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For this reason, we always find the poet in love with a country life, where nature appears in the greatest perfection, and furnishes out ali those scenes that are most apt to delight the imagination.'
There is nothing in this sentence to attract particular attention. One would think it was rather the country, than, a country life, on which the remark here made should rest. A country life may be productive of simplicity of manners, and of other virtues : but it is to the country itself, that the properties here mentioned belong, of displaying the beauties of nature, and furnishing those scenes which delight the imagination.
• But though there are several of these wild scenes that are more de lightful than any artificial shows, yet we find the works of nature still more pleasant, the more they resemble those of art ; for in this case, our pleasure rises from a double principle; from the agreeableness of the objects to the eye, and from their similitude to other objects; we are pleased, as well with comparing their beauties, as with surveying them, and can represent them to our minds either as copies or as originals. Hence it is, that we take delight in a prospect which is well laid out, and diversified with fields and meadows, woods and rivers ; in those accidental landscapes of trees, clouds, and cities, that are sometimes found in the veins of marble, in the curious fretwork of rocks and grottos; and, in a word, in any thing that hath such a degree of variety and regularity as may seem the effect of design, in what we call the works of chance."
The style in the two sentences, which compose this paragraph, is smooth and perspicuous. It lieś open in some places to criticism; but lest the reader should be tired of what he may consider as petty remarks, I shall pass over any which these sentences suggest; the rather too, as the idea which they present to us of nature's resembling art, of art's being considered as an original, and nature as a copy, seems not very distinct nor well brought out, por indeed very material to our aa
• If the products of nature rise in value, according as they more less resemble those of art, we may be sure that artificial works receive a greater advantage from the resemblance of such as are satural ; because here the similitude is not only pleasant, but the pattern more perfect.'
It is necessary to our present design, to point out two considerable inaccuracies which occur in this sentence. if the products (he had better have said the productions ) of nature rise in value according as they more or less resemble those of art. Does he mean, that these productions rise in value both according as they more resemble, and as they less resem: ble, those of art ? His meaning undoubtedly is, that they rise in value only, according as they more resemble them': and, therefore, either these words, or less, must be struck out, or the sentence must run thus -productions of nature rise or sink in value, according as they more or less resemble. The present construction of the sentence, has plainly been owing to basty and careless writing.
The other inaccuracy is towards the end of the sentence, and serves to illustrate a rule which I formerly gave conterning the positions of adverbs. The author says, because here the similitude is not onvy pleasant, but the pattern more perfect. Here, by the position of the adverb only, we are led to imagine that he is going to give some other property of the similitude, that it is not only pleasant, as he says, but more than pleasant,
it is useful, or, on some account or other, valuable. Whereas, he is going to oppose another thing to the similitude itself, and not to this property of its being pleasant ; and, therefore, the right collocation, beyond doubt, was, because here not only the similitude is pleasant, but the pattern more perfect; the contrast lying, not between pleasant and more perfect, but between similitude and pattern. Much of the clearness and neatness of style depends on such attentions as these.
« The prettiest landscape I ever saw, was one drawn on the walls of a dark room, which stood opposite on one side to a navigable river, and on the other, to a park. The experiment is very common in optics.'
In the description of the landscape which follows, Mr. Addison is abundantly happy; but in this introduction to it, he is obscure and indistinct. One who had not seen the experiment of the camera obscura, could comprehend nothing of what he meant. And even, after we understand what he points at, we are at some loss, whether to understand bis description as of one continued landscape, or of two different ones, produced by the projection of two camera obscuras on opposite walls. The scene, which I am inclined to think Mr. Addison here refers to, is Greenwich park ; with the prospect of the Thames, as seen by a camera obscura, which is placed in a small room in the upper story of the ob servatory; where I remember to have seen, many years ago, the whole scene here described, corresponding so much to Mr. Addison's account of it in this passage, that, at the time, it recalled it to my memory.
As the observatory stands in the middle of the park, it overlooks, from one side, both the river and the park; and the objects afterwards mentioned, the ships, the trees, and the deer, are presented in one view, without needing any assistance from opposite walls. Put into plainer language, the sentence might run thus : • The prettiest Jandscape I ever saw, was one formed by a camera obscura, a common optical instrument, on the wall of a dark room, which overlooked a navigable river and a park.'
