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distinct. 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 his description as of one continued landscape, or of two different ones, produced by the projection of the two camera obscuras on opposite walls. The scene, which I am inclined to think Mr. Addison here refers to, is Greenwich Park; with the prospects of the Thames, as seen by a camera obscura, which is placed in a small room in the upper story of the observatory; 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. Putinto plainer language, the sentence might run thus: “The prettiest landscape 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 Auctuations 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 miniature, 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, another is ungrammatical, haying 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 pictures, give the colour and figure, but the motions of the things it represents.'
In this sentence there is nothing remarkable, either to be praised orblamed. 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, &c.
. We have before observed, that there is generally, in nature, something 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 sentences 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 with an agreeable mixture of garden and forest, which represents every where an artificial rudeness, much more charming than that neatness and elegance which we meet with in those of our own country.'
The expression, represent every where an artificial rudeness, is so inaccurate, that I am inclined to think, what stood in Mr. Addison's manuscript must have been present every where. For the mixture of garden and forest does not represent, but actually exhibits or presents, artificial rudeness. That mixture represents indeed naturalrudeness, that is, is designed to imitate it; but it in reality is, and presents, artificial rudeness.
• It might indeed be of ill consequence 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 beautiful, but more beneficial, than when they lie bare and unadorned. Fields of corn make a pleasant prospect; and if the walks were a little taken care of that lie between them, and the natural embroidery of the meadows 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 inight make a pretty landscape of his own possessions.'
The ideas here are just, and the style is easy and perspicuous, thuugh 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 member 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 show 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, 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 scissors 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 aro 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. Tohumouring, was to have been opposed thwarting; orif 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, than 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 diffusion of boughs 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 OF 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 beauties 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 means of the illustration which examples afford. I conceive 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 familiarizing those who study composition with the style of a writer, from whom they may, upon the whole, derive great benefit. With the same view, I shall, in this lecture, give one critical exercise more of the same kind, upon the style of an author, of a different 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 letteraddressed to the Earl
* I am glad to find that, in my judgment concerning this author's composition, I have coincided with the opinion of a very able critic. This easy and safe conveyance of meaning, it was Swift's desire to attain, and for having attained, he certainly deserves praise, though perhaps, not the highest 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 neglected, it makes no provision; it instructs, but does not persuade. Johnson's Lives of the Poets ; in Swift.
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 correct productions, but am apt to think it has been more hastily composed than some other of them. It bears the title and form of a letter; but it is, however, in truth, a treatise designed for the public; and therefore, in examining it, we cannot proceed upon the indulgence due to an epistolary correspondence. When a man addresses himself to a friend only, it is sufficient if he makes himself fully understood by him ; but when an author writes for the public, whether he employ the form of an epistle or not, we are always entitled to expect, that he shall express himself with accuracy and care. Our author begins thus:
• What I had the honour of mentioning to your Lordship, some time ago, in conversation, was not a new thought, just then started by accident or occasion, but the result of long reflection: and I have been confirmed in my sentiments by the opinion of some very judicious persons with whom I consulted.'
The disposition of circumstances in a sentence, such as serve to limit or to qualify some assertion, or to denote time and place, I formerly showed to be a matter of nicety; and I observed, that it ought to be always held a rule, not to crowd such circumstances together, but rather to intermix them with more capital words, in such different parts of the sentence as can admit them naturally. Here are two circumstances of this kind placed together, which had better have been separated; Sometime ago in conversation-better thus: What I had the honour, sometime ago, of mentioning to your lordship in conversution---was not a new thought, proceeds our author,started by accident or occasion: the different meaning of these two words may not at first occur. They have, however, a distinct meaning, and are properly used : for it is one very laudable property of our author's style, that it is seldom encumbered with superfluous, synonymous words. Started by accident, is, fortuitously, or at random; started by occasion, is by some incident, which at that time gave birth to it. His meaning is, that it was not a new thought which either casually sprung up in his mind, or was suggested to him for the first time, by the train of the discourse: but, as he adds, was the result of long reflection. He proceeds:
• They all agreed, that nothing would be of greater use towards the improvement of knowledge and politeness, than some effectual method for correcting, enlarging, and ascertaining our language; and they think it a work very possible to be compassed under the protection of a prince, the countenance and encouragement of a ministry, and the care of proper persons chosen for such an undertaking.'
This is an excellent sentence; clear, and elegant. The words are all simple, well chosen, and expressive; and are arranged in the most proper order. It is a harmonious period too, which is a beauty not frequent in our author. The last part of it consists of three members, which gradually rise and swell one above another, without any