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We hope none of our gay readers, with whom method and dulness are almost synonimous, will
be deterred by its title from the following paper. They will, we think, find much of that unadorned, manly, and dignified sense which we see in the philosophical writings of the ages of Anne and the first George, which antithesis and metaphor have of late almost succeed. cd in banishing.
FOR THE ANTHOLOGY.
• Method is despised by some, lleved, that by rambles and repetj. and its utility exaggerated by oth- tions they might supply the things ers. Many writers consider rules which they know not how to say. as shackles of genius. Others Others change their style, without believe them a great assistance; consulting the nature of the subbut they choose them so injudi- ject which they treat. They pique ciously, and multiply them to such themselves on their eloquence, excess, that they render them use when they ought to be contented less and even pernicious. All are with reasoning. They give you equally in the wrong : the former an analysis, when they ought to for undervaluing method, because give a description ; and their ima. they are not masters of a good gination grows hot and grows one ; the latter for believing it ne- cold, almost always in the wrong cessary, when they understand place. none that is not very defective. That we may not wander in the • A work, without order, may course of a work, and that we succeed by its details, and place may say every thing in its proper its author among the good wri. place and express it conveniently, ters: but a better arrangement it is absolutely necessary, to ema would render it more worthy of brace our object in a general view. success. In matters of reasoning, Obscurity, when it is rare, may it is impossible that the light should proceed from inadvertence ; but be diffused equally over all the when it is frequent, it arises certainparts, if method is wanting ; in ly from the confused manner, things of amusement, at least, it is in which we seize the subject of certain, that every thing, which is which we treat. We judge not not in its place, loses some part of well of the proportions of each its beauty. But without loitering part,but when we see the whole at in all these discussions, let us de- once. fine method, and the necessity of Poets and orators early felt the it will be demonstrated. I say utility of method. Among them, then, that method is the art of re- accordingly, it made the most raconciling the greatest perspicuity pid progress. They had the adand the greatest precision with vantage of making trials of their all the beauties, of which a subject productions upon a whole people : is susceptible. .
witnesses of the impressions they There are writers, who know made, they had opportunities of not how to confine themselves observing what was wanting in within their subject. They lose their works. themselves in digressions without The philosophers had not the number, and they find themselves advantage of the same admoniagain, only to repeat what they tions. Thinking it below them to had said : it seems as if thy be write for the multitude, they made
it, for a long time, a duty to be un- that unity of action is necessary. intelligible. Frequently it was Other observations discovered othnothing more than a fetch of their er rules, and the poets had, convanity ; they wished to conceal cerning method, Kleas so exact, their ignorance from themselves, that it was reserved for them to and it was sufficient for them to give lessons to the philosophers. appear to be inforined in the eyes Although their rules are the of the people, who, better qualifi, fruit of experience and reflexion, ed to admire than to judge, very some writers have combatted willingly believed them on their them, as if they were only old preword. The philosophers then, judices. They have thought to having for judges only their disci- establish new opinions by revive ple who blindly adopted their o« ing the errours of the first artists, pinions, could not suspect their and restoring the arts to their ori. method to be defective: they could ginal barbarity. only believe, on the contrary, that It is not to render service to whoever did not understand them genius to disengage it from subwanted intelligence. This is one jection to method. It is, for them, reason, that their labours have what the laws are to a freeman. produced so many frivolous dis Poems will please, only in proputes, and contributed so little to portion as these rules are observed. the progress of the art of reading. If we find attractions in episodes,
The first poems were only his- it is because each of them is one ; tories, woven together, without and by consequence separated art: many ambiguous expressions, from the work, with which it is many rambles, and repetitions not connected, bas its beauty. All without number. Facts, so ill di- together, they compose a poem in gested, could not easily be pre- which are beautiful things, but served in the memory, and expe- make not a beautiful poem : in rience taught insensibly how to fact, if, descending from details to disentangle them and present them details, we perceive not unity in with more precision. When they any part, the entire work will be knew how to place the facts in or- but a chaos. All the parts, then, der, they wished to add orna- ought to form a single whole. ments, and they loaded them with The rules are the same for elofictions. To write history they com- quence; but while experience guidposed romances in verse, that is to ed the orators and poets, who culsay, poems. Since prose has been tivated their arts without affecting consecrated to history, there has to give precepts, the philosophers been the same propensity to fic- wrote in a method which they had Lions. They have therefore made not discovered, and of which they poems in prose, that is, romances. believed they gave the first lesIt is thus that romances and poems sons. They have composed trea• have sprung from history.
