Page images

former faults. The words which are used may be proper ; that is, they may express the idea intended, and they may express it fully; but to be precise, signifies that they express that idea and no more.

281. The great source of a loose style in opposition to precision, is the injudicious use of words termed synonymous. They are called synonymous because they agree in expressing one principal idea; but, for the most part, if not always, they express it with some diversity in the circumstances.

282. The following instances show a difference in the meaning of words reputed synonymous, and point out the use of attending, with care and strictness, to the exact import of words.

Custom, habit.-Custom, respects the action; habit, the actor. By custom, we mean the frequent repetition of the same act; by babit, the effect which that repetition produces on the mind or body. By the custom of walking often in the streets, one acquires a habit of idleness.

Pride, vanity.--Pride, makes us esteem ourselves; vanity, makes us desire the esteem of others. It is just to say, that a man is too proud to be vain.

Haughtiness, disdain. Haughtiness, is founded on the high opinion we entertain of ourselves; disdain, on the low opinion we have of others.

Only, alone.-Only, imports that there is no other of the same kind; alone, imports being accompanied by no other. An only child, is one that has neither brother nor sister; a child alone, is one who is left by itself. There is a difference, therefore, in precise language, between these two phrases : “ Virtue only makes us happy ;” and “Virtue alone makes us happy.”

Wisdom, prudence.-Wisdom, leads us to speak and act what is most proper. Prudence, prevents our speaking or acting improperly.

Entire, complete. -A thing is entire, by wanting none of its parts : complete, by wanting none of the appendages that belong to it. A man may have an entire house to himself, and yet not have one complete apariment.

Surprised, astonished, amazed, confounded. I am surprised with what is new or unexpected; I am astonished at what is vast or great; I am amazed at what is incomprehensible ; I am confounded by what is shocking or terrible.

Tranquillity, peace, calm.- Tranquillity, respects a situation free from trouble, considered in itself; peace, the same siiuation with respect to any causes that might interrupt it; calm, with regard to a disturbed situation going before or following it. A good man enjoys tranquillity, in himself ; peace, with others; and calm, after the storm.

283. While we are attending to precision, we must be on our guard, lest, from the desire of pruning too closely, we retrench all copiousness. To unite copiousness and precision, to be full and easy, and at the same time correct and exact in the choice of every word, is, no doubt, one of the highest and most difficult attainments in writing.

284. The pupil may correct the following sentences.

He was of so high and independent a spirit, that he abhorred and detested being in debt.

Though raised to an exalted station, she was a pattern of piety, virtue, and religion.

His end soon approached; and he died with great courage and fortitude.

He was a man of so much pride and vanity, that he despised the sentiments of others.

Poverty induces and cherishes dependence; and dependence strengthens and increases corruption.

This man, on all occasions, treated his inferiors with great haughtiness and disdain.

There can be no regularity or order in the life and conduct of that man, who does not give and allot a due share of his time, to retirement and reflection.

Such equivocal and ambiguous expressions, mark a formed intention to deceive and abuse us.


Clearness, Unity, Strength and Harmony. 285. Sentences, in general, should neither be very long, nor very short : long ones require close attention to make us clearly perceive the connexion of the several parts; and short ones are apt to break the sense, and weaken the connexion of thought. Yet occasionally they may both be used with force and propriety.

A train of sentences, consiructed in the same manner, and with the same number of members, should never be allowed to succeed one another. A long succession of either long or short sentences should also be avoided; for the ear tires of either of them when too long continued.

Whereas, by a proper mixture of long and short periods, and of periods variously construcied, not only the ear is gratified; but animation and force are given to our style.

286. The essential requisites of a perfect sentence are clearness, unity, strength and harmony.

287. By clearness is meant distinctness of expression, easiness to be understood, freedom from ambiguity, &c.

288. A sentence is clear when the meaning is easily understood, and the expressions are such as to leave no doubt of what the writer intends.

289. By the unity of a sentence is meant, that it contains one principal idea ; and that it has one subject or nominative, which is the governing word from the beginning to the end.

290. By the strength of a sentence is meant such a choice and arrangement of its words and members, as will exhibit the sense to the best advantage, give every word its due weight and force, and thereby convey a clear, strong, and full idea of the writer's meaning.

291. By the harmony of a sentence is meant its agreeableness to the ear. It requires such an attention to the sound of words and members as to avoid all harsh and disagreeable combinations, when others equally expressive can be selected. This property, however, should never be sought at the expense either of clearness, unity or strength.


292. The first requisite of a perfect sentence is clearness.

293. Whatever leaves the mind in any sort of suspense as to the meaning, ought to be avoided. Obscurity arises from two causes ; either from a wrong choice of words, or a wrong arrangement of them.

The first thing to be studied is grammatical propriety. But there may be an obscure order of words, where there is no transgression of any grammatical rule. The relations of words, or members of a period, are ascertained only by the position in which they stand.

294. Hence, in the arrangement of sentences the principal rule is that the words or members, most clearly related, should be placed in the sentences as near to each other as possible, so as to make their mutual relation clearly appear.

To show the importance of this rule, a few examples of bad arrangement are here presented.

In the position of the Adverb.


295. There is a cavern in the island of Hoonga, one of the Tonga islands which can only be entered by diving into the

Here the position of the adverb only makes it qualify can be entered, and the sentence implies that nothing can be done with the cavern, except entering it,“ by diving into the sea." The proper position of the adverb is before the expression “ by diving ; thus, “ which can be entered only by diving into the sea,” and then the sentence implies, as the writer intended, that the only way of entering is, “by diving,” &c.

