Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

reader is a grateful exaltation of feeling. The definition which Longinus has given of sublimity, is in such instances happily exemplified. We seem to put ourselves in the place of the author, and as if the thought were our own, we glory in the grandeur and nobleness of the conception.

In applying the epithet dignified to style, there is a reference to true dignity, in distinction from the air of importance which sometimes assumes this name. Considered in this light, it is allied to the elevated style, but differs from it, in that there is less of ease and naturalness in its character. The attitudes and movements of dignified men, are often the results of design and study, and similar art and labour are found in the style of the dignified writer. He seems conscious, that he is treating of weighty matters, and laying down important conclusions, and there is something in his very air, which tells us it is a great work he is carrying on. Hence uncommon and learned words are chosen, and there is a stateliness and formality in his sentences. The phrase, which the idiomatic writer would select as most happily expressive of his meaning, the dignified writer rejects as beneath his style. Instead of distinctness and ease of expression, there are inversions and involutions of clauses. Many circumstances are introduced, which give preciseness to the meaning, but which break up the continuous flow of the sentence.

A tiresome uniformity in the length and form of the sentence, is also found, giving to the whole production the appearance of the enunciation of successive, distinct propositions.

The dignified style admits of ornament, and that of a high kind. But there is something of parade attending

Instead of the sprightly metaphor, or well timed allusion, we have the protracted allegory, or the

its use,

formal comparison. But then the images which are brought to view, are not only illustrative, but often ennobling and exalting. It is not a common pageant that passes before the mind, but one of those splendid scenes that can give pleasure to the great.

For examples of the elevated style, I may refer to the writings of Robert Hall of England, and of Dr. Channing of Boston. Of the dignified style, the philosophical writings of Dugald Stewart may be mentioned:

Unsuccessful attempts after the elevated or dignified manner of writing, result in what is called the pedantic or pompous style. A pedant is one fond of shewing book-knowledge ; and a pedantic style is characterized by the use of such terms and phrases, as are obsolete, uncommon, or derived from the dead languages. The pompous style is usually associated with the pedantic, and is characterized by the use of long and sonorouswords, by circumlocutions, by the frequent use of synanymes, and by the repetition of the same thought in different words. Instead of any further description of these kinds of style, it may be sufficient to refer to Weems' Life of Washington. There are plants, which, in the language of husbandmen, grow rank in certain soils. They spread wide their branches, and are covered with thick foliage. But it is only after a long and wearied search, that any fruit can be found, and then it is not of sufficient value to repay the toil. These plants are apt emblems of the productions of pompous writers.

NEAT AND ELEGANT. These epithets are applied to style with particular reference to what is called the turn of expression. They denote also, especially the latter, the nature of the ornament used.

We well understand their force, as they are applied to a production in the arts. By the application of the former

to any article of ornament or use, we declare that it it is not only free from faults, but that it is executed in a manner that pleases us, and shows skill on the part of the artist. In applying the other epithet, we express. admiration. The work is not only faithfully and skil'fully executed, but in a manner wbieh excels. They have the same meaning when applied to style. In saying that a style is neat, we mean that the turns of expression are such as happily convey the thoughts, and are well suited to the object and occasion. In saying that a style is elegant,we declare that there is the same happy and well adapted mode of conveying the thoughts, and to a degree that is uncommon.

The turn of the expression must necessarily depend, both on the choice of the words, and the composition of the sentence. It is also closely connected with the thought that is conveyed. Thus in the forcible and vem . hement style, we have bold turns of expression;-in the elevated and dignified, we have sublime and grand turns of expression. In the turns of expression in the neate style, there is sprightliness and justness in the thoughts, and a vivacity and finish in the mode of conveying them. At the same time, the writer is careful to avoid every fault. The neat style, as thus explained, is ever pleasing, and to some classes of writing peculiarly well suited. But it differs essentially from the easy and idiomatic style before described, in that it gives evidence of labour in its construction. It seems the result, to which mediocrity of talent has attained, by patient and praiseworthy exertions.

Elegance, as it has been stated, implies that which is choice and select. In this sense it may be applied to. words, forms of sentences, and the various orpaments of style. In a more common use of the term as applied

to style, it refers only to its ornaments, and in this use it will be more fully explained hereafter. A single passage, extracted from the writings of Buckminster, will enable the instructer to explain, and the student to perceive, what is meant by an elegant style, as the epithet is more extensively used, better than any description which can be given.

“In the regions of the Swiss Alps, summits of bare granite rose. all around us. The snow clad tops of the distant Alps seemed to chill the moonbeams, that lighted on them; and we felt all the charms of the picturesque, mingled with the awe inspired by unchangeable grandeur. We seemed to have reached the original elevations of the globe, o'ertopping forever the tumults, the rices, and the miseries of ordinary existence, far out of the hearing of the murmurs of a busy world, which discord ravages and luxury corrupts.”

The different kinds of style which have been dese. cribed, have for the most part received their names from: qualities dependent on the language and thoughts. In considering an author's manner of writing as addressed to the imagination, or as designed to please, we say that his style is PLAIN, or that it is ORNAMENTED. As the words obviously imply, the former of these epithets refers to a destitution of ornament, and the latter to its presence. But between an absolutely plain style and one highly ornamented, there are various degrees, and different epithets have been applied to different kinds of writing, according to the nature and amount of ornament used.

Instead however of attempting to explain these different epithets, I shall direct the attention to different authors, in whose writings the ornaments of style abound.

W. Irving, to whom his literary productions have give en a deserved celebrity, may be first mentioned. Most

of his works are addressed to the imagination, with the design of pleasing, rather than of instructing. This kind of writing, it has been stated, admits of 'much ornament, and the reader of the Sketch Book and of Bracebridge Hall, will find that his expectations of pleasure from this source, are not disappointed. But though in these writings there is a profusion of ornament, it is of that modest, chaste, unobtrusive kind, that never cloys. It does not dazzle the mind, nor fill it with admiration, but excites emotions more calm and permanent. It is either the unstudied metaphor, or the embellishing and illustrative comparison, which are always welcome, as they cast new light and beauty on the objects of our view. Sometimes also a metonymy, or a synecdoche, or a personification of the humbler kind, gives increased vivacity to the expression. In reading his works we seem not to be passing through a region, where gorgeous palaces, artificial parks, and lakes, and shrubbery, are successively meeting our attention, till we are wearied by their uniform splendour ; but it is rather a land of rural elegance, and we look upon the neat villas -the highly cultivated fields, with their hawthorn hedges, while over the whole country is spread in rich profusion, those simple but grateful ornaments, with which nature knows how to deck her own fields. I would then call the style of Irving, in reference to its ornament, simple and elegant ;-simple, as free from all that is af fected-elegant, as being choice in its selection of ornament. This is one of the most grateful forms of the ornamented style, and denotes both delicacy and refiner ment of taste.

As an example of an ornamented style, in which elegance is found, but not in connexion with simplicity, that of Alison. may be mentioned. In his writings, as

« AnteriorContinuar »