Euphuism: An artificial literary style, particularly popular in late-sixteenth-century and seventeenth-century England, that made frequent use of alliteration; elaborate and extended figures of speech; neologisms; rhetorical questions; and parallel or balanced constructs, including antitheses. The term is derived from the extended prose narrative Euphues (1579) by John Lyly, who broadened the appeal of euphuistic writing by combining and elaborating on features developed by several predecessors. Although viewed as extravagant and thoroughly affected today, euphuism positively affected the development of English prose, which had previously been ponderously Latinate in style and sentence structure and consequently thick and tedious to follow. Euphuistic writing, although artificial, brought imagination, wit, and greater clarity to English prose.
EXAMPLE: The following passage from Lyly’s Euphues:
But this grieveth me most, that thou art almost vowed to the vain order of the vestal virgins, despising, or at the least not desiring, the sacred bands of Juno her bed. If thy mother had been of that mind when she was a maiden, thou hadst not now been born to be of this mind to be a virgin. Weigh with thyself what slender profit they bring to the commonwealth, what slight pleasure to themselves, what great grief to their parents, which joy most in their offspring and desire most to enjoy the noble and blessed name of a grandfather. Thou knowest that the tallest ash is cut down for fuel because it beareth no good fruit, that the cow that gives no milk is brought to the slaughter, that the drone that gathereth no honey is contemned, that the woman that maketh herself barren by not marrying is accounted among the Grecian ladies worse than a carrion, as Homer reporteth. Therefore, Lucilla, if thou have any care to be a comfort to my hoary hairs or a commodity to thy commonweal, frame thyself to that honourable estate of matrimony which was sanctified in Paradise, allowed of the Patriarchs, hallowed of the old Prophets, and commended of all persons.