1. Of prime necessity is life: a style should live.
2. Style should be suited to the specific person with whom you wish to communicate. (The law of mutual relation.)
3. First, one must determine precisely “what-and-what do I wish to say and present,” before you may write. Writing must be mimicry.
4. Since the writer lacks many of the speaker’s means, he must in general have for his model a very expressive kind of presentation of necessity, the written copy will appear much paler.
5. The richness of life reveals itself through a richness of gestures. One must learn to feel everything — the length and retarding of sentences, interpunctuations, the choice of words, the pausing, the sequence of arguments — like gestures.
6. Be careful with periods! Only those people who also have long duration of breath while speaking are entitled to periods. With most people, the period is a matter of affectation.
7. Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.
8. The more abstract a truth which one wishes to teach, the more one must first entice the senses.
9. Strategy on the part of the good writer of prose consists of choosing his means for stepping close to poetry but never stepping into it.
10. It is not good manners or clever to deprive one’s reader of the most obvious objections. It is very good manners and very clever to leave it to one’s reader alone to pronounce the ultimate quintessence of our wisdom.
I’ve been writing for various purposes of late so I’ve posted this. I want to think about it. (Worth baring in mind it’s regarding German – and translated into US English.)
What’s the difference between something said to be intelligent and something worth saying? Does it matter?
When I was a child and my sisters were teens one of my sisters used to play an LP – possibly an album of cover versions or maybe probably an album of cover versions and traditional songs I forget; and have no interest in researching. An album recorded by the successful recording celebrity and acting celebrity: Sting. The song I remember being played is called “Gabriel’s Message” a translation of an old Basque hymn. The refrain which caught my ear (and which caught the ear of the Bishop of Oxford Richard Harris according to Wikepedia) was that of ‘most highly favoured lady’. I didn’t hear ‘most highly favoured lady’ which would have made no sense. I heard ‘highly flavoured gravy’ which held a great deal more interest to my youthful cognizance and, frankly, that still holds true today; thirty years on. A spiritual composed to venerate gravy.
Clown. Why, masters, have your instruments been in Naples, that they speak i’ the nose thus?
First Musician. How, sir, how?
Clo. Are these, I pray you, wind-instruments?
First Mus. Ay, marry, are they, sir.
Clo. O! thereby hangs a tail.
First Mus. Whereby hangs a tale, sir?
Clo. Marry, sir, by many a wind-instrument that I know. But, masters, here’s money for you; and the general so likes your music, that he desires you, for love’s sake, to make no more noise with it.
First Mus. Well, sir, we will not.
Clo. If you have any music that may not be heard, to ’t again; but, as they say, to hear music the general does not greatly care.
First Mus. We have none such, sir.
Clo. Then put up your pipes in your bag, for I’ll away. Go; vanish into air; away! [Exeunt Musicians.]
CASSIO: Dost thou hear, mine honest friend?
Clo. No, I hear not your honest friend; I hear you.
CASSIO: Prithee, keep up thy quillets. There’s a poor piece of gold for thee. If the gentlewoman that attends the general’s wife be stirring, tell her there’s one Cassio entreats her a little favour of speech: wilt thou do this?
Clo. She is stirring, sir: if she will stir hither, I shall seem to notify unto her.
CASSIO: Do, good my friend. [Exit Clown.]
Othello, William Shakespeare. Quillets mean much the same as quibbles; as described in the text I read – The New Penguin Shakespeare 1970.
I picked up my copy of Othello, Othello being a play I had previously found little that has excited me; relative to the other late tragedies. The passage above seems pedestrian (by Shakespeare’s own standards) and while there are excellent reasons for a pedestrian passage (fitting the humour of the time) quibbling runs through the play and features highly in Iago’s arsenal. The clown quibbles to drive off the musicians, musicians disturbing Othello’s opportunity of love making, only for the musicians to be replaced by Cassio in turn. Iago is machinating and designing interruptions for the beginnings of Othello and Desdemona’s married life.
Othello is trapped by petty reasoning, the small becomes large and actions are imbued with meaning where there were none. Quibbles become fatal, quibbles drown out sense and interrupt attempts at higher purpose
& this, this is gorgeous: