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The following example, the latter form of which is that of Rhetorical dialogue, both illustrates this remark, and furnishes evidence of its truth :
“ Two hereditary enemies among the Highlands met face to face on a narrow pass. They turned deadly pale at the fatal rencontre. Bendearg first addressed his enemy, and reminded him, that he was first at the top of the arch, and had called on him to lie down that he might pass over. He was answered by an assurance from Cairn, that when the Grant prostrates himself before a Macpherson it must be with a sword through his body. Bendearg then proposed to him to turn back and repass as he came. In reply, he was directed himself to turn back, if he liked it.”
“ They turned deadly pale at the fatal rencontre. first at the top,' said Bendearg, ' and called out first, lie down that I may pass orer in peace. When the Grant prostrates himself before a Macpherson,' answered the other, ‘ it must be with a sword through his body.' • Turn back, then,' said Bendearg, and repass as you came.' 'Go back yourself, if you like it,' replied Grant."
Though several circumstances have been thus mentioned as conducive to vivacity of style, it should be remembered, that the foundation of this quality of style is in the mind of the writer. What has now been said is designed only to point out some of the different ways in which the excited feelings manifest themselves. The best direction then, which can be given for the attainment of vivacity of style, is to become interested in the discussion of the subject itself.
EUPIONY, or smoothness of sound, is the next quality of a good style to be considered. This is attained by the use of such words, as in themselves and in their succession in the sentence, are grateful to the ear.
There can be no doubt, that this quality of style is acquired more by imitation than by the observance of rules. Hence any directions for its attainment, are of little practical importance. Still it may be useful for the writer to remember, that the intermingling of long and short syllables, the frequent recurrence of open vowel sounds, and the avoiding of those successions of consonants which are difficult of utterance, are favourable to smoothness of style. He should know also, that certain successions of syllables are well suited to that cadence or falling of the voice, which marks the close of the sentence. And as a general remark it may be said that what it is easy to read, is smooth in its sound to the ear. But the best and most practical direction, which can be given, is, to attune the ear by the frequent reading aloud of those writings in which this quality of style is found.
It should make no difference with respect to the attention paid to the smoothness of style, that our writings are designed to be read silently, and not pronounced aloud. So closely is the sound of words associated with their appearance to the eye, that though no voice is uttered in reading them, they are mentally pronounced, and the ear passes its judgment on the smoothness of their sound.
The attention of writers is rarely directed to this quality of style any further, than to the avoiding of faults. But it is sometimes found to that extent, that it becomes a positive excellence and a high recommendation. The following sentence of Sterne, has been pronounced one of the most musical in our language :
“ The accusing spirit, which flew up to heaven's chancery with the oath, blushed as he gave it in, and the recording angel, as he wrote it down, dropped a tear upon the word, and blotted it out for. ever.”
Young writers in their attempts after harmony of style, sometimes fall into a measured manner of writing, which may here be noticed. It is characterized by the occurrence of successive sentences, and sometimes paragraphs which may be scanned, the regular return of the accented syllable being in accordance with the rules of versification. This is especially the case in those passages, where the writer becomes excited, and thoughts
are conveyed, which are fitted to affect the feelings and call the imagination into exercise. This measured manner, since it violates one of the distinctive differences of prose and poetry, is as great a fault in prose writings, as the absence of it is a defect in poetry. And when, as is sometimes the case, it is united with extravagances of thought and bombastic forms of expression, it is to a high degree disgusting. In such instances there is a radical deficiency of literary taste. But sometimes passages, thus measured, will be found in the writings of those, whose style is not otherwise to be censured; and here it will generally be a sufficient remedy to direct the attention to the fault.
The epithet natural, is frequently applied to style. Our works on Rhetoric want a noun to express
quality here implied. Simplicity is sometimes used, but as this word is more frequently found in a different sense, I shall introduce the term naturalness.
NATURALNESS, as a quality of style, implies that a writer in the choice of his words—in the form of his sentences --in the ornaments he uses, and in his turns of thought and expression, commends himself to every man of good sense and good taste, as having pursued the course best suited to his subject and occasion. In this way, it is opposed to affectation of every kind. But the following illustrations will aid in more fully stating in what sense the word is used.
When we look on some of the beautiful remains of ancient statuary, we pronounce them natural in their appearance. By this expression we mean nothing more than that their appearance is such, as, in our opinion, it should be—such as is in consonance with our experience and observation. There is no violent contortion of the features, no forced attitude with the design of producing effect, but the image stands and appears as a man should do, in the circumstances and situation in which it is
placed. In the same manner we say of a graceful dancer, who from long practice has learned to move gracefully and apparently without effort or rule, that he moves naturally, and we mean the same as in the former instance. Now should we say of the image, that there is much naturalness in its appearance; and of the dancer, that there is much naturalness in his movements, we should use the word in the same sense in which it is here applied to style. The writer who has naturalness of style, expresses himself in that easy, unlaboured manner, which commends itself to our favour. He selects and uses his words, and forms and connects his sentences, just as we should suppose any man might do, who should write on the same subject-just as we think perhaps we could and should do, unless we attempt to imitate him. We seem to hear him thinking aloud, and his thoughts flow forth to us in the same order, and with the same clearness, with which they sprung up in his own mind. He never appears to stop for a moment, to consider in what way he shall express himself, but thinks only of what he shall say. Let but one far-fetched expression, one forced comparison, or one extravagant thought be found, and the charm is gone.
The inquiry may here be made, whether by naturalness of style may not be meant that mode of writing, which is suited to the intellectual habits and attainments of an author-a style in which a writer shows himself, whatever his intellectual character may be. It may
be answered, that, if this were the correct use of the term, naturalness, instead of denoting the highest excellences of style, would often express its greatest faults and deformities.
The word is here used as referring to a common standard, which is found in the mind of every man whose taste is not perverted and vitiated. This may be clearly shown by referring to the illustration before introduced. Every one, while looking on the performance of a graceful dancer, would say that his movements are easy and natural. But should any one, unacquainted with the rules and practice of the art, attempt to dance, his movements might be natural to himself, but no one would think of applying to them the word natural, in the same sense as in the former instance. A manner of writing may therefore be natural to a writer, when we should not think of ascribing to him the merit of naturalness of style.
This illustration may be still further continued, with the view of showing in what way this quality may be obtained.
Were it asked in what way the awkward dancer may attain the easy and graceful movements of the other, it would be answered, by pursuing a similar course of instruction and practice. Some, either from the form of their bodies or from previous habits, would acquire these easy and natural movements more readily than others, and a few perhaps might need but little practice, and little aid from the rules of the art. But these would be regarded as exceptions to what is more generally the
In the same manner, to acquire naturalness of style, there is need of instruction and practice. A few, either from the original constitution of their minds, or from previous habits of thought and conversation, fall into it easily. Others, in their first attempts, find much difficulty, and it is with them the fruit of long practice in writing and a careful observance of rules. It may appear paradoxical, that what is called natural should be the result of art and labour. But this incongruity is removed, if we consider that the object of this art and labour is to bring us back to nature.
Naturalness of style is not confined to any species of writing. It is found alike in the most artless narrations, and in the most elevated descriptions in the story that