Page images
PDF
EPUB

Though Interrogations may be introduced into close and earnest reasoning, exclamations belong only to strong emotions of the mind. When judiciously employed, they agitate the hearer or the reader with similar passions : but it is extremely improper, and sometimes ridiculous, to use them on trivial occasions, and on mean or low subjects. The inexperienced writer often attempts to elevate his language, by the copious display of this figure: but he rarely or never succeeds. He frequently renders his composition frigid to excess, or absolutely ludicrous, by calling on us to enter into his transports, when nothing is said or done to demand emotion.

· Irony is expressing ourselves in a manner contrary to our thoughts, not with a view to deceive, but to add force to our observations. Persons may be reproved for their negligence, by saying; “ You have taken great care indeed." Cicero says of the person against whom he was pleading; “We have great reason to believe that the modest man

would not ask him for his debt, when he pursues his life.” i Ironical exhortation is a very agreeable kind of figure ; **bich, after having set the inconveniences of a thing, in the clearest light, concludes with a feigned encouragement to pursue it. Such is that of Horace, when, having beautifully described the ncise and tumults of Rome, he adds ironically;

.“ Go now, and study tunesul verse at Rome.” The subjects of Irony are vices and follies of all kinds : and this mode of exposing them, is often more effectual than serious reasoning. The gravest persons have not de clined the use of this figure, on proper occasions. The wise and virtuous Socrates made great use of it, in his endeavours to discountenance vicious and foolish practices. Even in the sacred writings, we have a remarkable instance of it. The prophet Elijah, when he challenged the priests of Baal to prove the truth of their deity, “ Mocked them, and said : Cry aloyd, for he is a god : either he is talkings or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be waked.”

Exclamations and Irony are sometimes united : as in Cicero's oration for Balbus, where he derides his accuser, by saying; “ O excellent interpreter of the law! master of antiquity! corrector and amender of our constitution!”

The last figure of speech that we shall mention, is what writers call Amplification or Climax. It consists in heightzning all the circumstances of an object or action, which we desire to place in a strong light. Cicero gives a lively instance of this figure, when he says; “ It is a crime to put a Roman citizen in bonds; is the height of guilt to scourge him; little less than parricide to put bim to death ; what name then shall I give to the act of crucify.

ing nim?”

Archbishop Tillotson uses this figure very happily, to recoinmend good and virtuous actions: “ After we have practised good actions a while, they become easy; and when they are easy, we begin to take pleasure in them; and when they please us, we do them frequently; and by frequency of acts, a thing grows into a habit; and confirmed liabit is a kind of second nature; and so far as any thing is natural, so far it is necessary; and we can hardly do otherwise; nay, we do it many times when we do not think of it.”

We shall conclude this article with an example of a beautiful climax, taken from the charge of a judge to the jury, in the case of a woman accused of murdering her own child. “ Gentlemen, if one man had any how slain another; if an adversary had killed his opposer, or a woman occasioned the death of her enemy; even these criminals would have been capitally punished by the Cornelian law; but if this guiltless infant, that could make no enemy, had been murdered by its own nurse, what punishment would not then the mother håve demanded? With what cries and exclamations would

she have stunned your ears! What shall we say then, when a woman, guilty of homicide, a mother, of the murder of her innocent child, hath comprised all those misdeeds in one single crime? a crime, in its own nature, detestable; in a woman, prodigious; in a mother, incredible ; and perpetrated against one whose age called for compassion, whose near relation claimed affection, and whose innocence deserved the highest favour.”

We have now finished what was proposed, concerning Perspicuity in single words and phrases, and the accurate construction of sentences. The former has been considered under the heads of Purity, Propriety, and Precision ; and the latter, under those of Clearness, Unity, Strength, and the proper use of Figurative Language. Though many of those attentions which have been recommended, may appear minute, yet their effect upon writing and style, is much greater than might, at first, be imagined. A sentiment which is expressed in accurate language, and in a period, clearly, neatly, and well arranged, always makes a stronger impression on the mind, than one that is expressed inaccu“ rately, or in a feeble or embarrassed manner. Every one feels this upon a comparison: and if the effect“ be sensible in one sentence, how much more in a whole discourse, or composition that is made up of such sentences?

The fundamental rule for writing with accuracy, and into which all others might be resolved, undoubtedly is, to communicate, in correct language, and in the clearest and most natural order, the ideas which we mean to transfuse into the minds of others. Such a selection and arrangement of words, as do most justice to the sense, and express it to most advantage, make an agreeable and strong impression. To these points have tended all the rules which have been given. Did we always think clearly, and were we, at the same time, fully masters of the language in which we write, there would be occasion for few rules. Our sentences would then, of course, acquire all those properties of clearness, unity, strength, and accuracy, which have been recommended. For we may rest assured, that whenever we express ourselves ill, besides the mismanagement of language, there is, for the most part, some mistake in our manner of conceiving the subject. Embarrassed, obscure, and feeble sentences, are generally, if not always, the result of embarrassed, obscure, and feeble thought. Thought and expression act and re-act upon each other. The understanding and language have a strict connexion; and they who are learning to compose and arrange their sen. tences with accuracy and order, are learning, at the same time, to think with accuracy and order; a consideration which alone will recompense the student, for his attention to this branch of literature. For a further explanation of the Figures of Speech, see the Octavo Grammar, on this sube ject.

The reader may find a very considerable enlargement of the preceding Appendix, in the Third Edition of the OCTAYO GRAMMAR.

He may also find, at the end of the Twelfth, or any subsequent edition of the Key to the Exercises, a copivus Alphabetical Index to the various subjects contained in the Grammar, the Exercises, and the Key to the Exercises. This Index forms, at the same time, an Epitome of the chief rules and principles of the language.

[merged small][ocr errors]

The Compiler of these elements of the English language; takes the liberty of presenting to you a short Address. He presumes it will be found to comport entirely with the nature and design of his work; and he hopes it will not be unacceptable to you. It respects your future walks in the paths of literature; the chief purpose to which you should apply your acquisitions; and the true sources of your present and future happiness.

In forming this Grammar, and the volume of Illustrations connected with it, the author was influenced by a desire to facilitate your progress in learning, and, at the same time, to impress on your minds principles of piety and virtue. He wished also to assist, in some degree, the labours of those who are cultivating your understandings, and providing for you a fund of rational and useful employment; an employment calculated to exclude those frivolous pursuits, and that love of ease and sensual pleasure, which enfeeble and corrupt the minds of many inconsiderate youth, and render them useless to society.

[ocr errors]

* To those who are engaged in the study of this Grammar:

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »