Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric
Ward Farnsworth

Book cover image

Narrated By: Bronson Pinchot, Jim Meskimen

Duration: 9 hours and 24 minutes

What to expect

Masters of language can turn unassuming words into phrases that are beautiful, effective, and memorable. What are the secrets of this alchemy? Part of the answer lies in rhetorical figures: practical ways of applying great aesthetic principles—repetition and variety, suspense and relief, concealment and surprise—to a simple sentence or paragraph. Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric recovers this knowledge for our times. It amounts to a tutorial on eloquence conducted by Churchill and Lincoln, Dickens and Melville, Burke and Paine, and more than a hundred others. The book organizes a vast range of examples from those sources into eighteen chapters that illustrate and analyze the most valuable rhetorical devices with unprecedented clarity. The result is an indispensable source of pleasure and instruction for all lovers of the English language.


Semantics, discourse analysis, stylistics, Language: reference and general

Listen to a sample

“Not only educational but delightful.”

David Mamet, New York Times bestselling author

“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, New York Times bestselling author and syndicated columnist

“The most immediate pleasure of this book is that it heightens one’s appreciation of the craft of great writers and speakers…Mr. Farnsworth wants to restore the reputation of rhetorical artistry per se, and the result is a handsome work of reference.”

Wall Street Journal

“As Ward Farnsworth—a professor of law at Boston University—demonstrates in his witty handbook, the various rhetorical techniques are actually the organizing principles behind vivid writing and speech…More important, this handbook also provides a slew of examples to reveal how great writers have added force and color to their sentences by employing these tropes or figures.”

Washington Post

“Mr. Farnsworth, who despite being a professor of law writes clearly and trenchantly, wastes no time here with the trite and the trivial…This wealth of examples, if you will only look into them, will stimulate your interest, gratify your curiosity, and amplify your own writing.”

Baltimore Sun

“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.”

Chronicle of Higher Education

“An engaging and accessible guide, valuable to all who wish to improve their rhetorical skills or better appreciate the abilities of others.”

Library Journal

“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 is unchanging.”

Victor Davis Hanson, coauthor of Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom

“Every writer should have this book.”

Erin McKean, editor of Verbatim: The Language Quarterly

“I must refrain from shouting what a brilliant work this is (praeteritio). 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).”