Page images

68. Opinion of Carlyle on the Mode of acquiring a good Style.-Carlyle, whose style is very labored, but is very excellent, according to Coleridge's test-“untranslatableness in words of the same language, without injury to the meaning "—has given some excellent advice on rapid writing. He says:

"The adroit, sound-minded man, will endeavor to spend on each business approximately what of pains it deserves; and with a conscience void of offense will dismiss it then-And yet, on the other hand, it shall not less but more strenuously be inculcated, that in the way of writing, no great thing was ever, or will ever be done with ease, but with difficulty. Let ready writers, with any faculty in them, lay this to heart. Virgil and Tacitus, were they ready writers? The whole Prophecies of Isaiah are not equal in extent to this cobweb of a Review Article. Shakspeare, we may fancy, wrote with rapidity, but not till he had thought with intensity. No easy writer he, or he had never been a Shakspeare. Neither was Milton one of the mob of gentlemen that write with ease; he did not attain Shakspeare's facility, one perceives, of even writing fast after long preparation, but struggled while he wrote. Goethe also tells us he 'had nothing sent him in his sleep,' no page of his but he knew well how it came there. It is reckoned to be the best prose, accordingly, that has been written by any modern."*

69. Further Advice.-Such also is the opinion of Brougham, and indeed of nearly if not quite all men competent to judge of the subject. Write carefully then. Remember the example of such men as Plato, whose style the ancients thought worthy to be called divine, and who, it is said, wrote the beginning of his "Republic" many times in a great variety of ways before he was satisfied, and yet the words, as they now stand, seem very simple, and their order the most natural that could be chosen. The best style is like

**Critical and Miscellaneous Essays: collected and republished by Thomas Carlyle (Boston, 1860), vol. iv. p. 242.



the best glass, so clear as not to be noticed-but how difficult it must be to produce perfectly faultless glass!

70. Interlineations to be Avoided.-After, however, good habits of composition are formed, much interlineation and change of words ought, if possible, to be avoided. Writers who discipline themselves the most severely at first, generally arrive at the habit of ready, and correct, and appropriate writing. The same principles also apply to extemporaneous speaking.

71. Earnestness Necessary.-It should also be remembered that earnestness is a prime excellence in a speaker or writer. Though we have already quoted Carlyle in this chapter, yet his advice is so appropriate on this subject that we present it:

"Sweep away utterly all frothiness and falsehood from your heart; struggle unweariedly to acquire what is possible for every God-created man, a free, open, humble soul: speak not at all, in any wise, till have somewhat to speak; care not for the reward of your speaking, but simply, and with undivided mind, for the truth of your speaking."


* Carlyle's Miscellanies, vol. iii. p. 67.



72. Nature of Emotion, and its Place in Rhetoric.— WE have defined Rhetoric as the science and art of expressing thought and emotion by language in the best Emotion is as essential as thought, and has its own laws, and its own modes of expression.


Mental philosophers have differed in the terms employed to describe that part of our nature exercised when we feel emotions, but all persons are conscious of the meaning of such words as sensibility, appetite, affection, and desire; nor is it necessary, for the purposes of a Rhetoric, that we should be minute in the classification of the passions.

All affection is preceded by some degree of thought. 73. A Sense of Duty.— The noblest affections are those growing out of the idea of duty, or the recognition of the right or wrong of some act. No man can plead with peculiar earnestness to produce conviction, unless he has not only a firm belief himself in the truth of the proposition which he is endeavoring to establish, but also that it will lead to just action, and will prevent injustice. He then becomes zealous for the right. A man may be zealous for truth alone, but it

[merged small][ocr errors]



communicates zest to his arguments and pleadings, if he believes that the establishment of the truth will lead to right action.

74. Can one plead for a known Falsehood?-A man can not plead for a known falsehood except hypocritically, or by producing in himself a temporary false belief. The natural indignation of the healthy mind at such a course weakens a man, and if exposed, brings upon him censure and contempt. It is the true function of Rhetoric to overcome and destroy error; and though falsehood may use it as a weapon, it is only by a perversion of its true purpose. A defender of what is believed to be truth will endeavor to expose hypocrisy or dishonesty in an opponent, and awaken in him shame and repentance, and in others toward him indignation, censure, pity, or contempt. These last passions, if persisted in, and if there is no abandonment of the wrong by its defenders, will swell into anger and hatred.

75. All Emotions right.-All passions are right, to a certain degree, when the occasion demands them, and the orator may properly endeavor to excite any one of them.

76. Passions of Approval.-There are passions of approval, as well as disapproval. Love in all its various forms must have an intellectual basis. It proceeds from thought. There is the love of man, as man; the peculiar love of the virtuous and noble; and a love of those who exhibit some good traits, such as generosity, bravery, truthfulness, patriotism, though they may be deficient in other good qualities, and even

possessors of some injurious and disagreeable traits of character. Thus the affections excited by the portraiture of character, or the description of actions, are often very complex, blending approval and disapproval, love and hatred, indignation and sympathy, execration and pity. The field, therefore, of the orator is broad, and the language of passion almost infinite.

77. How to awaken Approval.-To awaken approval, the good qualities of the action or the character must be dwelt upon, and vividly brought before the mind. Men instinctively love justice, especially when maintaining itself against strong temptations. What seems to be disinterested benevolence excites the warmest approbation. Instinctively also we sympathize with those who struggle against wrong, even though they yield at last, and the emotion of sympathy may be awakened by a presentation of the extenuating circumstances growing out of temptation, or ignorance, or wrong education, or deception.

Suffering endured by the innocent or helpless awakens sympathy, more or less intense, according to the degree of the suffering. If this is conjoined with good positive qualities in the sufferer, such as patience, benevolence, disinterested affection, earnest truth, the liveliest compassion is awakened.

What a vast field, then, lies open before the orator, who either describes facts, or calls upon his imagination to invent combinations of characters and events surpassing, if possible, any realities in interest and complexity.

78. How to awaken Disapproval. So emotions of

« PreviousContinue »