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PROSE AND POETICAL READER,
BEING A COLLECTION OF
SELECT SPECIMENS IN ENGLISH,
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUESTIONS ON EACH LESSON;
TO WHICH ARE APPENDED,
COPIOUS LISTS OF PREFIXES AND AFFIXES,
WITH EXERCISES ON THE SAME, AND
An Etymological Hocabulary,
OF NEARLY TWO THOUSAND WORDS,
FOR THE USE OF SCHOOLS AND FOR PRIVATE STUDY.
ALEX. WINTON BUCHAN, F.E.I.S.
OLIVER AND BOYD, EDINBURGH;
[Price Three Shillings.]
In our prefatory remarks we shall endeavour to point out the distinctive features of this book, and to explain the manner in which we think it should be used, leaving it to teachers and the public generally to judge whether its claims of being an improvement on the English school collections at present in use be well or ill founded.
In regard to the prose lessons, it will be seen that they embrace a great variety of subjects, and are selected both on account of the elegancy and liveliness of the style in which they are written, and of the interesting nature of the information they contain. In books of this class it has been popular of late years to present the scholar with summaries of sacred and of profane history,—and with short but connected, although necessarily very meagre, views of some branches of science, illustrated with a few diagrams.
In our experience as a teacher we have found such books not well adapted for teaching young persons to read fluently and elegantly, or to inspire them with a love of reading by themselves. Bnt without referring particularly to our experience in teaching, a moment's reflection on the nature of the human mind will show that this must be the
The powers of the mind come into operation gradually and in invariable order; and, at the age of eleven or twelve years the fancy and the affections are more particularly active ; but, the dry language in which scientific truth is often conveyed, with page after page of history, in which names and dates are for the most part the only things ever meeting the eye, are neither suited to charm the one nor to engage the other. “It is no wisdom”-says Dr. Arnold, “ to make boys prodigies of information; but it is our wisdom and our duty to cultivate their faculties each in its season-first the memory and imagination, and then the judgment; to furnish them with the means, and to excite the desire of improving themselves, and to wait with confidence for God's blessing on the result.” We do not quarrel by any means with the “Intellectual" system of Education, and with the use in school of treatises on science, but we would have such
books put into the boy's hand after he has learned to read freely, and has picked up the meaning of a good stock of common words, and when reason and judgment have more decidedly asserted their sway.
In regard to the poetical lessons we have to remark that their number in this book is unusually large, that they exhibit a very great variety of measures, and that they are internally fitted to delight the youthful mind while they foster a correct literary taste. In no respects, perhaps, are the generality of English collections with which the author of this book is acquainted so objectionable as in their scanty and ill-chosen poetical lessons. Poetry however, may be much used, and with the happiest results in carrying on the work of youthful instruction. Sentiments presented to the mind in the garb of verse make a more lasting and intelligible impression than if presented in sober prose; and in no way is the memory capable of being made more useful than by treasuring up some of the choice productions of poetic genius, the recitation of which is no less beneficial than the exercise of learning them.
Having spoken of the kind of lessons in the book, we shall now advert to the manner in which we have arranged them for the schoolroom and for private study. It is in the arrangement of the lessons that we claim the credit of some little originality and of practical usefulness.
One great objection to the English collections in use in this part of the country is the impossibility of marking off a definite piece of work to be done at home. You may give the class a general order to prepare such and such a lesson, but this command involves so much that it is never attended to at all. You may give out so many words of vocabulary at the end of the book, or so many Latin or Greek roots with English derivatives, - but this is very irksome and profitless toil, at least the labour is excessive for the small amount of benefit. Besides the vocabulary in these books being general, and not arranged for the particular lessons, the pupil cannot find the words he may think
proper to look for, at the time he requires to know their meaning. Now, to order such lists of words to be learned which can be of no immediate use in the study of any lesson, is no better than to order a page of a dictionary to be committed to memory, and about as likely to afford gratification. In this book, however, the master can at once mark off work to be done which will be both pleasing and of immediate use. In columns at the head of each lesson will be found a considerable number of the principal words in the lesson, divided, accented, with the part of speech named, and the root of the words of Greek or Latin origin pointed out. Further, at the
end of the book will be found a full definition of each word, in which the pupil will see the connection between the root and the derivative, and thus be convinced of the utility of learning Latin and Greek roots, of which he must be dubious so long as he is kept giving strings of derivatives, the meaning of which he does not clearly comprehend. We deem it also worthy of remark that the words in the columns are given precisely as they occur in the lesson,—any part of verb, any number or case of the noun, any degree of the adjective, &c. This is of some importance, for some boys will spell such words as hot, love, set, — who would stumble if bidden to spell, hotter, loving, setting. The quantities of the Greek and Latin roots have been carefully marked, where there was the least likelihood of mistakes being committed. It will thus be seen that in learning these columns the pupil becomes acquainted with the spelling of each word, its part of speech, its number, case, tense or degree, with the root from which it springs, with its definition given at the end of the book under that root, and lastly, he sees how the word has been used in composition by the author, on examining it in the sentence where it occurs in the lesson. To each lesson will be found a set of questions, numbered, so that pupil and master can instantaneously find any question referred to. These questions are constructed not so much on the principle of eliciting the knowledge that is in the mind as of working new information gently into it, by leading the pupil into a train of thought similar to that which the author himself may be supposed to have followed. In preparing answers to questions constructed on this plan, the pupil is delighted to feel that he is not a mere passive recipient of knowledge, but a co-worker with the author himself. Whatever knowledge the mind acquires in this way affords great delight and is lastingly retained, for the memory becomes the storehouse of what the reason has comprehended and the judgment approved. We have endeavoured to draw moral and religious instruction from all the lessons, as we consider it a teacher's duty in everything and at all times to be casting the good seed into the mind, and by God's blessing into the hearts of his pupils. We have introduced almost every
lesson with a note, original or selected, bearing directly on the subject in hand, and we have added notes at the foot of the page wherever they were deemed necessary. This does away entirely with the use of a separate manual or key in which matter of this kind is sometimes inconveniently furnished. Biographical notices of the authors such as are given in "Knight's Half-Hours," and one or two school books, we deem of small value, as they are of little or no use in elucidating the lesson under study.