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from hence Lucius Manlius, the proconsul, had retreated, with the loss of his baggage. Clearly, Crassus understood, he must keep his wits about him."
I have said enough, I hope, to show that the fundamental difference between periodic sentences and loose is about the same as the fundamental differences we discussed between different kinds of words, - Latin and Saxon, big and little, and so on : it is a difference of effect. And I hope I have said enough to show why, on the whole, I think the effect secured by an approach to the periodic form the better. But I have shown too how remote the usage of uninflected English compels such an approach to be. In short, I have explained as fully as I can here why it is my custom to advise pupils to make their style as periodic as they can without palpable artifice.
In a very few words, I can now answer the question with which we started this part of our inquiry : Are not short sentences preferable to long? What long sentences are, and short, I leave to your common-sense; what anybody can perceive needs no definition. I refer to your common-sense, too, the obvious fact that monotonous adherence to any one form of sentence - or to any given line of conduct at all — is apt to be exquisitely annoying. But from what I have said, it should be clear that the longer a sentence is, the harder it is to make the sentence periodic, the more breaks there are apt to be in the
Very broadly speaking, the effect produced
by a style in which short periodic sentences predominate is more satisfactory than that produced by a style full of long and loose ones, or of long ones whose periodicity is secured only by palpable artifice; and this position I believe in a general way to be maintained by the historic development of English style during the last three centuries.
Of course such a fact as this — that the historic development of style has followed a certain course
can be proved only by prolonged study, by great accumulation of evidence. Even if I had collected enough to make my conclusions incontestable, I could not lay much of it before you here; and, in fact, I do not pretend that my opinion is more than an opinion. At the same time, I believe that I may well offer you a few examples of the evidence which has led me to it; for while they indicate something concerning the general development of English style, they also illustrate, pretty distinctly, some of the principles to which I have still to call your attention. In choosing them, I have followed this plan : With all its almost infinite variations, each period of any national history has a character peculiarly its own. This character is very hard to define, but by no means hard to recognize. We all know, in a certain way, what connotation clusters about the words Elizabethan, Cavalier, Puritan, Restoration, Queen Anne, Eighteenth Century. Certain types of face, types of fashion still more marked, contribute to the subtilely different impressions that each succeeding epoch in national life makes even on a superficial student. Now, one who begins to know even a little of literature begins to feel instinctively that at each period of national history there arises a style which, very subtilely, expresses that period and no other. With all his genius, that bids fair to make his writings permanently contemporary, Shakspere remains - and the better we know him the more we feel it - Elizabethan. Milton is not only Milton, but a man and a poet of the seventeenth century. In Gray we have something that belongs as much to the palmy days of the Georges as powdered wigs do and furbelows; in Wordsworth, something that is full of the spirit which marked the first part of our own century; in Browning, something peculiarly of our own time. Guided at first only by this instinctive sense of what makes a given piece of style — like a given costume
a – characteristic of a given epoch, I select a few characteristic examples of English style at different periods of national life, between the time of Queen Elizabeth and our own. Then, always remembering that the effects of style are produced only by means of the choice and composition of the elements, I proceed to analyze them - as far as may be - and to discover what gives each its peculiar character. For the moment, of course, I confine my analysis to the composition of sentences.
Unable to choose many examples, I take half at random passages from four writers, each of whom, despite his individuality, is typical of his own cen.
tury: Sir Walter Ralegh of the sixteenth, — the age of Elizabeth; Sir Thomas Browne of the seventeenth, - the age of the Stuarts; Henry Fielding of the eighteenth, — the age of the Georges; Lord Macaulay of the nineteenth,— the age of Victoria.
From Ralegh I take his famous apostrophe to Death, which closes the great“ History of the World,” – the book which busied his thirteen years of imprisonment in the Tower of London:
“O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised : thou hast drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two narrow words, Hic jacet."
Long we find it, and very loose, in spite of its surging cadences.
From Sir Thomas Browne I take the famous sentence from his “ Urn-Burial ” which was so dear to De Quincey :
“Now, since these dead bones have already outlasted the living ones of Methuselah, and in a yard underground, and thin walls of clay, outworn all the strong and spacious buildings above it, and quietly rested under the drums and tramplings of three conquests, what prince can promise such diuturnity unto his relics, or might not gladly say, Sic ego componi versus in ossa velim ?”
Still long, but no longer loose, this sentence. Elaborately, carefully, artificially periodic; modelled, indeed, on inflected Latin.
From Fielding I take, even more at random, a bit of “Tom Jones”:
" Now, there is no one circumstance in which the distempers of the mind bear a more exact analogy to those which are called bodily, than in the aptness which both have to a relapse. This is plain in the violent diseases of ambition and avarice. I have known ambition, when cured at court by frequent disappointments (which are the only physic for it), to break out again in a contest for foreman of the grand jury at an assizes, and have heard of a man who had so far conquered avarice as to give away many a sixpence, that comforted himself at last on his deathbed, by making a crafty and advantageous bargain concerning his ensuing funeral with an undertaker who had married his only child.”
The first two sentences here are much shorter. Written English has come a great deal nearer spoken. Considering the idiomatic freedom of the style, it proves on examination surprisingly periodic; but Fielding's periodicity is nothing like so palpably artificial as Sir Thomas Browne's.
From Macaulay I take, much at random too, a few sentences from his essay on Warren Hastings:
66 With all his faults -- and they were neither few nor small — only one cemetery was worthy to contain his remains. In that temple of silence and reconciliation where the epmities of twenty generations lie buried, in the Great