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in those of Irving, there is a profusion of ornament, and it must be said, that this is less acceptable in Sermons ond Philosophical treatises, than in fictitious writings. There is also manifestly something of art in the orna. neots of Alison's style. They have been put on, and are not a part of what they adorn. They are flowers that have been planted, and not those that have sprung up spontaneously. Still no one will deny, that Alison excels in the figurative use of language, and that the ornamental figures of style that he introduces, are viten beautiful and striking ; and he justly bears the name of an elegant writer.
The style of Phillips, the orator, affords an example of an ornamented style differing from those which have been mentioned. From the nature of his productions, we should expect to find in them figures of the bolder kind; and many splendid passages are found. But too often it is the case, that it is all splendour, mere show without solidity. Many of his figures are figures of words, and nothing more. If we attempt to bring up before the mind the image he presents, and to see whether it be distinct and perfect, we too ofteu find that we have something glittering before us, but it is without form or comeliness. His style may be called brilliant, but specious. We are ready to apply to it the common proverb, “ It is not all gold that shines.”
Hervey, the author of Meditations, is often mentioned as a florid writer. This epithet denotes a superabundance of ornament, and not of the choicest kind. His work is a mass of metaphors and comparisons. There is evidence of an active imagination, but it wants the guidance of taste. There is also ingenuity, but it manifests itself in strange conceits and far-fetched illusz trations,
From these instances we learn what is meant by the epithets, simple, elegant, specious, and florid, as applied to style ; and these epithets denote the most common qualities of those styles in which ornament abounds.
SECTION 3. On modes of writing suited to different subjects and occasions.
It has been the design of the preceding chapters to treat of the principles and rules of good writing. Ar examination of the different classes of literary productions and of the style suited to them may form a second part of this work. All that will now be attempted, is to give in a short section some practical directions, which may aid the writer in those kinds of composition which are most common. Such are Epistolary writings, Essays, Biographies, Argumentative Discussions, and Orations.
EPISTOLARY WRITINGs are communications between individuals, and they serve as a medium both of friendly intercourse and of transacting the business of life. They hold a middle rank between the unrestrained flow and carelessness of conversation, and the preciseness and formality of dignified composition, approaching however nearer to the former, than to the latter.
Authors sometimes assume the form of letters in their publications, when nothing more than the form is designed to be used. Such letters, though addressed to individuals, are in fact written for the public, and dropping the address prefixed to them, differ in no respect from the essay or dissertation. These are not included in the class of writings I am now describing.
Letters of friendly intercourse should be written in an easy, artless style. Sprightliness of thought and vivacity of expression, are often well introduced ; but the
more formal ornaments of style, are not suited to this class of writings. At least it may be said, that such ornaments must be managed with uncommon skill, not to injure the simplicity that is required. In the conversation of the man of taste and intelligence, we look for a correct use and happy choice of words, and for an easy, idiomatic and simple phraseology, avoiding alike the cant of the vulgar, the verbosity of the pedant, and the sickening refinement of the sentimentalist. The same propriety in words, the same artlessness in expression, are required in his letters, with the additional care which must always be caused by the thought manent scripta.
The letter of business should have strictness of method and perspicuity of style. The objects of the letter should be promptly stated, and nothing unnecessary be introduced.
It is not sufficient to insist upon a simple and artless style, and to caution the writer against á stiff and laboured manner of composition. There is danger of negligence and carelessness. Some, presuming on the good nature of thoir friends, write their letters in a hasty, disconnected manner as to the thoughts, while their words are often incorrectly used, and their expressions are slovenly. Such may be called rattlers. They run on from one subject to another—their words and sentences but half written out, and their letter, from its beginning to its close, is a perplexing enigma. To such a letter, the lines of Cowper may be applied,
66 One had need
much his friend indeed,
It may be added, that the man who can write better,
is thus doing injustice to himself. An improper expression in conversation may be forgotten, an awkward movement may be overlooked, but a carelessly written letter is an abiding witness against us.
English literature furnishes many good models of this species of composition. Cowper may be mentioned as a writer who excels. His solid common sense, his judicious reflections, his lively wit, his playful poetical fancy, his warm affections, his melancholy but deeply interesting feelings of piety, all conspire to give a charm to his letters. Add to this a style chaste, simple, and sometimes elegant, and it is no wonder, that his productions of this kind are ever read with interest.
Essays are writings, which are usually addressed to the public periodically, and which are brief in their extent and humble in their pretensions. The Essayist does not promise a full view of his subject ; nor does he 'seek to exert a strong influence over the minds of his readers. His arrangement is professedly desultory ; his arguments are probabilities and inferences from facts that are stated. He makes no appeal to the passions, but tells his story and leaves his reader to his own feelings and reflections. The characteristics which recommend writings of this kind to public attention, are the following ;
1. The thoughts should have novelty and importance. It can hardly be expected, that readers will direct their attention to so humble a class of writings as the Essay, unless they are to be compensated, either by the pleasure of novelty or an increase of valuable knowledge. Hence the difficulty of ably conducting periodical publications, To do this successfully, requires a mind well furnished with rich and varied stores of knowledge. Addison has said, that it is more difficult to write a series of periodical essays, than to compose a book on some definite subject ; and he spoke from experience. He is said to have spent much time in preparation, and to have collected three manuscript volumes of interesting facts and references, before he commenced the writing of the Spectator. The issuers of proposals for publishing periodical essays, who with limited resources are wont to make ample promises, should know this anecdote of Addison.
2. The flow of thought in the essay should be discursive and animated. To writings of this kind, the maxim ars est celare artem, may be well applied. Every well disciplined mind will form its plan, but as it has been already remarked, it is not necessary that this plan be formally stated.
Much skill is also required in the frequent transitions from one thought and view of the subject to another. By dwelling too long on one part, the production becomes tedious, by passing too rapidly from one to another, it appears sterile and abrupt. Wit and sprightliness are also expected in the essay. We look for the efforts of the active, playful mind, rather than for the deep-laid and well matured reflections of the philosopher. Sprightliness and discursiveness are so essential to productions of this kind, that those, who from their intellectual habits, or from the constitution of their minds, are destitute of these qualities, should abstain from all attempts in this species of writing.
3. The style of the essay may be easy and idiomatic, or more laboured and neat. I have already explained, what is denoted by these qualifying terms.
The absence of those adventitious causes, which excite a strong interest and arouse the attention, is a reason, why writings of this class should in some degree be addressed to the imagination. There are few minds