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ever unconsciously, go through the same process of considering and combining the items of thought of which it is to be composed. It is hoped that, by this method, the teaching of English Composition,-hitherto the least systematic, and when professing to be systematic the least profitable, of school subjects,--may be rendered as valuable an instrument of mental training as English Grammar has of late become.
A glance at the Table of Contents will shew that this synthetic character has been maintained throughout the entire work. It requires Words to be built into Sentences; sentences into Paragraphs; and paragraphs into Themes. While this general outline has been adhered to, the usual details and applications of composition have not been omitted, but have been systematically wrought into the plan of the work. Thus the often meaningless and looso exercise of fiiling up “ elliptical sentences” has, under the head of Enlargement ($ 30), been employed as a test both of thought and of grammatical knowledge. Transposition has been applied to the change from the Direct to the Indirect form of speech, which in classical schools may, in some measure, prepare the pupils for understanding the difficulties of the “ oratio obliqua.” Punctuation is treated of in connection with each kind of sentence, separately. Figurative Language falls under the head of the “ Selection of Words" in a sentence. Paraphrasing (which is strictly defined, $ 75) also finds its proper place in the Part devoted to the Sentence; for the real object of the process is to express a given thought in original language. In like manner, Summary (Précis Writing), implying as it does both analysis and synthesis, stands intermediately between paragraphs and themes. The important place which the last-named exercise occupies in the examinations for the public services, seemed to warrant its treatment with considerable minuteness and special care.
The plans suggested for Theme writing will, it is believed, be found at once less ambitious and more practical,-more within the comprehension and the powers of school boys and girls,than those usually adopted. They are, in fact,--as a reference to $$ 88, 91, and 120, 121, will shew,-a simple carrying out in a higher form of the “ Object Lessons” of our most elementary schools, and thus tend to exercise the observing powers of the young mind long before the reflective powers are called into play. The exercises are at the same time carefully graduated, from the simplest and briefest narration of daily occurrences, and description of every-day objects, to the more abstract argumentative themes, which, in the case of advanced pupils, will form an introduction to the study of Rhetoric proper, as treated of in the works of Whately, Blair, and Campbell.
In this connection great importance is attached to “ Schememaking,” or the preparing of outlines from which themes or paragraphs are to be written. For this exercise special directions have been given at $ 114; and it is suggested that teachers should encourage the idea that this is as important an exercise as that of writing the complete theme. It is so in reality; for on the completeness and accuracy of the outline the true excellence of the after composition, as an expression of connected thought, mainly depends.
In the chapters on Versification, the author has made the experiment at once of discarding the classical names hitherto usually employed in English prosody, and, at the same time, of very much simplifying the treatment of this part of the subject. The chief reason for adopting such a change was the evident impropriety of using terms which in Latin apply to length and shortness of sound, for what in English denote strength and weakness of accent. In classical prosody, an Iambus means a short and a long syllable; in English it means a weak and a strong accent,-a difference, the neglect of which could not but lead to misconceptions as to the nature both of accent and of quantity. It may be expected, on the other hand, that a clearly marked distinction between these two principles may tend to give greater prominence, in Classical Prosody, to the rhythm of the verse, as distinct from its quantitative measure. Whether the classification here proposed ($$ 144, 157, et seq.) is adequate or satisfactory is a different question,-one which this is not the proper place to discuss.
In this part of the work, the further experiment has been made of giving practical exercises in English prosody. Some of these exercises are not new. Others, however, such as Exercises 61, 62, are, so far as the author is aware, now suggested for the first time; and he will be glad to find that his own experience of their utility in training the ear and improving the taste of more advanced pupils, is confirmed by that of teachers who may adopt the system.
Exercises, it will be seen, form the greater part of the work, only such explanations being given as are necessary to make the exercises intelligible, and the method of their arrangement clear. This plan has been adopted in preference to that of a discursive treatise (such as Dr Irving's admirable work), because in schools Composition must be taught by constant practice rather than by theoretical exposition. The Exercises themselves are the gradual accumulation of the last five or six years, and most of them have already been subjected to the test of practical use. A few of the sentences in the earlier exercises have been taken from such text-books as those of Parker and Morell, but generally for a different purpose from theirs. The Exercises on the Synthesis of sentences have been specially prepared from the works of writers of acknowledged excellence.
The author has only further to express his obligations to several friends,-in particular to the Rev. Canon Robinson of York,—who have favoured him with valuable suggestions while the work was passing through the press.
W. S. D. March 1863.