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Sect. II. The offences against brevity considered....Part III. Verbosity.
philosophy, which, under the pretence of methodizing religion, hath corrupted it, and, in less or more, tinged all the parties into which Christendom is divided. His language is not so much the language of the head as of the heart. His object is not science, but wisdom; accordingly, his discourses abound more in sentiments than in opinions *.
* I would not be understood to signify by this censure, that pa raphrase can never be a useful mode of explication, though I own, that, in my opinion, the cases wherein it may be reckoned not improper, nor altogether unuseful, are not numerous. As the only valuable aim of this species of commentary, is to give greater perspicuity to an original work, obscurity is the only reasonable plea for employing it. When the style is very concise or figurative, or - when there is an illusion to customs or incidents now or here not generally known, to add as much as is necessary for supplying an ellipsis, explaining an unusual figure, or suggesting an unknown fact, or mode alluded to, may serve to render a performance more intelligible, without taking much from its energy. But if the use and occasions of paraphrase, are only such as have been now represented, it is evident that there are but a few books of scripture, and but certain portions of those few, that require to be treated in this manner. The notions which the generality of paraphrasts (I say not all) entertain on this subject, are certainly very different. If we may judge from their productions, we should naturally conclude, that they have considered such a size of subject matter (if I may be indulged this once in the expression) as affording a proper foundation for a composition of such a magnitude; and have therefore laid it down as a maxim, from which in their practice they do not often depart, that the most commodious way of giving to their work the extent proposed, is that equal portions of the text, (perspicuous ør obscure it matters not) should be spun out to equal length. Thus
Of vivacity as depending on the number of the words.
But I have digressed my subject, and shall therefore return to it by observing, that another species of verbosity, and the only one which remains to be taken notice of, is a prolixity in narration arising from the mention of unnecessary circumstances. Circumstances may be denominated unnecessary, either because not of such importance, as that the scope of the relation is affected by their being known, or because implied in the other circumstances related. An error of the former kind belongs properly to the thought, of the latter to the language. For the first, when it is habitual, a man is commonly styled loquacious; for the second, verbose. Such a sentence as the following would be an instance of the second; for with the first I am not here concerned. "On receiv
ing this information, he arose, went out, saddled his "horse, mounted him, and rode to town.” All is implied in saying, " On receiving this information, he "rode to town." This manner, however, in a certain degree, is so strongly characteristic of the uncultivated, but unaffected, style of remote ages, that in books of the highest antiquity, particularly the sacred code, it is not at all ungraceful. Of this kind are the following scriptural phrases: "He lifted up his "voice and wept." "She conceived and bore a son."
regarding only quantity, they view their text, and parcel it, treating it in much the same manner as goldbeaters and wiredrawers treat the metals on which their art is employed.
The offences against brevity considered....Part III. Verhosity.
"He opened his mouth and said." For my own part, I should not approve the delicacy of a translator, who, to modernize the style of the Bible, should repudiate every such redundant circumstance. It is true, that in strictness they are not necessary to the narration, but they are of some importance to the composition, as bearing the venerable signature of ancient simplicity. And in a faithful translation, there ought to be not only a just transmission of the writer's sense, but, as far as is consistent with perspicuity and the idiom of the tongue into which the version is made, the character of the style ought to be preserved.
So much for the vivacity produced by conciseness, and those blemishes in style which stand in opposition to it, tautology, pleonasm, and verbosity.
Of vivacity as depending on the arrangement of the
SECT. I....Of the nature of arrangement, and the principal division of sentences.
HAVING already shown how far vivacity depends' either on the words themselves, or on their number, I come now lastly to consider how it is affected by their arrangement.
THIS, it must be owned, hath a very considerable influence in all languages, and yet there is not any thing which is more difficult to regulate by general laws. The placing of the words in a sentence, resembles in some degree the disposition of the figures in a history-piece. As the principal figure ought to have that situation in the picture which will at the first glance fix the eye of the spectator, so the emphatical word ought to have that place in the sentence which will give it the greatest advantage for fixing the attention of the hearer. But in painting there can rarely arise a doubt concerning either the principal figure, or the principal place, whereas here it is otherwise. In many sentences it may be a question, both what is the word on which the emphasis ought to rest, and
Sect. I. Of the nature of arrangement, and the principal division of sentences.
what is the situation which (to use the language of painters) will give the highest relief. In most cases, both of simple narration and of reasoning, it is not of great consequence to determine either point: in many cases it is impossible. Besides, in English, and other modern languages, the speaker doth not enjoy that boundless latitude, which an orator of Athens or of Rome enjoyed, when haranguing in the language of his country. With us, who admit very few inflections, the construction, and consequently the sense, depends almost entirely on the order. With the Greeks and the Romans, who abound in inflections, the sense often remains unalterable, in whatever order you arrange the words.
Bur, notwithstanding the disadvantage which in this respect we Britons labour under, our language even here allows as much liberty as will, if we know how to use it, be of great service for invigorating the expression. It is true indeed, that when neither the imagination nor the passions of the hearer are addressed, it is hazardous in the speaker to depart from the practice which generally obtains in the arrangement of the words; and that even though the sense should not be in the least affected by the transposition. The temperament of our language is phlegmatic, like that of our climate. When, therefore, neither the liveliness of representation, nor the warmth of passion, serve, as it were, to cover the trespass, it is not safe to leave the beaten track. Whatever is Whatever is suppos