The Art of Essay Writing: Essential Elements- Observations, Expectations and Experiences

Arther Benson explains the design and characteristics of an essay, the fundamental of which according to him, is the personal and subjective nature of the Essay . ‘ an Essay is a thing which someone does himself’ (“The art of the essayist”) - this implies that an essay is a piece which has been the recording  of the entire personal ideas and emotions of the written which he has experienced as a reaction to certain sensation. Moreover, doing himself also explains the nature of the essay. An essay is something spontaneous reaction. The recording of such a reaction forms the subject matter of an essay. If something is done by the way of professional work or in a mechanical uninspired manner then that cannot be of the nature of an essay.

Another important point underlying this statement is that the subject matter of the Essay is not of any very great importance; any subject can be good enough for the purpose. What is important is that the entire personality of the written should get reflected in the essays. The ideas, emotions, sensations and sentiments are what from the mental personality of a man and the charm of an essay would depend upon the charm of the personality.

Again subjectivity forms the essence of essay writing. What a lyrical is in poetry, an Essay is in prose. Personal sensation and impressions – these are what would constitute the subject matter of an essayist. But there is one great difference between poet and an essayist. A poet is always solemn and does not descend down to the commonplace while for an essayist nothing is vulgar, or common or mean.

There is still another point of Essay writing. An essayist need not conform any particular rules. He is entirely free to gather his own observations and expectations and experiences and to put them in any form and manner. Thus here also an essayist has perfect freedom and it is purely a personal matters for him to express his thoughts according to his whims and fancy and then those thoughts are purely his own.

There are certain essayists who take these personal aspects of Essay writing to the extent of becoming autobiographical. Montaigne, who is the father of essay writers, as Benson points out, in a manner which is partly autobiographical, partially speculative and at the same time the essays of De Quincey, according to Benson are,’ what may be called impassioned autobiography’.

Such is therefore the personal element that gets imbued in this form of writing. ‘The Essay is a reverie, the frame of mind in which a man says; in the word of the old song, says to myself ‘. This saying to one’s own self; this introspective nature is what gives rise to essay writing. In no other form of literature except lyrical poetry, is there so much scope for the revelation of the personality of the writers as in this. The essay is nothing but the recording of reaction created upon the mind of the writers by the outer stimuli and those reactions are nothing but purely personal a thing. True, therefore, it is when Benson says that ‘Essay is a thing which someone does himself’. Spontaneity is the basis, the inspiration and the essence of Essay writing.

 Ardhendu De

Ref: 1. Benson, Arthur. “The art of the essayist.”
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