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SECTION 6. THE SUBJECT OF A COMPOSITION. If we think of
composition, in its simplest form, as the expression of our own
thoughts and feelings, we shall readily discern the fact that we
speak, or write, because we have something to say, and wish or are
impelled to say it. Perhaps you have not yet realized that the same
motive underlies every book that is written, every address that is
made, every sermon that is preached, ? somebody (the author) has
something to say, and says it. We may be interested, or instructed,
or amused, both by the thing that is said and by the manner in
which it is said. Here we have at once the two main elements or
factors of composition: first, the subject; second, the treatment
of the subject. We shall have much to say of the second of these
elements, but the first is, after all, the more important. To have
something worth communicating is the essential point; it is not
until this essential is secured that the fashion of our speech or
writing becomes of particular consequence. Just here the student
ordinarily finds some difficulty. He knows that he himself is
intensely interested in Stanley's accounts of his adventures in
Africa, or in Peary's description of his life at the frozen North;
but it does not occur to him that his own experiences are worth
transcribing with pen and ink. Yet they are. Every life has its own
history. Everybody has thoughts, feelings, and experiences of his
own, which, however trivial they may seem, have a genuine human
interest.Franklin tells us about the everyday occurrences in his
life, and we find them pf absorbing interest. Mr. Riis saw John
Binns's noble deed and admired it; and he makes us, too, see and
admire it. Scott steeped his mind in the history and traditions of
Scotland, and has left us a record of what h...
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