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Quicum quæstor fueram,

Quicum me sors consuetudoque majorum,

Quicum me deorum hominumque judicium conjunxerat.


Habet honorem quem petimus,

Habet spem quam præpositam nobis habemus,

Habet existimationem, multo sudore, labore, vigiliisque, collectam. Again:

Eripite nos ex miseriis,

Eripite nos ex faucibus eorum,

Quorum crudelitas nostro sanguine non potest explesi.—De oratore, l. 1. §6. This order of words or members gradually increasing in length, may, as far as concerns the pleasure of sound, be denominated a climax in sound.

The last article is the music of periods as united in a discourse, which shall be dispatched in a very few words. By no other human means is it possible to present to the mind such a number of objects, and in so swift a succession, as by speaking or writing; and, for that reason, variety ought more to be studied in these than in any other sort of composition. Hence a rule for arranging the members of different periods with relation to each other, That to avoid a tedious uniformity of sound and cadence, the arrangement, the cadence, and the length of the members ought to be diversified as much as possible; and if the members of different periods be sufficiently diversified, the periods themselves will be equally so.



Ir is well said by a noted writer,* "That by means of speech we can divert our sorrows, mingle our mirth, impart our secrets, communicate our counsels, and make mutual compacts and agreements to supply and assist each other." Considering speech as contributing to so many good purposes, words that convey clear and distinct ideas, must be one of its capital beauties. This cause of beauty is too extensive to be handled as a branch of any other subject; for, to ascertain with accuracy even the proper meaning of words, not to talk of their figurative power, would require a large volume; an useful work indeed, but not to be attempted without a large stock of time, study, and reflection. This branch therefore of the subject I humbly decline. Nor do I purpose to exhaust all the other beauties of language that relate to signification: the reader, in a work like the present, cannot fairly expect more than a slight sketch of those that make the greatest figure. This task is the more to my taste, as being connected with certain natural principles; and the rules I shall have occasion to lay down, will, if I judge rightly, be agreeable illustrations of these principles. Every

*Scot's Christian life.

subject must be of importance that tends to unfold the human heart for what other science is of greater use to human beings?

The present subject is too extensive to be discussed without dividing it into parts; and what follows suggests a division into two parts. In every period two things are to be regarded: first, the words of which it is composed; next, the arrangement of these words; the former resembling the stones that compose a building, and the latter resembling the order in which they are placed. Hence the beauties of language, with respect to signification, may not improperly be distinguished into two kinds: first, the beauties that arise from a right choice of words or materials for constructing the period; and next, the beauties that arise from a due arrangement of these words or materials. I begin with rules that direct us to a right choice of words, and then proceed to rules that concern their arrangement.

And with respect to the former, communication of thought being the chief end of language, it is a rule, that perspicuity ought not to be sacrificed to any other beauty whatever. If it should be doubted whether perspicuity be a positive beauty, it cannot be doubted that the want of it is the greatest defect. Nothing therefore in language ought more to be studied than to prevent all obscurity in the expression; for, to have no meaning is but one degree worse than to have a meaning that is not understood. Want of perspicuity from a wrong arrangement belongs to the next branch. I shall here give a few examples where the obscurity arises from a wrong choice of words; and as this defect is too common in the ordinary herd of writers to make examples from them necessary, I confine myself to the most celebrated authors.

Livy, speaking of a rout after a battle,

Multique in ruína majore quam fuga oppressi obtruncatique.-L. 4. § 46. This author is frequently obscure, by expressing but part of his thought, leaving it to be completed by his reader. His description of the sea-fight, l. 28. cap. 30, is extremely perplexed.

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Ac spem fronte serenat.-Æneid. iv. 477.

I am in greater pain about the foregoing passages than about any I have ventured to criticise, being aware that a vague or ob

scure expression is apt to gain favour with those who neglect to examine it with a critical eye. To some it carries the sense that they relish the most; and by suggesting various meanings at once, it is admired by others as concise and comprehensive; which by the way fairly accounts for the opinion generally entertained with respect to most languages in their infant state, of expressing much in few words. This observation may be illustrated by a passage from Quintilian, quoted in the first volume for a different purpose.

At quæ Polycleto defuerunt, Phidiæ atque Alcameni dantur. Phidias tamen diis quam hominibus efficiendis melior artifex traditur; in ebore vero, longe citra æmulum, vel si nihil nisi Minervam Athenis, aut Olympium in Elide Jovem fecisset, cujus pulcritudo adjecisse aliquid etiam receptæ religioni videtur; adeo majestas operis Deum aquarit.

The sentence in the Italic characters appeared to me abundantly perspicuous, before I gave it peculiar attention. And yet to examine it independent of the context, its proper meaning is not what is intended; the words naturally import, that the beauty of the statues mentioned, appears to add some new tenet or rite to the established religion, or appears to add new dignity to it; and we must consult the context before we can gather the true meaning; which is, that the Greeks were confirmed in the belief of their established religion by these majestic statues, so like real divinities.

There may be a defect in perspicuity proceeding even from the slightest ambiguity in construction, as where the period commences with a member conceived to be in the nominative case, which afterward is found to be in the accusative. Example, "Some emotions more peculiarly connected with the fine arts, I propose to handle in separate chapters."* Better thus, "Some emotions more peculiarly connected with the fine arts, are proposed to be handled in separate chapters."

