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ed a Style florid and diffuse. The like discovered his meaning; but they will sort of characteristical differences are com- seldom be inclined to take up his work a monly remarked in the Style of the French, second time. the English, and the Spaniards. In giving Authors sometimes plead the difficulty the general characters of Style, it is usual of their subject, as an excuse for the want to talk of a nervous, a feeble, or a spirited of Perspicuity. But the excuse can rarely, Style; which are plainly the characters if ever, be admitted. For whatever a man of a writer's manner of thinking, as well conceives clearly, that it is in his power, as of expressing himself; so dillicult it is if he will be at the trouble, to put into disto separate these two things from one an- tinct propositions, or to express clearly to other. Of the general characters of Siyle, others: and upon no subject ought any I am afterwards to discourse, but it will man to write, where he cannot think be necessary to begin with examining the clearly. His ideas, indeed, may, very ex

. more simple qualities of it; from the as.' cusably, be on some subjects incomplete semblage of which its more complex de- or inadequate; but still, as far as they go, nominations, in a great measure, result. they ought to be clear; and, wherever this

All the qualities of a good Style may be is the case, Perspicuity in expressing them ranged under two heads, Perspicuity and is always attainable. The obscurity which Ornament. For all that can possibly be reigns so much among many metaphysical required of Language is, to convey our writers, is, for the most part, owing to the ideas clearly to the minds of others, and, indistinctness of their own conceptions. at the same time, in such a dress, as, by They see the object but in a confused light; pleasing and interesting them, shall most and, of course, can never exhibit it in a eflectually strengthen the impressions clear one to others. which we seek to make. When both Perspicuity in writing, is not to be conthese ends are answered, we certainly ac- sidered as merely a sort of negative virtue, complish every purpose for which we use or freedom from defect. It has higher Writing and Discourse.

Blair, merit: it is a degree of positive beauty. § 5. On PERSPICUITY.

We are pleased with an author, we consi

der him as deserving praise, who frees us Perspicuity, it will be readily admitted, from all fatigue of searching for his meanis the fundamental quality of Style*; a ing; who carries us through his subject quality so essential in every kind of write without any embarrassinent or confusion; ing, that for the want of it nothing can whose style flows always like a limpid atcne. Without this, the richest ornaments stream, where we see to the very

bottom. of Style only gliminer through the dark;

Ibid. and puzzle, instead of pleasing, the reader. This, therefore, must be our first object, to

§ 6. On Purity and PROPRIETY. make our meaning clearly and fully under- Purity and Propriety of Language, are stood, and understood without the least dif- often used indiscriminately for each other; ficulty. “Oratio,” says Quinctilian, “de- and, indeed, they are very nearly allied. “ bet negligenter quoque audientibus esse A distinction, however, obtains between “ aperta; ut in animum audientis, sicut them. Purity, is the use of such words, “ sol in oculos, etiamsi in eum non inten- and such constructions, as belong to the “ datur, occurrat. Quare, non solum ut idiom of the Language which we speak; “ non intelligere, curandum +." If we in opposition to words and phrases that are are obliged to follow a writer with much imported from other Languages, or that are pause,

and to read over his sen- obsolete, or new-coined, or used without tences a second time, in order to compre- proper authority. Propriety is the selechend them fully, he will never please us tion of such words in the Language, as the long.

Mankind are too indolent to relish best and most established usage so much labour,

They may pretend to propriated to those ideas which we intend admire the author's depth after they have to express by them. It implies the cor

care, to

has ap

* “ Nobis prima sit virtus, perspicuitas, propria verba, rectus ordo, non in longum dilata con“ clusio; vihil peque desit, neque superfluat."

QUINCTIL. lib. viii. + “ Discourse ought always to be obvious, even to the most careless and pegligent hearer; so " that the sense shail strike his mind, as the light of the sun does our eyes, though the are not “ directed upwards to it. We must study, not only that every hearer may understand us, but " that it shall be impossible for him not to understand us."

rect and happy application of them, ac- made equally strong and expressive with cording to that usage, in opposition to vul- this latinized English.

Blair. garisms, or low expressions; and to words and phrases, which would be less signifi

§ 7. On Precision. cant of the ideas that we mean to convey.

