« PreviousContinue »
which led me to bestow some thought on the subject. And it seems that there will be no difficulty in effecting a complete reformation of this abuse, (as it appears to be), save in a very few words. honest, a habitual, and a honour, will* sound a little uncouthly for some time. But practice and perseverance (which have surmounted much greater difficulties than these) will at length reconcile these sounds to the most fastidious ear. And the credit of the speaker, the ease of the hearer, and the accommodation of the learner, of our language, as well as the consistency, the uniformity, the beauty, of the language itself, seem to demand the effort to be made without delay, and to be pursued with unceasing resolution.
June 9. My old friend and constant companion Kuster has for once stolen the march
I knew not a syllable of his intentions, or should have made him contract his disquisition upon a and an, to make room for less arid strictures. The rogue knew very well that a is used before substantives beginning with a consonant; as, a droll, a sly-boots, a circumlocutionist ; and that an is applied before such substantives as begin with a vowel, as an idler, an Aristarchus, an oddity; or with the unasperated h, as an heir, an hour ; and also before adjectives so circumstanced; as a clever fellow, an ingenious critic; a hearty friend; an honest soul; &c. &c. do not blame him for his aim, but for shooting at so many errors, where few, would have done, from writers like Shakespeare, Johnson, &c. &c. He well knew that such men dash out their ideas currente calamo; and if they ever display a slip of the pen, we can only re-echo Ovid's materiem superabat opus : for men, like these,
From vulgar bounds with wild disorder start,
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art. The fault, therefore, lay with Pickletter the compositor; and no inference is to be drawn against our language, or those who have visibly thought in it, from such trivial inaccuracies as the superintendents of the press should have attended to. Sua res agitur; and they are to look to accuracy after a good copy is furnished them for publication. Sir, I
* One expression, an hour,' seems to be entitled to a perpetual exception. VOL. II.
declare that, in the rapidity tof writing, I should not wonder - if you or ljor any other man of genius, was to overlook the orthography of his own name: Shakspear, Shakspur, Shakspere, will do in common talk; but, for Heaven's sake! let us be so decent as to give our immortal bærd his genuine name; when his ideas are too much engaged in better busiiness to tell us that his name is Shakespeare.
Another word or two and I have done. How Mr. Gibbon --for so it is+should have written a universal, a union, &c. and how Mr. Wraxall-and others should have talked about a uniform, a unicorn, a ugly face, &c. is past my comprehension on any other grounds, than that they were writers of things, and forgot, in their career, the mechanical affair of letters, whether vowels or consonants.
Joking apart, however, these little things are not to be neglected; and a Johnson, who was to castigate others, should have been peculiarly correct himself. We want net a standard in our language, but some one to erect and display the standard; and we may say of verbal deductions, as of greater matters, that he who despises small things may fall by little and little.
My compliments to brother Kuster,
XCV. Melanololy, Despair, and Grief, as described by the Poets.
April 6. THE passions of the mind, like the appetites of the body, are eager in the pursuit of objects adapted to their gratiħcation. Nor is this natural propensity peculiar to passions of the more chearful kind, as Love, Joy, Hope; those which are of a darker complexion and more serious cast, are equally proinpt in searching out. means of self-indulgence. We dwell with fondness on circuinstances, which may tend to heighten the force of that impression by which we are iminediately influenced. Hence in a state of MELANCHOLY inost welcome are, ji; Folded arms, and fixed eyes;
A sigh, that piercing mortifies;
Fountain heads, and pathless groves;
3* (See Beaumont and Fletcher's Nice Valeur. The more distracted and forlorn condition which brings on DESPAIR, is finely drawn by Spenser, in the passage which állegorizes that passion. Whoever is the victim of that woea ful and irresistible tyrant; is found,
low sitting on the ground
Spenser, Fairy Queen, B. I. C. 9. 35. Few, however, are those who suffer extremely from these violent pertwbations of mind, in comparison with the many who, in this “ Vale of Tears,” are afflicted with MODERATE Grief. This passion also has its gratifications, and indulges its feelings by modes of the following kind. It weeps for the lost object of its affection--hence says MOSCHUS,
επί πενθεί τωδε Δάκρυχεών τεον ουτον οδυρομαι. And Horace; in that pathetic eulogy on QUINTILIUS VARUS,
Quis desiderio sit pudor, aut modus
Hor. B. I. Od. 24. It takes a melancholy pleasure in recollecting scenes at which the lost person lamented was present, and employments in which he was engaged with us. Hence MILTON, passiona ately and poetically,
Together both, ere the high lawns appear'd
Under the opening eye-lids of the morn,
What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn,
Oft till the star that rose at evening bright
The contrast, which soon after follows, is wonderfully striking. How could Dr. Johnson be such an apathist as to slight this first Monody in our language !-TICKELL, in his verses on the death of ADDISON, and Lord LYTTLETON, in his truly elegiac Monody, have not forgotten to introduce the effect of scenes once frequented, and employments once pursued, by the "dear lost companion."
