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deal. Remember, that no amount of antiquarian, or historical, or scientific, or literary, lore will make an orator, without intimate acquaintance with the ways of the world about him, with the tastes, sentiments, passions, emotions and modes of thought of the men and women of the age in which he lives, and whose minds it is his business to sway. An orator must be most of all a man of the world ; but he must be accomplished also with the various acquirements which I have here endeavoured briefly to sketch.

34

LETTER VI.

STYLE.

You must think, that you may have thoughts to convey ; and read, that you may possess words wherewith to express your thoughts correctly and gracefully. But something more than this is required to qualify you to write or speak. You must have a style. I will endeavour to explain what I mean by that.

Style is not art, like language—it is a gift of nature, like the form and the features. It does not lie in words, or phrases, or figures of speech ; it cannot be taught by any rules ; it is not to be learned by examples. As every man has a manner of his own, differing from the manner of

every
other

man, so has every mind its own fashion of communicating with other minds. The dress in which our thoughts clothe themselves is unconsciously moulded to the individualities of the mind whence they

come,

This manner of expressing thought is style, and therefore may style be described as the feature of the mind displayed in its communications with other minds; as manner is the corporeal feature exhibited in personal communication.

But, though style is the gift of nature, it is nevertheless to be cultivated; only in a sense different from that commonly understood by the word cultivation.

Many elaborate treatises have been written on style, and the subject usually occupies a prominent place in all books on writing and oratory. It is usual with such teachers to be emphatic on the importance of cultivating style, and they proceed to prescribe ingenious recipes for producing it. All these proceed upon the assumption that style is something artificial, capable of being taught, and which should be learned by the student, like spelling or grammar. But if the definition of style which I have submitted to you is right, these elaborate trainings are a needless labour-probably a positive mischief. I do not design to say that a style might not be taught to you; but it will be the style of some other man and not your own; and not being your own, it will no more fit your mind than a second-hand suit of clothes, bought without measurement at a pawnshop, would fit your body, and your appearance in it will be as ungainly. But you must not gather from this that you have nothing to do with style ; that it may be left to take care of itself, and that it will suffice for you to write or speak as untrained nature prompts. I say that you must cultivate style ; but I say also that the style to be cultivated should be your own, and not the style of another. Most of those who have written upon the subject recommend you to study the styles of the great writers of the English language, with a view to the learning of their accomplishment. So I say-study them, by all means ; but not for the purpose of imitation, not with a view to acquire their manner, but to learn their language, to see how they have embodied their

your most

thoughts in words, to discover the manifold graces with which they have invested the communication of their thoughts, so as to surround the act of communicating information, or kindling emotion, with the various attractions and charms of art.

I say to you, cultivate style; but instead of labouring to acquire the style of your model, it should be constant endeavour to avoid it. The greatest danger to which you are exposed is that of falling into an imitation of the manner of some favourite author whom you have studied for the sake of learning a style which, if you did learn, would only be unbecoming to you, because not your own.

That which in him was manner becomes in you mannerism; you but dress yourself in his clothes, and imagine that you are like him, while you are no more like than is the valet to his master, whose cast-off coat he is wearing. There are some authors whose manner is so infectious that it is extremely difficult not to catch it. Johnson is one of these ; it requires an effort not to fall into his formula of speech. But your protection must be an ever-present conviction that your own style will be the best for you, be it ever so bad or good. You must strive to be yourself, to think for yourself, to speak in your own manner; then what you say, and your style of saying it, will be in perfect accord, and the pleasure of those who read or listen will not be disturbed by a sense of impropriety and unfitness.

Nevertheless I repeat, you should cultivate your own style, not by changing it into some other person's style, but by striving to preserve its individuality, while decorating it with all the graces of art. Nature gives the style, for your style is yourself ; but the decorations are slowly and laboriously acquired by diligent study, and above all, by long and patient practice. There are but two methods of attaining to this accomplishmentcontemplation of the best productions of the art, and continuous toil in the practice of it. I assume that, by the process I have already described, you have acquired a tolerably quick flow of ideas, a ready command of words and ability to construct sentences of good grammar; all that now remains to you is to learn so to use this knowledge that the result may

be presented in the most attractive shape to those whom you

address. I am unable to give you many practical hints towards this, because it is not a thing to be acquired by formal rules, in a few lessons and by a set course of study ; it is the product of very wide and long-continued gleanings from a countless variety of sources; but, above all, it is taught by experience. If you compare your compositions at intervals of six months, you will see the progress you have made. You began with a great multitude of words, with big nouns and bigger adjectives, a perfect firework of epithets and a tendency to call everything by something else than its proper name, and the longer the periphrasis the more you admired your own ingenuity and thought that your readers must equally admire it. If you had a good idea, you were pretty sure to dilute it by expansion, supposing all the while that you were improving by amplifying it. You indulged in small flights of poetry (in prose), not always in appropriate places, and you were tolerably sure to go off into rhapsody, and to mistake fine words for eloquence.

words for eloquence. This is the juvenile style; it was not peculiar to yourself—it is the common fault of all young writers, But the cure for it may be hastened by judicious self-treatment. In addition to the

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