Imatges de pÓgina
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§ 35. An Acquaintance with the best Authors necessary to the Formation of a STYLE.

In the third place, with respect to the assistance that is to be gained from the writings of others, it is obvious that we ought to render ourselves well acquainted with the Style of the best authors. This is requisite, both in order to form a just taste

§ 34. Too anxious a Care about WORDS in Style, and to supply us with a full

to be avoided.

We must observe, however, that there may be an extreme in too great and anxious a care about words. We must not retard the course of thought, nor cool the heat of imagination, by pausing too long on every word we employ. There is, on certain occasions, a glow of composition which should be kept up, if we hope to express ourselves happily, though at the expense of allowing some inadvertencies to pass. A more severe examination of these must be left to be the work of correction. For if the practice of composition be useful, the laborious work of correcting is no less so; it is indeed absolutely necessary to our reaping any benefit from the habit of composition, What we have written should be laid by for some little time, till the ardour of composition be past, till the fondness for the expressions we have used be worn off, and the expressions themselves be forgotten: and then reviewing our work with a cool and critical eye, as if it were the performance of another, we shall discern many imperfections which at first escaped us. Then is the season for pruning redundancies; for weighing the arrangement of sentences; for attending to the juncture and connecting particles; and bringing Style into a regular, correct, and supported form. This "Lime Labor" must be submitted to by all who would communicate their thoughts with proper advantage to others; and some practice in it will soon sharpen their eye to the most necessary objects of attention, and render it a much more easy and practicable work than might at first be imagined.

Ibid.

stock of words on every subject. In reading authors with a view to Style, atten`tion should be given to the peculiarities of their different manuers; and in this and former Lectures I have endeavoured to suggest several things that may be useful in this view. I know no exercise that will be found more useful for acquiring a proper Style, than to translate some passage from an eminent English author, into our own words. What I mean is, to take, for instance, some page of one of Mr. Addison's Spectators, and read it carefully over two or three times, till we have got a firm hold of the thoughts contained in it: then to lay aside the book; to attempt to write out the passage from memory, in the best way we can; and having done so, next to open the book, and compare what we have written with the Style of the author. Such an exercise will, by comparison, shew (us where the defects of our Style lie; will lead us to the proper attentions for rectifying them; and, among the different ways in which the same thought may be expressed, will make us perceive that which is the most beautiful.

Ibid.

§ 36. A servile Imitation to be avoided.

In the fourth place, I must caution, at the same time, against a servile imitation of any one author whatever. This is always dangerous. It hampers genius; it is likely to produce a stiff manner; and those who are given to close imitation, generally imitate an author's faults as well as his beauties. No man will ever become a good writer, or speaker, who has not some degree of confidence to follow his own genius. We ought to beware, in particular, of adopting any author's noted

*"I enjoin that such as are beginning the practice of composition, write slowly, and with anx "ious deliberation. Their great object at first should be, to write as well as possible; practice will "enable them to write speedily. By degrees matter will offer itself still more readily; words will "be at hand; composition will flow; every thing, as in the arrangement of a well-ordered family, "will present itself in its proper place. The sum of the whole is this; by hasty composition, we "shall never acquire the art of composing well; by writing well, we shall come to write speedily."

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phrases, or transcribing passages from him. Such a habit will prove fatal to all genuine composition. Infinitely better it is to have something that is our own, though of moderate beauty, than to affect to shine in borrowed ornaments, which will, at last, betray the utter poverty of our genius. On these heads of composing, correcting, reading, and imitating, I advise every student of oratory to consult what Quinctilian has delivered in the Tenth Book of his Institutions, where he will find a variety of excellent observations and directions, that well deserve attention.

Blair.

§ 37. STYLE must be adapted to the Subject.

In the fifth place, it is an obvious but material rule, with respect to Style, that we always study to adapt it to the subject, and also to the capacity of our hearers, if we are to speak in public. Nothing merits the name of eloquent or beautiful, which is not suited to the occasion, and to the persons to whom it is addressed. It is to the last degree awkward and absurd, to attempt a poetical florid Style, on occasions when it should be our business only to argue and reason; or to speak with elaborate pomp of expression, before persons who comprehend nothing of it, and who can only stare at our unseasonable magnificence. These are defects not so much in point of Style, as, what is much worse, in point of common sense. When we begin to write or speak, we ought previously to fix in our minds a clear conception of the end to be aimed at ; to keep this steadily in our view, and to suit our Style to it. If we do not sacrifice to this great object every ill-timed ornament that may occur to our fancy, we are unpardonable: and though children and fools may admire, men of sense will laugh at us and our style.

