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Of vivacity as depending on the number of the words.

holds much more of poesy, than the cold prosaic diction of us moderns and Europeans. A stroke of the pencil, if I may so express myself, is almost always added to the arbitrary sign, in order the more strongly to attach the imagination. Hence it is not with them, the beasts, the birds, the fish, the heaven, and the earth; but the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, the heaven above, and the earth beneath. But though in certain cases there is some indulgence given to terms which may properly be styled pleonastic, I scarce think that an epithet which is merely tautological, is in any case tolerable.

PART III...Verbosity,

THE third and last fault I shall mention against a vivid conciseness is verbosity. This it may be thought coincides with the pleonasm already discussed. One difference however is this; in the pleonasm there are words which add nothing to the sense, in the verbose manner, not only simple words, but whole clauses, may have a meaning, and yet it were better to omit them, because what they mean is unimportant. Instead, therefore, of enlivening the expression, they make it languish. Another difference is, that in a proper pleonasm, a complete correction is always made by razing. This will not always answer in the verbose style; it is often necessary to alter as well as blot.

Sect. II. The offences against brevity considered...Part III. Verbosity.

Ir will not be improper here further to observe, that by verbosity I do not mean the same thing which the French express by the word verbiage, as some persons, misled by etymology, may be inclined to think. By this term is commonly understood a parade of fine words, plausibly strung together, so as either to conceal a total want of meaning, or to disguise something weak and inconclusive in the reasoning. The former, with which alone we are here concerned, is merely an offence against vivacity, the latter is more properly a transgression of the laws of perspicuity.

ONE instance of a faulty exuberance of words is the intemperate use of circumlocution. There are circumstances wherein this figure is allowable; there are circumstances wherein it is a beauty, there are circumstances wherein it is a blemish. We indulge it often for the sake of variety, as when, instead of the women, an author says the fair sex, or when, instead of the sun, a poet puts the lamp of day; we choose it for the sake of decency, to serve as a sort of veil to what ought not to be too nakedly exposed, or for the sake of avoiding an expression that might probably offend *. Sometimes indeed propriety requires the use of circumlocution, as when Milton says of Satan, who had been thrown down headlong into hell,

* See Book III. Chap. I. Sect. II. Part III.

Of vivacity as depending on the number of the words.

Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanguish'd rolling in the fiery gulf †.


To have said nine days and nights, would not have been proper, when talking of a period before the creation of the sun, and consequently before time was portioned out to any being in that manner. Sometimes this figure serves, as it were accidentally, to introduce a circumstance which favours the design of the speaker, and which to mention of plain purpose, without apparent necessity, would appear both impertinent and invidious. An example I shall give from Swift, "One "of these authors (the fellow that was pilloried, I have forgot his name,) is so grave, sententious, dogmati "cal a rogue, that there is no enduring him." What an exquisite antonomasia have we in this parenthesis ! Yet he hath rendered it apparently necessary by his saying, "I have forgot his name." Sometimes even the vivacity of the expression may be augmented by a periphrasis, as when it is made to supply the place of a separate sentence. Of this the words of Abraham afford an instance: "Shall not the judge of all the "earth do right?" The judge of all the earth is a periphrasis for GOD, and as it represents him in a character to which the acting unjustly is peculiarly unsuitable, it serves as an argument in support of the sentiment, and is therefore conducive even to conciseness.

Paradise Lost, B. Į.

*Letters concerning the Sacramental Test, Gen, xviii. 25.

Sect. II.

The offences against brevity considered.... Part III. Verbosity.

In this view we may consider that noted circumlocution employed by Cicero, who, instead of saying simply, Milo's domestics killed Clodius, says, "They did "that which every master would wish his servants to "do in such an exigence ‡." It is far from being enough to say of this passage, that it is an euphemism, by which the odious word killed is avoided. It contains also a powerful vindication of the action, by an appeal to the conscience of every hearer, whether he would not have approved it in his own case. But when none of these ends can be answered by a periphrastical expression, it will inevitably be regarded as injuring the style by flattening it. Of this take the following example from the Spectator, "I won't say, we “see often, in the next tender things to children, tears "shed without much grieving*." The phrase here employed appears, besides, affected and far-fetched.

ANOTHER Source of languor in the style is, when such clauses are inserted, as to a superficial view appear to suggest something which heightens, but, on reflection, are found to presuppose something which abates the vigour of the sentiment. Of this I shall give a specimen from Swift: "Neither is any condi"tion of life more honourable in the sight of God than "another, otherwise he would be a respecter of per

キ "Fecerunt id servi Milonis,quod suos quisque servos in talî re facere voluisset." Cicero pro Milone.

* No. 95.

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Of vivacity as depending on the number of the words.


sons, which he assures us he is not †.' It is evident that this last clause doth not a little enervate the thought, as it implies but too plainly, that, without this assurance from God himself, we should naturally conclude him to be of a character very different from that here given him by the preacher.

A-KIN to this is the juvenile method of loading every proposition with asseverations. As such a practice in conversation more commonly infuseth a suspicion of the speaker's veracity, than it engages the belief of the hearer, it hath an effect somewhat similar in writing. In our translation of the Bible, God is represented as saying to Adam, concerning the fruit of the tree of knowledge, "In the day thou eatest thereof, thou "shalt surely die." The adverb surely, instead of enforcing, enfeebles the denunciation. My reason is the same as in the former case. A ground of mistrust is insinuated, to which no affirmation is a counterpoise. Are such adverbs then never to be used? Not when either the character of the speaker, or the evidence of the thing, is such as precludes the smallest doubt. In other cases they are pertinent enough. But as taste itself is influenced by custom, and as, for that reason, we may not be quick in discerning a fault to which our ears have from our infancy been habituated, let us consider how it would affect us in an act of parliament, to read that the offender shall for the first of

Sermon on Mutual Subjection.

Gen. ii, 17.

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