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guage as ours, is absolutely requisite for writing or speaking with any proprieiy.
Whatever the advantages, or defects of the Enga lish language be, as it is our own language, it deserves a high degree of our study and attention, both with regard to the choice of words which we employ, and with regard to the syntax, or the ara rangernent of these words in a sentence. We know how much the Greeks and the Romans in their molt polished and flourishing times, cultivated their own tongues. We know how much study both the French and the Italians have bestowed upon theirs. Whatever knowledge may be acquired by the study of other la guages, it can never be communicated with advantage, unless by such as can write and speak their own language well. Let the matter of an author be ever so good and useful, his compositions will always fuífer in the public esteem, if his exprellion be deficient in purity and propriety. At the same time, the attainment of a correct and elegant style is an object which demands application and labour! H any imagine they can catch it merely by the ear, or acquire it by a slight perüsal of some of our good authors, they will find themselves much dilappointed. The many errors, éven in point of grammar, the many offences against purity of language, which are committed by writers who are far from being contemptible, demonstrate, that á careful study of the language is previously requisite, in all who aim at writing it properly*.
* On this fubject, the reader cutht to peruse dr. Lowth's short introduction to Englih grammar, with critical notes ; which is the grammatical performance of highest authority that has appeared in our time, and in which be will see, what I have said concerning the inaccuracies in language of some of our best writers, fully verified. In dr. Campbell's philosophy of rhetoric, he will likewise find many acute and ingenioas observations, both on the Englifh langnage, and on style in general. And dr. Priestley's rudiments of English grannar will also be useful, by pointing out several of the errors into which writers are apt to fall,
rules that relate to it.
;_; ; .[ : It is not easy to give a precise idea of what is meant by style. The best definition I can give of it, is, the peculiar manner in which a man exprentes his conceptions, by means of language. It is differ ent from mere language or words. The words, which an author employs, may be proper and faultless : and his style 'may, nevertheless, have great faults ; it may be dry, or stiff, or feeble, or affected. Style has always some reference to an author's manner of thinking. It is a picture of the ideas which rise in his mind, and of the manner in which they rise there ; and, hence, when we are examina ing an author's composition, it is, in many cases, extremely difficult to separate the style from the sentiment. No wonder these two should be fo intimately connected, as style is nothing else, than that sort of expression which our thoughts most readily assume. Hence, different countries have been noted for peculiarities of style, suited to their different temper and genius. The eastern nations animated their style with the most strong and hyperbolical figures. The Athenians, a polished and acute people, formed a style accurate, clear, and neat. The Asiatics, gay and loose in their manners, affected a style florid and diffuse. The like sort of characteristical differences are commonly remarked in the style of the French, the English, and the Spaniards. In giving the general characters of style, it is usual to talk of a nervous, a feeble, or a spirited style ; -whièhi are plainly the characters of a writer's manner of thinking, as well as of expreiling himself: so difficult it is to separate these two things from one another. Of the general characters of style, I am afterwards to discourse ; but it will be necessary to begin with examining the more Tlimple qualities of ït , from the assemblage of which, its more complex denominations, in a great measure, refuļt.
siis 2: All the qualities of a good i style may be ranged under two heads uperspicuity and ornament. For all that can possibly be required of language, is, to convéy our ideas clearly to the minds of others, and, at the same time, in such a dress, as by pleaSing and interefting them, shall most effectually ftrengthen the impreslions which we seek to make. When both these ends are answered, we certainly accomplish every purpose for which we use wris ting and discourle.
Perspicuity, it will be readily admitted, is the fundamental quality of style* ; a quality fo essential in every kind of writing, that, for the want of it, nothing can atone. Without this, the richest
* “ Nobis prima fit virtus, perfpicuitas, propria verba, rectus ordo, non in longam dilata conclusio; nihil neque desit, neque fuperfluat.”.
QUINTIL. lib. xiii.
ornaments of style only glimmer through the dark ; and puzzle, instead of pleasing the reader This, therefore, must be our first object, to make our meaning clearly and fully understood, and understood without the lealt difficulty. 4. Oratio,” says Quintilian, - debet negligenter quoque audienti“ bus efle aperta ; ut in animum audientis, ficut " fol in oculos, etiamfi in eum non intendatur, ocI currat. Quare, non folum ut intelligere poffit, ss sed ne omnino possit non intelligere, curandumt.” If we are obliged to follow a wrter with much care, to pause, and to read over his sentences a fecond time, in order to comprehend them fully, he will never pleale us long: Mankind are too indolent to relish so much labour. They may pretend to admire the author's depth, after they have discovered his meaning ; but they will seldom be inclined to take up his work a fecond time,
Authors sometimes plead the dihiculty of their subject, as an excuse for the want of perspicuity. But the excuse can rarely, if ever, be admitted. For whatever a man conceives clearly, that it is in his power, if he will be at the trouble, to put into diftinct propofitions, or to express clearly to others : and upon no fubject ought any man to write, where he cannot think clearly. His ideas, indeed, may, very excufably, be on some subjects incomplete or inadequate ; but still, as far as they go, they ought to be clear ; and, wherever this is the case, perfpicuity, in expressing them, is always attainable. The obfcurity which reigns so much among many metaphysical writers, is, for most part, owing to the
I “ Discourse ought always to be obvious, even to the most careless and negligent hearer; fo :hat the fenfe fhall strike his mind, as the light of the fun does our eyes, thought they are not directed upwards to it. We must study, not only that every hearer may understand us, but that it shall be imposible fos him not to understand us."
indiftin&nefs of their own conceptions. They sec the object but in a confused light ; and, of course, can never exhibit it in a clear one to others.
Perfpicuity in writing, is not to be considered as merely a fort of negative virtue, or freedom from defect. It has higher merit: it is a degrce of politive beauty. We are pleased with an author, we consider him as deserving praise, who frecs us from all fatigue of searching for his meaning ;.who carries us through his subject without any embarraffment or confusion; whose style flows always like a limpid stream, where we see to the very bottom.
The study of perspicuity requires attention, first, to single words and phrases, and then to the co struction of sentences. I begin with treating of the first, and shall confine myself to it in this lecture.
Perfpicuity, considered with respect to words and phrases, requires these three qualities in them, purity, propriety, and precision.
Purity and propriety of language are often used indiscriminately for each other; and, indeed, they are very nearly allied. A distinction, however, obtains between them. Purity is the use of such words, and such constructions, as belong to the idiom of the language which we speak ; in oppofition to words and phrases that are imported from other languages, or that are absolete, cr new-coined, or used without proper authority. Propriety is the selection of such words in the language, as the best and most established usage has appropriated to those ideas which we intend to express by them. It implies the correct and happy application of them, according to that usage, in opposition to vulgarisms, or low expressions; and to words and phrales, which would be less significant of the ideas that we mean to convey. Style may be pure, that is, it may all be strictly English, without Scotticisms or Gallicisms, or ungrammatical irregular expresions of any