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PREPOSITIONS AND CONJUNCTIONS,
MY YOUNG FRIEND,
285. These two parts of speech never vary their end. ings; are not controlled by any other parts of speech, and have been so fully explained in the Letters on the etymol. ogy of prepositions and conjunctions, and in the Letters on the syntax of nouns, pronouns, and verbs, that nothing more need be said, except just refering you back to the first named of these Letters. Before I conclude my in. structions, I will give you a few examples of errors in these parts of speech; not because I think you need them, for it cannot be that you are not fully master of these trilling affairs; but because I wish to show, that trifling as they are, writers of reputation sometimes misuse them, and by their example mislead others.
286. Now, my young friend, you have finished your study of the rules by which you are to construct sentences. But there are a few things yet to lcarn. These, however, if jou reflected at all, common sense would teach you, even if you had no knowledge of grammar: “ The people will not no longer submit to such dictation. They will not no longer be deluded by the cry of party.” These very expressions I heard made use of by a speaker when addressing a meet. ing of several hundred citizens. To such an orator, the perusal of this book will be the most profitable employ. ment of time that he can possibly determine upon. It will have a tendency to make him think ; and this is a matter that he seems to have considered entirely beneath his notice! “The people will no not longer ;" that is, they will longer ; for you know that there can be but "longer,"
and “ no longer ;" and if the people will not have the “no longer," of course they must have the " longer.” “I can't find no mistake ;" that is, I find a mistake
; for there are but " mistake,” and “no mistake;" and if I cannot find the latter, I must necessarily find the former. “He has’nt nothing." Now you know that there can be but something, and nothing; and this being so, the person must have one or the other; if he has not " nothing," then he certainly must have “something.”
287, "Goup above ;" " go down below;" and even “ascend up above ;” and “ descend down below," are expressions that we frequently hear; but these are on a par with "a deaf and dumb mute that could not hear nor speak.” “ Go up," and " go down,'' are quite as perspicuous as they can be made. “ Band of music," too, is a phrase that is almost invariably used to designate a company of instrumental musicians. But it is not correct. Music is what this band produces. It is not the band itself; or what it is composed of; and we can just as properly say “ a band of robbery;" "a band of smuggling ;" " a company of painting ;" " company of poetry;" "a party of singing ;" or, "a club of authorship.” - A band of musicians," or,
musical band,” is correct.
288. In figurative language, a great many errors are como mitted. " The course of true love never did run smooth." The course of a river or stream, is the direction of it; and few indeed, would say, the direction of a river runs smooth. The great mass would say, “the current runs smooth ;" or " the course runs straight;" and therefore the sentence should be," the current of true love never did run smooth;" or, " the course of true love never did run straight."
289. These are some of the things which I mentioned that common sense would teach you. But there are some other matters which it is important that I should speak to you concerning : Figurative language, as have already told you, is employed to give strength and elevation to our ideas : "Give me liberty, or death!” This is a forcible expression; but it is much improved by clothing it in figurative language: “Let me rest in the temple of freedom, or sleep in the cavern of death !" Here you have two strong and just figures introduced. What can be more
delightful than the thought of resting one's weary limbs in a commodious temple, reared in the midst of perpetual verdure, and surrounded by life, peace, and prosperity. And this is but a simile of a free government. How true it is, that her citizens enjoy all these blessings! To build up such a temple, in which to find shelter from the rays of the burning sun, and to enjoy the beauty of the prospect, the freshness of the air, the invigoration of surrounding animation, and the salubrity of the whole scene, seems to be the first, if not the only object of social existence. But in contrast with all this, what can be more gloomy, or more calculated to fill the soul with despair, than the thought of sleeping forever in a cold, damp, black, and unexplored cavern! Our mind here conjures up every thing that is horrid. The cold sweats of death standing in drops upon us! the loathsome worm crawling over us! the hungry cormorant screeching for our flesh! But even these, great as may be the abhorrence of them, our revolutionary fathers, rather than not secure the object which they considered they were placed here to accomplish, preferred, to living under the roof of oppression, mighty though it is, with the reproaches, perhaps the curses, of their fellow citizens following them to the end of time !
