Page images
PDF
EPUB

In the first form of this sentence, are found two clauses, “to escape out of his hands” and “fled into the deserts of Numidia," which have the same relation to the other part of the sentence, and are constructed differently. In one, the form is that of the infinitive; in the other, of the past participle. In the sentence as corrected, this diversity is not found, and the meaning is more obvious. From this and similar examples may be inferred the following direction; when two or more clauses have the same relation to other parts of a sentence, they should, if possible, be made similar in their construction.

The two directions, that have now been given, should be particularly regarded in the composition of long sentences. It is generally supposed, that, in long sentences, there is danger of obscurity, and that they should be avoided. But let the two directions, that have been given, be observed ; let there be a leading word or phrase in the sentence, and all the parts be similarly constructed, and have a common reference to this leading part, and the sentence may be long without becoming obscure. This is seen in the following example :

“ He can render essential service to his country, by assisting in the disinterested administration of the laws; by watching over the principles and opinions of the lower classes around him; by diffusing among them those lights which may be important to their welfare ; by mingling frankly among them, gaining their confidence and becoming the immediate auditor of their complaints; by informing himself of their wants, and making himself a channel through which their grievances may be quietly communicated to the proper sources of mitigation; or by becoming, if need be, the intrepid and incorruptible guardian of their liberties, the enlightened champion of their wants."

EXAMPLE 4.-“ If he delights in these studies (Mathematics), he can have enough of them. He may bury himself in them as deeply as he pleases. He may revel in them incessantly, and eat, drink, and clothe himself with them."

“ He may revel in them incessantly, and eat them, drink them, and clothe himself with them."

In the first form of this sentence, there is a solecism, arising from the ellipsis. According to the statement there made, a student may eat and drink himself with Mathematics. The second form of the sentence is grammatically correct, and expresses the meaning of the writer. This example then suggests the necessity of caution in the use of elliptical expressions.*

EXAMPLE 5.—“ Whatever renders a period sweet and pleasant, makes it also graceful ; a good ear is the gift of nature ; it may be much improved, but not acquired by art; whoever is possessed of it, will rarely need dry critical precepts to enable him to judge of a true rightness and melody of composition; just numbers, accurate proportions, a musical symphony, magnificent figures and that decorum which is the result of all these, are in unison to the human mind; we are so framed by nature that their charm is irresistible.”

To make this sentence perspicuous, it would be necessary to remodel it entirely. It is an example of the violation of those principles, on which a discourse is divided into sentences. It neither has one subject, nor is there a connexion between its different parts. We may infer from it the general direction; not to unite in the same sentence those thoughts and statements which are distinct, and remotely connected with each other.

EXAMPLE 6.—“It is not without a degree of patient attention and persevering diligence, greater than the generality are willing to bestow, though not greater than the object deserves, that the habit can be acquired of examining and judging of our own conduct with the same accuracy and impartiality as that of another.”

The habit of examining our own conduct as accurately as that of another, and of judging of it with the same impartiality, cannot be acquired, without a degree of patient attention and persevering diligence, not greater indeed than the object deserves, but greater than the generality are willing to bestow."

This sentence is long, and the objection may be made to the first form of it, that no distinct meaning is conveyed

* See Parker's “ Exercises in English Grammar,” Part I. $ 114 ; nd Murray's Grammar, Rule xxii.

to the mind, till we arrive nearly at its close. This prevents its being readily and fully comprehended. In the corrected form the different parts are so arranged, that we take in the meaning of the different clauses as we proceed, and without difficulty or delay comprehend the full meaning of the entire sentence. The example suggests the important caution; That the different parts of long sentences be so constituted and arranged, that each part may be understood as the sentence proceeds, not leaving the meaning of the different parts, as well as of the whole sentence, to be gathered at its close.

Most of the faults in the composition of complex sentences, are connected with those clauses, which express some circumstances of the actions or objects mentioned. Some of these clauses are less intimately connected with the main thought expressed in the sentence than others, and the writer should always avoid crowding into one sentence more clauses expressing circumstances, than are absolutely necessary. But writers, sometimes, instead of observing this rule, bring into the same sentence circumstances, which are but very remotely connected with the leading thought of the sentence. One of our daily papers,

in an account of a man frozen to death, says: “ His head was supported by a bundle of clothing, but all efforts to revive the vital spark were fruitless.” Now it may be asked, what connexion the circumstance, that the man's head was supported by a bundle of clothing," has with the want of success in attempts to restore him to life.

But since there is difficulty in the right position of clauses, some directions will now be given, which may aid in their arrangement.

EXAMPLE 7.-" The moon was casting a pale light on the numerous graves that were scattered before me, as it peered above the horizon, when I opened the small gate of the church yard.”

When I opened the small gate of the church yard, the moon

as it peered above the horizon, was casting a pale light on the numerous graves that lay scattered before me.”

Any one will allow, that the image brought before the mind in the second form of this sentence, is more distinct and vivid, than that presented in the first. Upon comparing the two forms of the sentence, it will be seen, that all that has been done, is to alter the position of clauses expressing the circumstances of the action. Instead of being introduced near the close of the sentence, they are placed at its commencement. From this and similar instances it is inferred, that clauses expressing circumstances, must be placed as near as practicable to the beginning of a sentence. It is obvious that this direction will apply principally to those clauses expressing time or place, and not to those which are designed to affect the meaning of particular parts of the sentence.

EXAMPLE 8.-"There will therefore be two trials in this town at that time, which are punishable with death, if a full court should attend."

“ At that time, therefore, if a full court should attend, there will be two trials which are punishable by death.”

The first form of this sentence conveys a meaning different from that intended to be conveyed by the writer. According to this statement, the criminals might earnestly wish that a full court should not attend. This wrong meaning is given, by connecting the clause " if a full court should attend” with the wrong part of the sentence. In the corrected form, the position of this clause is changed, and the meaning of the writer is clearly conveyed. Hence then the rule may be inferred, that clauses expressing circumstances of the action, should be placed near that part of the sentence, the meaning of which they are designed to affect.

EXAMPLE 9.-“ Are these designs, which any man who is born a Briton, in any circumstances or in any situation, ought to be ashamed or afraid to avow ?

“ Are these designs, which any man who is born a Briton, ought, in any circumstances, or in any situation, to be ashamed to avow ?

This sentence consists of two members, the former ending at Briton, and the latter commencing with ought. The phrase “ in any circumstances or in any situation," is in the first form thrown in between the two members, and may be connected with either. By changing its position, and connecting it with the latter member of the sentence, all ambiguity is removed. Hence we may infer the following rule: A clause or phrase expressing a circumstance, ought never to be placed between two principal members of a sentence.

ON CONNECTIVES.

Under the head of Connectives, are included those words which are used to connect different sentences, or to connect different clauses and members of the same sentence. Much of the clearness and finish of style will depend upon the skilful use of this class of words. They are the articulations, or joints of a discourse; but in a well written production, they are like the joints in the human frame, which shew forth the skill of the Maker, and are essential to the perfection of the work.

A connective may be defined, as that word in a sentence or clause, without which, either expressed or im. plied, it could not be discovered, that what is said in the sentence, or clause, has any connexion with what precedes. To show more fully the nature of a connective, the following examples are given :

“ It is difficult for the most wise and upright government to correct the abuses of remote delegated power, productive of unmeasured wealth, and protected by the boldness and strength of the same illgot riches. These abuses, full of their own wild native vigour, will grow and flourish under mere neglect."

The connexion between the latter sentence and the preceding in this example, is denoted by the demonstra

« EelmineJätka »