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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.
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
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. b. 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, a. 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.
6. 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. 6. 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. 6. 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. 6. 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 advancing all learning and thought. 9. On Government of the Tongue.
HINTS. a. A word uttered cannot be recalled. 6. 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. 2. 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. 6. 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 việws, and therefore our eternal well-being. 12. On Historical Reading.
HINTS. a. Increases the sphere of our knowledge. 6. Expands our sympathies. c. Presents noble pictures of patriotism and courage. d. A source of gratification and amusement. 6. 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.