James Pyle Wickersham.

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concerning the subject-matter of other sciences.
Rhetoric treats only of the arrangement of these
ideas, and the style in which they should be

By the arrangement of discourse is meant the
selection of suitable matter, and its proper distribu-
tion. Out of the multitude of facts, arguments,
incidents, illustrations, which may be presented on
a particular subject, it is important to be able to
judge what should be chosen, and in what order
the selected matter should be arranged. Orations,
according to the method of the ancients, and the
practice is quite similar now, were divided, into
the Exo7^dium, Narration, Proposition, Discussion, and

In other kinds of discourse, little more has been
done by Rhetoricians than to name the principal
parts, viz. : the Introduction, Body, and Conclusion.
Pupils, however, must not be allowed to conclude
from this that the matter of books, lectures, poems,
dramas, fictions, any kind of composition, indeed, can
be thrown together in confused fragments. IlTothing


can be more important than the arrangement of the
matter of discourse, and the teacher should submit
many well-written compositions of different kinds
to his pupils that they may carefully analyze them
in this respect. iTot that pupils should be trained
to a slavish imitation of any author; but that
they may see in a concrete form what has proved
itself pleasing and effective, and profit by this ex-

By style is meant the manner of expression in
language. The style of an author or speaker must
vary according to his individual peculiarities, and
the circumstances which surround him ; but Rheto-
ricians have made several divisions, according to
the degree of ornament used, as follows: the Dry,
Plain, Neat, JElegant, and Florid; according to the
structure of the sentences, the Simple and Labored,
and the Concise and Diffuse ; and, according to the
effect produced upon the hearer, the Nervous and
Feeble. Under the head of Style, too, may be dis-
cussed the various kinds of Figures used in dis-
course. The teacher will find this a pleasant
department of the subject to present to his pupils ;
but will have no need to depart from the method
of teaching indicated in the preceding divisions of
the subject.

The discussion of the subject will be concluded
by presenting a few additional observations.

A course of study in English . Literature should
follow one in Rhetoric. Selections from different
authors may be arranged chronologically; but all
should be closely analyzed with reference to kind,
qualities, arrangement, and style. Such an exercise


might be called Ehetorical Parsing, and its value
if well conducted would be very great.

Pupils should be expected to observe the princi-
ples of Rhetoric in all their writing and speaking.
It is taken for granted that Rhetoric is studied not
only to be known but to be used. Indeed, it
can scarcely be fully known without being used.
Hence, in all recitations, the attention of pupils ■
should be called to faults in Rhetoric. A good reci -
tation consists not alone in giving correctly all thei
facts and principles of the lesson, but in making the
most appropriate arrangement of them and express-
ing them in the best language. |

In learning Rhetoric, it is not enough for pupils
to study the compositions of others ; they must com-
pose themselves. They must be patiently trained
to exemplify in their own writing and speaking all
that has given value to the writing and speaking of
others. The end of the study of Rhetoric is not
chiefly to acquire the power of describing how skil-
ful authors write and speak, but to be able to write
and speak well ourselves ; and no effective teaching
of this science is possible without allowing ample
opportunity for this kind of practice.

A teacher of Rhetoric ought to be a literary ama-
teur. Without a love for literature himself he can-
not make his pupils love it. Without literary taste
himself, he cannot cultivate the literary tastes of
his pupils. Ordinary teaching skill may suffice to
make known the facts and rules of Rhetoric ; but
nature does not open her beauties here, nor any-
where, unless bidden by a loving heart.

philology. 265


The word Philology is used here to denote the
Bcience which treats of the origin and growth of
language, or, in other words, its N"atural History.
Up to this point, language has heen spoken of as a
ready-formed instrument with which pupils desire
to become acquainted, and methods of teaching how
to read and understand it as such have been dis-
cussed. But a few remarks will show that it may
be studied from another stand-point.

