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12. An honest man will refrain from employing an ambiguous expression; a confused man may often utter equivocal terms without design. 13. This man, on all occasions, treated his inferiors with great haughtiness and disdain. 14. Galileo discovered the telescope; Harvey invented the circulation of the blood. 15. He is a child alone, having neither brother nor sister. 16. A man may be too vain to be proud. 17. The traveller observed the most striking objects he saw ; the general remarked all the motions of the enemy. 18. I am amazed at what is new or unexpected; confounded at what is vast or great; surprised at what is incomprehensible ; astonished by what is shocking or terrible. 19. He died with violence; for he was killed by a sword. 20. A prudent man employs the most proper means for success; a wise man, the safest means to avoid being brought into danger.
Write a critical examination of the following sentences, commenting particularly on the purity, propriety, and precision of the style:—
1. “Man, considered in himself, is a very helpless, and a very wretched being.”
This sentence exhibits a very correct choice of words for expressing the ideas which the author means to convey. The first word, “man,” is an appellative for the human race, and is universally employed in this sense by the best authors. “Man considered in himself,” signifies, man as existing by himself, and unconnected with his fellow-creatures. In this state, says the author, he is “a very helpless being.” The term “helpless” denotes here, the want of power to succour himself; and surely it is evident that, if man were left to himself in infancy, he would perish; and if he were altogether detached from society in manhood, he could not procure for himself either the necessaries or the comforts of life.
But man, “considered in himself” is not only a very helpless, but also “a very wretched being.” The term “wretched” is ge. nerally used as synonymous with unhappy or miserable; but, in this passage, it is more expressive of the meaning of the author, than either of these words would have been. Unhappy denotes merely the uneasiness of a man, who may be happy if he pleases; as the discontented are unhappy, because they think others more prosperous than themselves. Miserable is applied to persons whose minds are tormented by the stings of conscience, agitated by the violence of passion, or harassed by worldly vexations; and, accordingly, we say that wicked men are miserable. But “wretched,” derived from the Saxon word for an earile, signifies literally, cast away or abandoned. Hence appears the proper application of the word in this sentence : for man, if abandoned to himself, might indeed exist in a solitary state without being either unhappy or miserable, provided his bodily wants were supplied ; though he certainly would be a very “wretched” being, when deprived of all the comforts of social life, and all the endearments of friends and kindred.
2. “Education is the most excellent endowment, as it enlarges the mind, promotes its powers, and renders man estimable in the eyes of society.”
This sentence, though it contains many pompous words, is a very remarkable example of the want of propriety in style. Education is not an “endowment;” for an endowment is a natural gift, as taste or imagination. Education does not “enlarge” the “mind;” though it may, in a figurative sense, enlarge its capacities. Education cannot “promote” the mental “powers” themselves; but it may promote their improvement. Neither does it follow, that, because a man has improved his mind by education, he is on that account “estimable ;” for esteem is produced only by intrinsic worth; but a man may be rendered more respectable by a good education. The sentiment which the author intended to convey should have been expressed thus: “Education is the most excellent attainment, as it enlarges the capacities of the mind, promotes their improvement, and renders a man respectable in the eyes of society.”
1. The great end of prudence is to give cheerfulness to those hours, which splendour cannot gild, and acclamation cannot exhilarate.
2. To dread no eye, and to suspect no tongue, is the great prerogative of innocence; an exemption granted only to invariable virtue.
3. Arbitrary power I look upon as a greater evil than anarchy itself, as much as a savage is in a happier state than a slave at the Oar.
4. Whoever is in the least acquainted with Grecian history must know that their legislator, by the severity of his institutions, formed the Spartans into a robust, hardy, valiant nation, made for war."
Clearness in the structure of sentences consists in a perspicuous arrangement of the words and members.
To attain clearness of style, avoid ambiguity—I. In the position of adverbs;–II. In the position of clauses and circumstances ;-III. In the position or the too frequent repetition of pronouns.
