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A Practical System of Rhetorical Punctuation.
Before we give such directions for pausing, or dividing a sentence, as will, in some mea. sure, enable us to avoid the errors, of common punctuation, and to point for ourselves, it will be necessary to inquire into the nature of a sentence, and to distinguish it into its different kinds: for this purpose, I shall make use of the words of a very ingenious author *, who has lately written on the Philosophy of Rhetoric: 'Complex sentences,' says this author,
are of two kinds ; first, they are either pe'riods, or sentences of a looser composition,
for which the language doth not furnish us " with a particular name.
A period is a complex sentence, wherein the ' meaning remains suspended, till the whole is 6 finished : the connection, consequently, is so
close between the beginning and the end, as . to give rise to the name period, which fignifies • circuit; the following is such a sentence:'
“ Corruption could not spread with so much 5 success, though reduced into system, and " though some ministers, with equal impu166 dence and folly, avowed it, by themselves
and their advocates, to be the principal ex." pedient by which they governed, if a long " and almost unobserved progression of causes 6 and effects did not prepare the conjuncture.”
Bolingbroke's Spirit of Patriotism. . The criterion of a period is this: If you stop
anywhere before the end, the preceding words
• Campbell's Philos. of Rhetoric, vok. ii. p. 339,
' will not form a sentence, and therefore cannot
convey any determined sense. - This is plainly the case with the above example: the first verb being could, and not o can; the potential, and not the indicative' « mood, shews that the sentence is hypothetical, " and requires to its completion, some clause I beginning with if, unless, or some other con• ditional particle; and after you are come to • the conjunction, you find no part where you r can stop before the end. An example of a
complex sentence that is not a period, I shall "produce from the same performance:
“One party had given their whole attention, “.during several years, to the project of enrichring themselves, and impoverishing the rest of “ the nation; and, by these and other means, of “ establishing their dominion under the govern~ ment, and with the favour of a family who “ were foreigners; and therefore might believe " that they were established on the throne, by “ the good will and strength of this party alone.”
The criterion of such loose sentences is as s follows: there will always be found in them
one place at least before the end, at which if you make a stop, the construction of the preceding part will render it a complete sentence; thus, in the example now given,
whether you stop at the word themselves, at ' nation, at dominion, at government, or at fo• reigners, all which words are marked in the
quotation in Italics, you will find you have " read a perfect sentence.'
This distinction of a sentence into a period or compact sentence, and a loose sentence, does not seem to satisfy this ingenious critic; and
he produces an example of a sentence of an intermediate sort, that is neither an entirely loose sentence, nor a perfect period : this example, too, is taken from Lord Bolingbroke, where, speaking of the Eucharist, he says : " The « other institution has been so disguised by or“ nament, and so much directed in your church, “ at least, to a different purpose from commemo“ ration, that if the disciples were to assemble
at Easter in the chapel of his holiness, Peter
would know his successor as little as Chrift “ would acknowledge his vicar; and the rest " would be unable to guess what the ceremony “ represented or intended." Though this sentence forms perfect sense at vicar, the critic affirms, that 'the succeeding members are so ' closely connected with the preceding, that ' they all together may be considered as a
period, or compact sentence.' . Here we find the former distinction destroyed, and we are again to seek for such a definition of a sentence as will assure us what is a period or compact sentence, and what is a loose sentence; or, in other words, what members are necessarily, and what are not necessarily connected. In the first place we may observe, that it is not the perfect sense, formed by the preceding members, that determines a sentence to be loose; because succeeding members may be so necessarily connected with those that precede, notwithstanding the preceding members form perfect sense, that both together may form but one period. Mr. Addison affords us an instance of this, in the Spectator, No 86 : “ Every " one that speaks and reasons, is a grammarian " and a logician, though he may be utterly un" acquainted with the rules of grammar or “ logic as they are delivered in books and “ systems.”
If we finish this sentence at logician, we shall find the sense perfect; and yet nothing can be more evident than that both the member which contains this word, and that which follows, are inseparably connected. It is not, therefore, the perfect sense which a member may form, that necessarily detaches it from the rest ; if, upon perusing the latter part of the sentence, we find it evidently contained in the idea of the former, they must both be inseparably connected: the whole sentence, therefore, must be understood before we can pronounce upon the connection subsisting between its parts.
% But it may be demanded, what is the criterion of this connection ; and how shall we know, with certainty, whether the idea of the latter member is necessarily contained in the former? To this it may be answered, if the latter mem- * ber modifies the foriner, or places it in a point ». of view different from what it appears in alone, we may pronounce the members necessarily connected, and the sentence to be compact and periodic. In the last instance, the first member, Every one that speaks and reasons, is a grammarian and a logician; does not intend to affirm a fact which might be understood as descriptive of the state of man, either with or without the .. attainments of grammar and logic; but it refers precisely to that state which has no such attain'ments, and thus is modified by the last member, though he may be utterly unacquainted with the rules of grammar, or logic, as they are delivered in books and fyftems. The modification, therefore,
of the former member by the latter, is the criterion of such connection as forms a period or compact sentence. det er
It is on this principle that all sentences founded on an hypothesis, a condition, a concession, or exception, may be esteemed compact sentences or periods; for in these sentences we shall find one part of the sentence modified by the other; and it may be affirmed of all other sentences, that whenever the conjunctions that connect their members together modify these members, the sentences they compose are periodic; and that whenever the conjunctions only explain or add to the meaning of the members to which they are subjoined, the sentences which these members compofe are loose sentences. It will be necessary to explain this oba' servation by examples.
1. EXAMPLES. *. A man should endeavour to make the sphere of his innocent pleasures as wide as possible, that he may retire into them with safety, and find in them such a satisfaction as a wise man would not blush to take. Of this nature are those of the imagination, which do not require such a bent of thought as is necessary to our more serious employments, nor at the same time suffer the nind to sink into that negligence and remisness, which are apt to accompany our more sensual delights.-Spectator, No 411.
In the first of these sentences we find the conjunction that modifies or restrains the meaning of the preceding member; for it is not asserted in general, and without limitation, that a man Thould make the sphere of his innocent pleasures as wide as possible, but that he should do.. so for the purpose of retiring into himself: these two members, therefore, are necessarily connected, and might have formed a period or