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to shine in borrowed ornaments, which will at last ber tray the poverty of our genius.
Fifthly, always adapt your style to the subject, and likewise to the capacity of your hearers, if you are të speak in public.' To attempt a poetical style, when it should be our business only to reason, is in the highest degree awkward and abfurd. To speak with elaborate pomp of words before those, who cannot comprehend them, is equally ridiculous. When we are to write or speak, we should previously fix in our minds a clear idea of the end' aimed at ; keep this steadily in view, and adapt our style to it.
Lastly, let not attention to style engross us fo much, as to prevent a higher degree of attention to the thoughts. This rule is more necessary, since the present taste of the age is directed more to style, than to thought.It is much more easy to dress up trifling and common thoughts with some beauty of expression, than to afford a fund of vigorous, ingenious, and useful sentiments. The latter requires genius ;. the former may be attain ed by industry. Hence the crowd of writers, who are rich in style, but poor in sentiment. Cuftom obliges us to be attentive to the ornaments of style, if we wish our labors to be read and admired. But he is a con-. temptible writer, who looks not beyond the dress of language ; who lays not the chief stress upon his matter, and employs not such ornaments of style to recom. mend it, as are manly, not foppish.
CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF MR. ADDISON'S
STYLE in No. 411 OF THE SPECTATOR.
H AVING fully insisted on the subject of language, we shall now commence a critical analysis of the style of some good author. This will suggest observations, which we have not hitherto had occasion to make, and will show in a practical light the use of those, which have been made,
Mr. Addison, though one of the most beautiful writers in our language, is not the most correct ; a circumstance, which makes his composition a proper subject of criticism. We proceed therefore to examine No. 411, the first of his celebrated essays on the pleasures of the imagination in the fixth volume of the Spectator. It begins thus ;
Our fight is the most perfect, and most delightful of all our fenfes.
This sentence is clear, precise and simple. The author.in a few plain words lays down the proposition, which he is going to illustrate. A first sentence should seldom be long, and never intricate.
He might have said, our fight is the most perfeil and the most delightful. But in omitting to repeat the particle the he has been more judicious ; for, as between perfe&
and delightful there is no contrast, such a repetition is unnecessary. He proceeds ;
It fills the mind with the largest variety of ideas, converfes with its objects at the greatest distance, and continues the longest in a&tion, without being tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments.
This sentence is remarkably harmonious, and well constructed. It is entirely perfpicuous. It is loaded with no unnecessary words. That quality of a good sentence, which we termed its unity, is here perfectly preserved. The members of it also grow, and rise above each other in sound, till it is conducted to one of the most harmonious closes, which our language admits. It is moreover figurative without being too much fo for the subject. There is no fault in it whatever, except this, the epithet large, which he applies to variety, is more commonly applied to extent, than to number. It is plain however, that he employed it, to avoid the repetition of the word great, which occurs immediately afterward.
The sense of feeling can, indeed, give us a notion of extenfron, shape, and all other ideas that enter at the eye, except colours ; but, at the same time, it is very much straitened and confined in its operations, to the number, bulk, and distance of its particular obje&s. But is not every sense confined as much, as the sense of feeling, to the number, bulk, and distance of its own objects ? The turn of expression
is also very inaccurate, requiring the two words, with regard, to be inserted after the word operations, in order to make the sense clear and intelligible. The epithet par. ticular feems to be used instead of peculiar ; but these words, though often confounded, are of very different import. Particular is opposed to general ; peculiar stands opposed to what is possessed in common with others.
Our fight seems designed to supply all these defects, and may be considered as a more delicate and diffusive kind of touch, that spreads itself over an infinite multitude of lodies, comprehends the largest figures, and brings into our reach fome of the most remote parts of the universe.
This sentence is perspicuous, graceful, well arranged, and highly musical. Its construction is fo fimilar to that of the second sentence, that, had it immediately succeeded it, the ear would have been sensible of a faul. ty monotony. But the interposition of a period prevents this effect.
It is this Jense which furnishes the imagination with its ideas ; so that by the pleasures of the imagination or fancy, ( which I fall use promiscuously) I here mean such as arise from visible obje&s, either when we have them a&ually in our view, or when we call up their ideas into our minds by paint. ings, ftatues, descriptions, or any the like occasion. The parenthesis in the middle of this sentence is not
clear. It should have been, terms which I shall use pro. miscuously ; since the verb use does not relate to the pleafures of the imagination, but to the terms, fancy and imagination, which were meant to be fynonymous. To call a painting or a statue an occafion is not accurate ; nor is it very proper to speak of calling up ideas by occafions. The common phrase, any such means, would have been more natural.
We cannot indeed have a single image in the fancy, that did not make its first entrance through the fight ; but zve have the power of retaining, altering, and compounding these images which we have once received, into all the varieties of picture and vision that are most agreeable to the imagination ; for, by this faculiy, a man in a dungeon is capable of enter. taining himself mith scenes and landscapes more beautiful than any that can be found in the whole compass of nature.
In one member of this sentence there is an inaccuracy in syntax. It is proper to say, altering and compounding those images which we have once received, into all the va. rieties of pifure and vision. But we cannot with propriety fay, retaining them into all the varieties ; yet the arrangement requires this construction. This error might have been avoided by arranging the passage in the following manner ; .“ We have the power of retamıng “ those images, which we have once received ; and of “ altering and compounding them into all the varieties ." of picture and vision." The latter part of the fen, tence is clear and elegant.