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Title: Précis writing for beginners
Author: Pocock, Guy Noel
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            PRÉCIS WRITING
                             FOR BEGINNERS


                          GUY N. POCOCK, M.A.

                    Royal Naval College, Dartmouth
    Late Head of the History and English Department, Military Side,
                          Cheltenham College

                        BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED
                         50 OLD BAILEY LONDON
                          GLASGOW AND BOMBAY


The object of this little book is to teach précis writing from the very
start. It has been found from experience that the average boy who in
the Lower Fifth Form starts making précis of Government Blue Books and
Collected Correspondence, will flounder about for a whole term without
understanding what he is really expected to do.

The following exercises are progressive and the rules of strict
précis writing are learnt one by one. The exercises are really very
simple parodies of Government Reports, &c., such as a boy will have
to deal with in the higher forms and the Army Examinations. They are
arranged in groups, e.g. _Reports_, _Correspondence_, _Trials_, _Ships’
Logs_, and so forth. After working through the series a boy should be
perfectly competent to tackle the real thing.

Incidentally, there is no better training than précis writing for
concentration of thought and expression.

                                                               G. N. P.

            _April, 1917._



     1. REPORTED SPEECH                                               10

     2. GEORGE OAKES                                                  13

     3. THE COBRA                                                     15

     4. THE TWO LIEUTENANTS                                           19

     5. THE BLACK REPUBLIC                                            23

     6. THE PROFESSOR AND THE MONKEYS                                 27

     7. THE ISLAND                                                    31

     8. A SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY WITCH TRIAL                             35

     9. THE MISER                                                     39

    10. THE BOY SCOUTS                                                43

    11. CHILD LABOURERS IN 1836                                       47

    12. THE MUSEUM, 300 B.C.                                          51

    13. THE WARNING                                                   55


    15. THE HUT-TAX                                                   63

    16. THE MANDARIN                                                  69

    17. ISAAC NEWTON                                                  73

    18. THE BATTLE OF THE NILE                                        77


What Précis Means

A précis is the essence of a longer story of any kind. You take your
story and ‘boil it down’, so as to get rid of all the parts that do
not really matter; you then collect what is left, and put these points
together in a short concise ‘summary’. But the result must not be a
‘list’ of important points, or a series of ‘jottings’. It must be the
same story told clearly and readably, in a very much condensed form.

For instance, you may have to make a précis of a long pile of letters
dealing with some particular subject; or perhaps the account of a
trial; or a long report written by one individual. It doesn’t matter
what the longer ‘story’ is. What you have to do is to read it through,
extract all the parts that matter, and put them down in readable form.

The Object of these Exercises

Now précis writing is unlike free English composition. It is much more
exact and scientific; and it must be written according to certain
definite rules. It is no use trying to learn all the rules at once; you
will learn them one by one, and without trouble, as you work through
the following exercises.

These exercises are not the _real_ Government Blue Books, reports,
trials, &c., that you will have to tackle later on. They are all ‘made
up’. But they are exactly like the real thing. The only difference is
that they are much easier and shorter--and they are not so dull. And as
they are the same sort of thing on a small scale, you should be able to
deal with the real ones later on when you meet them.

How to tackle a Précis

All précis, whether easy or difficult, should be tackled in the same
way. First read the whole thing through very carefully without writing
any notes or underlining any passages.

_All depends on this first reading._ For if you once get into the way
of writing your précis or even making notes ‘as you go along’, you will
never grasp the subject as a whole. And the result will be that your
précis will lack balance. Either you will write too much about the
first half and skimp the rest, or you will write a great deal about the
picturesque points that appeal to you, and leave out things that really

When you have read it carefully through, and got the whole story in
your mind, run through it quickly a second time marking the passages
you mean to use. For the purposes of this book the best plan will be
to underline in pencil those passages which will have to be used with
little alteration, and to put a wavy line against those which cannot be
left out altogether, but must be greatly condensed.

Last, work up all the marked passages into a short continuous ‘story’.

RULE I.--=Start your Précis with a title.=

This title must not be of the imaginative kind that would suit a story,
such as ‘A Misunderstanding’, or ‘The Adventures of a Red Cross Man’.
It must be a clear and concise statement of what the précis is about.
Thus: “Précis of the correspondence between the British Government and
Dr. Wilson, President of the United States, concerning contraband of
war”. And if dates are given you should add, “between Feb. 18, 1915,
and Oct., 1916”.

RULE II.--=Every Précis must be written in the form of REPORTED SPEECH.=

This rule is so important that it is impossible to write a précis till
it is thoroughly understood. It will be necessary to explain what is
meant by ‘reported speech’, and to practise a few examples.

“Reported Speech”

Suppose you say to somebody, “I can’t be bothered, as I am busy writing
a précis!” you are using a form which is called Direct speech. And
suppose the person you were addressing goes away and says to somebody
else, “So-and-so said he couldn’t be bothered, as he was busy writing a
précis”, he is _reporting_ what you said. In other words, he has turned
your ‘direct speech’ into ‘reported speech’.

Notice what has happened. You are no longer the person speaking, but
the person spoken about: therefore ‘I’ becomes ‘he’. Also you are no
longer speaking: what you said is now ‘in the past’; therefore ‘can’t’
becomes ‘could not’ and ‘am’ becomes ‘was’.

This is quite straightforward. The difficulty arises when you are
dealing with words that imply future time. Without going into the
syntax, one may just explain that in Reported speech the ‘future’ must
be referred back to the time at which the Direct statement was spoken.
Thus: “I will write when I get home”, becomes “He said that he _would_
write when he _got_ home”.

Thus for the purposes of simple précis writing the following rules must
be observed:--

(_a_) Never use the First or Second persons: always the Third.

(_b_) Never use the Present tense: always the Past.

(_c_) Never use the Future tense: always refer it back to the past.
Even a verb such as ‘must’, which usually implies the future, should be
changed to ‘would have to’, or some such phrase.

(_d_) Possessive adjectives, my, your, our, must be changed to the
Third person.

(_e_) Adverbs and adverbial phrases must be changed in the same way.
‘Now’ becomes ‘then’; ‘at the present time’ becomes ‘at that time’;
‘here’ becomes ‘there’, and so on.

Take one more example. You know this familiar quotation: “I will arise
and go to my Father, and say unto Him, ‘Father, I have sinned against
Heaven and before Thee, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son’”.

Now suppose you were telling the story of the Prodigal Son to a
Japanese gentleman, or somebody who had not heard it before, and you
wished to keep pretty close to the original, you might put it in this
way: “The prodigal son then determined that he would arise and go to
his Father, and confess that he had sinned before Him and against
Heaven, and was no more worthy to be called His son”.

Compare these two forms, and note all the differences.

No. 1.--Exercises in “Reported Speech”

(1.) The following are written in the form of Direct speech. Rewrite
them in Reported speech:--

    (_a_) “Sister Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?”
    asked the poor wife again.

    “I see nothing but a cloud of dust,” her sister replied.

    (_b_) “I cannot speak to you here and now; but after the match
    is over I shall take the first opportunity of telling you
    exactly what I think of you.”

    (_c_) “I don’t know whether I shall be able to come. I will if
    I can, but that must depend on how things turn out. At this
    moment I cannot say definitely that I will come.”

(2.) Report the following speech, beginning thus:--

“On rising to introduce Mr. Elijah Timmins, the mayor elect, the
retiring mayor said that.…”

    “Gentlemen, I have the honour to bring to your notice Mr.
    Elijah Timmins, who is to be your mayor for the coming year.
    Mr. Timmins, gentlemen, has had--not the experience _I_ have
    had, of course, for _my_ experience has been exceptional. I
    have had a hard struggle, gentlemen, but by solid work and
    honest dealing--and you will bear me out when I say that my
    pork sausages are always of the highest order--I raised myself
    to the top of the tree. Modesty forbids me to speak of myself,
    gentlemen; but I have felt that in these times of war and
    stress it is very important to have at the helm a mayor of real
    tact and business capacity; and I cannot help thinking that I
    have been the right man in the right place. With Lord Nelson I
    may say, ‘Thank God I have done my duty’.

    “Mr. Timmins, gentlemen, is about to step into my shoes; and I
    only trust he will not undo the good work that I have done.”

