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composition, the different parts of it may de- 1 E C T. mand a proper variation of manner.
But we must study never to sacrifice, totally, any one of these qualities to the others and, by a proper management, both of them may be made fully consistent, if our own ideas be precise, and our knowledge and stock of words be, at the same time, extensive.
L E CT.
AVING begun to treat of Style, in
the last Lecture I considered its fundamental quality, Perspicuity. What I have said of this, relates chiefly to the choice of Words. From Words I proceed to Sentences ; and as, in all writing and discourse, the proper composition and structure of Sentences is
of the highest importance, I shall treat of this fully. Though Perspicuity be the general head under which I, at present, consider Language, I shall not confine myself to this quality alone, in Sentences, but shall enquire also, what is requisite for their Grace and Beauty: that I may bring together, under one view, all that seems necessary to be attended to in the construction and arrangement of words in a Sentence..
It is not easy to give an exact definition of a Sentence, or Period, farther, than as it always implies fome one complete proposition
or enunciation of thought. Aristotle's defini. LECT. tion is, in the main; a good one: “ Aegis $%80%
αρχην και τελευτην καθ' αυτην, και μεγεθος ευσινoπ τον:” " A form of Speech which hath a beginning " and an end within itself; and is of such a
length as to be easily comprehended at conce.” This, however, admits of great latitude. For a Sentence, or Period, confists always of component parts, which are called its members ; and as these members may be either few or many, and may be connected in several different ways, the same thought, or mental proposition, may often be either brought into one Sentence, or split into two or three, without the material breach of
The first variety that occurs in the confideration of Sentences, is, the distinction of long and
The precise length of Sentences, as to the number of words, or the number of members, which may enter into them, cannot be ascertained by any definite measure. At the same time, it is obvious, there may be an extreme on either side. Sentences, immoderately long, and consisting of too many members, always transgress some one or other of the rules which I shall mention soon, as necessary to be observed in every good Sentence. In discourses that are to be spoken, regard must be had to the easiness of pronun
LFC T. ciation, which is not consistent with too long
periods. In compositions where pronunciation has no place, still, however, by using long Periods too frequently, an author overloads the reader's ear, and fatigues his attention. For long Periods require, evidently, more attention than short ones, in order to perceive clearly the connexion of the several parts, and to take in the whole at one view. At the same time, there may be an excess in too many short Sentences also; by which the sense is split and broken, the connexion of thought weakened, and the memory burdened, by presenting to it a long succession of minute objects.
With regard to the length and construction of Sentences, the French critics make a very just distinction of Style, into Style Periodique, and Style Coupé. The Style Periodique is, where the Sentences are composed of several members linked together, and hanging upon one another, so that the sense of the whole is not brought out till the close. This is the most poinpous, musical, and oratorical manner of composing; as in the following sentence of Sir William Temple: “ If you look “ about you, and consider the lives of others “ as well as your own; if you think how few « are born with honour, and how many die " without name or children; how little beauty
« we fee, and how few friends we hear of; how LECT,
many diseases, and how much poverty there " is in the world, you will fall down upon “ your knees, and, instead of repining at
one affliction, will admire so many bless
ings which you have received from the hand " of God.” (Letter to Lady Effex.) Cicero abounds with Sentences constructed after this
The Style Coupé is, where the sense is formed into short independent propositions, each complete within itself; as in the following of Mr. Pope : “ I confefs, it was want «c of consideration that made me an author. “ I writ, because it amused me. I corrected, “ because it was as pleasant to me to correct " as to write. I published, because, I was “ told, I might please such as it was a credit “ to please.” (Preface to his works.) This is very much the French method of writing; and always suits gay and easy subjects. The Style Periodique, gives an air of gravity and dignity to composition. The Style Coupé, is more lively and striking. According to the nature of the composition, therefore, and the general character it ought to bear, the one or other may be predominant. But, in almost every kind of composition, the great rule is to intermix them. For the ear tires of either of them when too long continued : Whereas,