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puerility, is so necessary to **ention from the sense
re. ... merhaps inadvertently, · Alison makes Napoleon
hat man made me miss
ng depends, in a great sits words and clauses. he words flow naturally -rruptions as possible
reason, insertions in entheses, should be i clauses which qua
sé often necessary ; not to interrupt the
tical style is abrupt vler perpetually in has arrived at the with new and unwhich continually thus considerably rwise derive from tation from one of
faulty in point of -sage is harsh and
first view, that this led something of a
the finished models of Grecian literature; that they would not waste those hours, which they cannot recall, upon the meaner productions of the French and English press ; upon that fungous growth of novels and pamphlets, where, 't is to be feared, they rarely find any rational pleasure, and, more rarely still, any solid enjoyment."
What with repetition of forms, and parentheses, this sentence could not well have been made more unmusical.
There should be no rhymes in consecutive clauses, or members of a sentence:
“ It is quite . proper that a character should be pervaded by a spirit of humility ; but this feeling should never be allowed to degenerate into servility.”
“ On this occasion the question gave rise to much agitation, and soon after absorbed every other consideration."
These clauses ending in words of a similar sound, give a disagreeable jangle to the whole sentence. In rhyming verse, the case is, of course, different; but in prose composition, every form of echo should be carefully avoided.
Alliteration, or the practice of making several words in succession begin with the same letter, was the principle on which the Anglo-Saxon poets constructed their verses. Langland, who immediately preceded Chaucer, begins his poem of “Piers Plowman,"
“In a summer season, when soft was the sun,
but this practice, though still partially retained in our later poetry, should never be allowed a place in prose composition. Here it becomes a mere puerility, destroying the variety which is so necessary to harmony, and calling off our attention from the sense to the mere sound of the language.
Some writers, however, have, perhaps inadvertently, adopted this alliterative form; Alison makes Napoleon say of Sir Sydney Smith: “That man made me miss my destiny."
The beauty of a piece of writing depends, in a great measure, on the arrangement of its words and clauses. It should be so managed, that the words flow naturally and gracefully, with as few interruptions as possible to its onward course. For this reason, insertions in wrong places, and repeated parentheses, should be carefully avoided. Parenthetical clauses which qualify the sense of a proposition are often necessary ; but they should be so placed as not to interrupt the flow of the language. A parenthetical style is abrupt and ungraceful; it keeps the reader perpetually in suspense, and when he thinks he has arrived at the conclusion of a sentence, he meets with new and unexpected qualifying expressions which continually interfere with the meaning, and thus considerably lessen the pleasure he would otherwise derive from its perusal.
The following quotation from one of Tillotson's sermons is strikingiy faulty in point of arrangement, and the whole passage is harsh and unmusical :
“One might be apt to think, at first view, that this parable was overdone, and wanted something of a
true decorum; it being hardly credible, that a man, after he had been so mercifully dealt withal, as, upon his humble request, to have so huge a debt so freely forgiven, should, whilst the memory of so much mercy was fresh upon him, even in the very next moment, handle his fellow-servant, who had made the same humble request to him which he had done to his lord, with so much roughness and cruelty, for so inconsiderable a sum.”
With regard to sound, the part of a sentence or period requiring the most attention is its cadence. As in a phrase of music, the last few notes played or sung leave the most pleasing effect; so, in a sentence, the last few words, when well selected and arranged, produce the most agreeable impression. It has been before remarked, that words having open vowels and soft final consonants are generally the most melodious; and this quality particularly adapts them for cadences. Words of three or of four syllables are more eligible for this purpose ; and nouns or verbs should be used rather than adjectives or pronouns. It has been pronounced by a high authority, that a word of four syllables, accented on the first and third, such as ob'serva'tion,' 'cir'cumstan'tial,' 'un'derstan'ding,' &c., is the most musical we can adopt for the close of a period. One of three syllables, with an open vowel, and the accent on the second, will also make a very pleasing cadence; such as "enjoy'ment,''contri'vance,' “propor'tion,' &c. It must be remembered that these are merely suggestions; for it would, of course, be impossible to make every sentence end in such words. The object is simply to draw the learner's attention to
such forms of language as are most harmonious, and to recommend him to use them whenever circumstances will allow of their adoption.
What has been observed of the cadence is also applicable, though not in the same degree, to the endings of the other members of sentences. Here, adjectives and pronouns may be more frequently used, attention being directed to the selection of those which have an agreeable sound.
Lastly, the cadence of a period should never be elliptical : when the reader is obliged mentally to supply the words omitted in a cadence, the result is always unsatisfactory, both as to sound and sense.
But we should steadfastly bear in mind that harmony in composition must never appear the effect of labour ; and that the gravest offence against the art of writing is to allow the musical tone of a cadence to interfere with the sense or strength of the expressian.
The principle of proportion, on which some remarks were made, under the head of “ Unity in Sentences,” is indispensable to harmony. It consists in the arrangement of the parts of a composition in such a way that they exhibit a just relation to the whole piece of writing. There is something disagreeable to our nature in seeing the parts of any object out of proportion. A sense of beauty is always conveyed by the contemplation of an object whose parts are in a proper relation to the whole thing and to each other. We may not be always sensible of the cause of these feelings; but