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COMPOSITION is the art of forming ideas, and expressing them in lan. guage. Its most obvious divisions, with respect to the nature of its subjects, are the Narrative, the Descriptive, the Didactic, the Persuasive, the Pathetic, and the Argumentative. With regard to its form or stylc, it may be considered as concise or diffuse, as nervous or feeble, as dry, plain, neat, elegant or flowery, as simple, or affected, as cold or vehement, as barren or luxuriant; and its essential requisites are clearness, unity, strength and harmony. As it is strictly a mental effort, its foundation must be laid in a disciplined and cultivated mind, in the exercise of vigorous thought, on reading and observation, and an attentive study of the meaning and the force of language. The proper preparation for its suc cessful performance should be laid in a diligent attention to the rules of grammar, a thorough knowledge of the principles of rhetoric, and a successful application of the maxims of logic; for logic must direct us in the selection of ideas, rhetoric must clothe them in a suitable dress, and grammar must adapt the dress to the peculiar form of the idea. In the following pages an attempt is made gradually to introduce the student to the several departments of English composition by examples and exercises, with such observations and illustrations as may appear to be necessary for an intelligent comprehension of its rules and principles. The early lessons are simple and easily performed, but, in the course of the work, suggestions will be found, which, it is thought, will be useful to those by whom composition is not regarded as a task.
Of the importance of attention to the subject of composition thus much may be said; that there are few individuals, in any station of life, to whom ease and fluency in writing are not valuable acquisitions. All who are engaged in professional or commercial pursuits, and even the hardier sons of labor, whose “bread is procured by the sweat of their brow," must have correspondence to manage,
written statements to furnish, requiring at once accuracy and despatch; and therefore the fa. cility which practice alone can impart, in the arrangement of their thoughts, and a ready and correct expression of them, is an attainment exceedingly desirable. In the language of a late transatlantic writer. then, it may boldly be asserted, that “No acquirement can equal that of composition in giving a power over the material of thought, and an apt
ness in all matters of arrangement, of inquest, and of argumentation." “ Writing,” says Lord Bacon, “makes a correct man;" and the author of the Essay on Criticism asserts, that
“True grace in writing comes from art, not chance,
“ He that begins with the calf,” says Mr. Locke, “may carry the ox; but he, that will go at first to take the ox, may so disable himself as not to be able to take the calf after that.” On the same principle, it is recommended that an attention to the subject of compasition should be commenced early in life. Exercises cf a simple cha, acter prepare the mind for higher exertion; and readiness and facility in the lower departments of writing enable the student to apply himself without reluctance to those mightier efforts by which the progress of intellectual culture is most rapidly advanced.
The words of Horace may here be recommended to particular attention :
"Sumite materiam qui scribitis æquam
Or, in the translation of Mr. Francis :
" Examine well, ye writers, weigh with care,
What suits your genius, what your strengta will bear.'
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE SECOND EDITION.
The Publishers having determined to stereotype this work, the Author, unwilling that it should leave his hands and be put into permanent form until he had given it a careful revision, and made it as worthy as he could of the favor with which it has been receive ed, has made some important improvements in the plan, the arrangement, and the materials, by which he thinks its value as an Aid to Composition is greatly enhanced. The subject of Description in particular has been considerably extended and enriched, from sources not within his reach in the original preparation of the volume. The examples and exercises in various parts of the work have been much improved by the rejection of those which he had borrowed from other works, and which had long been familiar, and the substitution of others more valuable, because they are new. He now submits the work, in the hope that it will not be found unworthy of the continuance of the favor with which it has been received Orange Street, Boston, June 1, 1843.