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superior to him in life and ease. Upon the whole, his merit as a writer, would have been very considerable, it his matter had equalled his style. But while we find many things to commend in the latter, in the former, as I before remarked, we can hardly find any thing to commend. In his reasonings, for the most part, he is flimsy and false; in his political writings, factious; in what he calls his philosophical ones, irreligious and sophistical in the highest degree.
I shall insist no longer on the different manners of writers, or the general characters of style. Some other, besides those which I have mentioned, might be pointed out; but I am sensible that it is very difficult to separate such general considerations of the style of authors from their peculiar turn of sentiment, which it is not my business, at present to criticise. Conceited writers, for instance, discover their spirit, so much in their composition, that it imprints on their style a character of pertness; though I confess, it is difficult to say, whether this can be classed among the attributes of style, or rather is to be ascribed entirely to the jhought. In whatever class we rank it, all appearances of it ought to be avoided with care, as a most disgusting blemish in writing. Under the general heads, which I have considered, I have taken an opportunity of giving the character of many of the eminent classics in the English language.
From what I have said on this subject, it may be inferred, that to determine among all these different manners of writing, what is precisely the best, is neither easy, nor necessary. Style is a field that admits of great latitude. Its qualities in different authors may be very different; and yet in them all beautiful. Room must be left here for genius; for that particular determination which every one receives from nature to one manner of expression more than another. Some general qualities, indeed, there are of such importance, as should always, in every kind of composition, be kept in view; and some defects we should always study to avoid. An ostentatious, a feeble, a harsh, or an obscure style, for instance, are always faults; and perspicuity, strength, neatness, and simplicity, are beauties to be always aimed at. But as to the mixture of all, or the degree of predominancy of any one of these good qualities, for forming our peculiar distinguishing manner, no precise rules can be given; nor will I venture to point out any one model as absolutely pero fect.
It will be more to the purpose, that I conclude these dissertations upon style, with a few directions concerning the proper method of attaining a good style, in general; leaving the particular character of that style to be either formed by the subject on which we write or prompted by the bent of genius.
The first direction which I give for this purpose is, to study clear ideas on the subject concerning which we are to write or speak. This is a di. rection which may at first appear to have small relation to style. Its relation to it, however, is extremely close. The foundation of all good style, is good sense accompanied with a lively imagination. The style and Thoughts of a writer are so intimately connected, that, as I have several times liinted, it is frequently hard to distinguish them. Whenever the impressions of things upon our winds are faint and indistinct, or perplexed and confused, our style in treating of such things will infallibly be so too. Whereas, what we conceive clearly and feel strongly, we shall naturally express with clearness and with strength. This, then, we may be
assured, is a capital rule as to style, to think closely on the subject, till we have attained a full and distinct view of the matter which we are to clothe in words, till we become warm and interested in it; then and not till then, shall we find expression begin to flow. Generally speaking, the best and most proper expressions, are those which a clear view of the subject suggests without much labour or inquiry after them. This is Quintilian's observation, lib. viii. c. 1. Plerumque optima verba rebus cohærent, et cernuntur suo lumine. Ainos quærimus illa, tanquam, lateant, seque subducant. Ita nunquam putamus verba essa circa id de quo dicendum est; sed ex aliis locis petimus, et inventus vim afferimus.'*
In the second place, in order to form a good style, the frequent practice of composing is indispensably necessary. Many rules concerning style I have delivered, but no rules will answer the end, without exercise and habit. At the same time, it is not every sort of composing that will improve style. This is so far from being the case, that by frequent, careless, and hasty composition, we shall acquire certainly a very bad style; we shall have more trouble afterwards in unlearning faults, and correcting negligences, than if we had not been accustomed to composition at all. In the beginning, therefore, we ought to write slowly and with much care. Let the facility and speed of writing, be the fruit of longer practice.
