Hooray for the Long Sentence

It's always exciting to come across an intricate sentence pulled off with great success. Consider this sentence, for instance, which appears in the December 2016 issue of the Journal of the History of Economic Thought in an article by Mark Charles Nolan, of University College, Cork:

Even though Dutch physician Bernard Mandeville was credited with being the first to formulate the economic terms “division of labor” and “laissez-faire,” Friedrich August Hayek, in his lecture read to the British Academy on March 23, 1966, the penultimate year of Lionel Robbins’s five-year term as president of the academy, told his London audience that he wished to concentrate on Mandeville’s “definitive breakthrough in modern thought”: namely, the twin ideas of evolution and spontaneous order.

There are several things to note about the sentence. Take the details, for starters. The "character" of Bernard Mandeville is fleshed out with the appositive Dutch physician. Hayek's lecture is given a precise date, and in another appositive we are told that 1966 was Lionel Robbins's next-to-last year as president. There is the well-chosen quotation from Hayek: Hayek's actual words, labeling Mandeville's two ideas as a "definitive breakthrough," are important to the argument. I especially like told his London audience, a bit of imagery that also indirectly identifies the site of the lecture.

With a sentence this long, the end receives an especial amount of stress. We can commend the author for not only putting what appears to be the most important information at the end, but also for introducing it with a colon, which brings the sentence to a temporary halt (allowing the reader a welcome chance to catch his breath) and heightens the emphasis even further.

The author does flirt with disaster, of course. The sentence is the opening one of the article, and I'm not sure it is generally wise to begin an opening sentence with a dependent clause. And there is a long subject-verb interruption. But the sentence has a momentum that carries the reader past those, and in the end it turns out just fine.