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ac obtinendum est, ut quam optimè “ scribamus; celeritatem dabit consuetu
$ 35. An Acquaintance with the best Au“ do Paulatim res faciliùs se ostendent,
thors necessary to the Formation of a “ verba respondebunt, compositio prose
STYLE. quetur. Cuncta denique et in familia In the third place, with respect to the “ benè instituta in officio erunt. Summa assistance that is to be gained from the “ bæc est rei: citò scribendo non sit ut benè writings of others, it is obvious that we “ scribatur; benè scribendo, sit ut cito*.” ought to render ourselves well acquainted
Blair. with the Style of the best authors. This is
requisite, both in order to form a just taste § 34. Too anxious a Care about Words in Style, and to supply us with a full to be avoided.
stock of words on every subject. In read
ing authors with a view to Style, attenWe must observe, however, that there tion should be given to the peculiarities of may be an extreme in too great and anx- their different manners; and in this and ious a care about words. We must not former Lectures I have endeavoured to retard the course of thought, nor cool the suggest several things that may
be useful heat of imagination, by pausing too long in this view. I know no exercise that will on every word we employ. There is, on be found more useful for acquiring a procertain occasions, a glow of composition per Style, than to translate some passage which should be kept up, if we hope to from an eminent English author, into our express ourselves happily, though at the own words. What I mean is, to take, expense of allowing some inadvertencies for instance, some page of one of Mr.
A more severe examination of Addison's Spectators, and read it carefully these must be left to be the work of cor- over two or three times, till we have got rection. For if the practice of composi- a firm hold of the thoughts contained in it: tion bę useful, the laborious work of cor- then to lay aside the book; to attempt to recting is no less so; it is indeed absolute- write out the passage from memory, in ly necessary to our reaping any benefit from the best way we can; and having done so, the habit of composition, What we have next to open the book, and compare
what written should be laid by for some little we have written with the Style of the autime, till the ardour of composition be thor. Such an exercise will, by compapast, till the fondness for the expressions rison, shew (us where the defects of our we have used be worn off, and the expres- Style lie; will lead us to the proper attensions themselves be forgotten: and then tions for rectifying them; and, among reviewing our work with a cool and criti- the different ways in which the same cal eye, as if it were the performance of thought may be expressed, will make us another, we shall discern many imperfec- perceive that which is the most beautiful. tions which at first escaped us.
Ibid. the season for pruning redundancies; for weighing the arrangement of sentences ;
§ 36. A servile Imitation to be avoided. for attending to the juncture and connecting
In the fourth place, I must caution, at particles; and bringing Style into a regue the same time, against a servile imitation lar, correct, and supported form. This of any one author whatever. This is al“ Lime Labor" must be submitted to by ways dangerous. It hampers genius; it all who would communicate their thoughts is likely to produce a stiff manner; and with proper advantage to others; and some those who are given to close imitation, gepractice in it will soon sharpen their eye nerally imitate an author's faults as well
as to the most necessary objects of attention, his beauties. No man will ever become and render it a much more easy and prac
a good writer, or speaker, who has not ticable work than might at first be ima
some degree of confidence to follow his gined.
own genius. We ought to beware, in
particular, of adopting any author's noted *" I enjoin that such as are beginning the practice of composition, write slowly, and with anx " ions deliberation. Their great object at first should be, to write as well as possible; prastice will " enable them to write speedily. By degrees matter will offer itself still more readily; words will “ be at hand; composition will Aow; every thing, as in the arrangement of a well-ordered family, “ will present itself in its proper place. The sum of the whole is this ; by hasty composition, we " shall never acquire the art of composing well; by writing well, we shall come to write speedily."
phrases, or transcribing passages from him. tion to the Thoughts. “Curam verboSuch a habit will prove fatal to all genuine “rum,” says the great Roman Critic, composition. Infinitely better it is to have
volo esse solicitudinem*.” A something that is our own, though of mo- direction the more necessary, as the prederate beauty, than to affect to shine in sent taste of the age, in writing, seems to borrowed ornaments, which will, at last, lean more to Style than to Thought. It betray the utter poverty of our genius. is much easier to dress up trivial and conOn these heads of composing, correcting, mon sentiments with some beauty of exreading, and imitating, I advise every stu- pression, than to afford a fund of vigorous, dent of oratory to consult what Quincti- ingenious, and useful thoughts. The latlian has delivered in the Tenth Book of ter requires true genius; the former may his Institutions, where he will find a va- be attained by industry, with the help of riety of excellent observations and di- very superficial parts. Hence, we find so rections, that well deserve attention.
many writers frivolously rich in Style, but
Blair. wretchedly poor in sentiment. The public § 37. STYLB must be adapted to the
ear is now so much accustomed to a corSubject.
