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and plain declamation, with his remarks on their theatrical representations, we have purposely omitted, as they contain little more than a repetition of what the Abbé du Bos has advanced in the third volume of his Critical Reflections on Poetry and Painting
Our author then proceeds to treat of words, and the order in which they were invented; which is done with accuracy and precision : he then takes into consideration the signification of words, where he observes, with Locke and other writers; that the names of simple ideas are the least susceptible of ambiguity; whereas complex ideas are much more liable to it, because it is a long time before we can assemble the simple ideas that belong to them.
The signification of the names of substances therefore must needs have been very uncertain, and been the occasion of a multitude of verbal altercations. We are naturally inclined to believe that others have the same ideas as we, because they make use of the same language; from whence it frequently happens that we imagine we think differently, tho' we are defending the same opinions. On these occasions an explanation of the terms would be sufficient to remove the subject of dispute, and to shew the futility of a great many questions which are looked upon as important.
The signification of the names of archetypes is still more uncertain than that of the names of substances, whether because it is rare to find the pattern of the collections to which they belong, or because it is oftentimes very difficult to observe every part of them, even when we have the pattern: the most essential are exactly those of which we know the least. In order to frame, for instance, the idea of a crimni. nal action, it is not sufficient to observe the external and visible act, it is necessary moreover to come at things which do not fall under the senses. We must search into the intention of the person that commits it, we must discover the relation which it bears to the law, and even know a great many circumstances that preceded it. All this requires so particular a care, as from our supineness or want of penetration can feldom be expected.
To prevent the many inconveniencies arising from the abuso of words, our learned Abbé lays down a few rules for the exact signification of them. He is of opinion that we ought never to make use of signs, but in order to express ideas which we really have in our minds. In speaking of substances, the names we give them ought to relate only to the qualities which we have observed them to contain, and of which we have made collections. The names of archetypes should likewise import only a certain number of simple ideas, which we have it in our power to determine. We must particularly avoid fuppofing, without sufficient grounds, that others annex the same ideas as we to the fame words.. Upon the discussing of a question, our chief care ought to be to consider, whether the complex notions of those with whom we enter into dispute, include a greater number of simple ideas than ours. If we suspect it to exceed ours, we should inform ourselves by how many, and what kind of ideas : if it appears to us less, we should discover what simple ideas we add to theirs.
In relation to general terms, we can consider them only as signs that distinguish the different classes under which we distribute our ideas : and when it is said that a substance belongs to a certain species, we ought simply to understand, that it includes such qualities as are contained in the complex notion signified by a particular word.
In every other case, except that of substances, the essence of a thing is confounded with the idea we have framed of it; and of course the same word is equally the sign of both. A space terminated by three angles is together the essence and the idea of a triangle. The fame may be said in reregard to whatsoever mathematicians con foundunder the geo. neral term of magnitude. Philosophers perceiving that in mathematics the idea of a thing imports the knowledge of its essence, have precipitately concluded that the same may be said in regard to physics, and thence imagined that they knew the very effence of substances.
Mathematical ideas being determined by the senses, the confusion of the idea of a thing with its essence, is not attended with abuse : but in sciences, where we reason
from archetypes, the consequence is, that we are less upon our guard against-verbal disputes.
Subsequent to these observations is a chapter on transpojitions, wherein our author shews the advantages resulting from them, which, in a great meafure, constitute the superiority of ancient over modern languages. As some of the Abbé's remarks on this head faew à true taste of claffical beauty, we shall fubjoin one or two of them in his own words, · They (transpofitions) renter our style more nervous and lively : this appears from the ease we find in placing each word where it ought naturally to produce the best effect. Perhaps some • will ask the reason why a word fhould have a greater force • in one place than in another.
