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For the love of language

Thomas Hardy
When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.

- - -

To persons standing alone on a hill during a clear midnight such as this, the roll of the world eastward is almost a palpable movement. The sensation may be caused by the panoramic glide of the stars past earthly objects, which is perceptible in a few minutes of stillness, or by the better outlook upon space that a hill affords, or by the wind, or by the solitude; but whatever be its origin the impression of riding along is vivid and abiding. The poetry of motion is a phrase much in use, and to enjoy the epic form of that gratification it is necessary to stand on a hill at a small hour of the night, and, having first expanded with a sense of difference from the mass of civilized mankind, who are dreamwrapt and disregardful of all such proceedings at this time, long and quietly watch your stately progress through the stars. After such a nocturnal reconnoitre it is hard to get back to earth, and to believe that the consciousness of such majestic speeding is derived from a tiny human frame.

Far from the Madding Crowd

- - -

As far as social ethics were concerned Eustacia approached the savage state, though in emotion she was all the while an epicure. She had advanced to the secret recesses of sensuousness, yet had hardly crossed the threshold of conventionality.

The Return of the Native




Edith Hamilton
Egypt is a fertile valley of rich river soil, low-lying, warm, monotonous, a slow-flowing river, and beyond the limitless desert. Greece is a country of sparse fertility and keen, cold winters, all hills and mountains sharp cut in stone, where strong men must work hard to get their bread. And while Egypt submitted and suffered and turned her face toward death, Greece resisted and rejoiced and turned full-face to life. For somewhere among those steep stone mountains, in little sheltered valleys where the great hills were ramparts to defend, and men could have security for peace and happy living, something quite new came into the world: the joy of life found expression. Perhaps it was born there, among the shepherds pasturing their flocks where the wild flowers made a glory on the hillside; among the sailors on a sapphire sea washing enchanted islands purple in a luminous air.

The Greek Way




Charlotte Brontë
He fumed like a bottled storm.

- - -

... a voice that was naturally as liquid as a lark's

Villette

- - -

     "Is he tyrannical?"
     "Not in the least; he is neither tyrannical nor hypocritical; he is simply a man who is rather liberal than good-natured, rather brilliant than genial, rather scrupulously equitable than truly just,—if you can understand such superfine distinctions?"
     "Oh! yes: good-nature implies indulgence, which he has not; geniality, warmth of heart, which he does not own; and genuine justice is the offspring of sympathy and considerateness, of which, I can well conceive, my bronzed old friend is quite innocent."

- - -

Whether truth — be it religious or moral truth — speak eloquently and in well-chosen language or not, its voice should be heard with reverence. Let those who cannot nicely, and with certainty, discern the difference between the tones of hypocrisy and those of sincerity, never presume to laugh at all, lest they should have the miserable misfortune to laugh in the wrong place, and commit impiety when they think they are achieving wit.

- - -

Men and women never struggle so hard as when they struggle alone, without witness, counsellor, or confidant, unencouraged, unadvised, and unpitied.

- - -

Liverpool started and snorted like a river-horse roused amongst his reeds by thunder.

Shirley

- - -

If the national character of the Belgians is to be measured by the character of most of the girls in this school, it is a character singularly cold, selfish, animal, and inferior. They are very mutinous and difficult for the teachers to manage; and their principles are rotten to the core. We avoid them, which it is not difficult to do, as we have the brand of Protestantism and Anglicism upon us. People talk of the danger which Protestants expose themselves to in going to reside in Catholic countries, and thereby running the chance of changing their faith. My advice to all Protestants who are tempted to do anything so besotted as turn Catholics, is, to walk over the sea on to the Continent; to attend mass sedulously for a time; to note well the mummeries thereof; also the idiotic, mercenary aspect of all the priests; and then, if they are still disposed to consider Papistry in any other light than a most feeble, childish piece of humbug, let them turn Papists at once--that's all. I consider Methodism, Quakerism, and the extremes of High and Low Churchism foolish, but Roman Catholicism beats them all.

— Letter from Brussels, 1842




Victor Hugo
It may be remarked in passing that success is an ugly thing. Men are deceived by its false resemblances to merit. To the crowd, success wears almost the features of true mastery, and the greatest dupe of this counterfeit talent is History.

- - -

This implacable modesty had increased with age. The front of her dress was never thick enough or high enough; she added pins and fastenings to places where no one would have thought of looking. It is the quality of prudishness that the less the fortress is threatened, the more the garrison is strengthened.

