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485. (1) Give the class a three-minute talk. Whatever your subject, show that you are prepared to speak on it. You may choose some subject on which you have already written with great care. At any rate you should know just what you wish to say, so that you can speak fluently. Give your best attention to the preparation of your plan. Consider carefully the introduction and the conclusion; and if you wish, write them. Choose an appropriate title.
(2) Write out your talk, using the language of the oral composition as far as possible.
Hear as many good stories as you can, and tell one whenever you find a listener.
155. The Study of Common Forms of Prose. In studying literature with a view to learning how to write, it has proved convenient to examine each of the four common forms of prose by itself. Now, as a matter of fact, we do not find a great many pure narratives, or pure descriptions, or pure expositions, or pure arguments; almost every composition is a combination of two or more of these forms. It is important, however, to acquire some skill in the use of each kind, for all are practical ways of using our mother tongue. If we tell a story, we wish to tell it so that it will make a definite impression; if we paint a word picture, we wish the picture to affect the reader as it affects us; if we give an explanation, we wish it to be so clear and orderly that every listener will follow step by step; if we champion one side of a question, we wish to present that side in such a straightforward, logical way that we shall be convincing.
156. The Incident. First we shall study narration. Whether we are trying to tell something that has happened to us, something we have heard, or something we have read, we are continually thinking, "I wish I knew how to tell a story." Probably the easiest way to become
a good story-teller is to begin with incidents. We all note many occurrences which are worth recording, and in order to write them in good form, we should study the way in which others have done the same kind of writing. We should remember, too, that practice in telling incidents from the lives of others will help us in telling those that come within our own experience.
486. In criticizing the following incidents, answer these questions:
1. Is the introduction sufficiently brief?
2. Are the events told in a natural order?
3. Does the narrative end in a way that brings out clearly the main point?
LAMB'S SALT DIPS
Lamb had been medically advised to take a course of sea bathing; and accordingly, at the door of his bathing machine, whilst he stood shivering with the cold, two stout fellows laid hold of him, one at each shoulder, like heraldic supporters; they waited for the word of command from their principal, who began the following oration to them:
"Hear me, men! Take notice of this - I am to be dipped." What more he would have said is unknown, for having reached the word "dipped," he commenced such a rolling fire of di-di-di-di, that when at length he descended à plomb upon the full word dipped, the two men, rather tired of the long suspense, became satisfied that they had reached what lawyers call the “operative clause" of the sentence, and both exclaiming, “Oh, yes, sir, we are quite aware of that," down they plunged him into the sea.
On emerging, Lamb sobbed so much from the cold that he found no voice suitable to his indignation; from necessity he seemed tranquil; and again addressing the men, who stood respectfully listening, he began thus:
"Men! is it possible to obtain your attention?" "Oh, surely, sir, by all means."
"Then listen; once more I tell you I am to be di-di-di-di-," and then, with a burst of indignation, "dipped, I tell you."
"Oh, decidedly, sir," rejoined the men, "decidedly," and down the stammerer went for a second time.
Petrified with cold and wrath, once more Lamb made a feeble attempt at explanation:
"Grant me pa-pa-patience! Is it mum-um-murder you meme-ean? Again, and again I tell you I'm to be di-di-di-dipped," now speaking furiously, with the tone of an injured man.
"Oh, yes, sir," the men replied, "we know that; we fully understood it"; and, for the third time, down went Lamb into the sea.
"O limbs of Satan!" he said, on coming up for the third time, "it's now too late; I tell you that I am - no, that I was by medical direction to be di-di-di-dipped only once."
THACKERAY AND THE OYSTER
Thackeray announced to me by letter. . . that he . . . would sail for Boston by the Canada on the 30th of October. All the necessary arrangements for his lecturing tour had been made without troubling him with any of the details. He arrived on a frosty November evening, and went directly to the Tremont House, where rooms had been engaged for him. I remember his delight in getting off the sea, and the enthusiasm with which he hailed the announcement that dinner would be ready shortly. A few friends were ready to sit down with him, and he seemed greatly to enjoy the novelty of an American repast. In London he had been very curious in his inquiries about American oysters, as marvelous stories, which he did not believe, had been told him of their great size. We apologized — although we had taken care that the largest specimens to be procured should startle his unwonted vision when he came to the table for what we called the extreme smallness of the oysters, promising that we would do better next time. Six bloated Falstaffian bivalves lay before him in their shells. I noticed that he gazed at them anxiously with fork upraised; then he whispered to me, with a look of anguish, "How shall I do it?” I described to him the simple process by which the free-born citizens
1 Reprinted by permission of Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Company.
of America were accustomed to accomplish such a task. He seemed satisfied that the thing was feasible, selected the smallest one in the half-dozen (rejecting a large one, "because," he said, "it resembled the High Priest's servant's ear that Peter cut off"), and then bowed his head as if he were saying grace. All eyes were upon him to watch the effect of a new sensation in the person of a great British author. Opening his mouth very wide, he struggled for a moment, and then all was over. I shall never forget the comic look of despair he cast upon the other five over-occupied shells. I broke the perfect stillness by asking him how he felt. "Profoundly grateful," he gasped, "and as if I had swallowed a little baby.”
-J. T. FIELDS, "Yesterdays with Authors."
487. Tell the foregoing incident. Be sure to keep your audience in suspense as well as the writer does.
488. Tell the first anecdote without allowing any of the men to speak for themselves, and state whether it seems wise to allow the persons, or characters, to speak for themselves as much as possible.
489. Write an incident that is suggested by one of the following topics. See that you have a good beginning, an orderly sequence of events, and a dignified conclusion.
An Evening at Cedric's Home
A Test of Skill in Archery
Death of De la Marck "Quentin Durward."
The Boar Hunt
Chasing a Buffalo
} "The Oregon Trail."
490. Tell an incident based on your own experience.
491. Write an account of some interesting event about which you are now studying in history.
492. Does the following narrative begin promptly? Is the order of events a natural one? Does the story end well?