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Pleonasm also is to be avoided, which consists in the employment of words that add nothing to the sense. Thus to ascend up and descend down' are pleonasms, and the sentence, she wept and shed tears,' is an instance of a most vicious pleonasm. Occasionally, however, a pleonasm is admissible; when, for instance, whilst dwelling on an expression we wish to give it more energy and emphasis. In this latter case it is often employed to add force to an affirmation : 'I heard it, heard it with my ears.' In this sentence the pleonasm is evident; it is certain that what we hear, we hear with our ears, and not with our eyes ; yet the pleonasm is not vicious, because it adds something to the simple expression, 'I heard it.' We say in like manner · I saw it with my eyes,' 'I spoke to him with my own mouth.'

You may, with a little care, easily see what you ought to avoid in order to keep within the bounds of precision; it would be a more difficult matter for me to make you understand what you ought to seek. On this subject I can give you only general advice : always choose foj each idea the simplest and briefest form—the one that goes straight to the point; lop off without pity all that is not strictly essential to the sense, and having once expressed your idea in a complete manner, return to it no more, unless indeed you have for it a newer and more telling form.

I would here remark that there is no quality if pushed to the extreme that does not change into a fault, and this is the case with precision. Through wishing to be brief we may become obscure, and in clearing the sentence of all that appears superfluous we may remove from it even what is necessary.

Now you remember I have before told you that clearness is the most essential quality of style ; for without it all others are nothing; to it everything else must be sacrificed. If, then, a choice must be made between the two opposite faults of diffusiveness and a too great conciseness, you must not hesitate to choose the fault that clearness would suffer the least from, i.e., diffusiveness. Still the inconveniences resulting from each of these faults are nearly balanced ; in too concise à work, an effort of reflection is required to supply what the author has omitted; in one that is diffuse, the leading idea has to be sought for, to be disentangled from a number of useless words that not only encumber it, but almost hide it from view; at best a wearisome and disagreeable task.

However, excess in precision is a fault that you will be little likely to fall into ; its opposite diffusiveness is what

you will have more to guard against. A desire for precision belongs to a mind already ripened and accustomed to reflection, or, to use a better term, to abstract meditation. Sobriety of expression proves vigour of thought; strive, then, to aim at acquiring precision, for it is a quality that cannot be too strongly recommended.

I am, &c.



1. What is the second essential quality of style ?
2. In what does this quality consist ?
3. What is meant by periphrasis ?
4. Give an example of periphras...
5. When is this mode of expression admissible ?
6. What is a pleonasm ?
7. Give an example of it.
8. When is this admissible ?

Coff? 9. In the expression of an idea what should be lopped 10. Into what opposite error may an excess of precision

lead a writer ? 11. What is the most essential quality of style ? 12. What is the opposite of conciseness ? 13. What are the disadvantages resulting respectively

from a too concise and a too diffuse style ?



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1. They returned back again to the same place whence they set out.

2. In the war that immediately followed, the Spartans were the first aggressors.

3. In the Attic Commonwealth it was the privilege and birthright of every citizen and poet, to rail aloud and in public.

4. The arts of deceit and cunning do not grow weaker and less effectual and serviceable to them.

5. If in any case he come, all will be well.

6. The reason of my desiring to see you was because I wanted to talk with you.

7. The separation did not take place till after the language had attained the ripeness of maturity.

8. This haughty and imperious style sounded harshly to Scottish nobles, impatient of the slightest appearance of injury.

9. I could heartily wish there were the same application and endeavours to cultivate and improve church music as have lately been bestowed on that of the stage.




My dear Boy,

The quality I am to treat of in this letter is Simpli. city, and this, like its companion Precision, is more easily taught by indicating its opposite faults, viz., a profusion of ornament—a laboured and affected style. Ornaments of style are those embellishments known by the name of


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figures; and of these there are two kinds : figures affecting a whole sentence, and hence termed figures of thought,' and those affecting merely a word, and consequently termed figures of words.' The figures of thought, considered simply as ornaments of style, are very few in number, being limited to comparison, periphrasis, and antithesis.

I need not explain what is meant by comparison. We have seen in Letter VII. what is meant by periphrasis. Antithesis opposes one idea to another. Here is an example of antithesis borrowed from Tennyson's Brook

“ Men may come and men may go,

But I go on for ever.” Neither will I stay to indicate, even by name, the other figures of thought, which belong more especially to the oratorical style. For figures of thought, like figures merely verbal, present themselves naturally and spontaneously to the mind; the most ordinary language abounds in figures of all kinds ; for every utterance that is not a distinct expression of thought by an affirmative sentence, is a figure ; so with the interrogation, when he that makes it does not really require an answer; so with the exclamation, &c.

To avoid figures of speech, then, is impossible; our aim should be to guard against the abuse of them. Multiplied comparisons lengthen out a narration, take from the style its easy flow, and render it heavy and laboured. This is pithily expressed in the French proverb, “Comparaison n'est pas raison:" i.e., Comparison is not argument.' Habitual periphrasis casts obscurity over the ideas ; this you will remember I have already pointed out to you. Lastly, too frequent antitheses fatigue the mind because they have almost always a studied and pretentious air; moreover, they are uniform and monotonous, because they invariably oppose one member of a sentence to another; and because when

the first part of an antithesis is given, the second is generally guessed at; in which case there is no longer any surprise for the reader or hearer, and as a natural consequence there is no longer any interest.

I shall conclude this letter by giving a few examples ofthe various kinds of figures of thought, requiring you to distinguish them. In my next letter I shall explain to you what is meant by figures of words.'

I am, &c.



1. What is the third essential quality of style ? 2. What is the quality opposite to simplicity ? 3. What do you mean by ornaments of style ? 4. How many kinds of figures are there? 5. Which are the figures of thought considered as orna

ments of style ? 6. Give an example of each. 7. What use does each figure serve ? 8. How do you define a figure ? 9. What disadvantage attends respectively too frequent

comparisons ? and too frequent antitheses ?


Distinguish the various figures of thought employed in the following examples :

1. The actions of princes are like those great rivers whose course every one beholds, though their springs have been seen by few.

2. The peasant complains aloud, the courtier repines in secret.

3. The ignorant, through ill-grounded hope, are disappointed ; the knowing, through knowledge, despond.

4. Like some tall cliff that lifts its rugged form,

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