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This quality explained and exemplified.
dazzling, it is no more a fit medium for viewing an object in, than too weak a light would be. Though the causes be contrary, the effects are in this respect the same. Objects in both are seen indistinctly. But the cases to which this observation is applicable, are extremely few.
INDEED, the concise manner in any form is not alike adapted to every subject. There are some subjects which it particularly suits. For example, the dignity and authority of the preceptive style receives no small lustre from brevity. In the following words of Michael to Adam, how many important lessons are couched in two lines?
Nor love thy life, nor hate; but what thou livost,
The aphoristic style, and the proverbial, receive likewise considerable strength from the laconic manner. Indeed these two tyles differ from each other only as the one conveys the discoveries in science, and the other the maxims of common life. In Swift's detached thoughts, we find a few specimens of this manner. “ The power of fortune is confessed by the miserable, ,
the happy ascribe all their success to merit.”—“E.“ very man desires to live long, but no man would be “ old.”_" A nice man is a man of nasty ideas."“ The sluggard,” saith Solomon, “ hideth his hand in
* Paradise Lost.
Of vivacity as depending on the number of the words.
“ his bosom, it grieveth him to bring it to his mouth*" “ The desire of the slothful killeth him, for his hands refuse to labourt."
A fool,” says the son of Sirach, “ travaileth with a word, as a woman in labour of a
child I." It is indeed true, that a great degree of conciseness is scarcely attainable unless the style be figurative; but it is also true, that the vivacity of the expression is not to be attributed solely to the figure, but partly to the brevity occasioned by the figure. But though the combination of the figurative with the concise is very common, it is not necessary. This will appear from some of the examples already given, wherein, though we discover a happy comprehension of a great deal of meaning in little compass, there is neither trope nor figure. Nor indeed is there either of these, in the picture that Swift gives of himself,
“I am too proud to be vain,” in which simplicity, perspicuity, and vivacity, are happily united. An inferior writer, in attempting to delineate fully the same character, would have employed many sentences, and not have said near so much. Further, the writer on politics often avails himself of a sententious conciseness, which adds no little energy to the sentiments he unfolds. Of the successful application of brevity in this way, we have an excellent model in the spirit of laws. It hath no bad effect, if used spáringly, even in narrative s.
where he says,
* Proverbs xxvi. 15. ** Ib. xxi. 25. | Ecclus. xix. 11.
The veni, vidi, vici, of Cæsar, derives hence its principal beau
The principal offences against brevity considered.
On the other hand, the kinds of writing which are less susceptible of this ornament, are the descriptive, the pathetic, the declamatory, especially the last. It is besides much more suitable in writing than in speaking. A reader has the command of his time, he may read fast or slow, as he finds convenient; he can peruse a sentence a second time when necessary, or lay down the book and think. But if, in haranguing to the people, you comprise a great deal in few words, the hearer must have uncominon quickness of apprehension to catch your meaning, before you have put it out of his power, by engaging his attention to something else. In such orations, therefore, it is particularly unseasonable ; and by consequence, it is, in all kinds of writing addressed to the people, more or less so, as they partake more or less of popular declamation.
SECT. II.... The principal offences against brevity con
But though this energetic brevity is not adapted alike to every subject, we ought, on every subject, to avoid its contrary, a languid redundancy of words. It is sometimes proper to be copious, but never to be
ty; I came, I saw, I conquered, is not equal. So small a circumstance, as the repetition of the pronoun, without which the sentence in our language would appear maimed, takes much from its vivacity and force.
Of vivacity as depending on the number of the words.
verbose. I shall therefore now consider some of the principal faults against that quality of style of which I have been treating.
The first I shall take notice of is the tautology, which is either a repetition of the same sense in different words, or a representation of any thing as the cause, condition, or consequence of itself, Of the first, which is also the least, take the following example from Addison :
The dawn is overcast;the morning lours ;
Here the same thought is repeated thrice in different words. Of the last kind, I shall produce a specimen from Swift. " I look
upon it as my duty, so far as God “ hath enabled me, and as long as I keep within the “ bounds of truth, of duty, and of decency--t" It would be strange indeed, that any man should think it his duty to transgress the bounds of duty. Another example from the same hand you have in the words which follow : “ So it is, that I must be forced to get " home, partly by stealth, and partly by force .” “ How many are there,” says Bolingbroke, “ by whom “ these tidings of good news were never heard $?”
* Cato. $ Letter to Lord Lyttelton. I Letter to Sheridan.
§ Ph. Fr. 38.
The offences against brevity considered...Part I. Tautology.
This is tidings of tidings, or news of news.
" Never “ did Atticus 'succeed better in gaining the universal “ love and esteem of all men t." Either of the two words in italics might have been used, but not both.
It is also considered as of the nature of tautology, to lengthen a sentence by coupling words altogether or nearly synonymous, whether they be substantives or adjectives, verbs or adverbs. This fault is very common, and to be found even in our best writers. “ In the Attic commonwealth,” says Doctor Swift," it
was the privilege and birthright of every citizen and poet, to rail aloud and in public .”—If he had said simply, “In the Attic commonwealth it was the pri
vilege of every citizen, to rail in public,” the sentence would have lost nothing of the sense. And it is an invariable maxim, that words which add nothing to the sense or to the clearness, must diminish the force of the expression. There are certain synonymas which it is become customary with some writers regularly to link together; insomuch that a reader no sooner meets with one of them, than he anticipates the introduction of its usual attendant. It is needless to quote authorities, I shall only produce a few of those couples which are wont to be thus conjoined, and which every English reader will recollect with ease. Such are, plain and evident, clear and obvious, worship and acloration, pleasure and satisfaction, bounds and limits, suspicion.
+ Spectator, No. 467. Z.
I Preface to the Tale of a Tub.