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crowded the canvas may be. This skill depends in principle on a perfectly masterly comprehension of the essential truths of the subject, the inner life and life power, which necessitates all the parts falling into their right places and blending harmoniously, For truth supposes not only a keen perception of particular points, but also a broad view of the true position of each part; so that everything may lead up to the main idea, either to prepare for its being brought forward, or to heighten the effect when it has been brought forward. And this is done by the arrangement of the subject, the arrangement of the sentences, and the choice of words.
The writer must needs have a clear idea of the order in which his subject should unfold, or get it as it unfolds. That order must either be an order of time, in which case events decide chronologically the arrangement; or an order of importance, in which case some main idea is the standard of comparison. For instance, in the passages on rain quoted above, the main idea in the one is joy, in the other sorrow; and every image and every word is made to produce a corresponding effect in each.
If the writer does really know his subject in this true way, the ordinary faults of composition can find no place in his writing. He will not be in danger of mixing up together incongruous ideas, for the strong main idea will possess his mind and not suffer it; and this will equally be the case in the subordinate sentences and illustrations; their parts will fall into place on the same principle; and images will not be crowded together in confusion. The beauty of any thought will not so master his fancy as to make him extend it beyond the limit within which it contributes to the main effect; still less will any single expression be allowed, like a gaudy servant, to push itself into undue notice. A strong and clear idea of truth in the head and heart excludes of necessity false proportion and false ornament.
But in order to have this strong and clear idea of truth of subject, a learner must subdivide the whole, and examine the parts separately. A writer, for instance, wishes to describe a landscape. First, he must have a special bit of country in view, as much as if he went out with colours to paint it; then the time of year, the time of day, the kind of day, the plants, the animals, the insects, the sky, the atmosphere. These will all vary according to the choice he makes in his main idea. And the different features they present at different times should be closely observed, so that the special appearances, which belong to the special time and view selected, may be described in such a way as to render it impossible to mistake the picture for anything but what it is intended to be in its living reality.
The same principle applies of course to every writing. The observation of what is and what is not at any given moment, at least secures a certain reality in the description. Very often contrasting the present state with the past or future is very suggestive, and brings the subject home most forcibly.
Bad compositions also, like children's drawings, are all out of proportion. The plums are half as big as the plum-tree; a brooklet hidden in a green line of grass becomes the Thames; or, as Goldsmith said of Dr. Johnson, all the little minnows talk like whales.' This fault is avoided as soon as the idea of intense reality and truth becomes fixed practically in a writer's mind.
When, then, the writer knows what to write, the next question is how to write it. What are the principal requirements of a perfect form ? A cultivated language has expressions for nearly all shades of ideas; if single words do not seem expressive or accurate enough, they must be strengthened or modified by other words, nouns by other nouns or adjectives, verbs by other verbs or adverbs. The first care in writing should be always to use the best expressions the language provides. This may appear very obvious; but it requires a sound knowledge of the language and long practice always to act up to it. Nothing is more common than to find an idea expressed in a roundabout way, when a straightforward expression would have been clearer and therefore more forcible; or two words are used where one would have been sufficient; or words are coupled together without any real force, though their position and connexion seem to indicate that they represent the prominent features of an idea. These defects make a style blunt and weak, and induce the reader to read carelessly; for useless words, like a person sitting in a boat, not only do not help the motion, but retard it, in proportion to their weight; and nobody cares to make great efforts in trying
to find out what is meant, when it is very doubtful whether the writer really knew himself. On the other hand, nothing can be more interesting to a reader who knows how to read, than to follow a good writer into details of thought, to track out by a careful analysis of the words, of their position and connexion, the process of thinking which created the writing. The exertion which such a style demands of the reader may be compared to bodily exercise; it is a source of health and pleasure; but the efforts to overcome difficulties arising from defects are like the jolting of a carriage on a bad road; it only wearies, and is a loss of time.