tises on rhetorick, on poetry, and When they began to compose on logick. Without being poets poems, they soon perceived the or orators, they have known the importance of interesting. It was rules of poetry and eloquence, beremarked, that the interest increas- cause they have sought for them es in proportion as it is less di- in models, where the examples vided ; and it was acknowledged, were to be found. If they had been
Vol. III. No. 3. Q
possessed early of equal models taken to make himself understood, of philosophy, they would not would often render him unintellihave been so slow in acquiring the gible. To begin by divisions art of reading. It is because they without number, to make a great have been deprived of this aid, shew of method, is to bewilder that they have inserted in their ourselves in an obscure labyrinth logick so few of useful things and in order to arrive at the light. so many subtilties.
Method never proclaims itself less, The method, which teaches to than when there is most of it. make a whole, is common to all The beginning of a work, then, kinds. It is, above all, necessary cannot be too simple, nor too enin works of reasoning; for the tirely disengaged from every thing attention diminishes in proportion which occasions any difficulty. as it is divided, and the mind seiz. The general division being made, es nothing, when it is distracted we ought to search for the order by too great a number of objects in which the parts contribute the • But the unity of action in works most to diffuse upon each other intended to interest us, and the light and attraction. By this, all unity of object in such as are will be in the greatest connexion. composed to instruct us, equally Afterwards each part should be demand, that all the parts among considered in particular, and subthemselves should be in exact divided as often as it includes obproportion, and that, subordinate jects, each of which can constitute the one to the others, they relate a little whole. Nothing should be all to the same end. By this, uni- admitted into these subdivisions, ty brings us to the principle of the which can alter the unity of them; greatest connexion of ideas ; up and the parts know no other order, on this it depends. In truth, this than that which is indicated by a connexion being found, the begin- gradation the most obvious. In ning, the end, and the intermedi- works composed to interest us, it ate parts, are determined : every is the gradation of sentiment ; in thing which alters the proportions others it is the gradation of eviis cut off ; and we can no longer dence. But to conduct ourselves lop, or displace any thing, without surely, it is necessary to know how injury to the connexion or the to choose among our ideas, which pleasure.
present themselves : the choice is To discover this connexion it necessary, that we may adopt nois necessary to fix our object, un- thing, which contributes not to the til we can determine the principal strictest connexion of ideas. Ever parts of it, and comprehend them ery thing that is not attached to all in the general division. We the subject we treat, ought to be must avoid divisions merely arbi. rejected ; even things which have trary, and even prelimiary divi- some connexion with it, deserve sions, by which we decompose an not always to be employed. This object in all its parts ; the mind right belongs only to those things, of the reader would be fatigued which can connect themselves the from the first entrance of the most sensibly to the end which we work ; things which would be propose. most essential to him to retain, The subject, and the end, are would escape him, and the precau- the two points of view, which tions, which the author should have ought to regulate us. Thus when
an idea occurs, we have to consider ject we have chosen. It is neces. whether, being connected with our sary to give so much more attensubject, it developes it in relation tion to this, because always in comto the end, for which we treat it; bat with ourselves to prescribe and whether it conducts us to that limits and to overleap them. We end by the shortest course. think ourselves authorized, under
In taking our subject for the the smallest pretext, in our greatonly fixed point, we may extend est departures. It often seems, ourselves indifferently on all sides. that we are more curious to shew Then, the farther we ranble, the that we know a great deal, than to less the details, among which our make it appear we know well thoughts wander, have relation to those things we treat. one another ; we no longer know
Digressions are not permitted, where we are to stop, and we ap- but u
but when we find not in the subRear to undertake several works,
ject, on which we write, materials without accomplishing any. But
to present it with all the advantages when we have, for a second point
we desire. Then we look else. fixed, an end well determined,
where for that, which it does not the road is marked; every step
afford ; but it is with the design contributes to a still greater devel
to return to it soon, and with the opement, and we arrive at the con- h
hope of diffusing over it more light clusion without having ever gone
and ornament. Digressions and out of our way. If the whole
episodes ought not therefore ever work has a subject and an end,
to make us forget the principal every chapter has equally both the
subject. They must have in that one and the other , and so has ev..
subject their beginning, their end, ery section, and every phrase. It
and they must incessantly return is therefore necessary to pursue to it. A good writer is like a tra. the same conduct in the details.
