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Complex themes comprehend such propositions as adifuu proof or illustration ; expressing a judgment which of course may be denied without invoking any. positive contradiction ip the meaning of the terms. The following are examples. "Logic is a useful study.” “ Youth is the season of improvement.” “Wisdom is better than riches."
“A public is preferable to a private education.”
In the last set of exercises the course was latd down for the manage ment of “ a regular subject,” which is prescribed by Mr. Walker in his “ Teacher's Assistant.” What he calls “regular subjects” are designed for simple themes. The course prescribed by Mr. Jardine, in his Outlines of a Philosophical Education, is less mechanical, and is to be preferred, because the mind of the student is less fettered by " leading strings," and left more to its own resources. The following are his preliminary remarks:
“ To give an illustration of a simple theme I shall suppose the subject to be Logic, and shall shortly apply the scholastic rules to the structure of the essay which should be composed upon it."
“ The first rule directs the student to begin by fixing exactly the meaning of the term, which is the subject of the theme, removing every thing that is doubtful or equivocal in its signification; and, when difficulties of that kind occur, the true import of the word must be determined by the canons of etymology, or by the practice of the best writers.”
“By the second rule, which is the principle one, he is required to explain the essential and accidental qualities of the subject, here supposed to be logic; and to enumerate them, according to their order and importance, and with a reference to the end which is contemplated by the logician. That end is the establishment of truth or the refutation of error, and it is accomplished by the application of those rules of right reasoning, in which the art of logic may be said to consist. In these rules are included definition, division, classification, as well as those general directions relative to propositions which are derived from the ancient dialectics. But it is unnecessary here to enlarge; for the most important of the rules, for both kinds of themes, are the same, in so far, at least, as the object of both is the attainment of clear notions, lucid ar rangement, and perspicuous expression.”
“ The special rules which relate to the management of complex themes, may be shortly enumerated. That no propositions, advanced as the ground of inference and deduction should be admitted, but upon the best and most solid evidence, arising from sense, from consciousness, or experience, or from undeniable truths, such as axioms and intuitive propositions: or lastly, upon testimony, analogy, facts already proved, the undeviating laws of nature, &c. - that the meaning of the subject, and predicates of the radical proposition be accurately fixed - that the extent of the affirma tion or negation be exactly ascertained, so that the proposition may be stated in the most intelligible manner, and the logical rules of division be applied that the attention be next directed to the kind of evidence by which the proposition is established — and the arguments to be intro duced in such order, that those which precede shall throw light on those that follow, and form a connected chain of comparisons, by which ulti
mately the agreement or disagreement, expressed in the proposition, shall be made manifest; and finally that all objections against the proposition be candidly and explicitly answered. The proof, when it is long, may be concluded with a recapitulation, containing the united strength of all the arguments which have been brought to confirm it.”
"It is impossible to prescribe rules which shall exactly accord with the variety of subjects which may come under this order of themes, and, therefore, much must be left to the judgment and experience of the teacher. It is not every theme that requires the application of all the rules. The first rule may be sometimes necessary; the second is indispensable on all subjects; the other rules are only occasionally required ; - a rigid adherence to these rules might render composition stiff and formal; but that would, in a great measure, be prevented, by frequent use and judicious application.”
“Though, in the management of complex themes, the rules of demon stration cannot be always followed, yet the clearness, certainty, and pro gress of that kind of reasoning, ought to be the standard, as the best and most effectual mode of procuring the assent of the mind. Let the young composer imitate the geometrician, in first attempting to establish clearly the datum on which the deduction rests, and then proceed, with gradual and increasing strength, to the conclusion.” *
* It may, perhaps, be objected that the course here prescribed by Mr. Jardine is too difficult for the young student. If perfect or finished compositions were required, there might be good grounds for such an opinion. In all cases, perfect specimens must be preceded by many unsuccess. ful efforts. An eminent writer has candidly acknowledged that he would be ashamed to disclose the many unsuccessful attempts he had made, before he could produce any „hing worthy of public attention. Imperfect, then, as the first essays of the student may be, they constitute the natural and indispensable steps which lead to higher degrees of perfection.
The following extract from one of Mrs. Sherwood's “Social Tales " is so pertinent to the subject, that it is thought that it will be useful to the student to present it in this place. The tale from which it is extracted is entitled “ Hoc Age."
