« PredošláPokračovať »
dealing with the qualities of style, you must obviously know the language you are to write in. The most important part of grammar is syntax, which treats of the mutual relation of the different members of a sentence. Without syntax there can be no methodic correction of a sentence, and consequently no style. Youths are frequently met with that have studied grammar for several years, or at least have attended schools where it is studied, and at the age of sixteen or seventeen do not yet know either grammar or orthography. Such a result can arise only from want of intellect, or from idleness,-both miserable promises for the future. In proportion as the involuntary ignorance of those unable to learn is regarded by the world with indulgence, in that proportion are the deficiencies of the idle ridiculed without pity, who, although able to learn, had neither the inclination nor the energy to do so.
After grammar comes history: of the history of the ancients and even of foreign nations in modern times, general notions may suffice; but the history of your own country should be learned thoroughly and in detail. The study of history serves not only to satisfy curiosity, though even that use is not to be despised, since a want of our nature is thereby supplied ; it tends also to develope our mental faculties, and to enlarge the circle of our ideas by adding fresh knowledge to that already acquired; for each fact learned by no means remains isolated, but takes with itself into the mind a series of kindred ideas.
The study of the mathematical sciences operates very powerfully in forming the mind, by habituating it to accept no truth that it has not verified, and consequently no idea whose value it has not examined. This study begets a precision and a correctness that literary pursuits, for want of being properly conducted, often fail to produce.
After having diligently pursued these severe though most important studies, should you have an opportanity of becoming acquainted with any of the natural sciences, tho history of animals, or plants, or with the laws of physics in general, by all means embrace it. These sciences, besides gratifying our natural curiosity by urging us to know something of the wonders that surround us, also furnish a knowledge of immediate utility and universal application.
By the side of these studies, and as their indispensable accompaniment, I place the reading of good books. The works of good authors should be continually read and re-read. A first perusal is always insufficient, because it affords no clear view of the work as a whole, and allows a number of details to escape us, and it is precisely the perfection of detail that constitutes the merit of style.
Reading enriches the mind with new ideas; but an excellent exercise for the style is not only to read but to learn by heart numerous passages from the best authors. In general this exercise is much neglected by young people, undoubtedly because they do not see all its importance, and because they regard it merely as a mechanical exercise for strengthening the memory. You may expect from it far more than this; the fruits you
from this exercise may come slowly and by degrees almost imperceptible, but they are none the less sure.
It is then, my dear boy, at the cost of all these studies, and at the cost of them seriously pursued, that you will come at last to know how to think and how to write. Young persons must by no means deceive themselves on this point. The ordinary number of years passed at school is only just sufficient to acquire the knowledge to serve as a foundation for style. And in using the term style you must not imagine that I intend by it composition purely literary; such as poems, tragedies, histories, and harangues. By no means : addressing you as the representative of young people that are to lead an ordinary life, the extent of whose
compositions will perhaps eventually be the writing of letters; but who may also be called upon to draw up instructions, to give the report of a meeting, or to describe some event or transaction that may have come under their cognizance. And should the calls on your powers of composition be no more serious than these, you may conclude that you will have to do what will require the acquisition of at least a fair amount of literary talent.
Nevertheless these considerations, my dear boy, should only inspire you with more ardour for study do not be discouraged if in your first attempts you succeed but badly ; but remember that with docility, good-will, and perseverance, excellence is ever attainable. However happily nature may have endowed us with parts, study is still necessary. To speak well and to write well are rare qualities, but they are of themselves sufficient to distinguish a man, in whatever condition he may find himself; and the distinction they confer upon him is, after nobility of soul, the first of all distinctions, the distinction of learning and intelligence. It is to be purchased at one price only, the price of persevering effort, and well does it repay its fortunate possessor for all the wealth of this kind he may have expended in its acquisition.
Ours is a noble language wherein to exercise one's powers, as all literary men acquainted with it are ready to admit; and I think I cannot, in concluding this series of letters, do better than quote the following eloquent extract from the writing of one that has acquitted himself valiantly in its behalf.
I am, my dear boy, &c. “The English language,” he says, " is a glorions inheritance, such as has been bequeathed to no other nation under heaven.
“I can believe this language is destined to be that in which shall arise, as in one universal temple, the utterance of the worship of all hearts. Broad and deep have
the foundations been laid; and so vast is the area which they cover, that it is co-extensive with the great globe itself. For centuries past, proud intellectual giants have laboured at this mighty fabric, and still it rises and will rise for generations to come: and on its massive stones will be inscribed the names of the profoundest thinkers, and on its springing arches the records of the most daring flights of the master minds of genius, the keystone of whose fame was the love of the Beautiful and the adoration of the All Good. In this temple the Anglo-Saxon mosaic of the sacred words of truth will be the solid and enduring pavement; the dreams of poets will fill the rich tracery of its windows with the many-coloured hues of thought; and the works of lofty philosophic minds will be the stately columns supporting its fretted roof, whence shall hang, sculptured, the rich fruits of the tree of knowledge, precious as apples of gold,'—'the words of the wise.'"*
QUESTIONS ON LETTER XI.
1. What is the subject of this letter ? 2. Of what are you here reminded ? 3. How is it that a course of serious studies facilitates
reflection ? 4. What is the object of Exercises in Composition ? 5. At what should you aim when undertaking to write
or to speak on a subject ? 6. What study is recommended first ? 7. Which is the most important part of grammar ? 8. Why is this? 9. To what is the ignorance of youths to be attributed ? 10. What study should follow grammar ? 11. What history should be most carefully studied ? 12. Name some of the uses of history?
• The Dean's English,' by G. W. Moon, p. 118.
13. What effect on the mind nas the study of the mathe
matical sciences ? 14. What may follow this study ? 15. What should accompany all these studies ? 16. How should the works of good authors be treated ? 17. What in addition to reading is an excellent exercise
for the cultivation of style ? 18. What is the extent of composition usually required
from young people ? 19. What advantage does the power of being able to
speak and write well confer? 20. At what price only can this distinction be purchased ?