• Here you might discover the waves and fluctuations of the water in strong and proper colours, with the picture of a ship entering at one end, and sailing by degrees through the whole piece. On another, there appeared the green shadows of trees, waving to and fro with the wind, and herds of deer among them in minature, leaping about upon the wall.'
Bating one or two small inaccuracies, this is beautiful and lively painting. The principal inaccuracy lies in the connexion of the two sentences, here, and on another. I suppose the author meant, on one side, and on another side. As it stands, unother is ungrammatical, having nothing to which it refers. But the fluctuations of the water, the ship entering and sailing on by degrees, the trees waving in the wind and the herds of deer among them leaping about, is all very elegant, and gives a beautiful conception of the scene meant to be described.
'I must confess the novelty of such a sight, may be one occasion of its pleasantness to the imagination; but certainly the chief reason is, its near resemblance to nature; as it does not only, like other picfures, give the colour and figure, but the motions of the things it represents.'
In this sentence there is nothing remarkable, either to be praised or blamed. In the conclusion, instead of the things it represents, the regularity of correct style requires the things which it represents. In the
beginning, as one occasion and the chief reason, are opposed to one another, I should think it better to have repeated the same word; one reason of its pleasantness to the imagination, but certainly the chief reason is, fe.
• We have before observed, that there is generally, in nature, some thing more grand and august than what we meet with in the curiosities of art. When, therefore, we see this imitated in any measure, it gives us a nobler and more exalted kind of pleasure, than what we receive from the nicer and more accurate productions of art.'
It would have been better to have avoided terminating these two sen. tences in a manner so similar to each other; curiosities of art-productions of art.
On this account, our English gardens are not so entertaining to the fancy as those in France and Italy, where we see a large extent of ground covered over with an agreeable mixture of garden and forest, which represents every where an artificial rudeness, much more charming than that neatness and elegance which me meet with in those of our own country.'
The expression represents every where an artificial rudeness, is so in. aceurate, that I am inclined to think, what stood in Mr. Addison's manuscript must have been, present every where. For the mixture of gar. den and forest does not represent, but actually exhibits or presents, artifcial rudeness. That mixture represents indeed natural rudeness, that is, is designed to imitate it; but it in reality is, and presents, artificial rude
6 It might indeed be of ill eonsequence to the public, as well as unprofitable to private persons, to alienate so much ground from pasturage and the plough, in many parts of a country that is so well peopled and cultivated to a far greater advantage. But why may not a whole estate be thrown into a kind of garden by frequent plantations, that may turn as much to the profit as the pleasure of the owner? A marsh overgrown with willows, or a mountain shaded with oaks, are not only more beautifut, but more beneficial, than when they lie bare and unadorned. Fields of corn make a pleasant prospect ; and if the walks were a kittle taken care of that lie between them, and the natural embroidery of the mea dows were helped and improved by some small additions of art, and the several rows of hedges were set off by trees and flowers that the soil was capable of receiving, a man might make a pretty landscape of his own possessions.
The ideas here are just, and the style is easy and perspicuous, though in some places bordering on the careless. In that passage, for instance, if the walks were a little taken care of that lie between them, one inember is clearly out of its place, and the turn of the phrase, a little taken care of, is vulgar and colloquial. Much better, if it had run thus: if a little care were bestowed on the walks that lie between them.
Writers who have given us an account of China, tell us, the inhabitants of that country laugh at the plantations of our Europeans, which are laid out by the rule and the line; because, they say, any one may place trees in equal rows and uniform figures. They choose rather to shew'a genius in works of this nature, and, therefore, always conceal the art by which they direct themselves. They have a word, it seems, in their language, by which they express the particular beauty of a
plantation, that thus strikes the imagination at first sight, without discovering what it is that has so agreeable an effect.'
These sentences furnish occasion for no remark, except that in the last of them, particular is improperly used instead of peculiar ; the peculiar beauty of a plantation that thus strikes the imagination, was the phrase to have conveyed the idea which the author meant; namely, the beauty which distinguishes it from plantations of another kind.
Our British gardeners, on the contrary, instead of humouring nature, love to deviate from it as much as possible. Our trees rise in cones, globes and pyramids. We see the marks of the scissars on every plant and bush.'
