EDINBURGH: Printed for A. MILLAR, London; AND A. KINCAID & J. BELL, Edinburgh. MDCCLXII.


CHAP. X. Congruity and Propriety.

MAN is distinguished from the brute creation, not more re­markably by the superiority of his rational faculties, than by the greater delicacy of his perceptions and feelings. With respect to the gross plea­sures of sense, man probably has little supe­riority over other animals. Some obscure perception of beauty may also fall to their share. But they are probably not acquaint­ed with the more delicate conceptions of regularity, order, uniformity, or congruity. [Page 4] Such refined conceptions, being connected with morality and religion, are reserved to dignify the chief of the terrestrial creation. Upon this account, no discipline is more suitable to man, or more congruous to the dignity of his nature, than that by which his taste is refined, to distinguish in every subject, what is regular, what is orderly, what is suitable, and what is fit and pro­per*.

No discerning person can be at a loss a­bout the meaning of the terms congruity and propriety, when applied to dress, beha­viour, or language; that a decent grab, for example, is proper for a judge, modest behaviour for a young woman, and a lofty [Page 5] style for an epic poem. In the following examples every one is sensible of an unsuit­ableness or incongruity: a little woman sunk in an overgrown farthingale, a coat richly embroidered covering coarse and dirty li­nen, a mean subject in an elevated style, or an elevated subject in a mean style, a first minister darning his wife's stocking, or a reverend prelate in lawn sleeves dancing a hornpipe.

But it is not sufficient that these terms be understood in practice; the critical art re­quires, that their meaning be traced to its foundation in human nature. The rela­tions that connect objects together, have been examined in more than one view. Their influence in directing the train of our perceptions, is handled in the first chapter; and in the second, their influence in genera­ting passion. Here they must be handled in a new view; for they are clearly the oc­casion of congruity and propriety. We are so framed by nature, as to require a certain suitableness or correspondence among things connected by any relation. This suitable­ness or correspondence is termed congruity [Page 6] or propriety; and the want of it, incongrui­ty or impropriety. Among the many prin­ciples that compose the nature of man, a sense of congruity or propriety is one. De­stitute of this sense, we could have no no­tion of congruity or propriety: the terms to us would be unintelligible*.

As this sense is displayed upon relations, it is reasonable beforehand to expect, that [Page 7] we should be so formed, as to require among connected objects a degree of congruity pro­portioned to the degree of the relation. And upon examination we find this to hold in fact. Where the relation is strong and intimate as betwixt a cause and its effect, a body and its members, we require that the things be suited to each other in the strictest manner. On the other hand, where the relation is slight, or accidental, as among things jumbled together in the same place, we demand little or no congruity. The strictest propriety is required in behaviour and manner of living; because a man is con­nected with these by the relation of cause and effect. The situation of a great house ought to be lofty; for the relation betwixt an edifice and the ground it stands upon, is of the most intimate kind. Its relation to neighbouring hills, rivers, plains, being that of propinquity only, demands but a small share of congruity. Among members of the same club, the congruity ought to be considerable, as well as among things pla­ced for show in the same niche. Among passengers in a stage-coach, we require ve­ry [Page 8] little congruity; and less still at a public spectacle.

Congruity is so nearly allied to beauty, as commonly to be held a species of it. And yet they differ so essentially, as never to co­incide. Beauty, like colour, is placed upon a single subject; congruity upon a plurality. Further, a thing beautiful in itself, may, with relation to other things, produce the strongest sense of incongruity.

Congruity and propriety are commonly reckoned synonymous terms; and hitherto in opening the subject they are used indiffer­ently. But they are distinguishable; and the precise meaning of each must be ascer­tained. Congruity is the genus, of which propriety is a species. For we call nothing propriety, but that congruity or suitableness which ought to subsist betwixt sensible be­ings and their thoughts, words, and actions.

In order to give a full view of this sub­ject, I shall trace it through some of the most considerable relations. The relation of a part to the whole, being extremely inti­mate, demands the utmost degree of con­gruity. For that reason, the slightest devia­tion [Page 9] is disgustful. Every one must be sen­sible of a gross incongruity in the Lutrin, a burlesque poem, being closed with a serious and warm panegyric on Lamoignon, one of the King's judges:

—Amphora coepit
Institui; currente rota, cur urceus exit?

No relation affords more examples of congruity and incongruity, than that betwixt a subject and its ornaments. A literary per­formance intended merely for amusement, is susceptible of much ornament, as well as a music-room or a play-house. In gaiety, the mind hath a peculiar relish for show and decoration. The most gorgeous appa­rel, however unsuitable to an actor in a re­gular tragedy, disgusts not at an opera. The truth is, an opera, in its present form, is a mighty fine thing; but as it deviates from nature in its capital circumstances, we look not for any thing natural in those which are accessory. On the other hand, a serious and important subject, admits not much or­nament*: [Page 10] nor a subject that of itself is ex­tremely beautiful. And a subject that fills the mind with its loftiness and grandeur, appears best in a dress altogether plain.

To a person of a mean appearance, gor­geous apparel is unsuitable: which, beside the incongruity, has a bad effect; for by contrast it shows the meanness of appear­ance in the strongest light. Sweetness of look and manner, requires simplicity of dress joined with the greatest elegance. A stately and majestic air requires sumptuous apparel, which ought not to be gaudy, or crowded with little ornaments. A woman of consummate beauty can bear to be highly adorned, and yet shows best in a plain dress:

—For loveliness
Needs not the foreign aid of ornament,
But is when unadorn'd, adorn'd the most.
Thomson's Autumn, 208.

[Page 11] In judging of the propriety of ornament, we must attend, not only to the nature of the subject that is to be adorned, but also to the circumstances in which it is placed. The ornaments that are proper for a ball, will appear not altogether so decent at pu­blic worship; and the same person ought to dress differently for a marriage-feast and for a burial.

Nothing is more intimately related to a man, than his sentiments, words, and ac­tions; and therefore we require here the strictest conformity. When we find what we thus require, we have a lively sense of pro­priety: when we find the contrary, our sense of impropriety is not less lively. Hence the universal distaste of affectation, which consists in making a shew of greater delica­cy and refinement than is suited either to the character or circumstances of the person. Nothing hath a worse effect in a story than impropriety of manners. In Corneille's tragedy of Cinna, Aemilia, a favourite of Augustus, receives daily marks of his affec­tion, and is loaded with benefits; yet all the while is laying plots to assassinate her be­nefactor, [Page 12] directed by no other motive but to avenge her father's death*. Revenge against a benefactor founded solely upon filial piety, will never suggest unlawful means; because it can never exceed the bounds of justice. And yet the crime here attempted, murder under trust reposed, is what even a miscreant will scarce attempt against his bitterest enemy.

What is said may be thought sufficient to explain the qualities of congruity and pro­priety. But the subject is not exhausted. On the contrary, the prospect enlarges up­on us, when we take under view the ef­fects these qualities produce in the mind. Congruity and propriety, where-ever percei­ved, appear agreeable; and every agreeable object produceth in the mind a pleasant e­motion. Incongruity and impropriety, on the other hand, are disagreeable; and con­sequently produce painful emotions. An emotion of this kind sometimes vanisheth without any consequence; but more fre­quently is the occasion of other emotions. [Page 13] When any slight incongruity is perceived in an accidental combination of persons or things, as of passengers in a stage-coach or of individuals dining at an ordinary, the e­motion of incongruity, after a momentary existence, vanisheth without producing any effect. But this is not the case of propriety and impropriety. Voluntary acts, whether words or deeds, are imputed to the au­thor: when proper, we reward him with our esteem: when improper, we punish him with our contempt. Let us suppose, for example, an heroic action suitable to the character of the author, which raises in him and in every spectator the pleasant e­motion of propriety. This emotion gene­rates in the author both self-esteem and joy; the former when he considers his relation to the action, and the latter when he considers the good opinion that others will entertain of him. The same emotion of propriety, produceth in the spectators, esteem for the author of the action: and when they think of themselves, it also produceth, by means of contrast, an emotion of humility. To discover the effects of an unsuitable action, [Page 14] we must invert each of these circumstances. The painful emotion of impropriety, gene­rates in the author of the action both humi­lity and shame; the former when he con­siders his relation to the action, and the lat­ter when he considers what others will think of him. The same emotion of impropriety, produceth in the spectators, contempt for the author of the action; and it also produceth, by means of contrast when they think of themselves, an emotion of self-esteem. Here then are many different emotions, derived from the same action considered in different views by different persons; a machine pro­vided with many springs, and not a little complicated. Propriety of action, it would seem, is a chief favourite of nature, or of the author of nature, when such care and solici­tude is bestowed upon it. It is not left to our own choice; but, like justice, is requi­red at our hands; and, like justice, infor­ced by natural rewards and punishments. A man cannot, with impunity, do any thing unbecoming or improper. He suffers the chastisement of contempt inflicted by others, and of shame inflicted by himself. An ap­paratus [Page 15] so complicated and so singular, ought to rouse our attention. Nature doth nothing in vain; and we may conclude with great certainty, that this curious branch of the human constitution is intended for some va­luable purpose. To the discovery of this purpose I shall with ardor apply my thoughts, after discoursing a little more at large upon the punishment, for I may now call it so, that Nature hath provided for in­decent or unbecoming behaviour. This, at any rate, is necessary, in order to give a full view of the subject; and who knows whe­ther it may not, over and above, open some track that will lead us to what we are in quest of?

