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Yes, matter is always supreme over manner as far as greatness in literature is concerned; but it happens, that in the essay especially, “ the style is the man." As De Quincey, quoting from Wordsworth, expresses it, style is not the dress of thought, but the incarnation. Though the soul of a beautiful woman is infinitely above her body, we creatures of sense would entirely lose the soul were we to take away the body. Hence, we must study the body if we would discover the soul. I The mission of the prose essay is much like the mission of woman's beauty - it is to diffuse an atmosphere and give us pleasure in such varied and minute ways that we are at a loss to analyze or assign a reason. In short, an essay should be criticised as a work of art, not as a collection of moral or scientific truths; and in so far as prose ceases to be a simple vehicle for facts and statements of truth, and comes to depend for its success on the feeling of pleasure it produces or the sense of beauty it conveys, it is said to possess " style."

We understand perfectly how painting as a fine art differs from house painting or sign painting, and how sculpture differs from stone-hewing. We also understand how poetry is a fine art akin both to music and to painting, and even how the magic of oratorical eloquence ranks spoken prose

a more determinate tendency of the national mind to value the matter of a book not only as paramount to the manner, but even as distinct from it and as capable of a distinct insulation."

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at times with the other arts. But we find it very difficult to distinguish between prose the common drudge of everyday life, and that development of prose which makes it a fine art. For want of a better term, the word “style” has been coming into use to designate and characterize that prose which is an art. Both the words

Both the words "prose" and style” are unfortunate in this connection, for the reason that both have other uses and meanings. We speak of that which is dull as “ prosy,' and in the common usage style” refers especially to fashions in dress, and next to that to the mere manner of doing a thing, as when we say, “ That's his style.” It is a serious misfortune that when we speak of “prose we must think inevitably of that which is dull and commonplace, and when we speak of style that we must think of the “styles ” that are put on and put off, or of idiosyncrasy of manner, of which no man has a right to boast.

In studying the essay from the point of view of style, we mean simply that we are studying it as a work of fine art, but with one limitation, and that is, that while art usually takes into view conception and structure as well as execution or texture, style applies only to artistic texture. The truth is, the essay does not have artistic structure in the sense that the short story or the novel or the oration or the poem does, but only, literary artistic texture, or style. (On this latter point we have only to recall the discursive and digressive manner of all the great essayists, from Addison to De Quincey.)

But even when we do catch the meaning of style as referring to artistic texture of language, we seem to misconceive it, as when we speak of wishing to acquire “a style,” or to master “style,” as if there were but one style. This error is enforced apparently by one master of style, namely, Flaubert, of whom one of his critics says: “ Possessed of an absolute belief that there exists but one way to express one thing, one word to call it by, one adjective to qualify, one verb to animate it, he gave himself to superhuman labor for the discovery, in every phrase, of that word, that verb, that epithet. In this way, he believed in some mysterious harmony of expression, and when a true word seemed to him to lack euphony, still went on seeking another, with invincible patience, certain that he had not yet got hold of the unique word.” 1

Only in a very narrow sense was Flaubert right. The truth is, there is an infinite number of ways of expressing any and every conception - in short, as many different ways as there are persons to express it. Laboring under the false impression that there is but one style, or, at any rate, but one style for any given person, the student in search of style will select some one master whom he looks on as a master of style” -today it is most likely to be Pater or Flaubert or

1 Quoted by Pater in his essay on "Style."

Matthew Arnold — and will confine himself to expressing himself as his master does.

In this volume the editor offers ten masters of style, each an acknowledged artist in his way, each, as a rule, utterly different from every other. Many of these writers commanded more than one style; but we see each only in that style in which he was supreme, the style which was especially characteristic of him. To the general reader these ten different types will be exceedingly useful as standards for comparison, and will make his criticism and judgment of any style in future more definite and assured; for not only ought we to enjoy works of art intuitively and instinctively, but critically. It is only by the introduction of the critical standard that we can hope to minimize merely personal preference and make possible the quick recognition of any worthy work of literary art that may come along in current literature.

For the student of literary style who wishes himself to write, these ten types will represent ten different ways in which any particular thought may possibly be expressed. Without question, Flaubert was right in saying that there is one way better than all others for expressing any given conception. Each class of ideas has its best literary form, and if we read these ten groups of essays through, we shall see at once that each type is so successful, so truly masterful, because it is the one type best suited to the particular class of ideas with which the writer deals. If one is going to write only of one particular class of ideas, one will need only one type of style; but as no other writer will be precisely like Addison or Ruskin or Matthew Arnold, and may have ideas that would have delighted Bacon or Carlyle or De Quincey, and may even have ideas representing all ten of our typical writers which he will wish to express in ten consecutive sentences, or even in ten consecutive phrases, or ten consecutive words, so he will need all ten styles to express those ten ideas in the only perfect way.

But suppose one fancies that one's ideas are most appropriately expressed in the style of De Quincey's impassioned prose or in Macaulay's rhetoric, and so confines his study to those two masters; what will be the fatal result? Why, he will elongate his mind in one direction until he becomes a monstrosity, and his style will be a mere literary curiosity. Nothing is more dangerous than the imitation of one writer, nothing more safe than the imitation of many.

We have spoken of those who wish to read with critical intelligence, and those who wish to write with artistic skill, as if they were separate and distinct classes. In a small degree they are; but for the most part they are one and the same. Every intelligent person ought to read literature with a well-developed critical taste: nearly every one will admit that; but many will say that only the few who are to become professional writers will wish to spend any time in acquiring personal

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