« AnteriorContinuar »
ed to embellish it. Here the style of different authors seems to rise in the following gradation ; a dry, a plain, a neat, an elegant, a flowery manner.
A dry manner excludes exery kind of ornament. Content with being understood, it aims not to please either the fancy or the ear. This is tolerable only in pure didactic writing; and even there, to make us bear it, great solidity of matter and entire perspicuity of language are required, A plain style rises one degree above a dry
A writer of this character employs very little ornament of any kind, and rests almost entirely upon his sense. But, though, he does not engage us by the arts of composition, he avoids disgusting us like a dry and harsh writer.
Beside perspicuity, he observes propriety, purity, and precision in his language; which form no inconsiderable degree of beauty. Liveliness and force are also compatible with a plain style ; and therefore such an author, if his septiments be good, may be sufficiently agreeable. The difference between a dry and a plain writer is this; the former is incapable of ornament; the latter goes not in pursuit of it. Of those, who have employed the plain style, Dean Swift is an eminent example.
A neat style is next in order; and here we are advanced into the region of ornament; but not of the most sparkling kind. A writer of this character shows by his attention to the choice of words, and to their graceful collocation, that he does not despise the beauty of language. His sentences are always free from the incumbrance of superfluous words ; of a moderate length; inclining rather to brevity, than a swelling structure; and closing with propriety. There is variety in bis cadence; but no appearance of studied harmony. His figures, if he use any, are short and accurate, rather than bold and glowing. Such a style may be attained by a writer, whose powers of fancy or genius are not great, by industry and attention. This sort of style is not unsuitable to any subject whatever. A familiar epistle, or a law paper on the driest subject, may be written with neatness; and a sermon, or a philosophical treatise in a neat style, is read with satisfaction.
An elegant style implies a higher degree of ornament than a neat one; possessing all the virtues of ornament without any of its excesses or defects. Complete elegance implies great perspicuity and propriety; purity in the choice of words; and care and skill in their arrangement. It implies farther the beauties of imagination spread over style as far as the subject permits; and all the illustration which figurative language adds, when properly employed. An elegant writer in short, is one who delights the fancy and the ear, while he informs the understanding; who clothes his ideas in all the beauty of expression, but does not overload them with any of its misplaced finery.
A florid style implies excess of ornament. In a young composer it is not only pardonable, but often a promising symptom. But, although it may be allowed to youth in their first essays,
it must not receive the same indulgence froin writers of more experience. In them judgment
should chasten imagination, and reject every ornament, which is unsuitable or redundant. That tinsel splendour of language, which some writers perpetually affect, is truly contemptible. With such it is a luxuriancy of words, not of fancy. They forget that, unless founded on good sense and solid thought, the most florid style is but a childish imposition on the public.
STYLE. SIMPLE, AFFECTED, VEHEMENT. DI. RECTIONS FOR FORMING A PROPER STYLE.
SIMPLICITY, applied to writing, is a term very commonly used; but, like many other critical terms, often used without precision. The different meanings of the word simplicity are the chief cause of this inaccuracy. It is therefore necessary to show in what sense simplicity is a proper attribute of style. There are four different acceptations, in which this term is taken.
The first is simplicity of composition, as opposed to too great a variety of parts. This is the simplicity of plan in tragedy, as distinguished from double plots and crowded incidents; the simplicity of the Iliad in opposition to the digressions of Lucan ; the simplicity of Grecian architecture in opposition to the irregular variety of the Gothic. Simplicity in this sense is the same with unity.
The second sense is simplicity of thought in opposition to refinement. Simple thoughts are those which flow naturally; which are suggested by the subject or occasion; and which, when once suggested, are easily understood by all. Refinement in writing means a less obvious and natural train of thought, which, when carried too far, approaches to intricacy, and displeases us by the appearance of being far sought. Thus Parnell is a poet of much greater simplicity in his turn of thought than Cowley. In these two senses simplicity has no relation to style.
The third sense of simplicity regards style, and is opposed to too much ornament, or pomp of language. Thus we say Mr. Locke is a simple, Mr. Hervey, a florid writer. A simple style in this sense, coincides with a plain and neat style.
The fourth sense of simplicity also respects style; but it regards not so much the degree of ornament employed, as the easy and natural manner, in which our language expresses our thoughts. In this sense simplicity is compatible with the highest ornament. Homer, for example, possesses this simplicity in the greatest perfection; and yet no writer has more ornament and beauty This simplicity is opposed not to orpament, but to affectation of ornament, and is a superior excellence in composition..
A simple writer has no marks of art in his expression ; it appears the very language of nature. We see not the writer and his labour, but the man in his own natural character. He may be rich in expression; he may be full of figures and of fancy; but these flow from him without effort; and he seems to write in this manner, not because he had studied it, but because it is the mode of expression most natural to himn. With this character of style a certain degree of negligence is not inconsistent; for too accurate an attention to words is foreign to it. Simplicity
of style, like simplicity of manners, shows a man's sentiments and turn of mind without dis. guise. A more studied and artificial mode of writing, however beautiful, has always this disadvantage, that it exhibits an author in form, like a man at court, where splendour of dress and the ceremonial of behaviour conceals those peculiarities, which distinguish one man from another. But reading an author of simplicity is like conversing with a person of rank at bome and with ease, where we see his natural manners and his real character.
With regard to simplicity in general, we may observe, that the ancient original writers are always most eminent for it. This proceeds from a very obvious cause ; they wrote from the dictates of genius, and were not formed upon the labours and writings of others.
Of affectation, which is opposed to simplicity of style, we have a remarkable example in Lord Shaftsbury. Though an author of considerable merit, he expresses nothing with simplicity. He seems to have thought it vulgar and beneath the dignity of a man of quality to speak like other men. Hence he is ever in buskins; full of circumlocutions and artificial elegance. In every sentence we see marks of labour and art; nothing of that ease which expresses a sentiment coming natural and warm from the heart. He abounds with figures and ornament of every kind; is sometimes happy in them ; but his fondness for them js too visible; and, having once seized some metaphor or allusion, that pleased him, he knows not how to part with it. He possessed delicacy and refinement of taste in a degree that may be