Page images

tion, narration, argument, &c., are treated, and the peculiarities of each pointed out, as well as the styles which they respectively require. The varieties of prose composition follow; and, with carefully selected models before him, the student is required to prepare original compositions on the same plan,-such previous instruction having been given, and such aids being presented, that the process of composing, no longer a dull, routine, performance, becomes a highly intelligent and improving mental discipline. Thus made acquainted successively with Letters, Narratives, Fiction, Essays, Argumentative Discourses, and Orations, and furnished with subjects in each department and suggestions as to their proper treatment, the student is next led to the consideration of Poetry, its feet, measures, rhymes, pauses, and different varieties.

The subject last referred to is not treated with the view of making poets. A claim to this high title must be founded on something more than a mere ability to versify or rhyme correctly. But, while it is admitted that no rules can make a poet of one whom nature has not constituted such, it is sincerely believed that a knowledge of the principles here set forth will have a tendency to produce more correct and better poetry, as it certainly will enable the reader to have a higher appreciation of its merits. Not every one who goes through a course of syntax can write good prose; yet this does not alter the fact that a thorough acquaintance with syntax is essential to the good prose writer.

If it be asked, what constitute the distinguishing features and advantages of the volume here presented to the public, the author would reply: In the first place, clearness and simplicity. Though the work was prepared for pupils of an advanced grade, and has been written in a style adapted to their comprehension, yet it was deemed of primary importance to set forth every point perspicuously and intelligibly. Secondly, it embraces in small compass a variety of important subjects, which have a common connection, and mutually illustrate each other; but which the pupil has heretofore been obliged to leave unlearned, or to search for among a number of different volumes. In the third place, it is eminently practical. Exercises have been introduced throughout the work, wherever admissible, which will ensure that what has been learned is properly understood, and impressed on the mind.

It remains for the author to acknowledge his obligation to the various sources, from which he has received assistance in the prepa

ration of the present work. His object throughout having been tc produce a useful book, he did not feel at liberty to reject aught that could be turned to practical use. He has, therefore, as far as was consistent with his own plan, carefully gleaned whatever he has found of value in the works of those who have preceded him. Particular reference is here made to the text-books which for years have been regarded as standards on the subjects of which they respectively treat; to Blair's Lectures, Burke on the Sublime and Beautiful, Alison's Essay on Taste, and other books of a similar stamp, from which ideas, and occasionally language, have been freely drawn. Nor have more modern English publications been overlooked. In a word, it is believed that, while originality of plan and execution have been strictly maintained, whatever may have been elsewhere contributed to the elucidation of the subject, will not be wanting here: at the same time it has been the author's aim, in drawing from others, to improve upon their language, to adapt their style to the comprehension of all, and to avoid the errors of fact, grammar, or rhetoric, into which they may have fallen.

The author is aware that an objection to the use of a text-book on Composition exists in the minds of some, who prefer that their pupils should prepare written exercises from given subjects without aid or instruction of any kind. Of such he would respectfully ask a careful consideration of the question whether something may not be gained by pursuing a regular, consistent, plan. As, in the various departments of industry, much more can be accomplished, in a limited time and with a given amount of labor, by those who work according to a definite enlightened system, than by men of equal energy, who, with an end alone in view, without regard to a choice of means, go blindly to their task, directed by no higher principle than chance; so, it is claimed, an equal advantage is gained by those students of composition who pursue a well-digested plan, matured by experience, and elaborated by careful thought. Those who have tried both courses must decide whether this position is not as consonant with fact, as it certainly is with reason.

Repeating his thanks for the patronage extended to the little volume which preceded this, the author can only express the hope that the work now sent forth may meet with an equally kind reception.

NEW YORK, Sept. 11, 1854.

« PreviousContinue »