Language is itself a growth — a product evoked
from human wants and evolved from human reason.
It is concrete thought. God gave man reason and
the power of speech, and he produced language.
This growth of words was governed both in its
origin and progress by certain laws. There are
principles by which the forms and rules of Grammar
can be accounted for. A language is not learned
when we know its declensions, conjugations, and
laws of construction, for the causes of these may be
investigated. Words even do not arbitrarily change
their pronunciation, orthography, or meaning. 'New
words are introduced into a language, old ones
drop out of it, and causes are ever at work chang-
ing its form and constructions, and the mere Gram-
marian who studies language as it is, or the mere
Historian who notes these word-revolutions, may
renlain in ignorance of the subtle forces that
ceaselessly operate to adapt human speech to the
condition and wants of men.

Philology, if now properly apprehended, has the
character of an 'Historical Science, with its facts and


266 iNSTKucTiox IN language:

its philosophy, and as such, methods of teaching it
belong elsewhere. They will be found to combine
methods of teaching applicable to all the other

III. Learning to Compose in our Mother-Tongue.

Composition may be defined as the art of com-
bining ideas and expressing them in words ; or it
may be called the art of speaking and writing. It
is founded upon the sciences of Grammar and

Without insisting that it is strictly philosophical,
the following division of our intellectual faculties
may be made : those by which we gain knowledge ;
those by which we elaborate it into systems ; and
those by which what we know is reproduced. The
first class may be called the Perceptive faculties;
the second, the Reflective faculties ; and the third,
the Expressive faculties. A perfect mind would
possess the power of obtaining the material of
knowledge, the power of working up this material
into mind-products, and the power of conveying
these mind-products back to the world without, in
co-equal strength. As good reasons, therefore, can
be given for the cultivation of the Expressive
powers — the powers of speech, as for the cultiva-
tion of any other class of powers which men possess.
Our intellectual light must not be hid under a
bushel any more than our moral light. Writing
and speaking are the candle-sticks by which this
light is distributed about the world.

Besides,^ so closely connected is our mental ma-
chinery that we even use words in thinking, and

compositio:n". 267

facility in iising tliem consequently promotes think-

The art of Composition may be learned, either by
imitating the speaking and writing of others, or by
applying the rules of Grammar and Rhetoric. Such
a knowledge of Composition as can be obtained by the
Urst method may be called Elementary Composition ;
and that obtained by the second, Higher Composition.

1. Elementary Composition. — A child is taking
his first lessons in Composition when he begins to
talk. If he enjoy the opportunity of hearing good
language, a child at ^lyq years of age, will possess
a large fund of words, he can construct them into
sentences, and hold intelligible conversation about
objects with which he is familiar. If at that age
he be taught the written symbols which represent
words, he will soon learn to write words, sentences,
and little compositions about things he has seen.
This is the manner in which the teaching of Com-
position should be commenced. As the child
enlarges his vocabulary of words, notices a greater
variety of sentences, and acquaints himself with
more numerous objects, his ability to speak and
write will become greater, and his instruction in
Composition should be adapted to his increased
capacity. Up to the age of ten or twelve, instruc-
tion in Composition should consist mainly in pre-
senting pupils suitable models of speaking and
writing for imitation, and in giving them ample
opportunity to imitate them. Much in the art of
Composition can be learned in this way at any age,
but nearly all must be learned in this way in child-


hood. In teaching Composition to children, teachers
ought not to be too critical — ought not to expect
great accuracy or much elegance in expression.
Their principal aim should be to evoke linguistic
power ; and when the power exists, it is time to
acquaint them with the niceties of Grammar and
Rhetoric. You must have the stream, before you
can make its waters play about your grounds or
sparkle in your fountains. There is nothing about
which we are more sensitive than our speaking and
writing, and teachers may do great harm to their
young pupils by expecting too much from them.

Some lessons, well calculated to aid pupils in ex-
pressing their ideas in words, were described in the
Chapter relating to Elementary Instruction, and
they need not now be repeated. It is enough to
indicate a few classes of appropriate exercises, and
the intelligent 'teacher can expand them to any de-
sirable extent.

