Thursday, January 16, 2014

Quote of the Day (Laurence Sterne, on 2 Sorts of Eloquence)

"There are two sorts of eloquence. The one indeed scarce deserves the name of it, which consists chiefly in laboured and polished periods, an over-curious and artificial arrangement of figures, tinselled over with a gaudy embellishment of words, which glitter, but convey little or no light to the understanding. This kind of writing is for the most part much affected and admired by people of weak judgment and vicious taste…. The other sort of eloquence is quite the reverse of this; and which may be said to be the true characteristic of the holy Scriptures; where the excellence does not arise from a laboured and far-fetched elocution, but from a surprising mixture of simplicity and majesty, which is a double character, so difficult to be united, that it is seldom to be met with in compositions merely human."—Laurence Sterne, "Sermon 42: Search the Scriptures," 1760, in The Works of Laurence Sterne: Sermons (1790)

(The image of the Tristram Shandy novelist accompanying this post is the 1760 Sir Joshua Reynolds painting in London’s National Portrait Gallery.)

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