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4th. You should often compose. No rules are sufficient to form a complete and correct writer without exercise and habit. I do not mean that you should compose much; on the contrary, by writing too fast at first you may contract bad habits, which will require much trouble before they can be removed. Endeavour therefore to write well, rather than fast. When you have done, lay by the composition till you have forgotten your attachment to any particular phrase in it, and afterwards survey it with a critical eye; you will then be more able to prune redundances, and to smooth the periods.
5th. I again repeat, peruse the best authors with a particular attention to their style. By this means you will lay in a store of words, and insensibly adopt their modes of expression. Take care to mark every thing peculiar in their manner, so that you may know how afterwards either to adopt or to avoid it.
6th. There is no practice better than to translate passages from good classical authors, or to give the thoughts of a good writer in your own language, and compare it afterwards carefully with the original. Take, for instance, a passage from Addison or Blair; read it three or four times, and when you have made yourself master of all the sentiments, lay aside the book, and clothe them in your own language; then compare your own performance, after you have rendered it as correct as possible, with the original; by this means you will be able to discover your own faults.
7th. Avoid all servile imitation of others; for by imitation you will be prevented from attempting any thing of your own, and your barrenness will at length be discovered. Never transcribe passages from other writers as your own: this effectually bars all efforts of genius, and exposes you to the ridicule of men of learning.
8th. Always endeavour to adapt the style to the subject; for nothing can be more ridiculous than to clothe grave subjects in a vain and gaudy dress; or embellish dry reasoning, which must convince only by strength of argument. In oratorical compositions you must also
adapt your discourse to the generality of your audience; nothing can be more absurd than to use extravagant phrases, or unknown words, before an unlearned multitude; the ignorant may admire, but the learned will smile.
9th. Give at all times more attention to your thoughts than to your words. We may learn almost mechanically a few fine phrases; but in a man of true genius alone the sentiments are grand and noble.
I do not mean, however, to discourage you from the cultivation of a good style. The remark of Quinctilian, "that a clear conception will generally be attended with correct expression" is so far true, that we know the knowledge of words always accompanies the knowledge of things; and as almost all our knowledge is acquired by means of words, we cannot have the one without the other. Otherwise the attainment of arts and sciences appears to me a perfectly distinct branch of study, and I can conceive a man master of even a practical art, such as chemistry or mechanics, and to want names for his ideas. However, thus far is certain, that the elegant part of speaking or writing is at least a distinct study, and therefore not to be neglected; though it will be found of little value without a sound knowledge of things.
DIDACTIC COMPOSITION.....ANALYSIS AND SYN.
MY DEAR JOHN,
IN my last letter I promised to conduct you from words to things; from style to the matter and arrangement of composition. In pursuing the order also which I before pointed out, we are to consider didactic composition.
I do not know a greater difficulty than that which presents itself to a young writer with respect to the method or arrangement which he is to pursue in an essay or discourse on any given subject. Ideas crowd upon his mind; he sees the subject in various points of view; but he is uncertain what observation ought first to be introduced to the notice of his reader, or in what light his subject will appear the clearest, and to the most advantage. Here the rules of art may occasionally deliver him from some embarrassment; and at least a general process may be laid down as the means of investigating truth, or communicating knowledge.
Logicians have established, and I think not improperly, two methods in which didactic or argumentative disquisitions are to be conducted. These methods are analysis and synthesis. The analytical method is when we proceed from particulars to the establishment of some general truth. Thus Derham, in his Physico theology, ascends from the investigation of the several parts of nature, to the proof that they must be the work of an all powerful and intelligent being. Dr. Clarke, on the contrary, in his admirable work on the being and attributes of God, commences with a simple proposition, that" something must have existed from eternity;"
he proceeds to shew what must have been the nature and attributes of such a being, and by the force of this one fundamental axiom, establishes all the principles which are the basis of natural, I might add of revealed religion.
A similar method is adopted in Warburton's Divine Legation, a work however which I never admired. The foundation of this work is laid in a kind of syllogism, though I confess I cannot see that the consequence flows naturally from the major and the minor. It is, 1st. That the doctrine of a future state is necessary to the well-being of civil society, and therefore was taught by the wisest legislators of antiquity. 2d. That this doctrine makes no part of the Mosaic dispensation. 3dly. That therefore the law of Moses is of divine original.
The learned author has, in my opinion, failed in the proof of all his propositions; but it is enough to remark at present, that he branches this syllogism out into five volumes, adducing an infinite number of authorities and facts under each of the separate heads.
The analytical method is the only mode in which truth is to be investigated; for this reason it is the method adopted in algebraic investigations, and in those of experimental philosophy, where the author, from comparing the number of particular observations, and tracing the analogy between them, arrives at a general conclusion.*
Where a science is to be taught, on the contrary, the synthetic seems the most commodious method, and it is therefore that which is adopted by geometricians. With these, therefore, a theorem or proposition is laid
* In this manner truths of the greatest importance are gradually laid open to persons whose curiosity is deeply interested in the process. Nor is the full design of the philosopher perceived by his antagonist, until the conclusion, which he aims to establish, strikes at last with irresistible evidence upon the mind..... Ogilvie on Composition.
down, and is then proved or demonstrated. Sermons, except those which follow the order of the text, and a majority of what are called moral essays, are in the synthetical form; though it is not often that we find either of these modes separately pursued.
In works where it is the object of the writers to take their readers by surprise, and to establish a false con'clusion, they find the analytical method to answer their purpose the best; for the chain of reasoning ascending from particulars to generals is often complicated, and the connexion of it with the conclusion is not easily discovered. Dr. Priestley observes, that the most valuable part of Mr. Hume's “Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals," is nearly the same as that part of Mr. Hutchinson's moral philosophy, which corresponds to it, and may most properly be termed analytical. In order to determine the foundation of virtue, he considers particularly every thing that is acknowledged to gain the esteem of mankind, examining upon what common property their encomiums turn, and in what manner their approbation is bestowed; and having found that nothing is the object of esteem but what is useful to society, and that the several virtues are classed in the first and second rank of importance, according as they are more or less essential to the well-being of society, he concludes that public utility is the foundation of all moral virtue.
In Dr. Hartley's observations on man, on the contrary, the argument is strictly synthetical, and even geometrical. The author begins with definitions and axioms, such as are employed by geometricians; he lays down formal propositions, and advances such proof as the nature of the case will admit. He deduces formal corollaries from almost every proposition; in the scholia he explains the nature of his proofs, and shews in what manner evidence is reflected from one part to another.
I do not know any study more improving to young persons than to mark and consider the manner in which a great author conducts a disquisition; for there is fre