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be added that the man who can write better, is thus doing injustice to himself. An improper expression in conversation may be forgotten, an awkward movement may be overlooked, but a carelessly written letter is an abiding witness against its author.
English literature furnishes many good models in this species of composition. Cowper may be mentioned as a writer who excels. His solid common sense, his judicious reflections, his lively wit, his playful poetical fancy, his warm affections, his melancholy but deeply interesting feelings of piety, all conspire to give a charm to his letters. Add to this a style, chaste, simple, and sometimes elegant, and it is no wonder, that his productions of this kind are ever read with interest.
Essays are writings, which are usually addressed to the public periodically, and which are brief in their extent and humble in their pretensions. The Essayist does not promise a full view of his subject; nor does he seek to exert a strong influence over the minds of his readers. His arrangement is professedly desultory; his arguments are probabilities and inferences from facts that are stated. He makes no appeal to the passions, but tells his story and leaves his reader to his own feelings and reflections. The characteristics which recommend writings of this kind to public attention, are the following :
1. The thoughts should have novelty and importance. It can hardly be expected, that readers will direct their attention to so humble a class of writings as the Essay, unless they are to be compensated, either by the pleasure of novelty or an increase of valuable knowledge. Hence the difficulty of ably conducting periodical publications. To do this successfully, requires a mind well furnished with rich and varied stores of knowledge. Addison has said, that it is more difficult to write a series of periodical essays, than to compose a book on some definite subject; and he spoke from experience. He is said to have
spent much time in preparation, and to have collected three manuscript volumes of interesting facts and refe. rences, before he commenced the writing of the Spectator. The issuers of proposals for publishing periodical essays, who with limited resources are wont to make ample promises, should be made acquainted with this anecdote.
2. The flow of thought in the essay should be discursive and animated. To writings of this kind, the maxim ars est celare artem, may be well applied. Every well disciplined mind will form its plan, but, as it has been already remarked, it is not necessary, in all cases, that this plan be formally stated. Much skill is also required in the frequent transitions from one subject to another. By dwelling too long on one part, the production becomes tedious; by passing too rapidly from one to another, it appears sterile and abrupt. Wit and sprightliness are also expected in the Essay. We look for the efforts of the active, playful mind, rather than for the deep-laid and well-matured reflections of the philosopher. Sprightliness and discursiveness are so essential to productions of this kind, that those, who from their intellectual habits, or from the constitution of their minds, are, destitute of these qualities, should abstain from all attempts in this species of writing.
3. The style of the Essay may be easy and idiomatic, or more laboured and neat. I have already explained, , what is denoted by these qualifying terms.
The absence of those adventitious causes, whicli excite a strong interest and arouse the attention, is a reason, why writings of this class should in some degree be addressed to the imagination. There are few minds willing to seek after knowledge, unless some peculiar interest in the subject of inquiry, or some striking charms in its representation, allure them to the task. Hence, so far as is consistent with the calm and simple manner of the essay, the allusions should be frequent and happy, the
illustrations pertinent, and the figurative expressions profuse and pleasing.
In the literature of no country, do we find more perfect and numerous specimens of Essay writing, than in that of England. From some favourable circumstances, this species of composition early became popular. The minds of those who devoted their time and talents to it were well suited to the employment, while the state of morals, manners, and literature, afforded fit and copious subjects. Hence the Spectator was well received, had a wide circulation, and became a part of the literature of the country. Numerous, and some of them able periodical publications of this class, have since been issued and well received.
History is the record of past events. It may treat separately of the government and political relations of a country,—of its literature, or of its religion; and may hence receive the epithet of Civil, Literary, or Ecclesiastical History. As examples, we have Bankes' Civil History of Rome, Berington's Literary History of the Middle Ages, and Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History. So intimate, however, is the connexion between civil government, literature, and religion, and so great is their reciprocal influenci on each other, that writers most frequently view them in connexion, and give us the General History of a country ;-such is Hume's History of England.
A further division of historical writings, is founded on the different modes of stating events. One is a simple relation of facts; the other views facts in their connexion with each other, as cause and effect. The former is termed Narrative History; the latter Philosophical History.
In examining the merit of a historical production, we direct our attention; 1. To the skill shown in the selection and arrangement of facts. 2. To the fidelity of the
writer. 3. To the style. Each of these topics will now be briefly noticed.
1. The skill shown in the selection and arrangement of facts.
No employment perhaps requires such various and extensive knowledge as the writing of history. The historian is to view the actions of men in connexion with their causes; and to do this, he must well know the secret springs of human action. He is to judge also of occurrences as affecting communities, and this requires an intimate knowledge of the different forms of government, and the principles of civil polity. He needs further to be familiar with literature in its different departments, and with religion in its various forms. But all these are but remote and indirect preparatives for the work. The writer must have a thorough and intimate acquaintance with the particular country and portion of time, which are the subjects of his history. He must seek access to the fountain sources of knowledge, must examine authentic documents and original authorities, and become familiar with the institutions and manners, and opinions of the age and people of whom he writes.
When, as the result of patient, continued research, and careful investigation, the writer has collected the materials of his work, his attention is in the next place, directed to the selection and arrangement of facts; and here he will be guided by the proposed object of his work. If it be his design to write a narrative history simply, he will place before us such facts, as may fully inform us of whatever of importance pertains to the people of whom he writes. He will also keep in view all that is fitted to excite interest in his readers, to gratify their curiosity and furnish them profitable instruction. But in philosophical history, the writer has some leading design in his work. He would show us the origin and progress of certain civil and religious institutions, or he would trace the effects of opposing opinions on a community, and show us in what manner public measures have been influenced, and the welfare of the nation affected by contending parties. Any definite object of this kind, must evidently become a ruling principle to the historian in the selection of his facts.
The success of a historian, will also depend much on the clearness of his method and the strictness of his arrangement. In narrative history, the order of time will be principally observed. In philosophical history, the arrangement, as well as the selection of facts, will depend on the leading design of the writer. His statements, like the different parts of an argument, must all be brought to bear on some common point.
Some writers divide their histories into successive eras, and give a full and distinct view of the condition of a nation at these epochs. Such is the arrangement of Henry's History of England. Divisions of this kind are favourable to perspicuity, but, by breaking up the natural connexion of events, they greatly diminish the interest of the reader.
Many of the ancient historians are deficient in their plan. Herodotus, the father of History, though possessing great merit as a narrator, observes but little order in his narrations. He passes hastily from one nation to another, and often introduces in a parenthetical form, the events of many years. Thucydides also has in this particular shown little skill, and often, that he may strictly observe chronological order, interrupts in a painful manner the course of his narrative. After recording the events, which have occurred during a period of time in one part of the world, he breaks off abruptly and proceeds to the narration of what has taken place during the same period, in another part. A more skilful writer