Abbildungen der Seite



STYLE may be said to be as diversified as human personality. If, as Buffon tells us, “the style is the man,” then the method or manner in which thought may be embodied and verbally expressed may be as varied as are the multiform phases of what we call humanity, or human nature.

Some of these bases or principles of classification may here be mentioned.

We may speak of style as conditioned by racial peculiarities. Hence, the North European, as illustrated in the German ; the South European, as in the French and Italian. We speak of the classical style of the older empires, as distinct from that of the modern European nations. Literary historians tell us of the Asiatic style ; that exuberant, pictorial and florid manner so germane to the Oriental nations, as distinct from the Occidental and more practical peoples. There is a style peculiar to England, as it differs in its national type from America. In the British Isles themselves, the Scotch, the Irish and the English a light and often flippant spirit marks much of the authorship of Southern Europe.

Such, among others, are the three most essential features of the style Intellectual, and they must exist in some good degree of manifestation. It is their presence which more than all else may be said to give character to style, making it a potential element in the world's mental progress. Authorship, after all, must be ranked in the light of its intellectual qualities, back of all that is merely verbal or ästhetic. The ancients were right in making the study of style a part of philosophy itself, an integral chapter in the study of mind.

METHODS OF CULTIVATION. As to any particular method by which such an order of style may be cultivated, it may be affirmed, that, in a true sense, it is independent of all method, being largely, if not mainly, due to the writer's antecedents and personality. Where an author's early training has been a thorough one; where all of his early associations have been healthful; where, above all, his own habit of mind has been reflective and logical; where, in a word, his individuality has been and is intellectual, his style must be of the same superior order. He must speak and write as he thinks and because he thinks. All that he utters or records will, necessarily, be marked by a mental tone and cast. It is very rarely, in the history of authorship, that a writer, so happily situated and endowed, becomes

a superficial writer or even degenerates into the adoption of any one of the inferior forms of literary work.

There is such a thing as an inherited bias toward the rational and profound. There is such a thing as a genius for the substantial and the meditative; a constitutional love for the truth in its deepest and purest forms. Lord Brougham, of England, in his parliamentary and judicial efforts was, from the first, such an author. Mr. Gladstone, when at Eton, was a thoughtful English boy, and when at Oxford, long before he rose to distinction as a writer and a statesman, impressed all about him with the mental gravity of his speech and bearing. John Quincy Adams was a man of this exalted type. “He spoke and wrote with a manly sobriety," says his latest biographer, “because of the manliness of character that was in him.” Alexander Hamilton was such a writer, within the sphere of American constitutional law; as was Rufus Choate, on civil and criminal jurisprudence. In the province of English Fiction, George Eliot is a distinctively intellectual writer, mainly because of the innate quality of her mind and tastes, and so on throughout the list of the world's most philosophic authors.

If, however, the question of method is pressed to an answer, we would say—that this special type of style is best secured by keeping in active connection with mental life and work. Mr. Hamerton has written a book on, “The Intellectual Life.” It is with such a life that the ambitious author must keep himself in sympathy. He must keep every mental faculty within him in constant exercise, up to the full limit of its possible activity. His judgment, reason, perception and general mental life must be under daily discipline. Every temptation to personal indolence; to the abuse, misuse or neglect of his natural endowments must be resisted. As the old writers would have expressed it, he must keep his wits or intellectuals about him so as to make them capable of increasingly superior work. It is this very necessity that makes the style before us so desirable—in that it demands intellectual activity in all departments open to the writer. It is a style connected with all the highest mental aims ; in which all our best acquisitions and training can be utilized, and which becomes, thereby, an integral factor in our personal progress and usefulness.

There is an imminent danger, just here, it is true, in the direction of a style unduly intellectual, so that it becomes technical, unpractical and unfeeling-the professional utterance of the author rather than a free and sympathetic expression of views. Intellectuality tends to the abstract and speculative. It tends, when unguarded, to widen the distance between author and reader, and thus to defeat the ultimate purpose of all expression.

This temptation or tendency may, however, be overcome. A writer may be, in the best sense, scholarly without being, in the objectionable

sense, scholastic. He may be abstract without being abstruse : a prose writer, without being prosaic ; a man, as well as an author. The writer, as a thinker, must keep himself in sympathy with human life ; must be a man of the world as well as of books ; must appreciate the relations that connect his study with the street and when he writes, be it never so professionally, write so as to be intelligible to readers less profound than he. It is a part of his duty as an intellectual writer to make plain what is difficult; to present hidden truth in open form and to lift his readers to higher mental levels.

We simply insist, that the writer must be a thinker; that he should express his thought, primarily, for the sake of the thought, and not of the form, so that any one perusing his pages shall feel the impulses of mental quickening and rise from the reading stronger in mental fibre and calibre than before.

We note, by way of suggestion, that the intellectual style in authorship is needed in aii periods of a nation's literary history to counteract the inevitable tendency to the inferior and superficial. Such a tendency is especially prominent in our age and nation. It is the age of poetry, in its lighter forms; and of prose, in the forms of fiction, and descriptive miscellany. In and of themselves, there is nothing objectionable in these forms, if, indeed, they do not become the exclusive or dominant types. That they may not become so, certain

« ZurückWeiter »