The exact import of Precision may be Style may be pure, that is, it may all be drawn from the etymology of the word. strictly English, without Scotticisms or It comes from “precidere,” to cut off: Gallicisms, or ungrammatical, irregular it imports retrenching all superfluities, expressions of any kind, and may, never- and pruning the expression so, as to extheless, be deficient in propriety. The hibit neither more nor less than an exact words may be ill-chosen; not adapted to copy of his idea who uses it. I observed the subject, nor fully expressive of the au- before, that it is often difficult to separate thor's sense. He has taken all his words the qualities of Style from the qualities of and phrases from the general mass of Eng. Thought; and it is found so in this inlish Language; but he has made his se- stance. For in order to write with Prelection among these words unhappily. cision, though this be properly a quality of Whereas Style cannot be proper without Style; one must possess a very considerbeing also pure; and where both Purity able degree of distinctness and accuracy and Propriety meet, besides making Style in his manner of thinking. perspicuous, they also render it graceful. The words, which a man uses to express There is no standard, either of Purity or his ideas, may be faulty in three respects: of Propriety, but the practice of the best They may either not express that idea writers and speakers in the country.

which the author intends, but some other When I mentioned obsolete or new- which only resembles, or is a-kin to it; coined words as incongruous with Purity or, they may express that idea, but not of Style, it will be easily understood, that quite fully and completely; or, they may some exceptions are to be made. On cer. express it together with something tain occasions, they may


Po- than he intends. Precision stands opetry admits of greater latitude than prose, posed to all these three faults; but chiefly with respect to coining, or, at least, new. to the last. In an author's writing with compounding words; yet, even here, this propriety, his being free from the two

, liberty should be used with a sparing hand. former faults seems implied. The words In prose, such innovations are more ha- which he uses are proper; that is, they zardous, and have a worse effect. They express that idea which he intends, and are apt to give Style an affected and con- they express it fully; but to be Precise, ceited air; and should never be ventured signifies, that they express that idea, and u pon, except by such, whose established

There is nothing in his words reputation gives them some degree of dic- which introduces any foreign idea, any tatorial power over Language.

superfluous, unseasonable accessory, so as The introduction of foreign and learned to mix it confusedly with the principal words, unless where necessity requires object, and thereby to render our conthem, should always be avoided. Barren ception of that object loose and indistinct. Languages may need such assistances; but This requires a writer to have, himself, a ours is not one of these. Dean Swift, very ciear apprehension of the object he one of our most correct writers, valued

means to present to us; to have laid fast himself much on using no words but such hold of it in his mind; and never to waas were of native growth: and his Lan- ver in any one view he takes of it; a perguage may, indeed, be considered as a fection to which, indeed, few writers atstandard of the strictest Purity and Pro- tain.

Ibid. priety in the choice of words. At present, we seem to be departing from this stand

§ 8. On the Use and Importance of ard. A multitude of Latin words have, of

Precision. late, been poured in upon us.

The use and importance of Precision, occasions, they give an appearance of ele- may be deduced from the nature of the vation and dignity to Siyle. But often, human mind. It never can view, clearly also, they render it stiff and forced : and, and distinctly, above one object at a time. in general, a plain native Style, as it is If it must look at two or three together, more intelligible to all readers, so, by a especially objects among which there is proper management of words, it may be resemblance or connexion, it finds itself

no more,

On some



confused and embarrassed. It cannot only one of them should be in my view, clearly perceive in what they agree, and my view is rendered unsteady, and my in what they differ. Thus (vere any ob- conception of the object indistinct. ject, suppose some animal, to be presented

From what I have said, it appears that to me, of whose structure I wanted to an author may, in a qualified sense, be form a distinct notion, I would desire all perspicuous, while yet he is far from beits trappings to be taken off, I would re- ing precise. He uses proper words and quire it to be brought before me by itself

, proper arrangement: he gives you the idea and to stand alone, that there might be as clear as he conceives it himself; and so nothing to distract my attention. The far he is perspicuous; but the ideas are same is the case with words. If, when not very clear in his own mind: they are you would inform me of your meaning, loose and general; and, therefore, cannot you

also tell me more than what conveys be expressed with Precision. All subit; if you join foreign circumstances to jects do not equally require Precision. It the principal object; if

, by unnecessarily is sufficient, on many occasions, that we varying the expression, you shift the have a general view of the meaning. The point of view, and make me see sometimes subject, perhaps, is of the known and fathe object itself, and sometimes another miliar kind; and we are in no hazard of thing that is connected with it; you there- mistaking the sense of the author, though by oblige me to look on several objects every word which he uses be not precise at once, and I lose sight of the principal. and exact.

