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A Book of Travels is a work describing, or picturing, places and peoples visited by the author. Since he tells us things which we can not see for ourselves, the traveler should be specially accurate in regard to facts generally; we look to him for the exact truth. While we can not expect works written in the haste and excitement of actual travel to have a finished and elegant style, yet there are books written by travelers of the present day that abound in passages of eloquent description, exciting narrative, and delightful humor.
A History (from the Greek, historein, to learn, to know by inquiry), is a narrative of events arranged in a methodical manner, so as to show the connection of cause and effect. As the proper office of the historian is to record truth for the instruction of mankind, the fundamental qualities required of him are impartiality, fidelity, and accuracy. He must not enter into faction, nor give scope to affection; but, cool and dispassionate, he must present to his readers a faithful copy of the men and the events that have influenced the destinies of nations.
In the conduct and management of his subject, the historian should aim at unity; his work should not consist of separate, unconnected parts, but should be bound together by some connecting principle, producing the effect of something that is one, whole, and entire. In his effort to render his narration agreeable he must not neglect chronological order, but must be able to form some connection among the affairs which he relates, so as to introduce them in a proper train. His style should be grave and dignified; no affectation of pertness or of wit is allowed. In the application of the lessons of History to questions agitating the world at the time of the historian, there is need, at one time, for the most vigorous and logical exercise of his reasoning faculty, at another, for the spacious flights of his imagination, and throughout a demand for a wording which shall range from dry and matter-of-fact up through all grades of expression to the ornate and elegant.
The delineation of character is one of the most splendid parts of historical composition; it is, at the same time, one of the most difficult. Some historians have given us pen portraits that are masterly and enduring; others have painted in colors already fading.
It is necessary that the soundest morality pervade all historical writing. Both in describing character, and in relating transactions, the author should always show himself to be on the side of virtue.
Chronicles, Annals, Memoirs, and Biographies are species of historical composition.
A Chronicle is a history in which the events are stated with special reference to the order of time.
Annals are facts arranged in strict chronological order, and divided into distinct years.
A Memoir is a species of history composed from personal experiences and memory. This species of composition does not demand the same research or the same varied information that is found in history; the author relates only that with which he himself has been connected, or that which has fallen under his personal observation. The writer is not subject to the same laws of dignity and gravity. He
may talk freely of himself; he may descend into the most familiar anecdotes.
A Biography is the history of an individual, setting before us what manner of man he was, and what he did. The biography of one in any way eminent in public life is largely a history of his times. Biography deals much with character; it abounds in personal incidents and anecdotes, which afford the reader the opportunity of seeing the characters and tempers, the virtues and failings, of eminent men; and which admit him into a thorough and intimate acquaintance with such persons. In such work the biographer is helped by the letters of his subject. In these the man speaks more fully and frankly than in his public efforts. His hopes and fears, his struggles, defeats, and triumphs, are apt to find expression in his letters, and in these he displays his inner self to us.
And so, especially in recent times, letters form a very large part of biographies-often the most valuable part.
In writing biographical sketches, the following outline will serve as a guide:
Education—all formative influences) home; school; books; nature; public events; travel.
Orderly statement of the chief events in which he participated, and the part he took in them.
Death-time; place; circumstances.
Estimate of character — personal appearance; mental qualities; moral qualities; influence on the world; comparison with others.
An Autobiography is a biography of an individual written by himself. The writer records the actions of his private as well as his public life; and explains, as no other can, the motives and circumstances which controlled him.
A Work of Fiction is a production which depicts the lives of imaginary persons.
It sometimes deals with real men and women, but, even in this case, it does not claim to relate what they actually said and did.
The names most commonly given to works of fiction are Novels and Romances. These terms are for the most part used interchangeably; but, strictly speaking, a novel is a fictitious narrative, designed to represent the operation of human passions, especially that of love; while a romance is a kind of novel of an extravagant nature, which treats of wild or startling adventures, particularly in love or war
Fiction has to do with the motives that influence persons, with the behavior of the persons under such influence, and with the development of character under the conditions imposed. In its portrayal of character, it seeks to give a just insight into human nature; by means of the dialogue, in which the novel abounds, each person reveals his peculiarities and furnishes us a picture of himself so true as to require only a few touches by the author to make it as vivid as reality.
Some novels teach us much concerning the customs, habits, manners, domestic and social life, and even the history of the people during the age in which the scenes are laid.
Other novels, with a higher purpose, aim to interest us in classes of 'society whose condition should be improved, to lay open, to the attention of the public, certain evils, and, if need be, to bring legislation into play to redress them. The novels written by Chas. Dickens are of this class.
Fiction is one of the latest departments of literature, yet one of the most extensive. Its growth is wonderful; supply keeps pace with an ever increasing demand. Though fiction gives insight into human nature, teaches history, lays bare the shams of social life, probes festering evils, abounds in striking thoughts and rare descriptions, and possesses all the wealth of style, yet it should not be read to the neglect of other branches of literature. The youth of our country should be restrained in novel reading; it should be read as an amusement and a relaxation, only alternating with more solid reading.
The greater part of the fiction now published and read has no other object than mere pleasure, and that not of a pure kind; the reading of such novels is a mere mental dissipation, unfitting the reader to enjoy literature of a more elevated kind, or to properly perform the active duties of life. To become intensely alive to fancied suffering, and be kindled to warm sympathy with fictitious personages without opportunity to express these feelings by acts, and to do what he is moved to do, are unhealthful, and tend to deaden him to the woes and sufferings of the real world.
News forms a most extensive branch of literature. Next to letter-writing, there is no species of composition of which so much is done.
The daily newspaper contains the only literature that reaches a large proportion of the people, and it should therefore embody the best qualities of literary style. Very generally, however, this is not the case.
One of the most common and serious faults of news. writers is the use of slang words and phrases. This is too often mistaken for wit.