« AnteriorContinuar »
attainments in writing. Some kinds of composition may require more of copiousness and ornament; others, more of precision and accuracy; nay, in the same composition, the different parts of it may demand a proper variation of manner. But we must study never to sacrifice, totally, any one of these qualities to the other; and by a proper management, both of them may be made fully consistent, if our own ideas be precise, and our knowledge and stock of words be, at the same time, extensive.
What is the next subject of consi- | attention? When considered with rederation? What is the best definition spect to words and phrases, what three that can be given of it? How does it qualities does perspicuity require? Of differ from mere language, or words? purity and propriety of language what To what has it always some reference? is observed ? How are they distinguishOf what is it a picture; and hence, ed? What does propriety imply? How what follows? Why is it no wonder may style be pure, and at the same that these two should be so intimately time be deficient in propriety ? But as connected; and for what have diflerent style cannot be proper without being countries consequently been noted ? pure also, what follows? What is the With what did the eastern nations ani- only standard of purity and propriety? mate their style? Of the Athenians, Of the use of obsolete, or new coined and their style; and of the Asiatics, words, what is remarked ? In the use and theirs, what is remarked? In what of them, where is the greatest latitude modern languages are the same cha- admitted ; and how must this liberty racteristical differences to be seen? In be used ? What effect are they apt to giving the general characters of style, give to style, in prose? Of the introducof what is it usual to talk; and what tion of foreign or learned words, what are they? As our author is afterwards is observed? Where may such assistto discourse of the general characters ance be needed? On what did Dean of style, with what is it necessary to Swift value himself; and of his lanbegin ? Under what two heads may guage, what is ren arked? What is the qualities of a good style be ranged; the present state of oc language ? A and why ? When both these ends are multitude of what words have of late answered, what is accomplished? What been poured in upon us; and what is will be admitted to be the fundamental their effect? What remark follows ? quality of style; and what is said of what shall we next consider; and why? it? What, therefore, must be our first Whence may the exact import of preobject? What writers will fail to please cision be drawn; and what does it imus long; and why? What do authors, port? What was before observed ; and soinetimes, plead as an excuse for want why? In what three respects, may the of perspicuity? Why can this excuse words which a man uses to express his rarely, if ever, be admitted ? When is ideas, be faulty ? To which of the three perspicuity, in expressing our ideas, does precision chiefly stand opposed ? always attainable? To what is the When an author writes with propriety, obscurity which so generally reigns why does his being free from the two among metaphysical writers, to be at- former faults seem implied ? But, to be tributed ? In what manner do they see precise, signifies what? What is not objects; and what is the consequence ? found in his words? What does this How is perspicuity to be considered ? require? From what may the use and With an author of what description are importance of precision be deduced ? we pleased ? In what two particulars Why can it not, clearly and distinctly, does the study of perspicuity requirel view more than one object at a time? How is this illustrated ? How is the re- own language, what might be given ? mark, that the same is the case with of the instances which our author is to words, illustrated? What does this give, what does he observe? What is form; and to what is it the proper op- the difference between austerity, se posite? From what does it generally verity, and rigour; what is opposed to arise? Of feeble writers, what is ob- each; and what examples of illustraserved? Of what are they sensible ? tion are given? What is the difference What do they not distinctly conceive; between custom and habit ? By them and what is the consequence? How is respectively, what do we mean; and the image as they set it before you al- what illustration follows ? What is the ways seen? How is this illustrated in difference between surprised, astothe use of the words courage and for-nished, amazed, and confounded ? titude ; and what is the difference be- What do desist, renounce, quit, and tween them? Repeat the succeeding leave off, respectively imply; and how remark. From what has been said, is this illustrated ? What is the diffewhat appears? How is this remark il-rence between pride and vanity; and lustrated ? All subjects, not equally re- what illustration is given ? On what quiring precision, what, on some occa- are haughtiness and disdain respecsions, is sufficient; and why? Of the tively founded? What is the difference style of Archbishop Tillotson, Sir Wil-between to distinguish, and to sepaliam Temple, and Mr. Addison, what is rate; and how is this difference illusremarked?