rect and ornamented Style, that no writer
can, with safety, neglect the study of it. In the fifth place, it is an obvious but But he is a contemptible one, who does material rule, with respect to Style, that not look to something beyond it: who does we always study to adapt it to the subject, not lay the chief stress upon his matter, and and also to the capacity of our bearers, employ such ornaments of Style to recomif we are to speak in public. Nothing me- mend'it, as are manly, not foppish. rits the name of eloquent or beautiful, Majore animo,” says the writer whom which is not suited to the occasion, and to I have so often quoted, “ aggredienda est the persons to whom it is addressed. It
“ eloquentia ; quæ si toto corpore valet, is to the last degree awkward and absurd, “ ungues polire et capillum componere, to attempt a poetical florid Style, on oc- existimabit ad curam suam perticasions when it should be our business “ nere. Ornatus et virilis et fortis et sanconly to argue and reason; or to speak with
“tus sit; nec effeminatam levitatem et elaborate pomp of expression, before per- “ fuco ementitum colorem amet; sansons who comprehend nothing of it, and “guine et viribus niteatt.”
Ibid. who can only stare at our unseasonable magnificence. These are defects not so $39. Of the Rise of Poetry among the much in point of Style, as, what is much
ROMANS. worse, in point of common sense. When The Romans, in the infancy of their we begin to write or speak, we ought fate, were entirely rude and unpolished. previously to fix in our minds a clear con- They came from shepherds; they were ception of the end to be aimed at; to keep increased from the refuse of the nations this steadily in our view, and to suit our around them; and their manners agreed Style to it. If we do not sacrifice to this with their original
. As they lived wholly great object every ill-timed ornament that on tilling their ground at home, or on plunmay occur to our fancy, we are unpardon- der from their neighbours, war was their able: and though children and fools may business, and agriculture the chief art they admire, men of sense will laugh at us and followed. Long after this, when they had our style.
Ibid. spread their conquests over a great part of 938. Attention to Stile must not detract figure in the world ;—even their great men
Italy, and began to make a considerable from Aulention to Thought.
retained a roughness, which they raised into In the last place, I cannot conclude the a virtue, by calling it Roman Spirit; and subject without this admonition, that, in which might often much better have been any case, and on any occasion, attention called Roman Barbarity. It seems to me, to Style must not engross us so much, as that there was more of austerity than justo detract from a higher degree of atten- tice, and more of insolence than courage,
*"To your expression be attentive; but about your matter be solicitous.”
+"A higher spirit ought to animate those who study eloquence. They ought to consult the health " and soundness of the whole body, rather than bend their attention to such trilling objects as "paring the nails, and dressing the hair. Let ornament be manly and chaste, without effemipate " zaiety, or artificial colouring, let it shine with the glow of health and strength.”.
in some of their most celebrated actions. lovers of poetry and good eating, who However that be, this is certain, that they seem to have attended the tablo of the were at first a nation of soldiers and bus- richer sort, much like the old provincial bandmen: roughness was long an ap- poets, or our own British bards, and sang plauded character among them; and a there, to some instrument of music, the sort of rusticity reigned, even in their achievements of their ancestors, and the senate-house.
noble deeds of those who had gone beIn a nation originally of such a temper fore them, to inflame others to follow as this, taken up almost always in extend their great examples. ing their territories, very often in settling The names of almost all these poets sleep the balance of power among themselves, in peace with all their works; and, if we and not unfrequently in both these at the may take the word of the other Roman same time, it was long before the politer writers of a better age, it is no great loss
a arts made any appearance; and very long
One of their best poets represents before they took root or flourished to any them as very obscure and very contemptdegree. Poetry was the first that did so ; ible; one of their best historians avoids but such a poetry, as one might expect quoting them, as too barbarous for politer among a warlike, busied, unpolished peo- ears: and one of their most judicious emple.
perors ordered the greatest part of their Not to inquire about the songs of tri- writings to be burnt, that the world might umph, mentioned even in Romulus's time, be troubled with them no longer. there was certainly something of poetry All these poets therefore may very well among them in the next reign under Nu- be dropt in the account: there being noma: a prince, who pretended to converse thing remaining of their works: and prowith the Muses, as well as with Egeria; bably no merit to be found in them, if and who might possibly himself have made they had remained. And so we may date the verses which the Salian priests sung in the beginning of the Roman poetry from his time. Pythagoras, either in the same Livius Andronicus, the first of their poets reign, or if you please some time after, of whom any thing does remain to us;' gave the Romans a tincture of poetry as and from whom the Romans themselves well as of philosophy; for Cicero assures seemed to have dated the beginning of their us, that the Pythagoreans made great use poetry, even in the Augustan age. of poetry and music: and probably they, The first kind of poetry that was follike our old Druids, delivered most of their lowed with any success among the Romans, precepts in verse. Indeed the chief em- was that for the stage. They were a very ployment of poetry, in that and the fol- religious people, and stage-plays in those lowing ages, among the Romans, was of times made no inconsiderable part in their a religious kind. Their very prayers, public devotions; it is hence, perhaps, and perhaps their whole liturgy, was that the greatest number of their oldest poetical
. They had also a sort of pro- poets, of whom we have any remains, and phetic or sacred writers, who seem to have indeed almost all of them, are dramatic wrote generally in verse; and were so nu- poets.
