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(Unity. of no greater 'division in pointing, than a colon between any of its members.
It may be of use here to give a specimen of a long sen. tence, broken down into several periods; by which we shall more clearly perceive the disadvantages of long sentences, and how easily ihey may be amended. Here follows the sentence in its original form: “Though in yesterday's paper we showed how every thing that is great, new, or beautiful, is apt to affect the imagination with pleasure, we must own, that it is impossible for us to assign the necessary cause of this pleasure, because we know neither the nature of an idea, nor the substance of a human soul: and therefore, for want of such a light, all that we can do, in speculations of this kind, is, to reflect on those operations of the soul that are most agreeable; and to rauge, under their proper heads, what is pleasing, or disa pleasing to the mind, without being able to trace out the several necessary and efficient causes, from whence the pleasure or displeasure arises."
The following amendment, besides breaking down the period into several sentences, exbibits some other useful alterations : “ In yesterday's paper, we showed that every thing which is great, new, or beautiful, is apt to affect the imagination with pleasure. We must own, that it is impossible for us to assign the efficient cause of this pleasure, because we know not the nature either of an idea, or of the human soul. All that we can do, therefore, in speculations of this kind, is to reflect on the operations of the soul which are most agreeable, and to range under proper heads what is pleasing or displeasing to the mind.”
A third rule for preserving the unity of sentences, is, ta keep clear of all unnecessary parentheses.
On some occasions, when the sense is not too long suso pended by them, and when they are introduced in a proper place, they may add both to the vivacity and to the energy of the sentence. But for the most part their effect il extremely bad. They are wheels within wheels ; sen. tences in the midst of sentences; the perplexed method of
disposing of some thought, which a writer wants judgment, to introduce in its proper place. The parenthesis in this sentence is striking and proper;
“ And was the ransom paid? It was; and paid
"(What can exalt the bounty more?) for thee.” But in the following sentence, we become sensible of an impropriety in the use of it. “If your hearts secretly reproach you for the wrong choice you have made, (as there is time for repentance and retreat, and a return to wisdom is always honourable,) bethink yourselves that the evil is not irreparable.” It would be much better to express in a separate sentence, the thoughts contained in this parenthesis; thus : “ If your hearts secretly reproach you for the wrong choice you have made, bethink yourselves that the evil is not irreparable. Still there is time for repentance and retreat; and a return to wisdom is always honourable.” See the Appendix to the Exercises, p. 219, &c.
Exercises, p. 190. Key, p. 163. THE THIRD requisite of a perfect sentence, is, Strength. By this is meant such a disposition and management of the several words and members, as shall bring out the sense to the best advantage, and give every word, and every member, its due weight and force.
A sentence may be clear, it may also be compact in all its paris, or have the requisite unity, and yet, by some circumstance in the structure, it may fail in that strength of impression, which a better management would have produced.
The first rule for promoting the strength of a sentence, is, to prune it of all redundant tuords and members.
It is a general maxim, that any words which do not add some importance to the meaning of a sentence, always injure it. Care should therefore be exercised with respect to synonymous worris, expletives, circumlocutions, tautologies, and the expressions of unnecessary circumstances. The attention becomes remiss, when words are multiplied with
out a correspondent multiplication of ideas. "Content with deserving a triumph, he refused the honour of it ;' is better language than to say, “ Being content with deserving it,” &c.
: . 4912 “ In the Attic commonwealth,” says an author, “it was the privilege and birthright of every citizen and poet, to rail aloud and in public.” Better simply thus : “ In the Attic commonwealth, it was the privilege of every citizen to rail in public.”
Another expresses himself thus : “ They returned back again to the same city from whence they came forth;" instead of, “ They returned to the city whence they came.” The five words, back, again, same, from, and forth, are mere expletives, that have neither use nor beauty, and are therefore to be regarded as encumbrances.
