Three Dialogues on Pulpit Eloquence by Francois De Salignac Fenelon

Three Dialogues on Pulpit Eloquence

These dialogues are truly Platonic: misunderstandings are tackled head-on, persuasion is by incremental agreements that make the whole argument evident to careful reason, and there is a social, a humane approach to understanding things. There are things that could be added to this book, but these are mostly expansions and clarifications. On the whole this is the best book on preaching I’ve ever read.

Fenelon rejects on the one hand, the cult of ugliness and plainness in speaking, where the only consideration is for true substance to the point of artificial arrangement and preaching is about saying true things according to a fixed pattern. He rejects, on the other hand, the frivolous ornamentation in which style triumphs over substance. His proposal is for a rigorous humanism, or a humane seriousness when it comes to eloquence in preaching. He understands there needs to be truth and beauty at the same time for persuasion to work correctly.

One of the weaknesses of the book as it stands is his use of the word Nature, by which I took him to mean creation displaying the good, the true and the beautiful as consubstantial, perichoretically interpenetrating ideals. That is what needs to be elaborated–if I am right, or explained if I am not. But if you read it with that idea in mind the book will make sense. It is splendid.


One thought on “Three Dialogues on Pulpit Eloquence by Francois De Salignac Fenelon

  1. For those readers of this post who wish to pursue the subject work further:

    François de Salignac de Lamothe Fénelon, Three Dialogues on Pulpit Eloquence, trans. Samuel J. Eales (London: Thomas Baker; Philadelphia: John J. McVey, 1897); freely available online, and in various downloadable digital formats on Internet Archive at [accessed 7 DEC 2016].

    Fenelon’s Three Dialogues is also available in both paperback and hardbound reprints on Amazon at, and [accessed 7 DEC 2016].

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