unseemliness of every production of nature, and the immense superiority of human art, this writer rises to assertions, which shock all our notions, and utterly defy the powers of apprehension. Painting is found to be the original; or rather, Rubens's pictures are the original, and nature is the copy.

Specimens of the same kind are sometimes also to be met with in the poets. Witness the famous protestation of an heroic lover in one of Dryden's plays:

“My wound is great, because it is so small.” The nonsense of which was properly exposed in an extemporary verse of the Duke of Buckingham's, who, on hearing this line, exclaimed in the house,

“Then 't would be greater, were it none at all.

The Puerile :--A poetical example of this stamp; in which there is not a glimpse of meaning, we have in the following lines of Dryden : "From harmony, from heavenly harmony,

This universal frame began:

From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,

The diapason closing full in man."
The Learned :-

Nothing is there to come, and nothing past,

But an eternal now does always last.”—Cowley. A now, that lasts ! that is, an instant, which continues during successive instants; an eternal now, an instant, that is no instant; an eternity, that is no eternity.

The Profound :-Of this kind is the following specimen from a justly celebrated tract of a justly cele

brated pen :-“It is agreed,” says Dean Swift, “ that in all governments there is an absolute and unlimited power, which naturally and originally seems to be placed in the whole body, wherever the executive part of it lies. This holds in the body natural: for wherever we place the beginning of motion, whether from the head or the heart, or the animal spirits in general, the body moves and acts by a consent of all its parts.”—On the Contests and Dissensions in Athens and Rome.

The first sentence of this passage contains one of the most hackneyed maxims of the writers on politics; a maxim, however, of which it will be more difficult than is commonly imagined to discover, not the just. ness, but the sense, The illustration from the natural body, in the second sentence, is more glaringly nonsensical. What it is, that constitutes this consent of all the parts of the body, which must be obtained previously to every motion, is utterly inconceivable. The whole of the paragraph, however, from which this quotation is taken, has such a speciousness in it, that even a judicious reader may not, on the first perusal, be sensible of the defect.

A great source of impropriety is the want of sufficient precision. By precision it is understood that the words and phrases employed express the writer's meaning, and nothing more. To attain this quality, particular care must be employed to discriminate accurately the words and phrases, that are generally considered synonymous ; and, in the description of the same object or circumstances, not to accumulate either these, or such as include the signification of each other.


Obsolete or affected language, foreign idioms and words, provincial expressions, &c., are inconsistent with purity and propriety.

Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings"2" Deal not with us, after our sins ”—“The quick and the dead”-and all such expressions were, no doubt, good English, when the Liturgy was composed; but no one would now use the words in the same sense.

Established terms are not to be proscribed, even though their use may involve circumstantial impropriety. We may still speak with propriety of sunrise and sun-set, though we know that the sun neither rises nor sets.

Propriety requires careful attention to the use of the different kinds of figures of speech.



On Clearness of Arrangement.-General Rules.The words and members most nearly related in sense should be placed as near as possible to each other, that their mutual relation may appear to the greatest advantage :

“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.” — Johnson's "Life of Savage."

This construction would lead us to conclude that it was the work, and not the poet, that was afflicted with an asthma. The following arrangement will

remove the ambiguity : “Being now afflicted with an asthma, and finding the powers of life gradually declining, he had no longer courage to undertake this work in its full extent.”

A circumstance ought never to be placed between two capital members ; since, by such a position, it is doubtful to which it belongs. By placing it between parts of the member, to which it belongs, ambiguity is avoided, and the capital members are kept distinct:

“By the articles subsisting between us, on the day of marriage, you agree to pay down the sum of eighty thousand pounds."

Better thus :-“By the articles subsisting between us, you agree to pay down on the day of marriage the sum of eighty thousand pounds."

Words, expressing things connected in thought, ought generally to be placed contiguous, even though their separation would cause no ambiguity :

When the woman has made her own choice, for form's sake, she sends a congé d'élire to her friends."

Better thus:-" When the woman has made her own choice, she sends, for form's sake, a congé d'élire to her friends."

When different things have an obvious relation to each other with respect to the order of time, place, cause, and effect, or the like, a corresponding order should be observed in assigning them their position in the sentence. Better" Alive and well,” than“Well and alive."

When the sense admits it, the sooner a circụmstance is introduced the better:

“Whether a choice, altogether unexceptionable, has ever, in any country, been made, seems doubtful.”. Better thus :-“Whether in any country, a choice," &c.

Circumstances should not follow one another, but should be interspersed among the principal words, on which they depend, or to which they refer :

Virgil, who has cast the whole system of Platonic philosophy, so far as it relates to the soul of man, into beautiful allegories, in the sixth book of his Æneid, gives us the punishment,” &c. Better thus :“ Virgil, who has cast into beautiful allegories the whole system of Platonic philosophy, so far as it relates to the soul of man, gives us, in the sixth book of his Æneid, the punishment," &c.


A sentence should contain one leading proposition. It may embrace several members or circumstances, provided they are made subservient to one predominating object or principle.

It is obvious that objects, having no intimate connexion, should not be associated in the same sentence.

During the course of the sentence the scene should be changed as little as possible. One principal agent should lead the sentence, and one species of construction should generally prevail in it, an unnecessary

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