A gross impropriety is punished with con­tempt and indignation, which are vented a­gainst the offender by every external ex­pression that can gratify these passions. And even the slightest impropriety raises some degree of contempt. But there are improprieties, generally of the slighter kind, that provoke laughter; of which we have examples without end in the blunders and absurdities of our own species. Such [Page 16] improprieties receive a different punish­ment, as will appear by what follows. The emotions of contempt and of laughter occasioned by an impropriety of this kind, uniting intimately in the mind of the spec­tator, are expressed externally by a peculiar sort of laugh, termed a laugh of derision or scorn *. An impropriety that thus moves not only contempt but laughter, is distin­guished by the epithet of ridiculous; and a laugh of derision or scorn is the punishment provided for it by nature. Nor ought it to escape observation, that we are so fond of inflicting this punishment, as sometimes to exert it even against creatures of an in­ferior species; witness a Turkycock swell­ing with pride, and strutting with displayed feathers. This object appears ridiculous, and in a gay mood is apt to provoke a laugh of derision.

We must not expect that the improprie­ties to which these different punishments are adapted, can be separated by any precise boundaries. Of improprieties, from the [Page 17] slightest to the most gross, from the most risible to the most serious, a scale may be formed ascending by degrees almost imper­ceptible. Hence it is, that in viewing some unbecoming actions, too risible for anger and too serious for derision, the spectator feels a sort of mixt emotion partaking both of deri­sion and of anger. This accounts for an expression, common with respect to the im­propriety of some actions, That we know not whether to laugh or be angry.

It cannot fail to be observed, that in the case of a risible impropriety, which is al­ways slight, the contempt we have for the offender is extremely faint, though derision, its gratification, is extremely pleasant. This disproportion betwixt a passion and its grati­fication, seems not conformable to the ana­logy of nature. In looking about for a so­lution, I reflect upon what is laid down a­bove, that an improper action, not only moves our contempt for the author, but al­so, by means of contrast, swells the good o­pinion we have of ourselves. This contri­butes, more than any other article, to the pleasure we feel in ridiculing the follies and [Page 18] absurdities of others. And accordingly, it is well known, that they who put the great­est value upon themselves, are the most prone to laugh at others. Pride is a vivid passion, as all are which have self for their object. It is extremely pleasant in itself, and not less so in its gratification. This passion singly would be sufficient to account for the pleasure of ridicule, without borrowing any aid from contempt. Hence appears the reason of a noted observation, That we are the most disposed to ridicule the blunders and absurdities of others, when we are in high spirits; for in high spirits, self-conceit displays itself with more than ordinary vi­gor.

Having with wary steps traced an intri­cate road, not without danger of wander­ing; what remains to complete our jour­ney, is to account for the final cause of con­gruity and propriety, which make so great a figure in the human constitution. One fi­nal cause, regarding congruity, is pretty obvious. The sense of congruity, as one of the principles of the fine arts, contributes in a remarkable degree to our entertainment. [Page 19] This is the final cause assigned above for our sense of proportion*, and need not be enlarged upon here. Congruity indeed with respect to quantity, coincides with proportion. When the parts of a building are nicely adjusted to each other, it may be said indifferently, that it is agreeable by the congruity of its parts, or by the proportion of its parts. But propriety, which regards voluntary agents only, can never in any in­stance be the same with proportion. A very long nose is disproportioned, but cannot be termed improper. In some instances, it is true, impropriety coincides with dispropor­tion in the same subject, but never in the same respect. I give for an example a very little man buckled to a long toledo. Con­sidering the man and the sword with re­spect to size, we perceive a disproportion. Considering the sword as the choice of the man, we perceive an impropriety.

The sense of impropriety with respect to mistakes, blunders, and absurdities, is hap­pily contrived for the good of mankind. [Page 20] In the spectators it is productive of mirth and laughter, excellent recreation in an in­terval from business. The benefit is still more extensive. It is not agreeable to be the subject of ridicule; and to punish with ridicule the man who is guilty of an absur­dity, tends to put him more upon his guard in time coming. Thus even the most in­nocent blunder is not committed with im­punity; because, were errors licensed where they do no hurt, inattention would grow into a habit, and be the occasion of much hurt.

The final cause of propriety as to moral duties, is of all the most illustrious. To have a just notion of it, the two sorts of moral duties must be kept in view, viz. those that respect others, and those that re­spect ourselves. Fidelity, gratitude, and the forbearing injury, are examples of the first sort; temperance, modesty, firmness of mind, are examples of the other. The for­mer are made duties by means of the moral sense; the latter, by means of the sense of propriety. Here is a final cause of the sense of propriety, that must rouse our attention. [Page 21] It is undoubtedly the interest of every man, to regulate his behaviour suitably to the dig­nity of his nature, and to the station allot­ted him by Providence. Such rational con­duct contributes in every respect to happi­ness: it contributes to health and plenty: it gains the esteem of others: and, which is of all the greatest blessing, it gains a just­ly-founded self-esteem. But in a matter so essential to our well-being, even self-interest is not relied on. The sense of propriety su­peradds the powerful authority of duty to the motive of interest. The God of nature, in all things essential to our happiness, hath observed one uniform method. To keep us steady in our conduct, he hath fortified us with natural principles and feelings. These prevent many aberrations, which would daily happen were we totally surren­dered to so fallible a guide as is human rea­son. The sense of propriety cannot justly be considered in another light, than as the natural law that regulates our conduct with respect to ourselves; as the sense of justice is the natural law that regulates our conduct with respect to others. I call the sense of [Page 22] propriety a law, because it really is so, not less than the sense of justice. If by law be meant a rule of conduct that we are con­scious ought to be obeyed, this definition, which I conceive to be strictly accurate, is applicable undoubtedly to both. The sense of propriety includes this consciousness; for to say an action is proper, is, in other words, to say, that it ought to be performed; and to say it is improper, is, in other words, to say, that it ought to be forborn. It is this very consciousness of ought and should inclu­ded in the moral sense, that makes justice a law to us. This consciousness of duty, when applied to propriety, is perhaps not so vigo­rous or strong as when applied to justice: but the difference is in degree only, not in kind: and we ought, without hesitation or reluctance, to submit equally to the govern­ment of both.

But I have more to urge upon this head. It must, in the next place, be observed, that to the sense of propriety as well as of justice are annexed the sanctions of rewards and punishments; which evidently prove the one to be a law as well as the other. The [Page 23] satisfaction a man hath in doing his duty, joined with the esteem and good-will of o­thers, is the reward that belongs to both e­qually. The punishments also, though not the same, are nearly allied; and differ in degree more than in quality. Disobedience to the law of justice, is punished with re­morse; disobedience to the law of propriety, with shame, which is remorse in a lower de­gree. Every transgression of the law of ju­stice raises indignation in the beholder; and so doth every flagrant transgression of the law of propriety. Slighter improprieties re­ceive a milder punishment: they are always rebuked with some degree of contempt, and frequently with derision. In general, it is true, that the rewards and punishments an­nexed to the sense of propriety are slighter in degree than those annexed to the sense of justice. And that this is wisely ordered, will appear from considering, that to the well-being of society, duty to others is still more essential than duty to ourselves; for society could not subsist a moment, were in­dividuals not protected from the headstrong and turbulent passions of their neighbours.

[Page 24] Reflecting coolly and carefully upon the subject under consideration, the constitution of man, admirable in all its parts, appears here in a fine light. The final cause now unfolded of the sense of propriety, must, to every discerning eye, appear delightful; and yet hitherto we have given but a partial view of it. The sense of propriety reaches another illustrious end; which is, to co­ope­rate with the sense of justice in inforcing the performance of social duties. In fact, the sanctions visibly contrived to compel a man to be just to himself, are equally ser­viceable to compel him to be just to others. This will be evident from a single reflection, That an action, by being unjust, ceases not to be improper. An action never appears more eminently improper, than when it is unjust. It is obviously becoming and suit­able to human nature, that each man do his duty to others; and accordingly every transgression of duty with respect to others, is at the same time a transgression of duty with respect to self. This is an undisguised truth without exaggeration; and it opens a new and delightful view in the moral land­scape. [Page 25] The prospect is greatly enriched, by the multiplication of agreeable objects. It appears now, that nothing is overlooked, nothing left undone, that can possibly con­tribute to the enforcing social duty. For to all the sanctions that belong to it singly, are superadded the sanctions of self-duty. A fa­miliar example shall suffice for illustration. An act of ingratitude considered in itself, is to the author disagreeable as well as to eve­ry spectator: considered by the author with relation to himself, it raises self-contempt: considered by him with relation to the world, it makes him ashamed. Again, considered by others, it raises their con­tempt and indignation against the author. These feelings are all of them occasioned by the impropriety of the action. When the action is considered as unjust, it occasions another set of feelings. In the author it produces remorse, and a dread of me­rited punishment; and in others, the bene­factor chiefly, indignation and hatred di­rected upon the ungrateful person. Thus shame and remorse united in the ungrateful [Page 26] person, and indignation united with hatred in the hearts of others, are the punishments provided by nature for injustice. Stupid and insensible must he be in extreme, who, in a contrivance so exquisite, perceives not the hand of the Sovereign Architect.

CHAP. XI. Of Dignity and Meanness.

THESE terms are applied to man in point of character, sentiment, and behaviour. We say, for example, of one man, that he hath a natural dignity in his air and manner; of another, that he makes a mean figure. There is a dignity in every action and sentiment of some per­sons: the actions and sentiments of others are mean and vulgar. With respect to the fine arts, some performances are said to be manly and suitable to the dignity of human nature: others are termed low, mean, trivial. Such expressions are common, though they have not always a precise mean­ing. With respect to the art of criticism, it must be a real acquisition to ascertain what these terms truly import; which pos­sibly may enable us to rank every perform­ance in the fine arts according to its dignity.

[Page 28] Inquiring first to what subjects the terms dignity and meanness are appropriated, we soon discover, that they are not applicable to any thing inanimate. The most magni­ficent palace ever built, may be lofty, may be grand, but it has no relation to dignity. The most diminutive shrub may be little, but it is not mean. These terms must be­long to sensitive beings, probably to man only; which will be evident when we ad­vance in the inquiry.

