Composition and rhetoric were a critical part of an 19th century student’s life. In addition to studying the great orators of the past, such as Cicero and Sallust, students prepared and delivered original compositions every week. Outside of the prescribed curriculum, students still showed interest in improving their rhetorical skills; the literary societies were particularly active in having debates, compositions, and declamations.

Porter’sĀ Analysis of the Principles of Rhetorical Delivery as Applied in Reading and SpeakingĀ was a popular book often taught in the freshman year that prepared students for the various compositional and rhetorical tasks that would be assigned to them throughout their time at Amherst College.