I. Correct the errors in the position of adverbs, in the following sentences:—
1. The works of art receive a great advantage from the resemblance which they have to those of nature, because here the similitude is not only pleasant, but the pattern is perfect.
2. By doing the same thing it often becomes habitual.
3. Not to exasperate him, I only spoke a few words.
4. Sixtus the Fourth was, if I mistake not, a great collector of books at least.
5. We do those things frequently, which we repent of afterwards.
* These examples and exercises, and those which follow under Section IX., have been introduced, to show how the Teacher may best lead his Pupils to attend minutely to style, whether for the purpose of acquiring what is excellent, or avoiding what is faulty. He may prescribe similar exercises, when suitable passages occur in the books which his Pupils are perusing.
6. Raised to greatness without merit, he employed his power for the gratification solely of his passions. 7. I was engaged formerly in that business, but I never shall be again concerned in it. 8. By greatness, I do not only mean the bulk of any single object, but the largeness of a whole view. 9. If Louis XIV. was not the greatest king, he was the best actor of majesty, at least, that ever filled a throne.
II. Correct the errors in the position of clauses and circumstances, in the following sentences —
1. I have settled the meaning of those pleasures of the imagination, which are the subject of my present undertaking, by way of introduction, in this paper; and endeavoured to recommend the pursuit of those pleasures to my readers, by several considerations: I shall examine the several sources whence these pleasures are derived, in the next paper. 2. Fields of corn form a pleasant prospect; and if the walks were a little taken care of that lie between them, they would dislay neatness, regularity, and elegance. 3. I have confined myself to those methods for the advancement of piety, which are in the power of a prince, limited like ours, by a strict execution of the laws. 4. This morning, when one of the gay females was looking over some hoods and ribands, brought by her tirewoman, with great care and diligence, I employed no less in examining the box which contained them. 5. Since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, where fraud is permitted or connived at, or has no law to punish it, the honest dealer is often undone, and the knave gets the advantage. A 6. As the guilt of an officer will be greater than that of a common servant, if he prove negligent, so the reward of his fidelity will be proportionably greater. 7. Let the virtue of a definition be what it will, in the order of things, it seems rather to follow than to precede our inquiry, of which it ought to be considered as the result. 8. The knight, seeing his habitation reduced to so small a compass, and himself in a manner shut out of his own house, upon the death of his mother, ordered all the apartments to be flung open, and exorcised by the chaplain. 9. This work, in its full extent, being now afflicted with an asthma, and finding the power of life gradually declining, he had no longer courage to undertake.
10. The witness had been ordered to withdraw from the bar, in consequence of being intoxicated, by the motion of an honourable member.
III. Correct the errors in the position or the too frequent repetition of pronouns, in the following sentences:–
l. These are the master's rules, who must be obeyed. 2. They attacked the Duke of Northumberland's house, whom they put to death. 3. It is true what he says, but it is not applicable to the point. 4. He was taking a view, from a window, of the cathedral of Litchfield, in which a party of the royalists had fortified themselves. 5. It is folly to pretend to arm ourselves against the accidents of life, by heaping up treasures, which nothing can protect its against, but the good providence of our Heavenly Father. 6. Thus I have fairly given you my opinion, as well as that of a great majority of both houses here, relating to this weighty affair, upon which I am confident you may securely reckon. 7. We nowhere meet with a more splendid or pleasing show in nature, than what appears in the heavens at the rising and setting of the sun, which is wholly made up of those different stains of light, that show themselves in clouds of a different situation. 8. From a habit of saving time and paper, which they acquired at the university, many write in so diminutive a manner, with such frequent blots and interlineations, that they are hardly able to go on without perpetual hesitation or extemporary expletives. 9. Lysias promised to his father never to abandon his friends. 10. They were summoned occasionally by their kings, when compelled by their wants and by their fears to have recourse to their aid. ll. Men look with an evil eye upon the good that is in others, and think that their reputation obscures them, and that their commendable qualities do stand in their light; and therefore they do what they can to cast a cloud over them, that the bright shining of their virtues may not obscure them.