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When we have arrived at what we expect to be the conclusion; when we are come to the word, on which the mind is naturally led to rest; unexpectedly some circumstance is added, which ought to have been omitted, or disposed of elsewhere. Thus, for instance, in the following sentence from Sir William Temple, the adjection to the sentence is entirely foreign to it. Speaking of Burnet's Theory of the Earth, and Fontenelle's Plurality of Worlds; "The first," says be, "could "not end his learned treatise without a panegyric of modern learning in comparison of the ancient; and the other falls so grossly into the censure of the old poetry, and preference of the new, that I could not read either of these strains without some indignation ;, which no quality among men is so apt to raise in me, as self-sufficiency." The word " indignation” concludes the sentence; for the last meinber is added after the proper close..
STRUCTURE OF SENTENCES.
We now proceed to the third quality of a correct sentence, which'we termed strength. By this is meant such a disposition of the several words and members, as will exhibit the sense to the best advantage; as will render the impression, which the period is intended to make, most full and complete ; and give every word and cvery member its due weight and force. To the production of this effect, perspicuity and unity are absolutely necessary; but more is requisite. For a sentence may be clear; it may also be compact, or have the requisite unity; and yet, by some
unfavourable circumstance in the structure, it may fail in that strength or liveliness of impression which a more happy collocation would produce.
The first rule for promoting the strength of a sentence is, take from it all redundant words. Whatever can be easily supplied in the mind, is better omitted in the expression ; thus, "content with deserving a triumph, he refused the honour of it,” is better than “ being content with deserving a triumph, he refused the honour of it.” It: is one of the most useful exercises on reviewing what we have written, to contract that circuitous mode of expression, and to cut off those useless excrescences, which are usually found in a first draught. But we must be cautious of pruning so closely as to give a hardness and dryness to the style. Some leaves must be left to shelter and adorn the fruit.
As sentences should be cleared of sup Huous words, so also of superfluous members. Opposed to this, is the fault we frequently meet, the last member of a period being only a repetition of the former in a different dress. For example, speaking of beauty, "the very first discovery of it," says Addison, strikes the mind with inward joy, and spreads delight through all its faculties." In this instance, scarcely any thing is added by the second member of the sentence to what was expressed in the first. Tbough the flowing style of Addison may palliate such negligence ; yet it is generally true, that language, divested of this prolixity, is more strong and beautiful.
The second rule for promoting the strength of a sentence is, pay particular attention to the use of copulatives, relatives, and particles, em
ployed for transition and connexion. Some observations on this subject, which appear useful, shall be mentioned.
What is termed splitting of particles, or separating a preposition from the noun, which it governs, is ever to be avoided. For example,
though virtue borrows no assistance from, yet it may often 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 bimself 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 demaoded, 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 omiting it we often make a closer connexion, a quicker succession of objects, thaa 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 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 understand.
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 6 ne decrescat oratio, et fortior subjungatur aliquid infirmius.” A weaker assertion should never follow a stronger one; and, when a sentence 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."
The fifth role for constructing sentences 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 rests chietly upon words of this kind, they ought to have the principal place allotted to thein. No fault, for example, can be found with this sentence of Bolingbroke ; “ In 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 cir. cumstances, or as qualifications of more important words, they should always be disposed of in the least conspicuous parts of the period.