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Are you at a loss how to vary your periods ? Lay down your pen. Resume meditation; and every trait will soon have its appropriate character and likeness.
The repetition of the same modes of expression, at the commencement of a new division of the subject succeeds in pulpit style; but, if we wish to preserve the hearers from the weariness which accompanies uniformity, it is peculiarly proper, in the minute opening of such parts, to diversify the expressions and metaphors, and to give a new colouring to each phrase.
The sermons of the Abbé Poulle, which we have heard with so much pleasure, deserve to be quoted, in the first instance, as admirable models of the art of Oratory. What principally distinguishes the Style of this celebrated writer, is that inexhaustible fertility of a brilliant imagination, which continually changes his descriptions, his movements, his language ; and which, though discovering every moment the genius of an Orator under a variety of forms, always retains the simplicity that is inseparably connected with real ability.
ET us guard, however, against sacrificing
Perspicuity to Variety; and never become obscure and unintelligible, in the pursuit synonyma, or periphrases, with a view to avoid the repetition of the same expression or turn of thought. The intention of speaking is to be un. derstood.
The Greeks, whose language painted to the mind, and often to the eyes, the signification, and even the functions of each word, called the voice, light.* Dionysius of Halicarnassus compared Demosthenes to 'a fire, kindled in the midst of the public places of Athens, enlightening and inflaming a people, equally blind and insensible to their true interests.
Such, indeed, should be the perspicuity of Eloquence, as indiscriminately to strike every mind. The Orator should continually ask himself, when he revises his productions, 'What was
* Gr. Qwin, vox, a pów, inusit. lucco. HEDERIC. Lex. in verbum.
it I meant to express :-have I expressed it?' The more simple the expression, the greater its perspicuity: this simplicity always imparts to it double energy.*
Perspicuity ought not to be sacrificed to any other beauty whatever. If it should be doubted whether perspi. cuity be a positive beauty, it cannot be doubted that the want of it is the greatest defect. Nothing, therefore, in language ought to be more studied than to prevent all ob• scurity in the expression ; for to have no meaning is but one
degree worse than to have a meaning that is not understood.' Elements of Criticism, c. xviii. 52, p. 20, 54.
Perspicuity,' says Dr. BLAIR, • is the fundamental quality of style; a quality so essential in every kind of
writing, that, for the want of it, nothing can atone. With"out this the richest ornaments of style only glimmer through
the dark; and puzzle instead of pleasing, the reader. This therefore, must be our first object, to make our meaning
clearly and fully understood, and understood without the least difficulty. “ Oratio,” says QUINTILIAN, * negligente quoque audientibus esse aperta : ut in animum audi
entis, sicut sol in oculos, etiamsi in eum non intendatur, occurat. • Quare non solum ut intelligere possit, sed ne omnino possit non
intelligere curandum.” If we are obliged to follow a writer • with much care, to pause, and to' read over his sentences a * second time, in order to comprehend them fully, he will never please us long. Mankind are too indolent to relish
so much labour. They may pretend to admire the author's • depth, after they have discovered his meaning ; but they will seldom be inclined to take up his work a second time.'
• The great source of a loose style, in opposition to precision, is the injudicious ise of those words termed synoni. mous. They are so called, because they agree in
expressing one principal idea ; but, for the most part, if not al. ways, they express it with some diversity in the circum
It is judgment, which points out the propriety of the word; and it is the propriety of the expression, which renders it perspicuous. But, to give perspicuity to the ideas, it is requisite to be thoroughly informed. The writer, who is necessiated to learn while he composes, is generally obscure. He, on the contrary, who hath, during a length of time, brought his knowledge to maturity, becomes sufficiently master of his subject, to banish from his style, ambiguity, double entendre, and declamation.
stances. They are varied by some accessory idea which every word introduces, and which forms the distinction • between them. Hardly, in any language, are there two
words that convey precisely the same idea ; a person * thoroughly conversant in the propriety of the language, will • always be able to observe something that distinguishes them.
As they are like different shades of the same colour, an accurate writer can employ them to great advantage, by using • them so as to heighten and to finish the picture which he gives us. He supplies by one, what was wanting in the other, to the force, or to the lustre of the image which he means to exhibit. But, in order to this end, he must be extremely attentive to the choice which he makes of them. . For the bulk of writers are very apt to confound them with - each other; and to employ them carelesly, merely for the * sake of filling up a period, or of rounding and diversifying the language, as their signification were exactly the same,
while, in truth, it is not. Hence a certain mist, and indistinctness, is unwarily thrown over style.' BLAIR's Lectures, vol. i. p. 185, 195.
The whole of Dr. Blair's Lecture, on Perspicuity and Precision of style, is well worth perusal. See also, on this subject, Ward's System of Oratory, vol. i. p. 310, &c.
Obscurity proceeds from ignorance, when the expression is void of sense ; from design, when it is far-fetched; from negligence, when the thought is confused ; and from depravity of taste when the word is more abstract than the idea. The style of sacred Eloquence ought to be clear, and in some sort, transparent. The rapidity of utterance, which never allows time for examination, requires in a sermon all the perspicuity of the most familiar language.*
* We should use,' says Fenelon, "a simple, exact, easy. • style, that lays every thing open to the reader, and even prevents his attention. When an author writes for the
public, he should take all the pains imaginable to prevent “his reader's having any. All the labour should be his own;
and he should leave nothing but pleasure and instruction to “his readers. They should never be put to the trouble of ' finding out his meaning. None but those who deal in rid.
dles are allowed to puzzle people. Augustus would rather * have frequent repetitions used, than that there should be the least degree of obscurity in a discourse. Indeed the “ first care of one that writes only to be understood, is to ease “his readers by expressing himself clearly.' Fenelon's Letter to the French Academy, Sv. p. 194.
* Nobis prima sit virtus perspicuitas, propria verba, rectus ordo, non in longum dilata conclusio; nihil neque desit, neque superfluat. Ita sermo et doctis probabilis, et planus imperitis est.' QUINT. Inst. lib. viii. c. 2.
M. Rollin enforces the observations of M. Maury, res. pecting the importance of perspicuity in public speakers, when he says ; . It is a vicious taste in some Orators to imagine that they have a great deal of understanding, when