These sentences are lively and elegant. They make an agreeable diversity from the strain of those which went before; and are marked with the hand of Mr. Addison. I have to remark only, that in the phrase instead of humouring nature, love to deviate from it-humouring and deviating, are terms not properly opposed to each other; a sort of personification of nature is begun in the first of them, which is not supported in the second. To humouring, was to have been opposed thwarting ; or if deviating was kept, following, or going along with nature, was to have been used.
"I do not know whether I am singular in my opinion, but for my own part, I would rather look upon a tree, in all its luxuriancy and diffusion of boughs and branches, then when it is thus cut and trimmed into a mathematical figure ; and cannot but fancy that an orchard, in flower, looks infinitely more delightful, than all the little labyrinths of the most finished parterre.'
This sentence is extremely harmonious, and every way beautiful. It carries all the characteristics of our author's natural, graceful, and flowing language. A tree, in all its luxuriancy and diffussion of bougha and branches, is a remarkably happy expression. The author seems to become luxuriant in describing an object which is so, and thereby renders the sound a perfect echo to the sense.
But as our great modellers of gardens have their magazines of plants to dispose of, it is very natural in them, to tear up all the beautiful plantations of fruit trees, and contrive a plan that may most turn to their profit, in taking off their evergreens, and the like moveable plants, with which their shops are plentifully stocked.'
An author should always study to conclude, when it is in his power, with grace and dignity. It is somewhat unfortunate, that this paper did not end, as it might very well have done, with the former beautiful period.
The impression left on the mind by the beauties of nature, with which he had been entertaining us, would then have been more agreeable. But in this sentence there is a great falling off; and we return with pain from those pleasing objects,
to the insignificant contents of a nursery-man's shop.
CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF THE STYLE IN A PASSAGE
IN DEAN SWIFT'S WRITINGS.
My design in the four preceding lectures, was not merely to appreciate the merit of Mr. Addison's style, by pointing out the faults and the beanties that are mingled in the writings of that great author. They were not composed with any view to gain the reputation of a critic: but intended for the assistance of such as are desirous of studying the most proper and elegant construction of sentences in the English language. To such, it is hoped, that they may be of advantage; as the proper application of rules respecting style, will always be best learned by the means of the illustration which examples afford. I conceived that examples, taken from the writings of an author so justly esteemed, would on that account, not only be more attended to, but would also produce this good effect, of familiarising those who study composition with the style of a writer, from whom they may, upon the whole, derive great benefit. With the samé view, I shall, in this lecture, give one critical exercise more of the sanie kind, upon the style of an author, of a disferent character, Dean Swift ; repeating the intimation I gave formerly, that such as stand in need of no assistance of this kind, and who, therefore, will naturally consider such minute discussions concerning the propriety of words, and structure of sentences, as beneath their attention, had best pass over what will seem to them a tedious part of the work.
I formerly gave the general character of Dean Swift's style. He is esteemed one of our most correct writers. His style is of the plain and simple kind; free from all affectation, and all superfluity; perspicuous, manly, and pure. These are its advantages. But we are not to look for much ornament and grace in it.* On the contrary, Dean Swift seems to have slighted and despised the ornaments of language, rather than to have studied them. His arrangement is often loose and negligent. In elegant, musical, and figurative language, he is much inferior to Mr. Addison. His manner of writing carries in it the character of one who rests altogether upon his sense, and aims at no more than giving his meaning in a clear and concise manner.
That part of his writings which I shall now examine, is the beginning of his treatise, entitled, ' A Proposal for correcting, improving, and ascertaining the English Tongue, in a letter addressed to the Earl of Oxford, then Lord High Treasurer. I was led, by the nature of the subject, to choose this treatise ; but, in justice to the Dean, I must observe, that, after having examined it, I do not esteem it one of his most
* I am glad to find that, in my judgment concerning this author's composition, ! have coincided with the opinion of a very able critic * This easy and safe convey. ance of meaning, it was Swift's desire to attain, and for having attained, he certainly deserves praise, though perhaps, not the higbest praise. For purposes merely didactic, when, something is to be told that was not known before, it is in the highest degree proper; but against that inattention by which known truths are suffered to be nego lected, it makes no provision; it instructs, but does not persuade.' Johnson's Lives of the Poets ; in Swift.