296. So likewise in the expression “ It had almost been his daily custom,” the adverb is misplaced. It should be “It had been his almost daily custom,” &c.

The pupil may correct errors in the following sentences. 297. Hence the impossibility appears, that an undertaking managed so, should prove successful.

May not we here say with the poet, that “ Virtue is its own reward ?

Had he died before, would not then this art have been wholly unknown?

Not to exasperate him, I only spoke a very few words.

It may be proper to give some account of those practices, anciently used on such occasions, and only discontinued through the neglect and degeneracy of later times.

Sixtus the fourth was, if I mistake not, a great collector of books at least.

If Louis XIV, was not the greatest king, he was the best actor of majesty, at least that ever filled a throne.

By greatness, I do not only mean the bulk of any single object, but the largeness of a whole view.

I was engaged formerly in that business, but I never shall be again concerned in it.

We do those things frequently, which we repent of afterwards.

By doing the same thing, it often becomes habitual.

Raised to greatness without merit, he employed his power for the gratification solely of his passions.

297. Attention must be paid to the position of circumstances, and of particular members.

An author, in his dissertation on parties, thus expresses himself: “ Are these designs which any man, who is born a Briton, in any circumstances, in any situation, ought to be ashamed or afraid to avow ?" Here we are left at a loss, whether these words,“ in any circumstances, in any situa. tion,” are connected with “a man born in Briton, in any circumstances or situation," or with that man's “ avowing his designs in any circumstances or situation into which he may be brought.” As it is probable that the latter was intended, the arrangement ought to have been conducted thus : Are these designs which any man, who is born a Briton, ought to be ashamed or afraid, in any situation, in any circumstances, to avow ?.".

298. It is a rule too, never to crowd many circumstances together, but rather to intersperse them in different parts of the sentence, joined with the principal words on which they depend. For instance: “What I had the opportunity of mentioning to my friend, some time ago, in conversation, was not a new thought.”. These two circumstances, some time ago, and“ in conversation,which are here put together, would have had a better effect disjoined, thus: “What I had the opportunity, some time ago, of mentioning to-my friend in conversation, was not a new thought."

299, Words expressing things connected in the thought, ought to be placed as near together as possible, even when their separation would convey no ambiguity. This will be seen in the following passages from Addison. “ For the English are naturally fanciful, and very often disposed, by that gloominess and melancholy of temper which are so frequent in our nation, to many wild notions and extravagancies, to which others are not so liable.” Here the verb or assertion is, by a pretty long circumstance, separated from the subject to which it refers. This might have been easily prevented, by placing ihe circumstance before the verb, thus : “For the English are naturally fanciful, and by that gloominess and melancholy of temper which are so frequent in our nation, are often disposed to many wild notions,” &c.

300. From these examples, the following observations will occur : that a circumstance ought never to be placed between two capital members of a period; but either between the parts of the member to which it belongs, or in such a manner as will confine it to its proper member. When the sense admits it, the sooner a circumstance is introduced, generally speaking, the better, that the more important and significant words may possess the last place, quite disencumbered. The following sentence is, in this respect, faulty. “The Emperor was so intent on the establishment of his absolute power in Hungary, that he exposed the empire doubly lo desolation and ruin for the sake of it.” Better thus: “ That, for the sake of it, he exposed the empire doubly to desolation and ruin."

301. This appears to be a proper place to observe, that when different things have an obvious relation to each other, in respect to the order of nature or time, that order should be regarded, in assigning them their places in the sentence; unless the scope of the passages require it to be varied. The conclusion of the following lines is inaccurate in this respect : “But still there will be such a mixture of delight, as is proportioned to the degree in which any one of these qualifications is most conspicuous and prevailing: The order in which the last two words are placed, should be reversed, and made to stand, prevailing and conspicuous. They are conspicuous, because they prevail.

[ocr errors]

The pupil may now correct the following sentences. 302. The embarrassments of the artificers, rendered the progress very slow of the work.

He found the place replete with wonders, of which he proposed to solace himself with the contemplation, if he should never be able to accomplish his flight.

They are now engaged in a study, of which they have long wished to know the usefulness.

This was an undertaking, which, in the execution, proved as impracticable, as had turned out every other of their pernicious, yet abortive schemes.

Frederick seeing it was impossible to trust, with safety, his life in their hands, was obliged to take the Mahometans for his guard.

However, the miserable remains were, in the night, taken down.

I have settled the meaning of those pleasures of the imagination, which are the subject of my present undertaking, by way of introduction, in this paper; and endeavored to recommend the pursuit of these pleasures to my readers, by several considerations: I shall examine the several sources from whence these pleasures are derived, in my next paper.

Fields of corn form a pleasant prospect; and if the walks were a little taken care of that lie between them, they would display neatness, regularity, and elegance.

I have confined myself to those methods for the advancement of piety, which are in the power of a prince, limited like ours, by a strict execution of the laws.

Though energetic brevity is not adapted alike to every subject, we ought to avoid its contrary, on every occasion, a languid redundancy of words. It is proper to be copious sometimes, but never to be verbose.

Let but one great, brave, disinterested, active man arise, and he will be received, venerated, and followed.

The scribes made it their profession to teach and to study the law of Moses.

Sloth pours upon us a deluge of crimes and evils, and saps the foundation of every virtue.

« EelmineJätka »