Imagens da página

ed expression, one forced comparison, or ore extravan gant thought be found, and the charm is gone.

The inquiry may here be made, whether by naturalness of style may not be meant tkat mode of writing, which is suited to the intellectual habits and attainments: of an author--a style in which a writer shews himself, whatever his intellectual character may be. To this itmay be answered, that, if this were the correct use of the term, naturalness, instead of denoting the highest excellencies of style, would often express: its greatest deformities and faults. The word is here used as referring to a common standard, which is found in the mind of every man whose taste is not perverted and vitiated, This may be clearly shewn by referring to the illustration before introduced. Every one, while looking on the performance of a graceful dancer, would say that his movements are easy and natural. But should one unacquainted with the rules and practice of the art attempt to dance, his movements might be natural to him, but no one would think of applying to them the word natural, in the same sense as in the former instance. In the same way, a manner of writing may be natural to a writer, when we should not think of ascribing to bim the merit of naturalness of style.

This illustration may be still further continued, with the view of shewing in what way this quality may be obtained. Were it asked, in what way the awkward dancer may attain the easy and graceful movements of the other, it would be answered, by pursuing a similar course of instruction and practice. Some, either from the form of their bodies, or their previous habits, would acquire these easy and natural movements more readily than others, and a few perhaps might need but little practice, and little aid from the rules of the art. But

these would be regarded as exceptions from what is more generally the case. In the same manner, to acquire naturalness of style, there is need of instruction and practice. A few, either from the original constitution of their minds, or their previous habits of thought and conversation, fall into it easily. . Others, in their first attempts, are far from it, and it is with them the fruit of long practice in writing and a careful observance of rules. It may appear paradoxical, that what is called natural should be the result of art and labour. But this difficulty is removed, if we remember, that the object of this art and labour is to bring us back to nature.

Naturalness of style is not confined to any species of writing. It is found alike in the most artless narrations, and in the most elevated descriptions—in the story that is open to the understanding of a child, and in the sublime raptures of Milton. The best examples of it are among ancient writers. This is the spell which binds us to the page of Homer, of Sophocles and Theocritus, of Xenophon and Herodotus. And a reason may easily be assigned, why naturalness of style should be found in these ancient writers. They lived, as it were, near to nature. With them all is originality. Their thoughts and expressions are their own. With most modern writcrs it is otherwise. It is often remarked, that in modern times there are few original ideas. We tell in dif-. ferent words what has often been told before, and, that we may avoid a coincidence of expression, we leave the natural, and seek after the more laboured forms of speech. Hence it is, that less of naturalness of style is found in modern writiugs.

Some instances may here be stated, in which naturalness of style is most frequently violated.

1. When there is an evident attempt after ornament.

What are called the ornaments of style should ever apo. pear to be naturally suggested, and to be most intimately connected with the subject and occasion. They should offer themselves for our use, and not be sought after.

2. When the writer seeks after elegances. of expressa ion,or, as they are sometimes called, felicities of diction. Some with the design of being thought elegant writers, studiously avoid old, genuine English words and'idioms, introducing so far as practicable, those which have been derived from other languages.

Others have what may be called a sentimental manner of expressing themselves.

3. Some violations of naturalness of style arise from attempts to be forcible. Under this head are included extravagancies of expression, sweeping assertions and. forced illustrations.

4. Writers still further affect a fulness and flow ofexi pression. Because some men of powerful minds and

strong feelings have expressed themselves in long flowing full sentences, many, the current of whose thoughts: is neither strong nor deep, would have them flow forth in an equally full and irresistible stream,

SECTION 2. On the modes of writing, which characterize the productions of different individuals.

It is the design of this section to treat of the different modes of writing, which characterize the productions of different authors. These, it has been stated, arise from diversities in their intellectual habits, in their tastes, and in their skilt in the use of language. They are denoted by different epithets, which are applied to style ; and while the meaning of these epithets is explained, the attention should be directed by the instructer to such examples as furnish illustrations.

It is sometimes said of a style, that it is IDIOMATIC AND

[ocr errors]

EASY. These epithets are generally found in connexion, and where the former is justly applied, the latter denotes what is a natural consequence. A style which is idiomatic, wll appear to hasa been easily written, and will be easily understood ; and this is all that is meant by ease as a quality of style. By an idiomatic style is meant a manner of writing, in which, in addition to purity in the use of words, the phrases, forms of sentences and arrangement of the words and clauses, are such as belong to the English language. Every language, as has been already stated, has peculiarities of this kind by which it is characterized, and the style in which they abound, is said to be idiomatic.

Dr. Paley's style may be mentioned as idiomatic. The following sentence is from his writings; "A bee amidst the flowers of spring is one of the most cheerful objects that can be looked upon.” This expression is just what we should have used in conversation for conveying the same thought. A writer whose style is less idiomatic, would have said, “Of the different objects, which amongst the flowers of spring, arrest the attention, the bee is the most cheerful that can be looked upon. This mode of stating the thought is more formal and stately, but less easy and idiomatic. In another place, when speaking of the fry of fish that frequent the margins of our rivers and lakes, he says, “They are so happy, that they do not know what to do with themselves.” Every English reader fully knows, and I may say feels, what is here expressed. It is a form of expression of every day's occurrence, and its introduction shews the style of the author to be idiomatic.

It is not meant, that expressions like the last, would be proper on all occasions and subjects. We vary the forms of expression in conversation. In conversing on

grave subjects, we should not use the lively and familiar forms of expression, which are suited to an hour of gaiety ; and we should be equally far from imitating the stately and involved modes of expression, which characterize some other language. There are idiomatic expressions in English which are suited to the grave style, as well as those which are suited to the lively. In the writings of Dr.Paley, those of either kind are to be found, when required by his subject.

There is danger, lest a writer, in seeking to be idiomatic, become careless in his style. We often use expressions in conversation, which are incorrect in construction, and obscure in their meaning. But they are understood from the accompanying look, or some atlending circumstance, and the incorrectness is forgiven, because of the hurry of the moment. But when the same expressions are found in a written discourse, they are justly censured. An idiomatic style is most strictly correct in construction, and perspicuous in its meaning.

It has been said, that an idiomatic style is the style of conversation. Still it must be confessed, that there is hardly any one, that has not more formality in his writings, than in his familiar, oral intercourse. The distinction may be illustrated by referring to reading aloud. A good reader will, on the one hand, be far removed from artificial, or, as they are called, "reading tones on the other, though his tones are natural, they will differ in some respects from the familiar tones of conversation. In the same manner, a style may be idiomatic, and rise in some degree above the most common forms of conversational intercourse.

An idiomatic style is always grateful to the reader. Ít requires no labour to understand a writer of this class. His forms of expression are those with which we are fa


« AnteriorContinuar »