SAMUEL JOHNSON’S SENTENCES. Walter Jackson Bate has a wonderful analysis of Samuel Johnson’s style which consists in part of reprinting a couple of sentences of Johnson’s in a format which shows their complexity and balance. Here is one of them, reproduced as best I can:
The great contention of criticism is to find
the faults of the moderns,
the beauties of the ancients….
To works, however, of which the excellence is not
absolute and definite,
gradual and comparative;
to works not raised upon principles demonstrative and scientifick
appealing wholly to observation and experience,
no other test can be applied than
length of duration
continuance of esteem.
Bate notes that Johnson makes frequent use of short clauses and that T.S. Eliot said that Johnson often wrote like a man talking “in short breaths.”