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finding of ideas, but also the classifying, choice and rejection of them. For, to continue the subject of a tree, had you read works on botany, or had your curiosity led you to observe with attention the different kinds of trees you have met with, you would have noticed that their respective component parts are in many cases totally different from each other; so that you might have lengthened out your exercise indefinitely, by first descriving the different kinds of roots, i.e., whether long or short, horizontally spreading or vertical, tough or brittle, fibrous or otherwise ; then by detailing in a similar manner the differences existing in their stems or trunks, their boughs and branches, the leaves, fruit and flowers. In doing this you would have formed a composition too lengthy for your worthy master to correct; and even then you would have omitted to mention the different uses that these several parts of the various kinds of trees were by a bountiful Providence evidently destined for. From this familiar example I hope you will perceive what I meant by saying that you must force a subject to furnish all the ideas it is capable of suggesting. Having done this, your next duty will be to classify the ideas found, then to select and reject. I need hardly illustrate what is meant by classification of ideas, for your own common sense will see how ridiculous your composition on a tree' would have appeared had you commenced by describing the uses its leaves serve, then mentioned that it had roots, afterwards remarked that some fruit is large, others small,

&c. This would have been a jumble that would have merited the contempt of your master.

I shall conclude this letter by requesting you to discover the numerous ideas suggested by the following subjects, and to reject those you think weak and unconnected with the subject. I am, my dear boy, &c.


1. To what is Imagination compared in this letter ? 2. What is the wealth referred to, wherewith imagination

must be constantly supplied ? 3. How may a subject be almost indefinitely extended ? 4. Illustrate from Letter III. what is meant by the

classification of ideas.


Classify the following ideas as suggested by the subject 6 a loaf:

1, It is bread; 2, bread is composed of various materials ; 3, flour is the principal; 4, a loaf is sometimes round, sometimes square ; 5, potatoes are, sometimes used in making bread; 6, flour is wheat round and separated from the husk; 7, barm is used in breadmaking ; 8, loaves are either white or brown; 9, potatoes are used to make the bread light; 10, barm is the scum taken from fermenting beer ; 11, the ordinary loaf weighs about four pounds ; 12, brown or seconds flour is flour not carefully winnowed from the husks ; 13, the barm by fermentation causes the particles of flour to separate, thus rendering the bread light; 14, water and salt are also used in bread making ; 15, when the mass formed by the mixture of flour, water, salt, has worked and fermented, it is then well kneaded ; 16, the flour is produced by the miller from the wheat, ground between two heavy stones, and winnowed ; 17, when the loaf is formed from the dough it is put into an oven and baked ; 18, dough is the name of the mixture after fermentation.

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My dear Boy,

We will now proceed to consider the Choice and Rejection of Ideas. Evidently the ideas to be sacrificed are those least intimately connected with the theme, and without great caution you will often find yourself straying wide from the subject in hand simply because you are following out an idea not closely allied with it. It would not be allowable, for instance, when giving a description of our former example a tree,” to enter into a disquisition on the different kinds of birds' eggs, simply because you had incidentally observed that in the trees, to use the words of scripture, the birds of the air build their nests, and sing among the branches.' Almost any subject whatever, though totally unconnected with the principal matter in hand, may in this way

be introduced. This cannot be tolerated in the compositions of the young; for the work required of them has for its aim to develope that sound judgment that enables its possessor to treat a subject in a complete manner, with moderation and sobriety, and without wandering out of his limits. I grant you there is something more fascinating in the fancies of a ready and brilliant intellect, but the qualities I am recommending are more valuable in every-day life, where all questions should be treated clearly and with propriety, and where the most ordinary common sense often bears sway over the noblest imagination.

You will perhaps ask me whether, after having revised the different ideas suggested by the subject, you are to make use of all intimately connected with it. By no means : some on a second examination will prove to be weak, others inappropriate, others again common and

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trite. All these must be rejected, and those must be retained that are most proper to effect the end we have in view. For obviously, if we wish to move the reader, we should give prominence to the ideas most likely to excite the feelings; if we wish to please, we should dwell, according to circumstances, on agreeable and pleasant thoughts. In short, my dear boy, to ensure success, you must take seriously into account the character, habits, tastes and humour of the person that is to read your performance. What will produce an effect on one will leave another totally unmoved; what pleases one, will displease another ; thus the serious man will be sensible to serious ideas, the cheerful one to cheerful ideas. These are the proprieties of style it is useful to observe, without in the attempt ceasing to be natural ; for the most important thing of all is to remain what we are, and not to belie one's character by endeavouring to appear what we are not.

I will close my letter by requesting you to write the exercise appended to it, that I may see if you have thoroughly understood my remarks.

I am, my dear boy, &c.


1. What is the subject of this letter ?
2. What ideas must first be sacrificed ?
3. Account for a young writer's often straying wide from

the point.
4. Illustrate how this may be done in the exercise on

tree.' 5. What effect should the compositions of young persons

produce on their minds ? 6. What principles should be kept in view in the selec

tion of ideas ?

6 a


To test the pupil in the selection of ideas,

You have heard that an old schoolfellow of yours, now articled to an attorney, is contemplating running away from home, and going to sea; write a letter to him endeavouring to dissuade him from the step.

The following is the Letter :My dear George,

Tom Jones told me yesterday you were thinking of running off to sea. You surely cannot be such a simpleton. What will your father and mother say? besides your master, who I am sure will be awfully angry; and then all the money that has been paid for you will be wasted. I wouldn't do it if I was you. Why I hear you are getting two shillings a week for pocket money. You won't have that if you go to sea. Besides, George, I don't see how you are to prosper


you father and mother like that. You know what the fifth commandment says, Honour your father and mother," and that won't be honouring them I'm sure. Besides, only think how wretched your sisters will be; and fancy, you will not then have any more jolly cricket matches in the summer; and I'm sure I should miss you awfully; and in addition to all this there are the dangers and hardships of sea life to be encountered. No, no, give up the idea, and write and tell me you have done so. With best love, I am, dear George, Your affectionate old schoolfellow,

Тонх, A

treat your

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