The word but is often improperly used with that: as, « There can be no doubt but that he seriously means what he says.” It is not only useless, but cumbersome: “ There can be no doubt that he seriously means what he says." By transposing the parts of the sentence, we shall immediately perceive the propriety of omitting this word: “ That he seriously means what he says, there can be no doubt.”
“ I am honestly, seriously, and unalterably of opinion, that nothing can possibly be more incurably and emphatically destructive, or more decisively fatal, toa kingdom, than the introduction of thoughtless dissipation, and the pomp of lazy luxury.” Would not the full import of this noisy sentence be better expressed thus: “ I am of opinion, that nothing is more ruinous to a kingdom, than luxury and dissipation?”
Some writers use much circumlocution in expressing their ideas. A considerable one, for so very simple a thing as a man's wounding himself, says, “To mangle, or wound, his outward form and constitution, his natural limbs or body."
But, on some occasions, circumlocution has a peculiar force; as in i he following sentence: “Shall not the Judge of all the carth do right?”
20:. In the sentences which follow, the ill effects of tautology
appear. 3:“ So it is, that I must be forced to get home, partly by stealth, and partly by force."
“ Never did Atticus succeed better in gaining the unidersal love and esteem of all men.”
The subsequent sentence contains several unnecessary circumstances. « On receiving this information, he arose, went out, saddled his horse, mounted him, and rode to town." All is implied in saying, “ On receiving this information, he rode to town.”
This manner, however, in a certain degree, is so strongly characteristic of the simple style of remote ages, that, in books of the highest antiquity, particularly the Bible, it is not at all ungraceful. Of this kind are the following scriptural phrases. “He lifted up his voice, and wept." “He opened his mouth, and said.” It is true, that, in strictness, they are not necessary to the narration, but they are of some importance to the composition, as bearing the venerable signature of ancient simplicity. It may, on this occasion, be further observed, that the language of the present translation of the Bible, ought not to be viewed in an exceptionable light, though some parts of it may appear to be obsolete. From universal admission, this language has become so familiar and intelligible, that in all transcripts and allusions, except where the sense is evidently injured, it ought to be carefully preserved. And it may also be justly remarked, that, on religious subjects, a frequent recurrence of scripture-language is attended with peculiar force and propriety.
Though it promotes the strength of a sentence, to contract a round about method of expression, and to lop off excrescences, yet we should avoid the extreme of pruning too closely: some leaves should be left to shelter and surround the fruit. Even synonymous expressions may, on some occasions, be used with propriety. One is, when an obscurer term, which we cannot well avoid employing, needs to be explained by cne that is clearer. The other is, when the language of the emotions is exhibited. Emotion naturally dwells on its object: and when the reader also feels interested, rejetition and synonomy have frequently an agreeable effect.
The following passage, taken from Addison, who delighted in a full and flowing style, may, by some persons, be deemed not very exceptionable. “But there is nothing that makes its way more directly to the soul than beauty, which immediately diffuses a secret satisfaction and complacency through the imagination, and gives a finishing to any thing that is great or uncommon. The very first discovery of it strikes the mind with inward joy, and spreads a cheerfulness and delight through all its faculties.” Some degree of verbosity may be discovered in these sentences, as phrases are repeated which seem little more than the echo of one another ; such as—diffusing satisfaction and complacency through the imagination-striking the mind with inward joy-spreading cheerfulness and delight through all its faculties. But, perhaps, some redundancy is more allowable on such lively subjects, than it would be on other occasions.
After removing superfluities, the second rule for promoting the strength of a sentence, is, to attend particularly to the use of copulatives, relatives, and all the particles employed for transition and connexion.
These little words but, and, or, which, whose, where, then, therefore, because, &c. are frequently the most important words of any; they are the joints or hinges upon which all sentences turn; and, of course, much of their strength must depend upon such particles. The varieties in using them are, indeed, so many, that no particular system of rules respectirg them can be given. Some observations, tending to illustrate the rule, may, however, be mentioned.
What is called splitting particles, or separating a preposition from the noun which it governs, is to be avoided. As if I should say, “Though virtue borrows no assistance