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in this part of their rhetorical course with interest. They get new views of the nature of style, are led to notice their susceptibilities of emotions, of which before they have been unmindful. They also become conscious of their own powers of imagination, and learn something of the nature and offices of this faculty; and with these views and this consciousness, they find that a new source of pleasure is opened to them. Thus they both derive important aid in becoining writers themselves, and are prepared to read with increased interest the writings of others.
Before concluding my remarks on this head, let me say, that what is here recommended, is perfectly practicable. It is an employment, which any student with common powers of mind may pursue; and it requires, on the part of the instructor, only that degree of literary taste, which every one professing to teach rhetoric should possess.
The third object proposed to be obtained by the study of rhetoric, is skill in the use of language. Here I refer both to the choice of words, so far as purity and propriety are concerned, and to the construction of sentences.
Instruction in this part of rhetoric should be conducted with referenre to two points, - to acquaint the student with the nature and principles of verbal criticism, and further to lead him to beware of those faults in construction, to which he is most liable.
The former of these appertains to the philosophy of rhetoric, and is included under my first head: but I here offer an additional remark. It was stated, when speaking of giving instruction on the philosophy of rhetoric, that difficulties attend this part of the course. These difficulties exist but in a slight degree, when exhibiting what is connected with the philosophy of language. Here is such abundant opportunity for illustration, and examples are so easily adduced, that every principle may without difficulty be made perfectly intelligible. Neither is this part of the study uninteresting to students.
Curiosity is fully awake to whatever pertains to the nature of language, and to the rules that govern its use.
And here I may be permitted to mention a work, which, in what pertains to this part of rhetoric, I regard as of the highest authority. I refer to Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric, - the ingenious, elaborate production of the Quinctilian of English literature.
To lead the student to beware of those faults in construction which are of most common occurrence, - the other object in view in this part of the course, must evidently be effected by adducing examples of these faults. From the nature of the case, the endless forms of correct construction cannot be stated. On the obvious principle, then, that where one has erred, another will be liable to leave the right way, we direct the attention to these wanderings, and connect with such instances the cautions they naturally suggest. The object here in view may be accomplished for the most part by the text-book. All that is incumbent on the instructor, is, to lead the pupil fully to see what in every example adduced the failure is, and how it is to be remedied. This part of a text-book does not require to be dwelt upon in the recitation-room. It is rather a part to be referred to by the student, when, hesitating as to the construction of sentences, he needs guidance and assistance.
I mention in the fourth place, as an object to be obtained by the study of rhetoric, skill in literary criticism.
Under this head, I include whatever pertains more particularly to style, its nature and diversities, as seen in the writings of different individuals, and in different classes of literary productions. Our inquiry is, What can be done by the instructor most efficiently, to aid the pupil in acquiring skill in literary criticism, as thus explained?
Style has been happily defined by Buffon as the man himself.' If I wish to become acquainted with any
individual, I seek an introduction to him; I endeavor to learn from personal observation the peculiar traits in his character. I may, indeed, from the description of a third person receive some general and perhaps just impression respecting this individual; but all this, though it might prepare the way for my better understanding his peculiarities when in his presence, would alone make me but imperfectly acquainted with him.
The same holds true, if I wish to become acquainted with the peculiarities of those of different nations.
You might describe to me the national traits of the French and of the Spanish; but a visit to those countries, and familiarity with their inhabitants, would be of far more avail in learning their national traits of character.
This illustration suggests the best practical method of
giving instruction in what relates to literary criticism. A text-book or an instructor may describe, with accuracy and fulness, the peculiarities of style, as they are seen in the writings of different individuals, or found in different classes of literary productions. But this is not enough. That the student may clearly discern these characteristic traits, and understand their nature, and the causes on which they depend, his attention must be directed to these writings. He must in some good degree become familiar with them, and thus learn wherein they differ, and what there is in each to approve or condemn.
It may be thought, that to bring to the view of the student in this manner the peculiarities of different styles, may require too much time and labor. But with the aid of the text-book, much of the work may be performed by the student himself. What is most necessary on the part of the instructor is, to direct the attention to specimens of different styles, and in some few instances to point out characteristic traits. The student, with this aid, will soon acquire sufficient knowledge and skill to apply the remarks found in the text-book himself.