It gratifies MODERATE GRIEB to shew, speak of, admire, and prize any thing which may have been left by the deceased, whether it be a work of the departed person's own ingenuity, or a garment, or other relick, which the lamented relation or friend once frequently used. There is no where a more beautiful or pathetic instance of this than in the fact recorded by St. Luke, in the Acts, C. ix. 39. Παρισησαν αυτω σασαι αι χηραι κλαιεσαι, και επιδεικνυμεναι χιτωνας και ματια όσα εποιει μεί' αυίων υσα η Δορκας. A poet or painter, who would wish to interest the attention and gain the heart, must be careful to select, and place in proper point of view, the LITTLE circumstances of REAL life.
Among all the aggravations of grief, there is no one more powerful than the sight of things worn by the deceased. It added to the sorrow, and heightened the rage, of ELECTRA, that she saw ÆGYSTHUS wearing the very garments of AGA. MEMNON:
Επιτα σοιας ημερας δοκες μ' αγειν,
Soph. Elect. On the latter words the scholiast remarks, oux' quoia Baridina, αλλα τα εκεινα σαν γαρ τυτο σιροπαθες, και ως υπομνησιν αγον την μειο faxa Te Watposo
It is well imagined by Virgil, to make Dido dwell some few moments on the sight of the Trojan robes, which had been received from Æneas :
ILIACAS VESTES, notumque cubile
Æn. L. IV. The circumstance of the “ Notum Cubile," and the affecting speech, "Dulces Exuviæ,” &c. are manifestly imitations of EURIPIDES, in his ALCESTES, and of SOPHOCLES, in his TRACHINIE.
The belt, which PALLAS had once worn, was no sooner accidentally observed by ÆNEAS, than the humanity, which
had begun to incline the Trojan hero to compassion, was converted into rage, mixed with sorrow, for the death of that brave youth:
Et jam jamque magis cunctantem flectere sermo
Æn. XII. That these remarks, on the manner in which the more gloomy passions gratify themselves, may be turned to some end more useful than barren speculation, let it be considered, that the Deity has abundantly furnished the human mind with sources of happiness. If MELANCHOLY, DESPAIR, and Grier, can find a peculiar pleasure in self-indulgence, and can delight in seeking objects congenial with their immediate feelings, then are men, who apparently to spectators are plunged into the deepest distress, not in reality so miserable as inexperienced judges may imagine. God of his mercy hath provided a remedy which may alleviate the pangs of sorrow; he hath ordained that the very passion, which “ harrows the soul," should have in it some ingredients not altogether unpleasant to the subject which that passion affects. It is thus the Almighty vouchsafes to consult for the Good of Man; amidst clouds and darkness there yet shineth a light; amidst storms and tempests there is still a saving plank; amidst affliction and woe there is even a “sad luxury" in giving way to tears, and in reviewing again and again objects which tend to aggravate our distress of mind. 1787, April.
H. I. C.
XCVI. Strictures on the use of the Particle on!
June 6. I RECOLLECT that many years ago, on reading in Dr. Johnson's criticisms upon Pope's epitaphs, this assertiona " the particle O, used at the beginning of a sentence, always offends," several instances suggested themselves to