trated ? How is the difference between of Lord Shaftesbury's faults, in to weary, and to fatigue, illustrated ? point of precision, what is observed ; What do to abhor, and to detest, reand why is this, in him, the more un spectively import; and what illustrapardonable? What is the quality of tion is given ? What is the difference his style? With what was he well between to invent, and to discover; acquainted ; and of those which he em- and what illustration is given ? What ploys, what is observed ? To what are do only and alone respectively import; his defects in precision to be attribu- and by what examples is this difference ted? Of what is he excessively fond ; illustrated ? There is, therefore, a diffeand with what is he never satisfied ? rence in precise language betwixt what Hence, what follows? If he has occa- two phrases; and what do they respecsion to mention any person, or author, tively import? What is the difference in what manner does he do it? How is between entire and complete ; and this remark illustrated? Of this method what illustration follows? What do of distinguishing persons, what is ob- tranquillity, peace, and calm, respecserved? But it is not so contrary to pre- tively respect; and by what example cision as what? What illustrations fol- is this illustrated ? How are a difficulty low ? On some occasions, to what ex- and an obstacle distinguished; and by tent does he carry this affectation? In what example is this illustrated? What the following paragraph of the inquiry is the difference between wisdom and concerning virtue, what does he mean prudence; and by what sentence is to show ? Repeat the paragraph; and this difference illustrated ? To what do also the remarks upon it? Of such su- enough, and sufficiently, respectively perfluity of words, what is observed ? relate?' Hence, what follows; and Repeat Quintilian's description of this what example is given ? What do to sort of style? What is the great source avow, to acknowledge, and to confess, of a loose style? Why are they called sy- respectively suppose ; and what illusnonymous? How are they varied? What trations are given ? What is the differwill we hardly find in any language?ence between to remark and to ob Why, and how, may an accurate writer serve; and what illustration is given ? always employ them to great advan- Distinguish ambiguous and equivocal tage? But, in order to this end, to what fully; and give the examples of illusmust he be extremely attentive; and tration. What connexion is expressed why? Hence, what is thrown over by the particles with and by; and what style? Of synonymous words in the illustration follows? Repeat Dr. RoLatin language, what is remarked; bertson's elegant distinction of-these and what instances are given? In our particles, with the signification of each. of the words thus given, what is re
ANALYSIS. marked ? From what has been said, Style. what will now appear; and what are 1. The definition of style. they? What is here required; and of
A. Variations of style in diffethe writings of Dean Swift, what is ob
rent nations. served? To observe what, had our 2. Perspicuity, author before occasion? What, in every
A. Purity. sort of writing, is a great beauty? But B. Propriety. against what must we be on our guard?
c. Precision. To what only was Dean Swift atten
a. A loose style. tive? What is the highest attainment
b. Instances of deficiency in writing? What may different kinds
in precision. of composition require; but what must 3. Synonymous words. we study never to sacrifice ?
1 4. Concluding remarks.
STRUCTURE OF SENTENCES. Having begun to treat of style, in the last lecture I considered its fundamental quality, perspicuity. What I have said of this, relates chiefly to the choice of words. From words I proceed to sentences; and as, in all writing and discourse, the proper composition and structure of sentences is of the highest importance, I shall treat of this fully. Though perspicuity be the general head under which I, at present, consider language, I shall not confine myself to this quality alone, in sentences, but shall inquire also, what is requisite for their grace and beauty: that I may bring together, under one view, all that seems necessary to be attended to in the construction and arrangement of words in a sentence.
It is not easy to give an exact definition of a sentence, or period, farther, than as it always implies some one complete proposition or enunciation of thought. Aristotle's definition is, in the main, a good one : “ Actis exsoa apXnu kal TEHETNv ka0'avrnv, kat peycdos EvoUVOTTOV: A form of speech which hath a beginning and an end within itself, and is of such a length as to be easily comprehended at once.” This, however, admits of great latitude. For a sentence, or period, consists always of component parts, which are called its members; and as these members may be either few or many, and may be connected in several different ways, the same thought, or mental proposition, may often be either brought into one sentence, or split into two or three, without the material breach of any rule.
The first variety that occurs in the consideration of sentences, is, the distinction of long and short ones. The precise length of sentences, as to the number of words, or the number of members, which may enter into them, cannot be ascertained by any definite measure. At the same time it is obvious, there may be an extreme on either side. Sentences immoderately long, and consisting of too many members, always transgress some one or other of the rules which I shall mention soon, as necessary to be observed in every good sentence. In discourses that are to be spoken, regard must be had to the easiness of pronunciation, which is not consistent with too long periods. In compositions where pronunciation has no place, still, however, by using long periods too frequently, an author overloads the reader's ear, and fatigues his attention. For long periods require, evidently, more attention than short ones, in order to perceive clearly the connexion of the several parts, and to take in the whole at one view. At the same time, there may be an excess in too many short sentences also; by which the sense is split and broken the connexion of thought weakened, and the memory burdened by presenting to it a long succession of minute objects.
