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IN LIGHTER MOOD.
“Will one in the class," asked the teacher of rhetoric, "give a better form to the sentence, 'John can ride the mule if he wants to’?!! “John can ride the mule if the mule wants him to," said the boy with the bad eye.—Chicago Tribune.
Johnny, a Sunday School boy, having arrived at his eighth birthday, thought it would be real nice to write a letter to his papa, and this is the way he began: “Dear Papa: Whenever I am tempted to do wrong, I think of you and say: 'Get thee behind me, Satan!”
A Frenchman, who had a dispute with a Turk in Constantinople, and had stabbed him, was condemned to death. The criminal, who thoroughly understood the value of postponing trouble, thought on the means of saving himself; and as he knew that the Sultan was a great lover of elephants, he proposed to him to spare his life, and he would in return teach one of these animals to speak.' The Sultan, who knew the sence of the elephant, thought it possible that by pains and art one might be taught to do so. Therefore, he accepted the proposal of the prisoner, and promised a handsome reward besides, if he should fulfill his purpose in a certain time. The Frenchman said that ten years would be wanted to instruct such a very large animal; if he was to teach it to speak Turkish quite perfectly, but he would be content to suffer the most cruel death at the expiration of that time, if he should not fulfill what he had undertaken. After they had agreed to this, he and a young elephant were confined in a tower, and supplied with abundance of provisions. After a little time, he was visited by some of his countrymen, who testified their astonishment at his mad promise. "You bring destruction on yourself by it,” said one of them. “Do not fear,” said the prisoner, “ten years is a great period of human life. I assure you that, before these are expired, one of us, the Sultan, the elephant or I will be dead.”
A Chicago hotel manager employed a handy man going by the name of “Bill” to do his window-washing. One morning Bill, instead of doing his work, was amusing himself by reading the paper, and, as bad luck would have it, the manager looked in.
"What's this ?” he said. Bill was dumbfounded. “Pack up your things and go,” said the manager.
So poor Bill went to the office, drew the money which was owing to him, and then went upstairs and put on his good clothes. Coming down, he went to say "goodby" to some of the other servants, and there he happened to run across the manager, who did not recognize him in his black coat.
“Do you want a job?” asked the manager.
"You look like a handy sort of fellow, I only gave the last man five dollars, but I'll give you seven.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Bill; and in half an hour he was back in the same old room-cleaning the windows this time, and not reading the paper.-Collier's Weekly.
When John Hay now Secretary of State, was a boy, he was a regular attendant of the Presbyterian Sunday School at Warsaw, Illinois. The Sunday School lessons partly consisted of committing to memory Bible verses, and to attain supremacy in this created quite a rivalry among the scholars. John Hay was sure to come out ahead from two to five answers, sometimes more, causing those of his comrades who were always behind him to regard him with envy.
Consequently, when some of those boys heard that John had to wash dishes and do the churning for his mother, and, more than all else, that he wore an apron while at these duties, they fairly crowed.
One morning, it was agreed by his comrades to get him out of doors while he had his apron on, and humiliate him by having two or three girls whom he rather liked ask him questions in regard to his house work.
Young Hay came out to where the boys were, and answered the questions by saying that he washed dishes as his mother taught him; and then, with twinkling eyes, he gave the dishpan which he had with him a tremendous fling, contents and all, drenching whoever happened to be near enough, and, laughing loudly, ran into the kitchen. Hay and his big apron were never molested after that.
Customer (to baker's boy): “Is your bread nice and light, sonny?”
Boy (confidentially): "Yes, ma'am; it only weighs ten ounces to the pound."
THE CULTIVATION OF LITERARY STYLE.
From an article in a recent number of Self Culture the following paragraphs are culled:
A good literary composition, like a good painting or a good musical composition, has certain distinguishing qualities. The artist may learn to appreciate those qualities, and, by faithful practice wisely directed, may conform his own work toward the ideal standard without losing his individuality.
The first and most important quality of style is clearness. If one have something to say that is worth saying he should say it. He should say it not merely that the reader may, but that he must, understand. Now, the first requirement for clear writing is clear thinking; for no one can make another understand what he does not understand himself. Hence, careful writing is a means of cultivating careful thinking. But one may have a very clear idea of what he wants to say and yet be unable to say it well: command of language is necessary.