290. In making use of figures, you must be very cautious, or you will be led astray; and instead of writing what you think reaches the sublime, you may be writing that which sinks to the ridiculous. “ How many a human being now lives whose feeble light is glimmering in the socket of mortality, soon to be extinguished by the chilling puff of fate!" This may sound tolerably well; it is quite smooth; but it will not bear examination: “ Whose feeble light is glimmering;" now, if the light be feeble, of course it must glimmer; it cannot shine resplendently; and there. fore, this part of the sentence is senseless. “Soon 10 be extinguished by the chilling puff of fate.” This approaches the ridiculous. Fate, as here invested with the functions of life, is supposed to be rough, boisterous, and unpitying; and to say that the blast of such an all sweeping ruler, is a “gentle wind,” is rather laugbable. And then, too, the light of life is not only extinguished, but it is chilled and pre
vented from burning as brightly as before! That is, “the man was not only killed, but was crippled forever after !" Alter " feeble,” to waning light; for many things glimmer which are not waning; the light of a candle, at first glimmers, but it is not then waning. Leave out " chilling," and alter “puff” to gust, and the sentence, will be correct, vigorous, and lofty. “How many a human being now lives, whose waning light is glimmering in the socket of mortality, soon to be extinguished by the gust of fate!"This is good; but the idea may be extended, and, in force, improved. And this liberty of extending an idea, is allowed, if clothed in different language, in order that ihe writer may the more fully accomplish the object he has in view ; and the object, in this instance, is, to excite pity for suffering humanity.-" How many a fellow creature is now tot. tering upon the brink of Oblivion, while the frosts of Adversity are falling heavily upon him, soon to send him, a human icicle, to the mighty Gulf below! How many a CHILD OF VIRTUE, BUT AN HEIR OF MISFORTUNE, now breathes, to whom the northern blast must be the embalming tincture, and the snows of the coming year, the wind. ing sheet!"
291. Enough is here given, to show you the power of figurative language, and the necessity that exists for care in employing it. And I have now nothing more to do to finish my instructions, than to give you some specimens of bad writing from some of the best authors.
VIOLATIONS OF THE RULES OF ENGLISH GRAMMAR, TAKEN FROM THE SPECTATOR, THE PRODUCTION OF STEELE AND ADDISON, AND GENERALLY CONSIDERED TO BE ONE OF THE MOST CORRECTLY WRITTEN WORKS, PUBLISHED IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
ARTICLES. “ It is usually observed that a good reign is the only proper time for making of laws."--Spec. No. 98.
“ Is the only proper time for the making of laws," or, " is the only proper time for making laws," the sentence should stand.
NOUNS. “Of these sort of men.”—Spec. No. 49. " Sorts,” I need hardly tell you this should be.
“ The case of my correspondent, who sends me the fol. lowing letter, has somewhat in it so very whimsical, that I know not how to entertain my readers better than by laying it before them."-Spec. No. 596.
* Somewhat” will do, in some instances, to supply the place of someTHING, as, “ this is somewhat of an error ;" but it will not do in this. " Has something in it,” is alone correct. In this extract there is another error: “The case of my correspondent, who sends me the fol. lowing letter, has something in it, so very whimsical that I know not how to entertain my readers, better than by laying it before them.” What noun does the first it" supply the place of? “ Case.” And what noun does the second "it" supply the place of ? “case," again. So that, the sentence as written by the author, is, “ The case of my correspondent, who sends me the following letter, has something in it so very whimsical that I know not how to entertain my readers better than by laying his case before them;" which is not what the author meant. He meant the last "it" to stand for “letter."
PRONOUNS. “There are so many gratifications, attend this public sort of obscurity, that some little distastes I daily receive, have lost their anguish.” -Spec. No. 4. “ There are
many gratifications attend;" this ought to be, " There are so many gratifications which attend.” Or, the first two words of the sentence ought to be omitted; as, “so many gratifications attend this public sort of obscurity.”
“ I shall endeavour to point out all those imperfections that are the blemishes, as well as those virtues which are the embellishments of the sex."-Spec. No. 10.
Here is an error which I endeavoured to guard you against in the Letter on pronouns. It is not one of gram. mar; but one of taste; it is an affectation of fine style ; but instead of elevating, it degrades the sentence.