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our attention exclusively to the first class—those who write from a genuine wish for the diffusion of knowledge, and are endeavouring to add to the general stock,—that which they have themselves acquired. To them we would say, your object is good and worthy, but it is one that requires care, as there are many dangers to which the writers of the present day are peculiarly exposed.
It has been often said, that the literature of any country or period will show the prevailing feelings of the people at that period ; and this will be the more so at the present day, because there are plenty of book-makers who will gladly avail themselves of any subject which, for the time, happens to be engrossing the public mind; even down to tableturning and spirit-rapping. They will think it a good speculation, and will write a book upon it. But the fault in all this is, that they follow, and thereby increase the popular fancy for the time being ; they are led by the people, whereas the proper office of an author should be, like a teacher, to lead and guide ; if the tone of the public mind is healthy, to foster that health ; if vicious, to, endeavour to reclaim it back to the paths of truth and soberness. Were this always done, our literature would still be a test of the feelings of our people ; not because it has been led, but because it leads them; and an author who thus feels the responsibility of the position he holds will write with thought, and earefully, knowing that he is adding his mite to the weal or woe of his countrymen.
The style of writing has varied very much since the last century. The great fear that then seemed to haunt the minds of authors was that of being common place; and they expressed the simplest ideas by the grandest words and the most sonorous phrases : sacrificing truth and nature to certain conventional modes of expression and useless epithets. We, in the present age, do not often fall into these defects. This style of writing is offensive to our taste ; but yet, perhaps, we are not more natural than the writers of the eighteenth century. Affectation is the bane of modern literature; a want of simplicity which is ill compensated for by flowery eloquence, and affected, because unnatural, comparisons. An occasional introduction of figurative comparisons does indeed give force and beauty to our style of writing ; but we should carefully avoid those which violate the laws of possibility. For example, when we read the expression—"They drink a poison gilded over with pleasure,” we at once see the impropriety of this figure. We may appropriately speak of gilded pleasures or gilded poisons, but we cannot of drinking gilded poisons. We might, however, with equal force and greater truth, speak of a poison concealed beneath the pleasures we enjoy, because the idea here intended to be conveyed by the term gilded—that is, covered or concealed by an outer surface of a different character to the interioris still retained, though divested of its unnatural character. No comparison can be good that does not adhere to nature. Thus, when it is said that Napoleon wept tears of blood, his soldiers those of brass, there is an incongruity in the last figure, almost amounting to the ridiculous. If the soldiers wept tears of brass, why not those of iron ; if of iron, why not cannon-balls at once? We may generally test the fitness of a comparison by thus carrying it on, and seeing whether it leads us to an absurdity. In the fifty-fifth chapter of Isaiah we find a most poetical figure beautifully carried out, in the words—“Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtletree.” Here, the thorn and the brier are used to denote the wicked, because they are useless and injurious ; while, on the contrary, the firtree and myrtle, being fragrant, useful, and ornamental, may properly represent the just, whose influence is so beneficial and pleasant. The metaphor here is drawn from nature, and therefore there is nothing in it strained or unnatural. Were writers of the present day to attend more to this subject, we cannot help thinking it would be a great improvement to modern literature.
Our style of writing should of course depend greatly upon the subject of which we treat. Poetry and descriptive works allow a freer scope to the imaginative power than those on science, history, or theology. On the latter subject especially, we should carefully avoid any flights of fancy. Occasionally we meet with theological writers, who attempt to paint before us the joys of heaven, and the horrors of hell, with such vividness that we are almost tempted to believe they must have been actually present at the places they thus describe. But such kind of composition is generally very injudicious ; it springs from the imagination, and appeals to the imagination ; whereas, while we adhere to the truths that have been revealed to us, our words flow from our hearts, and, consequently, appeal to the hearts of those who listen to us. Excitement is often mistaken for religion, and works of this character do but foster the delusion. Let it not, however, be supposed that we are advocating the cold dry style of the theological writers in the last century. Morally-religious works are dead, unless the spirit of religion is breathed into them ; but surely the word of God revealed to us, is a safer source from whence to draw our spiritual feelings than our imagination can possibly be. The first consideration in writing a work on any subject, but more especially on theology, should be :— Are the statements I am now putting forth positively and accurately true, without any admixture of falsehood ? If they are not, no eloquence or beauty of style can compensate for this radical defect.
