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me wbich prevented my acquiescence in the justness of the remark. Í have since seen it, however, adopted by other writers of reputation; and enforced by general observations on the bad effects of exclamatory sentences, which are represented as the poor artifices of frigid and tasteless rheto, ricians, inconsistent with true chastity of style, and unauthorized by the best models of antiquity. But, upon examining these positions, I could not discover any other foundation for them, than that bad writers most commonly expose themselves by an injudicious imitation of beauties; ; and that every attempt to produce extraordinary efforts should be employed sparingly, and only upon suitable occasions.
The interjection 0, common to so many languages, seems applicable to exactly the same purposes in all. It is a sort of intonation, by which some extraordinary energy or emotion of the mind is expressed. . The propriety of its use, therefore, depends entirely upon the correspondence of the subject and accompanying words with the affection thus denoted; and may be compared with the connection of sound and sense in musical compositions. If. Dr. Jobnson's observation of its ungraceful effect at the beginning of a sentence have any foundation, it is, that the mind not being yet sufficiently prepared, it cannot at once strike into the sentiment of which this interjection is the mark or note. And this is really the case, where the immediately, subsequent words are not clearly expressive of the occasion which is to excite the emotion. Thus, in the particular passage which leads him to the remark.
O born to arms! O worth in youth approv'd!
șoft humanity in'age beloy'd! These clauses are not at all indicatory of the sorrowful event to which the exclamation is directed. The first of them, especially, has no obvious connection whatever with pathetic emotion. But where the proper cause of the mental affection immediately appears, the whole readily coalesces into one effect, and the mind, without difficulty, follows the impression first raised.
Dr. Johnson asserts, that exclamation seldom succeeds in our language." Yet its use is just the same in ours as in any other: we employ it abundantly in common conversation; and it is to us, as to other people, the natural vent of strong emotion. Perhaps, indeed, our feelings may be more cold and sluggish than those of the southern nations; or a stern philosophy may have made us unyielding to attempts to
move, us; so that we do not readily give gurselves up to the writer who would excite our sympathy, That this was the case with the critic in question, is sufficiently apparent from some of his observations on the English poets: but men so constituted should reflect, that their incapacity of follow ing the ardent, expressions of a, feeling mind only renders them
unfit judges of such expressions, and is ng evidence that they are faulty or improper. ?
rás milions to I shall now proceed, by, a few examples, selected from an infinite number which may easily be found, first; to show, how famịliarly, and with what happiness, this mode of speech was used by the best Latin writers; and, then, to establish an appeal to the reader's taste, from Dr. Johnson's judgment of its disagreeable effect in English.
The greatest of the Roman orators, in one of his finest efforts, the peroration of the speech for Milo, thus redoubles, his exclamations:
“ O frustra, inquit, suscepti mei labores ! o spes fallaces! o cogitationes inanes meæ !0 me miserum, o infelicem! -O) terram illam beatam, quæ hunc virum exceperit.”?: ?
And, even in his cooler philosophical works, we have such sentences as these;
". O vitæ philosophia dux! O virtutis indagatrix, expul. trixque vitiorum! O præclarum diem, cum ad illud divinum animorum concilium cætumque proficiscar!"
The philosophical poét, Lucretius, breaks out, near the beginning of one of his books, in the following manner:
O miseras hominum mentes, o pectora cæça! And Ovid thus nobly introduces a long passage of united poetry and philosophy:
genus attonitụm gelidæ formidine mortis !
Olim * Virgil begins his beautiful praises of a country life with : ,
O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint,
sis which Thomson imitates (as far as I can see, without any bad effect) byen!
O knew he but his happiness; of men
Indeed, were all the preceding passages translated, I cannot discover why the obnoxious interjection might not be retained with advantage, at least in the greater part.
To come to our own authorities, I shall begin with some drawn from the common version of the Scriptures; the stile of which will scarcely, I suppose, be charged with affectátion. Who would alter any of the following exclamatory strains of devotional ardor?
O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good !--Osing unto the Lord a new song !-O magnify the Lord with me! -O fear the Lord, all ye his saints !- how I love thy law!
