Page images

ment relished most, however, by those whose literary taste is not much improved. It was in high repute during the reigns of Elizabeth and James I., as would appear from the frequency of this play upon words in the writings not only of Shakspeare, but of grave and learned divines.

Lord Kames has distinguished it into several classes:

(1.) Where there is a seeming resemblance from the double meaning of a word.

“Beneath this stone my wife doth lie.

She's now at rest, and so am I.”. (2.) A seeming contrast from the same cause, termed a verbal antithesis.

“When Nelson fought his battle in the Sound, it was the result alone that decided whether he was to kiss a hand at court, or a rod at a court-martial.

(3.) Other seeming connections from the same


“ To whom the knight with comely grace

Put off his hat, to put his case.'
“Here thou, great Anna ! whom three realms obey,

Dost sometimes counsel take, and sometimes tea. “This general (Prince Eugene) is a great taker of snuff as well as of towns.(4.) A seeming opposition from the same cause.

“Cold is that breast which warm'd the world before." Playing with words is not ludicrous when the subject is really grave, and should not be employed in such a case at all.

A parody enlivens a gay subject by imitating some important incident that is serious. It is ludicrous, but ridicule is not a necessary ingredient, though sometimes employed in it.

II. In regard to the other branch of wit-wit in the thought-it consists, first, of ludicrous images : secondly, of ludicrous combinations and oppositions. Of the latter,

(1.) Fanciful causes are assigned that have no natural relation to the effects produced.

“ The trenchant blade, Toledo trusty,

For want of fighting was grown rusty,

And ate into itself, for lack

Of somebody to hew and hack.” To account for effects by tracing them to a fanciful cause, is highly improper in any serious composition.

(2.) Ludicrous junction of small things with great, as of equal importance.

“ Then flash'd the living lightning from her eyes,
And screams of horror rend the affrighted skies.
Not louder shrieks to pitying heaven are cast,

When husbands, or when lap-dogs breathe their last." (3.) Premises that promise much and perform nothing

"With money enough in his purse, such a man would win any woman in the world, if he could get her good-will."


RATIVE LANGUAGE. Blair's Critical Lectures on Addison should here be read to the class; and when compositions are criticised before, or by, the class, the errors and the beauties in the use of figurative language should be pointed out. (See Part VIII., Chap. iii.)

The teacher should also direct the attention of his pupils to the figures which occur in their ordinary reading lessons, and elicit re marks upon them.

CHAPTER XL. OF THE MORE GENERAL RULES FOR COMPOSITION. Q. On what, from all that has been said, do you consider accurate composition to depend?

A. On the selection and arrangement of words proper for expressing the thoughts which we intend to communicate. Q. On what, again, do these depend?

A. On a knowledge of grammar in all its branches, and an intimate acquaintance with the meaning of words.

Q. What renders these so essential?

A. The circumstance that, without the one, we can not select, nor, without the other, arrange with propriety.

Q. And how are these to be obtained ?

A. Only by reading and study, combined with constant attention to the mode in which we express our thoughts, as compared with that of good writers and speakers. Q. What is farther requisite?

A. An intimate knowledge of the subject on which we desire either to speak or write.

Q. How comes this to be so necessary?

A. Because no man, whatever be his knowledge of language, can either speak or write well on a subject of which he is totally ignorant. Q. How is this knowledge to be obtained ?

A. To all knowledge there is but one path, and that is, constant study and attentive observation. Q. Is any thing farther necessary?

Ă. Yes; for, in addition to the requisite knowledge, we must have great practice before we can compose well.

Q. What proof have you of this?

A. Men, possessing extensive information, can often speak well upon a variety of subjects, but yet, from want of practice, can write well upon none.

Q. On what subjects should a person write in order to gain this practice ?

A. Such subjects as he perfectly understands; beginning with the more simple, and proceeding gradually to those of greater difficulty, according to the extent of his information.

Q. What will be the consequence of a person writing upon what he does not properly understand?

A. He will write in a stiff, affected, and unnatural style, such as no person will either hear or read with any pleasure.

Q. What are requisite for attaining eminence in composition?

Ă. Genius and taste; the former to prompt, the latter to correct and polish. Q. How is ease in composition best attained ?

A. By writing fearlessly and boldly; but, at the same time, guarding against every thing like extravagance either of sentiment or manner.



Q. What are the principal divisions belonging to literary Composition ?

A. They are those of prose and poetry.
Q. What do you understand by prose composition

Ă. The common and ordinary manner of expressing our thoughts, whether in speaking or writing.

Q. What do you understand by poetry?

A. Lively and striking combinations of thought, expressed in language arranged, for the sake of harmony, according to certain rules.

2. In how many things, then, does poetry differ from prose ?

A. In two : partly in the nature of the thoughts themselves, and partly in the selection and arrangement of the words.

Q. What sort of poetry may then be considered the best?

A. That which, without violating nature, differs most widely from common prose. Q. Which kind of composition is supposed the most ancient ?

A. Poetry; for though, in refined society, few express their thoughts in verse, compared to the numbers that do so in prose, yet history informs us that the most ancient species of composition, among all rude nations, is poetry.

Q. To what is this to be ascribed ?

A. To the circumstance, that the imagination, on which poetry chiefly depends, comes earlier to maturity than reason and judgment, the main sources of prose.

For what purpose was the earliest poetry used ? A. Either for the promulgation of laws, the celebration of great martial achievements, or for the purpose of being set to music and sung.

Q. Under what heads may prose composition be included ?

Ă. Under those of Letters, Dialogue, History, Essays, Philosophy, Orations, and Novels. Q. What are the divisions of poetry as regards its structure ? A. They are those of Rhyme and Blank Verse.

Q. What are the divisions as founded upon the subjects of which it treats?

A. They are Pastoral, Descriptive, Didactic, Lyric, Epic, and Dramatic Poetry.


Q. What is Letter-writing commonly called ?
A. Epistolary correspondence.
Q. Is this an important branch of composition ?

A. Perhaps the most so of any; as all persons who can write at all, require occasionally to write letters of business, of friendship, or of amusement.

Q. Is this species of composition confined to any particular subjects? A. No;

for a person may, in form of letters, discuss subjects of all sorts. Q. But upon what occasions are letters

chiefly composed ? A. Chiefly upon the common affairs or business of life.

Q. What should be the character of epistolary writing ?

A. It should possess the greatest ease and simplıcity, and approach more than any other species of composition to the nature of conversation.

In the “ Young Ladies' Own Book” is found an excellent article on Letter-writing, from some female pen, to which we are indebted for the principal portion of what follows. It deserves not only careful study, but diligent effort to reduce it to practice.

A correspondence between two persons is simply a conpersation reduced to writing ; in which one party says all which she has to communicate, replies to preceding inquiries, and in her turn proposes questions, without interruption by the other ; who takes precisely the same course iu her answer. 1. We should write to an absent person as we would speak to the same party if present.

2. Ambiguity, in epistolary correspondence, is a fault which ought most scrupulously to be avoided ; à word placed in an improper part of a sentence--a phrase that has a double signification-a phrase so blotted or ill-written as to be unintelligible--a careless mode of sealing, by which a portion

« PreviousContinue »