Spence. merous, that there were above two thousand of their volumes remaining even to $ 40. Of Livius, Nævius and Ennius. Augustus's time. They had a kind of The foremost in this list, were Livius, plays too, in these early times, derived Nævius, and Ennius. Livius's first play from what they had seen of the Tuscan (and it was the first written play that ever actors, when sent for to Rome to expiate appeared at Rome, whence perhaps Hoa plague that raged in the city. These race calls him Livius Scriptor) was acted seem to have been either like our dumb- in the 514th year from the building of the shows, or else a kind of extempore farces; city. He seems to have got whatever rea thing to this day a good deal in use all putation he had, rather as their first, than over Italy, and in Tuscany. In a more as a good writer; for Cicero, who adparticular manner add to these, that ex- mired ihese old poets more than they were tempore kind of jesting dialogues begun afterwards admired, is forced to give up at their harvest and vintage feasts; and Livius; and says, that his pieces did not carried on so rudely and abusively after- deserve a second reading. He was for wards, as to occasion a very severe law
some time the sole writer for the stage ; to restrain their licentiousness--and those till Nævius rose to rival him, and probas
bly far exceeded his master. Nævius ven- ticular; but improved their comedy so tured too on an epic, or rather an histori. much beyond him, that he is named by cal poem, on the first Carthaginian war. Cicero, as perhaps the best of all the coEnnius followed his steps in this, as well mic writers they ever had. This high chaas in the dramatic way; and seems to have racter of bim was not for his language, excelled him as much as he had excelled which is given up by Cicero himself as Livius; so much at least, that Lucretius faulty and incorrect; but either for the says of him, “That he was the first of dignity of his characters, or the strength their poets who deserved a lasting crown and weight of his sentiments. Ibid. from the Muses.” These three poets were actors as well as poets: and seem all of
§ 42. Of Terence. them to have wrote whatever was wanted Terence made his first appearance when for the stage, rather than to have con- Cæcilius was in high reputation. It is sulted their own turn or genius. Each said, that when he offered his first play to of them published, sometimes tragedies, the Ediles, they sent him with it to Cæci. sometimes comedies, and sometimes a kind lius for his judgment of the piece. Cæciof dramatic satires; such satires, I sup- lius was at supper when he came to him ; pose, as had been occasioned by the ex- and as Terence was dressed very meanly, tempore poetry that had been in fashion he was placed on a littlestool, and desired the century before them. All the most to read away; but upon his having read celebrated dramatic writers of antiquity a very few lines only, Cæcilius altered his excel only in one kind. There is no tra- behaviour, and placed him next himself ar gedy of Terence, or Menander; and no the table. They all admired bim as a riscomedy of Actius, or Euripides. But these ing genius; and the applause he received first dramatic poets, among the Romans, from the public, answered the compliattempted every thing indifferently; just ments they had made him in private. His as the present fancy, or the demand of Eunuchus, in particular, was acted twice the people, led them.
in one day; and he was paid more for The quiet the Romans enjoyed after the that piece than ever had been given before second Punic war, when they had hum- for a comedy: and yet, by the way, it was bled their great rival Carthage; and their not much above thirty pounds. We may carrying on their conquests afterwards, see by that, and the rest of his plays which without any great difficulties, into Greece, remain to us, to what a degree of exact-gave them leisure and opportunities for ness and elegance the Roman comedy was making very great improvements in their arrived in his time. There is a beautiful poetry. Their dramatic writers began to simplicity, which reigns through all his act with more steadiness and judgment; works. There is no searching after wit, they followed one point of view; they had and no ostentation of ornament in him. the benefit of the excellent patterns the All his speakers seem to say just what Greek writers had set them; and formed they should say, and no more. The story themselves on those models. Spence. is always going on; and goes on just as it
ought. This whole age, long before Te§ 41. Of PLAUTUS.
