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EXERCISES IN THE “GUIDE TO MODERN
E. M. GELDART, M.A.
FORMERLY SCHOLAR OF BALLIOL COLLEGE, OXFORD;
GREEK,” ETC., ETC.
When the student takes in hand the accompanying Key, he will probably realize for the first time how small is the collective amount of the Exercises appended to the Lessons, and possibly be somewhat dismayed at their insignificant compass. We would entreat him, however, to bear in mind the Greek proverb: ουκ εν τω πολλώ το ευ αλλ' εν τω ευ το πολύ-« Not mass but merit is the gauge of worth.” It would have been impossible within the limits of the “Guide” to have given a much larger space to exercises without sacrificing some other features of the work which in the author's view are of more essential importance. The minute analysis and etymological and philological illustration of each several word as it occurs in the piece which has been taken as the foundation of the series of lessons, the familiar dialogues and classified vocabulary, and last, but not least, the simplified grammar, combine, it is believed, to furnish
the learner with a compact body of information such as is not often presented in an ordinary grammar. In some such (particularly those of the old-fashioned type) exercises are entirely absent, and often form the substance of a separate volume; while others, again, such as those on the Ollendorffian method, consist almost entirely of exercises interspersed with a few vocabularies and disjointed fragments of accidence and syntax.
The present writer is not ashamed to acknowledge his lack of that fertility of resource in the construction of unmeaning phrases which distinguishes the compilers of some of these manuals, and is inclined to believe that a process which must profoundly pall upon the teacher, will have a correspondingly wearisome reaction on the learner also. Why mortal man should exhibit such a præternatural curiosity to know whether the Turk is happy, or the Russian is ashamed, and what has become of the leathern portmanteau and the wooden horse of the honest countryman's kind neighbour; and how often in real life it would occur to rational beings to ask and answer such questions—these are among those dark, mysterious problems of existence which will probably perplex the intellect of a remote posterity.
An eminent scholar once assured us that in six months
he had worked through the two thick volumes of Ollendorff's larger German Course, and at the end of that time he could converse! We can well believe it. For he who could do the former, would find the latter but child's play. He who can put salt on the sparrow's tail can likewise catch the sparrow. At the same time it must be remembered that the above experience was related as an encouragement to a German class engaged in the perusal of the same ponderous tomes, and with such an object in view, to be splendide mendax according to the Horatian phrase, or to indulge in the yevvalov yreúdos of Plato, might appear a venial offence.
For our own part we believe that careful and accurate attention to what we think we may venture, without overweening presumption, to call the comparatively lively variations on the theme which forms the basis of the present course will go a long way to compensate in quality what may be lacking in quantity. Moreover, if the learner is determined on having an exercise-book, we will give him a few hints in addition to those dropped already in the body of the work, which may enable him to construct his own. In such a case, if his sentences are dull and platitudinous, he will only have himself to thank.