We are now in a position to write précis in its simplest form. We will
try a few very easy examples first, such as “George Oakes” and the
“Cobra”; after that the exercises will become more difficult.


The following is a letter written by an old cottager to the Squire of
his Parish. Condense it to half the length, correcting the spelling
and grammar. It is very simple, as there is only one ‘subject’, and
therefore only one paragraph. But it will serve to introduce this most
important rule of Précis writing:

RULE III.--=All points essential to the subject MUST be put in; while
all unessential points, repetitions, &c., should be left out.=

(We may modify the second half of this rule later on.)

Remember that it must be written as ‘reported speech’.

No. 2.--George Oakes

                                                    IVY COTTAGE,


    I ope you are quite well as this leaves me at present which my
    wife as the swolen glans something bitter but I do not complain
    it being the Will of God, which my wife do so most monotinous.
    Dear Sir I ave been out of work Severn weeks come Toosdy and
    the price of coals is rose something crool which I cannot
    afford them nohow, and my wife havin the swolen glans and wot
    not. Dear Sir if you could give me a job of work in the garden
    or the fowlouse I should take it most grateful bein bread and
    born in the fowlouse in a manner of speakin sixty years man and
    boy I ave ad truck with fowls. Dear Sir you ave the oner to
    know me so long there is no need of Referances, which perraps
    you might not ave heard my experance in the foulouse which
    believe me sir I understands all manner of Fowls, poultry and
    wot not, and my wife as ad truck with ducks but she bein laid
    aside with the swolen glans she cannot come out which bein the
    Will of God I do not complain. Dear Sir perraps you would like
    to give me a trial seein as how I do not live far a way bein
    strong in the Legs. Dear Sir if you will give me a Trial I will
    take it most kind.

    Dear Sir God bless you and trousers you give me are fine and
    warm as everso which they are a bit narrer but not to mention.

                         Yours umble Dear Sir

                                                      GEORGE OAKES.


The following is also very simple, and may be done in one paragraph of
ten or twelve lines.

Make up your mind what the real subject of this paragraph should be;
and notice that the colonel is not really of the slightest importance
to the story--except that he tells it.

Don’t forget the title, beginning “Précis of …”.

No. 3.--The Cobra

“Talking of snakes,” said the colonel, pushing back his chair and
lighting another cheroot, “reminds me of a curious incident that
happened when I was stationed at Ghurrapore, in the early ’eighties.
Ghurrapore was an infernal bad place for snakes, and the worst of the
lot was the cobra or hooded snake. These cobras, or hooded snakes,
turned up everywhere--in your bath, under the verandah, anywhere. Now,
one day one of my officers, Lieutenant Simpson, went into the officers’
changing-room to get a pair of tennis shoes. There were a dozen pairs
in a wooden box; and not seeing his own on the top he put his hand in
to fish out the bottom ones. Now you must know that there had been a
regular plague of cobras, or hooded snakes, in the lines, and we were
all a bit panicky; so when Simpson suddenly felt something pricking
him, and drew out his hand to find two drops of blood on his little
finger, he at once concluded it was a cobra, or hooded snake.

“I was sitting in the club at the time drinking some of that excellent
7 star whisky--you remember it, Major? And when I saw young Simpson
running across the compound holding his little finger, I at once said
to myself, ‘That’s a hooded snake or cobra!’

“I then followed him to the carpenter’s shop; but by the time I got
there the thing was done. He had taken a heavy chisel, and cut his
little finger right off! I helped him back to the club, sent for the
doctor, and gave Simpson a dose of that 7 star whisky--you remember it,
Major? I then sent four men to the changing-room armed with sticks.
We upset the box and beat those shoes unmercifully--but no cobra or
hooded snake! When I felt that the situation was quite safe, I myself
examined the box. And there sticking up through the bottom boards were
two little nails, sharp and close together! And so young Simpson had
cut his finger off for nothing! Infernal bad luck I call it. Infernal
bad luck. For anyone--even I myself--would easily have mistaken the
‘bite’ for that of a cobra, or hooded snake.”


The following is a study in contrasts. The rest is really quite
subsidiary. Bring out this point by means of contrasting paragraphs.

Condense the descriptions of the characters as much as you can, without
leaving out more points than you can help.

No. 4.--The Two Lieutenants

Extract from the Autobiography of Admiral Sir Hercules Prout, K.C.B.

    “… The sphere of influence of the British Navy comprising as
    it does the waters of the entire globe, it follows that the
    average naval officer comes into contact with all sorts and
    conditions of men; and if he uses his opportunities he will
    inevitably become a rare judge of human character. He will tend
    to range men in groups whether they be his own officers or men,
    or persons of every race and grade of society with whom he
    comes into contact.

    “Captains of H.M. Ships are often called upon to use powers of
    selection and discrimination. I recall one particular instance
    in which I was called upon to select from among my junior
    officers one who could carry through a difficult and dangerous
    business, the success or failure of which would be attended
    with far-reaching consequences. No matter now what the business
    was. Suffice to say that it was connected with gun-running on
    the part of certain unfriendly chiefs, and indirectly with the
    influence of a so-called friendly European power. A delicate
    business requiring rare qualities of daring and tact, and an
    aptitude for diplomacy and espionage.

    “I retired to my cabin and went through the list of all
    officers above the rank of midshipman, crossing out the
    unsuitable till I had reduced my choice to two. These I will
    call Lieutenant X and Lieutenant Z.

    “Lieutenant X was a very large and powerful fellow, with fair
    hair and blue-grey eyes--a typical Saxon. He was a magnificent
    athlete and had played back for the Navy. He was a clever
    fellow too--I had noticed that--though he pretended not to
    be. His manner was boisterous and frank, and sometimes he used
    this as bluff. (I recall several instances--but that is neither
    here nor there.) He was very popular, for he ‘had a way with
    him’, and often made people tell him things when they had had
    no intention of doing so. His manner was so pleasant that
    most people failed to realize how masterful he was. As a boy
    on the _Britannia_ he had been a strong chief cadet captain,
    and yet contrived to be very popular. Add to this he was a
    capital seaman, and could turn his hand to anything, especially
    in emergency; and in those days and that part of the world
    emergencies were frequent.

    “Lieutenant Z was the very antithesis of Lieutenant X both in
    appearance and manner. He was small and dark and wiry; his
    features were very clean-cut, and his thin lips pressed tightly
    together in a perfectly straight line gave an impression of
    immense determination. He was then quite one of the cleverest
    lieutenants in the Navy, and as shrewd as he was clever. He
    was very reticent, and he possessed a ‘biting’ tongue, if one
    may be allowed a queer metaphor; no one ever knew what he was
    thinking about unless he told them, and then he often told them
    what he did not really think. And so he was feared but not
    liked. I had never known him to be taken by surprise; and he
    was an absolutely dead shot with a revolver.

    “After taking into consideration all the possible circumstances
    with which my emissary was likely to be faced, I made my
    decision, and sent for Lieutenant Z. I need hardly say that
    I had every ground for satisfaction with my choice; but Z’s
    adventures must be told in another chapter.”


The following exercise is again a study in contrasts, but in this case
there are _more than two_.

You will have seen from the last exercise that the way to make your
précis clear is to arrange all the topics in separate paragraphs.

We may put it in the form of a Rule:

RULE IV.--=After you have stated your main subject in the ‘title’,
arrange all the different topics in SEPARATE PARAGRAPHS; and whenever
you can, make the ‘state of affairs’ clear in your first paragraph.=

This rule applies to every précis you write. The best plan is to jot
down in pencil Headings for all your paragraphs before you start
writing your précis (three in short précis; four, five, or six, in
longer précis). The length of each paragraph depends on the importance
of the topic.

No. 5.--The Black Republic

Extract from the reminiscences of Commander Brown, R.N.

    I have only once visited the Black Republic, and that was some
    years ago, when I was still a midshipman. I was in the _Argo_
    then, a curious old tub that has long since been scrapped. We
    had been cruising about the islands and enjoying ourselves
    hugely, when the captain received orders to bring certain
    pressure to bear upon the Black Republicans. I don’t know what
    the fuss was about; that didn’t concern me. What did interest
    me was the fact that we--myself and four other “snotties”--were
    allowed shore-leave for the afternoon.

