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that an unfinished sentence is no sentence at all, according to any grammatical rule. But very often we meet with sentences that are, so to speak, more than finished. When we have arrived at what we expected was to be the conclusion, when we have come to the word on which the mind is naturally led, by what went before, to rest; unexpectedly, some circumstance pops out, which ought to have been omitted, or to have been disposed of elsewhere; but which is left lagging behind, like a tail adjected to the sentence; somewhat that, as Mr. Pope describes the Alexandrian line,
“ Like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along." All these adjections to the proper close, disfigure a sentence extremely. They give it a lame, ungraceful air, and, in particular, they break its unity. Dean Swift, for instance, in his Letter to a Young Clergyman, speaking of Cicero's writings, expresses himself thus : With these writings, young divines are more conversant, than with those of Demosthenes, who by many degrees, excelled the other ; at least as an orator.' Here the natural close of the sentence is at these words,
excelled the other. These words conclude the propositions ; we look for no more; and the circumstance added, at least as an orator,' comes in with a very halting pace. How much more compact would the sentence have been, if turned thus : With these writings, young divines are more conversant, than with those of Demosthenes, who, by many degrees, as an orator at least, excelled the other.' In the following sentence, from Sir William Temple, the adjection to the sentence is altogether foreign to it. Speaking of Burnet's Theory of the Earth, and Fontenelle's Plurality of Worlds, “The first,' says he could not end his learned treatise without a panegyric of modern learning, in comparison of the ancient; and the other, falls so grossly into the censure of the old poetry, and preference of the new, that I could not read either of these strains without some indignation; which no quality among men is so apt to raise in me as self-sufficiency. The word indignation,' concluded the sentence; the last member, 'which no quality among men is so apt to raise in me as self-sufficiency,' is a proposition altogether new, added after the
STRUCTURE OF SENTENCES. HAVING treated of perspicuity and unity, as necessary to be studied in the structure of sentences, I proceed to the third quality of a correct sentence, which I termed strength. By this, I mean, such a disposition of the several words and members, as shall bring out the sense to the best advantage; as shall render the impression, which the period is designed to make most full and complete ; and give every word, and every member, their due weight and force. The two former qualities of perspicuity and unity, are no doubt, absolutely necessary to the production of this effect; but more is still requisite. For a sentence may be clear enough; it may
also be compact enough, in all its parts, or have the requisite unity; and yet, by some unfavourable circumstance in the structure, it may fail in that strength or liveliness of impression, which a more happy arrangement would have produced.
The first rule which I shall give, for promoting the strength of a sentence is, to prune it of all redundant words. These may, sometimes, be consistent with a considerable degree both of clearness and unity ; but they are always enfeebling. They make the sentence move along tardy and encumbered :
Est brevitate opus, ut currat sententia, neu se
lunpediat verbis, lassas onerantibus adres.* It is a general maxim, that any words which do not add some importance to the meaning of a sentence, always spoil it. They cannot be superfluous, without being hurtful. Obstat,' says Quintilian,' quicquid non adjuvat.' All that can be easily supplied in the mind, is better left out in the expression. Thus : • Content with deserving a triumph, he refused the honour of it,' is better language than to say, Being content with deserving a triumph, he refused the honour of it. I consider it, therefore, as one of the most useful exercises of correction, upon reviewing what we have written or composed, to contract that round-about method of expression, and to lop off those useless excrescences which are commonly found in a first draught. Here a severe eye should be employed ; and we shall always find our sentences acquire more vigour and energy when thus retrenched : provided always that we run not into the extreme of pruning so very close, as to give a hardness and dryness to style. For here, as in all other things, there is a due medium. Some regard, though not the principal, must be bad to fullness and swelling of sound. Some leaves must be left to surround and shelter the fruit.
