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among authors," comes out in the conclusion clear and detached, and possesses its proper place. See, now, what would have been the effect of a different arrangement: “If, whilst they profess to please only, they advise and give instruction secretly, they may be esteemed the best and most honourable among authors, with justice, perhaps, now as well as formerly.” Here we have precisely the same words, and the same sense; but by means of the circumstances being so intermingled as to clog the capital words, the whole becomes feeble and perplexed.
The fourth rule for promoting the strength of sentences, is, that a weaker assertion or proposition should never come after a stronger one ; and that, when our sentence consists of two members, the longer should, generally, be the concluding one.
Thus, to say, “When our passions have forsaken us, we flatter ourselves with the belief that we have forsaken theni,” is both more easy and more clear, than to begin with the longer part of the proposition: “We flatter ourselves with the belief that we have forsaken our passions, when they have forsaken us.”
In general, it is agreeable to find a sentence rising upon us, and growing in its importance, to the very last word, when this construction can be managed without affectation. “If we rise yet higher,” says Addison, “and consider the fixed stars as so many oceans of flame, that are each of them attended with a different set of planets; and still discover new firmaments and new lights, that are sunk further in those unfathomable depths of ether; we are lost in such a labyrinth of suns and worlds, and confounded with the magnificence and immensity of nature."
The fifth rule for the strength of sentences is, to avoid concluding them with an adverb, a preposition, or any inconsiderable word.
Agreeably to this rule, we should not conclude with any of the particles, of, to, from, with, by. For instance, it is a great deal better to say, « Avarice is a crime of which wise men are often guilty,” than to say, “ Avarice is a crime which wise men are often guilty of.". This is a phraseology which all correct writers shun; and with reason. For as the mind cannot help resting a little, on the import of the word which closes the sentence, it must be disagreeable to be left pausing on a word, which does not, by itself, produce any idea.
For the same reason, verbs which are used in a compound sense, with some of these prepositions, are, though not so bad, yet still not proper conclusions of a period: such as, bring about, lay hold of, come over to, clear up, and many other of this kind; instead of which, if we can employ a simple verb, it always terminates the sentence with more strength. Even the pronoun it, should, if possible, be avoided in the conclusion : especially when it is joined with some of the prepositions; as, with it, in it, to it. We shall be sensible of this in the following sentence.
" There is not, in my opinion, a more pleasing and triumphant consideration in religion, than this, of the perpetual progress which the soul makes towards the perfection of its nature, without ever arriving at a period in it.” How much more agreeable the sentence, if it had been so constructed as to close with the word period !
Besides particles and pronouns, any phrase, which expresses a circumstance only, always appears badly in the rear of a sentence. We may judge of this by the following passage:
“ Let me therefore conclude by repeating, that division has caused all the mischief we lament; that union alone can retrieve it; and that a great advance towards this union, was the coalition of parties, so happily begun, so successfully carried on, and of late so unaccountably neglected ; to say no worse.” This last phrase, “ to say no worse,” occasions a falling off at the end. The proper disposition of such circumstances in a sentence, requires attention, in order to adjust them so as shall consist equally with the perspicuity and the strength of the period.
Though necessary parts, they are, however, like irregular stones in a building, which try the skill of an artist, where to place them with the least offence. But it must be remembered, that the close is always an unsuitable place for theni. Notwithstanding what has been said against concluding a period with an adverb, &c. this must not be understood to refer to such words, when the stress and significancy of the sentence rest chiefly upon them. In this case they are not to be considered as circumstances, but as the principal objects: as in the following sentence. “In their prosperity, my friends shall never hear of me, in their adversity, always." Here, "never" and "always" being emphatical words, were to be so placed as to make a strong impression.
The sixth rule relating to the strength of a sentence, is, that, in the members of a sentence, where two things are compared or contrasted with one another; where either a resemblance or an opposition is intended to be expressed; some resemblance, in the language and construction, should be preserved. For when the things themselves correspond to each other, we naturally expect to find a similar correspondence in the words.