    A strange wild place the island looked as we approached it in
    the picket-boat: a huge tumbled mass of bare mountain peaks,
    for all the world like a crumpled newspaper thrown down on a
    blue carpet. It was beautiful too in this glare of the tropical
    sun, with its gleaming grey rocks and dark forest belt, and the
    straggling lines of white houses that backed the harbour.

    As we drew nearer we could see the yellow lateen sails of
    little fruit-boats that crowded round the quay, the green
    sun-blinds of houses, and the white dresses and brilliant red
    and blue parasols of the ladies who thronged the promenade--a
    regular kaleidoscope of dazzling colour points. And we promised
    ourselves a jolly afternoon of exploration and ramble.

    But no sooner had we rounded the mole and entered the harbour
    than the whole aspect changed. It is difficult to convey a
    true impression of the extreme shabbiness and tawdriness of
    the scene. It fell like a blight upon us, and our spirits
    sank down into our boots. The whole surface of the harbour was
    covered with a scum of dirt and oil in which floated banana
    skins, bits of orange-peel, matches, and dead flies, while the
    quay was pervaded by an indescribable stench, heavy and sweet,
    like an old dust-bin.

    We came alongside and walked up the steps, slipping on fishes’
    heads and fruit skins; and everywhere we were met by the same
    dirty finery and pretentious tawdriness. Crowds of ladies
    walked up and down the parade--black ladies, dressed in dirty
    white frocks and darned canvas shoes. Their brilliant parasols
    were torn, and their hat-feathers dishevelled like those of a

    Innumerable soldiers--black men, of course--thronged the
    streets, strutting with indescribable self-satisfaction.
    But they were as shabby as the “ladies”, in their dirty
    cocked-hats, their concertina-like trousers, and tunics
    stuck all over with medals and orders like Christmas-trees.
    We discovered from the Commander afterwards that the whole
    army consists of officers, very few of them below the rank of
    Major-general. They are inordinately proud of their medals, and
    quite amazingly inefficient.

    It was really beastly--there is no other word to describe
    it--so beastly that we snotties walked along in silence, unable
    at first to realize how funny it all was. Presently a huge
    black major-general, decked with gold tinsel epaulets and as
    many orders as the Lord High Executioner, came across to us and
    saluted with magnificent gusto.

    “What the deuce does the old buffer want?” whispered Jones to

    “Me speak Englees,” said the major-general, and paused.

    “Well, out with it, old son; what do you want?” asked Jones

    And then at last we saw the humour of the whole ramshackle
    system; for what in the world should this affected old
    turkey-cock of a major-general want, but to carry the bag
    which contained our towels and tea for the modest sum of half
    a crown! We roared with laughter; and at that moment our 1st
    Lieutenant came along.

    “Get out! no want!” he said; and the disconcerted major-general
    slunk away with the most humorous expression of offended pride
    and grovelling servility.

    “I shouldn’t stay in the town,” said the lieutenant; “it
    stinks. If you carry on down the road, you will come to a
    first-rate bathing-place.”

    And so we did.


A short paragraph of explanation is needed. The different lines of
investigation fit very easily into different paragraphs.

No. 6.--The Professor and the Monkeys

Translation of a letter written by Herr Professor Otto von Pumpenstein
to the München Philological Society.

                                           WILHELMSTRASSE, HAMBURG.
                                                    _June 1._


    I regret that distance prohibits me from attending the summer
    meeting of the Philological Society in person; more especially
    as I have been making certain investigations which, I venture
    to think, will have far-reaching consequences. Allow me to
    enclose the report of my experiments.

                             ihr ergebenst

                                              OTTO VON PUMPENSTEIN.


Report of certain experiments carried out in the Monkey-house of the
Hamburg Zoological Gardens.

The following experiments were made by me by kind permission of
the Herr Vorsteher of the Zoological Gardens, with the object of
ascertaining whether monkeys actually converse in language. I was drawn
to make these experiments by a consideration of the extraordinary
similarity between the structure of the mouth and vocal chords in Man
and the Anthropoid Apes, and by the amazing correspondence between
their brain-charts. I accordingly had a small travelling cage fitted
up with table, ink-stand, and so forth, and placed inside the large
cage of the chimpanzees, which happened to be next that of the spider
monkeys, in such a position that I could enter it without fear of

In this cage I spent my holiday, arriving at the Monkey-house at
10 every morning, and leaving at 6 p.m. My meals I took when the
chimpanzees were fed, to avoid arousing jealousy. During the first week
I filled five notebooks with the noises made by these animals (spelt
phonetically), but without being able to attach any particular thought
to any of them. My first success was the result of flashing a mirror
in the eyes of the old male chimpanzee. He invariably showed signs of
distress, beat the wires of my cage, and said, “Kee--kee--r-r-r-t!”
which would seem to mean, “This I can no longer stand!” I tried this
experiment on 105 occasions, and always with the same result.

My next success was with regard to the spider monkeys. I discovered
that by singing a particular note I could induce these monkeys to
imitate me in a very shrill strident tone, but always in perfect pitch.
In a few days’ time they could sing up and down the scale, but without
any articulation. I next sang them “Deutschland, Deutschland über
alles” in a loud voice. They received the first few lines in silence,
and were then seized with a wild enthusiasm, gathering handfuls of bran
and flinging them into my cage. Since that experiment I have so far
been unable to induce them to sing.

I next carried out a series of important experiments with the aid of a
gramophone. Observing that an old fierce chimpanzee was kept in a cage
by himself, I induced his keeper to deprive him of water for several
hours. I then approached a basin of water to the outside of the beast’s
cage, placing the gramophone close to his mouth as he hung by one
foot from the ceiling. I took a record of his remarks, which appeared
to consist of a repetition of the word “G-r-r-ump”. I then carried
the record to my original cage and turned it on. My first trials were
unsuccessful, but on the fifteenth repetition I observed that an old
female chimpanzee pushed her saucer of water in my direction. From this
I concluded that the meaning of the old ape’s remark was, “I a drink
of water want”. I have made a great number of experiments with the
gramophone, and am inclined to believe that the chimpanzee for “nut” is
“warra-yak”; “banana” is “kee-e” (very shrill), and so forth.

I shall spend another fortnight in my cage, and I confidently hope for
still more startling and far-reaching results. I have attempted to
reproduce these noises, or phrases, myself; but so far they have not
been received in a friendly spirit.

No. 7.--The Island

Report of Captain H. Cardew, R.N., on the condition of the Island of

                                    H.M.S. _Dundonald_, off St. Helena.
                                                 _June 1._

    To the Colonial Secretary.


    I have the honour to inform you that I have just returned from
    a visit to the island of Ingelos, and I herewith submit my

    The _Dundonald_ was the first ship to visit this island since
    October, 1910, though an Italian brigantine was wrecked there a
    year ago. (All the crew were drowned with the exception of the
    cook, one Antonio Posillippo, who has since married and settled
    down, and has no intention of leaving.)

    The inhabitants consist of 38 men, 30 women, and 23 children.
    Their Head-man is John Brown, grandson of the original John
    Brown who was wrecked there in 1848. They appear to be happy
    and contented, and there has never been any illness on the
    island, barring a virulent cold in the head started by
    Posillippo a few days after his rescue. The original flock
    of goats does exceedingly well on the mountain, providing
    the community with milk, cheese, and goats’ flesh; while the
    islanders have developed a wonderful capacity for fishing under
    difficult conditions. Potatoes do very well, and the yearly
    wheat crop is most carefully looked after.

    The Head-man told me that the community had suffered very
    seriously for many months from a plague of rats, the ancestors
    of which had swum ashore from the wrecked brigantine. They
    swarm in prodigious numbers, spoiling crops and even killing
    kids. The ship’s terrier wrought great havoc during our three
    days’ stay, and I have left several tins of rat-poison. Under
    the direction of the ship’s carpenter some 50 rat-traps were
    constructed, and the people are setting to work to make many

    The Head-man is deeply religious and possesses the Bible that
    belonged to the original John Brown. He conducts a service
    on the day after every new moon--for there are no “days of
    the week”. We attended one of these services, and found it to
    consist of a strange mixture of traditions, very crude, but
    reverent. The Chaplain has given the Head-man a prayer-book.

