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["Self-Cultivation in English," by George Herbert Palmer, LL. D. Thomas Y. Crowell and Company.] It would be hard to suggest anyone better fitted to cope with the subject of English composition than the translator of "The Odyssey of Homer." Professor Palmer's English has been said to have a kind of surge which carries the reader buoyantly along.
In this address, Professor Palmer lays down four fundamental precepts for one who is learning to command his own language. "Look well to your speech"; "if we would cultivate ourselves in the use of English, we must make our daily talk accurate, daring, and full."
"Welcome every opportunity for writing." In the discussion of this second precept, the author takes occasion to say that "since frequency of writing has more to do with ease of writing than anything else, I count newspaper men lucky because they are writing all the time, and I do not think so meanly of their product as the present popular disparagement would seem to require. It is hasty work undoubtedly, and bears the marks of haste. But in my judgment, at no period of the English language has there been so high an average of sensible, vivacious and informing sentences written as appears in our daily press."
"Remember the other person" and "Lean on your subject" are the last two precepts. The author acknowledges that he has passed by "a whole class of helpful influences" and has "assumed that our cultivation in English is to be effected by naked volition and a kind of dead lift." He recommends him who would speak or write well to "live in the society of good speakers and writers, "for the society of the greatest writers is open to the most secluded."
This little book should find a place in our libraries next to the less human documents, Buffon's "Discours sur le Style," and Herbert Spencer's "The Philosophy of Style."
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