Thus, when it is said, “ The wise man is happy when he gains his own approbation; the fool, when he recommends himself to the applause of those about him;" the opposition would have been more regular, if it had been expressed thus: “ The wise man is happy when he gains his own approbation; the fool, when he gains that of others.”
“A friend exaggerates a man's virtues : an enemy inflanes his crimes." Better thus: “A friend exaggerates a man's virtues ; an enemy, his crimes."
The following passage from Pope's Preface to his Homer, fully exemplifies the rule just given: “Homer was the greater genius ; Virgil, the better artist : in the one, we most admire the man; in the other, the work. Homer hurries us with a commanding impetuosity; Virgil leads us With an attractive majesty. Homer scatters with a generous profusion; Virgil bestows with a careful magnificence. Homer, like the Nile, pours out his riches with a sudden overflow; Virgil, like a river in its banks, with a constant stream.”—Periods thus constructed, when introduced with propriety, and not returning too often, have a sensible beauty. But we must beware of carrying our attention to this beauty too far. It ought only to be occasionally studied, when comparison or opposition of objects naturally leads to it. If such a construction as this be aimed at, in all our sentences, it leads to a disagreeable uniformity; produces a regularly returning clink in the period, which tires the ear; and plainly discovers affectation.
The seventh rule for promoting the strength and effect of sentences, is, to attend to the sound, the harmony, and easy flow, of the words and members.
Sound is a quality much inferior to sense ; yet such as must not be disregarded. For, as long as sounds are the vehicle or conveyance for our ideas, there will be a very considerable connexion between the idea which is conveyed, and the nature of the sound which conveys it.Pleasing ideas, and forcible reasoning, can hardly be transmitted to the mind, by means of harsh and disagreeable sounds. The mind revolts at such sounds, and the impression of the sentiment must consequently be weakened. The observations which we have to make on this subject, respect the choice of words; their arrangement; the order and disposition of the members; and the cadence or close of sentences.
We begin with the choice of words. It is evident, that words are most agreeable to the ear, when they are composed of smooth and liquid sounds, in which there is a proper intermixture of vowels and consonants ; without too many harsh consonants rubbing against each other; or too many open vowels in succession, to cause a hiatus, or disagreeable aperture of the mouth.
It may always be assumed as a principle, that whatever sounds are difficult in pronunciation, are, in the same prow
portion, harsh and painful to the ear. Vowels give softness; consonants, strength to the sound of words. The melody of language requires a just proportion of each; and the construction will be hurt, will be rendered either grating or effeminate, by an excess of either. Long words are commonly more agreeable to the ear than monosyllables. They please it by the composition or succession of sounds which they present to it; and accordingly, the most harmonious languages abound most in them. Among words of any length, those are the most melodious, which do not run wholly either upon long or short syllables, but are composed of an intermixture of them : such as, repent, profess, powerful, velocity, celerity, independent, impetuosity.
If we would speak forcibly and effectually, we must avoid the use of such words as the following; 1. Such as are composed of words already compounded, the several parts of which are not easily, and therefore not closely united : as, “ Unsuccessfulness, wrongheadedness, tenderheartedness!! 2. Such as have the syllables which immediately follow the accented syllable, crowded with consonants that do not easily coalesce; as, “Questionless, chroniclers, conventicters:". 3. Such as have too many syllables following the accented syllable: as, “Primarily, cursorily, summarily, peremptoriness:” 4. Such as have a short or unaccented syllable repeated, or followed by another short or unaccented syllable very much resembling: as, “ Holily, sillily, lowlily, farriery.” A little harshness, by the collision of consonants, which nevertheless our organs find no difficulty in articulating, and which do not suggest to the bearer the disagreeable idea either of precipitation or of stammering, is by no means a sufficient reason for suppressing a useful term. The words hedg'd, fledg'd, wedg'd, drudg'd, grudg'd, adjudg'd, which some have thought very offensive, are not exposed to the objections which lie against the words above mentioned. We should not do well to introduce such hard and strong sounds too frequently; but when they are used sparingly and properly, they have even