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of the laws of expression, but a thorough culture of all the powers of the mind. Accordingly, a student who wishes to form a good style must not expect too much from direct means, but must rely chiefly on whatever quickens intellectual life into thorough work.
And not only is there needed thorough intellectual, but thorough moral habit as well. The attitude of the mind toward the truth to be presented may determine whether the truth be made obscure or obvious. If truth be presented in the interest of passion or prejudice, it necessarily becomes partial, distorted, and blurred, and the phraseology can only disguise the truth which it should express. An earnest desire to present the truth for its own sake is the only impulse that can force the writer into obvious expression. Truth, sincerity, and simplicity in the writer are always transferred, consciously or unconsciously, to the writing, and the expression becomes true, simple, direct, and plain. Even when one writes with only a degree of self-consciousness, not yielding himself wholly to the thing he has to say, the unnatural fit of the expression to the thought betrays his insincerity, and impedes the reader. Whenever there is found a stilted, unnatural, pompous, high-sounding style as the garb of plain truth, it comes from the fact that the writer concerns himself more with the way in which he says it than with what he says. He wishes you to understand, not what he says, so much as that he is saying it, and saying it well. This desire to cultivate a style for its own sake leads to servile imitation of literary models. These should be used to
perfect one's expression; but to use them to form expressions for the sake of the expression means hypocrisy in the writer and weakness and obscurity in the writing. Let us, therefore, put down, in style as in morals, sincerity as the first desideratum.
The general conditions of perspicuity, honesty and discipline, prepare for the more immediate conditions and special limitations of the writer's or the speaker's actual work of construction.
In the first place, he must put himself under the limitations of a specific end, which his particular discourse is to effect, and the means by which he is to reach the proposed end. The preceding chapters on Purpose and Thought have dealt with the ends and means with a view to effective expression. Since it is the province of rhetoric to treat of the effective utter
end. It was stated in the chapter on Purpose that the first act of the mind in the construction of a discourse is the fixing of a definite aim. It now remains only to insist that a definite conception of the end, whether to instruct the intellect, please the emotions, or stimulate to resolution, and of the specific character of each of these to be reached, is absolutely essential to Clearness. The end determines and organizes the means; and nothing less than a definite, vivid apprehension of the end can bring to bear suitable matter or embody it in intelligible forms. The end gives form to the composition, and the form must be clear in relation to that end. What is clear for one purpose may not be so for another. A thought presented clearly enough for poetical purposes may be obscure for intellectual purposes; and matter presented clearly as individuals to the imagination may not be clear for purposes of thought. A definite aim rejects irrelevant ideas, puts in order confused ones, determines the right word and turn of phrase, and gives method, precision, and accuracy to all the movements of the mind. Without this special condition, it is impossible to give unity and symmetry to the theme — both essential to an easy and a correct understanding of the matter presented.
After the writer has defined to himself the purpose and the special condition in the mind addressed under which the purpose is to be realized, a thorough mastery of the thought by means of which the purpose is to be realized is the last condition to clear expression. This is to be mastered under the relations and laws presented in the several chapters under thought -- Description, Narration, Exposition, and Argumentation.
To attempt to put in language what has not been clearly thought is the most prevalent source of obscurity. The first requirement under this head is that of a definite conception of the theme. The exact object, event, or thought must be so clearly apprehended as not only to give order and unity to the parts, and the mind free and easy movement in their arrangement, but that the mind may be so stimulated that it will clothe its thought in living forms. The theme should be studied till it becomes a part of the writer's being, and strives for utterance. Sidney Smith, in a criticism of Dr. Samuel Parr (quoted by Phelps), says: “ He never seems hurried by his subject into obvious language.” And Phelps continues (speaking in reference to sermons): “This hits the mark of defect in many sermons. A preacher's subject, if he have one and has so mastered it as to have clear thought upon it, will force him into an obvious style. He cannot help it if the subject fall within the range of the hearer's comprehension. He must speak the plain truth, as we call it, like a plain man talking to plain men." It is well to remember, then, that in order to have perspicuity the subject should be so definitely bounded and clearly conceived that the writer or speaker will be “hurried by his subject into obvious language.”
This thorough mastery of the theme essential to “obvious" expression includes its analysis and synthesis by means of all the relations involved in thinking it. This will require at the outset a classification of the theme — whether individual or general; and if individual, whether fixed or changing; if general, whether in itself considered or applied to test truth. After the classification of the theme follows its mastery under all the relations which define and constitute it. Such a mastery alone can secure for that particular theme that definite, accurate, methodical, complete, and organic thought essential to the clear and truthful presentation to the mind of another.
We are led to observe again the unity of the three phases of discourse, — purpose, thought, language. Purpose is limited by the nature of thought and language; thought conditioned by the purpose and the means of its expression; and language conditioned by both purpose and thought.
Conditions for Securing Energy.-- 1. Energy springs immediately from the desires and the will of the speaker. The force with which the speaker is urged on to the end he seeks measures the strength of his utterance. If he has truth which he wishes to communicate, or if he feels deeply some soul-stirring sentiment, or is restless under some ethical impulse, he will, without thought of his style, express himself with vigor and power. Truth which will not stay unsaid will be said forcibly. The more earnest the desire to plant a truth in another mind, for the sake of the other mind, the more strength will the speaker impart to the means he uses. Weakness is the most noticeable feature of one's style who is not really in earnest.
Energy in oratory requires of the speaker, more than anything else, a strong ethical impulse. Especially here does Energy spring from the desires and the will. The strength of these are the measure of the strength of the expression. So fundamental is this condition that often the speaker, without elegant or even correct expression, is thoroughly effective. Energy rests in the will's resolution to go forth and execute what the desires prompt. Much depends, however, on the desires which prompt to expression. A man's action is under the same law of energy as his style; but energy of action may result from special interests and private ends, while only the most disinterested and highest moral sentiment can impel to forcible utterance. Says Bascom: “The speaker who pursues private ends must either appeal to selfish impulses, which make a poor appearance, or he must go out of the range of his own