Of all objects, human actions produce in a spectator the greatest variety of feelings. They are in themselves grand or little: with respect to the author, they are proper or improper: with respect to those affected by them, just or unjust. And I must now add, that they are also distinguished by dignity and meanness. It may possibly be thought, that with respect to human ac­tions, dignity coincides with grandeur, and meanness with littleness. But the differ­ence will be evident upon reflecting, that we never attribute dignity to any action but what is virtuous, nor meanness to any but what in some degree is faulty. But an ac­tion [Page 29] may be grand without being virtuous, or little without being faulty. Every action of dignity creates respect and esteem for the author; and a mean action draws upon him contempt. A man is always admired for a grand action, but frequently is neither loved nor esteemed for it: neither is a man always contemned for a low or little action.

As it appears to me, dignity and mean­ness are founded on a natural principle not hitherto mentioned. Man is endued with a sense of the worth and excellence of his nature. He deems it to be more perfect than that of the other beings around him; and he feels that the perfection of his na­ture consists in virtue, particularly in virtue of the highest rank. To express this sense, the term dignity is appropriated. Further, to behave with dignity, and to refrain from all mean actions, is felt to be, not a virtue only, but a duty: it is a duty every man owes to himself. By acting in this manner, he attracts love and esteem. By acting meanly or below himself, he is disapproved and contemned.

[Page 30] According to the description here given of dignity and meanness, they will be found to be a species of propriety and impropriety. Many actions may be proper or improper, to which dignity or meanness cannot be applied. To eat when one is hungry is proper, but there is no dignity in this ac­tion. Revenge fairly taken, if against law, is improper, but it is not mean. But every action of dignity is also proper, and every mean action is also improper.

This sense of the dignity of human na­ture, reaches even our pleasures and amuse­ments. If they enlarge the mind by raising grand or elevated emotions, or if they hu­manize the mind by exercising our sympa­thy, they are approved as suited to our na­ture: if they contract the mind by fixing it on trivial objects, they are contemned as low and mean. Hence in general, every occupation, whether of use or amusement, that corresponds to the dignity of man, ob­tains the epithet of manly; and every occu­pation below his nature, obtains the epithet of childish.

To those who study human nature, there [Page 31] is a point which has always appeared intri­cate. How comes it that generosity and courage are more valued and bestow more dignity, than good-nature, or even justice, though the latter contribute more than the former, to private as well as to public hap­piness? This question bluntly proposed, might puzzle a cunning philosopher; but by means of the foregoing observations will easily be solved. Human virtues, like o­ther objects, obtain a rank in our estima­tion, not from their utility, which is a sub­ject of reflection, but from the direct im­pression they make on us. Justice and good-nature are a sort of negative virtues, that make no figure unless when they are transgressed. Courage and generosity pro­ducing elevated emotions, enliven greatly the sense of a man's dignity, both in him­self and in others; and for that reason, cou­rage and generosity are in higher regard than the other virtues mentioned. We de­scribe them as grand and elevated, as of greater dignity, and more praise-worthy.

This leads us to examine more directly emotions and passions with respect to the [Page 32] present subject. And it will not be diffi­cult to form a scale of them, beginning at the meanest, and ascending gradually to those of the highest rank and dignity. Pleasure felt as at the organ of sense, named corporeal pleasure, is perceived to be low; and when indulged to excess, beyond what nature demands, is perceived also to be mean. Persons therefore of any delicacy, dissemble the pleasure they have in eating and drinking. The pleasures of the eye and ear, which have no organic feeling*, are free from any sense of meanness; and for that reason are indulged without any shame. They even arise to a certain degree of dignity, when their objects are grand or elevated. The same is the case of the sym­pathetic passions. They raise the character considerably, when their objects are of im­portance. A virtuous person behaving with fortitude and dignity under the most cruel misfortunes, makes a capital figure; and the sympathising spectator feels in himself the same dignity. Sympathetic distress at [Page 33] the same time never is mean: on the con­trary, it is agreeable to the nature of a social being, and has the general approbation. The rank that love possesses in this scale, depends in a great measure on its object. It possesses a low place when founded on external properties merely; and is mean when bestowed upon a person of a rank much inferior without any extraordinary qualification. But when founded on the more elevated internal properties, it assumes a considerable degree of dignity. The same is the case of friendship. When gra­titude is warm, it animates the mind; but it scarce rises to dignity. Joy bestows dig­nity when it proceeds from an elevated cause.

So far as I can gather from induction, dignity is not a property of any disagreea­ble passion. One is slight another severe, one depresses the mind another rouses and animates it; but there is no elevation, far less dignity, in any of them. Revenge, in particular, though it inflame and swell the mind, is not accompanied with dignity, not even with elevation. It is not however felt [Page 34] as mean or groveling, unless when it takes indirect measures for its gratification. Shame and remorse, though they sink the spirits, are not mean. Pride, a disagreeable pas­sion, bestows no dignity in the eye of a spectator. Vanity always appears mean; and extremely so where founded, as com­monly happens, on trivial qualifications.

I proceed to the pleasures of the under­standing, which possess a high rank in point of dignity. Of this every one will be sen­sible, when he considers the important truths that have been laid open by science; such as general theorems, and the general laws that govern the material and moral worlds. The pleasures of the understanding are suit­ed to man as a rational and contemplative being; and they tend not a little to ennoble his nature. Even to the Deity he stretches his contemplations, which, in the discovery of infinite power wisdom and benevolence, afford delight of the most exalted kind. Hence it appears, that the fine arts studied as a rational science, afford entertainment of great dignity; superior far to what they afford as a subject of taste merely.

[Page 35] But contemplation, though in itself va­luable, is chiefly respected as subservient to action; for man is intended to be more an active than a contemplative being. He accordingly shows more dignity in action than in contemplation. Generosity, mag­nanimity, heroism, raise his character to the highest pitch. These best express the dignity of his nature, and advance him nearer to divinity than any other of his at­tributes.

By every production that shows art and contrivance, our curiosity is excited upon two points; first how it was made, and next to what end. Of the two, the latter is the more important inquiry, because the means are ever subordinate to the end; and in fact our curiosity is always more in­flamed by the final than by the efficient cause. This preference is no where more visible, than in contemplating the works of nature. If in the efficient cause, wis­dom and power be displayed, wisdom is not less conspicuous in the final cause; and from it only can we infer benevolence, which of all the divine attributes is to man the most [Page 36] important. Having endeavoured to assign the efficient cause of dignity and meanness, and to unfold the principle on which they are founded, we proceed to explain the final cause of the dignity or meanness bestowed upon the several particulars above mention­ed, beginning with corporeal pleasures. These, so far as useful, are like justice fenced with sufficient sanctions to prevent their being neglected. Hunger and thirst are painful sensations; and we are incited to animal love by a vigorous propensity. Were they dignified over and above with a place in a high class, they would infallibly overturn the balance of the mind, by out­weighing the social affections. This is a satisfactory final cause for refusing to corpo­real pleasures any degree of dignity. And the final cause is not less evident of their meanness, when they are indulged to ex­cess. The more refined pleasures of exter­nal sense, conveyed by the eye and the ear from natural objects and from the fine arts, deserve a high place in our esteem, because of their singular and extensive utility. In some cases they arise to a considerable dig­nity. [Page 37] The very lowest pleasures of the kind, are never esteemed mean or grovel­ing. The pleasure arising from wit, hu­mour, ridicule, or from what is simply lu­dicrous, is useful, by relaxing the mind after the fatigue of more manly occupation. But the mind, when it surrenders itself to pleasure of this kind, loses its vigor, and sinks gradually into sloth. The place this pleasure occupies in point of dignity, is ad­justed to these views. To make it useful as a relaxation, it is not branded with meanness. To prevent its usurpation, it is removed from this place but a single de­gree. No man values himself upon this pleasure, even during the gratification; and if more time have been given to it than is requisite for relaxation, a man looks back with some degree of shame.

In point of dignity, the social passions rise above the selfish, and much above the plea­sures of the eye and ear. Man is by his na­ture a social being; and to qualify him for society, it is wisely contrived, that he should value himself more for being social than selfish.

[Page 38] The excellency of man is chiefly discern­ible in the great improvements he is suscep­tible of in society. These, by perseverance, may be carried on progressively to higher and higher degrees of perfection, above any assignable limits; and, even abstracting from revelation, there is great probability, that the progress begun in this life will be completed in some future state. Now, as all valuable improvements proceed from the exercise of our rational faculties, the author of our nature, in order to excite us to a due use of these faculties, hath assigned a high rank to the pleasures of the understanding. Their utility, with respect to this life as well as a future, intitles them to this rank.

But as action is the end of all our im­provements, virtuous actions justly possess the highest of all the ranks. These, I find, are by nature distributed into different class­es, and the first in point of dignity assigned to actions which appear not the first in point of use. Generosity, for example, in the sense of mankind, is more respected than justice, though the latter is undoubtedly more essential to society. And magnanimi­ty, [Page 39] heroism, undaunted courage, rise still higher in our esteem. One would readily think, that the moral virtues should be e­steemed according to their importance. Nature has here deviated from her ordinary path, and great wisdom is shown in the de­viation. The efficient cause is explained above; and the final cause is explained in the Essays of morality and natural reli­gion*.


THIS subject has puzzled and vexed all the critics. Aristole gives a de­finition of ridicule, obscure and imperfect*. Cicero handles it at great length; but without giving any satisfac­tion. He wanders in the dark, and misses the distinction betwixt risible and ridicu­lous. Quintilian is sensible of this distinc­tion; but has not attempted to explain it. Luckily this subject lies no longer in ob­scurity. A risible object produceth an emo­tion of laughter merely. A ridiculous ob­ject is improper as well as risible; and pro­duceth a mixt emotion, which is vented by a laugh of derision or scorn**.

