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image stands and appears as a man should do, in the circumstances and situation in which it is placed. In the same manner, we say of a graceful dancer, who from long practice has learned to move gracefully and apparently without effort or rule, that he moves naturally, and we mean the same as in the former instance. Now, should we say of the image, that there is much naturalness in its appearance, and of the dancer, that there is much naturalness in his movements, we should use the word in the same sense in which it is here applied to style. The writer who has naturalness of style, expresses himself in that easy, unlabored manner, which commends itse}f to our favor. He selects and uses his words, and forms and connects his sentences, just_as we should suppose any man might do, who should write on the same subject - just as we think perhaps we could and should do, unless we attempt to imitate him. We seem to hear him thinking aloud, and his thoughts flow forth to us in the same order, and with the same clearness, with which they sprung up in his own mind. He appears never to stop for a moment, to consider in what way he shall express himself, but thinks only of what he shall say. Let but one far-fetched expression, one forced comparison, or one extravagant thought be found, and the charm is gone.
The inquiry may here be made, whether by naturalness of style may not be meant that mode of writing, which is suited to the intellectual habits and attainments of an author
a style in which a writer shews himself, whatever his intellectual character may be. To this it may be answered, that, if this were the correct use of the term, naturalness, instead of denoting the highest excellences of style, would often express its greatest deformities and faults.
The word is here used as referring to a common standard, which is found in the mind of every man whose taste is not perverted and vitiated. This may be clearly shewn by re
ferring to the illustration before introduced. Every one, while looking on the performance of a graceful dancer, would say that his movements are easy and natural. But should one unacquainted with the rules and practice of the art attempt to dance, his movements might be natural to him, but no one would think of applying to them the word natural, in the same sense as in the former instance. In the same way, a manner of writing may be natural to a writer, when we should not think of ascribing to him the merit of naturalness of style.
This illustration may be still further continued, with the view of shewing in what way this quality may be obtained.
Were it asked in what way the awkward dancer may attain the easy and graceful movements of the other, it would be answered, by pursuing a similar course of instruction and practice. Some, either from the form of their bodies or iheir previous habits, would acquire these easy and natural movements more readily than others, and
few perhaps might need but little practice and little aid from the rules of the art. But these would be regarded as exceptions to what is more generally the case. In the same manner, to acquire naturalness of style, there is need of instruction and practice. A few, either from the original constitution of their minds, or their previous habits of thought and conversation, fall into it easily. Others, in their first attempts, are far from it, and it is with them the fruit of long practice in writing and a careful observance of rules. It may appear paradoxical, that wbat is called natural should be the result of art and labor. But this difficulty is removed, if we remember, that the object of this art and labor is to bring us back to nature.
Naturalness of style is not confined to any species of writing. It is found alike in the most artless narrations, and in the most elevated descriptions in the story that is open to the understanding of a child, and in the sublime raptures
of Milton. The best examples of it are among ancient writers. This is the spell which binds us to the page of Homer, of Sophocles and Theocritus, of Xenophon and He. rodotus. And a reason may easily be assigned, why naturalness of style should be found in these ancient writers They lived, as it were, near to nature. With them all is originality. Their thoughts and expressions are their own. With most modern writers it is otherwise. It is often remarked, that in modern times there are few original ideas. We tell in different words what has often been told before, and, that we may avoid a coincidence of expression, we leave the natural, and seek after the more labored forms of speech. Hence it is, that less of naturalness of style is found in modern writings.
The following are instances in which naturalness of style is most frequently violated;
1. When there is an evident attempt after ornament. What are called the ornaments of style should ever appear to be naturally suggested, and to be most intimately connected with the subject and occasion. They should offer themselves for our use, and not be sought after.
2. When the writer seeks after elegances of expression, or, as they are sometimes called, felicities of diction. Some, with the design of being thought elegant writers, studiously avoid old, genuine English words and idioms, introducing, so far as practicable, those which have been derived from other languages. Others have what may be called a sentimental manner of expressing themselves.
3. Some violations of naturalness of style arise from attempts to be forcible. Under this head are included extravagances of expression, sweeping assertions and forced illustrations.
4. Writers still further affect a fulness and flow of expression. , Because some - men of powerful minds and strong
feelings, have expressed themselves in long, flowing, full sentences, many, the current of whose thoughts is neither strong nor deep, would have them flow forth in an equally full and irresistible stream.
SECTION 2. On the modes of writing, which characterize the productions of different individuals.
It is the design of this section to treat of the different modes of writing, which characterize the productions of different authors. These, it has been stated, arise from diversities in their intellectual habits, in their tastes, and in their skill in the use of language. They are denoted by different epithets, which are applied to style; and while the meaning of these epithets is explained, the attention should be directed by the instructor to such examples as furnish illustrations.
It is sometimes said of a style, that it is IDIOMATIC AND EASY. These epithets are generally found in connexion, and where the former is justly applied, the latter denotes a natural consequence. A style which is idiomatic, will appear to have been easily written, and will be easily understood; and this is all that is meant by ease as a quality of style. By an idiomatic style is meant a manner of writing, in which, in addition to purity in the use of words, the phrases, forms of sentences, and arrangement of the words and clauses, are such as belong to the English language. Every language, as has been already stated, has peculiarities of this kind by which it is characterized, and the style in which they abound, is said to be idiomatic.
Dr. Paley's style may be mentioned as idiomatic. The following sentence is from his writings; "A Bee amidst
the flowers of spring is one of the most cheerful objects that can be looked upon.” This expression is' just what we should have used in conversation for conveying the same thought. A writer whose style is less idiomatic, would have said, “Of the different objects, which, amongst the flowers of spring, arrest the attention, the bee is the most cheerful that can be looked upon.” This mode of stating the thought is more formal and stately, but less easy and idiomatic. In another place, when speaking of the fry of fish that frequent the margins of our rivers and lakes, he says, “ They are so happy, that they do not know what to do with themselves.” Every English reader fully knows, and, I may say, feels, what is here expressed. It is a form of every day's occurrence, and its introduction shows the style of the author to be idiomatic.
It is not meant, that expressions like the last, would be proper on all occasions and subjects. We vary the forms of expression in conversation. In conversing on grave subjects, we should not use the lively and familiar forms of expression, which are suited to an hour of gayety; and we should be equally far from imitating the stately and involved modes of expression, which characterize a foreign language. There are idiomatic expressions in English which are suited to the grave style, as well as those which are suited to the lively. In the writings of Dr. Paley, those of either kind are to be found, when required by his subject.
There is danger, lest a writer, in seeking to be idiomatic, become careless in his style. We often use expressions in conversation, which are incorrect in construction, and obscure in their meaning. But they are understood from the accompanying look, or some attending circumstance, and the incorrectness is forgiven, because of the hurry of the moment. But when the same expressions are found in a written discourse, they are justly censured. An idioinatie