First Class of Exercises. — The teacher may engage
his young pupils in conversation about things with
respect to which he knows they feel an interest;
such as, horses, whips, fishing, harvest-time, sleigh-
riding, &c., &c. The discipline in language obtained
from lessons on objects as previously described is
very valuable.

Second Class of Exercises. — Pupils may be taught
to give in their own language the substance of their
reading lessons. Attention should be paid in all
recitations to the language used. All erroneous ex-
pressions must be carefully corrected.


Tliird Class of Exercises. — Pupils may be required
to write sentences about things ; as, house^ table, hall,
&c., &c. ; or a word or several w^ords can be given
to be incorporated into sentences ; as, hook, heauti-
ful, strange; school-girls and rain; hoy, mother, and
cake; man, axe, and wood, &c., &c. Some good ex-
ercises may be found in Sheldon's "Elementary
Instruction/' commencing at page 220.

Fourth Class of Exercises. — The teacher may pre-
sent certain forms of sentences and require his pu-
pils to imitate them. Writing from dictation with
attention to forms of sentences, punctuation, capital
letters, &c., is valuable. Pupils acquire the graces
of style unconsciously upon reading or copying well-
written composition.

Fifth Glass of Exercises. — Lists of faulty sentences
may be kept by the teacher, and now^ and then pre-
sented to the pupils for correction. Quite young
children can be taught to point out the errors in
lauge numbers of such sentences. Something can
also be done in this w^ay to train pupils to habits of
correct speaking.

Sixth Class of Exercises. — The teacher may read
striking narratives, interesting sketches, or lively
descriptions, and require his pupils to reproduce
them in their own language. This is an excellent

Seventh Class of Exercises. — At the age of eight or
nine years, the teacher may begin to assign subjects


270 ixsTRUCTio:^ in language.

upon which his pupils are expected to write original
composition. These subjects ought to be simple,
calculated to interest the writers, and to furnish
them an opportunity of telling something they know
as well as of finding something to tell. The teacher
should assign the subject, and may make sugges-
tions as to the matter and form of the composition.
Every child can say something about snow^ flowerSy
birds, hay-mahing, Jmsking-corn, gathering nuts, going to
school, &c., &c. ; if not about progress, government, the
grandeur of nature's works, or the immortality of the soul.
The preceding exercises will convey an idea of the
manner in which children may be taught to com-
pose, and further detail is deemed unnecessary. It
may be remarked, however, that children should
have daily practice in writing. It might, perhaps,
be done in connection with reading lessons. J^o
labored essays could be expected, but they would
acquire the power of thinking and of saying what
they think. What if the work thus done be crude
and wanting in order, it would at least be original,
fresh, and childlike. Great harm is done to children
by giving them time and opportunity to resort to
books and to older persons for help in writing com-
positions. Let them learn to write, as they talk,
naturally. It is time those unmeaning forms of
words, half nonsense, half plagiarized, called compo-
sitions, should be banished from the school.

2. Higher Composition. — The principal aim of
instruction in Elementary Composition is to bring
pupils to notice forms of expression, and to imitate
them in writing freely and naturally what they


think and feel. Ability 'to compose having been
thus acquired, the rules of Grammar and Rhetoric
must now be applied to induce the additional power
of composing correctly and elegantly ; or the pupil
must enter upon a course of study in language
which I have called Higher Composition. This
course may be commenced at the age of ten or

It will be remembered that the methods of teach-
Grammar, considered the best, required pupils to
exemplify every principle learned, in the construc-
tion of original sentences. Pupils thus taught,
while learning the science of Grammar, will learn
the art of Composition so far as Grammatical prin-
ciples aid in the formation of sentences.

It will also be remembered that in treating of
Rhetoric, it was stated that pupils should not merely
study the compositions of others, but that they must
have much practice in writing exercises in which
they should be required to observe every principle
learned. Such exercises would furnish a fine oppor-
tunity of learning to compose, from the forming of
a sentence or the use of a figure to the construction
of an oration or the writing of a poem.

