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1st. Study the works of the best authors, for the purpose, not only of collecting a store of the materials of thought, but also for the imitation of their choice of words, structure of sentences, turns and felicities of expression, and application of language. As Milton says, “ by a well-continued and judi“ cious conversing among pure authors," we acquire the habit of expressing our thoughts with grace and propriety. For this purpose, Robertson's Historical Works are deserving of the most sedulous perusal, their style being the nearest approach to perfection of any modern writings extant.
But in our endeavours to imbue our minds with the style and manner of other writers we should avoid a servile imitation, otherwise we shall become the phrasers and retailers of their opinions, and our composition will be not only deficient in originality and vigour of thought and expression, but also tinctured and disfigured with stiffness of language, and the absence of the graces and attractions of composition. Composition proceeding from the impulse and dictates of natural and unassisted genius has a very different effect on the understanding and the feelings of hearers or readers from that which is formed on too close an adherence to artificial rules and the style and manner of others.
2nd. We should form a full and clear conception of the subject about which we are to discourse or write. A sentiment that is conceived clearly, and expressed perspicuously, makes a strong impression on the mind of the reader or hearer ; whereas, one that is feeble and indistinct, perplexed or confused, has but a faint and an imperfect effect.
3rd. On whatever subject we speak or write we should keep our minds intent on it till we have obtained its full and distinct comprehension in all its parts and bearings. Should we be at a loss to proceed, we should review what we have written,
that the associating principle may suggest additional ideas connected with the subject. By patient and continued thought and investigation new views present themselves, and when the mind becomes filled with the subject, language flows in order and abundance. Indistinctness of thought, and inability to discern and trace out those laws and principles of association on which the connections and relations of thought depend, will soon be lessened by a habit of close and consecutive thinking. As a model of just thinking and close reasoning, Locke's works are deserving of the most attentive study.
4th. We should express our thoughts in the most natural order which the association of ideas suggests, for forced sentiments are as offensive and disagreeable to the mind as affected style is to the ear.
5th. Every period should not comprehend more than one idea or the portion of an idea. When several ideas are introduced into a single period, confusion and unintelligibility are the consequence.
6th. We should adapt our style to the nature of the subject and to the capacity of the persons to whom it is addressed. Whether the manner of style should be concise or diffuse depends on the nature of the subject. Matters of reasoning, explication, and instruction require a diffuse method of composition; but in description and addresses to the passions, to be effective, we should be concise. The boldest and most striking terms of expression should be sparingly employed; and when employed, they should, as Aristotle observes, be reserved for the most impassioned parts of a discourse.
7th. As untutored taste is not sufficient, without the aid of artificial and scholastic rules, for the production of correct composition, the student should diligently attend the critical rules given for the purpose. He should be particularly on his guard against the seductive errors of composition—the dulcia vitia and the nitor styli, as Seneca and Quinctilian denominate them. Good writing does not consist in the use of “ terms aureate and mellifluate”-in a superabundance of words, in glitter and pomp of expression, and the fallacies of rhetoric; but in a clear conception of the subject, a lucid arrangement of its parts, and a perspicuous expression. Poverty of thought and conception can never be compensated for by richness of language and the embellishments of composition.
Lastly. Every piece of composition should be carefully reviewed, for the purpose of correcting the errors and imperfections which may have crept into it. Exact and finished composition is more indebted to the limæ labor—the touchings and the retouchings of critical taste—than is generally supposed : those portions of the works of our most admired writers which charm the reader with their ease and flow of composition, have often been the result of the most patient thought and laboured revision. Though the compositions of Addison, Milton, Pope, Robertson, Goldsmith, Gray, Cowper, Burns, &c. are distinguished for their easy and natural style, and are supposed by those unacquainted with the practice of composition to have been written in an off-hand manner, it is well known that their authors bestowed great labour in polishing and correcting their style. To the most indifferent judge of composition it is evident that the most consummate art lies under the garb of nature and ease in Addison's writings; and though it is said that Goldsmith made little or no correction in his works, it is well known that he long meditated before he put his thoughts upon paper.
The same was the case with the author of “ The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire;” though that
work was written with great facility and subject to but little subsequent alteration, its composition and style had long been meditated, and subject to much alteration and correction in the mind of the author. Johnson also, though a rapid writer, was a laborious corrector: between the sheet edition of the papers of the Rambler and their first reprint as a book he made thousands of corrections. In the exquisite little poem, " At a Solemn Music,” of which there are extant three draughts in his own handwriting, Milton made several considerable and many minor variations, including the excision of no less than ten lines, thus giving a decisive proof of the beneficial results of the limæ labor, or “ the art of blotting” in composition. Burns never committed his verses to writing till he had touched and retouched them in his mind, and had brought them to that state in which he considered they would not admit of further improvement. The same was Gray's method of composition, and no doubt was that of all the best authors.
The case has been the same with the best French works. Though in Rousseau's writings great simplicity and ease of language appear, they were subject to much revisal and correction. Malherbe composed slowly, and carefully revised and re-revised what he had written. Though the style of Fénélon's Telemachus, of La Fontaine's Fables, and of Pascal's Letters, bears all the appearance of ease and simplicity of composition, they were revised and corrected with great care and labour. The case was the same, no doubt, with the Greek and Latin writers : indeed, Horace's direction of ten years' limæ labor is a proof.
FIGURATIVE OR RHETORICAL COMPOSITION.
Rhetorical or figurative language, which is the language of reason sublimed by passion, derives its origin and necessity from indispensable and obvious causes.
As no language has separate and specific primitive words or radical terms adequate to express the infinite variety of objects and ideas that are constantly presenting themselves to the mind, simple and natural words and forms of speech used for one class of objects are often applied to other classes. Thus, as the words morning and evening are employed to signify the first and last part of the day, the expressions the morning of life and the evening of life are substituted the terms youth and age. For the same reason the qualities of bodies are employed to illustrate the qualities of the mind. Thus the qualities of the hardness and softness of stone and clay are employed to describe the feelings of human nature, and a man's heart is said to be hard or soft, according as it is or is not susceptible of humanity; and as heat warms or melts bodies exposed to its influence, those passions that produce analogical effects on the mind are represented by similar language. For this reason it is said that love warms the breast, and that sympathy melts the heart. It is by a correspondent idea of the flourishing period of a plant or tree, and that the head is the principal part of the human body, that the metaphorical expressions,“ the empire flourished,” “ he is the head of the party," are made use of as more forcible and vivid than the simple forms of speech, “ the empire throve," " he is the chief man of his party.” Flat and insipid, and destitute of life and action, is the expression, “ Cromwell treated the laws