Clear words put together in the form of a principal sentence cannot fail to convey the idea of a fact in a distinct manner. As soon as we connect different facts the necessity of subordinate clauses appears. A child tells his story in principal sentences, loosely strung together, because his mind dwells on the facts and not on their connexion. But subordinate clauses not only interweave their ideas with those of the principal sentence, and produce by doing so that pleasing flow and variety of language which entices the reader farther and farther; but also afford a means of balancing the facts against each other with regard to their importance. This is at once evident in a simple case where only two facts are put together in different ways, as in the following sentences: 'I wrote a letter and went out;' 'Iwrote a letter before I went out;' "After I had written a letter I went out.' In this way the machinery of principal and subordinate clauses may become a fine instrument to express shades of thought. This subject is not more fully entered into here, because it is hoped that the Analysis of Sentences contained in the Second Part will give ample opportunity for studying the relative value of principal and subordinate sentences and acquiring judgment in managing them.
It may not be superfluous to remind the learner that variety is always pleasing. Just as in nature it delights the eye to follow the outlines of a range of mountains, resting now on domeshaped summits, now on long sweeping ridges, now on bold peaks, and now on gentle undulations, which have all been produced by like causes acting on the original rock-formation, so
that each range has a character of its own however varied it may be, in like manner a good writer will adapt his sentences and words even in their structure to the different ideas; and will intentionally alter the length and shape of sentences in order to vary the impression and keep alive the attention of the reader. But all will be done in subordination to the main idea.
For perfection of truth is the key to a great writing; and the mental and bodily eye that can seize on subtle hidden truth is the instrument of a great writer, combined with the extended range which makes all the parts of a great truth, each in their place, unite and contribute to the completeness of the main idea. This power can be guided, not given. It depends on character and experience. No rules can supply brain and heart, or the material gathered by heart and brain. The life and life-work of each man must give it him, or he will never have it. In its highest form this power depends on the union of an exceedingly feeling, impressible heart, with an active, well-trained brain. When both these agents are in great perfection what is called genius is the result. For the intensely sensitive love perpetually sees hidden loveliness and new and deeper truths in that which it loves, and the fine brain-instrument renders love capable of expressing its secrets. The law, that love sees depths of sweetness and power hidden from common eyes, holds good always and in all things. Love a subject, and it will open out and give an insight into itself unknown to unloving eyes. But it is possible to love in a shallow way; yet even shallow love will discover something. And it is possible to love deeply and well, but to want the voice to express it; the trained intellect may not be ready. But when the deep, true, loving heart and the fine brain instrumental power which can express feeling, unite, there is genius. But both these are great powers; true love which can love great things truly from feeling their truth is rare, very rare; most who do love, love as a peasant might love a queen, with only a dim sense of dazzling glory on their mind's eye, bewildering more than it enlightens. Much love can exist without the power of expression or a clear perception of the causes of love. And again, there can be great brain-power and intellectual skill without the feeling heart. The men who ordinarily achieve greatness are of this character. Their instrumental power is remarkable; they deal with all external things and the business of the world with acuteness and a hard success. They are strong in surface-motives, and forceful situations, and ordinary tracks, and visible action; though perhaps their mental eye has never read a single inward secret, and is every day more and more blinded through belief in their own acuteness, and the fame they gain from it. But Genius is complex, made up of truth of feeling and truth of brain-power, and neither is perfect without the other. For feeling unexpressed is dammed back and cannot flow on into new channels. And power of expression without deep feeling is limited in range, may easily be famous, but is never truly great.
It follows from this that a strong impress of living truth should animate, make to grow, and control the growth of, every great writing. The thoughts should be intensely true, thoroughly belonging to the subject, and thoroughly belonging to the writer's view of the subject; it ought not to be necessary to write under the picture oak tree,' to tell us what it is. But if this is the case with the thoughts and inward life, it must obviously be the case with the body which contains this life, the words and style of writing which it comes out into. No style can be good which is not intensely true. That is, no style can be good which does not belong distinctly to the subject, the view taken of the subject, and—the writer. A style is false in principle which fails in any or all of these points. Hence it follows that every writer or speaker ought to have in some degree a style of his own. And no language can be too strong to condemn the ordinary advice given to every one alike to take some renowned writer, Macaulay for example, and form a style on his pattern. Every man, woman, and child might as well be told to speak like Macready; or every village girl to dress like the Queen. In poetry the absurdity is seen at once; no one is ordered to imitate Tennyson. For imitation is felt there to be weakness and want of truth. Each subject, everybody will admit, ought to be treated according to its merits, grave or gay, light or heavy. We do not play the same tune at balls and funerals. But the same argument applies with equal force to the view taken by each