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the Revolution. Hooker, Bacon, Milton, Hobbes, and even Temple, are scarcely to be considered as authorities in this respect.
2d. Contrary to this, is the more fashionable error of using affected language, and particularly Gallicisms. This nation has been little indebted to the literature of France; and we have no occasion to change the bullion of our language for the tinsel of theirs. A modern critic has, with great accuracy, collected a variety of these newly imported phrases: such as opiniatre, sortie, dernier resort, beaux arts, belles lettres, "politesse, delicatesse, hauteur, for opiniative or positive, rally, last resort, liberal arts, polite literature, politeness, delicacy, haughtiness. These he very properly calls " stray words or exiles," that have no affinity to our language, and indeed are no better than insects of the day. It is of the utmost importance to literature to adopt some standard of language; there is no setting bounds to the liberty of coining words, if it is at all admitted; and, in that case, the invaluable productions of our ancestors will soon become unintelligible.
3d. But the more dangerous vice, because it is the more common, is vulgarity. Some instances of this, however, are to be found in very approved authors, and seem to demonstrate how necessary it is to be guarded against it. Lord Kaimes speaks of the comedies of Aristophanes "wallowing in looseness and detraction," (which is moreover a false metaphor ;) of "the pushing genius of a nation; of a nation being devoid of borvels," &c. The following phrase is surely intolerably low for serious composition: "To imagine that the gratifying of any sense, or the indulging of any delicacy in meat, drink, or apparel, is in itself a vice, can never enter into a head that is not disordered."....HUME'S ESSAY ON REFINEMENT. Dr. Beattie is not free from such expressions: as a "long winded rhetorician," " screaming, squalling," &c. Dr. Blair speaks "of the subject in hand," of Milton having "chalked out" a new road in poetry; of Achilles "pitching upon Briseis." The following passages are from the same author: "It is strange
how a writer so accurate as Dean Swift should have stumbled on so improper an application of this particle," &c. "When we have arrived at what we expected was to be the conclusion, unexpectedly some circumstance pops out, which ought to have been omitted."....BLAIR'S LECT.
In turning over a few pages of Dr. Robertson, one of the most correct of our historians, I find such phrases as the following:
"That by their presence they might be the better able to persuade their countrymen to fall in with his proposals. A cause entrusted to such able and zealous advocates could not well miss of coming to a happy issue."
"He took hold of the regent by the proper handle, and endeavoured to bring about a change in his sentiments," &c.
"The love of the which is so natural to all, that in every age they (improbable rumours) have been swallowed without examination."
"But during these vigorous proceedings of the protestants, they stood confounded, and at gaze."
"Which must needs prove fatal to both;" "and that the matter would seem to be huddled up;" and in Mr. Hume we meet with many such, as 66 carrying matters with a high hand,” &c.
Mr. Burke, whose name every scholar and every patriot must venerate, was far from being choice in his expressions; and I grieve to find that our parliamentary oratory has even declined since his time. Nothing indeed has a greater tendency to debase eloquence than that taste for the ludicrous which has been introduced into the debates of parliament, where it seems latterly to be the principal aim of the first speakers to try who can best act the buffoon.
I shall select a few specimens of the vulgar from a pamphlet of the incomparable author whom I have just mentioned, not to lessen his fame, for that no effort of mine could do, was I even inclined to act an invidious
part; but as a caution to avoid faults into which genius itself can glide.
"They pursue even such as me into the obscurest retreats, and haul them before their revolutionary tribunals."....LETTER TO A NOBLE LORD.
"Astronomers have supposed that if a comet, whose path intersected the ecliptic, had met the earth, it would have whirled us along with it, into God knows what regions of heat and cold."....IBID.
"At the same time a sort of national convention nosed parliament in the very seat of its authority.".... IBID.
"These obscene harpies flutter over our heads, and souse down upon our tables."....IBID.
"For this reason I proposed to reduce it (the pension list) lest, if left without a general limit, it might eat up the civil list."....IBID.
