Page images

scarcity of the Egyptian papyrus that the important art of making skins into parchment was discovered. Q. Where and about what time did this happen?

A. In Pergamus, a city of Asia Minor; but at what time is rather uncertain.

Q. How long did parchment and papyrus continue principally in use?

A. Down about the beginning of the fourteenth century, when the superior substance of paper was invented.

Q. In what manner did some of the ancients write their characters in forming words?

A. The Assyrians, the Phænicians, and the He. brews, wrote from right to left, as did also the Greeks for some time.

Q. Did the Greeks abandon this plan all at once?

A. No; for, in making a change, they first adopted the plan of writing from right to left, and from left to right, alternately; and, at length, the more convenient mode, which at present prevails, of writing solely from left to right.

Q. What name was given to this mode of writing from right to left, and from left to right, alternately?

A. It was called boustrophedon, because it resembled the turning of oxen at the end of the ridges in the op. eration of ploughing.

Q. Were books always as abundant as they are at present?

A. Far from it; for, at no very remote period, they were so scarce as to be in the hands of only the wealthy and the noble; and a very few volumes would then have brought a price equal to the purchase of a good estate.

Q: To what was the scarcity of books in ancient times to be ascribed?

A. To the great labor and expense of copying or transcribing them, which rendered every copy almost as costly as the first.

Q. What was the consequence of this scarcity ?

[ocr errors]

A. A great deficiency of learning among all except the wealthier classes of society, as no others possessed the means of purchasing books.

Q. To what is the great abundance of books now owing?

Ă. To the invention of printing, which happened early in the fifteenth century.

Q. Where and by whom did this take place?

A. The cities of Strasburg, Haarlem, and Mentz, have all preferred their claim to this distinguished honor; and Coster, Faustus, Schoeffer, and Guttemberg, have all been named as the inventors.

Q. What is the cause of such uncertainty?

X. It probably is, that the inventor in this case, as in many others, has been frequently confounded with the improver.

What benefits has the invention of printing produced ? A. It has multiplied books, cheapened knowledge, and given an entirely new aspeet to society:


OF COMPOSITION. Q. What do you understand by the term composition as applied to language ?

A. The clear, accurate, and forcible expression of our thoughts and opinions in writing.

Q. Is the term ever employed in any other sense

A. It is frequently used in reference to music, painting, and architecture, or to any material mixture, as well as to writing:

Q. What is the origin and strict meaning of the word

A. It is formed from the two Latin words con, together, and positio, a placing, and literally means a placing together.

Q. How comes it from this definition to possess its present signification ?

A. Because in composition we place words together for the purpose of expressing our thoughts and ideas.

Q. Is composition an important acquirement ?

A. Perhaps the most so of any, as upon it mainly depend the spread of knowledge and the enlightening of the world.

Q. Has it any other advantages ?

A. It is a source of very refined pleasure and of much mental improvement, to those who practise it.

Q. What are the requisites for attaining accuracy in composi tion?

A. A thorough knowledge of grammar, and of the signification of woods—a careful study of the struct. ure of our language in the perusal of the best authors -and a habit of comparing our own mode of expressing thought with that which is usually employed by good writers and speakers.

Q. What effect has close attention to one's manner of speaking and writing upon his own mind ?

A. It tends to produce close and accurate thinking, for thought and speech mutually assist each other.

Q. What are the requisites for attaining great eminence in composition ?

À. Next to study, already mentioned, the greatest requisites are, genius and taste.

Q. What are the requisites for attaining facility in composition ? A. Considerable practice in original composition.



Q. What do you mean by genius?

X. Some considerable degree of mental power or superiority, or a person possessing these.

Q. Can you recollect any other signification that it has ?

A. It is frequently used to denote a particular bias or bent of the mind toward any pursuit, art, or science; as when we say, such a one has a genius for music, for painting, for mathematics, &c.

Q. But what is the strict import of the term ?

A. When properly applied, it denotes that particular faculty of the mind, by which a man is enabled to invent, or discover, or at least produce, something new.

Q. Can you mention any whom you would consider men of genius, in this sense of the term ?

A. Archimedes, Newton, Franklin, and Watt, were men of this class, because they were distinguished both for their inventions and discoveries.

Q. When is it that an author may be considered a man of genius?

4. When he gives birth to new trains or combinations of thought, or produces some original piece of composition.

Q. What do you mean by original composition?

Ă. Composition which combines the distinguished quality of great excellence, with its not being an imitation of any previous production.

Q. Are these qualities very common?

A. Far from it; as it is only once or so in an ag that they make their appearance.

Q. Can you mention any authors whose writings entitle them to be called men of genius?

A. Homer and Virgil in ancient, and Shakspeare, Milton, Bacon, Bunyan, and Johnson, in modern iimes.


OF TASTE. Q. What do you mean by taste?

A. That faculty by which we are enabled to per ceive and relish the beauties of composition. In a more general sense, it is a name for that faculty, or for those faculties, which fit us for receiving pleasure from what is beautiful, elegant, or excellent, in the works of Nature and art. He who derives no pleasure from such elegance, excellence, or beauty, is said to be a man of no taste; he who is gratified with that which is faulty in works of art, is a man of bad taste ; and he who is pleased or displeased, according to the degree of excellence or faultiness, is a man of good taste. Q. What faculties or talents does good taste imply?

A. (1.) A lively imaginationby which a man is qualified for readily apprehending the meaning of an author or artist, tracing out the connection of his thoughts, and forming the same views of things which he has formed. Yet the man who is unacquainted with Nature can never be a man of taste, because he can not know whether the production of art resemble

This power


Nature or not; and if he know not this, he can receive from the imitative arts no real satisfaction.

(2.) Another quality necessary to good taste, is a clear and distinct apprehension of things.

(3.) To this must be added a quick perception of, or a capacity of being easily and pleasurably affected with, those objects that gratify the secondary senses, particularly sublimity, beauty, harmony, and imitation. The term secondary senses, by some called internal senses, and by others emotions, have thus heen described by Dr. Beattie, to whom chiefly we are indebted for this article. We perceive colors and figures by the eye ; we also perceive that some colors and figures are beautiful, and others not. of perceiving beauty, which the brutes have not, though they see as well as we, I call à secondary

We perceive sounds by the ear; we also perceive that certain combinations of sound have harmony, and that others are dissonant. This power of perceiving harmony, called in common language a musical ear, is another secondary sense, which the brutes have not, and of which many men who hear well enough are utterly destitute. Of these secondary senses there are many in the human constitution, among others those of novelty, sublimity, beauty, imitation, harmony, and ridicule, which, together with sympathy, form what is called good taste. The pleasures received from the secondary senses are, by Addison and Akenside, called pleasures of imagination.

The only way of improving the secondary senses is by studying Nature and the best performances in art; by cultivating habits of virtue; and by keeping at a distance from every thing gross and indelicate, in books and conversation, in manners and in language.

(4.) The next thing necessary to good taste is sympathy, by which, supposing ourselves in the condition of other men, we readily adopt their sentiments and feelings, and make them, as it were, our own; and so receive from them some degree of that pain or pleasare which they would bring along with them if they

« PreviousContinue »