All writers, we repeat, should bear this carefully in mind ; one false statement invalidates the credibility of many true ones ; but, after the theologian, there is no other class of author who ought to apply to himself the test, as to whether he has spoken the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, more carefully than the historian, because he has such powerful temptations to fall into error. It is a most difficult thing, in writing history, not to feel, and therefore not to show partiality, towards one side or the other. Much, both of ancient and modern history, is little else than a detail of the perpetual struggle between the noble and the serf, between the monarch and his people. A man whose feelings are enlisted on the side of monarchical power, will naturally, when he comes to the detail of historic facts, and the secret springs from which the actions there recorded flow, be inclined to represent those characters in the best light, and as actuated by the best motives, who in by-gone days maintained the principles which he now seeks to support. The democrat on the contrary, will, in describing the same events tinge them with the colour of his own mind, and dwell rather on the abuse of kingly than of popular power. Loyalty will be the watchword of one author; patriotism and freedom that of the other. Neither of these writers can be called impartial historians; and perhaps there are few offices that require more care and anxious watchfulness for their proper fulfilment. The historian must separate himself from his own political feelings, he must rise above them as it were ; he must remember that he is not in the position of a barrister, pleading for a cause, but of a judge, bound to give equal weight to the evidence on both sides. He should remember also, that it is the character of fellowcreatures with which he is dealing, and that he is no more justified in slandering the dead than in vilifying the living.
Whilst want of strict truth is the besetting sin of this class of writers, those who treat on scientific subjects are also exposed to difficulties, though of a different character. They are not tempted, like the historian, to conceal the truth ; but they are inclined to express it in so technical a manner, that their works are fitted rather for those who are already well acquainted with the subject on which they treat than for the masses. To be really clear, we must not only well understand ourselves what we mean, but we must;endeavourto make it easy of comprehension to others. “Every writer," says La Bruyere, “ who would write clearly, ought to put himself in his reader's place, examine his own work as if it were something new, which he was reading for the first time, and which the author had submitted to his criticism ; and should discover whether it is really intelligible, or whether it only appears to be so to him, because he understands himself.” It is, as we before said, most important, if the author is really desirous of being comprehended, to avoid an unnecessary use of technical phrases, when the same meaning can be clearly understood by the use of ordinary words, as it gives an appearance of affectation or pedantry ; the introduction of antiquated, foreign, or newlycoined words, which have not yet been generally received ; of long periods, or difficult and involved sentences, should be still more carefully avoided ; because, if the mind of the reader is over-taxed, he becomes weary, and throws up the work in disgust and fatigue.
If, however, to avoid this evil, scientific men do write in a popular style, they sometimes fall into a greater mistake. Whilst avoiding technicalities, they omit giving proofs of what they advance. They declare in language simple and easy enough, that such things are or are not so, but omit giving the reasons and arguments which have brought these conclusions home to their own minds; and though the reader may be deeply interested by these announcements, he cannot, if he is of an inquiring mind, be convinced by mere assertion.
The styles of writing may be divided under three heads—the simple style, the sublime style, and the flowery style.
In the simple style, the writer expresses his ideas without ornament or apparent art. Rollin compares this form of writing to a repast, where all the dishes have an excellent taste, but from which all studied ragoûts have been banished. It is more suited than any other for works of instruction, and in writing on simple and every-day subjects, and becomes more impressive than high-flown language, because it bears about it a greater stamp of truth. We believe that the author himself feels what he says, from the very fact that he does not attempt to dazzle our imagination, but states the circumstances simply as they are. As an example, how beautifully simple and expressive is that one short sentence in St. John's account of the raising of Lazarus—"Jesus wept !” What could have been added, that would not have detracted from the
deep feelings those words awaken in our hearts ? Had the Evangelist amplified the subject to any amount in the succeeding verses, he would have destroyed the effect of what he had already said. Simplicity of style is a point which we cannot too strongly impress upon young anthors, who are apt to mistake redundancy for grandeur.