"To underftand this, we need only to compare á con• struction in which the terms follow the connexion of ideas, to that wherein it deviates from this connexion. In the • former, the ideas present themselves so naturally, that the • mind perceives their whole succession, without any occafion • almost to exercise the fancy. In the other, the ideas, which • should immediately follow each other, are too far separated "to be perceived in this manner: but if it be artfully made, the most distant words are easily joined by the relation « which the terminations establish between them. Thus the
trilling difficulty arising from their distance, seems to have been defigned only to excite the imagination; and the ideas
are dispersed, only that the mind being at the trouble of 'joining them, should be more fenfible of their connexion
or opposition. By this artihce the whole force of a sentence • centers fometimes in the word with which it terminates. * For example,
"Nec quicquam tibi prodej
* This last word (morituro) concludes with force, because • the mind cannot apply it to tibi, to which it belongs, with* out naturally recollecting the several words between them, • Suppose we transpose the word marituro according to the
connexion of ideas, and say, nec quicquam tibi morituro, &c. the effect shall be no longer the fame, because there is not
the fame exercise of the fancy. This fort of transpositions • partake of the character of the mode of speaking by action, • where a single sign was oftentimes equivalent to an entire ! sentence.
From this second advantage of transpositions arises a third ; 4 which is their forming a picture : I mean that they unite • in a single word the circumstances of an action, in some ! measure as a painter unites them upon a canvas : if they pre• sented them in succession, it would be only a plain narrative, • This will be better understood by means of an example.
• Nymphæ flebant Daphnim extinctum funere crudeli. • Here is a simple narrative. I learn that the nymphs wept, that they wept for Daphnis, that Daphnis was dead, &c. Thus the circumstances succeeding each other make but a
flight impression on me. Change but the order of words, • and say:
• Extin&lum nymphæ crudeli funere Daphnim
it produces quite a different effect, because having read ex? tin&tum nymphæ crudeli funere, I am still in the dark; but at • Daphnim I see the first stroke of the pencil, at flebant I see
the second, and then the picture is finished. The nymphs • in tears, Daphnis dying, and this death attended with every • doleful circumstance, strike me all at once. Such is the power which transpositions have over the imagination.'
Our author's next chapter on writing, is, by his own confession, borrowed from the second volume of Dr. Warburton's divine Legation, a work so well known to our readers as to make any extract from it unnecessary : he then treats of the origin of fable, parables, and enigmas ; with some particulars toncerning the use of figures and metaphors.
This naturally leads him to a very entertaining subject, the character of languages, where our Abbé observes, that every
language + Vir. Eccl. 5. V. 20.
language expresses the character of the people that speak it, though it cannot be perfected without the affiftance of eminent writers. He then proceeds to the resolution of two questions which have been often discussed, but never fully decided, viz. why the arts and sciences do not flourish alike in all ages and countries; and why men of eminence in every kind are generally cotemporaries?
Our author differs in his sentiments on this head from feveral other writers, who have attributed it to the difference of climates; and is rather of opinion that the circumstances favourable to the displaying of talents are always to be found in a nation, when the language begins to have fixed principles and a settled standard f.
· The causes which contribute to the display of abilities are ( as follow. 1. The climate is an essential condition. 2. It • is requisite that the form of government be settled, so as to • fix the character of a nation. 3. It is this that gives a chae
racter to the language by multiplying such phrases as express • the prevailing taste of a people. 4. This is brought about
very lowly in languages formed upon the ruin of others : • but when once these obstacles are surmounted, then the rules
of analogy are established, the language makes some improvements, and there is an opportunity to display one's abili«ties. We see therefore the reason why great writers do not • indifferently Aourish in all ages, and why they make their
appearance sooner in some and later in other countries.' In segard to the second question, how it happens that great men of every kind are generally cotemporaries, the Abbé obferves, that as soon as a man of genius discovers the chara language, he expresses it strongly in his writings. With this affiftance other ingenious persons, who would not perhaps have been able to find it out of themselves, see it very plain, and express it after his example, each in his own way. The language is insensibly enriched with a multitude of new turns
Amongst these is the abbé du Bos. See his zd. Vol.
+ The progress must be a great deal more rapid in a language not formed upon the ruin of others, because it has a character from its original. This is the reason why Greece was so early diftin. guished for excellent writers.