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OF THE NECESSITY OF AN ORATOR'S REFIN.
ING HIS STYLE.
erase such disgusting pleonasms. Pass a critical judgment upon your productions, and, together with such insignificant expressions, banish all those negligencies of style, which degrade the sublimity of the ideas.
It is not required that the whole of a sermon should be equally striking ; but it is requisite that it be all equally well written, and that Eloquence make amends, by the beauty of the expression, for the quality of the thoughts when they are ordinary ; just as sculpture adds, by the richness of the drapery, to the elegance of the figures.
We must allow pauses for admiration. This is chiefly necessary for the sake of energy. If, therefore, it be remarked that there are many very eloquent passages in a sermon composed with care, and containing forcible arguments, the praise will be sufficient, since there is none as yet extant, which is in all respects perfect.
Is the merit of a pure and elegant style your ambition? Multiply the copies of your discourses, and cease not to transcribe your performance until you are able to afford satisfaction to yourself.
An Orator ought to adopt the motto of Cæsar, who thought that he had done nothing, while
there remained any thing for him to do. The more he writes, the better he writes; and it is only by surmounting the tediousness of reiterated transcriptions, that he can display in his style all the elegance of his taste.
Hence it is, that very few men of learning employ all their powers to advantage. The greater part, being accustomed to rest too soon contented, die without ever having known the extent of their own talents.
Fresh ideas, the beauties of enlargement, the exquisite sentiment of a finished passage, which Horace so well defined and relished when he called it, qui me mihi reddat amicum ; in a word, the elegant and variegated turns of expression, which compose the beauty of style, do not occur to a writer in the first cast of a work, and are generally the effect of a slow correction.
: While there remains room to alter, there is opportunity for improvement. It is the characteristic of excellence in all the arts, so sensibly to strike the spectator who admires it, that he can
conceive of nothing transcending that which he beholds.
However little we may have accustomed ourselves to write, we easily distinguish those passages, which have not been sufficiently studied, and which proceeded from the pen of the writer, before they had been thoroughly digested in his own mind. This hasty or negligent composition soon discovers itself, not, as is commonly supposed, by the pleasing freedom of a diction somewhat too unrestrained and irregular, but by the confusion of expression, all the constituent parts of which are stiff and forced.
The more the writer hurries himself, the more dragging, of course, is his style. And, when it is said that a writing "smells of the lamp,” it is an evident proof that it is not sufficiently laboured.
When the steel hath been well polished, the edge of the file is no more perceived.
OF A PROPER SELECTION OF WORDS.
ET no one accuse me here of exhorting Or
ators to render their compositions insipid, with a view of improving their style.
I am sensible, that, whatever we wish to finish with too much care, we enervate ; and, that the impetuosity of Eloquence spurns at those minute researches, which would extinguish its fervour; but, I am aware also, that we can write from present impulse, and correct afterwards, at leisure, without cooling the original ardour; and, that a proper medium is requisite to be kept between the extreme of neglecting application, which adds to the defects of taste, and the excess of labour, which deadens the transports of genius.
Boileau hath said before me, and better than I have, “Put your work twenty times upon the • frame ; polish and re-polish it continually ; * sometimes add, and often erase.'*
* Vingt fois sur les mè tier remettez votre ouvrage ;
A pains-taking Orator, who is desirous of giving the finishing stroke to his productions, is al
Horace, who was a shrewd judge of human nature, insists upon an author's being rigorously strict in criticizing and correcting his own works.
Vir bonus et prudens versus reprehendet inertes ;
Hor. de Ar. Poet, v. 445. DR. BLAIR enforces the same attention to the work of revision and correction, in his directions for forming Style, when he observes, that there may be an extreme in too great and anxious a care about words. We must not re'tard the course of thought, nor cool the heat of imagina' tion, by pausing too long on every word we employ. * There is, on certain occasions, a glow of composition
which should be kept up, if we hope to express ourselves "happily, though at the expence of allowing some inadvertancies to pass. A more severe examination of these must be left to be the work of correction. For, if the practice of composition be useful, the laborious work of correcting is no less so; it is, indeed, absolutely necessary to our * reaping any benefit from the habit of composition. What "we have written, should be laid by for some little time, till 'the ardour of composition be past, till the fondness for the 'expressions we have used be worn off, and the expressions • themselves be forgotten ; and then reviewing our work ' with a cool and critical eye, as if it were the performance
of another, we shall discern many imperfections which at first escaped us. Then is the season for pruning redun* dancies; for weighing the arrangement of sentences; for ' attending to the juncture and connecting particles; and bringing Style into a regular, correct, and supported form.