Blair. You load the animal you are showing me with so many trappings and collars, and 9. The Causes of a Loose Style. bring so many of the same species before me, somewhat resembling, and yet some- The great source of a Loose Style, in what differing, that I see none of them opposition to Precision, is the injudicious clearly.

use of those words termed Synonymous. This forms what is called a Loose Style: They are called Synonymous, because they and is the proper opposite to Precision. It agree in expressing one principal idea: generally arises from using a superfluity but, for the most part, if not always, they of words. Feeble writers employ a mul- express it with some diversity in the cirtitude of words, to make themselves un

They are varied by some derstood, as they think, more distinctly; accessory idea which every word introand they only confound the reader. They duces, and which forms the distinction beare sensible of not having caught the pre- tween them. Hardly, in any Language, cise expression, to convey what they would are there two words that convey precisely signify; they do not, indeed, conceive the same idea; a person thoroughly contheir own meaning very precisely them- versant in the propriety of the Language, selves; and, therefore, help it out, as they will always be able to observe something can, by this and the other word, which that distinguishes them. As they are like may, as they suppose, supply the defect, different shades of the same colour, an acand bring you somewhat nearer to their curate writer can employ them to great idea; they are always going about it, and advantage, by using them so as to heighten about it, but never just hit the thing. and finish the picture which he gives us. The Image, as they set it before you, is He supplies by one, what was wanting in always seen double; and no double image the other, to the force or to the lustre of is distinct. When an author tells me of the image which he means to exhibit. his hero's courage in the day of battle, the But in order to this end, he must be exexpression is precise, and I understand it tremely attentive to the choice which he fully. But if, from the desire of multi- makes of them. For the bulk of writers plying words, he will needs praise his cou

are very apt to confound them with each rage and fortitude; at the moment he joins Other: 'and to employ them carelessly, these words together, my idea begins to merely for the sake of filling up a period,

He means to express one quality or of rounding and diversifying the Lanmore strongly; but he is, in truth, express- guage, as if the signification were exactly ing two. Courage resists dangers; forli- the same, while, in truth, it is not. Hence tuile supports pain. The occasion of exert


a certain mist, and indistinctness, is uning each of these qualities is different; and warily thrown over Style. Ibid. being led to think of both together, when


now to consider. Dionysius of Halicar§ 10. On the general Characters of Style.

nassus divides them into three kinds: and That different subjects require to be calls them the Austere, the Florid, and treated of in different sorts of Style, is a the Middle. By the Austere, he means a position so obvious, that I shall not stay Style distinguished for strength and firmto illustrate it. Everyone sees that treatises ness, with a neglect of smoothness and orof philosophy, for instance, ought not to nament: for examples of which, he gives be composed in the same Style with Ora- Pindar and Æschylus among the Poets, tions. Every one sees also, that different and Thucydides among the Prose writers. parts of the same composition require a va- By the Florid, he means, as the name riation in the Style and manner. In a ser- indicates, a Style ornamented, flowing and mon, for instance, or any harangue, the sweet; resting more upon numbers and application or peroration admits of more grace, than strength;

he instances Hesiod, , ornament, and requires more warmth, Sappho, Anacreon, Euripides, and printhan the didactic part. But what I mean cipally Isocrates. The Middle kind is the at present to remark is, that, amidst this just mean between these, and comprehends variety, we still expect to find, in the com- the beauties of both: in which class he positions of any one man, some degree of places Homer and Sophocles among the uniformity or consistency with himself in Poets: in Prose, Herodotus, Demosthenes, manner; we expect to find some predo- Plato, and (what seems strange) Aristotle. minant character of Style impressed on all This must be a very wide class indeed, his writings, which shall be suited to, and which comprehends Plato and Aristotle shall mark, his particular genius, and turn under one article as to Style*. Cicero of mind. The orations in Livy differ much and Quinctilian make also a threefold diin Style, as they ought to do, from the rest vision of Style, though with respect to difof his history. The same is the case with ferent qualities of it; in which they are those in Tacitus. Yet both in Livy's ora- followed by most of the modern writers tions, and in those of Tacitus, we are able on Rhetoric; the Simplex, Tenue, or Subclearly to trace the distinguishing manner tle; the Grave, or Vehement; and the of each historian: the magoificent fulness Medium, or temperatum genus dicendi. of the one, and the sententious conciseness But these divisions, and the illustrations of the other. The “ Lettres Persannes,” they give of them, are so loose and geneand “ L'Esprit de Loix,” are the works ral, that they cannot advance us much in of the same author. They required very our ideas of Style. I shall endeavour to different composition surely, and accord- be a little more particular in what I have ingly they differ widely; yet still we see to say on this subject.

