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Of the qualities of style strictly rhetorical.
resemblance is attained ; by elegance, dignity of man
For as to the dignity of the subject itself, or thing imitated; it concerns solely the thought. If he purposes to work upon the passions, his very diction, , as well as his sentiments, must be animated. Thus language and thought, like body and soul, are made to correspond, and the qualities of the one exactly to co-operate with those of the other.
But though the perfection of the body consists, as was formerly observedt, in its fitness for serving the purposes of the soul, it is at the same time capable of one peculiar excellence as a visible object. The excellence I mean, is beauty, which evidently implies more than what results from the fitness of the several organs and members for answering their respective ends. That there is a beauty in the perceived fitness of means to their end, and instruments to their use, is uncontrovertible. All that I contend for here is, that this is not the whole of what is implied in the term beauty. The eyes of one person may be much inferior in this respect to those of another, though equally fit for all the purposes of vision. The like may be said of every other feature. Analogous to this there is an excellence of which language is sus. ceptible as an audible object, distinct from its aptitude for conveying the sentiments of the orator with light and energy into the minds of the hearers. Now as music is to the ear what beauty is to the eye, I shall,
+ Ibid. Chap. 4.
for want of a more proper term, denominate this excellence in style, its music; though I acknowledge the word is rarely used with so great latitude.
Thus it appears, that besides purity, which is a quality entirely grammatical, the five simple and original qualities of style, considered as an object to the understanding, the imagination, the passions, and the ear, are perspicuity, vivacity, elegance, animation, and music.
Of all the qualities above mentioned, the first and most essential is perspicuity*. Every speaker doth not propose to please the imagination, nor is every subject susceptible of those ornaments which conduce to this purpose. Much less is it the aim of every speech to agitate the passions. There are some occasions, therefore, on which vivacity, and many on which animation of style, are not necessary ; nay, there are occasions on which the last especially would
* Prima est eloquentiæ virtus perspicuitas. QUINT.
be improper. But whatever be the ultimate intention of the orator, to inform, to convince, to please, to move, or to persuade, still he must speak so as to be understood, or he speaks to no purpose. If he do not propose to convey certain sentiments into the minds of his hearers, by the aid of signs intelligible to them, he may as well declaim before them in an unknown tongue. This prerogative the intellect has above all the other faculties, that, whether it be or not immediately addressed by the speaker, it must be regarded by him either ultimately or subordinately; ultimately, when the direct purpose of the discourse is information, or conviction ; subordinately, when the end is pleasure, emotion, or persuasion.
There is another difference also between perspicuity and the two last-mentioned qualities, vivacity and animation, which deserves to be remarked. In a discourse, wherein either or both of these are requisite, it is not every sentence that requires, or even admits them ; but every sentence ought to be perspicuous. The effect of all the other qualities of style is lost without this. This being to the understanding what light is to the eye, ought to be diffused over the whole
performance. In this respect it resembles grammatical purity, of which I have already treated, but it is not in this respect only that it resembles it. Both are best illustrated by shewing the different ways wherein they may
be lost. It is for these reasons that, though perspicuity be more properly a rhetorical than a gramma
tical quality, I thought it better to include it in this book, which treats of the foundations and essential or universal properties of elocution, than to class it with those which are purely discriminative of particular styles.
INDEED, if language were capable of absolute perfection, which it evidently is not ; if words and things could be rendered exact counterparts to each other ; if every different thing in nature had a different symbol by which it were expressed; and every difference in the relations of things had a corresponding difference in the combinations of words, purity alone would secure perspicuity, or rather these two would entirely coincide. To speak grammatically would, in that case, convey infallibly and perspicuously the full meaning of the speaker, if he had any meaning, into the mind of every hearer who perfectly understands the language. There would not be even a possibility of mistake or doubt. But the case is widely different with all the languages that ever were, are, or will be in the world.
GRAMMATICAL purity, in every tongue, conduceth greatly to perspicuity, but it will by no means securre it. A man may in respect of it speak unexceptionably, and yet speak obscurely, or ambiguously; and though we cannot say, that a man may speak properly, and at the same time speak unintelligibly, yet this
last case falls more naturally to be considered as an offence against perspicuity, than as a violation of propriety. For, when the meaning is not discovered, the particular impropriety cannot be pointed out. In the three different ways, therefore, just now mentioned, perspicuity may be violated.
SECT. I....The Obscure.
PART I.... From Defect.
This is the first offence against perspicuity, and may arise from several causes. First, from some defect in the expression. There are in all languages certain elliptical expressions, which use hath established, and which, therefore, very rarely occasion darkness. When they do occasion it, they ought always to be avoided, Such are, in Greek and Latin, the frequent suppression of the substantive verb, and of the possessive pronouns ;
I was going to add, and of the personal pronouns also : but, on reflection, I am sensible, that, in the omission of them in the nominative, there is properly no ellipsis, as the verb, by its inflection, actually expresses them. Accordingly, in these languages, the pronoun in the nominative is never rightly introduced, unless when it is emphatical. But the idiom of most modern tongues, English and French particularly, will