Exercise 54. Subjects for Reflective Themes :1. Hannibal's Passage of the Alps. 11. TheInvention of Photography. 2. The Discovery of America. 12. The Invention of Telegraphy, 3. American Independence. 13. The Character of Solon. 4. Reading.


Aristides. 5. Punctuality.


Pompey. 6. Slavery.


Brutus. 7. Love of Fame.


Canute. 8. Winter.


Luther. 9. Good Government.


Cranmer. 10. Music.



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Chapter IV.-Discursive Themes.

125. The distinction generally drawn between the theme and the essay is, that the latter is less restrained than the former by fixed rules or a rigid plan. To the class of essays, in this view, these discursive themes may be said to belong. It is not intended that they should be written without any plan; only that they cannot, as in the previous cases, be written according to a uniform plan. No essay should be written without a previous systematic laying out of the subject; but the subjects are so various in kind, and many of them are so complex, that each of them will require, or at least admit of, a different mode of treatment. In the following exercise a few model schemes are given as specimens. From these the first essays should be written. Afterwards, the pupils should be required to prepare an outline of each subject, and submit it to the teacher for approval before writing the essay.

Exercise 55. 1. On Cruelty to Animals.

OUTLINE. a. The obligations of man to the lower animals. The ingratitude

of maltreating his benefactors. 6. The goodness of God in providing these animals for our use, and

in giving man “dominion over them." The injustice and immorality of abusing God's gifts, and of violating the trust

which that “ dominion” implies. C. The duty of caring for the helpless, of being kind to the dumb.

The cowardice of taking advantage of their helplessness and

inability to plead their own cause. d. The hardening effect upon the heart and affections of systematic

ill-treatment of dumb animals. The intelligence that can be developed in them. The pleasure derivable from their companionship. The fidelity and love with which they are capable

of rewarding their benefactors. 2. On Method in Daily Life.

OUTLINE. a. Enables us to do more work and better work in less time. b. The proper division of time will do for the individual what the

division of labour does for the community. c. Much time is wasted in thinking what we are to do next; much

by not taking our duties in a proper succession, (illustration) as if a letter-carrier were to take out his letters in a general

heap, and deliver them just as the addresses turned up. d. Shew how organisation is applicable to various occupations and

pursuits; to daily business; to the weekly round of duties; to amusements ; to travelling; to the associations of men for all purposes, as churches, railways, &c.; to religious

duties; to beneficence; to teaching; to literature; to art. e. The greater comfort and happiness arising from doing work

methodically, thoroughly, and well. 3. On Foreign Travel.

OUTLINE. a. Solitude often produces selfishness. Men's sympathies expand

the more, the more they mix with their fellows. The men of a narrow circle, coterie, or small party, are narrowest and

most bigoted in their views. 6. Men who know no country but their own are apt to be filled

with national prejudices, to underrate other countries. Travel removes these prejudices, expands the intellect, increases our knowledge of men and things, shews us nature and art under different circumstances, makes us less vain and more chari

table. 4. On Memoir Writing.

OUTLINE. Q. Much pleasure may be given, and much good done, by narrating

the lives of great men; by shewing us genius struggling with poverty or adversity; principle, with villany; perseverance, with difficulties.

b. The danger of carrying memoir writing too far. Friendship

exaggerates virtues and extenuates faults. Truth must be the great end of the biographer. His labours can only be justified by the value of the lessons of the life he writes, not by the admiration or vanity of friends. Memoirs too numerous and

too partial. C. Injustice to the dead; the sacred privacy of inner thoughts, and

the no less sacred confidence of private correspondence often violated to satisfy the inquisitiveness of friends or of the public. Other men often compromised by too partial judgments on

the one side, and inadequate statement on the other. d. Danger of men living artificially, and writing diaries and letters

with a view to posthumous book-making. e. A true and faithful memoir a great rarity; but, like gold, a pre

cious gift when it is found. 5. The Power of Mystery.

OUTLINE. a. The intense interest we feel in the unknown and inexplicable.