With regard to the length and construction of sentences, th: French critics make a very just distinction of style, into style periodique and style coupé. The style periodique is where the sentences are composed of several members linked together, and hanging upon one another; so that the sense of the whole is not brought out till the close. This is the most pompous, musical, and oratorical manner of composing; as in the following sentence of Sir William Temple: 'If you look about you, and consider the lives of others as well as your own; if you think how few are born with honour, and how many die without name or children; how little beauty we see, and how few friends we hear of; how many diseases, and how much poverty there is in the world; you will fall down upon your knees, and, instead of repining at one affliction, will admire so many blessings which you have received from the hand of God. (Letter to Lady Essex.) Cicero abounds with sentences constructed after this manner.
The style coupé is, where the sense is formed into short independent propositions, each complete within itself; as in the following of Mr. Pope: 'I confess it was want of consideration that made me an author. I writ, because it amused me. I corrected, because it was as pleasant to me to correct as to write. I published, because I was told, I might please such as it was a credit to please.' (Preface to his works.) This is very much the French method of writing; and always suits gay and easy subjects. The style periodique, gives an air of gravity and dignity to composition. The style coupé, is more lively and striking. According to the nature of the composition, therefore, and the general characteritought to bear, the one or other may be predominant. But in almost every kind of composition, the great rule is to intermix them. For the ear tires of either of them when too long continued: whereas, by a proper mixture of long and short periods, the ear is gratified, and a certain sprightliness is joined with majesty in our style. “Non semper,' says Cicero, (describing very expressively, these two different kinds of styles, of which I have been speaking,) non semper utendum est perpetuitate, et quasi conversione verborum; sed sæpe carpenda membris minutioribus oratio est."*
This variety is of so great consequence, that it must be studied, not only in the succession of long and short sentences, but in the structure of our sentences also. A train of sentences, constructed
• " It is not proper always to employ a continued train, and a sort of regular com pass of phrases; but style ought to be often broken down into smaller members."
in the same manner, and with the same number of members, whether long or short, should never be allowed to succeed one another. However musical each of them may be, it has a better effect to introduce even a discord, than to cloy the ear with the repetition of similiar sounds: for, nothing is so tiresome as perpetual uniformity. In this article of the construction and distribution of his sentences, Lord Shaftesbury has shown great art. In the last lecture, I obseryed, that he is often guilty of sacrificing precision of style to pomp of expression; and that there runs through his whole manner, a stiffness and affectation, which render him very unfit to be considered as a general model. But as his ear was fine, and as he was extremely attentive to every thing that is elegant, he has studied the proper intermixture of long and short sentences, with variety and harmony in their structure, more than any other English author; and for this part of composition he deserves attention.
From these general observations, let us now descend to a more particular consideration of the qualities that are required to make a sentence perfect. So much depends upon the proper construction of sentences, that, in every sort of composition, we cannot be too strict in our attentions to it. For, be the subject what it will, if the sentences be constructed in a clumsy, perplexed, or feeble manner, it is impossible that a work, composed of such sentences, can be read with pleasure, or even with profit. Whereas, by giving attention to the rules which relate to this part of style, we acquire the habit of expressing ourselves with perspicuity and elegance; and, if a disorder chance to arise in some of our sentences, we immediately see where it lies, and are able to rectify it.*
The properties most essential to a perfect sentence, seem to me the four following: 1. Clearness and precision. 2. Unity. 3. Strength. 4. Harmony. Each of these I shall illustraie separately, and at some length.
The first is, clearness and precision. The least failure here, the least degree of ambiguity, which leaves the mind in any sort of suspense as to the meaning, ought to be avoided with the greatest care; nor is it so easy a matter to keep always clear of this, as one might, at first, imagine. Ambiguity arises from two causes: either from a wrong choice of words, or a wrong collocation of them. Of the choice of words, as far as regards perspicuity, I treated fuHy in the last lecture. Of the collocation of them, I am now to treat. The first thing to be studied here, is, to observe exactly the rules of grammar, as far as these can guide us. But as the grammar of our language is not extensive, there may often be an ambiguous colloca
* On the structure of sentences, the ancients appear to have bestowed a great deal of attention and care. The Treatise of Demetrius Phalereus, 7 epi Epunyolas, abounds with observations upon the choice and collocation of words, carried to such a degree of nicety, as would frequently seem to us minute. The Treatise of Dyonysius of Halicarnassus, tell our8o 8005 Ovoje tur, is more masterly; but is chiefly confined to the musical structure of periods ; a subject for which the Greek language afforded much more assistance to their writers, than our tongue admits. On the arrangement of words in English sentences, the xviiith chapt. of Lord Kaims's Elements of Criticism, ought to be cons, Jted ; and also the 2d volume of Dr. Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric.