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the truth is, that our pleasure or pain in beholding any thing is produced, in a great measure, by the proportion or the disproportion of its parts. Now, of this principle we must not only be cognisant, we must put it into practice in writing. Therefore, in constructing sentences, we should be careful not to make a very wide difference in the length of their members. All the clauses should approach each other in length. A long introduction, followed by a proposition expressed in but few words, would be criticised as written in very bad taste; and a like unfavourable opinion would probably be passed on one in which a leading proposition begins and all the rest of the sentence consists of an accumulation of circumstances. In either of these cases, the sentence would be out of proportion.

The same principle is applicable to consecutive sentences. A very long, followed by a very short sentence, would be open to objection on similar grounds. The sentences cannot, of course, be all equally long; this, for many reasons, is not desirable ; but the rhythm of the periods should be varied, and the clauses should be pretty nearly, though not quite, of the same length.

We should never commence a piece of writing with a very long sentence, as this will often have a discouraging effect on the reader. It is better to begin by stating the case closely and concisely, in a few short sentences; and in the after part of the composition a greater variety in their length may be introduced.

Lastly, this principle of proportion should be observed throughout a whole composition, whether theme, essay, fable, or letter. To write a long in


troduction, and say but little concerning the subject itself, will be as disagreeable as a piece of writing to which either the introduction or the conclusion is wanting.

The attentive reader must have perceived that all the rules here laid down are rather cautions against the commission of faults than instructions how to proceed in composing. These remarks, it is hoped, may guard the young writer against errors into which he is likely to

but he must not expect that they will of themselves produce excellence or beauty of style. Nothing but continual and careful practice will insure his proficiency in this study. Let him write, but continually and carefully; for careless or inattentive writing, instead of improving him, will, no doubt, have a directly contrary effect. And he should not only write; it is recommended that he occasionally select an extract from some eminent author, for the purpose of criticism. The heads under which the general subjects of construction and style have been here treated, will suggest points for his consideration ; and thus, by studying the best writers for the sake of their style, as well as their subject, he will insensibly improve both his taste and judgment; he will become a better critic of general literature, and, at the same time, insure improvement in his own compositions.


1. What is a sentence ? 2. How are sentences here classified ? 3. What is a simple sentence ? 4. Write a simple sentence. 5. Show how there may be degrees of simplicity in sentences. 6. What is the usual order of a simple sentence ? 7. In what cases is this order inverted ? Give examples. 8. What is meant by the figure “ Asyndeton ?” 9. What is its effect ? 10. What is the figure “Polysyndeton,” and in what cases is

it applicable ? 11. What is a complex sentence ? 12. What division is made of complex sentences ? 13. What is a period ? 14. What is the proper test of a period ? 15. What is a loose sentence? 16. What general difference of character is found between

the period and the loose sentence ? 17. In what cases are the period and the loose sentence re

spectively applicable ? 18. What qualities are essential to a perfect sentence ? 19. What is meant by unity in sentences ? 20. How may a sentence be deficient in unity ? 21. What effect on sentences have long or frequent paren

theses ? 22. In what other ways may the unity of a sentence be inter

fered with ? 23. What is meant by strength in sentences ? 24. What effect has the immoderate or injudicious use of

adjectives on sentences ? 25. What parts of speech present the greatest difficulty, as to

strength, in the construction of sentences ? 26. In what part of a sentence should the most important words

be placed ? 27. What may be said of a sentence in this respect ?

28. Which has generally more strength, a period or a loose

sentence ? 29. What is meant by “ Antithesis ?”. 30. On what grounds is the use of this figure to be recom

mended ? 31. In what cases is it especially effective ? 32. Into what errors may we fall in applying this figure ?

33. What is meant by harmony in sentences ? 34. Give the original meaning of the word “ Harmony.” 35. What character does the English language bear with re

spect to harmony ? 36. What division may be made of this subject ? 37. Which are the softer, and which the harder final consonants

in English ? 38. What differences may be found in the sounds of the same

vowel ? 39. What may be said of the liquid letters, in respect of har

mony ?

40. What effect on harmony has the place of the accent ? 41. Why are monosyllables to be avoided at the close of a

period ? 42. What may be said with respect to rhyming clauses and

alliteration ? 43. What forms of words are recommended for agreeable

cadences ? 44. What is meant by harmony of proportion ? 45. How does this principle apply to language ?






THERE is in man's nature a principle which strongly urges him to believe that inanimate objects and abstract qualities are endowed with passion and power, and that they can think, feel, and act like human beings. Certain minds, by reason of their temperament, have a stronger tendency to this belief than others; but all possess it in some degree. It may

be observed almost from the cradle, and few men are wholly exempt from its influence through life. When a child talks to her doll, or beats the table against which she has struck herself, this poetical nature is exhibited. The boy, who loves to range alone through woods and rocks, feels this principle still more strongly within him; and the man, though every year may tend to unpoetise him, and make him more philosophical, can never entirely cast it off.

The expression of this feeling is, in truth, poetry ; and every form of what is called figurative language has its origin in this universal belief. It is worthy of notice that, as the poetical principle is seen to exist

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