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“ it out for ever.” His portraiture of Tristram Shandy also abounds with many passages of uncommon beauty, and many touches of pathos and flights of fancy that have never been surpassed, and but seldom equalled. In the characters of Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim he has, as an eminent writer observes, exalted and honoured humanity, and impressed on his readers so lively a picture of kindness and benevolence, blended with courage, gallantry, and single-mindedness, that their hearts cannot but be warmed and influenced by the most kindly feelings towards their fellow-creatures, whenever his beautiful portraitures are recalled to memory. But while his beautiful delineations of character, his exquisite pathos, and originality of thought and fancy, interest and delight, it should be remembered that his fascinating and luxurious delineations of passion, and his high-wrought descriptions of unlawful pleasure, are dangerous auxiliaries to the natural latent propensities of a fervid constitution, and are incompatible with just ideas of feminine purity.
Among other English authors who are distinguished for their attainment of this species of style, the following are deserving of imitation : – Dr. Gregory's “ Comparative View," the prose writings of Cowley, and Percy's “Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.”
The works of Shakspeare not only contain some of the sweetest and most delicious touches of genuine poetry and passion, but afford many beautiful specimens of the truest simplicity of thought and diction. Burke's “ Treatise on the Subliine and Beautiful” is also distinguished for its simple and unaffected expression, and forms a remarkable contrast to his “ Letter to a Noble Lord," which is written in the fervid and brilliant language of romance. The language of the matchless and
never-dying narrative of Robinson Crusoe (whose author possessed the power of investing fiction with the air of the most literal and unquestionable truth beyond any writer, ancient or modern, except Swift, in his Gulliver's Travels,) is also beautifully simple and perspicuous. The “Commentaries on the Laws of England,” by Blackstone, are not only the most perfect and finished outline ever exhibited of any science, but a perfect model of neat and elegant simplicity of composition, and will (as Dr. Bever observes in his “ History of the Legal Polity of the Roman State”) be an impregnable barrier against the inroads which pedantry and affectation may attempt to introduce into the English language. (1) In sweetness and simplicity of style, as well as in elegance and grace of expression, the letters of Gray, Cowper, and Burns are of great and distinguished merit, and form appropriate models of that species of composition.
To the student of Greek and Latin composition it may not be useless to observe, that the works particularly deserving attention for simplicity of style and perspicuity of expression in those languages are those of Homer, Sophocles, Hesiod, Herodotus, Xenophon, Theocritus, Horace, Terence, Phædrus, Cæsar, Demosthenes, the philosophical writings of Cicero, and the practical treatises on ethics and politics of Aristotle. No writer, ancient or modern, excels, or even equals, Terence and Phædrus in the rarest and most difficult of attainment of all the distinctions of composition—simplicity of style.
The authors of celebrity in the English language who have offended most against the canons of simplicity of diction are Shaftesbury, Gibbon, and Hervey.
The style of Shaftesbury, though nervous, rich, and varied, and distinguished for its musical structure and harmonious cadence, is often affected and artificial. Gibbon's style is very deficient in purity and simplicity of diction, and abounds with affected circumlocutions and forced and redundant epithets. It is also vitiated by too studious imitation of the Greek and Roman models of composition, and by inversions and transpositions in the construction of sentences analogous to the idiom and genius of those languages. Yet, with all its floridness and want of chasteness of expression, “ The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” abounds in splendid and felicitous specimens of diction, and exhibits an extraordinary degree of polish, richness, and elegance of language, with deep philosophical thought, and the most correct knowledge of just and enlightened principles of legislation. Few works in the English language are written in so florid a manner as those of Hervey, his style of composition consisting in the mere glare and glitter of expression-a defect which greatly depreciates the worth and utility of the valuable admonitions and instructive reflections of their pious and well-intentioned author.
The English writers whose style is remarkable for its conciseness, that is, whose thoughts are expressed in the fewest possible words, are Locke, Reid, Raleigh, Ossian, and Bacon. Among the Greek and Roman writers, Aristotle, Demosthenes, the historians Tacitus, Thucydides, and Sallust, Euclid the geometrician, and among foreign modern authors Montesquieu in his “ Spirit of Laws,” are splendid examples of a condensed and forcible style. The orations of Demosthenes are a perfect model of an energetic conciseness of style. Never did a speaker live so select in the choice of his words, so economical in their use, and who possessed so luminous a condensation of thought and expression. Every word and sentence of his energetic style are pregnant with meaning. The style of Aristotle and Tacitus is also nervously concise ; but in their efforts at extreme condensation of thought and expression, they are frequently so elliptical as to become enigmatically obscure. “ The Elements of Euclid” exhibit a splendid specimen of clear and precise phraseology; they are unmatched for logical strictness of deduction and for the retrenchment of every unnecessary word or idea. “ Our Bacon,” to adopt the vivid expression of an ingenious critic, also possessed “ so wonderful a
, talent for packing thought close,” that it may be doubted whether any writer, ancient or modern, has compressed more thought in a smaller compass than he has done. Among numerous passages the following may be cited as a proof of his perfection in this great attribute of composition :
“ Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them, for they teach not their own use; that is a wisdom without them, and won by observation. Read not to contradict, nor to believe, but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he hath need have a great memory; if he confer little, have a present wit; and if he read little, have much cunning to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise, poets (poetry] witty, the mathematics subtle, natural philosophy deep, morals grave, logic and rhetoric able to contend."
But either extreme, whether of conciseness or of prolixity, is equally a defect in composition, and equally injurious to the favourable acceptance and effective impression of either oral or written discourse. To obviate the disadvantageous effect of these imperfections of style, the following methods of grammatical construction, for the purpose of attaining variety of expression, may be adopted : 1st. Invert or trans
pose the phraseology in which you intend to express your thoughts. 2d. Change an active form of expression to that of a passive construction, and vice versâ. 3d. Instead of simple, direct, or positive terms of affirmation, clothe the expression in a negative dress, and vice versâ. 4th. Employ repetition; that is, the same sentiment or argument should be repeated in different forms of expression, each in itself brief, but altogether affording such an expansion of the sense to be conveyed, and so detaining the mind upon it, as the case may require. And 5th. Having expanded the sentiment, compress the meaning intended to be conveyed into one short pithy sentence. Cicero, among the ancients, and Burke, among the moderns, afford admirable examples of the employment and application of these modes of composition. In his “ Reflections on the Revolution in France,” the last-mentioned author furnishes the following illustration of the fifth mode:
“ Power, of some kind or other, will survive the shock in which manners and opinions perish; and it will find other and worse
means for its support. The usurpation which, in order to subvert “ ancient institutions, has destroyed ancient principles, will hold “ power by arts similar to those by which it has acquired it. When “ the old feudal and chivalrous spirit of fealty, which, by freeing “ kings from fear, freed both kings and subjects from the precaution “ of tyranny, shall be extinct in the minds of men, plots and “ assassinations will be anticipated by preventive murder and pre“ ventive confiscation, and that long roll of grim and bloody “ maxims which form the political code of all power, not standing “ on its own honour and the honour of those who are to obey it. “ Kings will be tyrants from policy when subjects are rebels from “ principle.”
The elegant or graceful style possesses not only the qualities of the simple or natural style, but also copiousness of expres