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In imitation of this Cretan custom, it was usual for the Salii or priests of Mars, when they yearly exhibited the sacred shields, and carried them in procession through the streets of Rome, to dance in armour, and to clash their swords together in the manner described by Mr. Hargrove. To this dance numerous allusions are made by the Roman poets: Virgil describes it as represented on Æneas's shield; and Horace says, in the 36th ode of his 1st book,
"Like Salian Priests the dance we'll lead."
The prevalence of this dance amongst the Romans being established, it is easy to prove that from them the people of Knaresbrough have adopted it as an amusement at Christmas, a season when hilarity and festivity are universal.
From Isurium, which was long the head-quarters of the Roman troops, there is no doubt that detatchments would be sent to all places in the vicinity, and Knaresbrough from its situation was of too much importance to be neglected. The soldiers, remaining for some time in one station, introduced many of their own national customs, which would become as it were naturalized, and remain long after the introducers had left the place; nor can it, I think, under the circumstances I have mentioned, be doubted that this Knaresborough sword-dance takes its rise, not from a Saxon original, but from a custom introduced into Britain by our Roman conquerors.
I feel obliged for the information given by P. H. in your last number, respecting funeral-chaplets: I was not aware that the custom had so recently existed in Sheffield, though I know that it is to this day prevalent in many parts of Derbyshire. In all the towns with which I am acquainted, females who died unmarried are carried to the grave by their young friends, dressed in white: white gloves and scarfs are also distributed on such occasions,——intended, I presume, to denote the innocence and purity attendant on the virgin state.
Wakefield, January 6th, 1818.
S. I. LAW.
To the Editors of the Northern Star.
AS it is the happy peculiarity of the NORTHERN STAR that it shines at once with its own and with a borrowed lustre, I have sometimes thought that, in the absence of suitable original communications, if you were more frequently to enrich your pages with occasional extracts from the works of some eminent author, your readers would feel sensible of the obligation, and willingly dispense with the insertion of less interesting original matter. It is not to be expected that a provincial magazine should be able at once to rival similar attempts made in London or Edinburgh, where the united talent of the whole nation is in a manner concentrated: but there is reason
to hope that, with such assistance as may be procured in the extensive district through which the Northern Star circulates, its usefulness and respectability may be greatly promoted, and its reputation, at no very distant period, become permanently established. In the mean time, as a sincere friend to its success, I transmit to you what will probably be new to most of your readers, a paper communicated by the celebrated Dr. Hawkesworth to a society of literary young men, who had requested his opinion as to the best method of increasing their flow of ideas, and obtaining an easy, natural, and graceful elocution. If your opinion as to the importance of the subject and the excellence of the remarks should happen to coincide with my own, I shall feel greatly obliged by the insertion of this paper in an early number of the Northern Star, and shall have great pleasure in subscribing myself, on some future occasion, yours, &c.
December 20th, 1817.
To Dr. Hawkesworth.
As most of the present methods of entertainment may be considered as so many different ways of dissipating time, eight or ten young men would rather turn these intervals, or relaxations, (which the study of dull or crabbed science incident to some professions makes necessary,) to real advantage: their view is to increase their stock of ideas, acquire a just and graceful delivery, and a facility of imparting their thoughts; for which end they would set apart one evening every week, and, as it were by collision, strike out from one another sparks of genius, which may produce a happy effect in the communication.
Q. What other means, besides those already hinted, are most likely to accomplish the above valuable proposes?
Your thoughts upon the above question, will greatly oblige, Sir, yours,
Dr. Hawkesworth's reply to this sensible yet modest request was as follows:-
The end proposed is, in the highest degree, laudable, and I contribute my mite towards its accomplishment, with a pleasure which could be increased only by my ability to make a donation of more value.
To increase our ideas to any useful purpose, or augment our stock of practical knowledge, it is above all necessary to think. Thought gives the mind not only riches but arms; it bestows also dexterity and strength.
