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THE IMPASSIONED STYLE.
THERE are various names by which this order of style may be designated. We may call it the emotional, persuasive, fervid or forceful style; the cogent, effective or vivacious style; vital in its nature, method and results, and, as such, entering more or less fully into all departments of literature and writing. Differing, in some important particulars, from that type of style which we have termed intellectual, as, also, from that which is literary, it is supposed to have a sufficient degree of each of these representative orders to commend it to authors of ability and taste, while its relation to the style called popular is still more pronounced and important.
A brief examination of some of its expressions in the typical forms of authorship will evince the largeness of its province and function. We see it, most emphatically, in the best narration and description, whether such recitals and sketches be historical or feigned. In such works of fiction as
Hawthorne's “Scarlet Letter;" Kingsley's “ Alton Locke" and "Two Years Ago;" in George Eliot's “ Mill on the Floss” and Charlotte Brontë's “ Jane Eyre;” in Dickens' Old Curiosity Shop,” “Hard Times” and “David Copperfield;" in Bulwer's “Pompeii," Scott's "Heart of Mid-Lothian and Thackeray's Irish Sketches”—this life-like portraiture of men and things reaches, at times, the height of its excellence and assumes the appearance of reality itself. Within the domain of the actual and historical, this impassioned element naturally finds a full expression, as in Victor Hugo's description, in “Les Misérables," of the Battle of Waterloo; in Prescott's description of Mexican and Peruvian life; in Motley's stirring recital of the struggle in Holland for political freedom, as given us in his “ John of Barnevelde;" in Macaulay's affecting account of the impeachment of Hastings, in the great hall of William Rufus, and, especially, in such volumes as Carlyle's “Cromwell” and “French Revolution." In these and similar authors, historical narrative and delineation rise far above the ordinary plane of fact and incident, and assume, for the moment, all the vividness and fervor of the most emotional address, and serve to awaken and energize and absorb us, as well as to instruct us.
So, in the province of argumentative and forensic writing, passion is seen in its best and most effective forms. It is probable, indeed, that there is no sphere of prose expression in which the emotive
element has fuller sway and power. In the great historic debates and orations of Continental, English and American politics, as we have them reduced to written form, genuine feeling is seen at its climax, and we are not surprised to learn that the immediate results of their oral delivery were often overpowering. In such examples as Chatham's written oration “On the Right to Tax America;" Mackintosh's “On Behalf of Free Speech;" Lord Erskine's "On Limitation of Free Speech;" Richard Cobden's “On Protection;" Fox's “On Rejection of Napoleon's Overtures for Peace;" Edmund Burke's “On Resolutions for Conciliation with America;" Seward's “Irrepressible Conflict;" the efforts of Clay and Calhoun, Webster and Randolph, in the American Congress, or of Mirabeau, in the French Assembly—passion of thought and speech is the dominant quality,—so pronounced and potent as to carry all before it and effect its final purpose in the conscience and judgment of the reader. Even at this late date, though generations and centuries have elapsed since the first oral utterances of some of these deliberative and forensic efforts, our souls are stirred within us, as we read them, by the intensity of their fiery logic, and we seem to be standing in person within the very presence of these masters of speech.
In noting, more particularly, the salient characteristics of the Impassioned Style, we shall confine ourselves to three, as most distinctive.
I. The Element of Passion. It is this element, indeed, from which this special type of style derives its name and which, as such, must, first be considered. Milton's definition of poetry as sensuous and passionate," would apply fully as appropriately to impassioned prose. It is that order of prose in which the heart is engaged as well as the thinking head or the designing hand; in which emotion is allied to conception and execution, and the vital impression of the reader is made, at the time, fully as important as his instruction, and far more important than his mere entertainment or pleasure. We speak, and speak correctly, of the heat of debate; of “thoughts that breathe and words that burn;" of the excitive and incitive elements in speech; of a style as animated, spirited, sanguine and magnetic-of an order of writing that seems to shine and flash and kindle as we peruse it.
We may fittingly call it, the lyric element in prose expression; affecting us in its prose forms somewhat as we are affected by the most passionate elegiacs or pastorals of standard lyric verse; evoking within our deepest consciousness such phases and measures of genuine feeling as would be evoked by the recital of some of the choicest and tenderest odes of Moore and Collins and Burns. Such a style is suffused with this rich and sensuous idyllic quality. It reads as the most telling sonnets of Milton or Wordsworth read, and, for the time being, we surrender ourselves without reserve to its profound and governing influence.
More than this, there is nothing less than a dramatic or tragic element in the style before us, evincing itself, not infrequently, in those masterful productions wherein the emotion of the writer increases with the ever-deepening interest of his subject, until every line and word seems to palpitate with its presence. As the development of the idea goes on, there is a growth of feeling in the soul somewhat akin to the external progress of the tragedy from act to act and scene to scene. Each successive stage of its presentation becomes more emphatic and vivid and vital than the preceding, until, as we near the close, we discern that dramatic climax of thought and plan and motive and language which makes the completed product nothing less than electric in its impassioned effect upon the writer and the reader. Victor Hugo, in such a volume as "93," is a prose writer of this histrionic order; a veritable actor off the stage, with pen in hand, expressing his thought on paper so objectively as a living entity, that we see it and feel it and almost hear it as it speaks. There is, as we may say, a pulse in it whose regular and often violent throbbings we can discern, indicative of the great beating heart that lies imbedded at the centre of the author's life. All this is dramatic in its intensity, and as we are human and impressible, must move and master us at will.
As to the various forms in which such an emotion may express itself in style, we mark them as twofold; either in the line of the tender and pa