I add another error against perspicuity, which I mention the rather because with some writers it passes for a beauty. It is the giving different names to the same object, mentioned oftener than once in the same period. Example, speaking of the English adventurers who first attempted the conquest of Ireland, "and instead of reclaiming the natives from their uncultivated manners, they were gradually assimilated to the ancient inhabitants, and degenerated from the customs of their own nation." From this mode of expression, one would think the author meant to distinguish the ancient inhabitants from the natives; and we cannot discover otherwise than from the sense, that these are only different names given to the same object for the sake of variety. But perspicuity ought never to be sacrificed to any other beauty, which leads me to think that the passage may be improved as follows: "and degenerating from the customs of their own nation, they were gradually assimilated to the natives, instead of reclaiming them from their uncultivated manners."

The next rule in order, because next in importance, is, That the language ought to correspond to the subject. Heroic actions or sentiments require elevated language; tender sentiments ought to *Elements of Criticism, vol. i. p. 43. edit. 1.

be expressed in words soft and flowing; and plain language, void of ornament, is adapted to subjects grave and didactic. Language may be considered as the dress of thought; and where the one is not suited to the other, we are sensible of incongruity, in the same manner as where a judge is dressed like a fop, or a peasant like a man of quality. Where the impression made by the words resembles the impression made by the thought, the similar emotions mix sweetly in the mind and double the pleasure;* but where the impressions made by the thought and the words are dissimilar, the unnatural union they are forced into is disagreeable.†

This concordance between the thought and the words has been observed by every critic, and is so well understood as not to require any illustration. But there is a concordance of a peculiar kind, that has scarcely been touched in works of criticism, though it contributes to neatness of composition. It is what follows. In a thought of any extent, we commonly find some parts intimately united, some slightly, some disjoined, and some directly opposed to each other. To find these conjunctions and disjunctions imitated in the expression is a beauty; because such imitation makes the words concordant with the sense. This doctrine may be illustrated by a familiar example. When we have occasion to mention the intimate connexion that the soul hath with the body, the expression ought to be the soul and body, because the particle the, relative to both, makes a connexion in the expression, resembling in some degree the connexion in the thought; but when the soul is distinguished from the body it is better to say the soul and the body: because the disjunction in the words resembles the disjunction in the thought. I proceed to other examples, beginning with con. junctions.

Constituit agmen ; et expedire tela animosque equitibus jussis, &c.-Livy, 1. 38. § 25.

Here the words that express the connected ideas are artificially connected by subjecting them both to the regimen of one verb. And the two following are of the same kind :

Quum ex paucis quotidie aliqui eorum caderent aut vulnerarentur, et qui superarent, fessi et corporibus et animis essent, &c.-Livy, l. 38. § 29.

Post acer Mnestheus adducto constitit arcu,

Alta petens, pariterque oculos telumque tetendit.-Æneid, v. 507.

But to justify this artificial connexion among the words, the ideas they express ought to be intimately connected; for, otherwise, that concordance which is required between the sense and the expression will be impaired. In that view, a passage from Tacitus is exceptionable; where words that signify ideas very little connected, are however forced into an artificial union. Here is the passage:

Germania omnis a Galliis, Rhætiisque, et Pannoniis, Rheno et Danubio fluminibus: a Sarmatis Dacisque, mutuo metu aut montibus separatur-De Moribus


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Upon the same account I esteem the following passage equally exceptionable :

-The fiend look'd up, and knew His mounted scale aloft; nor more, but fled Murm'ring, and with him fled the shades of night. Paradise Lost, b. 4. at the end. There is no natural connexion between a person's flying, and retiring, and the succession of daylight to darkness; and, therefore, to connect artificially the terms that signify these things cannot have a sweet effect.

Two members of a thought, connected by their relation to the same action, will naturally be expressed by two members of the period governed by the same verb; in which case these members, in order to improve their connexion, ought to be constructed in the same manner. This beauty is so common among good writers as to have been little attended to; but the neglect of it is remarkably disagreeable. For example, "He did not mention Leonora, nor that her father was dead;" Better thus, "He did not mention Leonora, nor her father's death."

Where two ideas are so connected as to require but a copulative, it is pleasant to find a connexion in the words that express these ideas, were it even so slight as where both begin with the same letter:

The peacock, in all his pride, does not display half the colour that appears in the garments of a British lady when she is either dressed for a ball or a birthday. -Spectator, No. 265.

Had not my dog of a steward run away as he did, without making up his accounts, I had still been immersed in sin and sea-coal.-Ibid. No. 530.

My life's companion and my bosom-friend,

One faith, one fame, one fate shall both attend.

Dryden, Translation of Æneid.

There is sensibly a defect in neatness when uniformity in this case is totally neglected;* witness the following example, where the construction of two members, connected by a copulative, is unnecessarily varied.

For it is confidently reported, that two young gentlemen of real hopes, bright wit, and profound judgment, who, upon a thorough examination of causes and effects, and by the mere force of natural abilities, without the least tincture of learning, have made a discovery that there was no God, and generously communicating their thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, by an unparalleled severity, and upon I know not what obsolete law, broke for blasphemy.t (Better thus)-having made a discovery that there was no God, and having generously communicated their thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, &c.

He had been guilty of a fault, for which his master would have put him to death, had he not found an opportunity to escape out of his hands, and fled into the deserts of Numidia.-Guardian, No. 139.

If all the ends of the Revolution are already obtained, it is not only impertinent to argue for obtaining any of them, but factious designs might be imputed, and the name of incendiary be applied with some colour, perhaps, to any one who should persist in pressing this point.—Dissertation upon Parties, Dedication

* See Girard's French Grammar, discourse 12.
+ An Argument against abolishing Christianity.-Swift.

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