This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
WHAT is said elsewhere in this book in relation to the formation and expression of language is of general interest to all who desire to speak and write correctly, and without these instructions it is simply impossible to acquire proper methods of communicating ideas, either by tongue or pen.
While with some persons it is very easy to convey elaborate intelligence distinctly, concisely and in a pleasing manner with the voice, others again find it extremely difficult to frame a sentence of ten words and utter it in company, with any degree of comfort to themselves or benefit to others.
On the other hand, the most fluent speaker who can face a large audience and instruct and amuse his hearers in an hour's discourse, without notes, may not be able to sit down and write an essay on some other topic than that embraced in his sermon or lecture, that would interest a reader or be accepted for a magazine article.
The art of writing compositions, like that of public speaking, may be acquired by diligent study and practice, but with some persons it is a gift so natural that their ideas and sentences easily flow together and combine with such rapidity that the pen cannot give expression to them as fast as the mind conceives them. Where the ideas are brilliant with deep thought or beauty of expression, the possession of this faculty is called "genius," and fame and fortune are usually at its command.
But without genius a writer for the press or the forum may attain to such excellence of expression and methods of thought, by proper training of the natural faculties, as to rival the works of genius in positive value and interest.
Unless, however, the habit of thinking is duly cultivated by reading the works of the best authors, living and dead, and meditating upon them carefully and patiently, superior effort can scarcely be expected in a composition, either for the pulpit, the platform or the press. For thought begets thought, even in slow thinkers, and the suggestion of one author here, and of another there, will often lead to a train of thought in which few, if any, have ever before indulged. One of two things, therefore, is requisite in the construction of a successful composition - the possession of a genius, (which is no common gift), or habits of study, combined with observation in certain directions, which serve to evolve ideas from the writer's own brain and pen.
Practice is a great per-fecter of the art of writing compositions. At first, the work may be irksome, but in due time, as it becomes easier, it unlocks the chambers of thought, the ideas begin to form and flow, and the task becomes a lasting pleasure.
In the schools it is a most important feature in the list of studies, and its daily exercise tends to indelibly fix upon the memory the proper spelling of words, the principles of penmanship, punctuation, grammar, sentence-building and the use of capital letters. Even if a literary or journalistic profession is not to be subsequently followed by the pupil, the art of writing a composition, learned under the guidance of an experienced teacher, may be of infinite service to the future man or woman, by inducing systematic methods of thinking.
Out of school, in leisure moments, as a recreation, the pupil will find it profitable to plan the outline of a story, or frame a description of something seen or heard, the appearance or character of some peculiar individual in the neighborhood, the natural scenery of that locality, or some remembered incident of other days or climes. This practice fits one for a sudden call to prepare an address or petition, or to draft a letter of public interest, or it might lead to the production of an elaborate literary work that would prove both valuable and famous. Many books have achieved accidental popularity.