But by thinking, I do not mean an indolent indulgence of the discursive faculties of the soul; a wandering of the fancy, without control or direction. In these waking dreams many images will indeed pass over the mind; but, like pictures formed in a mirror, they will be transient and evanescent; vivid without impression, various without order: nothing will be compared, nothing will be inferred; no principles will be regulated, no error exploded, no truth established.
It is indeed very difficult to acquire a habit of thinking without the as
sistance of a book or pen; when we read, thinking is comparatively easy, and composition necessarily implies it.
But a man may read as well as muse without thinking: if he implicitly resigns his mind to his author, and exerts only the power of perception to admit his images and sentiments as they rise, he will get no knowledge, except of mere facts; for with respect to opinions and principles, he will learn only that certain men held certain notions at a certain time; he will retain parts of imcompatible systems, without perceiving their incongruity, and his belief will be equally tenacious of the false and the true.
As such a man has never thought, it is impossible he should speak, otherwise than by rote; he can only repeat what others have said, and if any thing he advances is controverted, he can only defend as far he remembers what has been already said in its defence; if an objection is made to which he does not remember the reply, he is as much at a stand as the index of a clock when the cord is run off, and the weight is upon the ground.
Whoever then would read with advantage, or, in other words, make reading an occasion of thought, should endeavour perfectly to understand the meaning of the author, and not rest satisfied with a confused and defective notion of his general design. If any part is found inscrutably obscure, he should keep it in mind, and watch for its illustration; he should bring the propositions to the test of his own reason as he advances, anticipate objections or proofs, note whether they are obviated or adduced, and whether the author exceeds or falls short of what was suggested by his own mind; if he falls short, he should note the deficiency, and consider how it might have been supplied, or whether, the defect being necessary, the principle is unsupported: when the work is read, he should review it in his mind, assisting his memory by the book if it is necessary, and form a judgement of the whole.
The labour of the mind, like that of digging in the field for hidden gold, though the treasure particularly sought is not found, will not lose its reward; a habit of thinking will gradually be formed, and the great work of investigation will at length become easy.
The question indeed that is proposed to me relates to intervals of relaxation, and it may, perhaps, be objected, that what I advise will not relax; but, I think, as the labourer is delighted at cricket, who repines at the drudgery of the plough, though both require an equal exertion of corporeal strength, so the student will find himself sufficiently relieved from an abstruse science, by exerting the same intellectual powers on polite li. terature.
When a man has replenished and invigorated his mind by reading in this manner, he will derive great advantages from a free conversation with sensible persons of a similar turn; for when we have been exerting our whole powers upon any subject silently and alone, if we attempt to communicate to others what has been passing in our mind, we often conceive new ideas under our own words, and while we endeavour to represent our ideas to others, we perceive new relations rising among them, and new consequences flowing from them; the effort that we make to enlighten another will, by the thought which that effort makes necessary, frequently en
lighten ourselves; new hints will also rise from what is offered in reply, and the knowledge of each will be brought into a common stock for the mutual advantage of all.
A very good purpose will be answered by setting apart one evening in a week for such conversation, with respect to the increase and regulation of ideas, as well as the communication of such ideas with facility, precision, and grace; but, perhaps, it may be worth while to consider how it may best be conducted with a view to both these purposes.
It is not uncommon even for persons who meet with a desire for knowledge, and a taste and ability for that reciprocation of sentiment which alone deserves the name of conversation, to find themselves at a loss for a topic.
To remedy this inconvenience, the common expedient has been to propose a subject at one meeting to be discussed at auother, in consequence of which the members come prepared with set speeches; which they stand up and deliver in their places, with the formality of a public and solemn debate it has also been found necessary that each speaker should be limited to a certain time, to secure a hearing to the rest in their turn, and afford an opportunity for an answer and reply.
