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tended to make most full and complete; and give every word and every member its due weight and importance. To the production of this effect, perspicuity and unity are, no doubt, absolutely necessary; but they are not of themselves sufficient. For a sentence may be obviously clear; it may also be suficiently compact, or have the required unity; and yet, by some unfavourable circumstance in the structure, it may be deficient in that strength or liveliness of impression which a more happy collocation would have produced.
The first rule that we shall give for promoting the strength of a sentence is, to take from it all redundant words. Whatever can be easily supplied in the mind is better omitted in the expression ; thus, “Content with desepving a triumph, he refused the honour of it,” is better than to say, “Being content with deserving a triumph, he refused the honour of it.” It is certainly, therefore, one of the most useful exercises of correction, on a view of what we have written or composed, to contract that roundabout mode of expression, and to cut off those useless excrescences which are usually found in a first draught. But we must be careful not to run into the opposite extreme, of pruning so closely as to give a hardness and dryness to the style. Some leaves must be left to shelter and adorn the fruit.
As sentences should be divested of superfluous words, so also they should appear without superfluous members. In opposition to this, is the fault we so frequently meet with, of the last member of a period being no other than the repetition of the former, in a different dress. For example; speaking of beauty,
“ The very first discovery of it,” says Mr. Addison, 6 strikes the mind with inward joy, and spreads delight through all its faculties."
In this instance, scarcely any thing is added by the second member of the sentence to what was already expressed in the first : and though the elegant style of Mr. Addison may palliate such negligence, yet it is generally true, that language, divested of this prolixity, becomes more strong, as well as more beautiful.
The second direction we shall give for promoting the strength of a sentence is, to pay a particular attention to the use of copulatives, relatives, and all the particles employed for transition and connexion. Some observations on this subject, which appear to be worthy of particular remembrance, shall here be noticed.
What is termed splitting of particles, or separating a preposition from the noun which it governs, is ever to be ayoided : as if we should say, “ Though virtue borrows no assistance from, yet it may oiten be accompanied by, the advantages of fortune." In such instances, a degree of dissatisfaction arises, from the violent separation of two things which, from their nature, ought to be intimately united.
The simplicity of style is much injured by the unnecessary multiplication of relative and demonstrative particles : Thus if a writer should say, “ There is nothing which disgusts me sooner than the empty pomp of language;" he would express himself less simply than if he had said, “ Nothing disgusts me sooner than the empty pomp of language.” The former mode of expression, in the introduction of a subject, or in laying down a proposition to which particular attention is demanded, is exceedingly proper; but in the ordinary current of discourse, the latter is to be preferred.
With regard to the omission or insertion of the relative, we shall only observe, that in conversation and epistolary writing, it may be often omitted with propriety ; but in compositions of a serious or dignified kind it should constantly be inserted.
On the copulative particle and, which occurs so often in all kinds of composition, several observations are to be made. It is evident that the unnecessary repetition of it enfeebles style. By omitting it entirely we often mark a closer connexion, a quicker succession of objects, than when it is inserted between them. “ Veni, vidi, vici ;"_“I came, I saw, I conquered;" expresses with more spirit the rapidity of conquest, than if connecting particles had been used. When, however, we desire to prevent a quick transition from one object to another, and when we are enumerating objects which we wish to appear as distinct from each other as possible, copulatives may be multiplied with peculiar advantage. Thus lord Bolingbroke says, with elegance and propriety, “ Such a man might fall a victim to power; but truth, and reason, and liberty, would fall with him.”
A third rule for promoting the strength of a sentence is, to dispose of the principal word, or words, in that place of the sentence where they will make the most striking impression. Perspicuity ought first to be studied ; and the nature of our language allows no extensive liberty in the choice of collocation. In general, the important words are placed in the beginning of the sentence. Thus Mr. Addison : « The pleasures of the imagination, taken in their full extent, are not so gross as those of sense, nor so refined as those of the understanding." This order seems to be the most plain and natural. Sometimes, however, when we propose giving weight to a sentence, it is proper to suspend the meaning for a while, and then to bring it out full at the close : “ Thus,” says Mr. Pope, “on whatever side we contemplate Homer, what principally strikes us is his wonderful invention."
A fourth rule for the strength of sentences is, to make the members of them go on rising in their importance above one another. This kind of arrangement is called a climax, and is ever regarded as a beauty in composition. Why it pleases is sufficiently evident. In all things, we naturally love to advance to what is more and more beautiful, rather than to follow the retrograde order.. Having viewed some considerable object, we cannot, without pain, be pulled back to attend to an inferior circumstance. ". Cavendum est,” says Quintilian, “ne decrescat oratio, et fortiori subjungatur aliquid infirmius.” “We must take care that our composition shall not fall off, and that a weaker expression shall not follow one of greater strength.” When a sentence consists of two members, the longest should, in general, be the coneluding one. Hence the pronunciation is rendered more easy ; and the shortest member of the period being placed first, we carry it more readily in our memory as we proceed to the second, and see the connexion of the two more clearly. Thus, to say, 6 When our passions have forsaken us, we flatter ourselves with the belief, that we have forsaken them, is both more graceful and more perspicuous than to
begin with the longest part of the proposition : “We flatter ourselves with the belief, that we have forsaken our passions, when they have forsaken us."
A fifth rule for constructing sentences with proper strength is, to avoid concluding them with an adverb, a preposition, or any insignificant word. By such conclusions, style is always weakened and degraded. Sometimes, indeed, where the stress and significancy rest chiefly upon words of this kind, thy may, with
propriety, have the principal place allotted them. No. fault, for example, can be found with this sentence of Bolingbroke: “In their prosperity, my friends shall never hear of me: in their adversity, always ;" where never and always, being emphatical words, are so placed, as to make a strong impression. But when those inferior parts of speech are introduced as circumstances or as qualifications of more important words, they should invariably be disposed of in the least conspicuous parts of the period.
We should always avoid with care the concluding with any of those particles which distinguish the cases of nouns-of, to, from, with, by. Thus it is much better to say, “ Avarice is a crime of which wise men are often guilty,” than to say, “ Avarice is a crime which wise men are often guilty of.” This kind of phraseology all correct writers endeavour sedulously to avoid.
Verbs used in a compound sense, with some of these prepositions, are likewise ungraceful conclusions of a period ; such as, bring about, lay hold of, come over to, clear up, and many others of the same kind; instead of which, if a simple verb can be employed, the sentence is always terminated with more strength,