The talent of abridging the labours of others, and of communicating much information in few words, is an art not only eminently ul in itself, but productive of great advantages. It enables the reader to take a concise and comprehensive view of those subjects, which, in a more diffuse form, his leisure or his inclination may not permit him to consult; while it ex-ercises the mind of the writer in habits of close reasoning and accurate investigation. The attention which, in works of a complicated or extensive nature, is often distracted by brilliancy of style or variety of materials, is, by a short and faithful analysis, fixed to the merits of the subject, and to the troth of its contents. The chief end of abridging is rather to convey ideas, than multiply words, and to retrench superfluous expressions.
To offer any positive instructions for exercising this useful and valuable talent, is almost unnecessary; since taste, judgment, and critical discernment, are the safest guides. A few suggestions, however, may afford some illustration of the subject.
In attempting to give an analysis or abridgement of any particular production, it will be requisite to read it with proper attention; to examine the design of the author, and to discover the leading features and plan of the whole. Having pe-rmed and digested the work, it will be proper to transcribe only such parts as tend to convey definite ideas, or explain its immediate purpose ; omitting all such remarks as are either inconsistent with, or inapplicable to, the subject.
In works of a more abstruse and comprehensive nature, it will be preferable to convey, as far as possible, the exact expressions of the author; but in those of a lighter description, such as works of imagination, public lectures, orations, essays, etc. it will be sufficient to give an outline of the substance; without directing the attention to the embellishments of style, or the structure of periods.
Abridgement is used also in a more circumscribed sense 5 to signify a short analysis of reference; by which, from a few abstracted particulars, we recur to any subject which has been either neglected or forgotten ; and thus recall it to our recollection. This is particularly useful to those engaged in a variety of literary pursuits, as it preserves a free and unfettered application.
Works of history, in which the ing facts are merely detailed, are often happily abridged for the use of the student. See the article Memorandum.