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lute, or at least since the time in which they had only priests to balance their authority.
When the comitia were abolished at Rome, the prætorian guards took their place: insolent, greedy, barbarous, and idle soldiers were the republic. Septimius Severus conquered and disbanded them.
The states-general of the Ottoman empire are the janissaries and cavalry; in Algiers and Tunis, it is the militia.
The greatest and most singular example of these states-general, is the diet of Ratisbon, which has lasted an hundred years, where the representatives of the empire, the ministers of electors, princes, counts, prelates, and imperial cities, to the number of thirty-seven, continually st.
The second states-general of Europe are those of Great Britain. They are not always assembled, like the diet of Ratisbon; but they are become so necessary, that the king convokes them every year.
The house of commons answers precisely to the deputies of cities received in the diet of the empire; but it is much larger in number, and enjoys a superior power. It is properly the nation. Peers and bishops are in parliament only for themselves, and the house of commons for all the country.
This parliament of England is only a perfected imitation of certain states-general of France.
In 1355, under King John, the three states were assembled at Paris, to aid him against the English. They granted him a considerable sum, at five livres five sous the mark, for fear the king should change the numerary value. They regulated the tax necessary to gather in this money, and they established nine commissioners to preside at the receipt. The king promised for himself and his successors, not to make any change in the coin in future.
What is promising for himself and his heirs ? Either it is promising nothing, or it is saying--Neither myself nor my heirs have the right of altering the money; we have not the power of doing ill.
With this money, which was soon raised, an army was quickly formed, which prevented not king John from being made prisoner at the battle of Poictiers.
Account should be rendered at the end of the year, of the employment of the granted sum. This is now the custom in England, with the house of commons. The English nation has preserved all that the French nation has lost.
The states-general of Sweden have a custom still more honourable to humanity, which is not found among any other people. They admit into their assemblies two hundred peasants, who form a body separated from the three others, and who maintain the liberty of those who labour for the subsistence of man.
The states-general of Denmark took quite a contrary resolution in 1660; they deprived themselves of all their rights, in favour of the king. They gave him an absolute and unlimited power; but what is more strange is, that they have not hitherto repented it.
The states-general in France have not been assembled since 1613, and the cortes of Spain lasted an hundred
years after. They were further assembled in 1712, to confirm the renunciation of Philip V. to the crown of France. These states-general have not been convoked since that time.*
STYLE. + It is very strange that since the French people became literary, they have had no book written in a good style, until the year 1654, when the 'Provincial Letters' appeared; and why had no one written history in a suitable tone, previously to that of the Conspiracy of Venice' of the abbé St. Real ?
It is unnecessary to call to the reader's mind the proceedings at the French revolution.-T.
t Under this head, in addition to the formal article STYLE, are collected the various detached notices on style, dispersed throughout the original French under separate titles;-an arrangement which avoids some unnecessary repetition, without in the smallest degree affecting the connexion or value of the observations thus brought together.-T.
How is it that Pelisson was the first who adopted the true Ciceronian style, in his memoir for the superintendent Fouquet?
Nothing is more difficult and more rare than a style altogether suitable to the subject in hand.
The style of the letters of Balzac would not be amiss for funeral orations; and we have some physical treatises in the style of the epic poem or the ode. It is proper that all things occupy their own places.
Affect not strange terms of expression, or new words, in a treatise of religion, like the abbé Houteville; neither declaim in a physical treatise. Avoid pleasantry in the mathematics, and flourish and extravagant figures in a pleading. If a poor intoxicated woman dies of an apoplexy, you say that she is in the regions of death; they bury her, and you exclaim that her mortal remains are confided to the earth. If the bell tolls at her burial, it is her funeral knell ascending to the skies. In all this, you think you
imitate Cicero, and you only copy Master Littlejohn.*
Without style, it is impossible there can be a good work in any kind of eloquence or poetry:
A profusion of words is the great vice of all our modern philosophers and anti-philosophers. The
Systeme de la Nature' is a great proof of this truth. It is very difficult to give just ideas of God and nature, and perhaps equally so to form a good style.
As the kind of execution to be employed by every artist depends upon the subject of which he treats as the line of Poussin is not that of Teniers, nor the architecture of a temple that of a common house, nor music of a serious opera that of a comic one-so has each kind of writing its proper style, both in prose and
It is obvious that the style of history is not that of a funeral oration, and that the dispatch of an ambassador ought not to be written like a sermon; that
* Voltaire here adverts to the French dramatic style, which for reasons already given we omit, containing much repetition, being merely verbal, and altogether well known.-T.
comedy is not to borrow the boldness of the ode, the pathetic expression of tragedy, nor the metaphors and similes of the epic.
Every species has its different shades, which may however be reduced to two,—the simple and the elevated. These two kinds, which embrace so many others, possess essential beauties in common; which beauties are, accuracy of idea, adaptation, elegance, propriety of expression, and purity of language. Every piece of writing, whatever its nature, calls for these qualities; the difference consists in the employment of the corresponding tropes. Thus, a character in comedy will not utter sublime or philosophical ideas, a shepherd spout the notions of a conqueror, nor a didactic epistle breathe forth passion; and none of these forms of composition ought to exhibit bold metaphor, pathetic exclamation, or vehement expression.
Between the simple and the sublime there are many shades, and it is the art of adjusting them which contributes to the perfection of eloquence and poetry. It is by this art that Virgil frequently exalts the eclogue. This verseUt vidi, ut perii, ut me malus abstulit error!
Eclog. 8, v. 41. I saw, I perish'd, yet indulged my pain !-DRYDEN. would be as fine in the mouth of Dido as in that of a shepherd, because it is nature, true and elegant, and the sentiment belongs to any condition. But this
Castaneasque nuces me quas Amaryllis amabat.
Eclog. 2, v. 52. And pluck the chestnuts from the neighbouring grove,
Such as my Amaryllis used to love.--DRYDEN. belongs not to an heroic personage, because the allusion is not such as would be made by a hero.
These two instances are examples of the cases in which the mingling of styles may be defended. Tragedy may occasionally stoop; it even ought to do so. Simplicity, according to the precept of Horace, often relieves grandeur.
Et tragicus plerumque dolet sermone pedestri.
Ars. Poet. v. 95.
Depuis cinq ans entiers chaque jour je la vois,
Berenice, acte ii, scene l.
Aud each succeeding time appears the first. would not be at all out of place in serious comedy; but the following verse of AntiochusDans l'orient désert quel devint mon ennui!
Id. acte i, scene 4. The lonely east, how wearisome to me! would not suit a lover in comedy: the figure of the • lonely east' is too elevated for the simplicity of the sock. We have already remarked, that an author who writes upon physics, in allusion to a writer on physics called Hercules, adds that he is not able to resist a philosopher so powerful. Another who has written a small book which he imagines to be physical and moral, against the utility of innoculation, says that if the small-pox be diffused artificially, death will be defrauded.
The above defect springs from a ridiculous affectation. There is another which is the result of negligence, which is that of mingling with the simple and noble style required by history, popular phrases and low expressions, which are inimical to good taste. We often read in Mezerai, and even in Daniel, who, having written so long after him, ought to be more correct, that
a general pursued at the heels of the enemy, followed his track, and utterly basted him" (à plate couture.) We read nothing of this kind in Livy, Tacitus, Guicciardini, or Clarendon.
Let us observe, that an author accustomed to this kind of style can seldom change it with his subject. In his operas, La Fontaine composed in the style of his fables; and Benserade, in his translation of Ovid's. Metamorphoses, exhibited the same kind of pleasantry.