Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/362

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resides. There is something pathetic in the reflection that we walk this world half hidden from one another, a constant struggle going on to make known the thoughts, beliefs, and aspirations of the real but partly-imprisoned being, which never can be known exactly as they are to any but the mind that conceives them. Like savages, we speak mostly by signs, which serve us well enough, but leave much un communicated. It is well, however, that this imperfection is an imperfection that produces beauty; that the grating of the machine is not harsh, but musical. Mr. Herbert Spencer is successful in showing that the various devices of language do serve to the economy of the reader's attention, and that beauties of style are beauties partly because they effect this end. But he has not raised a question which seems closely akin to the subject. Why is it needful to have recourse to these expedients at all, and why is there an infinite variety in every man's use of them? The answer to these questions seems to give an insight into a higher law, to which Mr. Spencer's principle stands rather as an empirical generalization. It is this: that each man's inmost nature is a secret to all but himself—and that a secret which in no two cases is the same. Every attempt to communicate it partly fails, and so language is full of compromises and expedients; each nature to be revealed is different, and so there is a countless variety of styles. This, then, is not due to poverty of speech; rather it is due to multiplicity of individualities, each speaking its own language and telling its own tale.

The ideal style, then, is for an ideal being, but for an ideal being who is to be without personality. The perfect writer may write, now like Junius, now like Lamb, now like Carlyle, but like himself he can never write. He cannot, as we say, express himself. A significant phrase, for after all it is when a man, as far as he can, expresses himself, that his communication is most worth having. It is the one thing of which he certainly knows something, where he can indeed speak with authority. It is not so much what a man knows as how he knows it, not so much the extent as the quality of his information, that gains him a right to be heard. Originality is far oftener originality of expression than idea, a fresh aspect of something old, not a discovery of something new. And so there starts up here an answer to the difficulties encountered at the outset, "Why men are influenced by language at least as much as by ideas;" and "Why power of expression is intimately associated with mental grasp generally." Partly, no doubt, because in language resides the personality of the speaker or writer, and men are influenced by personality—but far more for another reason. The highest form of ability is something which pervades the whole being; it is not restricted to an intellect preternaturally acute, to vividness of imagination, or fineness of feeling; but it is the manifestation of a nature—of a self, which is really great. And it has been seen that it is in expression, or style, that the self of