The sublime style arises either from the grandeur of the thoughts and sentiments expressed, the magnificence of the language, the harmony and animation of the expression, or from all these causes united together. Thus, Moses is sublime in the words, “ And God said, Let there be light, and there was light,” because he brings before our eyes so grand and lively an image of the almighty power of the Creator. Again, what can be more striking than Bossuet's description of the universal extent of idolatry :-“ All was God except God himself, and the world which God had made to show forth his power seemed to have become a temple of idols ;” and he gives a most forcible idea of the folly of unbelievers, when he says, “ They believe all, except the gospel.” We will give but one further example of this style in an incident related by M. Antonin Roche :
“A mother, menaced with the loss of her only son, gave herself up to despair , and when her spiritual adviser endeavoured to console her, by citing the example of Abraham, who prepared, on the reception of the Almighty's order, to sacrifice his son Isaac, exclaimed—'Ah! God would not have commanded such a sacrifice from a mother. What words could have expressed more fully her sense of the depth and intensity of maternal love ?"
In all these instances, however, and in many others which we might bring forward of the same character, there is no bombast or high-flown exaggerated sentiment ; such additions would at once have detracted from the force and real sublimity of the passages as they now stand.
The flowery style appeals rather to the imagination than the reason, and makes use of a great redundance of ornament; but, like the flowers from whence it draws its name, it is more brilliant than solid, more elegant than energetic. This style is suitable, as M. A. Roche remarks, in works of pure amusement, “light ornament and graces being in their place when one has nothing serious to say." Did the limits of this paper permit it, we might here touch upon many minor yet still important points in the art of writing well, both as regards excellencies to be aimed at and faults to be avoided ; but we can here only refer our readers to the clever work we have already mentioned, in which he will find copious details on all these subjects.
(To be continued.)
MORAL CONTAGION.—There is such a thing as moral contagion : and it acts nowhere more strongly than in a school-room. When we recollect, that a pupil will catch and carry through life the tone of his master's voice, or his habitual gesture, or even his handwriting, is'it strange if he shall also bear through life the stamp of his temper and disposition ?-Lecture on Moral Influence, by S. A. Pears, B.D.
ON MENTAL ARITHMETIC. M ENTAL Arithmetic is one of the most important branches of
I primary instruction. The faculty of mental calculation is almost as useful to a tradesman, or to an artisan, as the faculty of speech ; and as an instrument of intellectual culture, mental arithmetic, when properly taught, takes the very highest rank amongst our branches of school instruction. Keeping in view the principles of utility and development, the subject should be treated not only in relation to its practical application, but also in relation to the development of the intellectual faculties of the pupils ; that is to say, we must not only look to the end to be attained, but we must also carefully attend to the means by which that end can be most satisfactorily secured, consistently with the laws of intellectual and moral development.
The ordinary method of teaching mental arithmetic, by rules, without the exposition of principles, should be entirely discontinued : it is all but worthless as an instrument of mental culture, and it rarely succeeds in making boys skilful computers.
All the operations in mental arithmetic should be based upon intuitive process of reasoning; and the pupils should be led to give expression to every step of the intellectual demonstration. This not only exercises the minds of the pupils in the habit of reasoning and logical precision, but it also tends to give them that tact and skill in the management of arithmetical computations, which will enable them to work out any problem by the shortest and most elegant process.
There are two proesses of thought, by which operations in mental arithmetic may be conducted. The one is based upon the observation of natural objects, taken as the representatives of numbers, without any regard to their symbolical forms; the other is based upon the operations of figures, taken as the symbols of numbers. Mental arithmetic, conducted by the first method, has been called INTUITIVE ARITHMETIC; because every step in the process is based upon an intuitive truth, which is more or less apparent to the observing faculties of the pupils ; whereas mental arithmetic, conducted by the second method, is simply a process of technical arithmetic, where the ordinary rules and operations of slate arithmetic are followed in the mind of the pupil, or by the process of mental calculation ; this method, therefore, is, in matter of fact, the ordinary technical method of calculation followed out mentally. The distinction between these two methods should be carefully kept in view by the teacher : he should never confound the two processes, or mix the one with the other, until his pupils are fully prepared to comprehend the relation they bear to each other. CHILDREN SHOULD BE FIRST TAUGHT ARITHMETIC ENTIRELY AND EXCLUSIVELY BY THE INTUITIVE METHOD. They should be taught to calculate expertly and accurately by this method, even before they are taught any thing relative to the notation of common arithmetic. The intellectual process, thus isolated from the technical, is pursued with a clear and simple perception of the intuitive properties of numbers, and the demonstrative steps in every investigation attain an intellectuality and a simplicity which it would be impossible to give to them by having recourse to the arithmetical symbols. It is a difficult matter to get