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willing to seek after knowledge, unless some peculiar interest in the subject of inquiry, or some striking charms in its representation, allure them to the task. Hence, so far as is consistent with the calm and simple manner of the essay, the allusions should be frequent and happy, the illustrations pertinent, and the figurative expressions profuse and pleasing..
In the literature of no country, do we find more per- . fect and numerous specimens of essay writing, than in that of England. From some favorable circumstances, this species of composition early became popular in that country. The minds of those who devoted to it theire time and talents, were well suited to the employmenty, while the state of morals, manners, and literature; afford=. ed fit and copious subjects. Hence the Spectator was well received, had a wide circulation, and became a part of the literature of the country. Numerous, and some of them able periodical publications of this class, have since been issued and well received.
BIOGRAPHY is a branch of Historical writing, being designed to place before us the characters and important events in the lives of distinguished individuals. It is a kind of writing, which, from the subjects on which it is employed, excites much interest. The reader expects to see how one has conducted in scenes the same perhaps, or similar to those, with which he himself is conversant. At least, he is to have exhibited before him the workings of the human mind, the views and feelings of one of like passions with himself. He is to learn something of the private character, and of the retired hours of one, who as an actor in the more public scenes. of life, or as an author and a scholar, has been the object of his admiration. The following practical directions may be given, to aid those who attempt compositions in this class of writings..
t. In the selection of incidents to be narrated, the writer of Biography should restrain himself to what is closely connected with the subject of his memoirs. In this way, the expectations of the intelligent reader will be met. He does not take up a biography, that he may read a collection of anecdotes, or that he may acquaint himself with the history of a particular period. He expects to learn the history and views of an individual, and to acquaint himself with the history of the times; so far. only as this individual is concerned.
The effect of neglecting the caution now given, and of introducing notices of other individuals, merely because they lived at the same time, and narrations of other events, because they happened at the same period, is to render a biography tedious and uninteresting.
2. A second direction is, to present a just statement of facts, and a fair view of character-let neither рар-. tiality, nor aversion be discovered.
Memoirs are most frequently written by the particular friends and associates of those, whose characters are described. The public are aware of this circumstance, and make allowances for the partialities of friendship But if the eulogium be excessive, and the writer indulges himself in praise and high commendation, an effect is often produced different from that designed. It is much safer to state facts, and leave the reader to make his own inferences and reflections.
We always suspeet weakness, where there is an effort to appear strong.
3. The style of Biographies should be characterized by ease and perspicuity. The story should need no ak lurements of style, to arrest and fix the attention of the. reader.
Character-painting is often regarded as a difficult species of writing, and he who attempts it, seems to gird
Kimself for some great effort, Hence productions of this kind are often unnatural and laboured. The sentences are short and abrupt. There are striking contrasts, and strong expressions. The picture is exhibited before us in bold relief, and there is more effort that it be striking, than that it be just. This kind of writing requires a skilful hand, and is rarely attempted with success. In some of the best modern biographies it is not found:
An ARGUMENTATIVE Discussion is the examination of a subject, with the design of establishing some position that has been taken, or of maintaining some opinion that has been advanced. It requires powers of research and investigation, joined with comprehensiveness and strength of intellect. When successfully executed, it is the effort of a well disciplined mind, as it takes up a subject worthy the exertion of its powers, and placing facts and principles in due order and connexion, pre-.. sents before us a full and impressive vicw.
The most important directions to be observed in this kind of writing are, 1. That the subject of discussion, be fully stated and explained. 2. That strict method be observed in the arrangement of the several parts of the discourse, and the object of the writer be kept con-. stantly in view. So much was said on these topics in the first chapter of this work, that it is unnecessary here to enlarge upon them.
The style of the discussion should be dignified and manly ; forcible, rather than elegant. Expressions, which from the figurative use of language are bold and striking, may be happily introduced ; and the productions should abound in illustrations and interesting facts.
An Oration may be defined,a popular address on some interesting and important subject. In listening to a
performance of this kind, we expect the mind to be informed, the reasoning powers to be exercised, the imagination to be excited, and the taste improved.
In compositions of this elass, much depends on the happy selection of a subject. Many err in supposing, that an oration should have declamation rather than argument, ornament rather than sense. In opposition to this, it should always be remembered, that it is a production addressed both to the understanding and the imagination. Instead then of selecting a subject, which may afford opportunity for contesting some disputed point, it should be one which requires a statement and elucidation of interesting facts and principles—a course of calm, dignified and persuasive reasoning. At the same time, it should allow of fine writing. There should be opportunity for description and pathos ; fór historical and classical allusions and illustrations, and for comprehensive and ennobling views. It should require also unity of plan. The style of orations should be elevated and elegant. The forms of expression should be manly and dignified, and at the same time characterized by force and vivacity. The ornament should be of a high kind-such as ennobles and exalts the subject. Diffuseness, as has been before remarked, is also desirable. • Selections from different authors, shewing the qualities of style mentioned in the different sections of this chapter, are found among the Exercises. (Ex. 9.)
In concluding the attempt, that has now been made, to state the principles and rules of composition in English, I would enforce the following general directions for forming a good style ;
1. Be familiar with the best models of style.
In observing this injunction, the attention should no doubt be principally directed to the best writers of the
present day. There are peculiarities of style;. whick characterize the productions of different periods, no less than of different individuals, and to be esteemed a good writer, some regard must be paid to the literary taste of the age. The enquiries may here arise, what is the character of the prevalent style of our times, and where may the best models of writing be found? With the view of more fully answering these enquiries, I shall here introduce a short account of some prominent changes inx the style of English writers. If we
go back to the time of Hooker and Barrow and Taylor, we find prevalent an energetic, rough and plain manner of writing. The few literary men of that period, were men of thought. Having but few books and those difficult of access, they relied chiefly on the resources of their own minds. Hence their conceptions; were distinct, and their expressions are marked by the freshness and strength of originality of thought. At the same time, from their familiarity with Greek and Laiin literature, and from their occasionally composing in the latter of these languages, they acquired'a harshness and stiffness of expression. Hence the style of the period
may be characterized as forcible and often elevated; but at the same time harsh and labored:
Another period in the history of English style, worthy of our particular notice, is the reign of Queen Ann. The writers of that golden age were finished' scholars -men of knowledge, wit and refinement, and we admire their skill in the use of words, their rich figurative language, and the smoothness and harmony of their periods. We are pleased also with the thoughts wbich they convey to us, and with the allusions and happy illustrations, with which these thoughts are embellished. At the same time, we discern a marked difference between