Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/717

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Under the system of public-school administration that now prevails, especially in our large cities, this Quaker lady would not have been allowed to break the tedious routine of book-study with any such diversions. Any attempt on her part to observe the individual aptitudes of her pupils, to foster them, and qualify the boys to put their faculties to the best use of which they were capable would have been frowned down as inconsistent with the true purposes of the school. On the other hand, she would have been compelled, under penalty of dismissal, to put them all through an identical Procrustean drill, which tends to dull the faculties, suppress the aptitudes, and destroy that individuality of character in which alone resides the possibility for the highest usefulness of the man.


The Art of Authorship. Compiled and edited by George Bainton. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 355. Price, $1.25.

This book is described in its sub-title as Literary Reminiscences, Methods of Work, and Advice to Young Beginners, personally contributed by Leading Authors of the Day; and, rightly used, it may be of great assistance to all persons who desire to write well. The compiler, seeking material for illustrating a lecture on the Art of Composition and Effective Public Speech, bethought himself to secure, if possible, personal experiences and counsels from a few of the leading writers and speakers of the day. The volume is the outcome of that effort. Replies are published from one hundred and seventy-nine English and American authors—poets, novelists, essayists, historians, and scientific writers—each giving an account of his literary history, methods in composition, or his impressions of what constitutes good writing, and how the object is attained. Many of the contributors compress their views into a sentence or even a maxim; and there is a singular unanimity in the conclusion which they all reach. The whole lesson of this book of the experiences of more than a hundred and seventy-five successful authors may be expressed by saying that the art of good writing consists in having something to say .and saying it in the clearest manner possible. A few of the expressions of representative authors in different fields may be quoted. The compiler has attempted to classify the observations under such headings as Good Writing: a Gift or an Art? Methods, Conscious and Unconscious; On Literary Style; The Strength of Simplicity; A Protest against Obscurity; and Truthfulness to One's Self; but the divisions so blend into one another, and all cluster so immediately around the single principle already stated, that we have found it impossible to keep the lines distinct. Prof. Huxley would advise the young writer, rather than ape the great writers, to make his style for himself, as they did. They were great "because, by dint of learning and thinking, they had acquired clear and vivid conceptions about one or other of the many aspects of men and things; . . . because they took infinite pains to embody those conceptions in language exactly adapted to convey them to other minds; . . . and because they possessed that purely artistic sense of rhythm and proportion which enabled them to add grace to force, and, while loyal to truth, make exactness subservient to beauty." To Prof. Tyndall, to think clearly is the first requisite; next, to express clearly in writing what he thinks. But this is not enough, and, with a good ear, sound judgment, and a thorough knowledge of English grammar, one must have a peculiar sensitiveness to the charm of a good style. The only tendencies that enable Mr. Francis Galton to write intelligibly "are a great desire to be clear in thought and distinct in expression, and an inclination to take much pains." He has, further, a clear appreciation of good and clear writing by others, and a love of getting at the exact meaning of words. Sir John Lubbock thinks that "there is no better way to improve one's style than by the study of the greatest masters of English." Grant Allen attaches much importance to the average classical education, and looks out deliberately for the most graphic and interesting way of putting things. John Burroughs believes that "earnestness is the great secret of forcible composition." Mr. Lowell has formulated the rule that every sentence must be clear in