-O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
The language of the drama, from its impassioned subjects, abounds with similar expressions. It will be sufficient, in order to judge of their effect, to read these lines from Hamlet:
Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I!:
1 Oh limed soul! Milton, whose stile and manner were rigorously formed on the ancient models, very often prefixes the interjection to his speeches :
O prince, O chief of many throned powers !
powers O progeny of heaven, empyreal thrones ! And he begins one of his books with
O for that warning voice! Lastly, the author who has given accasion to Jolinson's censure, in the most eloquent piece of poetry perhaps extant, his Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard, has multiplied this form of exclamation, in such lines as, I think, Johnson himself could not have condemned or improved.
Oh name, for ever sad! for ever dear!
If your readers, Mr. Urban, are convinced by these quotations, that the assertion of Dr. Johnson was rash and un. founded, it may usefully admonish them not to admit too hastily a sentiment, merely because it has the sanction of a great name; and not to condemn particular modes of ex. pression because they are rendered ridiculous by the prace tice of bad writers.
XCVII. Langeland, Author of Pierce Plowman's Visions.
Nov. 12. OUR
poet Chaucer lately met with a commentator who hath done him ample justice; it is, perhaps, needless to say I allude to Mr. Tyrwhitt; but the Visions of Pierce Plowman, the work of Langeland, a bard of the same early day, have hitherto lain in the deepest obscurity, and in dem plorable confusion. If Mr. Warton had not taken notice of him in the highly valuable History of English Poetry, and in the Observations on Spenser, even his name would have remained still unknown to the generality of readers.Though Langeland will by no means bear a comparison with Chaucer for wit, pleasantry, or discrinination of character, yet the inquirer into the origin of our language will find in him a greater fund of materials to elucidate the progress of the Saxon tongue, which Chaucer is accused of vitiating with discordant Gallicisms. The diction and versification indeed of these two poets are as widely distant'as those of Milton and his contemporary Waller. This consideration should teach the critic how little dependance is to be placed on style and manner in fixing the æra of an uncertain composition.
Mean as the structure of the verse in these Visions must appear to modern eyes, let it be remembered, that Langeland was the Ennius of Milton. What this Anglo-Saxon poet attempted by uncouth alliteration only, the immortal bard perfected by elevated expression and metrical cadence. But our language was much longer ripening than the Roman. Little more than a century passed between Ennius and Virgil, whereas Langeland preceded Milton, and Chaucer Aourished before Dryden, full three centuries.
This now-forgotten satire was formerly so much admired, that it went through three editions in one year. So favour
able a reception at such an early period of printing in our country as 1550, was probably owing to its falling in with the prevailing temper of the times in the reign of young Edward, and in some sort justifying the Reformation, by exposing the abuses of the Romish Church.
This poem, ju.coinpon with other publications of those days, hath suffered greatly both from liceptious and negligent transcribers, and from careless and unskilful printers. To instance no farther than the passage cited to fix the date of the work. One of the editions in 1550 reads,
It is not long passed Ther was a careful.como, 1whe no cart came to town With bread from Stratford, tho gan beggers wepe And wokkeme were agast a litle, this wol be thought longe.
our hryght, in a drye Apriell A thousand and thre hundred, twyse twentye and ten My wafers ther war geise wha Chichester was Mair.
Inprinted by R. Cowley: Passus decimus tercius. Stow, in his Survey of London, informs us, that bread was regularly brought to the city for sale from:“ Stratford labe Bow," till about the middle of the sixteenth century: Many years ago I had corrected bryght to dright, Saxon for tord, and have since found that Mr. Warton adopts that emendation at the suggestion of Mr. Lye. However, brytta also means lord according to Lye's Dictionary, if the word be not a literal error in the authorities. For when we consider in what low estimation the Saxons held the Britons, it is very difficult to imagine that they would use brytta, a Briton, as a term of honour likevise. Geisen is probably misprinted for geifen, given: Wafers signify cakes, bread. It appears by Stow's list of mayors, that Chichester did not serve that office more than once, and that was during part of the years 1369 and 13 70; 'soon after which time, by the ex pression “it is not long pussed,” it is plain that this poem was composed. So that."twyse twentye and ten" should either he “ thrice twentye and ten,” or, as Stow gives it in the succeeding quotation," twice thirvy.and ten.” . “ In the 44th of Edward the third, John Chichester being Maior of London, I read in the Visions of Pierce Plowman, a book só called, as followeth : Ther was a carefull commune, when no cart came to towne with basket bread from Stratford : tho gav weggers weepe, and zor kenien were agast a little, this will be thought long in the date of our. Dirte, in a dry Averell a thous sand and three hundred, trice thirty and ten.” p. 169.
It is evident from the above, that Stow had a copy of this