Page images

excellence of this kind was esteemed in the number of the politest accomplishments; as it was the ambition of fome of the greatest names of antiquity, to diftinguish themselves in the improvements of their native tongue. Julius Cæfar, who was not only the greatest hero, but the finest gentleman that ever, perhaps, appeared in the world, was defirous of adding this talent to his other moft fhining endowments; and we are told he ftudied the language of his country with much application; as we are fure he poffeffed it in its highest elegance. What a lofs, Euphronius, is it to the literary world, that the treatise which he wrote upon this fubject, is perished with many other valuable works of that age? But tho we are deprived of the benefit of his obfervations, we are happily not without an inftance of their effects; and his own memoirs will ever remain as the best and brightest exemplar, not only of true generalfhip, but of fine writing. He published them, indeed, only as materials for the ufe of those who should be difpofed to enlarge upon that remarkable period of the Roman ftory; yet the purity and gracefulness of his ftyle were fuch, that no judi

cious writer durft attempt to touch the subject after him.

HAVING produced fo illuftrious an inftance in favor of an art, for which I have ventured to admire you; it would be impertinent to add a fecond, were I to cite a lefs authority than that of the immortal Tully. This noble author, in his dialogue concerning the celebrated Roman orators, frequently mentions it as a very high encomium, that they poffeffed the elegance of their native language; and introduces Brutus as declaring, that he should prefer the honor of being esteemed the great mafter and improver of Roman eloquence, even to the glory of many triumphs,

BUT to add reafon to precedent, and to view this art in its ufe as well as its dignity; will it not be allowed of fome importance, when it is confidered, that eloquence is one of the moft confiderable auxiliaries of truth? Nothing indeed contributes more to fubdue the mind to the force of reason, than her being fupported by the powerful affiftance of masculine and vigorous oratory as on the contrary, the most legitimate arguments may be disappointed of that fuccefs they de


ferve, by being attended with a spiritless and enfeebled expreffion. Accordingly, that most elegant of writers, the inimitable Mr. Addison obferves in one of his effays, that "there is as much difference between com "prehending a thought cloathed in Cice«ro's language and that of an ordinary wri

ter, as between seeing an object by the light of a taper or the light of the fun." It is furely then a very ftrange conceit of the celebrated Malbranche, who seems to think the pleasure which arises from perufing a well written piece, is of the criminal kind, and has its fource in the weaknefs and effeminacy of the human heart. A man must have a very uncommon severity of temper indeed, who can find any thing to condemn in adding charms to truth, and gaining the heart by captivating the ear; in uniting rofes with the thorns of fcience, and joining pleafure with inftruction.

THE truth is, the mind is delighted with a fine ftyle, upon the fame principle that it prefers regularity to confufion, and beauty to deformity. A tafte of this fort is indeed fo far from being a mark of

any de


pravity of our nature, that I fhould rather confider it as an evidence, in fome degree, of the moral rectitude of its conftitution; as it is a proof of its retaining fome relish at least of harmony and order.

ONE might be apt indeed, to fufpect that certain writers amongst us had confidered all beauties of this fort, in the fame gloomy view with Malbranche: or at least that they avoided every refinement in ftyle, as unworthy a lover of truth and philosophy. Their fentiments are funk by the lowest expreffions, and feem condemned to the first curse, of creeping upon the ground all the days of their life. Others, on the contrary, miftake pomp for dignity; and, in order to raife their expreffions above vulgar language, lift them up beyond common apprehenfions, efteeming it (one should imagine) a mark of their genius, that it requires fome ingenuity -to penetrate their meaning. But how few writers, like Euphronius, know to hit that true medium which lies between those diftant extremes?How feldom do we meet with an author, whofe expreffions, like thofe of my friend, are glowing but not glaring, whofe metaphors are natural but


[ocr errors]

not common, whofe periods are harmonious but not poetical; in a word, whofe fentiments are well fet, and fhewn to the underftanding in their trueft and most advantageous luftre. I am, &c.


[merged small][ocr errors]

INTENDED to have clofed with your propofal, and paffed a few weeks with you at ***, but some unlucky affairs have intervened, which will engage me, I fear, the remaining part of this feafon.

AMONG the amusements which the fcene you are in affords, I fhould have esteemed the converfation of Timoclea as a very principal entertainment; and as I know you are fond of fingular characters, I recommend that lady to your acquaintance.


[ocr errors]

TIMOCLEA was once a beauty; but ill health, and worfe fortune, have ruined those charms, which time would yet have fpared. However, what has spoiled her for a mistress, has improved her for a companion; and fhe is far more conversable


« PreviousContinue »