A smart Grant, by the means of which he was educated, had acquired many other intellectual and literary merits. Among these he took particular pride; for one of his great merits was that he had gained a reputation among the people of his school for the beauty of his writing.
When a young man is studying the English language and its peculiarities he discovers many things with which the author of the next book is apt to meet. A common proverb says: “Nothing is more dangerous than a common author’s style.” To which the young man, knowing that the works he is studying will be praised by some of those whose opinion he intends to impress, will say that “to have a common style will be like having a common nose!”
The young man, as well as in the second book, begins to take special pains to acquire his style; for if the work is done well or very moderately, it may be well enough; but with a great work it is necessary to use some peculiarities, though his style may be quite uniform. The same proverb should be true concerning the young writer’s style. It comes to this:
If one takes special pains to attain his style, it will be well; but it is a little dangerous. To learn a style, a thing, like a common nose (which is not very common), will be the best; to be a great writer, of like spirit and judgment, will be the worst.
Such is the principle of the English school, that for every writer some peculiarities are to be cultivated to be most admired and used in his writing, as well as in others or without.
It is often said that the best writers are those who can write without any peculiarities, and that the vulgar can also do this, though not in a proper proportion. Is this not to say that it is difficult and tiresome to learn a thing by rote, when you can teach it by practice only?
“When a man has a general and good style he shall do great things; but, if he has no style, he shall do no great things. To have a general style is like having a bad nose. This is what is meant by saying, “Having no style is like having no heart.” To have no general style is to have one of those noses which you see in the windows or in the balconies of the house, or on the heads of the ladies of noble birth.”
So it is in the study of the
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