If these views are correct. Grammar and Compo-
sition, and Rhetoric and Composition, should be
taught together; and every suitable Grammatical
and Rhetorical lesson should be followed immedi-
ately by a lesson in Composition. The manner of
doing this is so obvious that there is no need of
further illustration. It might be remarked, how-
ever, that the systematic correction of sentences, or
more general discourse, which violates the rules of


Grammar or Ehetoric belongs appropriately to
Composition. Science systematizes the true, art
detects the false. Many pages of such exercises are
not too much to furnish pupils with the practice
they need. To be a good writer one must be a
good critic both of his own productions, and the
productions of others.

E'ot only in connection with Grammar and Ehet-
oric should Composition be studied, but such in-
struction should be given in connection with all
studies. Pupils either write or speak when they
recite, and it is always the teacher's duty to see that
they speak and write well. Each exercise may thus
be made to furnish valuable practice in writing and

Some useful exercises may be mentioned which
are not usually found in works on Grammar or
Rhetoric, such as paraphrasing; expressing senti-
ments in various forms; abridging diffuse com-
positions and amplifying concise ones; writing
criticisms; and making analyses of orations, lectures,
essays, or preparing outlines for such productions.
Translating from a foreign language into our own
or the reverse, gives discipline in all that relates to
the use of language, hardly to be obtained in any
other way. Taste in composing is greatly improved
by reading good books, and by copying well-written

In addition to a systematic course of instruction
in Composition, as above indicated, teachers will
find it advantageous with advanced pupils, at least,
to have at stated times miscellaneous exercises in
preparing and reading original compositions. I


propose to answer the following questions concern-
ing these exercises : At what times should such
exercises be required ? "Who should assign the sub-
jects? What should be the nature of the subjects
assigned ? In what manner shall the compositions
be corrected? How ought the recitation to be
conducted ?

The work now had in view will require research
and labor on the part of the student. It is not an
example or an illustration that is wanted, but a
systematically arranged composition, carefully pre-
pared both as regards matter and manner. If pupils
are engaged at the same time in the study of other
branches, and have proper instruction in the details
of composing in connection with their Grammar
and Ehetoric lessons, the special exercises now
referred to cannot very well be performed more
frequently than once a week, if so often.

To give definite direction to a pupil's thoughts,
to adapt the task to his capacity and requirements,
and to remove from him as far as possible all temp-
tation to plagiarize, it will generally be found best
for the teacher to assign the subjects for composi-
tion, even to classes of advanced pupils.

The nature of the subject selected for a composi-
tion should be adapted to the pupil's capacity, re-
quirements, and taste. In selecting a series of
subjects, they should be chosen with reference to
their fitness to furnish practice in composing differ-
ent kinds of discourse and using different varieties
of style. They should be such also as would be
calculated to call forth the knowledge pupils have,
or prompt them to search diligently for that which

274 iNSTKUCTio^r in language.

tliey have not. But while care is taken to train,
equal care must be taken not to cramp. An ex-
uberant flow of words in youth is a better indication
of success in writing than a more correct, but. more
formal, style. Let the imagination of the young
have free scope ; do not cut out and trim oiF too
much. Value most of all a spontaneous out-
pouring of intellect, or a spontaneous out-gushing
of feeling.

Teachers must inspect the compositions written
by their pupils ; but it will be found better merely
to point out the errors they may discover than to
correct them. If pupils are required to correct
their own errors, they will be more careful not to
make them; and, besides, the principle violated will
be more strongly impressed upon their minds.
The teacher must have some marks to indicate
errors. For words incorrectly used or misspelled,
wrong punctuation, or errors of any kind involv-
ing only a single word or mark, a short, perpen-
dicular line may be drawn through the word or
mark with respect to which the error occurs, and
attention be called to it in the margin by an i|@°".
In case the error extends to several words, a sen-
tence, or several sentences, the whole may be under-
scored, and attention called to it as before. More
general errors as to style and arrangement can be
best corrected at the recitation.

