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Introductory: Scope and Complete Method of
In the foregoing Parts, following the commonly accepted division of the subject of Composition, we have made a survey of the whole field, so far as seemed practicable. It has frequently been seen how the several divisions overlap and intermingle, making anything like a sharply defined and therefore exhaustive division impossible. It will be seen further that prominence of any element or attribute not made the basis of our division - peculiar qualities of style, specific practical or literary purposes, etc., —gives rise to forms not sufficiently provided for in our method. They could be fitted into our scheme of classification doubtless, but the process would involve embarrassing distortion. All the old principles must hold good, too, but there will have to be modifications and adaptations to accord with the peculiar form or specific purpose.
Because of this a few exercises are added here dealing with the more prominent forms of composition that thus arise. The list cannot be complete, and may not be very helpful, but it will at least serve to show how varied and interesting, practice in writing can be made. Special subjects are not given, but the student will readily find or make them. A character self-developed and self-portrayed by speech or action ; a dialect sketch, Yankee, Hoosier, Creole, Negro, Chinese ; a critical review of a favorite book, of the last lecture, opera, play ; a fashion note, a bit of gossip; a story from
country, village, or city life; a romance, a ghost story; a reminiscence, a dream, a meditation;— the variety of themes is endless.
One thing will bear emphasis here. It has already been dwelt upon in Exercises IV. and XXVIII.XXX. It is the art of selection. It rests simply upon the fact that nothing is equally important at all times, nor all things at the same time. True generally, this is particularly true in letters. The mere fact that a thing exists is not sufficient excuse for thrusting it upon our attention. We hold some things of more account than others and cannot afford to spend time over those that neither harm nor help nor interest
And truth itself may often do none of these. Besides we have a higher conception of the province of art than the mere reproduction of things as they are without even a change of combination. Actual facts, truth science is concerned with that. But there is another kind of truth, with which art is concerned truth to what might be, ought to be, ought not to be. Fidelity, not only to what is, but to what is probable or possible--grant this to be within the scope of art and you have a conception worthy of a creative mind. The art of selection therefore means much. It looks forward to combination, construction --- such creation as we are capable of. It means that this feature must be taken intact, that feature must be modified, the other must be rejected. It means that each part must be good and appropriate and that all parts must fit together so that the whole shall be good. For practical suggestions relative to this process the student is referred to the Exercises cited above. More can be
learned in the attempt to apply the principles and in the study of successful work. And the mere keeping in mind the necessity of cultivating this art of selection and rejection will help toward its better attainment.
If now we take Mr. Ruskin's canon " Remember always, you have two characters in which all greatness of art consists : - First, the earnest and intense seizing of natural facts; then the ordering those facts by strength of human intellect, so as to make them, for all who look upon them, to the utmost serviceable, memorable, and beautiful" -- if we take this and consider it as applicable to the art of composition, it will be seen that we have supplemented it with two other characters” possibly comprehended by Mr. Ruskin in the above ---- selection and expression. After the “ seizing of natural facts," which was the burden of the first part of our work, comes the discrimination among them and selection, spoken of there and repeated with emphasis here. Then follows the ordering of those facts — arrangement -- so eloquently insisted upon by Mr. Ruskin. Lastly comes adequate expression, which together with arrangement has been specially discussed in the introduction to Part II. Such is the complete method of composition ; follow it in every endeavor, no matter how imperfectly, through the several stages, and the result cannot be wholly bad.
Of the many departments of journalism, we shall consider two or three only, which especially demand the
exercise of the pen. One of these is the preparation of news for the daily and weekly press. News-gathering and reporting constitute a profession in themselves and cannot be treated of at any length here. A few hints, however, cannot come amiss. For there is at least one kind of news-reporting common in this country which must be undertaken by non-professionals. This is the news-letter which is sent at regular intervals to a city or county paper by correspondents in adjacent towns or country districts too thinly populated to support local papers of their own. Virtually the same principles hold good here as in the higher forms of journalistic work; and the lack of a knowledge of them is painfully evident in almost all the country newspapers in the land. In the first place, what is legitimate news?
All happenings, we say, of general interest and presumably not yet generally known, which it will do no harm, or at any rate, more good than harm, to communicate to the public. It is at once manifest that occurrences which are of interest only to those who are actual witnesses of them or participants in them, cannot properly be designated news. On the other hand, when we say that they should be of general interest, we do not mean by that, universal interest. Such interest will attach to very few events, indeed. But the importance of the news will be measured by the degree and extent of the interest which it excites, and the news-gatherer, remembering this fact, and taking account of his public, will be able to discriminate accordingly. It should be considered, too, that a piece of news may bear a very different importance, according as the public interest is
absorbed or not by events of greater moment. Does any one want to know that a certain citizen of an Alpine town has suddenly fallen ill, when the whole town is threatened by an avalanche? In public crises, at times of local or national elections, celebrations, calamities, newspapers are fully warranted in rejecting items of news that at other times would be freely admitted.
Let everything of the nature of gossip be sedulously avoided. Do not descend to small talk, idle tales, vague rumors, innuendoes, matters that appeal to an unworthy curiosity rather than to a healthy interest. Let purely private affairs remain private. It may be that people are no more prone to-day than they ever were to pry into their neighbors' secrets — it is extremely probable that they are even less so — but the increased facilities for the dissemination of news have undoubtedly contributed much to the violation of the sanctity of private life. It is safest and best to become no party to such violation.
Remember, too, the incalculable power of the press for good as well as for evil. Search for that which is beneficial and ennobling as studiously as you avoid that which is injurious and degrading. Seek to stimulate general interest in measures that are for the general good. You must deal with comparatively trivial matters it may be, but none the less form a higher conception of the office of newsmonger than the mere name implies. Parties and visits, accidents, crimes, sickness, births, marriages, and deaths, need not form the staple of news.
The good or bad condition of the roads, the cleanliness of back dooryards or the tidiness of front