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The wrong sense occafioned by this arrangement, may be easily prevented by varying it thus :
This morning when, with great care and diligence, one of Lady Lizard's daughters was looking over fome hoods and ribands, &c.
A great stone that I happened to find after a long search by the sea-shore, served me for an anchor.
Gulliver's Travels, part 1, chap. 8.
One would think that the search was confined to the sea-shore; but as the meaning is, that the great Itone was found by the sea-shore, the period ought to be arranged thus :
A great stone, that, after a long search, I happened to find by the sea-shore, served me for an anchor.
Next of a wrong arrangement where the sense is left doubtful; beginning, as in the former fort, with examples of the wrong arrangement of words in a member :
These forms of conversation hy degrees multiplied and grew troublesome,
Spectator, No 119.
Here it is left doubtful whether the modification by degrees relate to the preceding member or to what follows: it should bę,
These forms of conversation multiplied by degrees.
Nor does this false modesty expose us only to such ac
tions as are indiscreet, but very often to such as are highly criminal.
; Spectator, No 458,
The ambiguity is removed by the following arrangement :
Nor does this false modesty expose us to such actions only as are indiscreet, &c.
The empire of Blefuscu is an island situated to the . north-east side of Lilliput, from whence it is parted only by a channel of 800 yards wide.
Gulliver's Travels, part 1. chap. 5,
The ambiguity may be removed thus :
- from whence it is parted by a channel of 800 yards wide only.
In the following examples the sense is 'left doubtful by a wrong arrangement of members.
The minister who grows less by his elevation, like a lita tle statue placed on a mighty pedestal, will always have his jealousy ftrong about him.
Dissertation upon parties, dedication. Bolingbroke,
Here, fo far as can be gathered from the arrangement, it is doubtful, whether the object introduced by way of simile, relate to what goes before or to what follows: the ambiguity is removed by the following arrangement :
The minister who, like a little statue placed on a mighty pedestal, grows less by his elevation, will always, &c.
Since this is too much to ask of freemen, nay of flaves, if his expectation be not answered, shall he form a lasting division upon such transient motives?: ; . Ibid.
Since this is too much to ask of freemen, pay of flaves, shall he, if his expectations be not answered, form, &c.
Speaking of the superstitious practice of locking up the room where a person of distinction dies :
The knight, seeing his habitation reduced to so small a compass, and himself in a manner shut out of his own house, upon the death of his mother, ordered all the a: partments to be ffung open, and exorcised by his chaplain.
' Spectator, N° 110,
Better thus :
The knight, seeing his habitation reduced to so small a feompass, and himself in a manner shut out of his own house, ordered, upon the death of his mother, all the apartments to be flung open,
Speaking of some indecencies in conversation :
As it is impoffible for such an irrational way of con, versation to last long among a people that make any profeffion of religion, or show of modesty, if the countrygentlemen get into it, they will certainly be left in the lurch,
Spectator, No 119.
The ambiguity vanishes in the following arrangement;
- the the country.gentlemen, if they get into it, will certainly be left in the lurch,
Speaking of a discovery in natural philosophy, that colour is not a quality of matter :
As this is a truth which has been proved incontestably by many modern philosophers, and is indeed one of the finest speculations in that science, if the English reader would see the notion explained at large, he may find it in the eighth chapter of the second book of Mr Locke's efsay on human understanding. Spectator, No 413,
Better thus :
As this is a truth, &c. the English reader, if he would see the notion explained at large, may find it, &c.
A woman feldom asks advice before she has bought her wedding-cloaths. When she has made her own choice, for form's fake the sends a conge d'elire to her friends.
Ibid. No. 475
Better thus :
she sends, for form's fake, a conge d'elire to her
And since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, where fraud is permitted or connived at, or hath no law to punish it, the honest dealer is always undone, and the knave gets the advantage.
Gulliver's Travels, part 1. chap. 6.
Better thus :'
And since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, the honest dealer, where fraud is permitted or connived at, or hath no law to punish it, is always undone, and the knave gets the advantage.
From these examples, the following observation will readily occur, that a circumstance ought never to be placed between two capital members of a period; for by such situation it must always be doubtful, so far as we gather from the arrangement, to which of the two members it belongs : where it is interjected, as it ought to be, between parts of the member to which it belongs, the ambiguity is removed, and the capital members are kept distinct, which is a great beauty in composition. In general, to preserve members distinct that signify things distinguished in the thought, the best method is, to place first in the consequent member, some word that cannot connect with what precedes it. .
If by any one it shall be thought, that the objections here are too scrupulous, and that the defect of perspicuity is easily supplied by accurate punctuation; the answer is, That punctuation may remove an ambiguity, but will never produce that peculiar beauty which is perceived when the sense comes out clearly and distinctly by means of a happy arrangement. Such influence has this beauty, that by a natural transition