    All the inhabitants talk and read English, but their language
    is interspersed with a large number of Italian and Spanish
    words imported by wrecked mariners. There are a certain number
    of words that appear to be indigenous, such as “skat” and
    “glob”--the names of certain fish; “latté” for porridge, and
    “lootoos” for the long goat-skin waders that the fishers wear
    to protect their legs from stinging fish.

    The island is quite self-supporting; but the Head-man is
    anxious to have a telescope, and knives of all sorts would
    be exceedingly useful. The people are very grateful for the
    illuminated texts and pocket-handkerchiefs sent out in the
    _Dundonald_, and they are wearing both upon their persons.

    The education of the children is entirely in the hands of the
    Head-man Brown.

                       I have the honour to be,

                           Your obt. Servt.

                                                    H. CARDEW,
                                                   Captain R.N.


The following three exercises are short accounts of trials and

RULE V.--=In making a précis of the evidence of various witnesses DO
NOT PROCEED BY QUESTION AND ANSWER. It is often convenient to keep the
evidence of different witnesses in separate paragraphs, but do not
repeat the same points. Just tell the story in your own words, and as
far as possible in the order in which events happened.=

In making a précis of the Witch Trial be careful to write in modern

No. 8.--A Seventeenth-Century Witch Trial

The fourteenth day of the third month in the year of Grace 1616, His
most gracious, learned, and religious Majesty King James I being on
throne, was brought to trial at Quarter Sessions one Mistress Banbury,
charged with having correspondence with the Prince of Darkness, and of
practising the detestable rites of witchcraft, whereby sundry persons
suffered grievous harm. Whereof the evidence of witnesses was thus and

Master Mark Rubbleyard duly sworn. May it please your worship, on
Wednesday last at high noon I and my servants, having felled certain
trees in Bishop’s copse, and having tied them upon a wain, did drive
by the cottage of Mistress Banbury. Now the trees being large and the
branches thereof stretching athwartwise, they catched upon the fence
of Mistress Banbury’s garden. And thereupon, incontinent looked forth
Mistress Banbury, and in a loud voice put a curse upon me, upon my
horses, and upon my wain. And the curse was of such power that the wain
did fall into the ditch ere reaching my farm; moreover, my horses are
fallen sick and eat not their oats, and I myself am stricken with a
grievous colic.

Mistress Kate Brokedish duly sworn. May it please your worship. Not
long since came Mistress Banbury to my house selling simples and
charms. And may it please your worship, I did purchase certain snails
stewed in milk as a cure for my goodman’s warts. And as I made my
purchase she did maliciously cast her eyes upon my son Nicholas, he
being two years old. And before the day was out my son Nicholas was
smitten with a cough and did spit pins until the evening.

Master Noak, Beadle, duly sworn. May it please your worship.
Yesternight three lads of the village passing by the house of Mistress
Banbury, she cast an evil eye upon them; and they being affrighted
threw sundry stones. Whereupon did Mistress Banbury curse them roundly,
debeasting herself with detestable oaths. And incontinent the lads have
become crossed-eyed, and do hourly vomit forth needles.

Questioned as to whether she were in league with the Devil, Mistress
Banbury answered, Yea; howsoever, not with the Prince of Darkness, but
with three demons. On being questioned as to their names, she replied,
“Pluck, Catch, and Chitabob.” On being questioned as to which had
forced her to do these things, she replied, “Chitabob did this thing.”
Then said the judge unto her that was accused: Mistress Banbury, you
are accused of the most heinous crime of witchcraft before God and man.
Whereof to make an ensample, and to insure right judgement, I hereby
give order that your thumbs and your great toes be tied together as
it were in the form of a cross, and that you be cast into Tiddler’s
Pond. And if the sacred element receive you, and mercifully you shall
be drowned, then is your innocence approved. But if the sacred element
cast you upon its surface and you swim, then is your guilt proven;
your body shall be burnt unto death, and your soul shall enter into


The following exercise will obviously work out at five paragraphs:--In
the first tell the ‘state of affairs’; in the others give the evidence
of the various witnesses without repeating or overlapping more than is

Remember that the story must be told in good English, not in the
language of the witnesses.

No. 9.--The Miser

Evidence concerning the death of Mr. Timothy Keek, of No. 215A Tapley
Street, Bristol; before Mr. Jules Curtis.

_Evidence of 1st witness in answer to questions._

    My name is Clara Cloggs. I am a charwoman and charred for Mr.
    Keek regular. Once a fortnight, Fridays, I done his room out
    with soap and soda and opened the winders and made the bed.
    No, he never had no fires. I was charring on the 3rd floor at
    11 o’clock Friday, leaving Mr. Keek’s room to the last, as
    per usual. I knocks at his door with the broom-’andle, which
    there was no answer. Mrs. ’Uggins from 2nd floor calls up, “He
    ain’t been down for his walk yet, Mrs. Cloggs!” I tries the
    door, which it were no good; so I calls to Mrs. ’Uggins, “Mrs.
    ’Uggins!” I sez, “we better fetch the perlice,” I sez; “and
    I for one don’t want to be mixed up with no locked doors and
    suchlike!” I sez. So me and Mrs. ’Uggins fetched the perlice
    sergeant; and me, I goes ’ome to mind the children’s dinner.

_Evidence of 2nd witness._

    I am Police Constable Blades, 7X. On Friday, 11.20 a.m.
    precise, I was on my beat between Tapley Street and the King’s
    Arms, when I was met by Mrs. Cloggs and Mrs. ’Uggins, which
    they are both well known to me. They told me of the business in
    ’and, and me and Mrs. ’Uggins proceeds to the apartment of Mr.
    Keek, which we reached it at 11.32 a.m. I then knocked smartly
    on the door with the knuckles of the left ’and. Receiving
    no reply I continued the process, at the same time sending
    Mrs. ’Uggins for the poker. I then broke open the door, and
    discovered the deceased Mr. Keek at the table with his ’ead
    on his arms, and his arms on a pile of golden sovereigns. Two
    or three thousand at a rough estimate. I then whistled for
    assistance, and sent Mrs. ’Uggins for the doctor. This was at
    11.53 a.m. precise.

_Evidence of 3rd witness._

    Mrs. Jane ’Uggins I am. Yes I knew Mr. Keek, five years I knew
    ’im. Very quiet regular old gentleman he was. Went out the same
    time every day, and took his meals out. Couldn’t say what his
    business was--nobody didn’t know. I went with Mrs. Cloggs to
    fetch the perlice. I ’elped Sergeant Blades open Mr. Keek’s
    door, and I see him lying on the sovereigns.

_Evidence of 4th witness._

    I am Doctor Theodore Simpson. I was fetched to No. 215A Tapley
    Street at noon on Friday. I found the police in possession of
    Mr. Keek’s room, and Mr. Keek lying across a great pile of
    gold, as the sergeant told in his evidence. Upon making an
    examination I found that the deceased had literally died of
    starvation. He must have been starving himself more or less
    for years; and for the last few days I should say he had eaten
    nothing at all.


Remember that you must not proceed by question and answer. Just tell
the story shortly in the order in which events took place.

You will see that it is of no importance whatever to know the _names_
of the persons concerned. (If mentioned, they should be enclosed in
brackets.) But perhaps it is important to know the _ages_ of the boys,
as this affects the story.

No. 10.--The Boy Scouts

Part of the evidence taken in the Police Court, in the trial of two
boys, Albert Home (16) and James Hopkins (16).

    _Mr. Carter, J.P._ “Your name?”

    _1st Witness--a boy scout._ “Tom Appleby, sir.”

    _Mr. C._ “Age?”

    _1st W._ “Fourteen-a-half, sir.”

    _Mr. C._ “Tell the Court exactly what you were doing on
    Thursday afternoon.”

    _1st W._ “Me and my patrol were doing Spider and Fly--that’s a
    scout game, sir--down below Barley’s Farm, and I was creeping
    through the trees so as not to make no noise when I heard
    somebody laugh, and when I crawls nearer I sees the--the
    prisoners sitting on the bank of Barley’s duck pond.”

    _Mr. C._ “Could you see exactly what they were doing?”

    _1st W._ “Yes, sir. The short one had hold of a frog by the
    back legs, and the tall one had a bicycle pump, and he put the
    connection down the frog’s throat, and was blowin’ him up with
    the bicycle pump.”

    _Mr. C._ “Are you quite certain of this?”