The fact that human faculties and efforts are baffled excites a kind of awe, akin to that with which we regard the unknown

limits of time and space. b. The pleasure the mind takes in the exercise of discovering

causes, of advancing explanations, and speculating on their probability. Malebranche said, “ If I held truth captive in my hand, I should open my hand and let it fly, in order that

I might again pursue and capture it." C. The fascination of novel reading, the keenness with which men

hunt a wild and dangerous animal, or pursue a robber, or trace home a crime to its perpetrator, are of the same nature. The pursuit, the anticipation of an appalling disclosure, hold

men spell-bound. d. This has its disadvantages, in exciting dangerous and unhealthy

feelings: the sensation of a mysterious murder has been

known to produce cases of insanity. e. It has its advantages, in leading men instinctively, and with

untiring assiduity, to track the perpetrators of great crimes. 6. The Fear of Man.

OUTLINE. a. Equivalent to moral cowardice; leads to much folly and un

happiness. 6. Tendency of men to think and act in parties ; disinclination to

appear singular (opposite extreme, the pride of appearing singular). *

c. Danger of its becoming a motive, a principle of conduct; of

men acting, not from a sense of right or of duty, but from a

dread of incurring the censure or ridicule of their fellows. d. Consequent stifling of conscience, weakening of moral sense, of

judgment, of decision of character. Thus men become con

temptible in their neighbours' eyes, miserable in their own. 7. On Ignorance of the Future.

HINTS. a. A happy thing for our peace of mind. b. We should be miserable if we knew the evil that awaited us,

presumptuous if we knew the good. C. All our energies and efforts would be paralysed. d. The divine goodness in the veil suspended between us and the

future. e. The folly of our inquisitiveness : our daily comfort and future

happiness depend upon this blessed ignorance. 8. On the Study of the Dead Languages.

HINTS. a. The study of language the best mental gymnastic. b. The classical languages afford the best discipline-(1.) because

they are dead and not studied for practical utility ; (2.) because they are so highly synthetic in their grammar; (3.) because of the light they throw on modern European lan

guages. C. The richness of their literature-foundations of art, science, and

abstract thought. The perfection of the models of style they

present. d. The effects of this study in advaneing all learning and thought. 9. On Government of the Tongue.

HINTS. a. A word uttered cannot be recalled. b. Injury to others, discomfort to ourselves by rashly uttered words.

Momentary haste has led to life-long quarrels. Domestic

discord. National differences. C. An unruly member-yet when restrained an instrument of

happiness and good. Explosive as steam, gunpowder, or gas,

but as useful when kept under due restraint. 10. The Good and the Evil of War.

HINTS. a. The good : calls forth noble sentiments, courage, manliness ;

rouses a nation from lethargy; counteracts the effeminacy, luxury, weakness, indolence, which a long peace engenders. Frequently avenges tyranny, murder, and banishes barbarism. b. The evil: excites angry passions, sacrifices human life, destroys

property, devastates nature, entails national, social, and

domestic misery. 11. On Forming Acquaintanceships.

HINTS. a. To be done deliberately and carefully, for the friends of youth

may be the friends of time. 6. The influence men exercise over each other-affects success in

life, daily happiness, social position, domestic tastes, political

opinions, religious views, and therefore our eternal well-being. 12. On Historical Reading.

HINTS. a. Increases the sphere of our knowledge. b. Expands our sympathies. c. Presents noble pictures of patriotism and courage. d. A source of gratification and amusement. c. Enables us to draw lessons from the past applicable to the pre

sent. f. Gives us models for personal imitation, and leads to the forma

tion of sound views of life and conduct.

13. The Influence of Scenery on the mind.
14. Submission to Superiors
15. The Power of Conscience.
16. The Liberty of the Press.
17. Negro Slavery.
18. The Influence of Climate on the Character of a Nation.
19. The Inheritance of Genius.
20. National Characteristics.
21. Decision of Character.
22. The Power of Prejudice.
23. Trusting to Appearances.
24. The Power of Little Things.
25. The Force of Habit.
26. The Art of Putting Things.
27. The Moral Influences of the Dwelling.
28. The Policy of Honesty.
29. Success in Life.
30. Tho Pleasures of Association,
31. The Benefits of Commerce.
32. The Uncertainty of Fame.
33. Party Spirit.
34. The Pleasures of Imagination.
85. The Advantages of Content.

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