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write an article or make an address, then his first purpose must be arbitrarily to choose a theme. Let him decide what object he will determine to accomplish, whether to instruct, to encourage, to dissuade, or to amuse, or perhaps several of these. Then let him choose a theme. Having chosen a theme, let him adhere to it and accomplish his purpose. The worst habit for a speaker or writer to form, is the habit of retreating from tasks once entered upon. There is no conceivable theme upon which a good article may not be written. The choice of a subject for a special purpose may indeed be faulty, and if so should be changed; at the same time more depends on the genius, study, and industry of the author, than upon the theme.
5. The Second Rule. — Having determined in what general form the subject shall be discussed-whether to describe something, or to prove something, or to rebut some falsehood, or simply to please—the writer should collect information, and thoughts, and facts, and illustrations bearing on the subject.
Some authors commit to writing these collections and preparations, made previous to the main work. Others simply impress them on the memory. Either practice may be carried to an extreme. If writing is solely relied upon, the memory is not duly strengthened; while, on the other hand, the pen, properly used, is the most efficient aid of the memory.
6. What Use to make of the Works of others, and Plagiarism. It is often a matter of difficulty to a young writer to determine whether or not he should read the productions of others on the subject which he proposes
to discuss. If he reads what others have written, it tends to give shape and direction to his own thoughts, and it may be difficult for him to avoid the suspicion of plagiarism. Plagiarism is the stealing of the expres sions, and especially the written productions, of another person, and passing them off as original. No one can be guilty of plagiarism and maintain any good degree of self-respect. Besides, the practice must weaken a writer's confidence in his own ability.
At the same time, thoughts first expressed by anoth cr, facts related by him, and even arguments presented by him, may be used without plagiarism. Illustrations may suggest other similar illustrations, arguments may suggest other similar arguments. There may be an original combination and application of old material.
Generally, the best method is to gather material of all kinds miscellaneously, before beginning to write, making notes or memoranda of the different thoughts, facts, and illustrations, that occur to the mind.
7. The Third Rule.--A thorough plan or skeleton of the intended production should be drawn out, and amended till it is satisfactory, and this should be taken for a guide in completing the production.
The principal part of the invention will be accom plished in selecting the subject, gathering the material, and constructing the plan. After this it will be comparatively easy to complete the structure.
8. Remarks on the Choice of Subjects. The great difficulty which young writers have in choosing subjects of discourse, arises generally from a notion that the facts and experiences with which they have be
CHOICE OF SUBJECTS.
come familiar are not sufficiently dignified and im portant to serve as themes, and they are therefore inclined to select some subject so remote from their own observation as not to furnish an adequate supply of material. No theme is too humble for one who exercises his power of observation and thought. Cowper wrote one of the best poems in the English language on The Sofa, and called it, "The Task." Barlow wrote an interesting poem on "The Hasty Pudding." To a mind stored with the requisite knowledge it would be as easy, and probably more pleasant, to write an essay on a piece of glass, or on an old nail, as on virtue, or vice, or the sun.
Let no writer be discouraged at the difficulty, at first, of gathering sufficient material upon the chosen theme. This is a difficulty to be overcome by study and practice, and has often been keenly felt in early efforts by those who have afterward become prolific writers and speakers. The power of continuous thought and expression is to be acquired only by practice.
It is impossible to become an able writer or speaker without much study.
INVENTION IN DESCRIPTION.
IN the former parts of this book we have noticed various kinds of composition, to some of which we refer again, simply to show how material is gathered and used in actual composition.
The easiest and most natural themes are descriptive. 9. Definition.-Description is a presentation, in language, of some object as it exists, or is fancied to exist. Thus, for instance, a mountain, plain, river, lake, island, house, town, state, may be described. It is necessary first to obtain full and precise information about the subject. This may be obtained by seeking answers to such questions as, Where is it? How large? considering all the dimensions applicable, as length, breadth, height, population, etc. For what is it peculiar? Is it used for any special purpose? How long has it existed, or been known? Are there other things of the kind near it, or suggested to the mind by it? Has any great event happened near it?
10. Classification of Items.-Having gathered all the information within reach upon the subject, and perhaps preserved the items in notes, or written memoranda, the next thing requisite is to classify, or arrange the
items which you wish to present, in their proper order, and then proceed to fill out the description.
The mind soon acquires the power thus of describing an object fully and vividly. Many men travel much and learn little; they read much and remember little; all for the want of methodically arranging the separate items which they see, in their proper relations.
11. An Example of Descriptive Invention.-Suppose, for instance, that it was proposed to write a description of Greece. The first business would be to collect information and thoughts, some of which would be already in the mind, and some of which would be found there only partially or incompletely. These thoughts should be jotted down on a piece of paper, preparatory to being wrought into an outline, or frame-work, and might present some such shape as this.
Greece was a small country.
It was mostly a group of islands and a narrow coast.
What were the main divisions?
Its climate was temperate but various.
Mountains, rivers, etc.
Were the people of one race?
Their primitive condition-barbarous.
Was Greece one nation?
Their language, literature.
Philosophers-Socrates, Plato, Aristotle.
Military men-Leonidas, Alcibiades, etc.
Modern Greece, etc.
These thoughts may now be systematically ar
ranged, in an outline, thus:
1. The size and boundaries of Greece.
2. Peculiar geographical character and climate.