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stituent parts of the thought; but we ought to avoid every artificial opposition of words, where there is none in the thought. This is termed verbal antithesis, and is much studied by low writers.
A fault directly opposite to that last mentioned, is to conjoin artificially, words that express ideas opposed to each other. This is a fault too gross to be in common practice; and yet writers are guilty of it in some degree, when they conjoin by a copulative things transacted at different periods of time.
This rule of studying uniformity between the thought and expression, may be extended to the construction of sentences or periods. A sentence or period ought to express one entire thought or mental proposition; and different thoughts ought to be separated in the expression by placing them in different sentences or periods. It is therefore offending against neatness, to crowd into one period entire thoughts requiring more than one; which is joining in language things that are separated in reality. To crowd into a single member of a period different subjects, is still worse than to crowd them into one period.
From conjunctions and disjunctions in general, we proceed to comparisons, which make one species of them, beginning with similies. And here, also, the intimate connexion that words have with their meaning, requires that in describing two resembling objects, a resemblance in the two members of the period ought to be studied. Next, as to the length of the members that signify the resembling objects. To produce a resemblance between such members, they ought not only to be constructed in the same manner, but as nearly as possible to be equal in length. Of a comparison where things are opposed to each other, it must be obvious, that if resemblance ought to be studied in the words which express two resembling objects, there is equal reason for studying opposition in the words which express contrasted objects.
We proceed to a rule of a different kind. During
the course of a period, the scene ought to be continued without variation: the changing from person to person, from subject to subject, or from person to subject, within the bounds of a single period, distracts the mind, and affords no time for a solid impression. I illustrate this rule by giving an example of a deviation from it.
This prostitution of praise is not only a deceit upon the gross of mankind, who take their notion of characters from the learned; but also the better sort must, by this means, lose some part at least of that desire of fame which is the incentive to generous actions, when they find it promiscuously bestowed on the meritorious and undeserving. GUARDIAN, No. 4.
A plurality of copulatives in the same period ought to be avoided, except where the words are intended to express the coldness of the speaker; for there the redundancy of copulatives is a beauty:
Dining one day at an alderman's in the city, Peter observed him expatiating after the manner of his brethren, in the praises of his sirloin of beef. "Beef," said the sage magistrate, "is the king of meat: beef comprehends in it the quintessence of partridge, and quail, and venison, and pheasant, and plum-pudding, and custard.' TALE OF A TUB. § 4.
And the author shows great delicacy of taste by varying the expression in the mouth of Peter, who is represented more animated:
"Bread," says he, "dear brothers, is the staff of life; in which bread is contained, inclusive, the quintessence of beef, mutton, veal, venison, partridges, plum-pudding, and custard."
The next beauty consists in a due arrangement of the words. In every thought there is at least one capital object considered as acting and suffering. This object is expressed by the substantive, and its action by the verb. Its suffering, or passive state, is expressed by a passive verb; and the thing that acts upon it, by a substantive-noun. Words that import a relation, must be distinguished from such as do not. Substantives commonly imply no relation; such as animal, man, tree, river. Adjectives, verbs, and adverbs, imply a relation; the adjective good must relate to some being possessed of that quality; the verb write is
applied to some person who writes; and the adverbs moderately, diligently, have plainly a reference to some action which they modify. When a relative word is introduced, it must be signified by the expression to what word it relates, without which the sense is not complete. When two substantives happen to be connected, as cause and effect, as principal and accessory, such connexion cannot be expressed by contiguity solely; for words must often in a period be placed together which are not thus related: the relation between substantives, therefore, cannot otherwise be expressed but by particles denoting the relation. These words are called prepositions.
Transposition and inversion, change the natural order of words in a sentence; and this license is illustrated by the following examples:
Moon that now meet'st the orient sun, now fliest
In the following example, where the word first introduced imports relation, the disjunction will be found more violent.
Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
In entering on the rules of arrangement, we begin with the natural style, and proceed to the most inverted. And in the arrangement of a period, as well as in a right choice of words, the first and great object being perspicuity, the rule above laid down, that perspicuity ought not to be sacrificed to any other beauty, holds equally in both. Ambiguities occasioned by a wrong arrangement are of two sorts; one where the arrangement leads to a wrong sense, and one where the sense is left doubtful. The first, being the more
culpable, shall take the lead, beginning with examples of words put in a wrong place.
How much the imagination of such a presence must exalt a genius, we may observe merely from the influence which an ordinary presence has over men.
CHARACTERISTICS, VOL. I. p. 7.
This arrangement leads to a wrong sense: the adverb merely seems by its position to affect the preceding word: whereas it is intended to affect the following words, an ordinary presence; and therefore the arrangement ought to be thus:
How much the imagination of such a presence must exalt a genius, we may observe from the influence which an ordinary presence merely has over men. [Or, better,]-which even an ordinary presence has over men.
Example of wrong arrangement of members:
I have confined myself to those methods for the advancement of piety, which are in the power of a prince limited like ours by a strict execution of the laws.
A project for the advancement of religion. SWIFT.
The structure of this period leads to a meaning which is not the author's, viz. power limited by a strict execution of the laws. That wrong sense is removed by the following arrangement:
I have confined myself to those methods for the advancement of piety, which, by a strict execution of the laws, are in the power of a prince limited like ours.
Doubtful sense from wrong arrangement of members:
The empire of Blefuscu is an island situated to the north-east side of Lilliput, from whence it is parted only by a channel of 800 yards wide.
GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, Part 1, Chap. 5.
The ambiguity may be removed thus:
-from whence it is parted by a channel of 800
yards wide only.
From these examples it is plain, that a circumstance ought never to be placed between two capital members of a period. To preserve these distinct, the best
method is, to place first in the consequent member, some word that cannot connect it with what precedes. If it be thought that the defect of perspicuity is removed by punctuation; the answer is, that punctuation may remove an ambiguity, but will never produce that peculiar beauty which is perceived when the sense comes out clearly and distinctly by means of a happy arrangement. Such influence has this beauty, that by a natural transition of perception it is communicated to the very sound of the words, so as in appearance to improve the music of the period. But as this curious subject comes in more properly afterwards, it is sufficient at present to appeal to experience, that a period so arranged as to bring out the sense clear, seems always more musical than where the sense is left in any degree doubtful.
A second rule is, that words expressing things connected in the thought, ought to be placed as near together as possible. This rule is derived immediately from human nature, prone in every instance to place together things in any manner connected: where things are arranged according to their connexions, we have a sense of order; otherwise we have a sense of disorder, as of things placed by chance: and we naturally place words in the same order in which we would place the things they signify. The bad effect of a violent separation of words or members thus intimately connected, will appear from the following examples.
For the English are naturally fanciful, and very often disposed, by that gloominess and melancholy of temper which is so frequent in our nation, to many wild notions and visions, to which others are not so liable. SPECTATOR, No. 419.
Here the verb or assertion is, by a pretty long circumstance, violently separated from the subject to which it refers: this makes a harsh arrangement the less excusable, for the fault is easily prevented by placing the circumstance before the verb, after the following manner: