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THE work now presented to the public is chief'; intended for the perufal of those whofe critical studies are yet in their commencement To younger students, and to such as have not access to more extensive works, it may perhaps convey fome useful instruction. It is not intruded upon those who are already conversant in polite literature. Should it be found a suitable intro. duction to this liberal study, the compiler will have attained the summit of his ambition.
Though it was my principal object to treat of profe composition, yet a few observations on poetry incidentally occur. The remarks which have been fuggested with regard to the nature of figurative language, apply equally to profe and to poetry : but the poets have furnished me with the most copious and beautiful illustrations.
The rules of criticism are more successfully incul cated by particular examples than by general precepts. I have therefore endeavoured to collect abundance of apposite quotations, in order to illustrate every branch of the subject. In many instances this was an easy talk : but in the clailification of the different characters: of style, it was attended with the utmost difficulty. To refer the compositions of an author to a particular class, and produce examples from them in support of this dea cision, will always be found a hazardous attempt. Of tais circumstance Cicero and Quinctilian ftem to have been fully aware. In treating of the general character of a writer's style, they content thenfelves with referring to the body of his works, in confirmation of their fentence. To such exemplifications as occur in the following treatise, they have never had recourse.
Without pretending to quesion the propriety of their method, it may be presumed, that to the class of readers for whose perusal these Elements of English Composition are chiefly intended, a different mode of procedure may perhaps be attended with some advantage. It is of importance for the student to be in fome measure acquainted with the style of every author of eminence. The variety of examples exhibited in the course of the work will, at least in this view, bę found acceptable. Should they fail in their primary design, they may thus be rendered fubfervient to another purpofe.
To illustrate the progressive improvement of Englih compofition, I have fubjoined a variety of quotations from eminent authors. They are arranged nearly according to the priority of publication in the works from which they are selected. This selection commences where Johnson's closes.* It includes all the moft diftinguished writers of our own times, except those who still live to enjoy the reputation which their talents have fecured.
The volume concludes with a few miscellaneous ob.. fervations on epiftolary writing. To be able to maintain a friendly correspondence with propriety and clegance, is assuredly a very defirable accomplishment.. This branch of compofition ought therefore to be assiduoully cultivated, especially by every younger student.
It may perhaps be alleged, that in my critical strictures I have often betrayed too much severity of cenfure, and that in general I have been too folicitous to expofe the faults of eminent writers. But let it be remembered, that in a work of this kind it was neceffary to expofe defects, as well as to extol beauties. . Thofe errors wbich have received the sanction of great names are always dangerous. They frequently become the object of abfurd imitation,
Je fais," says Condillac on a like occafion, “ qu'on trouvera mes critiques bien feveres ; et que la plupart
Johnson's History of the English Language.