[Page 41] Having therefore happily unravelled the abstruse and knotty part, I proceed to what may be thought further necessary upon this subject.

Burlesque is one great engine of ridicule. But it is not confined to that subject; for it is clearly distinguishable into burlesque that excites laughter merely, and burlesque that provokes derision or ridicule. A grave subject in which there is no impropriety, may be brought down by a certain colouring so as to be risible. This is the case of Vir­gil Travestie *. And it is the case of the Secchia Rapita . The authors laugh first at every turn, in order to make their readers laugh. The Lutrin is a burlesque poem of the other sort. The author Boileau, lays hold of a low and trifling incident to ex­pose the luxury, indolence, and contentious spirit of a set of monks. He turns the sub­ject into ridicule by dressing it in the heroic style, and affecting to consider it as of the utmost dignity and importance; and though ridicule is the poet's aim, he himself carries [Page 42] all along a grave face, and never once be­wrays a smile. The opposition betwixt the subject and the manner of handling it, is what produces the ridicule. In a composi­tion of this kind, no image professedly ludi­crous ought to have quarter; because such images destroy the contrast.

Though the burlesque that aims at ridi­cule, produces its effect by elevating the style far above the subject, yet it has limits beyond which the elevation ought not to be carried. The poet, consulting the imagi­nation of his readers, ought to confine him­self to such images as are lively and readily apprehended. A strained elevation, soaring above an ordinary reach of fancy, makes not a pleasant impression. The mind fatigued with being always upon the stretch, is soon disgusted; and if it perseveres, becomes thoughtless and indifferent. Further, a fic­tion gives no pleasure, unless where painted in so lively colours as to produce some per­ception of reality; which never can be done effectually where the images are formed with labour or difficulty. For these reasons, I cannot avoid condemning the Batrachomuo­machia [Page 43] said to be the composition of Homer. It is beyond the power of imagination, to form a clear and lively image of frogs and mice acting with the dignity of the highest of our species: nor can we form a concep­tion of the reality of such an action, in any manner so distinct as to interest our affections even in the slightest degree.

The Rape of the Lock is of a character clearly distinguishable from those now men­tioned. It is not properly a burlesque per­formance, but what may rather be termed an heroi-comical poem. It treats a gay and familiar subject, with pleasantry and with a moderate degree of dignity. The author puts not on a mask like Boileau, nor pro­fesses to make us laugh like Tassoni. The Rape of the Lock is a genteel and gay species of writing, less strained than the others mentioned; and is pleasant or ludicrous without having ridicule for its chief aim; giving way however to ridicule where it ari­ses naturally from a particular character, such as that of Sir Plume. Addison's Spec­tator upon the exercise of the fan* is ex­tremely [Page 44] gay and ludicrous, resembling in its subject the Rape of the Lock.

Humour belongs to the present chapter, because it is undoubtedly connected with ridi­cule. Congreve defines humour to be ‘"a sin­gular and unavoidable manner of doing or saying any thing, peculiar and natural to one man only, by which his speech and ac­tions are distinguished from those of other men."’ Were this definition just, a ma­jestic and commanding air, which is a sin­gular property, is humour; as also that na­tural flow of eloquence and correct elocu­tion which is a rare talent. Nothing just or proper is denominated humour; nor any singularity of character, words, or actions, that is valued or respected. When we at­tend to the character of an humorist, we find that the peculiarity of this character lessens the man in our esteem: we find that this character arises from circumstances both risible and improper, and therefore in some measure ridiculous.

Humour in writing is very different from humour in character. When an author in­sists upon ludicrous subjects with a profess­ed [Page 54] purpose to make his readers laugh, he may be styled a ludicrous writer; but is scarce intitled to be styled a writer of hu­mour. This quality belongs to an author, who, affecting to be grave and serious, paints his objects in such colours as to pro­voke mirth and laughter. A writer that is really an humorist in character, does this without design. If not, he must affect the character in order to succeed. Swift and Fontaine were humorists in character, and their writings are full of humour. Addison was not an humorist in character; and yet in his prose writings a most delicate and re­fined humour prevails. Arbuthnot exceeds them all in drollery and humorous painting; which shows a great genius, because, if I am not misinformed, he had nothing of this peculiarity in his character.

There remains to show, by examples, the manner of treating subjects so as to give them a ridiculous appearance.

Il ne dit jamais, je vous donne, mais, je vous prete le bon jour.


[Page 46]

I know him to be valiant.


I was told that by one that knows him better than you.


What's he?


Marry, he told me so himself; and he said, he car'd not who knew it.

Henry V. Skakespear.

He never broke any man's head but his own, and that was against a post when he was drunk.



Sententious Mirabell! pr'ythee don't look with that violent and inflexible wise face, like Solomon at the dividing of the child in an old tapestry hanging.

Way of the world.

‘A true critic in the perusal of a book, is like a dog at a feast, whose thoughts and stomach are wholly set upon what the guests fling away, and conse­quently is apt to snarl most when there are the few­est bones. Tale of a Tub.

In the following instances the ridicule is made to appear from the behaviour of the persons introduced.

[Page 47]

Te souvient-il, vicomte, de cette demi-lune, que nous emportâmes sur les ennemis au siege d'Arras?


Que veux tu dire avec ta demi-lune? c'etoit bien une lune toute entiere.

Moliere les Precieuses Ridicules, sc. 11.


I came yonder at Eaton to marry Mrs Anne Page; and she's a great lubberly boy.


Upon my life then you took the wrong.


What need you tell me that? I think so, when I took a boy for a girl: if I had been marry'd to him, for all he was in woman's apparel, I would not have had him.

Merry Wives of Windsor.


Your blessing, Sir,

Sir Sampson.

You've had it already, Sir: I think I sent it you to day in a bill for four thou­sand pound; a great deal of money, Brother Fore­sight.


Ay indeed, Sir Sampson, a great deal of money for a young man; I wonder what can he do with it.

Love for Love, act 2. sc. 7.


I nauseate walking; 'tis a country­diversion; I lothe the country, and every thing that relates to it.

Sir Wilful.
[Page 48]

Indeed! hah! look ye, look ye, you do? nay, 'tis like you may—here are choice of pastimes here in town, as plays and the like; that must be confess'd indeed.


Ah l'etourdie! I hate the town too.

Sir Wilful.

Dear heart, that's much—hah! that you should hate 'em both! hah! 'tis like you may; there are some can't relish the town, and o­thers can't away with the country—'tis like you may be one of those, Cousine.

Way of the world, act 4. sc. 4.

Lord Froth.

I assure you, Sir Paul, I laugh at no body's jest but my own, or a lady's: I assure you, Sir Paul.


How? how, my Lord? what, affront my wit! Let me perish, do I never say any thing worthy to be laugh'd at?

Lord Froth.

O foy, don't misapprehend me, I don't say so, for I often smile at your conceptions. But there is nothing more unbecoming a man of quality, than to laugh; 'tis such a vulgar expres­sion of the passion! every body can laugh. Then especially to laugh at the jest of an inferior person, or when any body else of the same quality does not laugh with one; ridiculous! To be pleas'd with what pleases the crowd! Now, when I laugh I always laugh alone.

Double Dealer, act 1. sc. 4.

[Page 49] So sharp-sighted is pride in blemishes, and so willing to be gratified, that it will take up with the very slightest improprie­ties; such as a blunder by a foreigner in speaking our language, especially if the blunder can bear a sense that reflects upon the speaker:


The young man is an honest man.


What shall de honest man do in my clo­set? dere is no honest man dat shall come in my closet.

Merry Wives of Windsor.

Love-speeches are finely ridiculed in the following passage.

Quoth he, My faith as adamantine,
As chains of destiny, I'll maintain;
True as Apollo ever spoke,
Or oracle from heart of oak;
And if you'll give my flame but vent,
Now in close hugger-mugger pent,
And shine upon me but benignly,
With that one, and that other pigsneye,
The sun and day shall sooner part,
Than love, or you, shake off my heart;
The sun that shall no more dispense
His own, but your bright influence:
[Page 50] I'll carve your name on barks of trees,
With true love knots, and flourishes;
That shall infuse eternal spring,
And everlasting flourishing:
Drink ev'ry letter on't in stum,
And make it brisk champaign become.
Where-e'er you tread, your foot shall set
The primrose and the violet;
All spices, perfumes, and sweet powders,
Shall borrow from your breath their odours;
Nature her charter shall renew
And take all lives of things from you;
The world depend upon your eye,
And when you frown upon it, die.
Only our loves shall still survive,
New worlds and natures to outlive;
And, like to herald's moons, remain
All crescents, without change or wane.
Hudibras, part 2. canto 1.

Irony turns things into ridicule in a pe­culiar manner. It consists in laughing at a man under disguise, by appearing to praise or speak well of him. Swift affords us ma­ny illustrious examples of this species of ri­dicule. Take the following example. ‘"By these methods, in a few weeks, there starts up many a writer, capable of managing the profoundest and most [Page 51] universal subjects. For what though his head be empty, provided his common­place book be full? And if you will bate him but the circumstances of method, and style, and grammar, and invention; allow him but the common privileges of transcribing from others, and digressing from himself, as often as he shall see oc­casion; he will desire no more ingre­dients towards fitting up a treatise that shall make a very comely figure on a bookseller's shelf, there to be preserved neat and clean, for a long eternity, ad­orned with the heraldry of its title, fairly inscribed on a label; never to be thumbed or greased by students, nor bound to e­verlasting chains of darkness in a libra­ry; but when the fullness of time is come, shall happily undergo the trial of purgatory, in order to ascend the sky*."’ The following passage from Arbuthnot is not less ironical. ‘"If the Reverend clergy showed more concern than others, I charitably impute it to their great charge of souls; and what confirmed me in this [Page 52] opinion was, that the degrees of appre­hension and terror could be distinguished to be greater or less, according to their ranks and degrees in the church*."’