“It was the custom of my father, when I was a girl, to require of me every Saturday, a few pages written upon a given subject. Well do I remember the hours which I sometimes used to spend on these unfortunate Saturday mornings, in endeavoring to elicit sparks of genius from the cold iron of my brain; and how pleased I was wont to be, when any thing like a bright idea presented itself to my imagination : such were welcome to me as angel's visits, which are said to be few and far between.
“Much of my success, however, I found, depended upon the subject which was given me. When these subjects were fruitfnl and congenial to my feelings, the task was comparatively easy ; but when they were new and strange to me, my labor was greatly increased, and so far from being able to put my ideas into any new form, I seemed to lose the power of expressing them, even in the most ordinary way.
Judge, then, what must have been my despair, when on a certain Saturday, having stolen up into my father's study, with that sort of quiet pace which children use when they are going about any thing they do not much relish, (for the motion of the foot is a never-varying index in a simple mind, of the feelings of the heart.) I stood behind his chair as he sat wriv ng, and said, “Papa, please for the subject of my theme, to day?' Hoc uge,''ha replied, still writing on.
Of one thing," continues Mr. Jardine, “the youngest student must be made sensible, from the evidence of his own consciousness, that he cannol expect to compose even the simplest theme without directing and continuing his power of thinking upon it.”
“ Instructions cannot be too plain nor too minute, when directed to young persors entering upon a new and difficult course of study. The experience of the perplexities which assail the juvenile mind, in its first endeavors to discover materials and to find expressions, has induced me to lay aside the authority of the teacher, and to place myself as the companion or friend of the student, in those moments when his difficulties are most formidable."
“I suppose, then, 'Emulation' chosen as the subject of a simple theme, which the student is required to explain and illustrate, from lectures, books
"What, papa ?' I said. 6 Hoc age, child,' he answered ; ' Hoc age— go and make the best of it, vut do n't disturb me.'
5. Hoc age,' I repeated, as I went down stairs. Hoc age- it is Latin; I know it is Latin. Hoc is this, and it is neuter, and the word thing is anderstood; and age is do; I know enough of Latin for this; therefore, Lloc age means, Do this thing.'
“So I mended a pen, and took a sheet of paper, and wrote ' Hoc age' in a fair hand at the top of the paper; and then I added the translation ; and then wrote my own name in one corner, and the date at another; and then looked out of the window, and up to the ceiling, and wrote again, and actually made out a sentence to this effect : 'It is our duty, under every circumstance of life, to attend to this admonition;' and there I stopped, for the question suggested itself, to wit, what admonition? Further, there fore, I could not get, and when my father called me to dinner, I had not ad vanced an inch beyond the full round stop after the word admonition.
“My father was one of the kindest and gentlest of parents, and when I presented my vacant sheet to him, he smiled, and said, 'T is as much as I expected; but I am perfectly satisfied, nevertheless. If you have spent your morning in considering the nature of the injunction meant to be expressed in the words ' Hoc age,' you have not lost your time.” My father then entered into an explanation of the subject, and pointed out to me that these two words were equivalent to the Scripture injunction, Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.' And then he showed me that the world abounded with persons who never seemed to give their full and undivided attention to any thing which they had to do, and in consequence, when suddenly called upon to act or speak with promptitude, were never ready and never had their words or their actions at command. Hence,' continued he, on smaller occasions, they are for ever wasting their time, and on more important ones losing advantages and opportunities never to be recovered. My father added much more to me on this subject; but as I shall hope, in what follows, to elucidate what he said by a very appropriate example, I shall cite no more of his valuable discourse, with the exception of one remark only, which was most important; it was to this effect: that the salvation of the soul is the thing to be done in the first instance; the ' Hoc age' to which every human creature should principally attend — all other concerns being made subordinate to this one ohject, and all other efforts or exertions being in the end wholly inefficient in producing the happiness of any individual, when this one thing needful is neglected."
The whole of the tale, of which the above extract is merely the introduction, may well be recommended to the perusal of both teachers and students.
and observations, in such a way as to communicate a distinct account of emulation to all who shall read his essay. Where are the materials to be found? His first recourse would probably be to authors who have treated of emulation, from whom he might take what serves his purpose. But he is instructed that there is a nearer and much more fertile source, which will furnish him with materials, providing he seek for them in the proper way. And what is that source? His own mind, working upon the materials which he already possesses. Let him put the question to himself, What is emulation ? Here let him recollect the early scenes in which this feeling was first excited. On the verge of childhood, he must remember the language used in amusements, 'I can do this, and you cannot,' 'I shall be at that mark before you. He may have, perhaps, read the beautiful description of Gray, in the distant prospect of Eton College :
Who, foremost, now delights to cleavo
With pliant arms, the glassy wave, &c. Or the description of the Trojan games, in the sixth book of the Æneid. He may recollect that, when at school, he contended for the first place in his class, or may be now contending for the first prize at college Upon the recollection of these scenes, and from associated feelings which exist in his mind, he is in some sort prepared to answer the question, What is emulation ?' A desire and endeavor to excel others, - to be the first in any competition.”
