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Of which sentence, thou is the subject understood before the imperative sing in the last line. When, however, this is not the case, the sentence should not proceed far prior to the introduction of the subject, as being the word of greatest importance, and that to which, therefore, immediate attention should be directed. The following sentence is, in this respect, though not without precedent, highly inaccurate :- "By reason of his goodness and mercy, as evidenced by the care wherewith he hath provided for the supply of things necessary to their comfort, and his patience in abstaining from inflicting punishment on them forthwith for their manifold shortcomings, men owe a debt of gratitude to their Creator of which it is impossible for them to exonerate themselves."
No words but nouns and pronouns, and such combinations of words as serve in the place of nouns, can form the subject of a sentence; and of the pronouns it is worthy of remark, in this respect, that the first and second personal pronoun only can form an independent subject, that is, can be used as the subjects without any explanatory clause to accompany them. The reason of this is obvious: I is the name of the speaker, and thou of the individual addressed; either is sufficiently determinate of itself, and there is no possibility of mistaking the parties which they are used to represent. The case is different with he: it would serve no purpose to begin a sentence thus:-"He died in Babylon in a fit of debauch," as no one would understand to whom he refers. This remark applies to he, considered as the subject of the sentence, and not as a subject of a dependent clause. He, however, is capable of becoming the subject, when it is rendered definite by an accompanying clause, intended to explain it, for then it is general, not particular, in its application: thus-" He whom prosperity cannot elate nor adversity depress to an inordinate degree, deserves the name of philosopher." A similar remark applies to the adjective those, used, a noun being understood, as the subject of a sentence.
The pronoun it is frequently used as the subject of a sentence, when, however, the noun, an assemblage of words, for which it stands, is, contrary to the general usage
of the pronoun, expressed in the same sentence; this usage occurs when inconvenience would arise from the introduction, in the previous part of the sentence, of the assemblage of words which forms the real subject: thus"It is universally admitted that religion entrenches upon no privileges, and invades no pleasures, which reason can prove to us ought to be enjoyed," where it is the appa rent, but the whole sentence from that to the end, the real subject. Care should be taken that the proper subject should appear in its proper clause, and thus be connected with its proper predicate. The following sentence, and such like, violate all the rules in this respect of grammatical propriety: ·-- "When Antiochus was ordered to limit his kingdom by Mount Taurus, he used to say, that it was favourably arranged for him by the Roman people that he might enjoy a moderate extent of dominion." Here used is manifestly the predicate; was ordered, evidently being but a secondary one, or existing in a secondary clause, commenced with when, showing the time at which the individual referred to used to give utterance to this expression; he is the subject of this verb used. As the sentence is constructed, this violates all usage; Antiochus being clearly the subject intended. The sentence therefore should run thus: Antiochus, when he was ordered to limit his kingdom by Mount Taurus, used to say," &c. &c. Similar to this is the violation of grammatical usage in the following passage from the New Testament::-"When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am ?" The proper order requiring "Jesus, when he came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, asked his disciples, saying," &c.
With regard to the construction of a sentence, no extensive rules can be laid down, and there is observable in writings as great a diversity in force, clearness, and accuracy of expression, as there is in thought. Such diversity gives birth to the expression-" A man's style of writing;" which is, in most instances, vigorous and efficient as the vehicle of his communications in proportion to the accuracy of his thinking; confused sentences most frequently arising
from a confusion of ideas, and a want of proper arrangement of the subject-matter of a treatise.
The advice given by Mr. Cobbett, in his Letters on Grammar, as to the arrangement of the parts of a sentence, is sound and truthful. He says "The order of the matter will be, in almost all cases, that of your thoughts. Sit down to write what you have thought, and not to think what you shall write. Whatever may be the purpose for which we use language, whether the purpose of informing or persuading, it seldom can happen that we do not stand in need of more than one sentence, and therefore others must be added. There is no precise rule, there can be none, with regard to the manner of doing this. When we have said one thing, we must add another; and so on, till we have said all that we have to say. But we ought to take care, and great care, that if any words in a sentence relate in any way to words that have gone before, we make these words correspond grammatically with those foregoing words."
