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The Style of the Commonalty of every country; appealing not so much to either of the extremes of modern populations—the upper and learned ranks, or the lowermost, illiterate orders—but to the intelligent, average classes as they exist among us.

There are, as we are well aware, two distinct senses of the word popular—the higher and the lower; the one, as seen in the widely read and deservedly current fiction of the great British Novelists of the days of Dickens: the other, even more widely read, despite its mental and moral inferiority, as seen in the romances of Smollett and Aphra Behn, and in much of the miscellaneous literature of the day. To this latter and lower order of style we shall refer in the sequel. We speak, at present, of style as popular in the best sense of the word-of a grade of authorship composed for the people; originating out of their deepest and strongest needs; presented by authors conversant with such needs and in fullest sympathy with them; presented in a manner best adapted to meet the common want, and never failing to elevate popular thought by successive gradations to the level of what is noble and commendable.

A brief examination of the radical features of this style will reveal its true character and its manifest difference from any other type of expression with which it might be confounded.


I. It is, first of all, an Intelligible Style. We may speak of it, in good First English phrase, as understandable. If clearness of conception and presentation is the very first requisite of all successful writing, whatever the form, method or motive of the writing, it is pre-eminently so as to the style before us. What is called the popular embodiment of ideas, in distinction from their philosophic or artistic embodiment, is based on the law of perspicuity. What is said to the great body of any nation in its organic or collective capacity must be said in terms as clear as crystal, shining in their own light, almost axiomatic in their plain

What is written, as we say, for the masses, quite unused to libraries and schools of learning and logical processes, must be so written that it may be taken in at a glance. As soon as the eye sees it, the mind is to apprehend it and be able, thenceforth, to utilize it. It must be, in this respect, like to the gospel message—so clear and plain, that a “wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein;" so that “he who runs may read.” One of Mr. Arnold's favorite words, "lucidity," or, as he elsewhere terms, it, “light," applies here. In choice of words; in form of statement; in adjustment of facts, and in general process to the endall must be lucid and luminous-full of light and dispensing light.

How signally such a feature appears in the writings of Bunyan, the great Christian allegorist ; of De Foe, the historic founder of the secular

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English Novel ; and in those of Jonathan Swift, the famous literary dean of the Dublin Cathedral ! We know, as a matter of accepted fact, that, next to “King James' Version of the English Bible" and the “Prayer Book” of the Anglican Church, the three books of our literature containing the largest percentage of native terms are the three great books of these respective authors—"Pilgrim's Progress," "Robinson Crusoe” and “Gulliver's Travels." No three books can be mentioned in English or any other literature that have been more conspicuously popular and, largely, by reason of their verbal transparency. The common reader can at once see into them and through them. The reading of them is indeed the understanding of them. If they are re-read, as they so often are, it is not the better to apprehend the sense, but the more fully to enjoy the teaching. There are few ambiguous phrases or complex structures or abstruse analyses or obscure reasonings or hidden motives; all is above board, an honest and an ingenuous unbosoming of the heart of the author to win and subdue the heart of the reader. Mrs. Stowe's “Uncle Tom" may be cited as a very close rival of these three famous books; not merely because of its graphic delineation of slave life in the days of American slavery, but, also, by the charm of its verbal clearness. The language and the style are purposely brought down from the upper grade of society to the level of the average mind, and the people are surprised to find that there is nothing in this simple narrative of fact so involved and obscure that they cannot, at once, apprehend and enjoy it. Oliver Goldsmith wrote his essays, , poems, his “ Vicar of Wakefield" and histories of Rome and England and “ Animated Nature" in this unadorned and severe simplicity of phrase and manner. Bayard Taylor, of our own country, has ever evinced, as a narrator of travels, this enviable clearness of idea and expression, so that in such volumes as, “ Views Afoot,” “Eldorado” “ A Voyage on the Nile," "The Lands of the Saracens," "At Home and Abroad," and similar sketches, the reader has scarcely to think at all, but simply to submit himself to the course of the history as it runs, and be carried by it pleasantly on from event to event and from scene to scene. Richard Steele, in the

Spectator," penned his weekly papers to the English public with this openness of style. Quaint Thomas Fuller, in his “English Worthies," used this same translucent diction, while our own genial-natured Irving has no superior in secular letters as a writer whose first statements are as clear as the last ; who wrote plainly because he thought plainly and had no other object in writing his biographies, sketches, essays and histories than that his readers should see at once his meaning and be profited thereby. What shall be said, in this connection, of the simple-hearted Izaak Walton, author of “ The Complete Angler” or “The Contemplative Man's Recreation" as, also, of the Lives of Donne, Hooker, Herbert and Wot

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ton! The historian Hallam is undoubtedly correct when he speaks of these volumes as defying all imitation in the line of a child-like and an unaffected charm of manner.

In this respect, the popular style is second to none in its conditions and its value, in that its first essential is the first characteristic of all acceptable style. In this respect, all authors, however intellectual or literary or forceful, should sit at the feet of the deservedly popular writer, if so be they may be sure that what they write is, first of all, understandable. If not so, it is unphilosophical, unliterary and useless.

II. We note a further feature of the style before us, in that it is Timely and Practical. The popular style must deal with what Dr. Holland was wont to call “Topics of the Time ;” with what the general public are pleased to call-living issues. There is an ever-more emphatic protest, on the part of common readers, against the visionary, abstruse and unpractical in literature. The province of fiction apart, in which the unreal is understood to be the staple of material, readers are clamorously calling for a business-like, an every-day order of prose writing ; marked by the presence of current questions, discussed in the modern, unconventional spirit, and having reference to ends specifically local and immediate. It is the same desire in our day that marked the promiscuous public of Addison's time, as they quickly appreci

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