"From whence proceeds, or what excites this desire and endeavor ? From obtaining an object first, which other competitors wish to possess. Is it the intrinsic value of the object of competition ? No; - it may be a sprig of laurel, - a palm-branch, -a fox's tail, - a medal of little value, a book, a seat of preferment or of honor. From what, then, does the object receive its value? It is the circumstance of obtaining it before other competitors. And what is it that gives such value to the being first in the competition? It is the presence of many spectators and admirers It is their reflected praise, which animates the competitors, — which makes. the breast of the student palpitate when he receives the prize. Let the competition take place in a desert, where there are no spectators, the charm is dissolved, and the competitors walk over the course without pleasure or expectation.”
Again, what are the effects of emulation? When this principle operates with full effect, and under control of virtue and honor, it-produces vigorous conflict, persevering exertion, contempt of difficulties and dan. gers, increasing hopes, eager expectations, and, in the moments of success, exquisite delight. The student may have a clearer view of this generous and energetic feeling, by turning his attention to the histories of great characters and great events, and distinguishing emulation from the effects of other feelings not unfrequently associated with it. He will thus be enabled to draw a line of distinction between it and its collaterals, ambi. tion and fame. These fix upon the possession of their objects without any view of competition, or of the means by which they may be obtained whereas the pleasures of emulation spring from the love of excellence and superiority."
“The experience of competitions, in which the student has been en. gaged, or of those which he has observed, will suggest to him, that emula tion in its purest form can only take place where the prize is won by the personal exertions of the individual. When any undue means are used
to obtain it, or any obstacle indirectly thrown in the way of a rival com petitor, the generous flame of emulation is extinguished, and a meau degrading spirit is substituted in its place. One would think that the mortification which the student must suffer, when he receives a prize which he is conscious he did not deserve, should dispose him to reject it as altogether unworthy of his acceptance. The student cannot have for gotten the manner in which the friendly stratagem of Nisus, in favor of Euryalus, was received by the other competitors at the celebration of the Trojan games.”
" An enlarged view should be taken of the field of competition. That field may be called up by the imagination. The person in whom the true spark of emulation is kindled, may imagine himself placed upon the same arena with the competitors of other centuries and other ages. Virgil en deavored to rival the fame of Homer, and Cicero that of Demosthenes When Cæsar passed the statue of Alexander, he is said to have burst into tears, because the Macedonian had surpassed him in military achieve ments. When ambition and emulation are conjoined in the same character occupied in similar exploits, it requires some discrimination to determine what belongs to each.'
This sketch, of course, is not intended as a specimen of a simple theme on emulation, but merely as a general outline of the materials, with the view of pointing out to the student the course he should take to find them. He has only to embrace the subject of the theme closely, - to apply to his own mind for light and knowledge, to press himself with inter rogatories relative to his demands, to follow the natural associations of things, and he will soon find materials enough, and arrive at much information which he could not otherwise have conceived to be within his reach. The concluding step is to select from these materials, and to arrange them according to the particular end he has in view. If this part of his work be rightly performed, he will not find much difficulty in suitably expressing what he clearly and distinctly knows."
[A list of subjects for Exercises will be found in the last article, under the head of Regular Subjects. ]
If the course thus laid down by Mr. Jardine for the management of themes, be found too loose or too difficult, the student may follow the more mechanical one of Mr. Walker. His course for regular subjects or simple themes has already been given. The following is his course, with regard to themes in general :*
After the Theme or Truth is laid down, the Proof consists of the following parts:
1st. The Proposition or Narrative; where we show the meaning of the Theme, by amplifying, paraphrasing, oi explaining it more at large.
* It will be noticed that Mr. Walker designates simple themes as Regular Subjects; while he embraces, under the term of Theme, those only which in general are called complex themes. This accords with his definition of : theme, which he says is the “proving of some truth.”