Moram et solicitudinem, says Quintilian with the greatest reason, l. x. c. 3. “initiis impero. Nam primum hoc constituendum ac obtinendum est, ut quam optime scribamus; celeritatem dabit consuetudo. Paulatim res facilius se ostendent, verba respondebunt, compositio prosequetur. Cancta denique ut in familiâ bene institutâ in officia erunt. Summa hæc est rei; cito scribendo non fit ut bene scribatur; bene scribendo, fit ut cito.t
We must observe, however, that there may be an extreme, in too great and anxious a care about words. We must not retard the course of thought, nor cool the heat of imagination, by pausing too long on every word we employ. There is, on certain occasions, a glow of composition which should be kept up, if we hope to express ourselves happily, though at the expense of allowing some inadvertencies to pass. A more severe examination of these must be left to the work of correction. For, if the practice of composition be useful, the laborious work of correcting is no less so : is indeed absolutely necessary to our reaping any benefit from the habit of composition. What we have written, should be laid by for some little time, till the ardour of composition be past, till the fondness for the expressions we have used, be worn off, and the expressions themselves be forgotten ; and then, reviewing our work with a cool and critica al eye, as if it were the performance of another, we shall discern many imperfections which at first escaped us. Then is the season for pruning
*"The most proper words for the most part adhere to the thoughts which are to be expressed by them, and may be discovered as by their own light. But we hunt after them, as if they were hidden, and only to be found in a corner. Hence, instead of conceiving the words to lie near the subject, we go in quest of them to some other quarter, and endeavour to give force to the expressions we have found out.'
t'l enjoin, that such as are beginning the practice of composition, write slowly, and with anxious deliberation. Their great object at first should be, to write as well as possible'; practice will enable them to write speedily. By degrees matter will offer itself still more readily; words will be at hand: composition will flow; every thing as in the arrangement of a well ordered family, will present itself in its proper place. The sum of the whole is this ; by hasty composition, we shall never acquire the art of. composing well; by wriling well, we shall learn to write speedily.'
redundances ; for weighing the arrangement of sentences; for attending to the juncture and connecting particles; and bringing style into a regular, correct and supported form. This · Lima Labor," must be submitted to all by who would communicate their thoughts with proper advantage to others; and some practice in it will soon sharpen their eye to the most necessary objects of attention, and render it a much more easy and prac. ticable work than might at first be imagined.
In the third place, with respect to the assistance that is to be gained from the writings of others, it is obvious, that we ought to render our selves well acquainted with the style of the best authors. This is requisite both in order to form a just taste in style, and to supply us with a full stock of words on every subject
. In reading authors with a view to style, attention should be given to the peculiarities of their different manners; and in this, and former lectures, I have endeavoured to suggest several things that may be useful in this view. I know no exercise that will be found more useful for acquiring a proper style, than to translate some passage from an eminent English author into our own words. What I mean is, to take, for instance, some page of one of Mr. Addison's Spectators, and read it carefully over two or three times, till we have got a firm hold of the thoughts contained in it; thep to lay aside the book ; to attempt to write out the passage from memory, in the best way we can; and having done so, next to open the book, and compare what we have written, with the style of the author. Such an exercise will, by comparison, shew us where the defects of our style lie; will lead us to the proper attentions for rectifying them; and, among the different ways in which the same thought may be expressed, will make us perceive that which is the most beautiful. But,
In the fourth place, I must caution, at the same time, against a servile imitation of any author whatever. This is always dangerous. It hampers genius; it is likely to produce a stiff manner; and those who are given to close imitation, generally imitate an author's faults as well as his beauties. No man will ever become a good writer, or speaker, who has not some degree of confidence to follow his own genius. We ought to beware, in particular of adopting any author's noted phrases, or transcribing passages from him. Such a habit will prove fatal to all genuine composition. infinitely better it is to have something that is our own, though of moderate beauty, than to affect to shine in borrowed ornaments, which will at last, betray the utter poverty of our genius. On these heads of composing, correcting, reading, and imitating, I advise every student of oratory to consult what Quintilian has delivered in the tenth book of his Institutions, where he will find a variety of excellent observations and directions, that well deserve attention.
In the fifth place, it is an obvious. but material rule, with respect to style, that we always study to adapt it to the subject, and also to the capacity of our hearers, if we are to speak in public. Nothing merits the name of eloquent or beautiful, which is not suited to the occasion, and to the persons to whom it is addressed. It is to the last degree awkward and absurd, to attempt a poetical florid style, on occasions when it should be our business only to argue and reason; or to speak with elaborate pomp of expression, before persons who comprehend nothing of it, and who can only stare at our unseasonable magnificence. These are detects not so much in point of style, as, what is much worse, in point of common sense. When we begin to write or speak,
we ought previously to fix in our minds a clear conception of the end to be aimed at; to keep this steadily in our view, and to suit our style to it. If we do not sacrifice to this great object, every ill-timed ornament that may occur to our fancy, we are unpardonable; and though children and fools may admire, men of sense will laugh at us and our style.