Ibid.

$38. Attention to STYLE must not detract from Attention to THOUGHT.

In the last place, I cannot conclude the subject without this admonition, that, in any case, and on any occasion, attention to Style must not engross us so much, as to detract from a higher degree of atten

tion to the Thoughts. "Curam verbo"rum," says the great Roman Critic, "rerum volo esse solicitudinem*." A direction the more necessary, as the present taste of the age, in writing, seems to lean more to Style than to Thought. It is much easier to dress up trivial and conmon sentiments with some beauty of expression, than to afford a fund of vigorous, ingenious, and useful thoughts. The latter requires true genius; the former may be attained by industry, with the help of very superficial parts. Hence, we find so many writers frivolously rich in Style, but wretchedly poor in sentiment. The public ear is now so much accustomed to a correct and ornamented Style, that no writer can, with safety, neglect the study of it. But he is a contemptible one, who does not look to something beyond it: who does not lay the chief stress upon his matter, and employ such ornaments of Style to recommend it, as are manly, not foppish. Majore animo," says the writer whom I have so often quoted, "aggredienda est "eloquentia; quæ si toto corpore valet, ungues polire et capillum componere, 66 non existimabit ad curam suam pertinere. Ornatus et virilis et fortis et sanc"tus sit; nec effeminatam levitatem et "fuco ementitum colorem amet; sanguine et viribus niteatt.” Ibid.

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§ 39. Of the Rise of Poetry among the ROMANS.

The Romans, in the infancy of their fate, were entirely rude and unpolished. They came from shepherds; they were increased from the refuse of the nations around them; and their manners agreed with their original. As they lived wholly on tilling their ground at home, or on plunder from their neighbours, war was their business, and agriculture the chief art they followed. Long after this, when they had spread their conquests over a great part of figure in the world;-even their great men Italy, and began to make a considerable retained a roughness, which they raised into a virtue, by calling it Roman Spirit; and which might often much better have been called Roman Barbarity. It seems to me, that there was more of austerity than justice, and more of insolence than courage,

* "To your expression be attentive; but about your matter be solicitous."

+"A higher spirit ought to animate those who study eloquence. They ought to consult the health "and soundness of the whole body, rather than bend their attention to such trifling objects as "paring the nails, and dressing the hair. Let ornament be manly and chaste, without effeminate "gaiety, or artificial colouring, let it shine with the glow of health and strength."

in some of their most celebrated actions. However that be, this is certain, that they were at first a nation of soldiers and husbandmen: roughness was long an applauded character among them; and a sort of rusticity reigned, even in their senate-house.

In a nation originally of such a temper as this, taken up almost always in extending their territories, very often in settling the balance of power among themselves, and not unfrequently in both these at the same time, it was long before the politer arts made any appearance; and very long before they took root or flourished to any degree. Poetry was the first that did so; but such a poetry, as one might expect among a warlike, busied, unpolished people.

Not to inquire about the songs of triumph, mentioned even in Romulus's time, there was certainly something of poetry among them in the next reign under Numa: a prince, who pretended to converse with the Muses, as well as with Egeria; and who might possibly himself have made the verses which the Salian priests sung in his time. Pythagoras, either in the same reign, or if you please some time after, gave the Romans a tincture of poetry as well as of philosophy; for Cicero assures us, that the Pythagoreans made great use of poetry and music: and probably they, like our old Druids, delivered most of their precepts in verse. Indeed the chief employment of poetry, in that and the following ages, among the Romans, was of a religious kind. Their very prayers, and perhaps their whole liturgy, was poetical. They had also a sort of prophetic or sacred writers, who seem to have wrote generally in verse; and were so numerous, that there were above two thousand of their volumes remaining even to Augustus's time. They had a kind of plays too, in these early times, derived from what they had seen of the Tuscan actors, when sent for to Rome to expiate a plague that raged in the city. These seem to have been either like our dumb shows, or else a kind of extempore farces; a thing to this day a good deal in use all over Italy, and in Tuscany. In a more particular manner add to these, that extempore kind of jesting dialogues begun at their harvest and vintage feasts; and carried on so rudely and abusively afterwards, as to occasion a very severe law to restrain their licentiousness-and those

lovers of poetry and good eating, who seem to have attended the table of the richer sort, much like the old provincial poets, or our own British bards, and sang there, to some instrument of music, the achievements of their ancestors, and the noble deeds of those who had gone be fore them, to inflame others to follow their great examples.

