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INVENTION IN NARRATION.
INVENTION IN NARRATIONS.
18. Definition. -NARRATIONS embrace historical writings of every grade. The highest talent has found full scope in this kind of writing. It naturally follows, if indeed it does not accompany, Descriptions. Having described an object as it is at one moment, it is natural to describe the changes which it undergoes.
Narration deals principally with persons, though it embraces only actions and things.
19. Laws of Invention applicable to Narrations.-The laws of Invention with reference to Narration are, in principle, precisely the same as with reference to Description. In both, great care must be taken not to dwell too much on unimportant facts or objects, and not to neglect what is really essential. If a painter endeavors to crowd too much on the canvas, he confuses the attention and spoils the picture. Great skill can be acquired by practice in making a narrative vivid.
20. Some Practical Directions.—It is a profitable exercise to narrate occurrences in one's own history or under his own observation. Has the school with which he is connected had no history? Could he not learn a series of facts about it, by study, that would be in
teresting to all? Why not write the history of the town for just ten years? It is well to read the history of some personage, take abundant notes, and then write out a sketch without once consulting the book during the writing.
In a previous part of the book we have spoken of the severe labor of some historians in gathering material and in forming their style. Some of them have spent many years, and many thousands of dollars, in what may be called the process of Invention-in finding, not making, the information, and in originating and preparing the illustrations which they employed. The gathering of material is the most important part of the work of a writer or speaker.
In arranging the material he may follow the chronological order of events, if he pleases, or he may arrange what he has to say so as to prove some one principle, and neglect all the facts that do not apply to that, or he may select some one prominent character and make all the events cluster about him.
21. A Specimen of Invention in Description from Macaulay. As a specimen of life-like description, we give a brief extract from Macaulay, in which he commences the relation of the great trial of Warren Hastings. We have no means of knowing whether he previously formed an outline of this narrative or not, but if not written, it must have existed in his mind, in some such form as this:
1. The place. What had happened before in this great hall. 2. Surrounding circumstances-military pomp-the peers-royalty, etc.
3. The galleries-ladies-queen, etc.
EXAMPLE FROM MACAULAY.
4. How Hastings looked-little man-a great man, etc.
We give now a few paragraphs of Lord Macaulay's filling out of this sketch.
"The place was worthy of such a trial. It was the great hall of William Rufus; the hall which had resounded with acclamations at the inauguration of thirty kings; the hall which had witnessed the just sentence of Bacon, and the just absolution of Somers; the hall where the eloquence of Stafford had for a moment awed and melted a victorious party inflamed with a just resentment; the hall where Charles had confronted the high court of justice with the placid courage which has half redeemed his fame.
"Neither military nor civil pomp was wanting. The avenues were lined with grenadiers. The streets were kept clear by cavalry. The peers, robed in gold and ermine, were marshalled by the heralds under the garter king-at-arms. The judges in their vestments of state, attended to give advice on points of law. Near a hundred and seventy lords, three-fourths of the upper house, as the upper house then was, walked in solemn order from their usual place of assembling to the tribunal.
"The gray old walls were hung with scarlet. The long galleries were crowded by such an audience as has rarely excited the fears or the emulation of an orator. There were gathered together from all parts of a great, free, enlightened, and prosperous realm, grace and female loveliness, wit and learning, the representatives of every science and of every art. There were seated around the queen the fair-haired daughters of the house of Brunswick."
Then follows a long description of Reynolds the painter, and Parr the classical scholar, and several other noted personages who were present-all of which shows the wondrous amount of information which Macaulay stored up on a subject before he began to write about it. He then adds:
“The sergeants made proclamation. Hastings advanced to the bar and bent his knee. The culprit was indeed not unworthy of that great presence. He had ruled an extensive and populous country, had made laws and treaties, had sent forth armies, had set up and pulled down princes. And in his high place he had so borne himself that all
had feared him, that most had loved him, and hatred itself could deny him no title to glory, except virtue. He looked like a great man, and not like a bad man. A person small and emaciated, yet deriving dignity from a carriage which, while it indicated deference to the court, indicated also habitual self-possession and self-respect; a high and intellectual forehead, a brow pensive, but not gloomy, a mouth of inflexible decision, a face pale and worn, but serene, on which was written, as legibly as under the great picture in the council-chamber, ‘a mind calm amid difficulties.' Such was the aspect with which the great proconsul presented himself to the judges.
"The charges and the answers of Hastings were first read. This ceremony occupied two whole days, and was rendered less tedious than it otherwise would have been by the silver voice and just emphasis of Cowper, the clerk of the court, a near relative of the amiable poet.
"On the third day Burke rose."
After a long description of his speech and its effects, the narrative thus closes:
"At length the orator concluded. Raising his voice till the old arches of Irish oak resounded, "Therefore,' said he, 'hath it with all confidence been ordered by the Commons of Great Britain, that I impeach Warren Hastings of high crimes and misdemeanors; I impeach him in the name of the Commons House of Parliament, whose trust he has betrayed. I impeach him in the name of the English nation, whose ancient honors he has sullied. I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose rights he has trodden under foot, and whose country he has turned into a desert. Lastly, in the name of human nature itself, in the name of both sexes, in the name of every age, in the name of every rank, I impeach the common enemy and oppressor of all."
22. Remarks on the above Example.-In examining carefully this, one of the most impressive narratives in the language, observe the fullness of information garnered up by the historian. He weaves in numerous little incidents and facts, and makes them all tell. How much he knows about the old hall! All who were present, their previous lives, the size of the galleries, the dress of the ladies, the appearance of the
motto under one of his pictures at Calcutta, and the words of Burke in making the impeachment-nothing escaped his eye, and all are marshalled in their proper order. Suppose he had undertaken to write a description, without first gathering the material-he would have done as feeble writers generally do, and succeeded no better.
DR. FRANKLIN'S PRACTICE.
23. The Practice of Dr. Franklin. - Dr. Benjamin Franklin made himself a correct and eloquent and prolific writer by following the course recommended above. In a letter dated Nov. 2, 1789, written to Benjamin Vaughan, he gives the following advice:
"What I would therefore recommend to you is, that before you sit down to write on any subject you would spend some days in considering it, putting down at the same time, in short hints, every thought which occurs to you as proper to make a part of your intended piece. When you have thus obtained a collection of the thoughts, examine them carefully with this view, to find which of them is properest to be presented first to the mind of the reader, that he, being possessed of that, may be better disposed to receive what you intend for the second; and thus I would have you put a figure before each thought to mark its future place in your composition. For so every preceding composition preparing the mind for that which is to follow, and the reader often anticipating it, he proceeds with ease and pleasure and approbation, as seeming continually to meet his own thoughts. In this mode you have a chance for a perfect production; because, the mind attending first to the sentiments alone, next