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there is time for repentance and retreat; and a return to wisdom is always honourable.”



See Vol. ii. Part 5. Exercises. Strength. Chap. 3.

THE THIRD requisite of a perfect sentence, is, Strength.

By this is meant such a disposition and management of the several words and members, as shall bring out the sense to the best advantage, and give every word, and every member, its due weight and force.

A sentence may be clear, it may also be compact in all its parts, or have the requisite unity, and yet, by some circumstance in the structure, may fail in that strength of impression, which a better management would have produced.

The first rule for promoting the strength of a sentence, is, to prune it of all redundant words and members.

It is a general maxim, that any words which do not add some importance to the meaning of a sentence, always injure it. Care should therefore be exercised, with respect to sy: nonymous words, expletives, circumlocutions, tautologies, and the expression of unnecessary circumstances. The attention becomes remiss, when words are multiplied without a correspondent multiplication of ideas. “Content with deserving a triumph, he refused the honour of it ;" is better language than to say, “ Being content with deserving it,” &c.

“ In the Attic commonwealth," says an author, “it was the privilege and birthright of every citizen and poet, to rail aloud and in public.” Better simply thus : “ In the Attic common

. wealth, it was the privilege of every citizen to rail in public."

Another expresses himself thus : « They returned back again to the same city from whence they came forth;" instead of, “ They returned to the city whence they came. The five words, back, again, same, from, and forth, are mere expletives, that have neither use nor beauty, and are therefore to be regarded as incumbrances.

The word but is often improperly used with that : as, “ There can be no doubt but that he seriously means what he says.” It is not only useless, but cumbersome : “ There can be no doubt that he seriously means what he says.” By transposing the parts of the sentence, we shall immediately perceive the pro


priety of omitting this word: “That he seriously means what he says, there can be no doubt."

Adverbs promote energy of expression. But this happens only when they promote brevity too, and are sparingly used, and chosen with judgment. A superabundance of them, or of adjectives, makes a style unwieldy and tawdry. For it is from its nouns, rather than from its attributives, that language derives strength: even as a building derives stability, rather from the walls and rafters, than from the plastering, wainscotting, and painting. Young writers, however, are apt to think otherwise; and, with a view to invigorate their expression, qualify every verb with an adverb, and every noun with an epithet. By this means, their compositions resemble a house, whose walls are supported by posts and buttresses ; which not only make it unseemly to the eye, and inconvenient by taking up too much room, but also justify a suspicion of weakness in the work, and unskilfulness in the architect. Such a period as the following will explain our meaning.

“ I am honestly, seriously, and unalterably of opinion, that nothing can possibly be more incurably and emphatically, destructive, or more decisively fatal, to a kingdom, than the introduction of thoughtless dissipation, and the pomp of lazy luxury." Would not the full import of this noisy sentence be better expressed thus : "I am of opinion, that nothing is more ruinous to a kingdom, than luxury and dissipation."

Some writers use much circumlocution in expressing their ideas. A considerable one, for so very simple a thing as a man's wounding bimself, says, “ To mangle, or wound, his

w , outward form and constitution, his natural limbs or body."

But, on some occasions circumlocution has a peculiar force; as in the following sentence: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

In the sentences which follow, the ill effects of tautology appear.

á So it is, that I must be forced to get home, partly by stealth, and partly by force.

“Never did Atticus succeed better in gaining the universal love and esteem of all men.

The subsequent sentence contains several unnecessary circumstances. “On receiving this information, he arose, went out, saddled his horse, mounted him, and rode to town." All is implied in saying, “On receiving this information, he rode to town."

This manner, however, in a certain degree, is so strongly characteristic of the simple style of remote ages, that in books of the highest antiquity, particularly the Bible, it is not at all ungraceful. Of this kind are the following Scriptural phrases.

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“ He lifted up his voice and wept." “ He opened his mouth and said." It is true, that in strictness, they are not necessary to the narration, but they are of some importance to the composition, as bearing the venerable signature of ancient simplicity. It may, on this occasion, be further observed, that the language of the present translation of the Bible, ought not to be viewed in an exceptionable light, though some parts of it may appear to be obsolete. From universal admission, this language has become so familiar and intelligible, that in all transcripts and allusions, except where the sense is evidently injured, it ought to be carefully preserved. And it may also be justly remarked, that, on religious subjects, a frequent recurrence of Scripture-language is attended with peculiar force and propriety.

Though it promotes the strength of a sentence, to contract a round-about method of expression, and to lop off excrescences, yet we should avoid the extreme of pruning too closely: some leaves should be left to shelter and surround the fruit. Even synonymous expressions may, on some occasions, be used with propriety. One is, when an obscurer term, which we cannot well avoid employing, needs to be explained by one that is clearer. The other is, when the language of the emotions is exhibited. Emotion naturally dwells on its object : and when the reader also feels interested, repetition and synonomy have frequently an agreeable effect.

