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For a man to write well, there are required three necessaries. To read the best authors; observe the best speakers; and much exercise of his own style. In style, to consider what ought to be written, and after what manner; he must first think, and excogitate his matter; then choose his words, and examine the weight of either. Then take care in placing and ranking both matter and words, that the composition be comely; and to do this with diligence and often. No matter how slow the style be at first, so it be laboured and accurate ; seek the best, and be not glad of the forward conceits, or first words that offer themselves to us, but judge of what we invent, and order what we approve, Repeat often what we have formerly written ; which beside that it helps the consequence, and makes the juncture better, it quickens the heat of imagination, that often cools in the time of setting down, and gives it new. strength, as if it grew lustier by the going back. As we see in the contention of leaping, they jump farthest, that fetch their race largest : or, as in throwing a dart or javelin, we force back our arms, to make our loose the stronger. Yet if we have a fair gale of wind, I forbid not the steering out of our sail, so the favour of the gale deceive us not. For all that we invent doth please us in the conception or birth; else we would never set it down, But the safest is to return to our judgment, and
handle over again those things, the easiness of which might make them justly suspected. So did the best writers in their beginnings. They imposed upon themselves care and industry. They did nothing rashly. They obtained first to write well, and then custom made it easy and a habit. By little and little, their matter shewed itself to them more plentifully; their words answered, their composition followed; and all, as in a well-ordered family, presented itself in the place. So that the sum of all is, ready writing makes not good writing; but good writing brings on ready writing; yet, when we think we have got the faculty, it is even then good to resist it; as to give a horse a check sometimes with a bit, which doth not so much stop his course, as stir his mettle. Again, whether a man's genius is best able to reach thither, it should more and more conténd, lift, and dilate itself, as men of low stature raise themselves on their toes; and so oft-times get even, if not eminent. Besides, as it is fit for grown and able writers to stand of themselves, and work with their own strength, to trust and endeavour by their own faculties: so it is fit for the beginner and learner, to study others and sthë best. For the mind and memory are more sharply exercised in comprehending another man's things, than our own ; and such as accustom themselves, and are familiar with the best authors, shall ever and anon find some. what of themselves, and in the expression of their minds, even when they feel it not, be able to utter something like theirs, which hath 'an authority above their own. Nay, sometimes it is the reward of a man's study, the praise of quoting another man fitly: and though a man be more prone and able for one kind of writing than another, yet he must exercise all. For, as in an instrument, so in style, there must be a harmony, and consent of parts.
I take this labour in teaching others, that they should not be always to be taught: and I would bring my precepts into practice. For rules are ever of less force and value than experiments. Yet with this purpose, rather to shew the right way to those that come after, than to detect any that have slipt before by error, and I hope it will be more profitable. For men do more willingly listen, and with more favour to precept, than reprehension. Among divers opinions of an art, and most of them contrary in themselves, it is hard to make election; and therefore, though a man cannot invent new things after so many,
do a welcome work yet to help posterity to judge rightly of the old. But arts and precepts avail nothing, except nature be beneficial and aiding. And therefore, these things be no more written to a dull disposition, than rules of husbandry to a [barren ?] soil.
Custom is the most certain mistress of language,
as the public stamp makes the current money. But we must not be too frequent with the mint, every day coining. Nor fetch words from the extreme and utmost ages; since the chief virtue of a style is perspicuity, and nothing so vicious in it as to need an interpreter. Words borrowed of antiquity do lend a kind of majesty to style, and are not without their delight sometimes. For they have the authority of years, and out of their intermission do win them. selves a kind of grace-like newness. But the eldest of the present, and newness of the past language, is the best. For what was the ancient language which some men so doat upon, but the ancient custom? Yet when I name custom, I understand not the vulgar custom: for that were a precept no less dangerous to language, than life, if we should speak or live after the manners of the vulgar : but that I call custom of speech, which is the consent of the learned : a custom of life, which is the consent of the good. Virgil was most loving of antiquity, yet how rarely doth be insert aquai and pictai! Lucretius is scabrous and rough in these; he seeks them as some do Chaucerisms with us, 'which were better expunged and banished. Some words are to be culled out for ornament and colour, as we gather flowers to strew houses, or make garlands; but they are better when they grow to our style; as in a meadow, where
though the mere grass and greenness delight, yet the variety of flowers doth heighten and beautify. Marry, we must not play, or riot too much with them, as in Paronomasies : nor use too swelling or ill-sounding words ; quæ per salebrus, altaque sava cadunt. It is true, there is no sound but shall find some lovers, as the bitterest confections are grateful to some palates. Our composition must be more accurate in the beginning, and end, than in the midst; and in the end more than in the beginning; for through the unidst the stream bears us. And this is attained by custom more than care or diligence. We must express readily and fully, not profusel;: There is difference between a liberal and prodigal hand. As it is a great point of art, when our matter requires it, to enlarge and veer out all sail : so, to take it in and contract it, is of no less praise, when the argument doth ask it. Either of them hath their fitness in the place. A good man always profits by his endeavour, by his help; yea, when he is abseni; nay, when he is dead, by his example and memory. So good authors in their style. A strict and succinct style is that, where you can take away nothing without loss, and that loss to be manifest. The brief style is that which expresseth much in little. The concise style which expresseth not enough, but leaves somewhat to be understood. The abrupt style