The names of almost all these poets sleep in peace with all their works; and, if we may take the word of the other Roman writers of a better age, it is no great loss to us. One of their best poets represents them as very obscure and very contemptible; one of their best historians avoids quoting them, as too barbarous for politer ears: and one of their most judicious emperors ordered the greatest part of their writings to be burnt, that the world might be troubled with them no longer.

All these poets therefore may very well be dropt in the account: there being nothing remaining of their works: and probably no merit to be found in them, if they had remained. And so we may date the beginning of the Roman poetry from Livius Andronicus, the first of their poets of whom any thing does remain to us; and from whom the Romans themselves seemed to have dated the beginning of their poetry, even in the Augustan age.

The first kind of poetry that was followed with any success among the Romans, was that for the stage. They were a very religious people; and stage-plays in those times made no inconsiderable part in their public devotions; it is hence, perhaps, that the greatest number of their oldest poets, of whom we have any remains, and indeed almost all of them, are dramatic poets. Spence.

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40. Of LIVIUS, NEVIUS and ENNIUS.

The foremost in this list, were Livius, Nævius, and Ennius. Livius's first play (and it was the first written play that ever appeared at Rome, whence perhaps Horace calls him Livius Scriptor) was acted in the 514th year from the building of the city. He seems to have got whatever reputation he had, rather as their first, than as a good writer; for Cicero, who admired these old poets more than they were afterwards admired, is forced to give up Livius; and says, that his pieces did not deserve a second reading. He was for some time the sole writer for the stage; till Nævius rose to rival him, and proba

bly far exceeded his master. Nævius ventured too on an epic, or rather an historis cal poem, on the first Carthaginian war. Ennius followed his steps in this, as well as in the dramatic way; and seems to have excelled him as much as he had excelled Livius; so much at least, that Lucretius says of him, "That he was the first of their poets who deserved a lasting crown from the Muses." These three poets were actors as well as poets: and seem all of them to have wrote whatever was wanted for the stage, rather than to have consulted their own turn or genius. Each of them published, sometimes tragedies, sometimes comedies, and sometimes a kind of dramatic satires; such satires, I suppose, as had been occasioned by the extempore poetry that had been in fashion the century before them. All the most celebrated dramatic writers of antiquity excel only in one kind. There is no tragedy of Terence, or Menander; and no comedy of Actius, or Euripides. But these first dramatic poets, among the Romans, attempted every thing indifferently; just as the present fancy, or the demand of the people, led them.

The quiet the Romans enjoyed after the second Punic war, when they had humbled their great rival Carthage; and their carrying on their conquests afterwards, without any great difficulties, into Greece, -gave them leisure and opportunities for making very great improvements in their poetry. Their dramatic writers began to act with more steadiness and judgment; they followed one point of view; they had the benefit of the excellent patterns the Greek writers had set them; and formed themselves on those models. Spence.

§ 41. Of PLAUTUS.

Plautus was the first that consulted his own genius, and confined himself to that species of dramatic writing, for which he was the best fitted by nature. Indeed, his comedy (like the old comedy at Athens) is of a ruder kind, and far enough from the polish that was afterwards given it among the Romans. His jests are often rough, and his wit coarse; but there is a strength and spirit in him, that makes one read him with pleasure; at least, he is much to be commended for being the first that considered what he was most capable of excelling in, and not endeavouring to shine in too many different ways at once. Cæcilius followed his example in this par

ticular; but improved their comedy so much beyond him, that he is named by Cicero, as perhaps the best of all the comic writers they ever had. This high character of him was not for his language, which is given up by Cicero himself as faulty and incorrect; but either for the dignity of his characters, or the strength and weight of his sentiments.

§ 42. Of TERence.

upon

Ibid.