Les Misérables




William Thackeray
"Look at that infernal sly-boots of a Tapeworm," Fipps whispered, examining his chief from the stalls. "Wherever there's a pretty woman, he always twists himself in."

Vanity Fair




Gustave Flaubert
A sputter of suppressed laughter went off here and there like a damp squib.

- - -

The gentlemen there all knew him like the insides of their pockets.

- - -

... lands with musical names

Madame Bovary




Henry James
Ransom saw that he should not in the least discover Mrs. Farrinder's real opinions, and her dissimulation added to his impression that she was a woman with a policy.

The Bostonians




George Eliot
     "Munny, my iron's twite told; pease put it down to warm."
     The small chirrupping voice that uttered this request came from a little sunny-haired girl between three and four, who, seated on a high chair at the end of the ironing-table, was arduously clutching the handle of a miniature iron with her tiny fat fist, and ironing rags with an assiduity that required her to put her little red tongue out as far as anatomy would allow.

- - -

     There are various orders of beauty, causing men to make fools of themselves in various styles, from the desperate to the sheepish; but there is one order of beauty which seems made to turn the heads not only of men, but of all intelligent mammals, even of women. It is a beauty like that of kittens, or very small downy ducks making gentle rippling noises with their soft bills, or babies just beginning to toddle and to engage in conscious mischief — a beauty with which you can never be angry, but that you feel ready to crush for inability to comprehend the state of mind into which it throws you. Hetty Sorrel's was that sort of beauty....
     It is of little use for me to tell you that Hetty's cheek was like a rose-petal, that dimples played about her pouting lips, that her large dark eyes hid a soft roguishness under their long lashes, and that her curly hair, though all pushed back under her round cap while she was at work, stole back in dark delicate rings on her forehead, and about her white shell-like ears; it is of little use for me to say how lovely was the contour of her pink-and-white neckerchief, tucked into her low plum-coloured stuff bodice, or how the linen butter-making apron, with its bib, seemd a thing to be imitated in silk by duchesses, since it fell in such charming lines, or how her brown stockings and thick-soled buckled shoes lost all that clumsiness which they must certainly have had when empty of her foot and ankle; — of little use, unless you have seen a woman who affected you as Hetty affected her beholders, for otherwise, though you might conjure up the image of a lovely woman, she would not in the least resemble that distracting kitten-like maiden. I might mention all the divine charms of a bright spring day, but if you had never in your life utterly forgotten yourself in straining your eyes after the mounting lark, or in wandering through the still lanes when the fresh-opened blossoms fill them with a sacred silent beauty like that of fretted aisles, where would be the use of my descriptive catalogue? I could never make you know what I meant by a bright spring day. Hetty's was a spring-tide beauty; it was the beauty of young frisking things, round-limbed, gambolling, circumventing you by a false air of innocence — the innocence of a young star-browed calf, for example, that, being inclined for a promenade out of bounds, leads you a severe steeple-chase over hedge and ditch, and only comes to stand in the middle of a bog.

- - -

The vainest woman is never thoroughly conscious of her own beauty till she is loved by the man who sets her own passion vibrating in return.

- - -

The jocose talk of haymakers is best at a distance; like those clumsy bells round cows' necks, it has rather a coarse sound when it comes close, and may even grate on your ears painfully; but heard from far off, it mingles very prettily with the other joyous sounds of nature. Men's muscles move better when their souls are making merry music, though their merriment is of a poor blundering sort, not at all like the merriment of birds.

- - -

Have you ever seen a real English rustic perform a solo dance? Perhaps you have only seen a ballet rustic, smiling like a merry countryman in crockery, with graceful turns of the haunch and insinuating movements of the head. That is as much like the real thing as the "Bird Waltz" is like the song of birds. Wiry Ben never smiled: he looked as serious as a dancing monkey — as serious as if he had been an experimental philosopher ascertaining in his own person the amount of shaking and the varieties of angularity that could be given to the human limbs.

Adam Bede

- - -

"When you get me a good man made out of arguments, I will get you a good dinner with reading you the cookery-book."

Middlemarch

- - -

All people of broad, strong sense have an instinctive repugnance to the men of maxims; because such people early discern that the mysterious complexity of our life is not to be embraced by maxims, and that to lace ourselves up in formulas of that sort is to repress all the divine promptings and inspirations that spring from growing insight and sympathy.

- - -

And as for the Transome business, there had been ins and outs in time gone by, so that you couldn't look into it straight backward.

