Senior Course of English Composition

Senior Course of English Composition
Author: John Collinson Nesfield/J.C Nesfield
Publisher: Macmillan
Publication date: 1903
Number of pages: 366
Format / Quality: DJVU
Size: 4.40MB

Main Characteristics of good Composition: A good style, as the late Fitzgerald Hall defines it in one of his posthumous letters, consists in “saying in the most perspicuous and succinct way what one thoroughly understands, and saying it so naturally that no effort is apparent.” This extract mentions three of the qualities of good composition, viz. (1) Perspicuity, or “saying in the most perspicuous way what one thoroughly understands”; (2) Brevity, or “saying it in the most succinct way”; (3) Simplicity, or “saying it so naturally that no effort is apparent.”
Another writer, Mr. Leslie Stephen, in the course of a criticism on the writings of Ruskin, has expressed himself a follows: “The cardinal virtue of a good style is that every sentence should be alive to its fingers’ ends. There should be no cumbrous verbiage; no barren commonplace to fill the interstices of thought; and no mannerism simulating emotion by fictitious emphasis. Ruskin has that virtue in the highest degree” (Rational Review). Here a new quality is introduced – Impressiveness, Energy or Vivacity, “the sentence should be alive to its fingers’ ends.” What follows has reference to brevity and naturalness or simplicity, and these have been mentioned already in the previous quotation.
An older writer, Blair (born in 1718), has expressed himself as follows on the same subject: “All the qualities of a good style may be ranged under two heads-Perspicuity and Ornament. For all that can possibly be required of language is to convey our ideas clearly to the minds of others, and at the same time in such a dress as by pleasing and interesting them shall most effectually strengthen the impressions which we seek to make. When both these ends are answered, we certainly accomplish every purpose for which we are writing our discourse.” Here a new quality is introduced – Ornament, which the same writer afterwards discusses under the name of “harmony of sentences,” but which is generally known as Euphony.
Another writer, Whately (born 1787), discusses the subject of composition under three main headings – “Perspicuity,” “Energy,” and “Elegance or Beauty.”
He shows, too, how energy may he promoted by conciseness; and under the heading of Elegance he deals mainly with Euphony “a smooth and easy flow of words in respect of the sound of the sentences” (Part III. Ch. III. § 1).
Bain, in his work on Composition and Rhetoric, proceeds on much the same lines as Whately, but draws a distinction between impressiveness of language, which appeals to the understanding, and impressiveness of picture, which appeals to the imagination; and he gives to the latter the more appropriate name of Picturesqueness.
If we sum up the views contained in the above extracts or references, we find that there are six main qualities of composition.
These six chapters are preceded by an initial chapter on the Figures of Speech, which have been discussed first, as they lie at the basis of all composition. It will be of great help to a beginner to know what they are and what use can be made of them for the purposes described in the subsequent chapters.

1. Perspicuity-clearness of diction Chap. II
2. Simplicity-ease or naturalness of diction Chap. III
3. Succinctness-brevity of diction Chap. IV
4. Impressiveness-energy or force of diction Chap. V
5. Euphony-harmony or smoothness of diction Chap. VI
6. Picturesqueness-graphic diction Chap. VII


Chapter I Figures of Speech
Chapter II Perspicuity
Section 1 Grammatical Precautions
Section 2 The Obscure
Section 3 The Double Meaning
Chapter III Simplicity
Section IV Brevity
Section V Impressiveness
Section 1. Emphasis by Construction
Section 2. Emphasis by Position
Section 3. Emphasis by Repetition
Section 4. Rhetorical Devices
Section VI Euphony
Section 1 Order of Phrases and Clauses
Section 2 Sentences Periodic and Loose
Section 3 Unity of Sentence
Section X Essay-writing
Section 1 Essay-writing in general
Section 2 Essays for Reproduction
Narrative: The Baronial Rising in the Reign of John
The Life of Alfred the Great
Descriptive: The Indian Buffalo, The River Nile, The Suez Canal
Reflective: Practical Wisdom, Stamp-collecting, The Influence of Newspapers
Expository: Mountains as Rain-producers, Growth of the Daily Press: the Expository Causes
The Cabinet: History and Constitution
Argumentative: The Anglo-Japanese Alliance, Conscription: Necessary or not?
State-patronage: Effect on Genius, Political Differences: Effect on Private Relations

Section 3 Subjects for Essays, with Notes
Narrative-13 Subjects
Descriptive-20 Subjects
Reflective-27 Subjects
Expository-22 Subjects
Argumentative-18 Subjects
Section 4 Subjects for Essays, without Notes
Narrative-138 Subjects
Descriptive-166 Subjects
Reflective-124 Subjects
Expository-174 Subjects
Argumentative-67 Subjects
Royal Military College, Sandhurst
Royal Military Academy, Woolwich
Sandhurst and Woolwich jointly
Oxford Local Examinations (Senior)
Cambridge Local Examinations (Senior)
College of Preceptors
Central Welsh Board
Leaving Certificate (Scotland)
Queen’s Scholarship (England and Wales)
Teacher’s Certificate (England and Wales)
Teacher’s Certificate (Scotland)
Indian and Home Civil Service

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