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THE SKETCH BOOK
ELMER E. WENTWORTH, A.M.
VASSAR COLLEGE, POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y.
ELMER E. WENTWORTH.
C. J. PETERS & Son,
145 HIGH ST., BOSTON, U.S.A.
An appreciation of IRVING's literary work, a plea for his right to a high rank among the makers of English literature,
these form no part of the plan of this volume. Nor do I purpose attempting to justify his place in the list of English authors read or studied in our schools as models, a list limited and conditioned by the necessity of devoting much time to subjects which, as their admirers seem to think, differ from English literature in this, – that they cannot be learned in easy lessons without a master.
It may be that truth is on the side of the professional pedagogue who informed me, some months ago, that “Irving is antiquated. We have advanced beyond him, and to better writers.” It may be that he was right; that the Addison whom Irving loved and followed has been surpassed by many a writer of our time. Yet, at the risk of appearing prejudiced and old-fashioned, I must confess that my opinion is now what it was, that Irving should be read and studied, because he has something to give which our young men and maidens need. But I am in danger of departing from my avowed intention.
An essay which shall set forth my creed as to the true method of teaching and studying English in our secondary schools, is as little a part of my plan as is a critique on Irving. Such an essay is unnecessary. Mr. Thurber wrote it for me in the introductions to his editions of Macaulay and of Addison. Two things I wish to add as supplementary to what Mr. Thurber has said; one a suggestion to the pupil, one a reminder to the teacher. To the pupil I would say,
- to him who will never read for other than pleasure's sake, no less than to him who may become a life-long student of English, — read your Bible. Prof. A. S. Cook, in The Bible and English Prose Style, has stated at length arguments of which I shall not attempt here to give even a brief. Read his book, if you wish to hear his argument. But, in any case, make yourself familiarly acquainted with the King James version. In substance or in form, in thought or in expression, the Bible mightily influences - it pervades - all English literature. An occasional note has been put in to remind you of this fact.
Here and there among the notes the teacher will remark one which hints at or suggests a comparison of Irving's thought or expression with that of another writer. Such hints are intended to remind the teacher that he gets most pleasure from a trip to Europe who carries with him the most intimate acquaintance with the history and literature of the countries he may visit. So it is with reading : his joy is widest and deepest who brings to his reading, of Irving, let us say, the widest acquaintance with what others have written of like or contrasted substance and expression. Such acquaintance cannot be “gotten up,” as one may prepare himself on the history and topography of the next country in his itinerary. But the teacher, by suggesting authors and works for comparison, may do much.
It remains briefly to explain the notes.
They are intended to suggest rather than to answer questions of fact; to guide the pupil in his search for information, rather than to supply the information. It is hoped that they do not exceed in fulness or in minuteness of directions.
E. E. W. BROOKLYN, December, 1893.