    _1st W._ “Yes, sir; and here’s the body all busted.” (Frog’s
    body produced.)

    _Mr. C._ “And then what did you do?”

    _1st W._ “Crawled back through the wood and signalled
    instructions to my patrol, sir. And when we got back they was
    starting in on another frog.”

    _Mr. C._ “And how did you manage to catch these boys? They seem
    to be much bigger and stronger than any of you.”

    _1st W._ “We lassooed ’em with ropes, sir, and pulled ’em
    backwards, sir, and then all ten of us set on ’em, sir, and
    tied ’em up, sir!” (Laughter.)

    _Mr. C._ “And how did you get them to the camp?”

    _1st W._ “Semaphored for the ’and-cart, sir.” (Laughter.)

                         _2nd Witness called._

    _Mr. C._ “Your name?”

    _2nd W._ “My name is George Collinson.”

    _Mr. C._ “You are scoutmaster in charge of the scouts’ summer
    camp, I believe?”

    _2nd W._ “That is so.”

    _Mr. C._ “Kindly tell the Court what you saw in connection with
    this business.”

    _2nd W._ “At 3.30 on Thursday afternoon I was returning from
    the railway station with a newly arrived patrol when I saw a
    party of scouts coming from the direction of Barley’s Farm.
    They were pulling the small hand-cart in which two boys
    appeared to be lying. Fearing an accident I ran to meet them,
    and found these two lads tied securely hand and foot and
    fastened into the cart by means of the luggage-straps.”

    _Mr. C._ “And what orders did you give?”

    _2nd W._ “After hearing the whole story from Tom Appleby, I
    gave directions that the two lads should be taken to my tent. I
    also sent into Crickley for the police.”

Several scouts were then heard as witnesses; and the two lads, having
admitted their cruelty, were sentenced to receive six strokes each with
the cane.


Remember that the evidence concerning the treatment of children is the
subject of the following letter. The personal feelings of the clergyman
are of secondary importance.

RULE VI.--=Proper Names and Titles must be mentioned when it increases
the value of the evidence, or report, or whatever it is, to know WHO

In the following précis it is obviously important to know both.

No. 11.--Child Labourers in 1836

To the Rt. Rev. the Lord Bishop of Lancaster.

                                                   THE VICARAGE,
                                                 _Aug. 10, 1836_.

    MY LORD,

    Having the welfare of my crowded and poverty-stricken parish
    at heart, and being very greatly exercised in my mind as to
    the condition of the children living therein, I have thought
    it well to write to you giving you a brief outline of certain
    investigations I have made--of which I am now preparing full
    reports--in the hope that you will interest yourself in the
    matter, and bring the question of child labour before the Upper

    My Lord, to say that I am appalled is to use a euphemism.
    I am shocked beyond all power of expression. Few of the
    horrors recounted of the African Slave-trade--now so happily
    abolished--can surpass the callous cruelties inflicted upon
    children of our own race, living in our own towns--not only by
    their task-masters and slave-drivers (for one can use no other
    term), but by their parents even, who, though not altogether
    dead to feelings of affection, are so ignorant and so harassed
    that they cannot grasp the idea that any better system is

    Let me cite two or three cases, my Lord, in general terms.
    (Detailed evidence I reserve for my report.)

    First there are the boy chimney-sweepers. Orphan boys of
    eight, nine, and ten, are given away or even sold by the
    town authorities--who are only too thankful to be rid of the
    encumbrance--to abandoned ruffians, who, quite dead to all
    feelings of pity, treat them worse than they treat their
    half-starved asses. The boys are flogged incessantly, kicked,
    and starved; they spend their lives climbing about the chimneys
    of the district in an atmosphere of soot and filth; and if the
    work is not done soon enough to suit the slave-drivers, as
    often as not a fire is lit below, and the boy falls burnt and
    struggling, half-suffocated with the smoke. And the only excuse
    that the town authorities bring forward for their connivance
    at this horrible cruelty, is the fact that “many chimneys in
    the district are built in the old style, and it is absurd to
    allow these new-fangled ideas of humanity to interfere with the
    comfort of the home.”

    My parish, as you are aware, my Lord, is in the mining area;
    and I have found by personal investigations that the condition
    of the children in the pits is worse even than that of the
    chimney boys. For a miserable wage of one shilling a week, and
    an occasional extra penny for several hours’ work overtime,
    hundreds of little boys are kept working down in the pits for
    from twelve to sixteen hours a day. Often the children are so
    young--very many of them are not more than six or seven years
    old--and so feeble that they are carried to the pit’s mouth by
    their fathers, and this at four o’clock in the morning. They
    are then taken down to work all day, even during “meals”, and
    only return to the surface after daylight is over.

    I myself have been down the shafts many times, and the sights
    I have seen there are pitiful in the extreme. The galleries
    in deep mines are provided with doors and traps, “to prevent
    inflammable drafts”, and children of six are trained to sit
    by themselves all day long, in the dark, opening and shutting
    these doors as the trucks pass and repass. Can it be wondered
    at that these infants often become feeble-minded?

    But the lot of the older children is even worse. Little boys
    of eight and nine are harnessed by chains round the hips to
    small flat trucks, and these they pull on hands and knees
    through passages only a couple or two and a half feet high. The
    mines are very wet, and often these narrow pipes through which
    the children drag their loads are more than half full of water.

    Their food is wretchedly inadequate; they are beaten
    incessantly to keep them awake, for, as the men have often told
    me, the boys “will fall asleep over their work”; and their home
    life, such as it is, is wretched and demoralizing beyond words.

    In this letter, my Lord, I can do no more than touch upon the
    surface of things. But for the sake of countless children’s
    lives, I beg you will interest yourself in this matter, that
    you will read the full report which I have prepared, and use
    your great influence towards causing these horrors to cease.

                         Believe me, my Lord,

                              Your humble and obedient servant,

                                                         H. STOKES.


In this précis the curator and the Nizam should occupy a very small
place. The Museum is the real subject--not the curator.

Arrange the points of interest, and group them in separate paragraphs.

Remember that Euclid was the best-known figure the Museum produced; and
treat him accordingly.

No. 12.--The Museum, 300 B.C.

(_The Nizam Ramayana Gosh, from the Ganges Valley, is shown over the
Museum at Alexandria by the chief Curator._)

    If the great Nizam will deign to step through the portico, I
    will conduct his Mightiness at once to the two great libraries.

    Here beneath these two great domes is gathered all the
    literature and learning of the world. These shelves that you
    see are loaded with books in papyrus or parchment by the
    hundred thousand, many of them dispatched from Babylon by the
    great Alexander himself. This door upon our right leads to the
    amphitheatre where sages and philosophers debate, while upon
    our left is the hall of banquets.

    As your Mightiness will observe--permit me to throw open the
    door--it is the hour of the afternoon meal. Here you can see
    some two thousand students reclining at the feast. (Slave! wine
    for his Mightiness the Nizam!) We cultivate the luxury of our
    tables and the subtlety of our cooking to the fullest extent.
    The dignity and splendour of our dinners is beyond belief.
    I myself spend many hours a day in quiet mastication and

    This door opens straight upon the Porch or Colonnade where
    the Walking philosophers discuss the Cosmos and digest their
    dinner. These gardens beyond are set apart for the study of
    botany. Every species of plant and tree has been collected,
    from the Pillars of Hercules to the shores of the Euxine, from
    Mesopotamia to the lands of the Ganges, which your Mightiness
    honours by his gracious rule.

    We have now reached the Zoological Gardens. (The collection of
    these animals was begun by the great philosopher Aristotle.)
    Here are wolves from the Northern Isles far beyond the Pillars
    of Hercules; there are monkeys from Northern Africa; tigers
    from India; river-horses from the far south; and this--I marvel
    not that your Mightiness is astonished; but have no fear, they
    harm neither man nor beast!--here is the camelopard, tallest
    known of beasts. The neck of this specimen measures seven
    cubits! Those are the bird-houses, and these are ponds and
    tanks containing all manner of fish. And here are innumerable
    pheasants, bred for the philosophers’ table.