The following passage, taken from Addison, who delighted in a full and flowing style, will, by most readers, be deemed not very exceptionable. “But there is nothing that makes its way more directly to the soul than beauty; which immediately diffuses a secret satisfaction and complacency through the imagination, and gives a finishing to any thing that is great or uncommon. The very first discovery of it strikes the mind with inward joy, and spreads a cheerfulness and delight through all its faculties.” Some degree of verbosity may, however, be discovered in these sentences, as phrases are repeated which seem little more than the echo of one another; such as-diffusing satisfaction and complacency through the imaginationstriking the mind with inward joy-spreading cheerfulness and delight through all its faculties. But, perhaps, some redundancy is more allowable on such lively subjects, than it would be on other occasions.

After removing superfluities, the second rule for promoting the strength of a sentence, is, to allend particulurly to the use of copulatives, relatives, and all the particles employed for transition and connexion.

These little words but, and, or, which, whose, where, then, therefore, because, &c. are frequently the most important words

of any; they are the joints or hinges upon which all sentences turn; and, of course, much of their strength must depend upon such particles. The varieties in using them are, indeed, so many, that no particular system of rules respecting them can be given. Some observations, tending to illustrate the rule, may, however, be mentioned.

What is called splitting particles, or separating a preposition from the noun which it governs, is to be avoided. As if I should say, “ Though virtue borrows no assistance from, yet it may often be accompanied by, the advantages of fortune." Here we are put to a stand in thought, being obliged to rest a little on the preposition by itself, which, at the same time, carries no significancy, till it is joined to its proper substantive.

Some writers needlessly multiply demonstrative and relative particles, by the frequent use of such phraseology as this : “ There is nothing which disgusts us sooner than the empty pomp of language.” In introducing a subject, or laying down a proposition, to which we demand particular attention, this sort of style is very proper; but, on common occasions, it is better to express ourselves more simply and briefly : “ Nothing disgusts us sooner than the empty pomp of language.”

Other writers make a practice of omitting the relative where they think the meaning can be understood without it: as, “The man I love;" “The dominions we possessed, and the conquests we made.' But though this elliptical style is intelligible, and is allowable in conversation and epistolary writing, yet in all writings of a serious and dignified kind, it ought to be avoided. There, the relative should always be inserted in its proper place, and the construction filled

up: whom I love." " The dominions which we possessed, and the conquests which we made.”

With regard to the copulative particle and, which occurs so frequently in all kinds of composition, several observations are to be made. First, it is evident, that the unnecessary repetition of it enfeebles style. The following sentence from Sir William Temple, will serve for an instance.

He is speaking of the refinement of the French language : “ The academy, set up by Cardinal Richelieu, to amuse the wits of that age

and country, and divert them from raking into his politics and ministry, brought this into yogue; and the French wits have, for this last age, been wholly turned to the refinement of their style and language ; and, indeed, with such success, that it can hardly be equalled, and runs equally through their verse and their

Here are no fewer than eight ands in one sentence. Some writers often make their sentences drag in this manner, by a careless multiplication of copulatives.

But in the next place, it is worthy of observation, that


« The man


though the natural use of the conjunction and, is to join objects together, yet, in fact, by dropping the conjunction, we often mark a closer connexion, a quicker succession of objects, than when it is inserted between them. “I came, I saw, I conquered," expresses, with more force, the rapidity and quick succession of conquest, than if connecting particles had been used.

On the other hand, when we seek to prevent a quick transition from one object to another, when we are making some enumeration, in which we wish that the objects should appear as distinct from each other as possible, and that the mind should rest, for a moment, on each object by itself, copulatives may be multiplied with peculiar advantage. As when an author says, “Such a man might fall a victim to power;. but truth, and reason, and liberty, would fall with bim." Observe, in the following enumeration made by the Apostle Paul, what additional weight and distinctness are given to each particular, by the repetition of a conjunction: “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God."

The words designed to mark the transition from one sentence to another, and the connexion between sentences, are sometimes very incorrect, and perform their office in an imperfect and obscure manner. The following is an example of this kind of inaccuracy. “By greatness, I do not mean the bulk of any single object only, but the largeness of a whole view. Such are the prospects of an open champaign country, a vast uncultivated desert,” &c. The word such signifies of that nature or quality, which necessarily pre-supposes some adjective or word descriptive of a quality going before, to which it refers. But, in the foregoing sentence, there is no such adjective. The author had spoken of greatness in the abstract only; and, therefore, such has no distinct antecedent to which we can refer it. The sentence would have been introduced with more propriety, by saying, To this class belong, or, Under this head are ranged, the prospects, &c.

As connective particles are the hinges, tacks, and pins, by which the words in the same clause, the clauses in the same member, the members in the same sentence, and even the sentences in the same discourse, are united together, and their relations suggested, so they should not be either too frequently repeated, awkwardly exposed to view, or made up of polysyllables, when shorter words would as well convey our meaning. Notwithstanding that, insomuch that, forasmuch as, furthermore,

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