Again-"One of the greatest of all faults in writing and in speaking is this, the using of many words to say little. In order to guard yourself against this fault, inquire what is the substance or amount of what you have said. Take a long speech of some talking lord, and put down upon paper what the amount of it is. You will mostly find that the amount is very small. A very few examinations of this sort will so frighten you, that you will be for ever after upon your guard against talking a great deal and saying little."
Long, involved sentences, as a general rule, should be avoided; the generality of readers cannot comprehend them; and many writers, setting out with a subject to write of, because thoughts sometimes come much more quickly than they can be expressed, continue to build up clause upon clause, and sentence upon sentence, till even they themselves forget the original subject of the sentence, and therefore leave it unfinished-a mass of heterogeneous matter, as perplexing to the reader as it is discreditable to themselves.
The following is an example of such sentences from the pen of Dryden:-" History, properly so called, may be
described by the addition of those parts which are not required to annals; and, therefore, there is little farther to be said concerning it, only that the dignity and gravity of style is here necessary; that the guesses of secret causes inducing to the actions be drawn at least from the most probable circumstances, not perverted by the malignity of the author to sinister interpretations (of which Tacitus is accused), but candidly laid down and left to the judgment of the reader; that nothing of concernment be omitted, but things of trivial moment are still to be neglected as debasing the majesty of the work; that neither partiality nor prejudice appear, but that truth may everywhere be sacred. 'Ne quid falsi dicere audeat ; ne quid veri non audeat historicus,' (that a historian should never dare to speak falsely, or fear to speak what is true); that he neither incline to superstition in giving too much credit to oracles, prophecies, divinations, and prodigies, nor to irreligion, in disclaiming the Almighty Providence; but where general opinion has prevailed of any miraculous accident or portent, he ought to relate it as such, without imposing his opinion on our belief.”
Here are sufficient errors to serve as examples for a whole treatise. First, there is the great blunder alluded to in the preceding remarks. There are a great many thats commencing a great many clauses, leading one to expect that some general assertion would be made relative to and embracing the subject-matter of each such clause ;-no such assertion is made, but the structure of the sentence most awkwardly breaks off unfinished, and a new subject is introduced at the end by the word he, which has no noun to refer to but the word historian,-first introduced, be it remarked, in a parenthetical translation of a Latin quotation, and therefore in no wise connected with the sentence as
to its grammatical construction. "To the actions," is perfectly indefinite, requiring a complement to enable the reader to divine what it means. Did any one ever hear of guesses being drawn, and from the most probable circumstances?" And guesses being perverted? And, worse than all, candidly laid down, and left to the judgment of the reader! A schoolboy could at once detect the following jarring elements of this sentence-"that nothing of con
cernment be omitted, but things of trivial moment are still to be omitted." What does still mean? Notwithstanding? Then it has no force or meaning, there being evidently no opposition between the idea represented in this latter clause and that in the preceding. Does it mean up to this time? Then has it as little meaning. In the expression, “that he neither incline," the neither is wrongly placed, for there is no succeeding verb with a nor before it, expressing some other act which he must not do. It should be, "That he incline neither to superstition, &c., nor to irreligion," &c. Of the usage of, "in giving too much credit to oracles," as connected with the preceding clause, the least that can be said is that it is exceedingly doubtful. In giving, translated into other words, signifies whilst he gives; and to require of a historian that he should not incline to superstition in the act of giving, i. e., whilst he gives too much credit to oracles, is to act the hard taskmaster indeed! The word by substituted for in would banish all doubt as to the grammatical correctness of the words used to express the idea intended: the same remarks, of course, apply to the in before disclaiming. Again, an opinion prevailing of an accident, has positively no meaning; probably the writer meant belief. What does it refer to-opinion or accident? And what is the meaning of saying that the historian ought to relate it (the opinion or accident) where the one prevailed or the other occurred ?
If such unpardonable blundering as to grammatical construction and the application of words be not sufficient to point out the wisdom of Horace's instruction to writers, sæpe stylum vertas,"* nothing will. On such carelessness, Locke, in his Essay on the Human Understanding, pours the following well-merited censure:— "This inconvenience, in an ill use of words, men suffer in their own private meditations; but much more manifest are the disorders which follow from it in conversation, discourse, and arguings with others. For language being the great conduit whereby men convey their discoveries, reasonings, and knowledge from one to another, he that makes an ill use of it, though
* "Often revise what you have written."