A parody must be distinguished from every species of ridicule. It enlivens a gay subject by imitating some important inci­dent that is serious. It is ludicrous, and may be risible. But ridicule is not a ne­cessary ingredient. Take the following ex­amples, the first of which refers to an ex­pression of Moses.

The skilful nymph reviews her force with care:
Let spades be trumps! she said, and trumps they were.
Rape of the Lock, canto iii. 45.

The next is an imitation of Achilles's oath in Homer.

But by this lock, this sacred lock, I swear,
(Which never more shall join its parted hair,
[Page 53] Which never more its honours shall renew,
Clip'd from the lovely head where late it grew),
That while my nostrils draw the vital air,
This hand, which won it, shall for ever wear.
He spoke, and speaking, in proud triumph spread
The long-contended honours of her head.
Ibid. canto iv. 133.

The following imitates the history of A­gamemnon's sceptre in Homer.

Now meet thy fate, incens'd Belinda cry'd,
And drew a deadly bodkin from her side,
(The same, his ancient personage to deck,
Her great-great-grandsire wore about his neck,
In three seal-rings; which after, melted down,
Form'd a vast buckle for his widow's gown:
Her infant grandame's whistle next it grew,
The bells she jingled, and the whistle blew;
Then in a bodkin grac'd her mother's hairs,
Which long she wore, and now Belinda wears.)
Ibid. canto v. 87.

Ridicule, as observed above, is no neces­sary ingredient in a parody. But I did not intend to say, that there is any opposition betwixt them. A parody, no doubt, may be successfully employed to promote ridi­cule; [Page 54] witness the following example, in which the goddess of Dullness is addressed upon the subject of modern education.

Thou gav'st that ripeness, which so soon began,
And ceas'd so soon, he ne'er was boy nor man;
Through school and college, thy kind cloud o'er­cast,
Safe and unseen the young Aeneas past*;
Thence bursting glorious, all at once let down,
Stunn'd with his giddy larum half the town.
Dunciad, b. iv. 287.

The interposition of the gods in the man­ner of Homer and Virgil, ought to be confined to ludicrous subjects, which are much enlivened by such interposition han­dled in the form of a parody; witness the cave of Spleen, Rape of the Lock, canto 4.; the goddess of Discord; Lutrin, canto 1.; and the goddess of Indolence, canto 2.

Those who have a talent for ridicule, which is seldom united with a taste for de­licate and refined beauties, are quick-sight­ed in improprieties; and these they eagerly [Page 55] lay hold of, in order to gratify their favou­rite propensity. The persons galled have no other refuge but to maintain, that ridi­cule ought not to be applied to grave sub­jects. It is yielded, on the other hand, that subjects really grave and important, are by no means fit for ridicule: but then it is urged, that ridicule is the only proper test for discovering whether a subject be really grave, or be made so artificially by custom and fashion. This dispute has pro­duced a celebrated question, Whether ridi­cule be or be not a test of truth? I give this question a place here, because it tends to illustrate the nature of ridicule.

The question stated in accurate terms is, Whether the sense of ridicule be the proper test for distinguishing ridiculous objects from those that are not so? To answer this que­stion with precision, I must premise, that ridicule is not a subject of reasoning, but of sense or taste*. This being taken for grant­ed, I proceed thus. No person doubts that our sense of beauty is the true test of what [Page 56] is beautiful, and our sense of grandeur, of what is great or sublime. Is it more doubt­ful whether our sense of ridicule be the true test of what is ridiculous? It is not only the true test, but indeed the only test. For this is a subject that comes not, more than beauty or grandeur, under the province of reason. If any subject, by the influence of fashion or custom, have acquired a degree of veneration or esteem to which naturally it is not intitled, what are the proper means for wiping off the artificial colouring, and displaying the subject in its true light? Reasoning, as observed, cannot be applied. And therefore the only means is to judge by taste. The test of ridicule which separates it from its artificial connections, exposes it naked with all its native improprieties.

But it is urged, that the gravest and most serious matters may be set in a ridiculous light. Hardly so; for where an object is neither risible nor improper, it lies not open in any quarter to an attack from ridicule. But supposing the fact, I foresee not any harmful consequence. By the same sort of reasoning, a talent for wit ought to be con­demned, because it may be employed to [Page 57] burlesque a great or lofty subject. Such ir­regular use made of a talent for wit or ridi­cule, cannot long impose upon mankind. It cannot stand the test of correct and deli­cate taste; and truth will at last prevail even with the vulgar. To condemn a talent for ridicule because it may be perverted to wrong purposes, is not a little ridicu­lous. Could one forbear to smile, if a talent for reasoning were condemned be­cause it also may be perverted? And yet the conclusion in the latter case, would be not less just than in the former; per­haps more just, for no talent is so often perverted as that of reason.

We had best leave Nature to her own o­perations. The most valuable talents may be abused, and so may that of ridicule. Let us bring it under proper culture if we can, without endeavouring to pull it up by the root. Were we destitute of this test of truth, I know not what might be the consequen­ces: I see not what rule would be left us to prevent splendid trifles passing for matters of importance, show and form for substance, and superstition or enthusiasm for pure reli­gion.


WIT is a quality of certain thoughts and expressions. The term is never applied to an action or a passion, and as little to an external object.

However difficult it may be in every par­ticular instance to distinguish a witty thought or expression from one that is not so, yet in general it may be laid down, that the term wit is appropriated to such thoughts and ex­pressions as are ludicrous, and also occasion some degree of surprise by their singularity. Wit also in a figurative sense expresses that talent which some men have of inventing ludicrous thoughts or expressions. We say commonly, a witty man, or a man of wit.

Wit in its proper sense, as suggested a­bove, is distinguishable into two kinds; wit in the thought, and wit in the words or ex­pression. Again, wit in the thought is of [Page 59] two kinds; ludicrous images, and ludicrous combinations of things that have little or no natural relation.

Ludicrous images that occasion surprise by their singularity, as having little or no foun­dation in nature, are fabricated by the ima­gination. And the imagination is well qua­lified for the office; being of all our facul­ties the most active, and the least under re­straint. Take the following example.


You knew (none so well, none so well as you) of my daughter's flight.


That's certain; I, for my part, knew the tailor that made the wings she flew withal.

Merchant of Venice, act 3. sc. 1.

The image here is undoubtedly witty. It is ludicrous: and it must occasion surprise; for having no natural foundation, it is altoge­ther unexpected.

The other branch of wit in the thought, is that only which is taken notice of by Ad­dison, following Locke, who defines it ‘"to lie in the assemblage of ideas; and put­ting those together with quickness and variety, wherein can be found any resem­blance [Page 60] or congruity, thereby to make up pleasant pictures and agreeable visions in the fancy*."’ It may be defined more curtly, and perhaps more accurately, ‘"A junction of things by distant and fanciful relations, which surprise because they are unexpected."’ The following is a pro­per example.

We grant although he had much wit,
H' was very shie of using it,
As being loth to wear it out;
And therefore bore it not about,
Unless on holidays, or so,
As men their best apparel do.
Hudibras, canto 1.

Wit is of all the most elegant recreation. The image enters the mind with gaiety, and gives a sudden flash which is extremely plea­sant. Wit thereby gently elevates with­out straining, raises mirth without dissolute­ness, and relaxes while it entertains.

Wit in the expression, commonly called a play of words, being a bastard sort of wit, [Page 61] is reserved for the last place. I proceed to examples of wit in the thought. And first of ludicrous images.

Falstaff, speaking of his taking Sir John Colevile of the Dale:

Here he is, and here I yield him; and I be­seech your Grace, let it be book'd with the rest of this day's deeds; or, by the Lord, I will have it in a particular ballad else, with mine own picture on the top of it, Colevile kissing my foot: to the which course if I be inforc'd, if you do not all shew like gilt twopences to me; and I, in the clear sky of fame, o'er-shine you as much as the full moon doth the cinders of the element, which shew like pins' heads to her; believe not the word of the Noble. Therefore let me have right, and let desert mount.

Second part, Henry IV. act 4. sc. 6.

‘I knew, when seven justices could not take up a quarrel, but when the parties were met them­selves, one of them thought but of an if; as, if you said so, then I said so; and they shook hands, and swore brothers. Your if is the only peace­maker; much virtue is in if. Shakespear. [Page 62] For there is not through all nature, another so callous and insensible a member as the world's posteriors, whether you apply to it the toe or the birch. Preface to a Tale of a tub. ‘The war hath introduced abundance of polysyl­lables, which will never be able to live many more campaigns. Speculations, operations, prelimina­ries, ambassadors, palisadoes, communication, cir­cumvallation, battalions, as numerous as they are, if they attack us too frequently in our coffeehouses, we shall certainly put them to flight, and cut off the rear. Tatler, No 230.

Speaking of Discord, ‘"She never went abroad, but she brought home such a bundle of mon­strous lies, as would have amazed any mor­tal, but such as knew her; of a whale that had swallowed a fleet of ships; of the lions being let out of the tower to destroy the Protestant reli­gion; of the Pope's being seen in a brandy-shop at Wapping,"’ &c.

History of John Bull, part 1. ch. 16.

The other branch of wit in the thought, viz. ludicrous combinations and oppositions, may be traced through various ramifica­tions. [Page 63] And, first, fanciful causes assigned that have no natural relation to the effects produced.

Fare you well, Falstaff; I, in my condition,
Shall better speak of you than you deserve.

