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Fathers of the Church

Letter CCCXXXIV: to a Writer

Description

Basil gives some advice on writing.

Provenance

St. Basil's correspondence is a copious and invaluable store of information for the history of the Eastern Church in the fourth century, particularly in Cappadocia. Since he never found a real biographer, his letters represent the best source for his life and times, for his many activities and far-reaching influence, especially for his personality and his character. (Quasten)

by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A

WRITE straight, and make the lines straight. Do not let your hand go too high or too low. Avoid forcing the pen to travel slantwise, like Aasop's crab. Advance straight on, as if following the line of the carpenter's rule, which always preserves exactitude and prevents any irregularity. The oblique is ungraceful. It is the straight which pleases the eye, and does not allow the reader's eyes to go nodding up and down like a swing-beam. This has been my fate in reading your writing. As the lines lie ladderwise, I was obliged, when I had to go from one to another, to mount up to the end of the last: then, when no connexion was to be found, I bad to go back, and seek for the right order again, retreating and following the furrow, like Theseus in the story following Ariadne's thread. Write straight, and do not confuse our mind by your slanting and irregular writing.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF II/VIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.