    We now reach the lecture-theatre, and I must lower my voice,
    for lectures are now in progress. Observe, your Mightiness,
    this old philosopher with the grey whiskers. That is Euclid,
    professor of Geometry and Conic Sections. It is he who
    refuted the Sceptics. The Sceptics, your Mightiness? They are
    philosophers who say that they know nothing at all, not even
    that they know nothing at all--and _even that_ they do not
    know that they do not know. But Euclid has discovered certain
    Truths that all must admit. Observe him now, demonstrating upon
    the screen. I have attended his lectures, and I understand.
    He is now demonstrating that the two angles at the base of an
    isosceles triangle are equal. Listen to the cries of enthusiasm
    and delight with which the students hail his proof! Those
    cries from the farther room? Your Mightiness is right--_those_
    are not screams of enthusiasm and enjoyment, for that is the
    dissecting-room where students learn anatomy and all the
    wonders of the human frame. The city authorities allow us
    three criminals a week upon whom we may experiment for the
    advancement of science. The criminal whose screams you hear
    is a Nile boatman who stole three measures of meal from the
    public market. They are now operating upon his stomach, and I
    am told it is like to be a most entertaining and instructive
    lecture. Your Mightiness would prefer not to attend? It is as
    your Mightiness wishes; though I cannot but feel that much
    instruction and enjoyment will be missed.

    These are the instruments of the Astronomers--armils,
    astrolabes, and the like; these are the halls for light reading
    and discussion of general topics. And these padded cells,
    marked ‘Silence’, are reserved for poets. Here also theologians
    sit in contemplation, for in the Museum six hundred different
    religions are represented. No, we have no trouble with them at
    all, except occasionally with the devil-worshippers.

    And now we reach our original starting-point, and I have done.
    I humbly thank your Mightiness for your courtesy and attention,
    for the honour which you have done us by gracing the Museum
    with your kingly presence, and for the brace of panthers which
    you have so generously presented.


The following précis is quite straightforward. Start with Mr. Hunt’s
reasons for writing the letter, and then proceed with the events in the
order in which they happened, leaving out all unessential talk.

This exercise will afford a good example of the following important

RULE VII.--=Never put in any critical or explanatory remarks of your

In this précis, for instance, one is tempted to point out that Mr. Hunt
was _not_ in a normal state, that on his own showing he was dreadfully
depressed and lonely, and that this would affect the value of his
evidence. But one must do nothing of the sort. One’s business in this,
as in every précis, is to write a concise summary of the story as it
stands, and leave all criticism to the reader’s common sense.

No. 13.--The Warning

Letter to the Secretary of the Psychical Research Society.

                                                  SPORTSMAN’S HOTEL,
                                                   ALBERTA, CANADA.


    I should be glad if you would allow me to bring before the
    notice of the Society an amazing case of Forewarning which I
    myself have experienced. To my mind this extraordinary event
    carries with it its own evidence; for, had it not been for this
    premonition, I should not now be here to write the story. These
    are the facts, to which, if necessary, I am prepared to set my

    In the summer of the present year, 1910, I and my friend
    Colonel Symes arranged a grizzly-bear-shooting expedition in
    the Rocky Mountains. We wished to be entirely alone, and so we
    pushed off into the wilder country, eventually building our
    little hut just within the upper limits of the tree-line at a
    place marked on the enclosed map, a spot so remote that it has
    as yet no name.

    Three weeks of excellent sport followed, and then calamity
    overtook us. While rounding a precipice path in Indian file
    we were met and attacked by a bear, and, before I could do
    anything to help, both the colonel and the bear had fallen over
    the cliff and were dashed onto the rocks below.

    There was nothing to be done. Thirty seconds had sufficed to
    close our expedition in appalling disaster. I returned alone to
    the hut. For the rest of the day I wandered aimlessly round the
    clearing, trying in vain to make up my mind to return home to
    civilization. But I was numbed by the disaster, and after much
    barren thought I decided to put a double boarding onto the hut
    and stay where I was.

    For the next five weeks I spent a solitary existence, living on
    what I shot and on the provisions which the Indian pack-horses
    had brought up when we first arrived. And then began the snow.
    It started little at first, and I cleared it away from the door
    of the hut. But soon the storms grew in violence, and before
    long all hunting was out of the question, and I spent my days
    in clearing a path from the hut door, and in reading over the
    camp stove.

    On the fourth day of the blizzard the wind got up, and blew
    very hard with a most melancholy and dispiriting noise through
    the pine-trees above my hut. I felt wretchedly lonely; and,
    though I managed to pass the day in cooking meals and putting
    the finishing stitches to a heavy sleeping-suit of bear-skin,
    by the time darkness came on I was in the depths of depression.

    At ten o’clock I turned in--that is, I rolled myself up on my
    bear-skin couch--and for half an hour I read in my copy of
    Shakespeare: showing that my mind was in a perfectly normal
    condition. At 10.30 I shut the stove, blew out the lantern, and
    went to sleep, the blizzard still raging with great violence

    It must have been about five hours later that I woke with a
    feeling of oppression and horror such as I had never before
    experienced. At first I was at a loss to understand the cause
    of my fright. I sat up, on one elbow, and shivered. Then I
    realized what it was--there was someone else in the room!
    Now the door was barred against wild animals; moreover I was
    full fifty miles from the nearest encampment. And the horror
    of this unseen presence made the hair crawl upon my scalp. I
    sat bolt upright and held my breath. It was then that a full
    perception of the Horror flooded in upon me like a wave--the
    Thing was lying on the couch by my side! It was pitch dark
    of course, and I could see nothing. I merely “sensed” this
    presence on the couch. With a leap I was across the room and
    lighting my lantern with trembling fingers. Then I returned to
    the couch.

    I cannot attempt to express the horror of what I saw. My
    breathing stopped with a jerk and my heart stood still. For
    there was _myself_ lying dead upon the couch, crushed across
    the body by some unseen and appalling weight!

    I dropped the lamp, leapt to the door, and in a frenzy of
    terror staggered out into the storm. Twenty seconds passed--it
    can hardly have been more--when with a rending noise like an
    avalanche one of the great pine-trees fell clean across the
    centre of the hut, crushing it into matchwood!

    As soon as it was day I pushed off for the lowlands (luckily my
    ski and gun were in the outhouse, and so escaped).

    I have no evidence beyond the word of a gentleman to prove the
    truth of what I have narrated; I can only assure you of the
    absolute and literal truth of the premonition; though whether
    the apparition was an objective reality or a figment of my
    own imagination I must leave to the opinion of the Psychical
    Research Society.

                           Believe me, Sir,

                                     Yours very truly,

                                                     NIMROD HUNT.


In the following précis do not proceed by question and answer. Arrange
the subjects in definite groups as you think best.

The main point to remember is that you _must not criticize_ this
wonderful medley of nonsense. All you have to do is to give a concise
idea of the kind of pseudo-science that boys had to learn by heart
a hundred and fifty years ago. (The original is largely taken from
old school-books.) You must not use a single phrase such as ‘this
absurd idea’. Your _title_ should imply that such stuff is very much

No. 14.--Science as taught in our Great-grandfathers’ School-days

_Preceptor._ What is Science?

_Child._ Science is the investigation and proper appreciation of the
phenomena of the Universe in which it has pleased the Creator to place
us. This investigation is applied to the Elements and to the Immutable
Laws which govern them.

_Preceptor._ How many Elements are there?

_Child._ Four: Fire, Water, Earth, and Air--the Igneous element, the
Aqueous element, the Earthy, and the Aerial elements.

_Preceptor._ What is Fire?

_Child._ Fire, or the Igneous element, is the element of destruction.
It consists of flame, which devours materials, and imparts a
comfortable warmth to man and beast. The sun is the primary source of
heat; the interior of the Earth consists of Fire; combustion can be
produced artificially by man; and the Lightning is its most terrific

_Preceptor._ What is Lightning?

_Child._ Lightning is a large bright flame darting through the air to a
considerable distance, of momentary duration, and usually accompanied
by thunder.

_Preceptor._ What is Thunder?

_Child._ Thunder is a loud rattling noise accompanied by Lightning,
caused by the sudden clashing or rushing together of several clouds
which are filled with sulphurous and nitrous exhalations. Its
reverberations fill the hearer with awe, and turn the mind to thoughts
of piety and submission.

_Preceptor._ What is the Earthy element?

_Child._ The Earthy element is the solid ground upon which we live.
It is divided into mountains, hills, valleys, and plains, in a variety
pleasing to the eye, and adapted to all sorts and conditions of men.

