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tences closely connected, is rarely found entirely compatible with perspicuity. Of this I shall give some examples. *“ One may have an air which proceeds from a just sufficiency and knowledge of the matter before him, which may naturally produce some motions of his head and body, which might become the bench better than the bar.'* The pronoun which is here thrice used in three several senses; and it must require reflection to discover, that the first denotes an air, the second sufficiency and knowledge, and the third motions of the head and body. Such is the use of the pronouns those and who in the following sentence of the same writer: "The sharks, who prey upon the inadvertency of young heirs, are more pardonable than those who trespass upon the good opinion of those who treat with them upon the foot of choice and respect.”+ The same fault here renders a very short sentence at once obscure, inelegant, and unmusical. The like use of the pronoun they in the following sentence almost occasions an ambiguity : They were persons of such moderate intellects, even before they were impaired by their passions."I The use made of the pronoun it, in the example subjoined, is liable to the same exception: “If it were spoken with never so great skill in the actor, the manner of uttering that sentence could have nothing in it which could strike any but people of the greatest humanity, nay, people elegant and skilful in ohservations upon it."$ To the preceding examples I shall add one wherein the adverb when, by being used in the same manner, occasions some obscurity : He is inspired with a true sense of that function, when chosen from a regard to the interests of piety and virtue, and a scorn of whatever men call great in a transitory being, when it comes in competition with what is unchangeable and eternal."'|| Part IV. From an uncertain Reference in Pronouns and Rela

tives. A cause of obscurity also arising from the use of pronouns and relatives is when it doth not appear at first to what they refer. Of this fault I shall give the three following instances: “There are other examples,” says Bolingbroke, “ of the same kind, which cannot be brought without the utmost horror, because in them it is supposed impiously, against principles as self-evident as any of those necessary truths, which are such of all knowledge, that the Supreme Being commands by one law what he forbids by another.”T It is not so clear as it ought to be what is the antecedent to such. Another from the same author: “ The laws of Nature are truly what my lord Bacon styles his aphorisms, laws of laws. Civil laws are always imperfect, and often false deductions from

* Guardian, No. 13. Spect., No. 30. ll Guardian, No. 13. + Ibid., No. 73.

Ø Ibid., No. 502. Bolingb. Phil. Fr., 20.

them, or applications of them ; nay, they stand in many instances in direct opposition to them."* It is not quite obvious, on the first reading, that the pronoun them in this passage doth always refer to the laws of Nature, and they to civil laws. “ When a man considers the state of his own mind, aboui which every member of the Christian world is supposed at this time to be employed, he will find that the best defence against vice is preserving the worthiest part of his own spirit pure from any great offence against it.”+ It must be owned that the darkness of this sentence is not to be imputed solely to the pronoun.

Part V. From too artificial a Structure of the Sentence. Another cause of obscurity is when the structure of the sentence is too much complicated or too artificial, or when the sense is too long suspended by parentheses. Some critics have been so strongly persuaded of the bad effect of parentheses on perspicuity as to think they ought to be discarded altogether. But this, I imagine, is also an extreme. If the parenthesis be short, and if it be introduced in a proper place, it will not in the least hurt the clearness, and may add hoth to the vivacity and to the energy of the sentence. Others, again, have carried their dislike to the parenthesis only so far as to lay aside the hooks by which it is commonly distinguished, and to use commas in their place. But this is not avoiding the fault, if it be a fault ; it is only endeavouring to commit it so as to escape discovery, and may, therefore, be more justly denominated a corruption in writing than an improvement. Punctuation, it will readily be acknowledged, is of considerable assistance to the reading and pronunciation. No part of a sentence requires to be distinguished by the manner of pronouncing it more than a parenthesis, and, consequently, no part of a sentence ought to be more distinctly marked in the pointing.

Part VI. From Technical Terms. Another source of darkness in composing is the injudicious introduction of technical words and phrases, as in the following passage:

“ Tack to the larboard, and stand off to sea,

Veer starboard sea and land.”[ What an absurd profusion, in an epic poem too, of terms which few besides scamen understand ! In strict propriety, technical words should not be considered as belonging to the language, because not in current use, nor understood by the generality even of readers. They are but the peculiar dialect of a particular class. When those of that class only are * Phil. Fr., 9. Guardian, No. 19.

Dryden's Æneid.

addressed, as in treatises on the principles of their art, it is admitted that the use of such terms may be not only convenient, but even necessary. It is allowable also in ridicule, if used sparingly, as in comedy and romance.