As sentences should be cleared of redundant words, so also of redundant members. As every word ought to present a new idea, so every member ought to contain a new thought. Opposed to this, stands the fault we sometimes meet with, of the last member of a period, being no other than the echo of the former, or the repetition of it in somewhat a different form. For example ; speaking of beauty, 'The very first discovery of it,' says Mr. Addison, strikes the mind with inward joy, and spreads delight through all its faculties.' (No. 412.) And elsewhere," It is impossible for us to behold the divine works with coldness or indifference, or to survey so many beauties, without a secret satisfaction and complaceney." (No. 413.) In both these instances, little or nothing is added by the second member of the sentence to what was already expressed in the first s and though the free and flowing manner of such an author as Mr. Addison, and the graceful harmony of his periods, may palliate such negligences; yet, in general, it holds, that style, freed from this prolixity, appears both more strong and more beautiful. The attention becomes remiss, the mind falls into inaction, when words are multiplied without a corresponding multiplication of ideas.
After removing superfluities, the second direction I give, for promoting the strength of a sentence, is to attend particularly to the use of copulatives, relatives, and all the particles employed for transition and connex
* " Concise your diction, let your sense be clear,
* Sor with a weight of words, fatigue the ea."
ion. These little words, but, and, which, whose, where, &c. are frequently the most important words of any; they are the joints or hinges upon which all sentences turn, and of course, much, both of their gracefulness and strength must depend upon such particles. The varieties in using them are, indeed, so infinite, that no particular system of rules, respect. ing them can be given. Attention to the practice of the most accurate writers, joined with frequent trials of the different effects produced by a different usage of those particles, must here direct us.* Some observations, I shall mention, which have occurred to me as useful, without pretending to exhaust the subject.
What is called splitting of particles, or separating a preposition from the noun which it governs, is always 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.' In such instances, we feel a sort of pain, from the revulsion, or violent separation of two things, which, by their nature, should be closely united. We are put to a stand in thought ; being obliged to rest for a little on the preposition by itself, which, at the same time, carries no significancy, till it is joined to its proper substantive noun.
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 preposition, to wbich we demand particular attention, this sort of style is very proper; but, in the ordinary current of discourse, it is better to express ourselves more simply and shortly: "Nothing disgusts us sooner ihan the empty pomp of language.'
Other writers make a practice of omitting the relative, in a phrase of a different kind from the former, 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 eliptical style be intelligible, and is allowable in conversation and epistolary writing, yet in all writings of a serious or dignified kind, is ungraceful. There, the relative should always be inserted, in its proper place, and the construction filled up : « The man whom I love.' i 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. It has the same sort of effect, as the frequent use of the vulgar phrase, and so, when one is telling a story in common conversation. We shall take a sentence from Sir William Temple, 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 vogue ; 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 prose. Here are no fewer than eight ands in one sentence, This agreeable writer too often makes his sentences drag in this manner, by a careless multiplication of copulatives. It is strange how a
* On this head, Dr. Lowth's short introduction to English Grammar deserves to de consulted ; where several niceties of the language are well pointed out.
writer, so accurate as Dean Swift, should have stumbled on so improper an application of this particle, as he has made in the following sentence; Essay on the Fates of Clergymen. There is no talent so useful towards rising in the world, or which puts men more out of the reach of fortune, than that quality generally possessed by the dullest sort of people, and is, in common language, called discretion : a species of lower prudence, by the assistance of which, &c.' By the insertion of, and is, in place of, which is, he has not only clogged the sentence, but even made it ungrammatical.
But, in the next place, it is worthy of observation, that though the natural use of the conjunction and, bę to join objects together, and thereby, as one would think, to make their connexion more close ; 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. Longinus makes this remark; which, from many instances, appears to be just:
Veni, vidi, vici,'* expresses with more spirit, the rapidity and quick succession of conquest, than if connecting particles had been used. So, in the following description of a route, in Cæsar's Commentaries : Nostri, emisis pilis, gladiis rem gerunt; repente post tergum equitatus cernitur ; cohortes aliæ appropinquant. Hostes terga vertunt; fugientibus equites, occurrunt; fit magna cædes.'t Bell. Gall. lib. 7.
