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Tediousness the Limbs and Outward Flourishes

July 9, 2013

I used to receive email messages from somebody who closed her Apple phone messages with the line, “Brevity is a virtue.”  While I always looked forward to receiving those messages, no matter how long, it’s hard to deny that in the main these closing words were fully apt for corresponding with devices with itty bitty screens.

Brevity comes into play with most of what we read these days, including the blogosphere. Therefore, with Ram On, I shall do my best to go along. For anyone who writes, you will appreciate please that this will not always be easy.  Other daily demands and commitments  will usually take precedence.  This hard fact and in this instance,  my particular limitations in the craft, will make their own marks on the blog posts.

Blaise Pascal, the 17th century French mathematician and philosopher, committed himself from January 1656 to March 1657 to defending his brand of Catholic theology, Jansenism, and his friend, Antoine Arnauld, an early spokesman of the movement, against the Jesuits’ heavy handed criticism. While underground, Pascal wrote the Jesuit fathers the Provincial Letters, a series of eighteen letters taking issue with their reasoning and accusing them of moral looseness.  In the second to last paragraph of the nearly 9,000-word Letter XVI, dated December 4, 1656, Pascal acknowledged the length of his writings:

“Reverend fathers, my letters were not wont either to be so prolix, or to follow so closely on one another. Want of time must plead my excuse for both of these faults. The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter. You know the reason of this haste better than I do. You have been unlucky in your answers. You have done well, therefore, to change your plan; but I am afraid that you will get no credit for it, and that people will say it was done for fear of the Benedictines.”

Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg

Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg

Some will recognize the third sentence above and perhaps attribute it to others, including Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw or Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln of course is remembered for among other things, his eloquent and lasting approximately six hundred words at the burial grounds of the Union Solders in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in November 1863.  Lincoln spoke for two minutes, about the time many of us now have before becoming weary of the YouTube video on the screen.  Edward Everett, known at the time as one of the very best orators in the country, spoke before Lincoln and clocked in at about two hours with his 13,607-word speech.


Edward Everett

Maybe some of us need no further more inspiration or encouragement to tighten up our writing than what they received from the high school English teachers. Messrs. Caldwell and Aten left an impression on me.  When I tell myself that I have the time, I still strive to live up to their guidance and standards when editing my own work. I don’t expect to receive an ‘A’ for every one of these posts.  I’ll simply write for fun.  Hopefully, I’ll keep it brief enough most of the time.

Why day is day, night is night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief
– Polonius to King Claudius, Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii

From → Writing

  1. We’ll be brief, good post! xo LMA


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