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and actual skill. This is an error, however; every person who will have any desire to read with critical intelligence will have occasion to employ artistic expression in two common ways, namely, in conversation and in letter-writing.
In our historical review we have noticed how several of the essay styles originated in conversation and in letter-writing. Conversely, the masterly essays that resulted from these sources will be the best models for successful conversation and successful letter-writing, and therefore should be studied imitatively as well as critically. Nay, more, the critical perception works most quickly and certainly when the imitative faculty is called into activity. In other words, the quickest and surest way to master Lamb's style critically is to try to write like Lamb yourself, and to keep at your imitative efforts till you acquire some sort of skill.
In conclusion, I may say that there is nothing magical about the choice of ten types here presented. Possibly ten other types equally good might have been found, at least if oratory and fiction could have been laid under contribution. In oratory and fiction, however, we come upon argumentative and dramatic structure, which is quite a different thing from style, and might conceivably interfere seriously with the study of it. The essay, like conversation and letters, has no structure. It is, as has previously been said, a pure representative of style as artistic literary
texture, and so for the ordinary student the essay furnishes the simplest and most natural models of style.
Nor is there anything magical in the historical system and analytic arrangement here offered merely for their practical utility to the student. Every great writer is a type in himself. His style is sui generis, and his roots run out in a thousand directions. But in studying an author, we shall gain most for ourselves by limiting our examination to one point of view; and our study of different types of style must have a sharp limit. The chief thing is that the types we select should be as different as possible. When we have gotten clearly no more than three different views of the possibilities of prose style, we are pretty well prepared to go on and differentiate thereafter for ourselves.
THE POSSIBILITIES OF PROSE
IF I should say that I believe that in the next century prose will supersede verse in all forms of creative writing except songs that may be set to music, or purely lyrical poetry, some might consider me a wild prophet. More unprejudiced observers would probably agree with me. Not a few critics have intimated that Wordsworth would have done better to have chosen the prose
form for most of his compositions. Though if Browning had written prose it would possibly have been what might be dubbed " Meredithian," probably few will not admit that George Meredith was wise in devoting himself as largely as he did to the prose form of composition. I have always thought that if Byron had written his descriptive poems in prose they would be more widely read to-day than they are. It is also interesting to note that Byron has been especially popular on the continent of Europe, where, presumably, his work is best known in prose translations similar to our prose translations of the poetry of the Bible. We have one prose writer, namely, Ruskin, who by the admission of all his critics has very distinctly the characteristics of a poet. Shelley or Keats was not more passionate and unrestrained in enthusiasm than Ruskin. Yet Ruskin wrote prose. To be sure, Mr. W. C. Brownell tells us Ruskin is a sorry case, that his style lacks form and his matter lacks substance; that he was entirely out of his sphere in writing art criticisms; and that in the days when nothing but literary asbestos survives the fires of Time, there will be exceedingly little of Ruskin remaining. Mr. Brownell implies that Ruskin's mistake was in not writing in verse, a literary form that might have saved him by imposing on him some restraint. He points out lack of restraint as the vital defect of all so-called prose poetry.” Prose, he says, ought to be sane, and he seems to think that it is
quite impossible that it should be sane unless it restricts itself to scrupulous exactness of phrase. The salvation of poetry is in the restriction imposed by its form when the author completely abandons himself to his emotion.
Now the case of Ruskin is interesting for the reason that in Ruskin's early writings we find the extreme development of lyrical prose. If we admit that Ruskin succeeded in his “prose poetry,” it will be hard to point out anything which prose cannot do.
Some have hinted that Ruskin learned his method of using prose from Hooker. Though he may have got from Hooker the hint that started him in this direction, Ruskin learned his art from the Bible. His writings contain no more passionate prose poetry than we may read in “Ecclesiastes," for example. Old Testament prose poetry has been passed over because it was originally poetry pure and simple, and we may suppose that the translators would have given it the verse form in English had they been able. But could they have done any better than they did do? Evidently Ruskin thought they couldn't. He was brought up on the Bible. His biographer, Frederic Harrison, cites one short passage containing sixty allusions to the Bible. In studying Ruskin's prose we are inevitably driven back to his model, the Bible.
Now the interesting thing about the Bible is that its prose (if not its original poetry) was the
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We need not press this matter of the lyrical
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