Hence it follows, that when, on the other hand, 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; in this case, copulatives may be multiplied with peculiar advantage and grace. As when Lord Bolingbroke says, Such a man might fall a victim to power ; but truth, and reason, and liberiy, would fall with him.' In the same manner, Cæsar describes an engagement with the Nervii : " His equitibus facile pulsis ac proturbatis, incredibili celeritate ad flumen decurrerunt; ut pene uno tempore, et ad silvas, et in flumine, et jam in manibus nostris, hostes viderentur.'I Bell. Gall. lib. 2. Here, although he is describing a quick succession of events, yet as it is his intention to shew in how many places the enemy seemed to be at one time, the copulative is very happily redoubled, in order to paint more strongly the distinction of these several places.
This attention to the several cases, when it is proper to omit and when to redouble the copulative, is of considerable importance to all who study eloquence. For it is a remarkable particularity in language, that the omission of a connecting particle should sometimes serve to make objects appear more closely connected ; and that the repetition of it should distinguish and separate them, in some measure, from each other. Hence, the omission of it is used to denote rapidity; and the repetition of it is designed to retard and to aggravate. The reason seems to be, that, in the former case, the mind is supposed to be hurried so fast through a quick suc
*“I came, I saw, I conquered."
t"Our men, after having discharged their javeling, attack with sword in hand : of a sadden, the cavalry make their appearance behind; other badies of men are seen drawing near ; the enemies turn their backs; the horse meet them in their flight; a great slaughter ensues."
"The enemy, having easily beat off, and scattered this body of horse, ran down with incredible celerity to the river; so that, almost at one moment of time, they aj peared to be in the woods, and in the river, and in the midst of our troops
cession of objects, that it has not leisure to point out their connexion ; it drops the copulatives in its hurry; and crowds the whole series togeiber, as if it were but one .object. Whereas, when we enumerate, with a view to aggravate, the mind is supposed to proceed with a more slow and solemn pace; it marks fully the relation of each object to that which succeeds it; and, by joining them together with several copulatives, makes you perceive, that the objects, though connected, are yet, in themselves, distinct; that they are many, not one. Observe, for instance, in the following enumeration, made by the apostle Paul, what additional weight and distiuctness is 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.' Rom. vii. 38, 39. So much with regard to the use of copulatives.
I proceed to a third rule for promoting the strength of a sentence, which is, to dispose of the capital word or words, in that place of the sentence, where they will make the fullest impression. That such capital words there are in every sentence, on which the meaning prin. cipally rests, every one must see; and that these words should possess a conspicuous and distinguished place, is equally plain. Indeed, that place of the sentence where they will make ihe best figure, whether the beginning, or the end, or sometimes, even in the middle, cannot, as far as I know, be ascertained by any precise rule. This must vary with the nature of the sentence. Perspicuity must ever be studied in the first place; and the nature of our language allows no great liberty in the choice of collocation. For the most part, with us, the inportant words are placed in the beginning of the sentence. So Mr. Addison : 6 The pleasures of the imagination, taken in their full extent, are not so gross as those of sense, nor so refined as those of the understanding.' And this, indeed, seems the most plain and natural order, to place that in the front which is the chief object of the proposition we are laying down. Sometimes, however, when we intend to give weight to a sentence, it is of advantage to suspend the meaning for a little, and then bring it out full at the close : « Thus,' says Mr. Pope, on whatever side we con. template Homer, what principally strikes us, is, his wonderful invention.' (Pref. to Homer.)
The Greek and Latin writers had a considerable advantage above us, in this part of style. By the great liberty of inversion, which their languages permitted, they could choose the most advantageous situation for every word; and had it thereby in their power to give their sentences more force. Milton, in his prose works, and some other of our old English writers, endeavoured to imitate them in this.
But the forced constructions which they employed, produced obscurity; and the genius of our language, as it is now written and spoken, will not admit such liberties. Mr. Gordon, who followed this inverted style, in his translation of Tacitus, has sometimes done such violence to the language, as even to appear ridiculous; as in this expression : Into this hole thrust themselves, three Roman senators.' He has translated so simple a phrase as, 'Nullum eâ tempestate bellum,' by, War at that time there was none.' However, withio certain buunds, and to a limited de. gree, our language does admit of inversions; and they are practised sitli success by the best writers. So Mr. Pope, speaking of Homer.