4

The first time that Peater Keating hears Ellsworth Toohey speak, it's described as follows:

It was not a voice, it was a miracle. It unrolled as a velvet banner. It spoke English words, but the resonant clarity of each syllable made it sound like a new language spoken for the first time. It was the voice of a giant.

Keating stood, his mouth open. He did not hear what the voice was saying. He heard the beauty of the sounds without meaning. He felt no need to know the meaning; he could accept anything, he would be led blindly anywhere.

According to Wikipedia, Toohey was at least partially inspired by Harold Laski, and Ayn Rand even attended some of his lectures as part of her research for the book.

With that said, was Harold Laski actually as good of a public speaker as Toohey is described as being? Was Rand basing Toohey's speaking style on Laski's speaking style, or on someone completely different? Or was his speaking style not inspired by anyone in particular?

5

The Journals of Ayn Rand (p. 113 in my edition) cite the following comments from an interview she gave in 1961:

Laski was the soul of Ellsworth Toohey in the flesh. After seeing Laski, I just had to remember how he lectured - his mannerisms, the pseudo-intellectual snideness, the whole manner of speaking on imortant subjects with inappropriate sarcasm as his only weapon, acting as if he were a charming scholar in a drawing room, but you could sense the bared teeth behind the smile, you could feel something evil - and I would know how Toohey would act in any circumstances; it gave me the complete sense of a life of that type. Toohey is larger scale than Laski, who was a cheap little snide socialist, but Laski projected Toohey's essential characteristics. Even his appearance was ideal. I drew a sketch during the lecture, with the narrow cadaverous face and glasses and big ears, and I gave it all to Toohey.

In her journals, she describes his manner as follows:

He looks terribly at ease, a little weary, a little bored - not offensively so, just gracefully so. (He leans limply sidewise against the stand.)
Simplicity and clarity of sentences - yet a few "exquisite" words.

So, yes, a lot of the mannerisms are explicitly based on Laski, as are some aspects of his public speaking style, but Laski doesn't appear to have been nearly as skilled as Toohey was, and Toohey is deliberately "larger scale."

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