rence, and long after, is rather remark, Plautus was the first that consulted his able for strength than beauty in writing. own genius, and confined himself to that Were we to compare it with the following species of dramatic writing, for which he age, the compositions of this would apwas the best fitted by nature. Indeed, his pear to those of the Augustan, as the Doric comedy (like the old comedy at Athens) order in building if compared with the is of a ruder kind, and far enough from Corinthian; but Terence's work is to the polish that was afterwards given it those of the Augustan age, as the lonic is among the Romans. His jests are often to the Corinthian order; it is not so ornarough, and his wit coarse; but there is a mented, or so rich; but nothing can be strength and spirit in him, that makes one
more exact and pleasing. The Roman read him with pleasure; at least, he is language itself, in his hands, seems to be much to be commended for being the first improved beyond what one could ever exthat considered what he was most capable pect, and to be advanced almost a hunof excelling in, and not endeavouring to dred years forwarder than the times he shine in 100 many different ways at once. lived in.
some who look Cæcilius followed his example in this par. upon this as one of the strangest phænome
na in the learned world: but it is a phæno. menon which may be well enough ex
§ 44. Of PacuVIUS and Actius. plained from Cicero. He
so that in About the same time that comedy was several families the Roman language was improved so considerably, Pacuvius and spoken in perfection, even in those times;" Actius (one a contemporary of Terence, and instances particularly in the families and the other of Afranius) carried tragedy of the Lælii and the Scipio's. Every one as far towards perfection as it ever arrived knows that Terence was extremely inti- in Roman hands. The step from Enrius mate in both these families: and as the to Pacuvius was a very great one; so language of his pieces is that of familiar great, that he was reckoned, in Cicero's conversation, he had indeed little more to time, the best of all their tragic poets. do, than to write as they talked at their ta- Pacuvius, as well as Terence, enjoyed the bles. Perhaps, too, he was obliged to Sci- acquaintance and friendship of Lælius and pio and Lælius, for more than their bare Scipio: but he did not profit so much by conversations. That is not at all impossi. it, as to the improvement of his language. ble; and indeed the Romans themselves Indeed his style was not to be the com: seem generally to have imagined, that he mon conversation style, as Terence's was; was assisted by them in the writing part and all the stiffenings given to it, might too. If it was really so, that will account take just as much from its elegance, as still better for the elegance of the language they added to its dignity. What is remarkin his plays; because Terence bimself was able in him, is that he was almost as emiborn out of Italy; and though he was
nent for painting as he was for poetry. He brought thither very young, he received made the decorations for his own plays ; the first part of his education in a family and Pliny speaks of some paintings by where they might not speak with so much him, in a temple of Hercules, as the most correctness as Lælius and Scipio had been celebrated work of their kind, done by used to from their very infancy. Thus any Roman of condition after Fabius Picmuch for the language of Terence's plays : tor. Actius began to publish when Paas for the rest, it seems, from what he cuvius was leaving off: his language was says himself, that his most usual method not so fine, nor his verses so well turned, was to take his plans shiefly, and his even as those of his predecessor. There is characters wholly, from the Greek comic a remarkable story of him in an old critic, poets. Those who say that he translated which, as it may give some light into their all the comedies of Menander, certainly different manners of writing, may be worth carry the matter too far. They were pro- relating. Pacuvius, in his old age, retired bably more than Terence ever wrote. 'In- to 'Tarentum, to enjoy the soft air and mild deed this would be more likely to be true winters of that place. As Actius was obof Afranius then Terence; though I sup- liged, on some affairs, to make a journey pose, it would scarce hold were we to into Asia, he took Tarentum in his way, take both of them together. Spence.
and staid there some days with Pacuvius.
It was in his visit that he read his tragedy 43. Of AFRANIUS.
of Atreus to him, and desired his opinion We have a very great loss in the works of it. Old Pacuvius, after hearing it out, of Afranius: for he was regarded, even in told him very honestly, that the poetry the Augustan age, as the most exact imi- was sonorous and majestic, but that it tator of Menander. He owos himself, seemed to him too stiff and harsh. Actius that he had no restraint in copying hin; replied, that he was himself very
sensible or any other of the Greek comic writers, of that fault in his writings; but that he wherever they set him a good example. was not at all sorry for it: " for," says he, Afranius's stories and persons were Ro- “ I have always been of opinion, that it is man, as Terenee's were Grecian. This " the same with writers as with fruits; awas looked upon as so material a point in “ mong which those that are most soft and those days, that it made two different spe- palatable, decay the soonest; whereas cies of comedy. Those on a Greek story “ those of a rough taste last the longer, were called, Palliatæ : and those on
" and have the finer relish, when once Roman, Togatæ. Terence excelled all “ they come to be mellowed by time.”. the Roman poets in the former, and Afra- Whether this style ever came to be thus pius in the latter.
Ibid. mellowed, I very much doubt; however