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instance of reading and reproducing a kind of literature in which an author's skill in playing upon the moral springs of the reader's mind may be more effectively used.
If books are carefully selected, carefully read, and skilfully criticized by teacher and pupils, it will be hard to over-estimate the value of the moral training resulting from such exercises. If the pupils are allowed to express freely their thoughts and feelings in regard to such books, it will be equally hard to overestimate the value of the exercise as mere training in the use of language. I commend this subject, in all its bearings, to the attention of thoughtful teachers.
ONE WAY OF STUDYING POETRY IN SCHOOL.
By WM J. ROLFE, SHAKESPEARIAN EDITOR.
(Abstract.) Mr. Rolfe remarked that his paper was put down as on “One Way of Studying Poetry in School ; ” but after writing it, he found that he had to cut it down. It had to do therefore only with a single feature of the method he intended to discuss ; namely, certain exercises intended to develop critical insight and skill in the pupil.
The cultivation of taste is the chief aim in the school study of literature; but the great defect in the work as generally conducted is that while the pupil learns certain facts about the poetry he reads, he does not acquire the ability to judge intelligently of poetry in general. His taste is neither sensitive nor trustworthy; he is in nowise a critic.
To train boys and girls to the critical habit,” one wants a supply of practical problems in matters of taste, the answers to which are not given, but which they must work out for themselves; and the bulk of Mr. Rolfe's paper was devoted to the consideration of some of the sources whence such problems may be drawn:
1. Misprints and corruptions in the ordinary editions of standard poets. Some examples from Gray, Scott, Tennyson, and other writers were given to show what excellent topics for familiar discussion and the exercise of critical judgment, were to be found in these errors.
2. The alterations made by authors in their works. These are generally improvements, but not always; and in either case the pupil should be able to explain why the change is made, and whether it is for the better or not.
3. The various readings of writers like Shakespeare are among the most valuable of these problems, for in spite of what has been said to the contrary by certain critics, boys and girls in school are competent to discuss many of them intelligently and to pass judgment upon them. Examples were given from the speaker's own experience as a teacher, taken from the Merchant of Venice, and the Tempest.
4. The blunders of critics and commentators, and also their disagreements. This was illustrated from comnients made by eminent critics on Shakespeare, Tennyson, and others.
5. Supposable alterations and criticisms are also useful as tests of the young critic's insight and judgment. In many cases, plausible changes in the poet's language may be suggested, and their merits and demerits profitably discussed. Editors and commentators also furnish a large stock of these : like Walton's proposed printing of the first line of Gray's Elegy: “ The curfew tolls ! — the knell of parting day.” The school-boy who cannot show up the stupidity of the critic here ought to be ashamed of himself.
Mr. Rolfe then went on to speak of certain special exercises that may be introduced more or less regularly to give variety and interest to the study of literature; as, for instance :
1. The selecting of examples of figurative language, illustrations of rhetorical principles, and the like. The ordinary management of such work was criticized and devices for making it more exacting and at the same time more enjoyable, were suggested.
2. Questions of a miscellaneous character, suggested by things in the lesson, may be given now and then, to be worked out at the option of the scholar, ample time being allowed for the work. Here, as under all the divisions of the paper, sundry practical illustrations were given, to which a brief notice like this can merely refer in this general way. These were, however, the most important and the most interesting portions of the paper.
Emphasis was laid upon the advantage of training the pupil to habits of comparison and tracing analogies in language and literature by means of practical questions and exercises; and this was also illustrated from the speaker's own work as a teacher.
ENGLISH IN THE SCHOOLS.
By Prof. A. S. Hill, OF HARVARD COLLEGE.
(ABSTRACT.) Into the hands of the teacher of English come pupils of the most varied degrees of culture. All have been influenced, more or less, in the art of expression as in all other respects, by an unconscious absorption from ancestors, the home-circle associates, and books. They have all been talking English, good, bad, or indifferent, and nearly all have had exercises in penmanship and spelling under various modes of instruction ; but when they are asked for the first time to write a composition, the result is usually failure.
Prof. Hill's opinion was, that the ill success of beginners in English Composition, was attributable to their inability to retain freshness and life while struggling with mechanical difficulties at every step; and he thought the methods of teaching in our schools radically defective.
He suggested the following method in place of the current one: (1) To begin as early as possible to overcome the mechanical difficulties of writing. (2) Not to frighten a pupil with a so-called composition till he can use his pen with freedom and tolerable correctness. (3) To show the importance of having something to say and of saying it in an intelligible and natural manner. Pupils should not be made to waste their time and energies upon