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Yet much his self-love suffer'd by the shock,
his quiet cabin in the rock,
To aid her, on their mutual wings to bear,
CORRESPONDEXCE-FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
Baltimore December 5th, 1810. MR. EDITOR,
Having often hcard it asserted, that a habit of composition, too much indulged, has a tendency to destroy the power of extempore speaking in a young man, I have troubled you with the following remarks for the purpose of illustrating the incorrectness of this dangerous opinion, which is deemed worthy of insertion in the pages of the Port Folio, you will much oblige a correspondent by publishing.
1. Whenever inclination prompts a young man to wield his pen, whatever be his subject, if the effusions of his taste or genius are intended for the public eye, he will evidently be extremely careful to clothe his ideas in the most correct and fanciful dress, he possibiy can. He will turn over, in his mind the various modes of expression, he has formerly used in conversation, for the conveyance of particular sentiments to the un
derstanding of those around him, and will be studiously attentive ' in selecting such, as are, to all appearance, most consonant with
gramatical accuracy, and as present the most fascinating and
agreeable union of elegance with propriety. He who is desirous of bringing the brilliancy of his talents into public notice, will be cautious in not permitting any thing, that may possibly derogate from his expected celebrity, to creep into his style, and however faulty it proves, when the publication of the first specimen empowers us to examine it, we must naturally suppose its deficiencies to have arisen from defect in abilities, rather than an intentional desire of displeasing. Hence the first beneficial result of a habit of composition, is, attention to the combination of beauty with correctness, in writing down our ideas, and consequently, the gradual acquirement of a proper manner of expressing ourselves in company, whatever
may chance to be the subject of conversation. A little reflection will evince the truth of this conclusion. Let any one write down a number of observations on the most common topics, in as smooth and correct a style as he possibly can,-if perchance these same topics should, a short time afterwards, become the subject of discussion, in a company at which he was present, he will, in his quota of remarks, discover a greater and more peculiar fluency of speech, than he ever before remarked in himself, and, upon recollection, will find the same method of expression he had used in writing a short time before, resorted to, in his portion of the conversation he had just been engaged in. How then is it possible for frequent writing to prevent or destroy fluency in conversation, I cannot discover, while on the contrary it appears to.me evident, that nothing can have a stronger and more apparent effect in improving and increasing it.
2. In composition, it is necessary to keep constantly in the memory, a number of words, terins, and even sentences, of the same signification, for nothing more effectually conduces to injure the harmony of writing than frequent repctitions of the same mode of expression, and even supposing a person, unpossessed of this valuable requisite, to be capable of avoiding tautology, yet his style will generally be unconnected, and his periods can never be rounded, with that ease and gracefulness, which are the principal characteristics of clcgant writing. In common conversation, for the most pari, we are not partiellarly studious,
in avoiding that species of fault; and this, chiefly on account of our not readily perceiving any injurious effects it has on our usual mode of conversing; but when reading a disquisition on some interesting question, in which we generally look for smoothness and freedom from inclegant sameness, we quickly observe and condemn, every defect that either renders it harsh and dissonant, or that detracts in any way from its expected excellence. Here then we call one thing—inclogant-merely because its deficiencies are more observable than those, in what may, on superficial scrutiny, be considered as possessing the opposite quality; and this distinction is between studied composition and mere casualconversation. In the first, every, the minutest defect is at all times liable to be discovered:-in the latter many things escape notice, which, if remembered and criticised, would be found extremely improper:The one is itself a standing evidence against its author, while the faults of the other depend, fordiscovery and exposure, upon their retention in perhaps an uncertain and deceptive memory.-But it cannot certainly be ever considered as a sufficient reason for carelessnessin conversation, that grammatical and otherinnaccuracies are not liable to be readily perceived in a speaker, while conversing, or at least if perceived not long remembered, and therefore to conclude, that correctness is never laudable or necessary, except in elaborate composition, we are to remember that, in the writings of almost every person, there is to be found a slight tincture of the peculiarities in phraseology for which, in conversation, they were always remarkable, and that, in general, the more correct a person is in speaking the fewer will be the inaccuracies perceivable in his writings. This, independent of any other consideration, is sufficient to illustrate the propriety of attending to elegance in conversation, and if this is proved to be promoted by frequent composition, it will be another argument to evince its great utility and importance.--If, as has been shown, there is an absolute necessity for being acquainted with a great variety of words, of similar significations, in order to be enabled to write with purity and correçtness, andy as has also been shown, what we are in the habit of writing will by degrees be infused into our common conversation, it must be obvious, that a habit of composition will tend to im
prove our speech, by accustoming us to make use of various phrases, different in expression though alike in meaning, and by these means, avoiding the disagreeable necessity of frequent repetition. From these, and a variety of other considerations that will not fail of suggesting themselves to the reader's understanding, it would appear, that instead of diminishing our capability of extempore speaking, a habit of composition will have strong and visible effects in increasing and improving it: but having considered this improvement, hitherto, as that only of fluency in private conversation, it will be necessary to examine, whether it will be equally apparent with respect to public oratory:~and here we will discover that the beneficial consequences of frequent writing are equally important.-Whoever wishes to speak extempore will, on his first attempt, commence his reflections, by forming in his mind a plan of procedure, which his imagination may suggest as most methodical and regular, and will afterwards mentally prepare a clothing, for such of his ideas, as he intends for the most prominent and striking parts of his argument.--That this is the man, ner in which young men will usually proceed, when rising, for the first time, to address a public audience, whether a religious congregation, or a court and jury, I do not think it unreasonable to presume, and as I have before shown that mere private conversation is considerably improved by composition, I believe I may in justice infer from the conclusion I then made, that extempore public speaking is also facilitated by the same. For what makes the distinction between public oratory and private conversation? The one is a continued argument regulated in the correctness of its style by the same rules with conversation but different in manner, being usually addressed to a particular audience, and for a particular purpose: but still the object, as to the expression of sentiments, is the same in both, and must, to be approved, be equally correct and elegant.--Hence it must be abvious that fluency in speaking, without the previous preparation and committing to memory of what we intend advancing in our discourse, is augmented, by accustoming ourselves, when young, to compose frequently, and at the same time attentively, and that the neglect of this will be attended with effects, as deleterious on the other hand as these are beneficial. Perhaps it may be urged, that as composition gives one