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LITERARY STYLE.

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ITHIN a few years a fresh interest has been awakened, among writers and critics, in literary style. It is beginning to be felt more keenly than for a long time before, that, as the value of the materials of a building, whatever their cost, depends mainly upon the skill with which they are put together, so in literary architecture it is the manner in which the ideas are fitted together into a symmetrical and harmonious whole, as well as adorned and embellished, that, quite as much as the ideas themselves, constitutes the worth of an essay, an oration, or a poem. As the diamond or the emerald,— even the Kohinoor itself, - has little beauty as it lies in the mine, but must be freed from its incrustations, and cut and polished by the lapidary, before it is fit to blaze in the coronet of a queen, or to sparkle on the breast of beauty, so thought in the ore has little use or charm, and sparkles and captivates only when polished and set in cunning sentences by the literary artist. But there is another and more potent reason for the growing estimation of style. As an instrument for winning the public attention, for saving the reader all needless labor, and for keeping a hold on the grateful memory, its value cannot be easily exaggerated. A hundred years ago, in the days of stage-coaches and ramage presses, when literature did not come to us in bales, and to be a man of one book was no disgrace, style might have been regarded as a luxury; but in this age of steam-presses and electrotype-printing,

with its thousand distractions from study, and its deluge of new publications that must be skimmed by all who would. keep abreast with the intelligence of the time, this element of literature is swiftly acquiring a new utilitarian value. When we consider that Germany alone prints 15,000 books a year; that one library only, the National at Paris,contains 150,000 acres of printed paper; that in one ramified science, e. g. chemistry, the student needs fourteen years barely to overtake knowledge as it now stands, while, nevertheless, the two lobes of the human brain are not a whit larger to-day than in the days of Adam; that, even after deducting all the old books which the process of "natural selection" and the "survival of the fittest" has spared us from reading, the remnant even of literary and other masterpieces, which cannot be stormed by the most valiant reader, but must be acquired by slow "sap," is simply appalling; and, finally, that even the labor-saving machinery of periodical literature, which was to give us condensations and essences in place of the bulky originals, is already overwhelming us with an inundation of its own, -it is easy to see that the manner in which a writer communicates his ideas is hardly less important than the ideas themselves.

But what, it may be asked, do we mean by style? We shall not attempt any technical definition, but simply say that by it we understand, first of all, such a choice and arrangement of words as shall convey the author's meaning most clearly and exactly, in the logical order of the ideas; secondly, such a balance of clause and structural grace of sentence as shall satisfy the sense of beauty; and, lastly, such a propriety, economy, and elegance of expression, as shall combine business-like brevity with artistic beauty.

All these qualities will be found united in styles of the highest order; and therefore style has been well defined as an artistic expedient to make reading easy, and to perpetuate the life of written thought.

Style, in this sense, is, and ever has been, the most vital element of literary immortality. If we look at the brief list of books which, among the millions that have sunk into oblivion, have kept afloat on the stream of time, we shall find that they have owed their buoyancy to this quality. More than any other, it is a writer's own property; and no one, not even time itself, can rob him of it, or even diminish its value. Facts may be forgotten, learning may grow commonplace, startling truths dwindle into mere truisms; but a grand or beautiful style can never lose its freshness or its charm. It is the felicity and idiomatic naïveté of his diction that has raised the little fishing-book of Walton, the linen-draper, to the dignity of a classic, and a similar charm keeps the writings of Addison as green as in the days of Queen Anne. Even works of transcendent intellectual merit may fail of high success through lack of this property; while works of second and even third-rate value,-— works which swarm with pernicious errors, with false statements and bad logic,- may obtain a passport to futurity through the witchery of style. The crystal clearness and matchless grace of Paley's periods, which were the envy of Coleridge, continue to attract readers, in spite of his antiquated science and dangerous philosophy; and a similar remark may be made of Bolingbroke. The racy, sinewy, idiomatic style of Cobbett, the greatest master of Saxon-English in this century, compels attention to the arch-radical to-day as it compelled attention years ago. Men are captivated by his style, who are shocked alike by

his opinions and his egotism, and offended by the profusion of italics which, like ugly finger-posts, disfigure his page, and emphasize till emphasis loses its power. For the pomp and splendor of his style, "glowing with oriental color, and rapid as a charge of Arab horse," even more than for his colossal erudition, is Gibbon admired; it is "the ordered march of his lordly prose, stately as a Roman legion's," that is the secret of Macaulay's charm; and it is the unstudied grace of Hume's periods which renders him, in spite of his unfairness and defective erudition, in spite of his toryism and infidelity, the popular historian of England.

Dr. Johnson, writing in the "Idler" upon the fate of books, declares that if an author would be long remembered, he must choose a theme of enduring interest; but the interest with which the "Provincial Letters" are read to-day, by men who never look into the pages of the "Rambler" or the "Vanity of Human Wishes," shows that the manner in which a subject is treated is often of more importance than the matter. It is one of the most signal triumphs of genius that it can thus not only overcome the disadvantages of a topic of ephemeral interest, but even give permanent popularity to works which the progress of knowledge renders imperfect; that it can so stamp itself upon its productions, and mould them into beauty, as to make men unwilling to return the gold to the melting-pot, and work it up afresh. What is it but the severe and exquisite beauty of their form which has given such vitality to the ancient classics, that time, which "antiquates antiquity itself," has left them untouched? Why do we never tire of lingering over the pages of Virgil, unless we are drawn to them by "the haunting music of his verse, the rhythm and fall of his language?" "The ancients alone,"

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