An analysis for James Howell's epistolary style



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Twentieth-century criticism of seventeenth-century prose has been dominated by the categorizing of writers' styles into various classifications, a practice which has resulted in misconceptions about what these writers were actually trying to produce. Especially erroneous is the use of these labels as a means of identifying the styles of minor writers, most of whom were not sufficiently attentive to produce one consistent type of prose. The seventeenth-century man of letters was, as a result of his classical education, very conscious of Cicero's "Grand Style" and Seneca's "Plain Style." Careful study indicates, however, that conventional labels such as "Senecan" and "Ciceronian" do not provide inclusive classifications for Howell's epistolary style. He used both Cicero and Seneca as models for his Epistolae Ho-Elianae (1645), weaving the rhetorical figures of speech together with a style which was-both conversational and amusing.