Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wednesday with Words - About Imitation in Writing

I am really taken with Frederick Henry Sykes Elementary English Composition for High Schools and Academies (1905 edition) meant for the first and second year of high school.  The earlier edition lacks an introduction and a table of contents - which is a little annoying.  He makes up for that in this version.  His introduction truly speaks to what writing and composition should be about.  A few thoughts:

The pupil's own experiences are not enough.  He must read, and read aloud and be read to. And reading becomes most effective when the pupil commits to memory passages of standard literature that he reads.  Through reading especially, the pupil becomes possessed of the rich stores of the world's life and thought, preserved in myth and fable and history, and gets the stimulus that comes from the greater ideas of other minds and other times. 

Passages from our best authors rightly selected and wisely used, are the most valuable means and material for the study and acquisition of style.  

Oral composition should be a daily practice of the English class. Conversation between teacher and pupil, the oral repetion or summary of a story, brief oral descriptions of the incidents of the seasons or human happenings, or discussion of the daily news, can be made to conduce to the ready and effective use of language. 

We must, therefore, in elementary classes, begin with the primary literary interest, the story - with the fairy-tale and fable and anecdote.  By going from Narration to Description and Exposition, ending with Argumentation, including Persuasion, we follow the progressive stages in the intellectual powers.
He does end with a section on prosody.
Practice in outlining affords excellent training in analysis, and impresses on the young writer the need of sequence of thought and of logical order and arrangement in good composition. 
He also includes quotes from famous author's about their writing process and covers the grammar that good writing necessitates.  I will leave you to find that out in this short introduction.


  1. Fascinating and reminds me of Charlotte Mason's ideas.

  2. Well, Cindy took the words right out of my mouth! Definitely has a ring of Charlotte Mason.

  3. I think that's why I liked it so much. I was surprised to see it in a "regular" textbook of that time.