Page images
PDF
EPUB

XV.

“ nation, loaded with grievances and provoca- LECT.
s cions, resembled a vessel that was now full,
« and this fuperadded provocation, like the last
« drop infused, made their rage and resent-

ment, as waters of bitterness, overflow.” It
has infinitely more spirit and force as it now
stands, in the form of a Metaphor.

" Well might he repent; for the vessel was now full; “ and this last drop made the waters of bitter« ness overflow.”

HAVING mentioned, with applause, this instance from Lord Bolingbroke, I think it incumbent on me here to take notice, that, though I may have recourse to this author, sometimes, for examples of style, it is his style only, and not his sentiments, that deserve praise. It is, indeed, my opinion, that there are few writings in the English Language, which, for the matter contained in them, can be read with less profit or fruit, than Lord Bolingbroke's works. His political writings have the merit of a very lively and eloquent style; but they have no other ; being, as to the substance, the mere temporary productions of faction and party; no better indeed, than pamphlets written for the day. His Posthumous, or, as they are called, his Philosophical Works, wherein he attacks reļigion, have still less merit; for they are as ļoose in the style as they are flimsy in the rea

soning.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

XV.

LE CT. foning. An unhappy instance, this author

is, of parts and genius so miserably perverted
by faction and passion, that, as his memory
will descend to posterity with little honour, so
his productions will soon pass, and are, in-
deed, already passing into neglect and obli-
vion.

RETURNING from this digression to the subject before us, I proceed to lay down the rules to be observed in the conduct of Metaphors; and which are much the same for Tropes of

every kind.

The first which I shall mention, is, that they be suited to the nature of the subject of which we treat; neither too many, nor too gay, nor too elevated for it ; that we neither attempt to force the subject, by means of them, into a degree of elevation which is not congruous to it; nor, on the other hand, allow it to sink below its proper dignity. This is a direction which belongs to all Figurative Language, and should be ever kept in view. Some Metaphors are allowable, nay beautiful, in poetry, which it would be abfurd and unnatural to employ in profe ; some may be graceful in orations, which would be very improper in historical, or philosophical composition. We must remember, that Figures are the dress of our sentiments. As

there

1

XV.

there is a natural congruity between dress, and LECT. the character or rank of the person who wears it, a violation of which congruity never fails to hurt; the same holds precisely as to the application of Figures to sentiment. The exceflive, or unseasonable employment of them, is mere foppery in writing. It gives a boyish air to composition; and, instead of railing a subject, in fact, diminishes its dignity. For, as in life, true dignity must be founded on character, not on dress and appearance, so the dignity of composition must arise from sentiment and thought, not from ornament. The affectation and parade of ornament, detract as much from an author, as they do from a man. Figures and Metaphors, therefore, should, on no occasion, be stuck on too profusely; and never should be such as refuse to accord with the strain of our sentiment. Nothing can be more unnatural, than for a writer to carry on a train of reasoning, in the same sort of Figurative Language which he would use in description. When he reasons, we look only for perspicuity; when he describes, we expect embellishment; when he divides, or relates, we desire plainness and simplicity. One of the greatest secrets in composition is, to know when to be simple. This always gives a heightening to ornament, in its proper place.

The right disposition of the shade, makes the light and colouring strike the more : “ Is enim

[ocr errors]

LE CʻT. « est eloquens," says Cicero, « qui et hu. XV.

« milia subtiliter, et magna graviter, et me" diocria temperatè poteft dicere.—Nam

qui nihil poteft tranquillè, nihil leniter, " nihil definitè, distinctè, poteft dicere, is, “ cum non præparatis auribus inflammare rem

cæpit, furere apud sanos, et quasi inter fo• brios bacchari temulentus videtur *,' This admonition should be particularly attended to by young practitioners in the art of writing, who are apt to be carried away by an undiftinguishing admiration of what is showy and florid, whether in its place or not to

THE * “ He is truly eloquent, who can discourse of hum“ ble subjects in a plain ftyle, who can treat important ones “ with dignity, and speak of things, which are of a middle

nature, in a temperate ftrain. For one who, upon no “ occasion, can express himself in a calm, orderly, diftinct

manner, when he begins to be on fire before his readers " are prepared to kindle along with him, has the appear

ance of raving like a madman among persons who are “ in their senses, or of reeling like a drunkard in the midt “ of sober company."

+ What person, of the least taste, can bear the following passage, in a late historian ? He is giving an account of the famous act of parliament against irregular Marriages in England : " The bill,” says he, “ underwent a great “ number of alierations and amendments, which were not “ effected without violent conteft.” This is plain Language, suited to the subject; and we naturally expect, that he should go on in the fame strain, to tell us, that, after these contefts, it was carried by a great majority of voices, and obtained the royal affent. But how does he express himself in finishing the period ? " At length, however, it

[ocr errors]

XV.

The second rule, which I give, respects the LE C T. choice of objects, from whence Metaphors, and other Figures, are to be drawn. The field for Figurative Language is very wide. All nature, to speak in the style of Figures, opens its stores to us, and admits us to gather, from all sensible objects, whatever can illustrate intellectual or moral ideas. Not only the gay and splendid objects of sense, but the grave, the terrifying, and even the gloomy and difmal, may, on different occasions, be introduced into Figures with propriety. But we must beware of ever using such allusions as raise in the mind disagreeable, mean, vulgar, or dirty ideas. Even when Metaphors are chosen in order to vilify and degrade any object, an author should study never to be nauseous in his allusions. Cicero blames an orator of his time, for terming his enemy “ Stercus “ Curiæ;" “ quamvis fit fimile,” says he, • tamen eft deformis cogitatio fimilitudinis.” But, in subjects of dignity, it is an unpardonable fault to introduce mean and vulgar Me. taphors. In the treatise on the Art of Sinking, in Dean Swift's works, there is a full and humourous collection of instances of this kind,

was

floated through both houses, on the tide of a great “ majority, and fteered into the safe harbour of royal appro“ bation.” Nothing can be more puerile than fuch Language. Smollet's Hiftory of England, as quoted in Criticat Review for Oct. 1761, p. 251.

wherein

« PreviousContinue »