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OF style, in the ordinary use of the word, Lincoln may be said to have had little. He certainly did not strive for an artistic method of expression through such imitation of the masters, for instance, as Robert Louis Stevenson's. There was nothing ambitiously elaborate
or selfconsciously simple in Lincoln's way of writing. He had not the scholar's range of words. He was not always grammatically accurate. He would doubtless have been very much surprised if any one had told him that he had a “style " at all. And yet, because he was determined to be understood, because he was honest, be
cause he had a warm heart and a true, because he had read good books eagerly and not coldly, and because there was in him a native good taste, as well as a strain of imagination, he achieved a singularly clear and forcible style, which took color from his own noble character, and became a thing individual and distinguished.
He was, indeed, extremely modest about his accomplishments. His great desire was to convince those whom he addressed, and if he could do this, --if he could make his views clear to them, still more if he could make them appear reasonable,- he was satisfięd. In one of his speeches in the great debate with Douglas he said: “Gentlemen, Judge Douglas informed you that this speech of mine was probably carefully
prepared. I admit that it was. I am not a master of language; I have not a fine education; I am not capable of entering into a disquisition upon dialectics, as I believe you call it; but I do not believe the language I employed bears any such construction Judge Douglas puts upon it. But I don't care about a quibble in regard to words. I know what I meant, and I will not leave this crowd in doubt, if I can explain it to them, what I really meant in the use of that paragraph.”
Who are, to Americans at least, the two most interesting men of action of the nineteenth century? Why not Napoleon and Lincoln ? No two men could have been more radically different in many ways; but they were both great rulers, one according to the “good old plan”
of might, the other by the good new plan of right: autocratdemocrat. They were alike in this—that both were intensely interesting personalities; both were moved by imagination; and both acquired remarkable power of expression. One used this power carry out his own sometimes wise, sometimes selfish, purposes; to dominate and to deceive; the other for the expression of truth and the persuasion of his fellow
Napoleon's literary art was the making of phrases which
ierced like a Corsican knife or tingled the blood like the call of a trumpet. His words went to their mark quick as a stroke of lightning. When he speaks it is as if an earthquake had passed under one's feet. Lincoln's style is very differ
ent; heroic, appealing, gracious or humorous, it does not much startle as melt the heart. These men were alike in this that they learned to express themselves by dint of long practice, and both in youth wrote much non
Napoleon in his young days wrote romance and history; Lincoln wrote verse and composed speeches. Napoleon failed as a literary man; Lincoln certainly did not make any great success as a lyceum lecturer; in fact, his style was at its best only when his whole heart was enlisted.
Lincoln's style, at its best, is characterized by great simplicity and directness, which in themselves are artistic qualities. In addition there is an agreeable cadence, not overdone except in one curious instance,-a passage of the Second Inaugural, -where