« PreviousContinue »
characters of mankind with wonderful sagacity, whilst he concealed his own purposes under the impenetrable shield of dissimulation. He reconciled the most atro, cious crimes to the most rigid notions of religious obligations. From the severest exercises of devotion he relaxed into the most ludicrous and idle buffoonery. He preserved the dignity and distance of his character in the midst of the coarsest familiarity. He was cruel and tyrannical from policy, just and temperate from inclination; perplexed and despicable in his discourse, clear and consummate in his designs; ridiculous in his reveries, respectable in his conduct: in a word, the strangest compound of villany and virtue, baseness and magnanimity, absurdity and good sense, that we find upon record in the annals of mankind.'
Here, again, the words in italics show the rain features of the character. It is to be observed, that the historian first notes the general disposition, and then proceeds to support his opinion by enumerating particulars. The first-mentioned qualities seem to form the basis of the character, and the latter part of the passage shows the result of those qualities, the whole concluding with a general view of the subject.
The following description of a town in France is extracted from Mr. M'Culloch's "Geographical Dictionary.' It consists merely of an enumeration of particulars.
• Château Thierry is a town in France, in the department of Aisne, situated on the Marne, twenty-five miles south of Soissons, and having a population
of 4,761. It is built on the declivity of a hill, the summit of which is surmounted by its ancient castle, a vast mass of thick walls, towers, and turrets. It has a considerable suburb on the left bank of the Marne, the communication between them being kept up by a handsome stone bridge of three arches. It has a court of primary jurisdiction, a communal college, an establishment for the spinning of cotton, and tanneries. The famous poet, La Fontaine, not less original by his character and conduct than by his talent and genius, was born here on the 8th July, 1661. The house which he inhabited is still preserved; and a marble statue was erected to his memory on the end of the bridge in 1824. Château Thierry suffered considerably during the campaign of 1814.'
The last example is the description of a piece of mechanism, which is given on the same principle as above, viz., enumeration; the parts, actions, &c., of the subject, being stated in their proper order.
• The automaton coach and horses constructed for Louis XIV., when a child, and described by M. Camus, is exceedingly curious. This consisted of a small coach, drawn by two horses, in which was the figure of a lady with a footman and page behind. On being placed at the extremity of a table of determinate size, the coachman smacked his whip, and the horses immediately set out, moving their legs in a very natural
When the carriage reached the edge of the table, it turned at a right angle, and proceeded along that edge. When it arrived opposite to the place
where the king was seated, it stopped, and the page getting down, opened a door, upon which the lady alighted, having in her hand a petition, which she presented with a curtsy. After waiting some time, she again curtsied, and re-entered the carriage; the page then resumed his place, the coachman whipped his horses, which began to move; the footman running after, jumped up behind, and the carriage drove on.'
The following subjects are intended as exercises in descriptive writing :
An evening party. Materials : -1. The society. 2. Topics of conversation; scientific, literary, &c. 3. Discussion of the passing news. 4. Music; singing, playing. 5. Hour of departure, weather on the return home, &c.
A bathing-place. Materials :- 1. The situation. 2. Distance from the capital. 3. The size. 4. The population and their pursuits. 5. The visitors, where from, and their numbers. 6. The general amusements. 7. The walks in the vicinity. 8. The public buildings, churches, institutions. 9. The season when most frequented, &c.
A newspaper. Materials :-1. The name and reputation. 2. Its circulation, 3. Advertisements.
4. General arrange
ment. 5. Politics; talent displayed in its leading articles. 6. Foreign news, correspondents. 7. Literary criticism. 8. Parliamentary reports.
9. Legal intelligence. 10. Its general influence, &c.
A ship. Materials :--1. The name. 2. The dimensions. 3. The tonnage.
4. For what service. 5. Power of sailing. 6. Propelled by sails or steam. 7. Constructed of what material, number of masts, &c. 8. Accommodation for passengers. 9. Character of the captain. 10. The crew, their disposition and efficiency, &c.
A journey. Materials :-1. In England, or on the continent. 2. Railway, steamboat, carriage, &c. 3. The towns. 4. Characteristics of the people. 5. The language or dialect. 6. The scenery or general appearance of the country. 7. The incidents of the journey. 8. The number of the party travelling together. 9. The hotel accommodation. 10. The object of the journey. 11. The time it occupied. 12. The return home, &c.
A country walk. Materials :-1. The weather and time of the year. 2. Number of companions. 3. Meadows, green lanes, high roads, &c. 4. Prospects. 5. Gentlemen's seats, farm-houses, woods, rivers, &c. 6. Incidents : storm, rain, people met, &c.
The following are proposed as useful subjects for description :
1. A sea-port town. 2. A telescope. 3. A piano-forte. 4. A school-room. 5. A writing-desk. 6. A river. 7. A cathedral. 8. A manufactory. 9. A bridge. 10. A palace. 11. A mine. 12. A mountain. 13. A man-of-war 14. A monastery. 15. A prison. 16. A fortress. 17. An hospital.
18. A fleet.
A narrative is a species of description. Here the composition consists of the relation of events and circumstances, with an account of the characters engaged in them. In this form of writing, particular care should be taken of the arrangement. Facts should be related in the order of time in which they occurred, and should not be mixed up with each other. A narrative should be a plain and simple statement; such words should be chosen as will best suit the case, and no attempt should be made at introducing far-fetched terms or high-flown language.