Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

miliar—those which we use in the most artless, free communication of our thoughts, and we collect his meaning from a glance at the sentence.

Opposed to the easy and idiomatic manner of writing, which has now been described, is the laboured style. This, as the epithet imports, appears to have been written with much pains on the part of the writer, and requires close attention and effort that it may be understood. The arrangement of the words and clauses is often inverted, and the whole composition of the sentence is artificial. A laboured style, when carried to excess, will be highly faulty. It will want perspicuity, smoothness, and naturalness. But it is often the case, that a style, which is in some degree laboured, has redeeming qualities which recommend it, and give some degree of reputation to a writer. The style of Dugald Stewart may be mentioned as an instance of this kind. His manrrer of writing is evidently laboured, but there are qualities to be found in it which save it from cen

sure.

The epithets concISE AND DIFFUSE are often applied to style. It may be said generally, that these qualifying terms refer to the number of words used by a writer for conveying his thoughts; but these different kinds of style merit a more particular description.

A writer whose style is concise, expresses his thoughts in few words. There is a vividness and distinctness in his views, and he endeavours by a single and sudden effort to exhibiť these views to others. His words are well chosen, and his turns of expression short and bold. No unnecessary expletive, no redundant phrase is found. Grammatical ellipses are common, and his sentences are usually short. The thought is presented in but one light, and much is left to be inferred. As to ornament,

there is no room for it. Sometimes a short, plain com-. parison, or a bold metaphor is found. These however are always highly illustrative, and seem designed to save the necessity of a fuller statement.

A diffuse style is the opposite of the concise. The thought is expressed in comparatively many words. It is not meant by this, that a diffuse writer employs more words, than are of use in conveying his thoughts. A writer may be diffuse,and be free from the charge of Tautology and Phoonasm. But he does not, as in the former case, leave any thing to be supplied. The statement is not only clear, but full. He dwells on the thought presented, exhibits it in different lights, and enforces it by repetition in different language, with many and varied illustrations. His words are poured forth in a full uninterrupted stream, and his sentences, though long, are usually harmonious and flowing.

These different kinds of style are respectively suited to different subjects and occasions. The concise style is often used in short biographical notices,'or what is sometimes called character-painting-in the detail of facts,and in proverbs and sententious remarks. The diffuse, on the contrary, is used in the statement and discussion of nov. el opinions, especially if on subjects that are uncom

It is also well suited to discourses, which are designed to be delivered, and not to be read.

FORCIBLE AND VEHEMENT. We apply the epithet forcible to a style of writing, which in a plain, distinct and irresistible manner, urges upon us the opinions' and views of the writer, It is an evidence of excitement. The writer is interested in his subject, and is desirous that others may have the same feelings with himself. But it more especially implies a full persuasion of the truth and importance of what is said, and such an exhib

[ocr errors]

ition of the reasons of this persuasion, as cannot fail to produce conviction on the part of the reader. Hence it is dependent in a great degree on the intellectual habits, and implies a well disciplined mind—a mind accustomed to comprehensive, methodical and strong views of subjects. It requires also skill in the use of language, but derives little aid from what are called the ornaments of style.

When to sound and convincing arguments clearly and forcibly exhibited, is added a highly excited state of feeling, vehemence of style is the result. It is from this deeper current of feeling, implied by the latter term, that the shade of difference between a forcible and vehement style arises. This excitement of feeling may spring from the greater importance of the subject, or from the more intense interest felt in it by the writer. In able, political writer, in a production on an electioneering question, inight be forcible in his style. But let this same writer be called to treat on some subject, deeply affecting the welfare of his country, and he becomes vehement.

The forcible and vehement style are well suited to the discussion of political subjects; and in the past history of our country, especially about the time of our revolution, znany examples are to be found. Among others the writings of Patrick Henry, of James Otis, and of President Adams, may be mentioned. Controversial writings on other subjects are also often forcible, and our age has furnished some good examples of the vehement style among divines. Chalmers may

be mentioned as a writer of this class.

Opposed to the forcible and the vehement style, is that manner of writing which is called feeble and languid. A distinction may be made between these epi

thets, similar to that made between forcible and vehement. The former has reference to strength of reasoning, and energy of thought; the latter to the degree of excitement which is manifested.

Hence it is, that a feeble and languid manner of writing is indicative of the whole character of the writer. The man whose style is feeble and languid, is usually slothful in his habits, and inefficient in his plans and conduct. His view of his subject is cold and indistinct. His words are general, and destitute of that vivacity which results from the use of more specific terms. His sentences are of ten long; and the clauses and members loosely connected. The parenthesis is much used ; and not unfrequentiy we find at the close of a sentence an appendage, which is evidently designed to save the trouble of forming a new sentence.

Attempts after force and vehemence of style, when unsupported by strength of thought and real feeling, become rant and declamation. In such instances, instead of strong reasoning, we have confident assertions; and for clear, impressive views of the subject, we have frequent repetitions, and bold declarations of its clearness. Instead of being left ourselves to discern the depth of the writer's feelings, we are told how deeply he feels ; and all the artificial helps of vivacity, as exclamation, interrogation, antithesis and climax, are called to his aid. But while force and vehemence of style, like a deep and powerful current, sweep every obstacle before them, rant and declamation are fitly represented by the broad and shallow stream, specious and noisy, but powerless.

ELEVATED AND DIGNIFIED. The foundations of an elevated style are laid in the thoughts. And these have more of originality and sublimity about them, than those which flow through the minds of less gifted men, There is also a fervour by which the writer seems to be urged onwards-not an impetuous and violent feeling, but calm and powerful.

Ordinarily in reading a production in an elevated style,our attention is too much engrossed by the thoughts to permit us to regard the language in which they are conveyed; and if at any time we stop with this object is view, it is but to feel and express our admiration. The words used, are those, which from the associations connected with them, are well suited to the feelings and thoughts that have possession of our minds. But the selection of these words seems not the result of effort and care. They have sprung up in the mind simultaneously with the thoughts themselves, and we regard them as the language in which the author ordinarily thinks and converses.

The sentences are full and flow. ing, but at the same time unlaboured, and simple in their composition. There is also a uniformity about them, which is characteristic of an elevated style.

In more common styles you will find here and there a striking thought, or a bold expression, while other parts are thrown in as subsidiary, or as connecting the more prominent thoughts.

But in the elevated style, every sentenee has its meaning and its importance. The whole abounds in thought, and there is a majesty and grandeur in the quiet but resistless power, with which it holds its undisturbed and even way.

We can hardly with propriety speak of the ornaments of an elevated style. This word implies something put on with the design of pleasing ; but in the kind of style I am describing, figurative language, and all that is included under the head of ornament, seems rather to arise from a kind of inspiration, than from any design of pleasing ; and the effect produced on the mind of the

« AnteriorContinuar »