But this method, though it makes thinking necessary, by imposing the task of composition, yet it secures neither the advantages nor the pleasures peculiar to conversation; to hear and utter studied harangues can produce no collision of mind with mind; as they are premeditated, they produce no habit of extemporaneous elocution, of a ready and forcible delivery of sentiment, while it is yet rising in the mind; they exercise no faculty but memory, and when memory fails, inevitable confusion ensues; the speaker, while he is labouring to piece together his dismembered oration, is perplexed in the choice of materials, which at last are manifestly of a different texture, and before he has botched the new into the old garment, his time is run out, and down goes the orator and the hammer together.
The art of speech-making itself cannot be thus acquired, and if it could, it is an art that in private life can never be used. He, whose mind is full, whose conceptions are clear, and who is at once master of himself and his subject, will always be able to speak pertinently and forcibly, as long as he is prompted by sentiments, and he that speaks longer can never hope to be heard. With respect to conversation, therefore, as a means of regulating and multiplying ideas, it seems principally necessary to make it an immediate exercise of the mind, and prevent its languishing for want of a topic.
That it may be an immediate exercise of the mind, it must be unpremeditated; and that a topie may never be wanting, I think that the place of meeting should be furnished with a small number of select books, to be chosen by the society in concert. When the company meet, if any topic is started, let it be discussed till it is exhausted; if not, let one of the company read, but let what is read be considered not as a mere treat furnished to the mind at another's expense, but as the subject of critical examination with respect to style, sentiment, and method. Reading then will naturally furnish a subject of discourse, and the discourse will neces
sarily be such as is most likely to improve the mind, even setting the merit of the author out of the question; for excellence will be ascertained by the examination of defects, and knowledge and taste will be cultivated together.
To make conversation subservient to the acquisition of an easy, a just, and graceful manner of elocution-I think the following rules should be invariably observed.
Never begin to speak till you have a clear and fall conception of what you have to say.
Always express yourself in the terms that first offer.
Never deviate into parenthesis, but go straight in the shortest way.
If you have a clear and perfect conception of what you would say, nothing can embarrass you in speaking, but the admission of foreign matter, a choice of words, or an affectation of ornaments.
Though perhaps a fitter word than that which first offers might be found ; yet it is always better to use that which first offers, than to hesitate in search of another: for he that quits his subject in search of words, will often find himself obliged afterwards to go in search of his subject: he will feel himself bewildered, and the consciousness of it will increase his confusion; he will be obliged to repeat what he has said already, as we do a scrap of a tune to remember the rest; the attention of his hearers will be wearied, and after much hesitation, confusion, and repetition, it is twenty to one but he forgets the very thing which all the rest of his speech was intended to enforce. The same misfortune he will incur by going out of his way for points of wit, quaint phrases, allusions, and flourishes; and his danger will be greater still, if he ventures parenthetically to introduce foreign matter; let him never attend to any sentiment, nor obviate any objection which he did not foresee till he has expressed his first conception. To recover the ground he left after such a deviation, without stumbling, is extremely difficult, and it is still more difficult to take the hearer with him; if he succeeds, it is labour wholly thrown away; a risk of loss, without a possibility of gain.
It may, perhaps, seems strange, that when I profess to give you rules, not only for an easy and just, but graceful elocution, I should advise a total disregard of ornament; but with respect to speaking, that is certainly true of grace which the poet says of fame,
"Grace comes unlook'd for, if it comes at all."
To a mind perfectly acquainted with its subjects, and teeming with ideas, figure and metaphor will spontaneously occur, without being sought, at least as often as they can be used without affectation; and as to grace, in the mere external mode of elocution, the great rule is the most easy that can be imagined, "Do nothing;" give the reins to nature, and she will never miss the goal; every man speaks with propriety, when he speaks without an effort; your gardener never fails in emphasis, cadence, or inflexion of voice, when he talks about his hot-bed and his melons, about the depredations of vermin, the inclemency of the season, or the effects of a spring shower. There are tones peculiar to expostulation, pity, complaint,