chapter  68
3 Pages

Thomas Wallace, 'An Essay on the Variations of English Prose, from the Revolution to the Present Time' [1796], 1797

With Addison and his contemporaries originated the first variation that occurred, subsequent to the Revolution, in the composition of English prose. Though the diffuse style still continued to prevail, it was no longer the loose, inaccurate and clumsy style by which the compositions of his predecessors were disgraced. So great, indeed, was the improvement, and so striking the variation introduced by Addison, that he who compares the productions of this elegant writer with those of the best writers of 88, will find it difficult to avoid surprise, how, with such precedents before him, he could have risen at once to a degree of excellence in style which constitutes him a model for imitation. The forced metaphor, the dragging clause, the harsh cadence, and the abrupt close, are all of them strangers to the works of Addison. In the structure of his sentences, though we may sometimes meet marks of negligence, yet we can seldom find the unity of a sentence violated by ideas crowded together, or the sense obscured by an improper connection of clauses. Though, like his predecessors, he frequently uses two words to express one idea, yet, in this instance, he is less faulty than they; and, among the variations introduced by him, we must reckon a more strict attention to the choice of words, and more precision in the use of them.