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NUMEROUS attempts have been made, and are still making, to methodize instruction in English Composition. In these attempts, two distinct efforts are made for the benefit of the pupils; to cultivate in them a copious fund of expression, and to render more delicate their discrimination of good and ill effects.

As regards increasing the pupils' fund of expression, the English teacher can do comparatively little. The reason is obvious. The command of language is a grand total, resulting from the practice of a life; a small fraction of that total is all that can grow up within the limits of a Course of English Composition.

With respect to the other aim—the discrimination between good and bad in expression-the case is different. Much of the necessary instruction can be condensed into principles, and may be impressed by carefully chosen examples. The teacher is here a trainer, and can impart in a short compass, what, without him, would be acquired slowly, if at all. It is this, accordingly, that I account his principal vocation.

All the principles and rules of composition that seem to me capable of affording aid or direction in the art, I have endeavored to bring together, omitting the notice of such technical terms as are of little practical use. The fulfilment of this design has ended in a work more closely allied to Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric, Blair's Lectures, and Whately's Rhetoric, than to the majority of recent works on English Composition.

I have divided the subject of Composition into two Parts: first, what pertains to Composition in general; and secondly, what is special to each of the five leading Kinds of Composition,-namely, Description, Narration, Exposition, Oratory, and Poetry.

Under Part First, the Figures of Speech are discussed. The leading Qualities of Style are next explained, and the conditions that they depend on stated. Under the same Part, I have laid down the principles governing the structure of the Sentence and the Paragraph. I attach great importance to these principles.

The Second Part comprises the Kinds of Composition.

The subject of Description is perhaps the one that most signally attests the utility of Rhetorical precepts. In delineating any complicated object, there is a welldefined method; which being attended to, the most ordinary mind may attain success, and being neglected. the greatest genius will fail.

Narrative includes the laws of Historical Composition, and these I have dwelt upon with some minute


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Exposition belongs to Science, and to all information in the guise of general principles. The methods to be observed in rendering expository style as easy as the subjects will allow, are worthy of a full consideration.

Oratory, or Persuasion, is the original subject of the Rhetorical art, and its rules were highly elaborated in ancient times. It presents great difficulties to the teacher. Besides the wide range of the matters involved in persuasive address, there is a complication with the art of Proof, or Logic, that could not be relieved, until Logic itself was put on the more comprehensive basis given to it in the system of John Stuart Mill.

Poetry demands a full share of attention, both on its own account, and also as supplementary to the other departments, all which cherish, as a secondary aim, matters of interest to human feeling, while these are a primary aim in poetry.

In conclusion, I may state what I consider the best mode of employing such a work as the present in tuition.

The rules and principles are accompanied with examples; the number of these is still farther increased by the Analyzed Extracts in the Appendix. It is recommended that, in the course of the pupil's reading, the principles should be applied to point out the merits and demerits of select passages. A reading book may be used for the purpose.

To obtain suitable exercises for practice in writing English, is a prime consideration with the teacher. Many kinds of exercises have been suggested; and

there must always be a difference of opinion as to the most suitable. The writing of Themes involves the burden of finding matter as well as language; and belongs rather to classes in scientific or other departments, than to a class in English composition. The matter should in some way or other be supplied, and the pupil disciplined in giving it expression. I know of no better method than to prescribe passages containing good matter, but in some respects imperfectly worded, to be amended according to the laws and the proprieties of style. Our older writers might be extensively, although not exclusively, drawn upon for this purpose. Another exercise is the conversion of Poetry into Prose. Much value is also attached to Abridging or Summarizing; and this might be coupled with the opposite exercise of filling up and expanding brief sketches.

The sustained practice of Rhetorical parsing, or the applying of the designations, principles, and rules of Rhetoric, to authors studied, whether in English or in other languages, would eventually form, in the mind of the pupil, an abiding ideal of good composition.

ABERDEEN, March, 1866.

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