This leads me to remark generally on the importance of reading good authors in connexion with rhetorical studies. This part of education is, I fear, in most of our schools and colleges, too much neglected. From his inability to judge of the merits of writers, the student needs guidance in selecting those which may be most useful to him, and this guidance the instructor should feel it is incumbent on him to supply. To read over occasionally with the pupil some choice specimens of style, may also be of essential advantage. To learn how to read, is no easy acquisition. Of course, I refer, not to the pronunciation of the words, or the infections of the voice, but to the quick and true apprehension of the meaning, and a susceptibility to the beauties of style.
In this connexion, too, the student may be taught the true nature of literary criticism. It looks not for faults. It cherishes not a censorious, captious spirit. Its eye is directed after what is excellent and praiseworthy — after what may inform the mind, give grateful exercise to the imagination and refinement to the taste. And when it discerns excellences of a high order, as if dazzled with what is bright
and imposing, it sees not minute and unimportant defects. It is indeed nearly allied to that charity which is kind, and which, where she discovers what is truly worthy of her regard, throws her mantle of forgiveness over a multitude of sins.
I proceed now to notice the last mentioned advantage proposed to be obtained by the study of rhetoric. I refer to the formation of style.
This part of a rhetorical course of instruction is not particularly connected with the use of a text-book, further than that it furnishes opportunities for the application of principles and rules, which are there found. The aid furnished by an instructor, is principally in the correction of attempts in composition, with such general guidance and advice, as the intellectual habits and peculiarities of the individual may require. I offer, therefore, on this head, merely a few practical suggestions.
1. It is highly important, that the attention of the student, in his first attempts, should be directed to the management of his subject. I would require of him to exhibit a plan, or skeleton, stating the precise object he has in view, the divisions he proposes to make with reference to this point, and the manner in which he designs to enlarge on each head. In this way, he will not only be aided in forming habits of methodically arranging his thoughts, but will be led to adopt the easiest and most direct method of proceeding, in writing on any subject.
2. I have ever found, that, so far as the construction of sentences is concerned, and here I refer both to the division of a paragraph into sentences and to the phrases and forms of expression, - I remark, that, in relation to this part of the work of composition, I have ever found, that students derive important aid from translating select passages from the writings of good authors in other languages. Every one knows, that in this way a command of languages is acquired. And I would extend the meaning of the phrase, so as to include, not only that copia verborum, and that power of nice discrimination in the use of words, which are generally un derstood to be implied by it, but also the right arrangement of words, and the correct construction of sentences. Other things being equal, he who, during the first six months in which the attention is directed to composition, should devote half of his efforts to the writing of translations
would, I doubt not, be in advance of him, 'all whose exertions had been employed in the work of composition.
3. I would further recommend a familiar mode of correcting the first attempts of the student. If practicable, the instructor may with advantage read over with the pupil his productions, and alone with him freely comment upon its defects and excellences. While in this
needed encouragement is given, the attention of the student is directed to that point where there is most need of improvement. Besides, it not unfrequently happens, that the efforts of the student have taken some wrong direction. He has some erroneous impressions as to the nature of style, or as to the manner in which a good style may be formed. It may
be that he is laboring too much on the choice and arrangement of his words, or the construction of his sentences; or, assigning undue importance to the ornaments of style, he may be seeking principally after what is figurative, and the elegances of expression; or, again, with false notions of what is original and forcible, he may be striving after what is sententious and striking. Sometimes, too, there exists a fastidiousness of taste, which is detrimental. The student is kept from doing any thing, because he is unable to do better than he can do. In other instances, there is an injurious propensity to imitation. The stndent has fixed upon some writer as his model, and, servilely copying his master, his own native powers are neglected. Now, in all these instances, the advice of the instructor may be of essential benefit.
One general remark is all that I have to offer further on this head. It should ever be impressed on the student, that, in forming a style, he is to acquire a manner of writing, to some extent, peculiarly his own, and which is to be the index of his modes of thinking - the development of his intellectual traits and feelings. It is the office of the instructor to facilitate the accomplishment of this important end, both by wisely directing the efforts of his pupil, and by removing every obstacle in his way.