_Preceptor._ Of what is the Earthy element composed?

_Child._ The Earth is composed of rocks, sand, metals, and mud, in
which are also to be found the more precious stones, such as the
diamond, the jacynth, the topaz, and the chrysoprasus.

_Preceptor._ When was the Earth created?

_Child._ The Earth was created by the Divine Will in the year 4004
B.C., the sun, moon, and stars, being created shortly afterwards for
the use and benefit of man.

_Preceptor._ How were the Mountains formed?

_Child._ For the first few thousand years it would seem that the Earth
was subjected to occasional violent catastrophes, both by fire and
water. In these catastrophes great mountain chains were sometimes flung
up; at other times the waters swept over the tops of the hills, and the
shells of sea creatures may be found there to this day.

_Preceptor._ Have these catastrophes ceased?

_Child._ They have become less violent in their nature, though the
recent Earthquake and Wave at Lisbon and the Eruption of Mount Hecla in
Iceland attest their continued activity.

_Preceptor._ What is the Aerial Element?

_Child._ It is that elastic fluid with which the Earth is surrounded.
It is generally called Air. It partakes of all the motions of the earth.

_Preceptor._ What is the cause of the Wind?

_Child._ The cause of the Wind has never been ascertained.

_Preceptor._ Then are the Winds of no benefit to us?

_Child._ Yes, the benefits arising from them are innumerable: they
dry the damp, they chase vile humours, they bring us the rain in due
season, and waft our ships from every corner of the Earth.

_Preceptor._ What is the Aqueous element?

_Child._ The Aqueous element is generally called Water. It is the fluid
which covers half the surface of the Globe, and it is divided into seas
and oceans. It is also manifested in rivers, streams, springs, rain,
and mist.

_Preceptor._ Why is the sea salt?

_Child._ The saltness of the sea is due to certain saline properties in
water when brought together in very large quantities.

_Preceptor._ Do we derive any advantage from the study of Science and
Natural Philosophy?

_Child._ Yes; for without a competent knowledge of Natural Philosophy
we cannot form a true conception of the Purpose of Creation; nor can we
adapt our daily lives in accordance with the Law by which all things
work together for the benefit and improvement of Mankind.


It is very important to be able to make a précis of a number of letters
or telegrams.

RULE VIII.--=In making a précis of a number of letters DO NOT PROCEED
LETTER BY LETTER. Get the gist of the whole story; then pick out
the important points and arrange them in the order in which the
events happened. Several letters or telegrams may be combined in one
paragraph, if they are on the same topic, but the topics must be kept

RULE IX.--=Never omit the principal DATES AND TIMES.=

No. 15--The Hut-Tax

Correspondence between the Administrator of British Bongoland, the
Commissioner of the M’Gobi District, and the Colonial Secretary.

1. To Mr. Commissioner Philips:--

                                  From GOVERNMENT HOUSE, BONGOLAND.
                                                 _June 1._

    There has been a serious falling off in the income from your
    district, for which it is difficult to account. You will
    therefore kindly increase the Hut-tax to the extent of 2 pounds
    of rubber and 10 brass rods per hut. Kindly acquaint me when
    this has been done.

                                               O. F. Administrator.

2. To the Administrator:--

                              From COMMISSIONER’S HUT, M’GOBI DISTRICT.
                                                _June 14._


    I have the honour to report that the utmost possible has
    been done in the matter of collecting taxes. The people have
    suffered great hardship this year owing to sleeping-sickness,
    and though the disease has been stamped out, labour has been
    scarce, and I do not feel justified in advising H.M. Government
    to increase the tax.

                       I have the honour to be,

                                      Your Obedient Servant,

                                                        H. PHILIPS.

3. To Mr. Commissioner Philips:--

                                              From GOVERNMENT HOUSE.
                                                      _July 1._

    You are not expected to advise H.M. Government. Kindly collect
    the tax as I order, and report to me later.

                                               O. F. Administrator.

4. To the Administrator:--

                          From COMMISSIONER’S HUT, M’GOBI DISTRICT.
                                               _July 11._


    I have the honour to inform you, from evidence obtained on the
    spot, that any attempt to levy an extra tax will be attended
    with serious consequences--disorder and probable loss of life.
    I therefore cannot hold myself responsible for the lives of
    missionaries and other white men in the district in case the
    tax is levied.

                       I have the honour to be,

                                  Your Obedient Servant,

                                                      H. PHILIPS.

5. To Mr. Commissioner Philips:--

                                            From GOVERNMENT HOUSE.
                                                     _July 20._

    You may take what steps you like with regard to missionaries;
    but the tax must be collected.

                                              O. F. Administrator.

(For Précis. Paper 2.)

6. (By telegram.)

To the Administrator, British Bongoland:--

                                   From COLONIAL OFFICE, WHITEHALL.
                                               _July 30._


    Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries in M’Gobi
    district report having been removed to coast by order of Mr.
    Commissioner Philips. Danger apprehended from levy of extra
    Hut-tax. H.M. Government is very averse to the imposition of
    harsh taxes, and I must therefore ask you to delay collection
    and furnish information without delay.

                                               HEDLEY: Assist. Sec.

7. (By telegram.)

To the Colonial Office:--

                                            From BRITISH BONGOLAND.
                                                      _Aug. 1._


    I am not accustomed to having my actions criticized. You may
    leave this matter entirely in my hands.

                       I have the honour to be,

                                 Your Obedient Servant,

                                                 OBADIAH FITZBLANK,

8. (By telegram.)

To Sir Obadiah FitzBlank:--

                                   From COLONIAL OFFICE, WHITEHALL.
                                           _Aug. 2_, 1 p.m.

    You will inform Mr. Commissioner Philips that H.M. Government
    are of opinion, in agreement with him, that the new tax should
    not be imposed. You will also resign your office immediately
    and return by the boat that leaves to-morrow night. Your
    successor has already left.

                                               JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN.


Remember Rule VIII and Rule IX.

Also, it is often convenient to use a _general_ term instead of names:
such as ‘The Naval Authorities’ or ‘The British Government’.

No. 16.--The Mandarin

Correspondence concerning the bastinadoing of a British subject in the
village of Ching-Wang, 30 miles from Shang-Hai.

1. To the British Consul at Shang-Hai:--

                                                   From CHING-WANG.
                                                       _April 2._


    I write to say as how I have been bastinadoed on both feet. My
    feet is swole something cruel. This was done by the Mandarin
    Lu-Chu. He says as how I stole his cherries, which I never done
    it. Please investigate. I am a British subjick, which my mother
    was a Chinee.

                             Yours truly,

                                                  FU-LING THOMPSON.

2. To His Complacency the Mandarin Lu-Chu:--

                                   From CONSUL’S HOUSE, SHANG-HAI.
                                                 _April 8._

    Having been informed by the half-caste Fu-Ling Thompson, a
    British subject, that corporal punishment had been unjustly
    inflicted upon him by your orders, I sent my agent to
    investigate the matter. He informs me that Thompson speaks the
    truth, and that you yourself are perfectly aware of the man’s
    innocence. I therefore suggest that, to avoid complications
    with H.M. Government, you compensate Mr. Thompson to the extent
    of £50 or 100,000 sens.

                                         H. CASLON, British Consul.

3. (Translation.)

To the British Consul:--

                                                   From CHING-WANG.

    Almighty Consul whose face shines like the moon. I cannot give
    Mr. Thompson 100,000 sens, for I am a poor man. Moreover, the
    cherries were stolen. It was right and fitting that someone
    should be bastinadoed.


4. To Lieut.-Commander Hanlon of H.M.S. _Laverock_:--

(Per picket boat.)

                                    From CONSUL’S HOUSE, SHANG-HAI.
                                                 _April 12._


    The Mandarin of Ching-Wang has been up to his old tricks
    again--bastinadoing a British subject. I have ordered him to
    pay the man £50 and he refuses. I suggest that you make a
    demonstration. (Correspondence enclosed.)


                                                       H. CASLON.

5. (By Wireless.)

To Admiral Groves, China Station:--

                                                        _April 12._

    Another case of unjustified bastinadoing. Mandarin refuses
    compensation. What steps may I take?