Nice discrimination in the choice of words is a mark of good writing. Perhaps no two words in the language convey exactly the same meaning. A careful writer will wait long for an inspiration which shall give him the word or phrase which seems to elude his search. This high standard of excellence is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the true artist. A proverb has been defined as “the wisdom of many and the wit of one." It is a happy expression of the thought that gives it its peculiar value and its permanency. Thought is the jewel, but style is the setting that makes it available.
In ordinary reading the object is to get the writer's thought. In reading for the purpose of improving one's style, the chief aim should be
to appreciate the expression of the thought. An excellent exercise is to read a paragraph carefully, express the same thought, and then compare the writing critically with the original.
Indignation-indeed all strong feeling—is always expressed in as clear and forcible language as the speaker or writer is capable of. The writer who is in earnest will, other things being equal, be less likely to obscure his meaning than one who has no object beyond writing a given number of words. The practice of writing long compositions on subjects in which one has little or no interest is decidedly objectionable.
The liability of saying what one does not mean must be constantly kept in mind. The danger of being misunderstood, even when one says clearly what he does mean, must also be recognized.
Herbert Spencer points out in his work on “Education" that in all ages adornment has been more highly esteemed than utility. The savage is more anxious to have feathers and paint than a blanket to protect him from the cold. For the same reason the ordinary elocutionist uses too many gestures and the ordinary writer too much elaboration. The editor of a well-known college journal announces that his paper is “the recipient of a subscription from Mrs. L.” He would naturally have said, “re. ceived a subscription"; but he was anxious to write “fine English." The writer's object was not to say that his paper was a journal or a recipient, or anything else, but to tell his readers that he had receive a subscription. Neither long words nor "glittering generalities” can take the place of thought appropriately expressed. The purpose of writing is not to convey words but thoughts. Over-worded writing is like over-colored painting. Whatever is worth saying is worth saying briefly.
Grace is the quality of style which makes it pleasing. Many compositions are read chiefly on account of the beauties of their style. Addison's “Vision of Mirza” and “Sir Roger de Coverley," and Irving's “Westminister Abbey" and "Sorrow for the Dead," are among the best models of grace in the language.
The student of style must learn to admire the beautiful in composition in order that the taste, thus cultivated, may influence his own writing. This does not mean that one should try to write exactly as Addison or Irving wrote. The tendency to mere copying can be avoided by using several models, by regular practice in writing, and by constantly watching for defects to be avoided.
Force makes writing effective. To write forcibly one must be in earnest. Lord Macaulay's writing is perhaps the most forcible in the language. The reader of those brilliant essays is never left in doubt as to the writer's meaning. Every sentence is a thunderbolt. Read his
essay on "The Royal Society of Literature.” Would it not be useless to say a word in reply to that withering criticism? Macaulay's style is deficient in grace and variety, but it is none the less valuable as a model of clearness and force.
"Unity in variety” is an essential character of good writing. As in the architect's plan, every line should have its place in the formation of the perfect whole. Without diverting the reader's attention from the thought to the plan, it should proceed systematically from "firstly" to "lastly." Perhaps Macaulay's Essays furnish us as good models of unity as can be found.
It is often asserted that “all a rhetorician's rules teach nothing but to name his tools,” and that the only way to learn to write is by writing. A complete set of rules for painting would not make a painter; nor would practice alone produce the best results. In the teaching of all the arts, much harm is no doubt often done by destroying individuality and by cultivating an unnatural style. Yet no one can afford to rediscover entirely the principles of an art, nor to learn by costly experience what may readily be learned from a master of the art. A good style is to be acquired neither by giving one's days and nights to the study of theoretical rhetoric, nor by unceasing practice, both should be judiciously combined, if possible, under the guidance of a master of the science and art of writing.
M. I. WORK IN SAN FRANCISCO.
Harry D. Haines writes the ERA that there are flourishing Improvement Associations throughout California wherever branches of the Church are organized. Elder H. E. Sharp is the newly installed president of the San Francisco association, which has been of much assistance in furthering missionary labor. Its socials at which as many as eighty Saints and friends have been entertained, have contributed largely to their success. Strangers as well as recent converts display great eagerness for improvement study; and the association meets their demand for a thorough knowledge of the history and doctrines of the Church, in a serious and helpful way. It aids in fulfilling the commission of our Lord, “Teach all nations."