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was indeed his all," and nourished up, and it grew up with him, and with his children.” What a train of endearing and affecting ideas are here summoned together? Not only the affections of the man, but of his children, are supposed to be attached to this cherished object. "It did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom ;"—here the very nature and kind of the animal is forgotten, and it becomes almost a rational creature; which is indeed nearly established in the conclusion of the sentence, for "it was unto him as a daughter.”
Thus the hearer's mind is prepared by a series of pathetic imagery to feel in a tenfold degree the cruel sequel which is coming, and which is also not less skilfully wrought up. "And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock, and of his own herd, to dress for the way-faring man that was come unto him, but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him."/
Nothing I apprehend need be added to convince you of the different effects to be produced by the manner of telling a very simple story, in other words, of the effect of style.
From this example too you will see the truth of an axiom, which is, I believe, generally admitted. That it is by a clear and distinct recapitulation of little circumstances, which ren- / der the picture more vivid and complete, that poets and orators, and all who address the passions of their hearers, establish an influence over their minds.
To select the circumstances which will have most effect is the peculiar province of genius; for there is nothing in which folly is more displayed than in too circumstantial a detail of trifling matters; while, on the contrary, it is certain that a discourse (and much more a poem) which consists entirely of abstract and general words, can never have an effect upon the hearer and reader.
I shall subjoin another instance of a picture composed of a variety of little, but well-chosen circumstances. An historian might have said, in allusion to the shocking murder of Prince Arthur, the real heir to the crown, in the reign of King John: "This event produced a general agitation in the minds of the people; scarcely any conversation occurred in which it was not directly or indirectly alluded to, and
thus the people were prepared for the occurrences which we have to relate." But our incomparable Shakspeare produces an assemblage of imagery, which while it entertains and engages, leaves a strong impression on the mind: “Old men, and beldams, in the streets "Do prophesy upon it dangerously:
"Young Arthur's death is common in their mouths; "And when they talk of him they shake their heads, "And whisper one another in the ear;
"And he, that speaks, doth gripe the hearer's wrist; '“ Whilst he, that hears, makes fearful action "With wrinkled brows, with nods, with rolling eyes. "I saw a smith stand with his hammer thus, "The whilst his iron did on his anvil cool, "With open mouth swallowing a taylor's news; "Who with his shears and measure in his hand,
Standing on slippers (which his nimble haste
"Had falsely thrust upon contrary feet)
"Told of a many thousand warlike French, "That were embatteled and rank'd in Kent; "Another lean unwash'd artificer
"Cuts off his tale, and talks of Arthur's death.”
Much of the satire conveyed in Hogarth's incomparable prints is found in the minute circumstances which he introduces. I need only mention the coronet, which is so carefully displayed on the crutches of the gouty peer in
Marriage A-la-mode. I think therefore I may advance as an admitted truth, that a style is interesting and impressive in proportion to the variety of vivid images it presents, provided they are strictly connected with the subject, and calculated to excite corresponding emotions in the mind.
You must carry in your mind that I am now speaking of that style which pleases, and not of that which instructs. The work which engages our attention by its matter is extremely different from that which is extolled for its elegance of style. I will not pretend to assert that there is not a certain degree of beauty consistent with the utmost plainness and simplicity, but this is a beauty of a different kind; and productions which possess it will, as I stated, be only read for their matter. I am speaking at present of those sources whence the ornaments or decorations of style are derived.
One, who was himself a philosopher,* has very justly remarked, that "One reason why philosophers seldom succeed in poetry may be that abstract ideas are too familiar to their
* Dr. Priestley.