The dying out of religious practices from the life of the people tends more than anything else to the impoverishment of their speech. For the last three hundred years spoken English has been filled with Biblical allusions, and if the Bible ceases to be read in the schools we must expect these to die out, as the proverbs of the saints died out after the Reformation.
(“The Whitewashing of English,” The Living Age, Vol. CCLII, 1907, p. 186).
Lest I should forget to mention it, I put down here a rebuke which, later in his life, Sir Walter once gave in my hearing to his daughter Anne. She happened to say of something, I forget what, that she could not abide it — it was vulgar. “My love,” said her father, “you speak like a very young lady; do you know, after all, the meaning of this word vulgar?” “‘Tis only common; nothing that is common, except wickedness, can deserve to be spoken of in a tone of contempt; and when you have lived to my years, you will be disposed to agree with me in thanking God that nothing really worth having or caring about in this world is uncommon.”
(John Gibson Lockhart, The Life of Sir Walter Scott, Vol. 8. Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, 1902, p. 26).
A friend of mine once passed through a very poor neighbourhood, and saw a man issue from a four-roomed house with a roll of some material under his arm. He was stayed by his wife, who endeavoured by many arguments to dissuade him from pawning what articles he had taken away. After an angry, tumultuous dialogue, he broke from her, and turned to the crowd which had of course assembled. “What I want to know,” he exclaimed, “is this. Is a man a king in his own castle, or is he an antediluvian?” For some years, at intervals, I have tried to discover what this word meant, but in vain. It has remained as secret as a hieroglyph, and undecipherable.
(Morley Roberts, “Agitators and Demaguogues,” Murray’s Magazine, Vol. VII, 1890, p. 676).
The fact is that a knowledge of grammar and an ability to make a word for word translation are not in themselves sufficient to enable a person to enter into the spirit of a language or to assimilate the thoughts of the people who read and write it. One might even go further and say that the more a translation is scrupulously literal the less likely it is to be faithful or to reveal the true nature of the original thought, because the correspondence between terms of expression belonging to two different languages is far from exact.
(René Guénon, Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines. London: Luzac & Co., 1945, p. 18).
He writes passionately, because he feels keenly; forcibly, because he conceives vividly; he sees too clearly to be vague; he is too serious to be otiose; he can analyze his subject, and therefore he is rich; he embraces it as a whole and in its parts, and therefore he is consistent; he has a ﬁrm hold of it, and therefore he is luminous. When his imagination wells up, it overflows in ornament; when his heart is touched, it thrills along his verse. He always has the right word for the right idea, and never a word too much. If he is brief, it is because few words suffice; when he is lavish of them, still each word has its mark, and aids, not embarrasses, the vigorous march of his elocution. He expresses what all feel, but all cannot say; and his sayings pass into proverbs among his people, and his phrases become household words and idioms of their daily speech, which is tessellated with the rich fragments of his language, as we see in foreign lands the marbles of Roman grandeur worked into the walls and pavements of modern palaces.
(John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1912, pp. 292–293).
Consonants and vowels are gestures… But as gesture is always the expression of something in our moral being, each consonant has the character of a corresponding and innate movement. It is easy to prove that the consonant is a gesture. In articulating it, the tongue rises to the palate, and makes the same movement as the arm when it would repel something.
(François Delsarte; quoted in Hamilton Aïdé, “The Art of Public Speaking,” The Nineteenth Century, Vol. XV, 1884, p. 971).
I have been obliged to take great pains with every thing I have written, and I often write chapters over and over again, besides innumerable corrections and interlinear additions. I am not stating this as a merit, only that some persons write their best first, and I very seldom do. Those who are good speakers may be supposed to be able to write off what they want to say. I, who am not a good speaker, have to correct laboriously what I put on paper. I have heard that Archbishop Howley, who was an elegant writer, betrayed the labour by which he became so by his mode of speaking, which was most painful to hear from his hesitations and alterations — that is, he was correcting his composition as he went along.
However, I may truly say that I never have been in the practice since I was a boy of attempting to write well, or to form an elegant style. I think I never have written for writing sake: but my one and single desire and aim has been to do what is so difficult — viz. to express clearly and exactly my meaning; this has been the motive principle of all my corrections and re-writings. When I have read over a passage which I had written a few days before, I have found it so obscure to myself that I have either put it altogether aside or fiercely corrected it; but I don’t get any better for practice. I am as much obliged to correct and re-write as I was thirty years ago.
As to patterns for imitation, the only master of style I have ever had (which is strange considering the differences of the languages) is Cicero. I think I owe a great deal to him, and as far as I know to no one else.
(John Henry Newman, Letter to John Hayes. In: Letters and Correspondence of John Henry Newman during His Life in the English Church, Vol. 2. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1890, pp. 426–427).