« PredošláPokračovať »
ed. “By greatness," says Mr. addison, " I do not only mean the bulk of any single object, but the largeness of a whole view." Here the situation of the adverb only renders it a limitation of the following word, mean. “ I do not only mean.”—The question may then be asked, What does he more than mean? Had it been placed after bulk, still it would have been improperly situated; for it might then be asked, What is meant besides the bulk? Is it the colour, or any other property? Its proper place is certainly after the word object : “By greatness I do not mean the bulk of any single object only;" for then when it is asked, What does he mean more than the bulk of a single object? the answer comes out precisely as the author intends, "the largeness of a whole view." “ Theism,” says Lord Shaftesbury, “can only be opposed to polytheism, or atheism.” It may be asked then, Is theism capable of nothing else, except being opposed to polytheism or atheism ? This is what the words literally mean, through the improper collocation of only. He ought to have said, “ Theism can be opposed only to polytheism, or atheism." This kind of inaccuracies may have no material inconvenience in conversation, because the tone and emphasis used in pronouncing them generally serve to show their reference, and to make the meaning perspicuous : but in writing, where a person speaks to the eye, and not to the ear, he ought to be more accurate ; and should so connect those adverbs with the words which they qualify, that his meaning cannot be mistaken on the first inspection.
When a circumstance is interposed in the middle of a sentence, it sometimes requires art to place it in such a manner as to divest it of all ambiguity. For instance, “ Are these designs,” says Lord Bolingbroke, Dissert. on Parties, Ded. “ which any man, who is born a Briton, in any circumstances, in any situation, ought to be ashamed or afraid to avow ?” Here we are in doubt, whether the words, "in any circunstances, in any situation,” are connected with "a man born a Briton, in any circumstances or situation," or with that man's “avowing his designs, in any circumstances, or situation, into which he may be brought.” If the latter, as seems most likely, was intended to be the meaning, the arrangement ought to have been in this form : “ Are these designs, which any man who is born a Briton ought to be ashamed or afraid, in any circumstanses, in any situation, to avow ?”
Still more attentive care is requisite to the proper disposition of the relative pronouns, who, which, what, whose ; and of all those particles which express the connexion of the parts of speech with one another. Since all reasoning depends upon this connexion, we cannot be too accurate with regard to it. A trifling errour may obscure the meaning of the whole sentence; and even where the meaning is apparent, yet where these relative particles are misplaced, we always find something awkward and disjointed in the structure of the period. The following passage in Bishop Sherlock's Sermons (vol. 2, serm. 15) will exemplify these observations: “It is folly to pretend to arm ourselves against the accidents of life, by heaping up treasures, which nothing can protect us against, but the good providence of our Heavenly Father.” Which always refers grammatically to the immediately preceding substantive, which here is, “ treasures,” and this would convert the whole period into nonsense. The sentence should have been thus constructed : “ It is folly to pretend, by heaping up treasures, to arm ourselves against the accidents of life, which nothing can protect us against but the good providence of our Heavenly Father.”
We now proceed to the second quality of a well-arranged sentence, which we termed its unity. This is an indispensable property. The very nature of a sentence implies one proposition to be expressed. It may consist, indeed, of parts; but these parts must be so intimately knit together, as to make the impression upon the mind of one object, not of many.
To preserve this unity, we must first observe, that, during the course of the sentence, the scene should be changed as little as possible. There is generally, in every sentence, some person or thing, which is the governing word. This should be continued so, if possible, from the beginning to the end of it. Should a man express himself in this manner : After we came to anchor, they put me on shore, where I was saluted by all my friends, who received me with the greatest kindness.” Here, though the objects are sufficiently connected, yet by this mode of representation, by shifting so often the place and the person, we, and they, and I, and who, they appear in such a disunited view, that the sense of connexion is nearly lost. The sentence is restored to its proper unity, by constructing it after the following manner : “Having come to an anchor, I was put on shore, where I was saluted by all my friends, who received me with the greatest kindAnother rule is, never to crowd into one sentence things which have so little connexion, that they might bear to be divided into two or more sentences. The transgression of this rule never fails to hurt and displease a reader. Its effect, indeed, is so disgusting, that, of the two, it is the safest extreme, to err rather by too many short sentences, than by one that is overloaded and confused. The following sentence, from a translation of Plutarch, will justify this opinion : “ Their march," says the author, speaking of the Greeks under Alexander, “was through an uncultivated country, whose savage inhabitants fared hardly, having no other riches than a breed of lean sheep, whose flesh was rank and unsavoury, by reason of their continual feeding upon sea-fish.” Here the scene is repeatedly changed. The march of the Greeks, the description of the inhabitants through whose country they passed, the account of their sheep and the reason of their sheep being disagreeable food, make a jumble of objects, slightly related to each other, which the reader cannot, without considerable difficulty, comprehend under one view.
Another rule for preserving the unity of sentences is, to keep clear of all parentheses in the middle of them. These may, on some occasions, have a spirited appearance, as prompted by a certain vivacity of thought, which can glance happily aside, as it is going along. But, in general, their effect is extremely bad ; being a perplexed method of disposing of some thought, which a writer has not art enough to introduce in its proper place.' It is needless to produce any instances, since they occur so frequently anong incorrect writers.
We shall add only one rule more for the unity of a sentence; which is, to bring it always to a full and perfect close.
It need hardly be observed, that an unfinished sentence is no sentence at all, with respect to any of the rules of grammar. But sentences often occur, which are more than finished. When we have arrived at what we expected to be the conclusion ; when we have come to the word on which the mind is naturally led to rest, by what went before ; unexpecteilly some circumstance arises, which ought to have been left out, or to have been disposed of after another manner. Thus for, instance, in the following sentence, from Sir William Temple, the adjection to the sentence is entirely foreign to it. Speaking of Burnet's Theory of the Earth, and Fontenelle's Plurality of Worlds : “ The first,” says he, “ could not end his learned treatise without a panegyric of modern learning, in comparison of the ancient ; and the other falls so grossly into the censure of the old poetry, and preference of the new, that I could not read either of these strains without some indignation ; which no quality among men is so apt to raise in me as self sufficiency.” The word "indignation” ought to have concluded the sentence ; for what follows is altogether new, and is added after the proper close. .
Strength of Sentences. We proceed now to the third quality of a correct sentence, which we called strength. By this is meant, such a disposition of the several words and members as shall exhibit the sense to the best advantage; as shall render the impression which the period is in