How ought a recitation to be conducted ? Each
pupil should write the errors which were pointed
out by the teacher, upon the blackboard, together
with the corrections made by himself. Each pupil
should also read his composition ; and, then, his


whole work may become the subject of criticism,
first by the class, and afterwards by the teacher.

II. Instruction in the Dead Languages.

The only Dead Languages that are taught to any
great extent in our schools are the Latin and Greek,
and special reference will be had in this Article to
methods of teaching these languages, although the
methods indicated will be found applicable to all
languages belonging to the same class. The prom-
inent place the languages of Greece and Rome
have occupied in every liberal course of study would
be a sufficient reason, if no other could be given,
why some discussion of the methods of teaching
these languages should be introduced into a work
like the present one.

In regard to the benefits derived from the study
of the Dead Languages, three opinions are enter-
tained: first, that all other studies are less impor-
tant than that of Latin and Greek, and that conse-
quently the learning of these languages should
occupy the most prominent place and the greatest
portion of time in every liberal course of study ;
second, that the time now spent in the study of the
Dead Languages might be employed to much better
purpose in obtaining a more complete knowledge
of our own language and the various sciences ; and,
third, that the study of Latin and Greek ought to
occupy an important place in a course of study, but
that school-time should be fairly proportioned be-
tween the several great departments of instruction,
and that Collegiate and University honors ought
not to be based upon proficiency in Latin and Greek


any more tlian upon proficiency in other branches of

The first of these opinions gives undue promi-
nence to the study of the Dead Languages; the
second wholly discards their study ; and the third
occupies a middle.ground between the two extremes,
and, while holding that Latin and Greek are not
indispensable in a liberal course of study, still main-
tains that they are valuable auxiliaries in the work
of education.

In supporting the last named of these opinions,
the reasons will appear why it is considered that
both of the other opinions are erroneous. That
there are branches of instruction other than those
of Latin and Greek which are worthy of careful
study, will be generally conceded — conceded even
by those whose practice does not correspond with
their theory. Mathematics, !N"atural Science, Men-
tal Philosophy, General Literature, History, the
Modern Languages, and other branches of learning
should not be omitted from a comprehensive course
of study, and, as will be seen in the proper place,
all of them furnish classes of facts and kinds of
culture quite different from those derived from the
study of the Dead Languages. Our duties as men
of business and citizens-may not be learned as well
from the study of Latin and Greek as from some
other studies, and this end of utihty in study can-
not be ignored in teaching.

The cause of education, however, is most likely
to suffer detriment in this country, at this time, not
from those who favor classical studies too much,
but from those who oppose them altogether. The


danger is not now great anywhere that Latin and
Greek will absorb too much of the pupil's time and
attention ; but there are persons everywhere who
attach little value to the study of these languages.
As might be expected from the utilitarian character
of our people, America has her full share of these
advocates for the abandonment of the study of La-
tin and Greek, and the substitution in their place
of other branches which are supposed to bear a
closer relation to the work of the office, the shop,
and the farm. In such circumstances, it may be
well to state the principal advantages which may
be derived from the study of the classical languages.

1. The study of Latin and Greek assists in the study
of our own Language. — The English language,
through the medium of the ISTorman-French and
otherwise, derives at least one-half of all its words
from the Latin. Almost all our scientific terms are
of Latin or Greek origin, and no one who is unac-
quainted with these languages, can read a work on
Law, Medicine, Theology, Teaching, or upon any
science or art, without feeling sad!}'' the want of such
knowledge. The close analysis of an English
author, such as Milton, is hardly possible for one
who is unacquainted with Latin. The finer beauties
and more hidden laws which characterize such a
work can only be fully appreciated by the classical

Online LibraryJames Pyle WickershamMethods of instruction .. → online text (page 17 of 31)