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BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
Norwood Mass. U.S.A.
ALTHOUGH no prefatory defence of a textbook can in itself have much weight when the book is constantly being taken from the teacher's desk and submitted to the searching tests of the class room, yet it is only a matter of courtesy that the author should try to state his point of view. The view taken in this book regards the aim of Composition as twofold : first, to help the student by methods both constructive and critical to master a simple, correct, and closely reasoned style ; and secondly, to exercise his imagination, his sense of beauty, and his sense of conduct. The book does what it can to help in accomplishing these ends. It can be used for a one year course or a two year course, by second, third, or fourth year pupils in a secondary school. It does not assume that the student has already approached composition systematically, although it recognizes the necessity of giving different illustrative material and a
different statement of theory from what could satisfactorily be given to the boy of thirteen or fourteen.
The book consists of two parts, the first treating composition in general, the second composition in its particular modes or species. Study of the kinds of composition is usually deferred until college ; but for securing inventiveness and enthusiastic interest, nothing succeeds in secondary work like a sympathetic presentation of narration, description, and exposition. So far as his experience of life will permit, the high school student has every right to know these subjects alive, not as mere corpora vilia illustrating the sentence, the paragraph, and the choice of words. We do not tell a young child to write a series of periodic sentences, or to analyze a theme-subject into its paragraph topics, for he cannot; we tell him to write a story, or describe a playmate, or explain a game. It therefore passes comprehension why, in so many cases, the student is allowed to spend the four most critical years of his life with practically no rhetorical instruction except what concerns the standards of good usage, diction, and structure. Such study accomplishes little more than training
in orderliness. Constructive it may be, in the sense that the student learns to build sentences and paragraphs with regard to unity and coherence, but creative it is not in any
Excessive, exclusive study of standards and structure often adds to that crude intellectualization, that separation of symbol and thought, that worship of method apart from matter, that neglect of the sense-elements, the interests, the ideals of life, which is the greatest danger of education now and always.
But criticism is ready with its answer, and there is truth in the answer. “If
make the larger interests the main concern, you will perhaps produce a better member of society than merely formal study could have produced, but you will produce an ignoramus. You forget that the technique of writing is extremely difficult, even in its elements. For students who come to it late, as students so often do come, English must be a mechanical study before it is a liberal study.
Parents expect their children to be partly cured of their bad habits of expression before being developed symmetrically.
“ Besides,” proceeds the critic, “who would underrate the importance of the study of structure from an intellectual and analytic point of view? It is no Herod of young geniuses. No student, however correct, fluent, or imaginative, should be excused from a kind of work which makes him the master rather than the slave of his fancy. Your really great artists are also great analysts, and no art-product, unless subjected in the making to that heat of analysis which burns so fiercely in a great creative mind, will long resist the pressure of heavy time.
“Of course," he goes on, “the analytic and the imaginative powers should grow together, otherwise there will come a time when fancy dies, and the mind botanizes on the grave of its child. Such a state of things is sad enough, but for the purposes of life it is better than the other extreme. Many a fluent, imaginative, but untrained writer is hopelessly shut out from the practical literary life, because he cannot condense a story, has no sense of structure, cannot grasp the meaning of unity. A year of painful class-room work would not have crushed his powers; it would have saved them."
We reply to the critic : There can be no quarrel between us; we admit all that you