Terence made his first appearance when Cæcilius was in high reputation. It is said, that when he offered his first play to the Ediles, they sent him with it to Cæcilius for his judgment of the piece. Cæcilius was at supper when he came to him; and as Terence was dressed very meanly, he was placed on a little stool, and desired but away; to read his having read a very few lines only, Cæcilius altered his behaviour, and placed him next himself at the table. They all admired him as a rising genius; and the applause he received from the public, answered the compliments they had made him in private. His Eunuchus, in particular, was acted twice in one day; and he was paid more for that piece than ever had been given before for a comedy: and yet, by the way, it was not much above thirty pounds. We may see by that, and the rest of his plays which remain to us, to what a degree of exactness and elegance the Roman comedy was arrived in his time, There is a beautiful simplicity, which reigns through all his works. There is no searching after wit, and no ostentation of ornament in him. All his speakers seem to say just what they should say, and no more. The story is always going on; and goes on just as it ought. This whole age, long before Terence, and long after, is rather remarkable for strength than beauty in writing. Were we to compare it with the following age, the compositions of this would appear to those of the Augustan, as the Doric order in building if compared with the Corinthian; but Terence's work is to those of the Augustan age, as the Ionic is to the Corinthian order; it is not so ornamented, or so rich; but nothing can be more exact and pleasing. The Roman language itself, in his hands, seems to be improved beyond what one could ever expect, and to be advanced almost a hundred years forwarder than the times he lived in. There are some who look upon this as one of the strangest phænome

na in the learned world: but it is a phænomenon which may be well enough explained from Cicero. He says, "that in several families the Roman language was spoken in perfection, even in those times;" and instances particularly in the families of the Lælii and the Scipio's. Every one knows that Terence was extremely intimate in both these families: and as the language of his pieces is that of familiar conversation, he had indeed little more to do, than to write as they talked at their tables. Perhaps, too, he was obliged to Scipio and Lælius, for more than their bare conversations. That is not at all impossible; and indeed the Romans themselves seem generally to have imagined, that he was assisted by them in the writing part too. If it was really so, that will account still better for the elegance of the language in his plays; because Terence himself was born out of Italy; and though he was brought thither very young, he received the first part of his education in a family where they might not speak with so much correctness as Lælius and Scipio had been used to from their very infancy. Thus much for the language of Terence's plays: as for the rest, it seems, from what he says himself, that his most usual method was to take his plans shiefly, and his characters wholly, from the Greek comic poets. Those who say that he translated all the comedies of Menander, certainly carry the matter too far. They were probably more than Terence ever wrote. Indeed this would be more likely to be true of Afranius then Terence; though I suppose, it would scarce hold were we to take both of them together. Spence.

$43. Of AFRANIUS.

We have a very great loss in the works of Afranius: for he was regarded, even in the Augustan age, as the most exact imitator of Menander. He owns himself, that he had no restraint in copying him; or any other of the Greek comic writers, wherever they set him a good example. Afranius's stories and persons were Roman, as Terence's were Grecian. This was looked upon as so material a point in those days, that it made two different species of comedy. Those on a Greek story were called, Palliatæ: and those on Roman, Togatæ. Terence excelled all the Roman poets in the former, and Afra

nius in the latter.

Ibid.

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$ 44. Of PACUVIUS and ACTIUS.

About the same time that comedy was improved so considerably, Pacuvius and Actius (one a contemporary of Terence, and the other of Afranius) carried tragedy as far towards perfection as it ever arrived in Roman hands. The step from Ennius to Pacuvius was a very great one; so great, that he was reckoned, in Cicero's time, the best of all their tragic poets. Pacuvius, as well as Terence, enjoyed the acquaintance and friendship of Lælius and Scipio: but he did not profit so much by it, as to the improvement of his language. Indeed his style was not to be the common conversation style, as Terence's was; and all the stiffenings given to it, might take just as much from its elegance, as they added to its dignity. What is remarkable in him, is that he was almost as eminent for painting as he was for poetry. He made the decorations for his own plays; and Pliny speaks of some paintings by him, in a temple of Hercules, as the most celebrated work of their kind, done by any Roman of condition after Fabius Pictor. Actius began to publish when Pacuvius was leaving off: his language was not so fine, nor his verses so well turned, even as those of his predecessor. There is a remarkable story of him in an old critic, which, as it may give some light into their different manners of writing, may be worth relating. Pacuvius, in his old age, retired to Tarentum, to enjoy the soft air and mild winters of that place. As Actius was obliged, on some affairs, to make a journey into Asia, he took Tarentum in his way, and staid there some days with Pacuvius. It was in his visit that he read his tragedy of Atreus to him, and desired his opinion of it. Old Pacuvius, after hearing it out, told him very honestly, that the poetry was sonorous and majestic, but that it seemed to him too stiff and harsh. Actius replied, that he was himself very sensible of that fault in his writings; but that he was not at all sorry for it: " for," says he, "I have always been of opinion, that it is "the same with writers as with fruits; a

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