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pression ; and what he wants in strength he endeavours to supply by copiousness. His periods naturally flow into some length; and having room for ornament of every kind, he gives it free admittance.
Each of these styles has its peculiar advantages, and each becomes faulty when carried to the extreme. Of conciseness carried as far as propriety will allow, perhaps in some cases farther, Tacitus the historian, and Montesquieu, in “l'Esprit de Loix," are remarkable examples. Of a beautiful and magnificent diffuseness, Cicero is, undoubtedly, the noblest instance which can be given. Addison also, and Sir William Temple, may be ranked in some degree under the same class.
To determine when to adopt the concise, and when the diffuse manner, we must be guided by the nature of the composition. Discourses which are to be spoken require a more diffuse style than books which are to be read. In written compositions, a proper degree of conciseness has great advantages. It is more lively ; keeps up attention ; makes a stronger impression on the mind; and gratifies the reader by supplying more exercise to his conception. Description, when we wish to have it vivid and animated, should be in a concise strain. Any redundant words or circumstances encumber the fancy, and render the object we present to it confused and indistinct. The strength and vivacity of description, whether in prose or poetry, depend much more upon the happy choice of one or two important circumstances than upon the multiplication of them. When we desire to strike the fancy, or to move the heart, we should be concise; when to inform the understanding, which is more deliberate in
its motions, and wants the assistance of a guide, it is better to be full. Historical narration may be beautiful, either in a concise or diffuse manner, according to the author's genius. Livy and Herodotus are diffuse; Thucydides and Sallust are concise ; yet they are all agreeable.
The nervous and the feeble are generally considered as characters of style, of the same import with the concise and the diffuse. They do, indeed, very frequently coincide; yet this does not always hold; since there are instances of writers, who, in the midst of a full and ample style, have maintained a considerable degree of strength. Livy is an instance of the truth of this observation. The foundation, indeed, of a nervous or weak style is laid in an author's manner of thinking: If he conceives an object forcibly, he will express it with strength ; but if he has an indistinct view of his subject, this will clearly appear in his style. Unmeaning words and loose epithets will escape him; his expressions will be vague and general; his arrangement indistinct and weak; and our conception of his meaning will be faint and confused. But a nervous writer, be his style concise or extended, gives us always a strong idea of his meaning ; his mind being full of his subject, his words are, consequently, all expressive; every phrase, and every figure which he uses, renders the picture which he would set before us more striking and complete.
It must, however, be observed that too great a study of strength, to the neglect of the other qualities of style, is apt to betray writers into a harsh manner. Harshness proceeds from uncommon words, from forced inversions in the construction of a sentence, and too
great neglect of smoothness and ease. This is imputed as a fault to some of our earliest classics in the English language ; such as Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Bacon, Hooker, Harrington, Cudworth, and other writers of considerable reputation in the days of Queen Elizabeth, James I. and Charles I. These writers had nerve and strength in a considerable degree ; and are to this day distinguished by that quali. ty in style. But the language, in their hands, was very different from what it is at present, and was,
indeed, entirely formed upon the idiom and construction of the Latin, in the arrangement of senten
The present form which the language has assumed, has, in some degree, sacrificed the study of strength to that of ease and perspicuity. Our arrangement has become less forcible, perhaps, but more plain and natural : and this is now considered as the genius of our tongue.
Hitherto, style has been considered under those characters, which regard its expressiveness of an author's meaning: We will now consider it in another view, with respect to the degree of ornament employed 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. Of these we will treat briefly, in the order in which they stand.
A dry manner excludes every kind of ornament. Satisfied with being understood, it aims not to please, in the least degree, 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 is necessary, and entire perspicuity of language.
A plain style advances one degree above a dry one.
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. Besides 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, consequently, such an author, if his sentiments be good, may be sufficiently agreeable. The difference between a dry and a plain writer is, that 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 that ornament is not of the most sparkling kind. A writer of this character shows that he does not despise the beauty of language, by his attention to the choice of his words, and to their graceful collocation. His sentences are always free from the incumbrance of
superfluous words; are of a moderate length; rather inclining to brevity than a swelling structure; and closing with propriety. There is variety in his cadence; but no appearance of studied harmony. His figures, if 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 extensive, 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 composed with neatness ; and a sermon, or a philosophical treatise, in a neat style, will be read with satisfaction. An elegant style admits a higher degree of ornament than a neat one; and possesses 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 carefulness and skill in their harmonious and happy arrangement. It implies farther,—the beauty of imagination spread over style, as far as the subject allows it,--and all the illustration which figurative language affords, when properly employed. An elegant writer, in short, is one who delights the fancy and the ear, while he informs the understanding; and who clothes his ideas with all the beauty of expression, but does not overload them with any of its misplaced finery.
Style-Simple ; Affected; Vehement. Directions for
forming a proper Style. Simplicity, applied to writing, is a term very commonly used, but, like many other critical terms, it is often used vaguely, and without precision. The different meanings given to the word simplicity have been the chief cause of this inaccuracy. It will not, therefore, be improper to make a distinction between them, and 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, which is opposed to too great a variety of parts. This is the simplicity of plan in a 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 irregularity of the Gothic-Simplicity, in this Sense, is the same as unity,