6. (By Wireless from H.M.S. _Thunderer_):--

    Leave entirely in your hands. Use great firmness but avoid


7. From H.M.S. _Laverock_ (by letter):--

                                                        _April 13._

    To his Complacency the Mandarin Lu-Chu.

    In the matter of the bastinadoing of Mr. Thompson, a British
    subject, the case as you know has been investigated, and I am
    authorized to demand the immediate payment of 100,000 sens.
    Unless this demand is complied with before 4 o’clock, I shall
    be reluctantly compelled to blow your house to pieces.


8. To Lieut.-Commander Hanlon (translation):--

    Most superb Lieutenant-Commander, whose guns roar like many
    devils. I cannot pay Mister Thompson 100,000 sens, for I am a
    poor man. Moreover, I did but beat him upon the soles of his


9. To the British Consul at Shang-Hai:--

                                            From H.M.S. _Laverock_.
                                                   _April 14._


    Lu-Chu flatly refused to pay; so, with the Admiral’s leave, I
    took the law into my own hands. At ten past four I stood right
    into the harbour and fired a large wad of cotton-waste into his
    cherry-trees. The old fellow was frightened out of his life,
    and sent the money within five minutes.


                                                         J. HANLON.


RULE X.--=ALWAYS KEEP A PROPER BALANCE. That is to say, it often
happens that in the original too much space is given to picturesque
details, and too little to the more important facts. In your précis
this must be put right.=

This is obviously the case in the following Life of Isaac Newton.

No. 17--Isaac Newton

Newton was born in 1643, and was the smallest baby in the world. He
went to school when very young, but does not appear to have done any
work till one day the top-boy kicked him violently in the stomach for
daring to get his sums right. Then Newton began to work, not with any
idea of becoming the greatest of mathematicians, but simply because he
resented being kicked in the stomach, and determined to get the better
of his tormentor. His spare time was spent in making ingenious little
contrivances, water-clocks, paper lamps attached to kites with which
to frighten the villagers, a ‘wind-mill’ turned by a pet mouse with a
string tied to its tail. When he left school he was tried on the farm,
but it was no use. Newton was always behind a hedge inventing some new
automatic toy, while the pigs wallowed in clover, and the cows trampled
down the corn. So he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, and there his
serious studies began.

His first discoveries were on the subject of light, about which very
little was then known. On darkening his room and allowing a circular
beam of sunlight to pass through a hole in the shutter, and thence
through a triangular glass prism, he found that an oblong patch of
light was cast on the screen five times as long as the hole in the
shutter. Moreover, it was no longer white, but made up of all the
colours of the rainbow--violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange,
red--always ranged in the same order. He soon came to the conclusion
that white is not a separate colour, but is made up of all the colours
of the ‘spectrum’.

He next invented the reflecting telescope, forerunner of all the
vast instruments by means of which the wonders of the sky have been

He then turned his great mind to the problem of finding out what light
really is, and, though his theory has been given up for a better, it
was the best that had been suggested up to that time. He also found out
that light travels at the rate of nearly 200,000 miles a second.

Meanwhile the Plague broke out at Cambridge, making it necessary for
him to retire into the country. It was in the garden of his country
house that the fall of an apple is supposed to have suggested to Newton
the theory of gravitation.

Scientists had for a long time been familiar with the fact that the
earth is a colossal magnet, drawing everything upon its surface in
the direction of its centre; but it was Newton who conceived the
idea--and whether it was the falling apple that suggested it or no
is unimportant--that the influence extended as far as the moon, and,
if this could be established, to the stars throughout space. Was it
not possible that the moon, trying to shoot off at a tangent, was
continually pulled back by the earth, and so kept ‘falling’ round it?
Newton tried experiments, applying laws already discovered, and found
that the theory would not work. Undiscouraged he put the whole problem
aside till more facts should have been discovered. It was not till 1682
that more accurate measurements of the earth gave Newton fresh data
to go upon. Again he applied his theory, and this time he began to
see that his problem was ‘coming out’--that the moon would fall just
the right distance, 15 feet per minute. As he neared the end of his
calculations he became so agitated that he could not go on: a friend
had to finish it for him. And it was right. He had established the fact
that not only is the moon subject to the law of gravitation, but that
the whole universe is slung together in one stupendous system.

It is this grand discovery, and the wonderful invention of the
calculus, that establish Newton’s claim to immortal honour. As says the
inscription in Westminster Abbey: “The vigour of his mind was almost


In this précis the story should be condensed, and told as a continuous
narrative, and not in scraps and jottings as in a log.

For the purpose of verifying positions, &c.--especially as the battle
was fought at night--it is important to mention _names_ of all ships.

It is also necessary to give the _times_ of the chief events; but
one can avoid monotony and scrappiness by using phrases such as “Ten
minutes later.…”

No. 18.--The Battle of the Nile

From the log of the _Swiftsure_ (unofficial):--

    At 6.0 p.m. received order from Flag-ship to furl and wet all
    unused sails; and to sling a cross-bar to the mizzen peak with
    four ship’s lanterns; also to sling a ship’s lantern over
    each gun-port, as the fight would be in the dark, and friend
    must be distinguished from foe. Superintended the sanding of
    decks, and final arrangements. 6.30, the fight began. French
    land batteries opened on the _Goliath_, which ship, followed
    by the _Theseus_ and others, rounded the tip of the French
    line and dropped anchor on the shoal side. By 7.0 it was dark,
    the battle raging furiously apparently on both sides of the
    enemy van. At 7.15 received message from Captain Troubridge
    of the _Culloden_ that he was on the sands. Put helm over
    and kept away to eastwards. 7.30, sailed down the battle
    line looking for an enemy’s ship to lie alongside. Sighted a
    vessel in movement. Order given to stand to the guns, for she
    showed no lights. Hailed ship, and received answer: “This is
    the _Bellerophon_ going out of action disabled”. Passed close
    under stern of _Bellerophon_. She had apparently lost both main
    and foremasts, and much wreckage lay over her sides. As far
    as could be distinguished in the darkness she appeared to be
    just under control, carrying on under mizzen and sprit sail.
    7.40, order given to take _Bellerophon’s_ place in fight. At
    8.3 let go one small bower anchor in seven fathoms of water.
    At 8.5 commenced firing at a two-decked ship called the
    _Franklin_ on the starboard quarter, and a three-decked ship
    called _L’Orient_ on starboard bow. Apparently _L’Orient_ was
    some 200 yards from our ship. She was using all three tiers of
    guns, but some had been put out of action by the _Bellerophon_.
    At 8.30 the _Alexander_ also closed on _L’Orient_ [_added
    later_: she was French Flag-ship] and the fight became very
    furious. At 9.3 _L’Orient_ caught fire. Order given to isolate
    _L’Orient’s_ poop with cannon and musket-fire, to prevent the
    flames being put out. (In the glare much loose gear, such as
    paint-pots could be seen scattered on the poop.) At a quarter
    to 10 _L’Orient_ blew up. Most of the wreckage fell into
    the sea; some on to the deck of the _Swiftsure_ but without
    inflicting casualties. Hove in cable. Lowered two boats, in
    charge of midshipmen. Picked up nine men and one lieutenant
    who escaped out of _L’Orient_. Saw the _Alexander’s_ bowsprit
    and her main-topgallant sail to be on fire. At 10.20 ceased
    firing. Sent Lieutenant Cowen to take possession of the enemy’s
    ship, the _Franklin_, that lay on our quarter, who hailed us
    that she had struck, with her main mizzen-masts gone. At 10.35
    he returned, finding that she was taken possession of by an
    officer from the _Defence_. At 10.50 saw the _Alexander_ and
    another ship, which proved to be the _Majestic_, engaging the
    enemy’s ships to the left of us at about a mile. Bore down
    to their assistance. For the next four hours engaged enemy’s
    ships to the rear of their line. Enemy’s fire became wild and
    inflicted little damage. At 3 a.m. order was given to cease
    fire. Guns’ crews much exhausted, many of the men lying on
    the gun decks, their arms swollen from continuous work at the
    out-hauls. Order given for the distribution of rum and coffee.
    At 5.30 saw that six of the enemy’s ships at our end of the
    line had struck their colours. Our carpenters employed stopping
    the shot-holes. People employed knotting and splicing the
    rigging. At 6 the _Majestic_ fired her minute guns on interring
    her captain, who was killed in the action.

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