Ibid. the same hand. Wherever there is real and native genius, it gives a determina

§ 12. On the Concise STYLE. tion to one kind of Style rather than an

One of the first and most obvious disother. Where nothing of this appears; tinctions of the different kinds of Style, is where there is no marked nor peculiar cha- what arises from an author's spreading out racter in the compositions of any author, his thoughts more or less. This distinction we are apt to infer, not without reason, forms what are called the Diffuse and the that he is a vulgar and trivial author, Concise Styles. A concise writer comwho writes from imitation, and not from presses his thoughts into the fewest possible the impulse of original genius. As the words; he seeks to employ none but such most celebrated painters are known by as are most expressive; be lops off, as retheir hand; so the best and most original dundant, every expression which does not writers are known and distinguished, add soinething material to the sense. Orthroughout all their works, by their Style nament he does not reject; he may be and peculiar manner. This will be found lively and figured; but his ornament is to hold almost without exception. Blair. intended for the sake of force rather than § 11. On the Austere, the Florid, and ihought twice. He places it in the light


He never gives you the same the Middle STYLE.

which appears to him the most striking; The ancient Critics attended to these but if you do not apprehend it well in general characters of Style which we are that light, you need not expect to find it

De Compositione Verborum, cap. 25.

in any other. His sentences are arranged

§ 14. On the Nervous and the Feeble with compactness and strength, rather

STYLE. than with cadence and harmony. The utmost precision is studied in them; and

Tbe Nervous and the Feeble, are genethey are commonly designed to suggest rally held to be characters of Style, of the more to the reader's imagination than same import with the Concise and the Difthey directly express.

Ibid. fuse. They do indeed very often coincide.

Diffuse writers have, for the most part, § 13. On the Diffuse Style,

some degree of feebleness; and nervous A diffuse writer unfolds his thought writers will generally be inclined to a confully. He places it in a variety of lights, cise expression. This

, however, does not and gives the reader every possible assist- always bold; and there are instances of ance for understanding it completely. He writers, who, in the midst of a full and is not very careful to express it at first in its ample Style, have maintained a great defull strength, because he is to repeat the gree of strength. Livy is an example;

' impression; and what he wants in strength, and in the English language, Dr. Barrow. he proposes to supply by copiousness. Barrow's Style has many faults. It is unWriters of this character generally love equal, incorrect, and redundant; but withmagnificence and amplification. Their · al, for force and expressiveness uncommonperiods naturally run out into some length, ly distinguished. On every subject, he and having room for ornament of every multiplies words with an overflowing cokind, they admit it freely.

piousness; but it is always a torrent of Each of these manners bas its peculiar strong ideas and significant expressions advantages; and each becomes faulty when which he pours forth. Indeed, the foundacarried to the extreme. The extreme of tions of a nervous or a weak Style are laid conciseness becomes abrupt and obscure; in an author's manner of thinking. If he it is apt also to lead into a style too point- conceives an object strongly, he willexpress ed, and bordering on the epigrammatic. it with energy; but if he has only an indisThe extreme of diffuseness becomes weak tinct view of his subject; if his ideas be and languid, and tires the reader. How- Joose and wavering; if bis genius be such, ever, to one or other of these two man- or at the time of his writing so carelessly ners a writer may lean, according as his exerted, that he has no firm hold of the genius prompts bim: and under the gene- conception which he would communicate ral character of a Concise, or of a more

to us; the marks of all this will clearly open and Diffuse Style, may possess much appear in his Style. Several unmeaning beauty in his composition.

words and loose epithets will be found; For illustrations of these general charac. his expressions will be vague and general; ters, I can only refer to the writers who his arrangement indistinct and feeble; we are examples of them. It is not so much shall conceive somewhat of his meaning, from detached passages, such as I was but our conception will be faint. Whereas wont formerly to quote for instances, as

a nervous writer, whether he employs an from the current of an author's Style, that extended or a concise Style, gives us alwe are to collect the idea of a formed man

ways a strong impression of his meaning; ner of writing. The two most remarkable his mind is full of his subject, and his words examples that I know, of conciseness car

are all expressive: every phrase and every ried as far as propriety will allow, perhaps figure which he uses, tends to render the in some cases farther, are Tacitus the His- picture, which he would set before us, torian, and the President Montesquieu in more lively and complete. .

Ibid. L'Esprit de Loix.” Aristotle too holds an eminent rank among didactic writers $ 15. On Harshness of STYLE. for his brevity. Perhaps no writer in the

As every good quality in Style has an world was ever so frugal of his words as extreme, when pursued to which it becomes Aristotle; but this frugality of expression faulty, this holds of the Nervous Style as frequently darkens his meaning. Of a well as others. Too great a study of beautiful and magnificent diffuseness, Ci- strength, to the neglect of the other qualicero is, beyond doubt, the most illustrious ties of Style, is found to betray writers ininstance that can be given. Addison also, to a harsh manner. Harshness arises from and Sir William Temple, come in some unusual words, from forced inversions in degree under this class.

Blair. the construction of a sentence, and too

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