In the last place, I cannot conclude the subject without this admonition, that in any case, and on any occasion, attention to style must not engross us so much, as to detract from a higher degree of attention to the thoughts ; Curam verborum,' says the great Roman critic, rerum volo esse solicitudinem."* A direction the more necessary, as the present taste of the age in writing, seems to lean more to style than to thought. It is much easier to dress up trivial and common sentiments with some beauty of expression, than to afford a fund of vigorous, ingenious, and useful thoughts. The latter, requires true genius ; the former may be attained by industry, with the help of very superficial parts. Hence, we find so many writers frivolously rich in style, but wretchedly poor in sentiment. The public ear is now so much accustomed to a correct and ornamented style, that no writer can, with safety, neglect the study of it. But he is a contemptible one who does not look to something beyond it; who does not lay the chief stress upon his matter, and employ such ornaments of style to recommend it, as are manly not foppish : Majore animo,' says the writer whom I have so often quoted, 'aggredienda est eloquentia; quæ si toto corpore valet, ungues polire et capillum componere, non existimabit ad curam suam pertinere. Ornatus et virilis et fortis, et sanctus sit; nec effeminatam levitatem, et fuco ementitum colorem amet; sanguine et viribus niteat.'+
CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF THE STYLE OF MR. ADDISON
IN NO. 411 OF THE SPECTATOR.
I HAVE insisted fully on the subject of language and style, both because it is in itself, of great importance, and because it is more capable of being ascertained by precise rule, than several other parts of composition. A critical analysis of the style of some good author will tend further to illustrate the subject; as it will suggest observations which I have not had occasion to make, and will shew, in the most practical light, the use of those which I have made.
Mr. Addison is the author whom I have chosen for this purpose. The spectator, of which his papers are the chief ornament, is a book
* * Tb your expression be attentive : but about your matter be solicitous.'
* A higher spirit ought to animate those who study eloquence. They ought to consult the health and soundness of the whole body, rather ihan bend their aitention to such triding objects as paring the nails, and dressing the hair. Let ornament be manly and chaste, without effeminate gaiety, or artificial colouring; let it shine with the glow of health and strength.'
which is in the hands of very one, and which cannot be praised too highly. The good sense, and good writing, the useful morality, and the admirable vein of humour which abound in it, render it one of those standard books which have done the greatest honour to the English nation. I have formerly given the general character of Mr. Addison's style and manner, as natural and unaffected, easy and polite, and full of those graces which a flowery imagination diffuses over writing. At the same time, though one of the most beautiful writers in the language, he is not the most correct; a circumstance which renders his composition the more proper to be the subject of our present criticism. The free and flowing manner of this amiable writer sometimes led him into inaccuracies, which the ipore studied circumspection and care of far inferior writers have taught them to avoid. Remarking his beauties, therefore, which I shall have frequent occasion to do as I proceed, I must also point out his negligences and defects. Without a free impartial discussion of both the faults and beauties, which occur in his composition, it is evident, this piece of criticism would be of no service; and, from the freedom which I use in criticising Mr. Addison's style, none can imagine, that I mean to depreciate his writings, after having repeatedly declared the high opinion which I entertain of them. The beauties of this author are so many, and the general character of his style is so elegant and estimable, that the minute imperfections I shall occasion to point out, are but like those spots in the sun which may be discovered by the assistance of art, but which have no effect in obscuring its lustre. It is indeed, my judgment, ihat what Quintilian applies to Cicero, Ille se profecisse sciat, cui Cicero, valde placebit,' may, with justice, be applied to Mr. Addison; that to be highly pleased with his manner of writing, is the criterion of one's having acquired a good taste in Eng. lish style. The paper on which we are now to enter, is No. 411, the first of his celebrated Essays on the Pleasures of the imagination, in the sixth volume of the Spectator. It begins thus:
"Our sight is the most perfect, and most delightful of all our senses.'
This is an excellent introductory sentence. It is clear, precise, and simple. The author lays down, in a few plain words, the proposition which he is going to illustrate throughout the rest of the paragraph. In this manner, we should always set out. A first sentence should seldom be a long and never an intricate one.
He might have said, 'Our sight is the most perfect, and the most delightful.' But he has judged better, in omitting to repeat the article the. For the repetition of it is proper, chiefly when we intend to point out the objects of which we speak, as distinguished from, or contrasted with, each other; and when we want that the reader's attention should rest on that distinction. For instance; had Mr. Addison intended to say, that our sight is at once the most delightful, and the most useful, of all our senses, the article might then have been repeated with propriety, as a clear and strong distinction would have been conveyed. between perfect and delightful, there is less contrast, there was no occasion for such repetition. It would have had no other effect, but to add a word unnecessarily to the sentence. He proceeds:
It fills the mind with the largest variety of ideas, converses with its objects at the greatest distance, and continues the longest in action, without being tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments.'
This sentence deserves attention, as remarkably harmonious, and well