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In presenting to the public a new text-book on Rhetoric, the author asks attention to these features as characteristic:
(1.) It is kept in the foreground throughout, that the fundamental law of rhetoric is adaptation ; that the form of discourse, like the fashion of clothing, has no intrinsic beauty, but is or is not artistic as it does or does not produce the effect designed, at the time and under the circumstances.
(2.) That the student may look on rhetoric as an art, not like trigonometry which he may use, but like arithmetic which he must use, its most important laws are developed in the practical treatment of Conversation and Letter-Writing. The boy who does not care to be taught speech-making and verse-writing may be glad of help to feel at ease among strangers, and to write a business letter.
To this is added instruction in Narration and Description. These are forms of composition in which the essential element is not literary taste but personal experience. Any mạn may be called upon to tell or to write for the newspaper what he has done or seen, and every man should be able to do it well.
Because Conversation, Letter-Writing, Narration, and Description are of immediate interest to every one, they are the essential portion of the subject, and for scholars who do not care for more, this part of the book, including a full treatment of Punctuation, is published in a separate volume, called “The Elements of Practical Rhetoric."
(3.) With the Essay begins what is properly literary work. One must converse, write letters, narrate, describe,
—and the only question is whether one shall do it well or ill. But one need not write for the magazines or deliver orations or publish poems, unless one has a taste that way. Hence this part of the subject has been kept distinct, and for those who so prefer it is published in a separate volume, called “A System of Advanced Rhetoric.”
Especial pains has been taken in the treatment of Preparation and Invention. The principles laid down are familiar to practised writers, but are usually reached by experience instead of by instruction. It is believed that these chapters will do much for young authors to make the way easy and definite.
(4.) The mechanism of composition, instead of being scattered throughout the book, is gathered into Part I., serving as an introduction. The treatment differs from that usually found in so-called “Composition Books," in that it treats the sentence from a point of view purely rhetorical. Hence arrangement of words, phrases, and clauses is made prominent, the principles under this head being distinguished from the rest under the title of “Observations." These will be found to occupy more than half the space given, and their importance cannot be too strongly insisted upon.
For those who desire, Part I. is published by itself, in a volume called “Outlines of Sentence-Making."
(5.) Throughout the book there is a profusion of illus
trations, believed in this subject to be particularly essential. Anecdotes have been chosen wherever practicable, because a blunder that is ludicrous is more easily remembered and avoided. The bearing of the anecdote on the principle illustrated will not always be seen at a glance by most pupils; but the point will be found when searched for, and the profit will be greater for the search. Throughout the author has aimed to be suggestive rather than exhaustive; to quicken thought as well as to convey information.
(6.) The multitude of quotations from leading authors on rhetoric serves a double purpose, the language of most of them being referred to throughout the book in illustration of the qualities of style. It is believed that the frequency of credit given will be in most cases sufficient acknowledgment; but in a few instances the memorandum of the source of a quotation has been lost. Two books, so far the best in their respective departments that intelligent treatment must follow them closely, deserve especial mention : these are, “ The Art of Extempore Speech," by M. Bautain; and “The Art of Reading,” by M. Legouvé.
Upon a subject like this, always a favorite theme with the best writers, it would be preposterous to hope for originality. What is true is as old as Aristotle, and what should be announced as new in principle might safely be condemned as untrue. Yet because rhetoric is a means to an end, the application of its principles must vary with the age and the people where it is to be exercised. This is an age of newspapers, and we are a busy people with little leisure to contemplate beauty of diction, but accustomed to glance down the column to see what the writer is aiming at and whether he hits it.
As a practical art, modern rhetoric must accept and yield to this tendency, and its canons of criticism must be applied to the morning journals. It is nowhere stated in this book at what point in the Iliad the first simile occurs; but there are many quotations from newspapers just now most popular, with some effort to distinguish power from bombast, humor from vulgarity and imbecility. This criticism the student is expected to carry further and apply to his daily reading, which is more likely to be of the New York Herald and the Burlington Hawkeye, than of Hesiod and Catullus.
In short, this book is written from the standpoint of one whose daily work it has been for some years to read and select and publish manuscripts, who knows from experience the actual difficulties and faults of young writers, and who would like to help thein. Hence the treatment throughout is practical rather than scholastic, adding much that is unusual in text-books of the kind, and omitting some things that since the time of Campbell and Blair have been considered conventional. The author hopes that trial will prove these changes to have been made with good reason, and the book to have contributed something toward general culture in good speech and good writing.
NOVEMBER 2, 1883.