I would you had but the wit; 'twere better than your dukedom. Good faith, this same young sober-blooded boy doth not love me; nor a man cannot make him laugh; but that's no marvel, he drinks no wine. There's never any of these demure boys come to any proof; for thin drink doth so over-cool their blood, and making many fish-meals, that they fall into a kind of male green­sickness; and then, when they marry, they get wenches. They are generally fools and cowards; which some of us should be too, but for inflamma­tion. A good sherris-sack hath a twofold operation in it; it ascends me into the brain; dries me there all the foolish, dull, and crudy vapours which en­viron it; makes it apprehensive, quick, forgetive, full of nimble, fiery, and delectable shapes; which deliver'd o'er to the voice, the tongue, which is the birth, becomes excellent wit. The second pro­perty of your excellent sherris, is, the warming of the blood; which before cold and settled, left the liver white and pale; which is the badge of pu­sillanimity [Page 64] and cowardice: but the sherris warms it, and makes it course from the inwards, to the parts extreme; it illuminateth the face, which, as a beacon, gives warning to all the rest of this little kingdom, man, to arm; and then the vital com­moners and inland petty spirits muster me all to their captain, the heart; who, great, and puff'd up with this retinue, doth any deed of courage: and this valour comes of sherris. So that skill in the weapon is nothing without sack, for that sets it a-work; and learning a mere hoard of gold kept by a devil, till sack commences it, and sets it in act and use. Hereof comes it, that Prince Harry is valiant; for the cold blood he did natu­rally inherit of his father, he hath, like lean, steril, and bare land, manured, husbanded, and till'd, with excellent endeavour of drinking good and good store of fertil sherris, that he is become very hot and valiant. If I had a thousand sons, the first human principle I would teach them, should be to forswear thin potations, and to addict themselves to sack.

Second part of Henry IV. act. 4. sc. 7.

The trenchant blade, toledo trusty,
For want of fighting was grown rusty,
And ate into itself, for lack
Of some body to hew and hack.
[Page 65] The peaceful scabbard where it dwelt,
The rancor of its edge had felt:
For of the lower end two handful,
It had devoured, 'twas so manful;
And so much scorn'd to lurk in case,
As if it durst not shew its face.
Hudibras, canto 1.

Speaking of physicians, ‘Le bon de cette profession est, qu'il y a parmi les morts une honnêteté, une discrétion la plus grande du monde; jamais on n'en voit se plaindre du médicin qui l'a tué. Le medicin malgré lui.

Admirez les bontez, admirez les tendresses,
De ces vieux esclaves du sort.
Ils ne sont jamais las d'aquérir des richesses,
Pour ceux qui souhaitent leur mort.


Lard, he has so pester'd me with flames and stuff—I think I shan't endure the sight of a fire this twelvemonth.

Old Bachelor, act 2. sc. 8.

To account for effects by such fantastical causes, being highly ludicrous, is quite im­proper [Page 66] in any serious composition. There­fore the following passage from Cowley, in his poem on the death of Sir Henry Wooton, is in a bad taste.

He did the utmost bounds of Knowledge find,
He found them not so large as was his mind.
But, like the brave Pellaean youth, did moan,
Because that Art had no more worlds than one.
And when he saw that he through all had past,
He dy'd, lest he should idle grow at last.

Fanciful reasoning,


Imbowell'd!—if thou imbowel me to day, I'll give you leave to powder me, and eat me to-morrow! 'Sblood, 'twas time to counterfeit, or that hot termagant Scot had paid me scot and lot too. Counterfeit? I lie, I am no counterfeit; to die is to be a counterfeit; for he is but the counterfeit of a man, who hath not the life of a man: but to counterfeit dying, when a man there­by liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life, indeed.

First Part Henry IV. act 1. sc. 10.


And the more pity that great folk should [Page 67] have countenance in this world to drown or hang themselves, more than their even Christian.

Hamlet, Act 5. sc. 1.


Will you have me, Lady?


No, my Lord, unless I might have another for working days. Your Grace is too costly to wear every day.

Much ado about nothing, act 2. sc. 5.


I shall be saved by my husband; he hath made me a Christian.


Truly the more to blame he; we were Christians enough before, e'en as many as could well live by one another: this making of Christians will raise the price of hogs; if we grow all to be pork-eaters, we shall not have a rasher on the coals for money.

Merchant of Venice, act 3. sc. 6.

In western clime there is a town,
To those that dwell therein well known;
Therefore there needs no more be said here,
We unto them refer our reader:
For brevity is very good,
When w'are, or are not understood.
Hudibras, canto 1.

[Page 68]
But Hudibras gave him a twitch,
As quick as lightning, in the breech,
Just in the place where honour's lodg'd,
As wise philosophers have judg'd;
Because a kick in that part, more
Hurts honour, than deep wounds before.
Ibid. canto 3.

Ludicrous junction of small things with great, as of equal importance.

This day black omens threat the brightest fair
That e'er deserv'd a watchful spirit's care;
Some dire disaster, or by force, or slight;
But what, or where, the fates have wrapt in night:
Whether the nymph shall break Diana's law;
Or some frail china jar receive a flaw;
Or stain her honour, or her new brocade;
Forget her pray'rs, or miss a masquerade;
Or lose her heart, or necklace, at a ball;
Or whether Heav'n has doom'd that Shock must fall.
Rape of the Lock, canto ii. 101.

One speaks the glory of the British Queen,
And one describes a charming Indian screen.
Ibid. canto iii. 13.

[Page 69]
Then flash'd the living lightning from her eyes,
And screams of horror rend th' affrighted skies.
Nor louder shrieks to pitying heav'n are cast,
When husbands, or when lapdogs breathe their last;
Or when rich china vessels fall'n from high,
In glitt'ring dust, and painted fragments lie!
Ibid. canto iii. 155.

Not youthful kings in battle seiz'd alive,
Not scornful virgins who their charms survive,
Not ardent lovers robb'd of all their bliss,
Not ancient ladies when refus'd a kiss,
Not tyrants fierce that unrepenting die,
Not Cynthia when her manteau's pinn'd awry,
E'er felt such rage, resentment, and despair,
As thou, sad virgin! for thy ravish'd hair.
Ibid. canto iv. 3.

Joining things that in appearance are op­posite. As for example, where Sir Roger de Coverley, in the Spectator, speaking of his widow, ‘"That he would have given her a coal-pit to have kept her in clean linen; and that her finger should have sparkled with one hundred of his richest acres."’

Premisses that promise much and per­form nothing. Cicero upon this article says, [Page 70] "Sed scitis esse notissimum ridiculi genus, cum aliud expectamus, aliud dicitur: hic nobismetipsis noster error risum mo­vet*."’


—With a good leg and a good foot, uncle, and money enough in his purse, such a man would win any woman in the world, if he could get her good-will.

Much ado about nothing, act 2. sc. 1.


I have a good eye, uncle, I can see a church by day-light.


Le medecin que l'on m'indique
Sait le Latin, le Grec, l'Hebreu,
Les belles lettres, la physique,
La chimie et la botanique.
Chacun lui donne son aveu:
Il auroit aussi ma pratique;
Mais je veux vivre encore un peu.


Vingt fois le jour le bon Grégoire
A soin de fermer son armoire.
[Page 71] De quoi pensez vous qu'il a peur?
Belle demande! Qu'un voleur
Trouvant une facile proie,
Ne lui ravisse tout son bien.
Non; Gregoire a peur qu'on ne voie
Que dan son armoire il n'a rien.


L'athsmatique Damon a cru que l'air des champs
Repareroit en lui le ravage des ans,
Il s'est fait, a grands fraix, transporter en Bre­tagne.
Or voiez ce qu'a fait l'air natal qu'il a pris!
Damon seroit mort à Paris:
Damon est mort à la campagne.

Having discussed wit in the thought, we proceed to what is verbal only, commonly called a play of words. This sort of wit de­pends for the most part upon chusing words that have different significations. By this artifice, hocus-pocus tricks are played in language; and thoughts plain and simple take on a very different appearance. Play is necessary for man, in order to refresh him after labour; and accordingly man loves play. He even relisheth a play of [Page 72] words; and it is happy for us, that words can be employed, not only for useful pur­poses, but also for our amusement. This amusement accordingly, though humble and low, is relished by some at all times, and by all at some times, in order to un­bend the mind.

It is remarkable, that this low species of wit, has, at one time or other, made a fi­gure in most civilized nations, and has gra­dually gone into disrepute. So soon as a language is formed into a system, and the meaning of words are ascertained with tole­rable accuracy, opportunity is afforded for expressions, which, by the double meaning of some words, give a familiar thought the appearance of being new. And the pene­tration of the reader or hearer, is gratified in detecting the true sense disguised under the double meaning. That this sort of wit was in England deemed a reputable amusement, during the reigns of Elisabeth and James I. is vouched by the works of Shakespear, and even by the writings of grave divines. But it cannot have any any long endurance: for as language ripens, and the meaning of [Page 73] words is more and more ascertained, words held to be synonymous diminish daily; and when those that remain have been more than once employed, the pleasure vanisheth with the novelty.

I proceed to examples, which, as in the former case, shall be distributed into differ­ent classes.

A seeming resemblance from the double meaning of a word.

Beneath this stone my wife doth lie:
She's now at rest, and so am I.

A seeming contrast from the same cause, termed a verbal antithesis, which hath no despicable effect in ludicrous subjects.

Whilst Iris his cosmetic wash would try
To make her bloom revive, and lovers die.
Some ask for charms, and others philters chuse,
To gain Corinna, and their quartans lose,
Dispensary, canto 2.

And how frail nymphs, oft by abortion, aim
To lose a substance, to preserve a name.
Ibid. canto 3.

