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term, exhaustiveness, – formerly much practised by the Germans, and consisting, to use the bappy phrase of Goldsmith, in a certain manner of 'writing the subject to the dregs ;' saying all that can be said on a given subject, without considering how far it is to the purpose; and valuing facts because they are true, rather than because they are significant.” 1
An apt quotation, at the same time that it gives to a thought the weight of authority and perhaps also the charm of association, suggests what many additional words would not fully express. Proverbs, as has been said, “give us pocket-editions of the most voluminous truths.'
A suggestive style is of great value in writings addressed to the feelings or the imagination. Wordsworth's “trampling waves,” for example, bring before us the sea in a storm:
And this huge Castle, standing here sublime,
The lightning, the fierce wind, and trampling waves." In the following passage the words “an awful rose of dawn” show the early morning in all its grandeur:
“I saw that every morning, far withdrawn
Browning at his best is a master of the suggestive style. In “My Last Duchess,” for example, how much is told in a few lines! Another example is :
1 E. J. Payne: Introduction to Burke's “Select Works.” 2 Expression. The Atlantic Monthly, November, 1860.
8 Wordsworth: Elegiac Stanzas, suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle in a Storm.
4 Tennyson : The Vision of Şin.
" Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,
And did he stop and speak to you?
How strange it seems, and new!
"But you were living before that,
And you are living after,
My starting moves your laughter!
“I crossed a moor with a name of its own
And a use in the world no doubt,
'Mid the blank miles round about.
“For there I picked up on the heather
And there I put inside my breast
Well, I forget the rest.” 1 Akin to a suggestive style is that kind of writing which convinces the reader that the author knows and feels much more than he has expressed, — that, Force in instead of “letting himself go,” he is holding himself back for fear that he may overstep the bounds of truth in substance or of temperance in language.
A story told of the great orator, John Bright, will show how moderation in expression may indicate power held in reserve.
“He [John Bright] never spoke beyond his strength. The only effort — and this sometimes produced an immense impression — was, not to give the most intense and energetic expression to his passion, but to restrain it. However fierce were his denunciations of a great injustice his audience felt that behind the terrible ana
ery words there were the fires of a fiercer wrath which he was struggling hard to subdue. This reserve, which was akin to the austerity of his personal character, gave elevation to his speeches. He always retained his self-command. . . This restraint was not apparent merely, it was real. He was speaking in Birmingham
1 Browning: Memorabilia.
just after the appearance of the famous • Bath letter' of Mr. Disraeli, in which the Conservative leader said that for nearly five years
Mr. Gladstone had • harassed every trade, worried every profession, and assailed or menaced every class, institution, and species of property in the country. In his speech Mr. Bright referred to the Tories and to the letter of Mr. Disraeli in the following words: •Without doubt, if they had been in the Wilderness they would have condemned the Ten Commandments as a harassing piece of legislation, though it does happen that we have the evidence of more than thirty centuries to the wisdom and usefulness of those commandments. This was very effective. But the next morning I was travelling with Mr. Bright, and he told me the form in which the passage had first occurred to him; it was positively fierce, not to say savage. He added, “I thought that I had better not put it so,' and I agreed with him.” 1
Of this kind of force Mark Antony's speech in Shakspere's “ Julius Cæsar” and Lincoln's speech at Gettysburg are familiar examples. Noteworthy for studious moderation are the words with which Webster began his appeal on behalf of Dartmouth College, -“It is, sir, as I have said, a small college, and yet there are those who love it,"2 — words that, delivered as Webster delivered them, strongly affected every one in the court-room, including Chief Justice Marshall and his associates on the bench.
Other examples of the force of reserve are:
:6 What, then, did the College do to justify our speaking of the war now? She sent a few gentlemen into the field, who died there becomingly. I know of nothing more. The great forces which insured the North success would have been at work even if those men had been absent. Our means of raising money and troops would not have been less, I dare say. The great qualities of the race, too, would still have been there. The greatest qualities, after
I k. W. Dale: Mr. Bright. The Contemporary Review, May, 1889. · Daniel Webster: The Dartmouth College Case, March 10, 1818.
all, are those of a man, not those of a gentleman, and neither North nor South needed colleges to learn them. And yet - and yet I think we all feel that to us at least the war would seem less beautiful and inspiring if those few gentlemen had not died as they did. Look at yonder portrait 1 and yonder bust, and tell me if stories such as they commemorate do not add a glory to the bare fact that the strongest legions prevailed. So it has been since wars began. After history has done its best to fix men's thoughts upon strategy and finance, their eyes have turned and rested on some single romantic figure, some Sidney, some Falkland, some Wolfe, some Montcalm, some Shaw. This is that little touch of the superfluous which is necessary. Necessary as art is necessary, and knowledge which serves no mechanical end. Superfluous only as glory is superfluous, or a bit of red ribbon that a man would die to win.”?
“We took two rails from a neighboring fence, and formed a bier by laying across some boards from the bottom of the boat. And thus we bore Zenobia homeward. Six hours before, how beautiful! At midnight, what a horror !"8
“At the usual evening hour the chapel bell began to toll, and Thomas Newcome's hands outside the bed feebly beat time. And just as the last bell struck, a peculiar sweet smile shone over his face, and he lifted up his head a little, and quickly said, · Adsum!' and fell back. It was the word we used at school, when names were called ; and lo, he, whose heart was as that of a little child, had answered to his name, and stood in the presence of The Master.” 4
• Twenty years had passed since Joey ran down the brae to play. Jess, his mother, shook her staff fondly at him. A cart rumbled by, the driver nodding on the shaft. It rounded the corner and stopped suddenly, and then a woman screamed. A handful of men carried Joey's dead body to his mother, and that was the tragedy of Jess's life.
1 The portrait referred to is that of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw; the bust, that of Brigadier-General Charles Russell Lowell.
2 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Junior: Harvard College in the War; An swer to a toast at Harvard University Commencement, June 25, 1884.
8 Hawthorne: The Blithedale Romance, chap. xxvii. 4 Thackeray: The Newcomes, chap. lxxx.
Twenty years ago, and still Jess sat at the window, and still she heard that woman scream.
“ And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept : and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son !”?
Details that are effective.
In trying not to be prolix, one should beware of the opposite extreme, should avoid ellipses difficult to bridge, Misplaced
compression that takes the life out of language, brevity.
laborious conciseness of every kind. These are the
very faults into which a verbose writer is apt to fall; for when such a writer, impatient of his slow progress, tries to get on faster, he usually succeeds in omitting, not what his readers know, but what he knows best himself, and thus sacrifices clearness to misplaced brevity. With a master of style, on the other hand, every word
adds to the effect. Take a single example from
Dropt from the zenith, like a falling star.”8 “What art,” says Webster, “is manifest in these few lines ! The object is to express great distance, and great velocity, neither of which is capable of very easy suggestion to the human mind.
We are told that the angel fell a day, a long summer's day; the day is broken into forenoon and afternoon, that the time may seem to be protracted. He does not reach the earth till sunset; and then, to represent the velocity, he drops, one of the very best words in the language to signify sudden and rapid fall, and then comes a simile, « like a falling star.'
1 J. M. Barrie: A Window in Thrums, chap. vi.
4 Daniel Webster: Private Correspondence; To Rev. Mr. Brazer, Nov. 10, 1828.