paradise; the mother’s world.
Home: The jewel casket containing the most precious of all jewelsdomestic happiness.
Home: The place where you are treated best and grumble most.
Home: It is the central telegraph office of human love, into which run innumerable wires of affection, many of which, though extending thousands of miles, are never disconnected from the one great terminus.
Home: The centre of our affections, around which our hearts’ best wishes twine.
Home: A little sheltered hollow scooped out of the windy hill of the world.
Home: A place where our stomachs get three good meals daily and our hearts a thousand.