- - -

Mr. Lyon was silent a few moments. This dialogue was far from plain sailing; he was not certain of his latitude and longitude.

- - -

... a demagogue all tongue and stomach

- - -

Esther always avoided asking questions of Lydley, who found an answer as she found a key, by pouring out a pocketful of miscellanies.

- - -

Her life was a heap of fragments.

- - -

Speech is often barren; but silence also does not necessarily brood over a full nest. Your still fowl, blinking at you without remark, may all the while be sitting on one addled nest-egg, and when it takes to cackling, will have nothing to announce but that addled delusion.

- - -

It is a good and soothfast saw;
Half-roasted never will be raw;
No dough is dried once more to meal;
No crock new-shapen by the wheel;
You can't turn curds to milk again,
Nor Now, by wishing, back to Then;
And having tasted stolen honey,
You can't buy innocence for money.

- - -

     "Well, Mr. Nolan," said Rose, twinkling a self-complacent look over the red prominence of his cheeks, "have you been to give your vote yet?"
     "No, all in good time. I shall go presently."
     "Well, I wouldn't lose an hour, I wouldn't. I said to myself, if I've got to do gentlemen a favor, I'll do it at once. You see, I've got no landlord, Nolan — I'm in that position o' life that I can be independent."
     "Just so, my dear sir," said the wiry-faced Nolan, pinching his underlip between his thumb and finger, and giving one of those wonderful universal shrugs, by which he seemed to be recalling all his garments from a tendency to disperse themselves.

Felix Holt, The Radical




Charles Dickens
Suddenly a very little counsel with a terrific bass voice, arises, fully inflated ....

- - -

His family is as old as the hills, and infinitely more respectable.

- - -


     When a waggon with a train of beautiful horses, furnished with red trappings and clear-sounding bells came by us with its music, I believe we could all three have sung to the bells, so cheerful were the influences around....
     We had stopped, and the waggon had stopped too. Its music changed as the horses came to a stand, and subsided to a gentle tinkling, except when a horse tossed his head, or shook himself, and sprinkled off a little shower of bellringing.

Bleak House

- - -

That chap, sir, ... though he's got all his faculties about him — bottled up and corked down, if I may say so, somewheres or another ....

Barnaby Rudge

- - -

He was a most exemplary man: fuller of virtuous precept than a copy-book. Some people likened him to a direction post, which is always telling the way to a place, and never goes there: but these were his enemies; the shadows cast by his brightness; that was all. His very throat was moral. You saw a good deal of it. You looked over a very low fence of white cravat (whereof no man had ever beheld the tie, for he fastened it behind), and there it lay, a valley between two jutting heights of collar, serene and whiskerless before you. It seemed to say, on the part of Mr. Pecksniff, "There is no deception, ladies and gentlemen, all is peace, a holy calm pervades me." So did his hair, just grizzled with an iron-grey, which was all brushed off his forehead, and stood bolt upright, or slightly drooped in kindred action with his heavy eyelids. So did his person, which was sleek though free from corpulency. So did his manner, which was soft and oily. In a word, even his plain black suit, and state of widower, and dangling double eyeglass, all tended to the same purpose, and cried aloud, "Behold the moral Pecksniff!"

Martin Chuzzlelwit




Elizabeth Gaskell
Miss Pole told us she had absolutely taken time by the forelock and been dressed by five o'clock.

Cranford




Edith Wharton
... the beautiful Mrs. Berringer, a lovely, aimless being who kept, as Laura Fairford said, a home for stray opinions and could never quite tell them apart.

The Custom of the Country




Jane Austen
I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.

Northanger Abbey

- - -

Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School — not of a seminary, or an establishment, or any thing which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality upon new principles and new systems — and where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity — but a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies.

Emma

- - -

Mr Elliot was rational, discreet, polished, but he was not open. There was never any burst of feeling, any warmth of indignation or delight, at the evil or good of others. This, to Anne, was a decided imperfection. Her early impressions were incurable. She prized the frank, the open-hearted, the eager character beyond all others. Warmth and enthusiasm did captivate her still. She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped.

Persuasion




Leo Tolstoy
... as if he were carrying a cup brimful of wrath and were afraid of spilling any.

Anna Karenina




Walter Lippmann
I wanted thought like an edge of steel and desire like a flame.

- - -

Such men are the sparkling streams that flow through the dusty stretches of a nation.

A Preface to Politics





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