[Page 74] Other seeming connections from the same cause.

Will you employ your conqu'ring sword,
To break a fiddle and your word.
Hudibras, canto 2.

To whom the knight with comely grace
Put off his hat to put his case.
Hudibras, Part 3. canto 3.

Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom
Of foreign tyrants, and of nymphs at home;
Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey,
Does sometimes counsel take—and sometimes tea.
Rape of the Lock, canto 3. l. 5.

O'er their quietus where fat judges dose,
And lull their cough and conscience to repose.
Dispensary, canto 1.

Speaking of Prince Eugene. ‘"This General is a great taker of snuff as well as of towns."’

Pope, Key to the Lock.

‘Exul mentisque domusque. Metamorphoses, lib. ix. 409.

[Page 75] A seeming inconsistency from the same cause. ‘Hic quiescit qui nunquam quievit.’ Again,

Quel âge a cette Iris, dont on fait tant de bruit?
Me demandoit Cliton n'aguere.
Il faut, dis-je, vous satisfaire,
Elle a vingt ans le jour, et cinquante ans la nuit.


So like the chances are of love and war,
That they alone in this distinguish'd are;
In love the victors from the vanguish'd fly,
They fly that wound, and they pursue that die.

What new-found witchcraft was in thee,
With thine own cold to kindle me?
Strange art; like him that should devise
To make a burning-glass of ice.

Wit of this kind is unsuitable in a serious poem; witness the following line in Pope's [Page 76] Elegy to the memory of an unfortunate lady:

Cold is that breast which warm'd the world before.

This sort of writing is finely burlesqued by Swift:

Her hands, the softest ever felt,
Though cold would burn, though dry would melt.
Strephon and Chole.

Taking a word in a different sense from what is meant, comes under wit, because it occasions some slight degree of surprise.


I may sit in a corner, and cry Heigh ho! for a husband.


Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.


I would rather have one of your fa­ther's getting: hath your Grace ne'er a brother like you? Your father got excellent husbands, if a maid could come by them.

Much ado about nothing, act 2. sc. 5.


My honest lads, I will tell you what I am about.


Two yards and more.


No quips now, Pistol: indeed, I am [Page 77] in the waste two yards about; but I am now about no waste; I am about thrift.

Merry wives of Windsor, act 1. sc. 7.

Lo. Sands.
—By your leave, sweet ladies,
If I chance to talk a little wild, forgive me:
I had it from my father.
Anne Bullen.

Was he mad, Sir?

O, very mad, exceeding mad, in love too;
But he would bite none—
K. Henry VIII.

An assertion that bears a double mean­ing, one right, one wrong; but so connect­ed with other matters as to direct us to the wrong meaning. This species of bastard wit is distinguished from all others by the name pun. For example,

—Sweet Helen, I must woo you,
To help unarm our Hector: his stubborn buckles,
With these your white inchanting fingers touch'd,
Shall more obey, than to the edge of steel,
Or force of Greekish sinews: you shall do more
Than all the island kings, disarm great Hector.
Troilus and Cressida, act 3. sc. 2.

[Page 78] The pun is in the close. The word disarm has a double meaning. It signifies to take off a man's armour, and also to subdue him in fight. We are directed to the latter sense by the context. But with regard to Helen the word holds only true in the former sense. I go on with other examples.

Esse nihil dicis quicquid petis, improbe Cinna:
Si nil, Cinna, petis, nil tibi, Cinna, nego.
Martial, l. 3. epigr. 61.

Jocondus geminum imposuit tibi, Sequana, pontem;
Hunc tu jure potes dicere pontificem.

N. B. Jocondus was a monk.

Chief Justice.

Well! the truth is, Sir John, you live in great infamy.


He that buckles him in my belt, can­not live in less.

Chief Justice.

Your means are very slender, and your waste is great.


I would it were otherwise: I would my means were greater, and my waste slenderer.

Second part, Henry IV. act 1. sc. 5.


I pray you bear with me, I can go no further.

[Page 79]

For my part, I had rather bear with you than bear you: yet I should bear no cross if I did bear you; for I think you have no money in your purse.

As you like it, act 2. sc. 4.

He that imposes an oath makes it,
Not he that for convenience takes it;
Then how can any man be said,
To break an oath he never made?
Hudibras, part 2. canto 2.

The seventh satire of the first book of Ho­race, is purposely contrived to introduce at the close a most execrable pun. Talking of some infamous wretch whose name was Rex Rupilius.

Persius exclamat, Per magnos, Brute, deos te
Oro, qui reges consueris tollere, cur non
Hunc regem jugulas? Operum hoc, mihi crede, tuorum est.

Though playing with words is a mark of a mind at ease, and disposed for any sort of amusement, we must not thence conclude that playing with words is always ludicrous. Words are so intimately connected with [Page 80] thought, that if the subject be really grave, it will not appear ludicrous even in this fan­tastic dress. I am, however, far from re­commending it in any serious performance. On the contrary, the discordance betwixt the thought and expression must be disagree­able; witness the following specimen.

He hath abandoned his physicians, Madam, un­der whose practices he hath persecuted time with hope: and finds no other advantage in the process, but only the losing of hope by time.

All's well that ends well, act 1. sc. 1.
K. Henry.
O my poor kingdom, sick with civil blows!
When that my care could not with-hold thy riots,
What wilt thou do when riot is thy care?
Second part, K. Henry IV.

A smart repartee may be considered as a species of wit. A certain petulant Greek, objecting to Anacharsis that he was a Scy­thian: True, says Anacharsis, my country disgraces me, but you disgrace your coun­try.

CHAP. XIV. Custom and Habit.

INquiring into the nature of man as a sensitive being, and finding him af­fected in a high degree with novelty, would any one conjecture that he is equally affected with custom? Yet these frequently take place, not only in the same person, but even with relation to the same subject: when new, it is inchanting; familiarity renders it indifferent; and custom, after a longer familiarity, makes it again desirable. Human nature, diversified with many and various springs of action, is wonderfully, and, indulging the expression, intricately constructed.

Custom hath such influence upon many of our feelings, by warping and varying them, that we must attend to its operations if we would be acquainted with human na­ture. [Page 82] This subject, in itself obscure, has been much neglected; and to give a com­plete analysis of it will be no easy task. I pretend only to touch it cursorily; hoping, however, that what is here laid down, will dispose more diligent inquirers to attempt further discoveries.

Custom respects the action, habit the actor. By custom we mean, a frequent re­iteration of the same act; and by habit, the effect that custom has on the mind or body. This effect may be either active, witness the dexterity produced by custom in performing certain exercises; or passive, as when, by cu­stom, a peculiar connection is formed betwixt a man and some agreeable object, which ac­quires thereby a greater power to raise emo­tions in him than it hath naturally. Active habits come not under the present underta­king; and therefore I confine myself to those that are passive.

This subject is thorny and intricate. Some pleasures are fortified by custom; and yet custom begets familiarity, and consequently [Page 83] indifference*. In many instances, satiety and disgust are the consequences of reitera­tion. Again, though custom blunts the edge of distress and of pain; yet the want of any thing to which we have long been ac­customed, is a sort of torture. A clue to guide us through all the intricacies of this labyrinth, would be an acceptable present.

Whatever be the cause, it is an establish­ed fact, that we are much influenced by custom. It hath an effect upon our plea­sures, upon our actions, and even upon our thoughts and sentiments. Habit makes no figure during the vivacity of youth; in middle age it gains ground; and in old age it governs without control. In that period of life, generally speaking, we eat at a cer­tain hour, take exercise at a certain hour, go to rest at a certain hour, all by the direc­tion of habit. Nay a particular seat, table, bed, comes to be essential. And a habit in [Page 84] any of these, cannot be contradicted without uneasiness.

Any slight or moderate pleasure frequent­ly reiterated for a long time, forms a con­nection betwixt us and the thing that causes the pleasure. This connection, termed ha­bit, has the effect to raise our desire or ap­petite for that thing when it returns not as usual. During the course of enjoyment, the pleasure grows insensibly stronger till a habit be established; at which time the pleasure is at its height. It continues not however stationary. The same customary reiteration which carried it to its height, brings it down again by insensible degrees, even lower than it was at first. But of this circumstance afterward. What at present we have in view, is to prove by experiments, that those things which at first are but mo­derately agreeable, are the aptest to be­come habitual. Spirituous liquors, at first scarce agreeable, readily produce an habi­tual appetite; and custom prevails so far, as even to make us fond of things originally disagreeable, such as coffee, assa-foetida, and [Page 85] tobacco. This is pleasantly illustrated by Congreve:


For a passionate lover, methinks you are a man somewhat too discerning in the failings of your mistress.


And for a discerning man, somewhat too passionate a lover; for I like her with all her faults; nay like her for her faults. Her follies are so natural, or so artful, that they become her; and those affectations which in another woman would be odious, serve but to make her more agree­able. I'll tell thee, Fainall, she once us'd me with that insolence, that in revenge I took her to pieces, sifted her, and separated her failings; I study'd 'em, and got 'em by rote. The catalogue was so large, that I was not without hopes, one day or other, to hate her heartily: to which end I so us'd myself to think of 'em, that at length, con­trary to my design and expectation, they gave me every hour less and less disturbance; till in a few days it became habitual to me, to remember 'em without being displeased. They are now grown as familiar to me as my own frailties; and in all probability, in a little time longer, I shall like 'em as well.

The way of the world, act 1. sc. 3.

