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being chaotic and incoherent. Except for that, your whole attention is fixed on attaining the vividness and warmth of actual experience.
11. Looking back, now, over the ground we have traversed, it is easy to see that all kinds of prose writing, which will fall within the broad and elastic definition I made of literature, can be analyzed into various combinations of these two elements, thought and feeling; and that some such analysis is a good way to begin a piece of writing. When you are explaining the conservation of energy or the character of Napoleon or the game of golf, are you dealing with a matter in which there is only one explanation; or must you win over your audience to take your view of the matter? In the latter case you must pay deliberate attention to their feelings. Or, if you are writing the story of the battle of Waterloo, are you doing it to make the history of Europe clearer, or to prove some theory of military science, or as Thackeray does in “ Vanity Fair,” to add to the vividness and the irony of a tale? As your purpose varies from the first of these three to the last you must diminish your sole attention on the element of thought and increase it on the element of feeling. From this point of view literature has been compared to the prismatic colors of the spectrum: at the one end, as there are vibrations beyond the violet too rapid to make color, so in literature there are beyond the realms of exposition stretches of thought too abstract to be expressed except by formulæ ; and as at the other end of the spectrum beyond the red there are vibrations too slow to make color, so in literature beyond the powers of description and of lyrical poetry there are ranges of feeling which can be declared only by music. Between these extremes, just as mingling the primary colors will give you any of the real colors of nature, so, in writing, the combination of thought and feeling in various degrees will give you the natural expression of all the manifold imaginations of the heart and mind of man.
What I have to do now, after all this preparation, is to resolve the various kinds of writing, each in its simplest form, into its two constituent elements : and then to show how you can best go at each kind of writing, and suggest certain broad principles which can be gathered from the example of the men who have actually been successful in writing.
12. THE LITERATURE OF THOUGHT. Exposition. Exposition or Explanation, as I have said, is that kind of writing in which you try to set forth your understanding of some part of your experience. In order to get some practical tests and principles for it, I will begin with analyzing briefly a few examples of this act of understanding. To understand Tyndall's explanation (page 255) that the energy spent in the growth of a leaf, or in the eruption of a volcano, is all part of the same energy which is derived in the beginning from the heat of the sun, you assume that such very different things can all be bundled together and grasped as one thing: after the explanation you can somehow think of them all in a single act of thought. These many or few things which are thus bundled up together may be immediate and simple sensations ; generally, however, like most of the substance of consciousness, they will be chiefly memories, thoughts, and feelings. But whether it be an understanding of such simple motions and sensations as make up the art of swimming or the rarefied and remote abstractions which are the material of Mill's “ Political Economy," in every case in this act of understanding which explanation tries to produce there is this reduction of the complex to some single common term. In each case the understanding is a kind of flash of apprehension which brings all the scattered facts and instances together in a single moment of consciousness; instead of their lying scattered and unrelated, they at once assume a new attitude towards each other which makes them take on a new meaning. One might liken this way in which a lot of miscellaneous facts take on new meaning when you understand the general principles behind them, to the way in which if you put a magnet under a paper of iron filings, the filings will immediately fall into a pattern of concentric circles : so when you understand your facts, you have an almost physical sense of simplification and a consequent saving of time and attention.
Further than this, when you read or hear an explanation that makes you understand your subject in this vivid and satisfactory way, the natural impulse is to exclaim: “Now I see what it all means.” If you have been reading Mr. Bryce's book, for example, you say : “Now I see how the Federal courts and the State courts get on together;” or, if you have been reading Green's “ Short History,” “Now I see how Elizabeth brought England out of its great dangers to the glorious conquest of the Armada ;” and so on. The natural figure of speech which you use is this figure of seeing. It is a noticeable fact, moreover, that the words which have to do with explanation spring from just this same sense of a clear and lucid view of the subject. Exposition is a setting forth, as one arranges cards in a game of solitaire; explanation is a making plain or smoothing out; perspicuous springs from the figure of " seeing through.” These etymological facts have deep suggestiveness for anybody who is going to make explanations. Darwin in his modest autobiography described the way in which, after long years of pondering and puzzling over the facts which he had gathered so laboriously from his voyage in the “ Beagle,” from correspondents in the tropics, from cattle-breeders and rose growers, and from his own experiments, suddenly there flashed on him one day when he was out driving the conception of the principle of natural selection; and at once the principle threw them all into their predestined order. This is the way in which understanding simplifies and arranges a heterogeneous and disorderly mass of facts. If an explanation makes the people who read it see the subject thereafter thus clearly and luminously, it is a good explanation; if it merely details a lot of facts, no matter in how interesting a way, without bringing them into common bearing on each other, it is no explanation at all.
1 “I can remember the very spot in the road, whilst in my carriage, when to my joy the solution occurred to me. .”—“Life and Letters of Charles Darwin." New York, 1888. Vol. I., p 69.
From this fact, that understanding a subject makes you involuntarily feel that somehow you see it all more clearly, follows the further fact that the most typical and the most natural way of explaining is by a map or diagram. If, for example, you are trying to explain to some one how much has been accomplished in exploring the region of the North Pole, hours of the clearest and most interesting talk will not do as much as a map of the Arctic Circle with Nansen's route skirting across the blank field of white. So in the case of a tabular view of hours or a time-table : instead of burdening your memory with a host of figures, a single glance at a diagram will tell you all you need know. So again in the case of Grote's description of the general geography of Greece which immediately precedes the extract on page 211: it is evidently intended to be read with the classical atlas open ; without an atlas the description is unreadable. Indeed, certain kinds of explanation can hardly be made without the aid of some sort of graphic figures ; such are all questions of relative proportion, of comparative growth -- where numbers are expressionless beside curves or blocks of color; of relative position - where a map or diagram is almost essential ; or of construction. In such cases figures and diagrams are a natural mode of explanation for the very reason