Page images
PDF
EPUB

talking lectures. A text-book, if one is used, should contain but a mere outline, — some general principles plainly stated and well illustrated.

Here I would more fully state, what I mean by familiar, talking lectures. Suppose I wish to make the student un derstand what I mean by taste, and in so doing, I have occasion to speak of the judgment, sensibility, imagination, emotions of beauty and sublimity. Now, should I attempt to effect my purpose by a definition, or an extended technical explanation of these terms, there would be little reason to hope for success. I would rather refer him directly to the operations of his own mind, point out to him instances where he forms a judgment, where his sensibility is excited. his imagination called into exercise, and emotions of beauty and sublimity kindled up in his own soul. It is true he may not, after this, be able to give me an exact definition of these facu and intellectual operations, but he has learned what is meant by the proposed terms; and when I have occasion to use them afterwards, I have no fears of not being understood.

That instruction in this part of rhetoric is attended with difficulty, no one will deny. The subjects themselves are intricate; hard to be understood, and still harder to explain, especially to those whose minds are immature and unaccus. tomed to philosophical reasonings. Here, then, is room for much ingenuity in the instructor; and without a skilful effort on his part, the efforts of the pupil will be of little avail. Above all things, let not the mockery of set questions and set answers be practised, in teaching what pertains to the philosophy of rhetoric.

After all, it must be allowed, that with the most skilful instruction, and the best text-book, young students will obtain but imperfect ideas in what pertains to the philosophy of rhetoric. Still, what is thus imperfectly acquired, will be of importance to them as opening some interesting fields of thought, which, with strengthened powers, they may afterwards explore; and further, as aiding them in better understanding the nature of the rules and directions founded on these important and somewhat intricate principles.

I have stated as a second object to be attained by the study of rhetoric, the cultivation of a literary taste, and, in connexion, the exercise of the imagination.

The cultivation of a literary taste must evidently depend principally on a familiarity with those productions, which are esteemed models of excellence in literature. In this respect, there is a close analogy to the cultivation of taste in painting, or in any of the fine arts. We may also learn something on this subject, from the course pursued by painters in the improvement of their taste. They visit the most celebrated galleries, and seek for models of excellence in their art; and these they make the object of close, long-continued and patient study. They inquire what there is to excite admiration in these paintings, and dwell on their different prominent beauties, and in this way cultivate and improve their tastes. Now it is in the same way that a literary taste is to be cultivated. And that the student may skilfully use his models of excellence in literature, and unite with his observation of them the application of those principles on which they depend, he needs the assistance of an instructor.

In stating the details of the course here recommended, 1 remark, that, by the aid of a text-book prepared with reference to the proposed method of instruction, the student may have brought to his view examples of those instances, where there is most frequent occasion for the exercise of literary taste. I here refer to what are termed the ornaments of style. In connexion with these examples, the nature of whatever in literary productions comes under the cognizance of literary taste, may be explained. The different ornaments of style may be pointed out to his notice, and he may be led fully to see why attempts of this kind are in some instances successful, and in other instances fail.

When the examples thus cited, and the comments upon them, have become familiar to the student, let his attention next be directed to finding examples in English writers, which may exhibit similar ornaments of style, and in the examination of which, there is opportunity for the application of the same principles. Here it is that important aid may be rendered by the instructor, since, in conducting hese inquiries and forming his decisions, the student needs both guidance and confirmation.

To make myself fully understood, I will here illustrate my remarks. Suppose that a student finds in his text-book the following comparison from the writings of Locke: • The minds of the aged are like the tombs to which they are approaching; where, though the brass and the marble remain, yet the inscriptions are effaced by time, and the im. agery has mouldered away.'

This comparison, he is told, is naturally suggested ; and in connexion with the example, the meaning of this phrase is fully explained to him. And not only is he made to see what is meant by a comparison's being naturally suggested, but to feel, that in the absence of this trait, the pleasure to be derived from it, as exciting an emotion of taste, would be impaired. Let the student now be directed to bring forward from any author, instances of comparison, which are in the same manner naturally suggested ; and in this way let him become familiar with the principle stated, and with its application. In the same manner, by directing the attention in succession to the different traits in the various ornaments of style, and illustrating, in connexion with examples, the various principles on which these attempts to excite emotions of taste are founded, the pupil is led to a full acquaintance with this part of rhetoric. He is enabled at once, when reading the productions of any author, to perceive the beauties of style, and to classify and arrange them—in other words, he acquires a good literary taste.

But there is another point connected with this part of my subject, to which I will for a moment direct I refer to the exercise thus given to the imagination. In our courses of study, we have discipline for the memory, for the reasoning powers in their various forms, and for the invention. But no regard is paid to the exercise and improvement of the imagination. And this, not because this faculty of the mind is useless, or because it admits not of being strengthened and improved by exercise. The impression is, that there is no method which can be adopted for the attainment of this end. Now I would ask, if, by the course here recommended, the imagination will not be called into exercise, and strengthened? These attempts to excite emotions of taste are addressed to the imagination ; they are understood by the imagination, and it is a just inference, that the plan of study I have now recommended, will furnish a salutary discipline to the imagination.

Of the favorable tendency of the method of instruction, I can from my own experience as an instructor, speak with some confidence. I have ever found, that my pupils engage

your attention. 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 powe ers 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 becoming 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 reference 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

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.

its use.

To lead the student to beware of those faults in construcs tion 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

« PreviousContinue »