Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/284

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



This commercial view has brought it about that writing is no longer on a level with spelling; bad writing is excusable, but bad spelling never. This careless and frivolous treatment of the art of writing is, I maintain, an ill-bred trait of national character which we should endeavor to correct on the principles followed by the Japanese.

In Japan writing was regarded as one of the six arts of education. By the six arts were meant the postures, writing, riding, shooting, mathematics and music. The object of these arts was to teach the control of both the body and the mind. By writing, the control of the arm, hand and fingers was to be taught. The Japanese use the "Fude," a peculiar kind of brush made of the soft wool of the white rabbit. Fig. 1 shows the position for large writing. The long roll of paper is held in the left hand; the characters are written downward. The stone block on which the stick ink is rubbed in water is shown on the table. In the first stage of writing they have to learn to write large letters and characters. When they want to write large characters, it is forbidden to support the arm on the table or anything else. The movement of the arm must be entirely free in both the horizontal and the vertical direction. Not only are quickness and steadiness of movement required, but the arm is trained also to graceful movement and slow adjustments. Now a bold stroke is demanded and then a hesitating touch of the brush is required. It is said that "Sometimes the stroke of the brush must be as rapid and as dreadful as the lightning in the sky, but sometimes it must be as gentle and as graceful asthe young virgin in her private apartment."

In the second stage of writing they have to learn to make smaller characters. Here again the arm must be free; but in this case one point of the wrist is supported on the table, or more properly on the row of fingers of the left hand laid on the table (Fig. 2). This point serves as a fulcrum for the movement of the hand and fingers. The object of finer writing is not only to train the fingers, but also to train the eye. So they are sometimes required to write characters not larger than a millimeter square. Even in writing such a small character, every jot and every tittle must be brushed according to a definite form of writing and by a single stroke.

We must change our American views of writing. In communicating by speech a well-bred person tries to avoid mutilations and transformations of language that might be offensive to cultured ears. The New Englander tries to save his g's, the Southerner to keep his r's, the Englishman not to drop his h's. In communication by writing, however, you may insult your correspondent by characters over which he has to puzzle long to derive any meaning; you may flaunt slovenly y's and g's and b's before his face; you may offend his nostrils with the garlic of reversible n's and u's, etc. This is quite wrong. Let,