« EelmineJätka »
most sparkling kind. A writer of this character shows by his attention to the choice of words, and to their graceful collocation, that he does not despise the beau ty of language. His sentences are always free from the incumbrance of superfluous words; of a moderate length; inclining rather to brevity, than a swelling structure; and closing with propriety. There is varie ty in his cadence; but no appearance of studied harmony. His figures, if he use any, are short and accurate, rather than bold and glowing. Such a style may be attained by a writer, whose powers of fancy or genius are not great, by industry and attention. This sort of style is not unsuitable to any subject whatever. A familiar epistle, or a law paper on the driest subject, may be written with neatness; and a sermon, or a phi losophical treatise in a neat style, is read with satisfaction.
An elegant style implies a higher degree of orna ment than a neat one; possessing all the virtues of or nament without any of its excesses or defects. Com'plete elegance implies great perspicuity and propriety; purity in the choice of words; and care and skill in their arrangement. It implies farther the beauties of imagination spread over style as far as the subject permits; and all the illustration which figurative language adds, when properly employed. An elegant writer in short, is one who delights the fancy and the ear, while he informs the understanding; who clothes his ideas
in all the beauty of expression, but does not overload them with any of its misplaced finery.
A florid style implies excess of ornament. young composer it is not only pardonable, but often a promising symptom. But, although it may be allowed to youth in their first essays, it must not receive the same indulgence from writers of more experience. In them judgment should chasten imagination, and reject every ornament which is unsuitable or redundant. That tinsel splendor of language which some writers perpetually affect, is truly contemptible. With such it is a luxuriancy of words, not of fancy. They forget that unless founded on good sense and solid thought, the most florid style is but a childish imposition on the public.
STYLE. SIMPLE, AFFECTED, VEHEMENT.
SIMPLICITY, applied to writing, is a term very commonly used; but, like many other critical terms, often used without precision. The different meanings of the word simplicity are the chief cause of this inaccuracy. It is therefore necessary to show in what sense simplicity is a proper attribute of style.
There are four different acceptations, in which this term is taken.
The first is simplicity of composition, as opposed to too great a variety of parts. This is the simplicity of plan in tragedy, as distinguished from double plots and crowded incidents; the simplicity of the Iliad in opposition to the digressions of Lucan; the simplicity of Grecian architecture in opposition to the irregular variety of the Gothic. Simplicity in this sense is the same with unity.
The second sense is simplicity of thought in opposition to refinement. Simple thoughts are those which flow naturally; which are suggested by the subject or occasion; and which, when once suggested, are easily understood by all. Refinement in writing means a less obvious and natural train of thought, which, when carried too far, approaches to intricacy, and displeases us by the appearance of being far sought. Thus Parnell is a poet of much greater simplicity in his turn of thought than Cowley. In these two senses simplicity has no relation to style.
The third sense of simplicity regards style, and is opposed to too much ornament, or pomp of language. Thus we say Mr. Locke is a simple, Mr. Harvey a Borid writer. A simple style, in this sense, coincides with a plain or neat style.
The fourth sense of simplicity also respects style; but it regards not so much the degree of ornament employed, as the easy and natural manner, in which our language expresses our thoughts. In this sense simplicity is compatible with the highest ornament. Homer, for example, possesses this simplicity in the greatest perfection; and yet no writer has more ornament and beauty. This simplicity is opposed not to ornament, but to affectation of ornament; and is a su perior excellence in composition.
A simple writer has no marks of art in his expression; it appears the very language of nature. We see not the writer and his labour, but the man in his own natural character. He may be rich in expression; he may be full of figures and of fancy; but these flow from him without effort; and he seems to write in his manner not because he had studied it, but because it is the mode of expression most natural to him. With this character of style a certain degree of negligence is not inconsistent; for too accurate an attention to words is foreign to it. Simplicity of style, like simplicity of manners, shows a man's sentiments and turn of mind without disguise. A more studied and artificial mode of writing, however beautiful, has always this disadvantage, that it exhibits an author in form, like a man at court, where splendor of dress and the ceremonial of behaviour conceal those peculiarities which distinguish one man from another. But reading
an author of simplicity is like conversing with a person of rank at home and with ease, where we see his natural manners and his real character.
With regard to simplicity in general, we may ob serve, that the ancient original writers are always most eminent for it. This proceeds from a very obvious cause; they wrote from the dictates of genius, and were not formed upon the labours and writings of others.
Of affectation, which is opposed to simplicity of style, we have a remarkable example in Lord Shaftesbury. Though an author of considerable merit, he expresses nothing with simplicity. He seems to have thought it vulgar, and beneath the dignity of a man of quality, to speak like other men. Hence he is ever in buskins; full of circumlocutions and artificial elegance. In every sentence we see marks of labour and art; nothing of that ease which expresses a sentiment com. ing natural and warm from the heart. He abounds with figures and ornament of every kind; is sometimes happy in them; but his fondness for them is too visible; and, having once seized some metaphor or allusion, that pleased him, he knows not how to part with it. He possessed delicacy and refinement of taste in a degree that may be called excessive and sickly; but he had little warmth of passion; and the coldness of his character suggested that artificial and stately manner which appears in his writings. No au