• veller, who has the prudence never. By this, the work will be one in
to quit his path, except to enter the whole and in every part, and
again with accommodations propall will be in the greatest possible
er to enable him to continue his connexion. By conforming to the
journey more happily. A great principle of the greatest connex.
work is to be considered like a dision, a work will be reduced to the
course of a few pages, or periods ; smallest number of chapters, the
for the method is the same for the chapters to the smallest number of
one and the other. sections, the sections to the smallest number of periods, and the pe. We may labour, on the different riods to the smallest number of parts of a work, according to the words.
order in which we have distributed In nature all objects are con- them; and we may also, when the nected in the formation of a single plan has been well digested, pass whole. This is the reason, it is so indifferently from the commence, Datural to us to pass lightly from ment to the end, or to the middle, one thing to another. We are, and, instead of subjecting ourselves even in our greatest excursions, to any order, consult only the im. always conducted by some sort of pulse or inclination which prompts. connexion. We ought therefore us to seize the moment, in which continually to watch over ourselves, we are more prepared to treat of that we may not go out of the sub, one part than another,
There is in this conduct a lib- that they subject themselves to it, erty, which resembles, without be- when they study. ing a disorder. It relaxes the It remains to treat of the differmind by presenting to it objects ent kinds of works. For there are always different, and leaves it at three, in general ; the didactick, liberty to resign itself to all its the narration, and the description : . vivacity. Nevertheless the subor for we reason, we relate, and we dination of the parts fixes the describe. In the didactick we lay points of view, which' prevent or down questions and discuss them : correct all digressions, and which In narration we expose facts, true recal us continually to the princi- or imaginary, which comprehends pal object. We should employ all history, romance, and poems : In aur address to regulate the mind, description we paint what we see, without depriving it of its liberty, and what we feel, which belongs Whatever order men of talents particularly to the orator and to discover in their works, it is rare the poet.
FOR THE ANTHOLOGY,
No. 7. Quo teneam mutantem Protea nodo? Hor. There is a word on every one's' indisputable truths, which, like the tongue, to limit the meaning of maxims of the schools, must e. which however, by an indisputable qually silence the cavils of the ige definition, seems scarcely less dif- norant and the wise. ficult, than to o tell you where Still, however, there are some fancy's bred." It is taste ;...some- difficulties attending the common thing about which every one talks, opinion of the mutability of taste, because nobody is willing to be which seem to me almost to make lieve he is ignorant of what all the
heresy pardonable. We believe, rest of the world knows. Yet,
after all, that taste is a word of when curiously examined, it ap
some significance. We even as, pears to be something so aerial and
cribe to its influence all that is volatile in its nature, that it can
beautiful and lovely in art, and tho' scarcely be grasped by the meta
its nature, like the musick of Ari. physician, and which, at the sight el, is unseen and incomprehensi. of the chains of logick,
ble, yet we cannot forbear to hear Spreads its light wings, and in a moment dies. its harmony above and around us.
The principles by which it is · But if the opinion we mention is regulated are supposed to be as va- correct, these conclusions are all riable, as its nature is mysterious. fallacious. If taste be thus lawless Not only does the taste of every and capricious, he, who calls himage apparently differ ; bui in ev- self the man of taste, has little cause ery nation of the same age, and I of self complacency. His assumphad almost said in every individual tion of some fixed principles of of the same nation, does this Pro judgment is perfectly gratuitous ; teus assume new forms, and frol- and if we refuse to concede them, ick in new caprices. That taste there are no statutes of reasoning has no taw is commonly supposed on which he can extort our belief. to be one of those universal and to talk of the canons cf criticism,