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The Subject continued.
OUR language ought to be considered not only
with a view to its grammatical propriety, but as a
subject of taste. In order to avoid the errors of
thole who have been led astray by affectation and
salse resinement, and to form a proper opinion of
its genuine idiom, it is necessary to peruse the works
of the best and most approved writers.
&ic!.ni as<i .Mrftiioff cfi5 itr-ii »ii;::i.i ■•;••) .y1i '■•■
In the various departments of religion, history, poetry, and general literature, we will endeavour to point out some writers of the purest English— but without any wishto detract from the excellence of those, whom the limited nature of our work, and not ignorance of their merits, or prejudice against them, may incline us to omit.
Let the reader commence his studies with those who were most distinguished in the reign of Elizabeth, when the language began to be resined from its original roughness, assumed a fuller form, and was marked by more distinct features; and let him pursue his progress down to the present times. Nor * ought he to be deterred from this design by an apprehension, that he will sind our old authors clothed in the garb of rude and uncouth antiquity;
for he will make the pleasing discovery, that shaded as the language of his forefathers may be by some obscurities, yet it does not materially differ from his own, in point of structure and formation, or the meaning of the generality of words.
The subftance of a language remains for ages unaltered, however the influx of new customs, and the inventions or the improvements of arts, may occasion some addition to its terms, and some change in its orthography and pronunciation. Shakespeare will of course attract his early attention; and he will sind in his incomparable dramas such an accommodation of style to the grave and the gay, the rough and the polished, the heroic and the vulgar characters of his plays, as shews that our language was sufficiently strong and copious to be a proper vehicle for all the wonderful conceptions of his genius. The Chronicle of Speed, the History of the World by Sir IVulter Ralegh, the History of the grand Rebellion by Lord Clarendon, and the Works of Sir William Temple, are deserving perusal for vigour and compass of diction, as well as the display of talents and knowledge. The common translation of the Bible, made in the reign of James I., exclusive of the important nature of its contents, deserves great attention. The nature and compass of its phraseology are such, as prove no less the powers of the language than the correct judgment of the translators. The words are, for the most part, elegant and expressive, and convey the sublime ideas of the ... . 6" original,
original, without coarseness or vulgarity on the fine hand, or pedantry and affectation on the other, The manly and dignisied prose, and the rich and sublime poetry of Milton, far from being degraded or settered, are exalted and adorned by their style; and it was his peculiar glory, to apply with consummate taste and ikill the flowing periods of blank verse, to the majesty of an epic poem. The increasing tribute of praise, in every age except his own, has been paid to the flights of his transcendent genius, and the stores of his vast erudition.
Dr. Isaac Barrow flourished in the reign of Charles II. His Sermons are matchless: his periods are so full and exuberant, as to give no inadequate representation of the eloquence of Cicero. He exhausts every subject which he undertakes to discuss, leaving nothing but admiration of the fertility of his mind, to the writers who follow him upon the fame topics. They display to the greatest advantage the energy of his intellectual powers, employed upon the molt important subjects.
The great Locke, in a plain and severe style, well adapted to the philosophical precision of his researches, unravelled the intricacies of the most interesting branch of philosophy by tracing ideas to their source, and developing the faculties of the mind. In the illustrious reign of Anne, when Britain reached an eminent degree of glory in literature as well as in war, Swift valued himself on using no words but such as were of native English growth:
S in clear and familiar diction he expressed the full freedom of an active mind, and never wrote with so much pleasure as when he indulged his talent for irony. So averse was he to the flowers of eloquence, thai it has been said that metaphors are thinly scattered over his writings. Yet who will presume to censure the author of Gulliver's Travels for want of imagination? Addifoti, the accomplished scholar, the resined critic, and the enlightened moralist, like another Socrates brought moral philosophy from the schools, arrayed her in the most engaging dress, and called the attention of his countrymen to taste and to virtue, in his elegant and entertaining eflays f- The prefaces of Dryden are marked by the ease and the vivacity of genius; and there is1 a facility in his rhymes, and a peculiar vigour in his poetry, which render him justly the boast of our country. Pope compofed his prefaces and letters with peculiar grace and beauty of style; and his, poems present the sinest specimens of exquisite judgment, adorned with the molt polished versi* sication.
■ The works of Melmoth, particularly his letters
- / As I have been from early life an enthusiastic admirer of Addison, -considered as a moral writer, I cannot characterise his merits in a manner more correspondent with my original feelings of respect, than by applying to him the sentiments which Erasmus has expressed of Cicero. "Certe nunquam mihi magis placuit Cicero turn, quum adamarem ilia studia, quam nunc placet feni: uon tantum ob divinam quandam orationis felicitatem, verum etiam ob pectoris eruditi sanctimoniam, profectomeum aftlavit animumf tneque mihi reddidit inelioreiri;'
drid translations of Cicero and Pliny, are remark-
Johnson's Lives of the Poets, if some allowance be made for his prejudices against Milton and Gray, merit great attention, and contain as many excellent principles of morality as of taste. They will give useful hints to a young man as to the conduct of life; and shew him that frequently the powers of genius, and the rage of dissipation have been united in the favourites of the muses^ Whence lie may'infer that a found judgment is more desirable than a sine imagination, and that abilities without prudence may gain the laurels of Parnassus,
Vol. i. x but