PART VII. From Long Sentences. The last cause of obscurity I shall take notice of is very long sentences. This rarely fails to be conjoined with some of the other faults before mentioned. The two subsequent quotations from two eminent writers will serve sufficiently to exemplify more than one of them. The first is from Bolingbroke's Philosophy: “If we are so, contrary to all appearances (for they denote plainly one single system, all the parts of which are so intimately connected and dependant one on another, that the whole begins, proceeds, and ends together), this union of a body and a soul must be magical indeed, as Doctor Cudworth calls it ; so magical that the hypothesis serves to no purpose in philosophy, whatever it may do in theology; and is still less comprehensible than the hypothesis which assumes that, although our idea of thought be not included in the idea of matter or body, as the idea of figure is, for instance, in that of limited extension, yet the faculty of thinking, in all the modes of thought, may have been superadded by Omnipotence to certain systems of matter, which it is not less than blasphemy to deny—though divines and philosophers who deny it in terms may be cited-and which, whether it be true or no, will never be proved false by a little metaphysical jargon about essences, and attributes, and modes:”* The other quotation is from Swift's letter to the Lord-high Treasurer, containing a proposal for correcting, improving, and ascertaining the English tongue :

Το this succeeded that licentiousness which entered with the Restoration, and from infecting our religion and morals, fell to corrupt our language (which last was not like to be much improved by those who at that time made up the court of King Charles the Second ; either such who had followed him in his banishment, or who had been altogether conversant in the dialect of those fanatic times, or young men who had been educated in the same company), so that the court (which used to be the standard of propriety and correctness of speech) was then (and, I think, hath ever since continued) the worst school in England for that accomplishment, and sa will remain till better care be taken in the education of our young nobility, that they may set out into the world with some foundation of literature, in order to qualify them for patterns of politeness." There are, indeed, cases in which even a long period will not create obscurity. When this

* Essay i., section is

happens, it may almost always be remarked, that all the pirncipal members of the period are similar in their structure, and would constitute so many distinct sentences if they were not united by their reference to some common clause in the beginning or the end.



ent senses.

It was observed that perspicuity might be violated not only by obscurity, but also by double meaning. The fault in this case is, not that the sentence conveys darkly or imperfectly the author's meaning, but that it conveys also some other meaning which is not the author's. His words are susceptible of more than one interpretation. When this happens, it is always occasioned either by using some expression which is equivocal—that is, hath more meanings than one affixed to it, or by ranging the words in such an order that the construction is rendered equivocal, or made to exhibit differ

To the former, for distinction's sake, I shall as sign the name of equivocation; to the latter I shall appropriate that of ambiguity.

Part I. Equivocation. I begin with the first. When the word equivocation denotes, as in common language it generally denotes, the use of an equivocal word or phrase, or other ambiguity, with an intention to deceive, it doth not differ essentially from a lie. This offence falls under the reproof of the moralist, not the censure of the rhetorician. Again, when the word denotes, as agreeably to etymology it may denote, that exercise of wit which consisteih in the playful use of any term or phrase in different senses, and is denominated pun, it is amenable, indeed, to the tribunal of criticism, but cannot be regarded as a violation of the laws of perspicuity. It is neither with the liar nor with the punster that I am concerned at present. The only species of equivocation that comes under reprehension here is that which takes place when an author undesignedly employs an expression susceptible of a sense different from the sense he intends to convey by it.

In order to avoid this fault, no writer or speaker can think of disusing all the homonymous terms of the language, or all such as have more than one signification. To attempt this in any tongue, ancient or modern, would be to attempt the annihilation of the greater part of the language ; for in every language, the words strictly univocal will be found to be the smaller number. But it must be admitted, as a rule in elocution, that equivocal terms ought ever to be avoided, unless where their connexion with the other words of the sentence

instantly ascertains the meaning. This, indeed, the connexion is often so capable of affecting, that the hearer will never reffect that the word is equivocal, the true sense being the only sense which the expression suggests to his mind. Thus the word pound signifies both the sum of twenty shillings sterling and the weight of sixteen ounces avoirdupois. Now if you tell me that you rent a house at fifty pounds, or that you have bought fifty pounds of meat in the market, the idea of weight will never present itself to my mind in the one case, or the idea of money in the other. But it frequently happens, through the inadvertency of writers, that the connected words in the sentence do not immediately ascertain the sense of the equivocal term; and though an intelligent reader may easily find the sense on reffection and with the aid of the context, we may lay it down as a maxim, that an author always offends against perspicuity when his style requires that reflection from his reader. But I shall proceed to illustrate by examples the fault of which I am treating. An equivocation, then, may be either in a single word or in a phrase.

As to the former, there is scarcely any of the parts of speech in which you will not find equivocal terms. To begin with particles: the preposition of denotes sometimes the relation which any affeetion bears to its subject; that is, the person whose affection it is; sometimes the relation which it bears to its object. Hence this expression of the apostle hath been observed to be equivocal : “ I am persuaded that neither death nor life-shall be able to separate us froin the love of God."* By the love of God, say interpreters, may be understood either God's love to us, or our love to God. It is remarkable, that the genitive case in the ancient languages, and the prepositions corresponding to that case in the mod. ern languages, are alike suseeptible of this double meaning. Only as to our own language, we may observe in passing, that of late the preposition of is more commonly put before the subject, and to before the object of the passion. But this is not the only way in which the preposition of may be equivocal. As it sometimes denotes the relation of the effect to the cause, sometimes that of the accident to the subject, from this duplicity of signification there will also, in certain cir cumstances, arise a double sense. You have an example in these words of Swift : “ A little after the reformation of Luther.”f It may, indeed, be doubted whether this should not rather be called an impropriety, since the reformation of a man will suggest much more readily a change wrought on the man than a change wrought by him. And the former of these senses it could not more readily suggest, if the expression in that sense were not more conformable to use.

* Romans, vii., 33, &c.

+ Mechan. Operat.

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