Monday, January 26, 2015

Composition lesson: Omit Needless Ofs, and an essay by Francis Bacon: "Of Expense" (Lydia's Grade Eight)

Part of a chapter from Sizzling Style, by William Bernhardt.  Only people who have spent as much time crossing out prepositional phrases as Lydia has will fully appreciate this writing advice. According to Bernhardt, the majority of prepositional phrases are excess baggage. If you can identify and mentally cross them out (as any student of The Easy Grammar Plus will be able to do), you can often omit them, or replace them with adjectives or other single words. Top offender, says Bernhardt: the word "of."

"Criticise the following passage from Bacon's Essays, and, after putting the meaning shortly in your own words,show how it treats all of the aspects of the subject." (Studies in composition: A textbook for advanced classes. By David Pryde, 1871) (The text here contains only the first two-thirds of Bacon's essay. Although the whole thing is not long, the last third is the most difficult and so I am taking Mr. Pryde's advice and shortening the assignment.)

"RICHES are for spending, and spending for honor and good actions. Therefore extraordinary expense must be limited by the worth of the occasion; for voluntary undoing, may be as well for a man’s country, as for the kingdom of heaven. But ordinary expense, ought to be limited by a man’s estate; and governed with such regard, as it be within his compass; and not subject to deceit and abuse of servants; and ordered to the best show, that the bills may be less than the estimation abroad. Certainly, if a man will keep but of even hand, his ordinary expenses ought to be but to the half of his receipts; and if he think to wax rich, but to the third part.

"It is no baseness, for the greatest to descend and look into their own estate. Some forbear it, not upon negligence alone, but doubting to bring themselves into melancholy, in respect they shall find it broken. But wounds cannot be cured without searching. He that cannot look into his own estate at all, had need both choose well them whom he employeth, and change them often; for new are more timorous and less subtle. He that can look into his estate but seldom, it behooveth him to turn all to certainties. A man had need, if he be plentiful in some kind of expense, to be as saving again in some other. As if he be plentiful in diet, to be saving in apparel; if he be plentiful in the hall, to be saving in the stable; and the like. For he that is plentiful in expenses of all kinds, will hardly be preserved from decay."

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

Jemimah paraphrased the first half of On Truth today. She did amazingly, I think. I'll post it when she is finished. I think that maybe this book is more scary for me than for her!