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For the purposes of this treatise, Rhetoric may be defined as the art of efficient communication by language. It is not one of several arts out of which a choice may be made ; it is the art to the principles of which, consciously or unconsciously, a good writer or speaker must conform.
It is an art, not a science : for it neither observes, nor discovers, nor classifies; but it shows how to convey from one mind to another the results of observation, discovery, or classification; it uses knowledge, not as knowledge, but as power.
Logic simply teaches the right use of reason, and may be practised by the solitary inhabitant of a desert island; but Rhetoric, being the art of communication by language, implies the presence, in fact or in imagination, of at least two persons, — the speaker or the writer, and the person spoken to or written to. Aristotle makes the very essence of Rhetoric to lie in the distinct
recognition of a hearer. Hence, its rules are not absolute, like those of logic, but relative to the character and
circumstances of those addressed; for though truth is one, and correct reasoning must always be correct, the ways of communicating truth are many.
Being the art of communication by language, Rhetoric applies to any subject matter that can be treated in words, but has no subject
matter peculiar to itself. It does not undertake to furnish a person with something to say ; but it does undertake to tell him how best to say that with which he has provided himself. Style," says Coleridge, “is the art of conveying the meaning appropriately and with perspicuity, whatever that meaning may be ;” but some meaning there must be: for, “ in order to form a good style, the primary rule and condition is, not to attempt to express ourselves in language before we thoroughly know our own meaning.”
Part I. of this treatise discusses and illustrates the general principles which apply to written or spoken discourse of every kind. Part II. deals with those principles which apply, exclusively or especially, to Narrative or to Argumentative Composition, — the two kinds of prose writing which seem to require separate treatment.