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LECT. that adverbs shall always be made to adhere
closely to the words which they are intended to qualify; that, where a circumstance is thrown in, it shall never hang loose in the midst of a period, but be determined by its place to one or other member of it; and that every relative word which is used, shall inftantly present its antecedent to the mind of the reader, without the least obscurity. I have mentioned these three cases, because I think they are the most frequent occasions of ambiguity creeping into Sentences.
With regard to Relatives, I must farther observe, that obscurity often arises from the too frequent repetition of them, particularly of the pronouns who, and they, and them, and theirs, when we have occasion to refer to different persons; as, in the following sentence of archbishop Tillotson (Vol. I. Serm. 42.): “ Men look with an evil eye upon the good " that is in others; and think that their
repu" tation obscures them, and their commend« able qualities stand in their light; and “ therefore they do what they can to cast a “ cloud over them, that the bright shining " of their virtues may not obscure them.” This is altogether careless writing. It renders style often obscure, always embarraffed and inelegant. When we find these personal pronouns crowding too fast upon us, we have
often no method left, but to throw the whole LE C T. fentence into some other form, which may avoid those frequent references to persons who have before been mentioned.
All languages are liable to ambiguities: Quinctilian gives us some instances in the Latin, arising from faulty arrangement. А man, he tells us, ordered, by his will, to have erected for him, after his death, “ Statuam
auream hastam tenentem ;” upon which arose a dispute at law, whether the whole ftatue, or the spear only, was to be of gold? The fame author observes, very properly, that a sentence is always faulty, when the collocation of the words is ambiguous, though the sense can be gathered. If any one should say, " Chremetem audivi percußise Demeam,” this is ambiguous both in sense and structure; whether Chremes or Demea gave the blow: But if this expression were used, “ Se vidisse “hominem librum scribentem,” although the meaning be clear; yet Quinctilian insists that the arrangement is wrong. “ Nam,” says he,
etiamfi librum ab homine fcribi pateat, non certè hominem a libro, malè tamen composuerat, feceratque ambiguum quantum in
ipfo fuit." Indeed, to have the relation of every word and member of a sentence marked in the most proper and distinct manner, gives not clearness only, but grace and beauty to a VOL. I.
LE CT. sentence, making the mind pass smoothly and
agreeably along all the parts of it.
I PROCEED now to the second quality of a well-arranged fentence, which I termed its Unity. This is a capital property. In every composition, of whatever kind, fome degree of unity is required, in order to render it beautiful. There must be always fome connecting principle among the parts. Some one object must reign and be predominant. This, as I shall hereafter shew, holds in History, in Epic and Dramatic Poetry, and in all Orations. But most of all, in a single sentence, is required the strictest unity. For the very nature of a sentence implies one proposition to be expressed.
may consist of parts, indeed; but these parts must be so closely bound together, as to make the impression upon the mind, of one object, not of many. Now, in order to preserve this unity of a sentence, the following rules must be observed :
În the first place, during the course of the fentence, the scene should be changed as little as possible. We should not be hurried by sudden transitions from person to person, nor from subject to subject. There is commonly, in every sentence, some person or thing, which is the governing word. This should be continued so, if possible, from the beginning
to the end of it. Should I express myself L ECT. thus : « After we came to anchor, they put
me on shore; where I was welcomed by all “ my friends, who received me with the ke greatest kindness.” In this sentence, though the objects contained in it have a sufficient connection with each other, yet, by this manner of representing them, by shifting so often both the place and the person, we, and they, and I, and who, they appear in such a difunited view, that the sense of connection is almost lost. The sentence is restored to its proper unity, by turning it after the following manner : “ Having come to an anchor, I
was put on shore, where I was welcomed by "all my friends, and received with the greattest kindness.” Writers who transgress this rule, for the most part transgress, at the same time,
A SECOND rule; never to crowd into one sentence, things which have so little connection, that they could bear to be divided into two or three sentences. The violation of this rule never fails to hurt and displease a reader. Its effect, indeed, is so bad, that, of the two, it is the safer extreme, to err rather by too many short sentences, than by one that is overloaded and embarrassed. Examples abound in authors. I shall produce fome, to justify what I now say:
" Archbishop Tillotson,"
LECT. says an Author of the History of England,
“ died in this year. He was exceedingly be-
Queen,” is the proposition of the sentence: we look for some proof of this, or at least something related to it, to follow; when we are on a sudden carried off to a new propolition, “who nominated Dr. Tennison to suc“ ceed him.” The following is from Mid dleton's Life of Cicero : “ In this uneasy
state, both of his public and private life, “ Cicero was oppressed by a new and cruel
affliction, the death of his beloved daughter “ Tullia; which happened soon after her di" vorce from Dolabella; whose manners and “'humours were entirely disagreeable to her.” The principal object in this sentence is, the death of Tullia, which was the cause of her father's afliction; the date of it, as happening soon after her divorce from Dolabella, may enter into the sentence with propriety; but the subjunction of Dolabella's character is foreign to the main object; and breaks the unity and compactness of the sentence totally, by setting a new picture before the reader. The following sentence, from a translation of