"No other of the crown funds did I meddle with.".... IBID.
"In my speech to the electors of Bristol, when I was put out of that representation."....IBID.
"Great and learned men thought that my studies were not wholly thrown away," &c.
A great critic has indeed said that sometimes a common expression is more significant than what is deemed an elegant one; and I am inclined to grant that the aptness of these words renders it difficult always to reject them. When, however, we meet with a low word, we ought diligently to look for one synonymous to it. It would probably be a very improving exercise to make a collection, as they occur, of choice and elegant expressions, which may be employed instead of the common and colloquial. Thus, for heaping up, we may use accumulating; for shunned, avoided; for to brag, to boast; for their betters, their superiors; for handed down, transmitted; for I got rid of, I avoided; for shut out, exclude; for set free, exempted; for broke his word, violated his promise; for gave up, sacrificed; for stirred up, excited; for an expedient fallen upon, devised; for pitched upon, chosen; for cry up, extol. A polite writer, instead of saying he is pushed on, will say urged or impelled; in
stead of going forwards or go on, proceed; instead of you take me, you understand; instead of I had as lief, I should like as well; instead of a moot point, a disputed point; instead of by the bye, by the way; (though I do not much approve of either;) instead of shut our ears, close our ears; instead of fell to work, began. Some words it will be better to omit, as, instead of saying, "he has a considerable share of merit," say, " he has considerable merit."
When an idiom can be avoided, and a phrase strictly grammatical be introduced, the latter will always be most graceful: for instance, it is more elegant to say, "I would rather," than "I had rather." This idiom probably took its rise from the abbreviation I'd, which in conversation stands equally for I would, or I had.
When a substitute cannot be found for a mean word, it is better to reform the sentence altogether, and to express it by periphrasis.
4th. Another fault, against which writers who live at a distance from the metropolis ought to be particularly on their guard, is the use of provincial expressions. À student thus circumstanced should constantly compare the dialect of his own country with that of the best authors, and should endeavour to mark and distinguish all the provincialisms. That this observation is not without its use is evident, when we find even such an author as Dr. Blair employing such expressions as the following :.....
"Vol. ii. p. 206...." The middle pitch is that which he employs in common conversation, and which he should use for ordinary in public discourse."
Ib. p. 225....." We will read him without pleasure, or most probably we shall soon give over to read him at all."
Ib. p. 62...." The representing them both as subject,"
Ib. p. 109....." Without having attended to this will be at a loss," &c.
Ib. p. 234...." There are few great occasions of pub
lic speaking in which one will not derive assistance from cultivated taste."
Purity of style, as far as respects arrangement, is equally violated by affected stateliness, and by negligence. Of the former kind are the following instances:
1st. Placing the nominative case after the verb. Ex. "Wonderful are the effects of this passion in every view." ""Not a little elegant is this manner of writing." "The demands of nature and necessity was he accustomed to say."....GIBBON.
2dly. The objective case in the beginning of the sentence. "Varieties of national character we observe imprinted on the physiognomy of nations." And not unlike this is Mr. Gordon's very depraved construction in his translation of Tacitus: "At this time war there was none."
3dly. The objective case before the imperative mood. "How many nations have certainly fallen from that importance which they had formerly borne among the societies of mankind, let the annals of the world declare."
"Suppose a man (says a witty writer) should gravely address a friend in such language as this: Into the garden let us walk, of flowers it is full, of fruit I think you are fond, on the trees some peaches are to be found, apricots this year I have none, to tea we shall return.... what would he be thought? He would be thought a coxcomb and a pedant."
II. Negligence....I know nothing that more enfeebles a style than beginning sentences with connective particles, such as, and, though, but, however, therefore, &c. It seems to put the reader out of breath, and partakes, in some measure, of the ungracefulness and confusion of long sentences.
It also destroys that compactness which gives energy to style. These circumstances have made it common to introduce the connective as the second or third word of the sentence: and the same reasons are almost equally forcible against the use of relatives in the beginning of sentences.