Masters of language can turn unassuming words into phrases that are convincing, effective, and memorably beautiful. Lincoln and Churchill had this power: having heard their words once, the reader or listener can scarcely imagine the world without them. What are the secrets of this alchemy? The answer lies in rhetoric in the honorable sense of the word – not the dronings of bad politicians, but the art of using language to persuade, influence, or otherwise affect an audience. Rhetoric in this sense is among the most ancient academic disciplines, and we all use it every day whether expertly or not. This book is a lively set of lessons on the subject. It is about rhetorical figures: practical ways of applying old and powerful principles – repetition and variety, suspense and relief, concealment and surprise, the creation of expectations and then the satisfaction or frustration of them– to the composition of a simple sentence or a complete paragraph. Though first examined in classical Greece and Rome, these techniques also were studied closely by earlier generations of the best English writers and orators and were often employed by them to exquisite effect. Classical English Rhetoric recovers this knowledge for our times. It organizes, illustrates, and analyzes the most valuable rhetorical devices with impeccable clarity and in unprecedented detail. The book amounts to a tutorial on eloquence conducted by virtuoso faculty: not just Lincoln and Churchill, but Dickens and Melville, Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, and more than a hundred others. The result is a new addition to the list of indispensable books for the writer or speaker – a highly useful reference tool, and a rewarding source of instruction and pleasure for all lovers of the English language.
Praise for Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric
Not only educational but delightful.
The most immediate pleasure of this book is that it heightens one’s appreciation of the craft of great writers and speakers. Mr. Farnsworth includes numerous examples from Shakespeare and Dickens, Thoreau and Emerson, Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. He also seems keen to rehabilitate writers and speakers whose rhetorical artistry is undervalued; besides his liking for Chesterton, he shows deep admiration for the Irish statesman Henry Grattan (1746-1820), whose studied repetition of a word (“No lawyer can say so; because no lawyer could say so without forfeiting his character as a lawyer”) is an instance, we are told, of conduplicatio. But more than anything Mr. Farnsworth wants to restore the reputation of rhetorical artistry per se, and the result is a handsome work of reference.
—Henry Hitchings, Wall Street Journal
Let me close with an example of hypophora — asking a question and then answering it: “Should you buy “Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric”? If you’re at all interested in the techniques of writing, yes.
—Michael Dirda, Washington Post
So, dear reader, I say it even if I say it myself—get this book! No, really, get this book! Read clever Farnsworth, and read him again, and you may become more clever yourself.
—Carlin Romano, The Chronicle of Higher Education
Every writer should have this book.
—Erin McKean, editor of Verbatim: The Language Quarterly and CEO of Wordnik.com
The best introduction to rhetorical figures which has yet appeared. An essential reference for anyone who studies verbal style.
—Richard A. Lanham, Professor Emeritus of English, UCLA
Mandatory for persons involved in public speaking, this book should prove indispensable also to writers wishing to improve their literary style.
—John Simon, author of Paradigms Lost
I must refrain from shouting what a brilliant work this is (præteritio). Farnsworth has written the book as he ought to have written it – and as only he could have written it (symploce). Buy it and read it – buy it and read it (epimone).”
—Bryan A. Garner, author of The Elements of Legal Style
Many things, from dictators to advertising, have made modern people suspicious of and cynical about language mobilized to move us. Fortunately,Ward Farnsworth’s delightful swim in a sea of well-chosen words should help to rehabilitate the reputation of rhetoric.
—George F. Will, syndicated columnist
An engaging and accessible guide, valuable to all who wish to improve their rhetorical skills or better appreciate the abilities of others.
Ward Farnsworth’s invaluable review of classical English rhetoric is not only a vital tool for aiding clear expression, but a timely reminder that, despite the confusion of the present technological age, human nature, and our ability to communicate in clear and often beautiful ways, are unchanging.
—Victor Davis Hanson, co-author of Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom
Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric is a ‘must’ for any college-level linguistics library and for students interested in literary traditions and the English language. The basic elements of effective speaking and writing, patterns that lend to power, and tips for writers who would use the English language more effectively make for a fine tutorial illustrating invaluable rhetorical usage. History and modern perspectives blend in this outstanding guide!
A catalogue of rhetorical devices—with abundant examples of each figure of speech culled from oratory and literature—Ward Farnsworth’s sparkling compendium is a handbook of eloquence that will delight readers of a certain ilk (you know who you are). Anaphora, epistrophe, isocolon, chiasmus, asyndeton, praeteritio, litotes, and other ghosts of linguistic glory are explained and resurrected in the words of writers like Edmund Burke and Winston Churchill, Herman Melville and Charles Dickens, Chesterton and Conan Doyle. Priceless.
—Barnes & Noble Review
What might have been (and in many texts on rhetoric is) a dry analysis full of rebarbative Greco-Latin terminology (epizeuxis!) becomes an enchanted garden of lively English prose. . . . By the time you’ve read through the varied examples in each chapter, you not only understand the technique involved, you feel a warm glow of pleasure (and perhaps a desire to read an author who has been only a name to you, if that).
The book is beautifully designed (in Sabon Next type) and provides its examples in a handsome format, laid out on the page with plenty of white space with the source (author, title, date) in smaller type in the outer margin. I admire it; I appreciate it; I recommend it.
—Steven Dodson, The Millions
From Epizeuxis to Prolepsis, law professor Ward Farnsworth’s guide to figures of speech is a word-lover’s delight.
Although many teachers of rhetoric make the subject boring and seemingly useless, in Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric, Ward Farnsworth makes it fascinating and fruitful.
—The Objective Standard