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criticism you write, however, dealing, as you will, with works of art, with books or pictures, sculpture, music, or architecture, - your final effort will be to get at some kind of judgment of it and to explain the reasonableness and the basis of this judgment.
8. So far we have considered kinds of writing in which thought generally plays a larger part than feeling. In Exposition feeling is only incidental; in Argument the appeal to the feelings is to make the explanation vital and convincing; in Criticism, though the material is drawn from the feelings, the treatment of it is explanatory. In the two remaining kinds of writing, Narrative and Description, the element of thought, the satisfaction of the instinct to understand the world, becomes subordinate to the element of feeling: if a story or a description does not interest you it is a failure. Of course both Narrative and Description enter largely into many explanations, but since their purpose is then so different I shall include them in the discussion of explanatory writing. Here I am speaking only of such stories and descriptions as are written to amuse a reader and stir his feelings. At this point where we pass from the side of literature in which the dominant element changes from thought to feeling, I must stop for a minute to point out the complete difference in the methods by which these different classes accomplish their ends.
Narrative and description, as I have said, try to stir a reader's feelings with little regard to thought.
Now your feelings are stirred not by bare aspects or qualities of things but by the concrete and individual things themselves. If I name the quality brightness you are unmoved; but the bright wake of the summer moon or the transparent brightness of a winter day are things which you have known in the past with delight, and the mention of them can recall that delight to you. Accordingly, I should use brightness if I were explaining to you the laws of light; but some specific case of brightness if I were writing a story or a description. In the former case I put before you only a bare abstraction from many things: in the latter I try to give you the actual sensations of some real, individual thing. In the descriptions I have quoted1 of coral islands Darwin gave you instead of the immediate sensations such colorless facts concerning Keeling Atoll as make clear how it was formed: Stevenson, on the other hand, cared only for the vividness of the sensations as the schooner ran up to the island. The two methods are complementary: when you begin to break up realities into the abstractions by which alone. you can rationalize your universe, you take away their power over the feelings. What you gain in generalization, you lose in vividness: what you gain in vividness, you lose in generalization. Accordingly, when you are explaining you break up real things into their abstract qualities; when you are trying to stir your reader's feelings you give him the concrete sensations.
1 p. 9-10.
9. To come back now to Narrative, or story-telling as I shall consider it here, this doctrine means that you must write always in the most concrete terms. Your object is to set forth a succession of events which will in some degree have the effect of actual experience; the only way to do it is to keep your reader's mind full of a succession of real things. The art of story-telling lies in a natural simplification of life by suppressing everything which does not help to portray the episode you have chosen, or to give it more vivid color.
Your method here, I have said, is simplification: not, as in the case of explanation or argument, by picking out certain bare qualities of a great many things and suppressing all their other qualities; but simplification by suppressing the whole of many things, in order that the whole of a few things may stand out round and living. In the last chapter of "Henry Esmond," for example, there is no description of the weather or the stars or the country lying peacefully under the night sky; the night is dropped out of sight almost entirely. So in the scene between the Prince and Henry, there is no attempt to generalize the Stuart character as Green would have done by picking out some one aspect or two from many actions of the Prince; Thackeray sets before you vitally and roundly and as completely as so few words can, a few of those actions which will make his story richer and more exciting. Narrative, then, I may repeat, differs from exposition as completely in method as in purpose. In Exposition
you single out an aspect or a quality which many things have in common, caring nothing for the individuality or the completeness of each of those many things; in Narrative you are trying to put some one thing before your reader with the roundness and vividness and uniqueness of every real experience. Whether your story is as simple as those of the book of Genesis, or as complex as those of Mr. James or Mr. Meredith, it must carry the effect of the concreteness, and, as it were, the solidity of life. The element of thought may share in the general construction of the story, to give it form and purpose; but this necessity satisfied, you should give yourself to engrossing your reader's feelings.
10. In the last category of writing, Description, you come to a kind of writing which it is often impossible to distinguish from Narrative: in general its purpose is to set forth the impressions which material things make on you, and to make other people share the sensations and feelings which those impressions arouse in you. Here you are not concerned with the happening of things; much less with the explaining of them. The thrill of pleasure in you when you come over the top of a hill to a great view of green valley and wooded ridges and flashes of water, or your pleasure in a throng of richly dressed people, has nothing to do with understanding either the country or the character and occupation of the people. Your delight springs only from the sensations of colors and exquisite
lines; and in these there is no element of ratiocination. Generally, indeed, in the presence of a great view, all you can do is to hold up your hands and admire in silence; your delight is a thing which words often cannot explain, and can only imperfectly represent. This natural silence in the presence of the beautiful object shows how far we have come from the kind of writing which explains: a formula and some figures will explain the mechanical power of Niagara Falls; no words you can put together can express their majesty. Here, then, you are coming to the other limit of words. Just as on the other side of Exposition you pass into regions of thought where formulæ and figures are more useful than words, so on this side of literature you pass into the realms of pure music. Shelley's Skylark" by the motion of the verse, by the modulation and the stronger vibration of the rhythm, expresses feelings which prose must leave untouched; and Shakspere's songs have a richness and depth of expression which is out of all proportion to the bare meanings of the separate words.
In Description, then, even more than in Narrative, you are trying to set forth the real sensations of life so vividly and graphically that they will give your reader the same warm and poignant impression that the reality stirred in you. Here you have passed almost entirely away from the necessity of ordering things, of making them intelligible; the only way in which the element of thought enters into Description is to keep what you write from