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Edinburgh: BALFOUR & JACR, Printers, Niddry Street.


06-762524173 06-16-28 LW 13



The present work, which I have now endeavoured to render less objectionable, is obviously destined for the use of those whose critical studies are yet in their com

To younger readers, and to such as have not access to more extended and elaborate performances, it may perhaps convey some useful instruction : it is not calculated, nor is it intended, for those who have already made any considerable progress in such enquiries. Some compendious treatise of this nature seemed to be wanting; and the author's attempt to supply the deficiency, has been attended with a degree of encouragement which has surprized no person more than himself.

Although it was my principal object to treat of prose composition, a few observations on poetry are occasionally introduced. The remarks on the various modifications of figurative language, are equally applicable to prose and to poetry; but the poets have supplied the most copious and striking illustrations.

As the rules of criticism are more successfully inculcated by particular examples than by general precepts, I have endeavoured to illustrate every branch of the subject by apposite quotations, chiefly from writers of acknowledged reputation. In many instances this was an easy task ; but in the classification of the different characters of style, it was attended with more difficulty and hazard. In estimating the merits and defects of any composition, there is much room for variety and opposition of opinion ; nor is it to be expected that different individuals will always be disposed to regard the same passages as nervous, elegant, or graceful. It is however of importance for the student to become acquainted with the characteristic manner of the most eminent writers ; and the various examples which I have produced, if they should fail in their primary design, may at least be rendered conducive to this subor

To exhibit the progressive changes or improvements of English style, I have subjoined a long series of quotations from distinguished authors, arranged in chronological order. The selection commences about

dinate purpose.

the period when that of Dr. Johnson closes, and it gradually descends to our own time, without however including the name of any living writer.

It was my first wish and intention to prepare a work which might have some claim to be considered as original; but I speedily discovered that I should best consult, if not my own reputation, at least the advantage of the reader, if I assumed the more humble character of a compiler. I have accordingly attempted to avail myself of the previous labours of many different authors, distinguished for their learning or judgment. For the more valuable instruction contained in this volume, the reader is in a great measure indebted to Bishop Lowth's Introduction to English Grammar, Dr. Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric, Dr. Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric, Lord Kames's Elements of Criticism, and Mr. Melmoth's Letters. To other occasional sources of information I have been careful to make the


references ; these writers my obligations have been so numerous, that I forbore to quote them in the usual form ; “ not that I might appropriate their labours, or usurp their honours, but that I might spare a perpetual repetition by one general acknowledgment."

In the present impression, much has been retrenched, and more added. In the former editions, which amount to a considerable number, I had no opportunity of correcting the press : and the errors of the printer, as ge

but to

nerally happens in such cases, were gradually multiplied ; many passages were rendered ungrammatical, and some nearly unintelligible. All these blemishes I have been anxious to remove; and I have bestowed a very considerable portion of labour in the attempt to improve the general texture of the work.

18 October 1828.

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