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Structure of Sentences.

ten be accompanied by, the advantages of fortune." In such instances we suffer pain from the violent separation of two things, which by nature are closely united.

The strength of a sentence is much injured by an unnecessary multiplication of relative and demonstrative particles. If a writer say, "There is nothing which disgusts me sooner than the empty pomp of language;" he expresses himself less forcibly, than if he had said, "Nothing disgusts me sooner than the empty pomp of language." The former mode of expression in the introduction of a subject, or in laying down a proposition to which particular attention is demanded, is very proper; but in ordinary discourse the latter is far preferable.

With regard to the relative we shall only observe, that in conversation and epistolary writing it may be omitted; but in compositions of a serious or dignified kind it should constantly be inserted.

On the copulative particle and, which occurs so often, several observations are to be made. It is evident, that an unnecessary repetition of it enfeebles style. By omitting it we often make a closer connexion, a quicker succession of objects, than when it is inserted between them. "Veni, vidi, vici," expresses with more spirit the rapidity of conquest, than if connecting particles had been used. When, however, we wish to prevent a quick transition from one object to another; and when enumerating objects which we wish to appear as distinct from each other as possible; copulatives may be multiplied with peculiar advantage. Thus Lord Bolingbroke says with

Structure of Sentences.

propriety, “such a man might fall a victim to power; but truth, and reason, and liberty, would fall with him."

The third rule for promoting the strength of a sentence is, dispose of the principal word or words in that part of the sentence, where they will make the most striking impression. Perspicuity ought first to be studied; and the nature of our language allows no great liberty of collocation. In general the important words are placed at the beginning of a sentence. Thus Mr. Addison :

"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." This order seems to be the most plain and natural. Sometimes, however, when we propose giving weight to a sentence, it is useful to suspend the meaning a little, and then to bring it out fully at the close. "Thus," says Pope, " on whatever side we contemplate Homer, what principally strikes us, is his wonderful invention."


The fourth rule for promoting the strength of sentences is, make the members of them go on rising in their importance one above another. This kind of arrangement is called a climax, and is ever regarded as a beauty in composition. Why it pleases is sufficiently evident." In all things we love to advance to what is more and more beautiful rather than to follow a retrograde order. Having viewed some considerable object, we cannot without pain descend to an inferior circumstance. Cavendum est," says Quintilian,❝ne decrescat oratio, et fortior subjungatur aliquid infirmius." A weaker assertion should never follow a stronger one; and, when a sen

Structure of Sentences.

tence consists of two members, the longest should in general be the concluding one. Periods, thus divided, are pronounced more easily; and, the shortest member being placed first, we carry it more readily in our memory, as we proceed to the second, and see the connexion of the two more clearly. Thus to say, "When our passions have forsaken us, we flatter ourselves with the belief that we have forsaken them," is both more graceful and more perspicuous, than to begin with the longest part of the proposition: "We flatter ourselves with the belief that we have forsaken our passions, when they have forsaken us."

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The fifth rule for constructing sentenees with strength is, avoid concluding them with an adverb, a preposition, or any insignificant word. By such conclusions style is always weakened and degraded. Sometimes indeed, where the stress and significancy rest chiefly upon words of this kind, they ought to have the principal place allotted them. No fault, for example, can be found with this sentence of Bolingbroke : their prosperity my friends shall never hear of me; in their adversity always;" where never and always, being emphatical words are so placed as to make a strong impression. But when these inferior parts of speech are introduced, as circumstances or as qualifications of more important words, they should always be disposed of in the least conspicuous parts of the period.

We should always avoid concluding a sentence or member with any of those particles which dis tinguish the cases of nouns ; as, of, to, from, with, bg. Thus it is much better to say, "Avarice is a

Structure of Sentences.

crime, of which wise men are often guilty," than to say, "Avarice is a crime which wise men are often guilty of." This is a phraseology which all correct writers shun.

A complex verb, compounded of a simple verb and a subsequent preposition, is also an ungraceful conclusion of a period; as bring about, clear up, give over, and many others of the same kind; instead of which, if a simple verb be employed, it will terminate the sentence with more strength. Even the pronoun it, especially when joined with some of the prepositions, as with it, in it, to it, cannot without violation of grace be the conclusion of a sentence. Any phrase, which expresses a circumstance only, cannot conclude a sentence without great inelegance. Circumstances indeed are like unshapely stones in a building, which try the skill of an artist where to place them with the least offence. We should not crowd too many of them together; but rather intersperse them in different parts of the sentence, joined with the principal words on which they depend. Thus, for instance, when Dean Swift says, "What I had the honor of mentioning to your Lordship some time ago in conversation, was not a new thought;" these two circumstances, some time ago and in conversation, which are joined, would have been better separated thus: "What I had the honor some time ago of mentioning to your Lordship in con


The sixth and last rule concerning the strength of a sentence is this, in the members of it, where two things are compared or contrasted; where either resemblance or opposition is to be expressed, some resemblance in the language and con

Structure of Sentences.... Harmony.

struction ought to be observed. The following passage from Pope's preface to his Homer, beautifully exemplifies this rule. "Homer was the greater genius; Virgil the better artist; in the one we admire the man; in the other the work. Homer hurries us with a commanding impetuosity; Virgil leads us with an attractive majesty. Homer scatters with a generous profusion; Virgil bestows with a careful magnificence. Homer, like the Nile, pours out his riches with a sudden overflow; Virgil, like a river in its banks, with a constant stream. When we look upon their machines, Homer seems like his own Jupiter in his terrors, shaking Olympus, scattering lightnings, and firing the heavens. Virgil like the same power in his benevolence, counselling with the gods, laying plans for empires, and ordering his whole creation." Periods, thus constructed, when introduced with propriety, and not too frequently repeated, have a sensible beauty. But, if such a construction be aimed at in every sentence, it betrays into a disagreeable uniformity, and produces a regular jingle in the period, which tires the ear, and plainly discovers affectation.


HAVING considered Sentences with regard to their meaning, under the heads of Perspicuity, Unity, and Strength, we shall now consider them with respect to their Sound.


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