[Page 86] A walk upon the quarterdeck, though in­tolerably confined, becomes however so a­greeable by custom, that a sailor in his walk on shore, confines himself commonly with­in the same bounds. I knew a man who had relinquished the sea for a country-life. In the corner of his garden he reared an ar­tificial mount with a level summit, resem­bling most accurately a quarterdeck, not only in shape but in size; and this was his choice walk. Play or gaming, at first bare­ly amusing by the occupation it affords, be­comes in time extremely agreeable; and is frequently prosecuted with avidity, as if it were the chief business of life. The same observation is applicable to the pleasures of the internal senses, those of knowledge and virtue in particular. Children have scarce any sense of these pleasures; and men very little, who are in the state of nature without culture. Our taste for virtue and know­ledge improves slowly; but is capable of growing stronger than any other appetite in human nature.

To introduce a habit, frequency of acts is not alone sufficient: length of time is al­so [Page 87] necessary. The quickest succession of acts in a short time, is not sufficient; nor a slow succession in the longest time. The effect must be produced by a moderate soft action, and a long series of easy touches removed from each other by short intervals. Nor are these sufficient, without regularity in the time, place, and other circumstances of the action. The more uniform any operation is, the sooner it becomes habitual; and this holds equally in a passive habit. Variety in any remarkable degree, prevents the effect. Thus any particular food will scarce ever become habitual, where the manner of dressing is varied. The circumstances then requisite to augment any pleasure and at the long run to form a habit, are weak uniform acts, reiterated during a long course of time without any considerable interruption. Eve­ry agreeable cause which operates in this manner, will grow habitual.

Affection and aversion, as distinguished from passion on the one hand, and on the other from original disposition, are in rea­lity habits respecting particular objects, ac­quired in the manner above set forth. The [Page 88] pleasure of social intercourse with any per­son, must originally be faint, and frequently reiterated, in order to establish the habit of affection. Affection thus generated, whe­ther it be friendship or love, seldom swells into any tumultuous or vigorous pas­sion; but is however the strongest cement that can bind together two individuals of the human species. In like manner, a slight degree of disgust often reiterated with any degree of regularity, grows into the habit of aversion, which generally subsists for life.

Those objects of taste that are the most agreeable, are so far from having a tenden­cy to become habitual, that too great in­dulgence fails not to produce satiety and disgust. No man contracts a habit of ta­king sugar, honey, or sweet-meats, as he doth of tobacco:

Dulcia non ferimus: succo renovamur amaro.
Ovid. art. Amand. l. 3.

Insipido è quel dolce, che condito
Non è di qualche amaro, e tosto satia.
Aminta di Tasso.

[Page 89]
These violent delights have violent ends,
And in their triumph die. The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in its own deliciousness,
And in the taste confounds the appetite;
Therefore love mod'rately, long love doth so:
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.
Romeo and Juliet, act 2. sc. 6.

The same holds in the causes of all violent pleasures: these causes are not naturally susceptible of habit. Great passions sud­denly raised are incompatible with a habit of any sort. In particular they never pro­duce affection or aversion. A man who at first sight falls violently in love, has a strong desire of enjoyment, but no affection for the woman*. A man who is surprised [Page 90] with an unexpected favour, burns for an opportunity to exert his gratitude, without having any affection for his benefactor. Neither does desire of vengeance for an a­trocious injury involve aversion.

It is perhaps not easy to say why mode­rate pleasures gather strength by custom. But two causes concur to prevent this effect [Page 91] in the more intense pleasures. These, by an original law in our nature, increase quickly to their full growth, and decay with no less precipitation*; and custom is too slow in its operation to overcome this law. Another cause is not less powerful. The mind is exhausted with pleasure as well as with pain. Exquisite pleasure is ex­tremely fatiguing; occasioning, as a natu­ralist would say, great expence of animal spirits. And therefore, of such the mind cannot bear so frequent gratification as to superinduce a habit. If the thing which raises the pleasure return before the mind have recovered its tone and relish, disgust ensues instead of pleasure.

A habit never fails to admonish us of the wonted time of gratification, by raising a pain for want of the object, and a desire to have it. The pain of want is always first felt; the desire naturally follows; and upon [Page 92] presenting the object, both vanish instan­taneously. Thus a man accustomed to to­bacco, feels, at the end of the usual inter­val, a confused pain of want, which in its first appearance points at nothing in parti­cular, though it soon settles upon its accu­stomed object. The same may be observed in persons addicted to drinking, who are often in an uneasy restless state before they think of their bottle. In pleasures indul­ged regularly and at equal intervals, the appetite, remarkably obsequious to custom, returns regularly with the usual time of gra­tification; and a sight of the object in the interim, has scarce any power to move it. This pain of want arising from habit, seems directly opposite to that of satiety. Singular it must appear, that frequency of gratifica­tion should produce effects so opposite as are the pains of excess and of want.

The appetites that respect the preserva­tion and propagation of our species, are at­tended with a pain of want similar to that occasioned by habit. Hunger and thirst are uneasy sensations of want, which al­ways precede the desire of eating or drink­ing: [Page 93] and a pain for want of carnal enjoy­ment precedes the desire of a proper object. The pain being thus felt independent of an object, cannot be cured but by gratifi­cation. An ordinary passion, in which de­sire precedes the pain of want, is in a differ­ent condition. It is never felt but while the object is in view; and therefore by remo­ving the object out of thought, it vanisheth with its desire and pain of want*.

These natural appetites above mentioned, differ from habit in the following particular, They have an undetermined direction to­ward all objects of gratification in general; whereas an habitual appetite is directed upon a particular object. The attachment we have by habit to a particular woman, differs widely from the natural passion which comprehends the whole sex; and the habitual relish for a particular dish, is far from being the same with a vague appetite for food. Notwithstanding this difference, it is still remarkable, that nature hath in­forced the gratification of certain natural [Page 94] appetites essential to the species, by a pain of the same sort with that which habit produ­ceth.

The pain of habit is less under our power, than any other pain for want of gratification. Hunger and thirst are more easily endured, especially at first, than an unusual intermis­sion of any habitual pleasure. We often hear persons declaring, they would forego sleep or food, rather than snuff or any other habitual trifle. We must not however con­clude, that the gratification of an habitual appetite affords the same delight with the gratification of one that is natural. Far from it: the pain of want only is greater.

The slow and reiterated acts that produce a habit, strengthen the mind to enjoy the habitual pleasure in greater quantity and more frequency than originally; and by this means a habit of intemperate gratification is often formed. After unbounded acts of in­temperance, the habitual relish is soon resto­red, and the pain for want of enjoyment re­turns with fresh vigor.

The causes of the pleasant emotions hi­therto in view, are either an individual, such [Page 95] as a companion, a certain dwelling-place, certain amusements, &c.; or a particular species, such as coffee, mutton, or any par­ticular food. But habit is not confined to these. A constant train of trifling diver­sions, may form such a habit in the mind, as that it cannot be easy a moment without amusement. Variety in the objects prevents a habit as to any one in particular; but as the train is uniform with respect to amuse­ment in general, the habit is formed accor­dingly; and this sort of habit may be deno­minated a generic habit, in opposition to the former, which may be called a specific habit. A habit of a town-life, of country-sports, of solitude, of reading, or of business, where sufficiently varied, are instances of generic habits. It ought to be remarked, that eve­ry specific habit hath a mixture of the ge­neric. The habit of one particular sort of food, makes the taste agreeable; and we are fond of this taste where-ever found. A man deprived of an habitual object, takes up with what most resembles it: deprived of tobacco, any bitter herb will do, rather than want. The habit of drinking punch, [Page 96] makes wine a good resource. A man ac­customed to the sweet society and comforts of matrimony, being unhappily deprived of his beloved object, inclines the sooner to a second choice. In general, the quality which the most affects us in an habitual ob­ject, produceth, when we are deprived of it, a strong appetite for that quality in any other object.

The reasons are assigned above, why the causes of intense pleasure become not readi­ly habitual. But now I must observe, that these reasons conclude only against specific habits. With regard to any particular ob­ject that is the cause of a weak pleasure, a habit is formed by frequency and uniformi­ty of reiteration, which in the case of an in­tense pleasure cannot obtain without satiety and disgust. But it is remarkable, that sa­tiety and disgust have no effect, except as to that thing which occasions them. A sur­feit of honey produceth not a loathing of su­gar; and intemperance with one woman, produceth no disrelish of the same pleasure with others. Hence it is easy to account for a generic habit in any strong pleasure. [Page 97] The disgust of intemperance, is confined to the object by which it is produced. The delight we had in the gratification of the ap­petite, inflames the imagination, and makes us, with avidity, search for the same gratifi­cation in whatever other object it can be found. And thus frequency and uniformi­ty in gratifying the same passion upon dif­ferent objects, produceth at the longrun a habit. In this manner, a man acquires an habitual delight in high and poignant sauces, rich dress, fine equipage, crowds of compa­ny, and in whatever is commonly termed pleasure. There concurs at the same time to introduce this habit, a peculiarity obser­ved above, that reiteration of acts enlarges the capacity of the mind, to admit a more plentiful gratification than originally, with regard to frequency as well as quantity.

Hence it appears, that though a specific habit can only take place in the case of a moderate pleasure, yet that a generic habit may be formed with respect to every sort of pleasure, moderate or immoderate, that can be gratified by a variety of objects indiffer­ently. The only difference is, that any par­ticular [Page 98] object which causes a weak pleasure, runs naturally into a specific habit; whereas a particular object that causes an intense pleasure, is altogether incapable of such a habit. In a word, it is but in singular cases that a moderate pleasure produces a generic habit: an intense pleasure, on the other hand, cannot produce any other habit.

The appetites that respect the preservation and propagation of the species, are formed into habit in a peculiar manner. The time as well as measure of their gratification, are much under the power of custom; which, by introducing a change upon the body, oc­casions a proportional change in the appe­tites. Thus, if the body be gradually form­ed to a certain quantity of food at regu­lar times, the appetite is regulated accor­dingly; and the appetite is again changed when a different habit of body is introdu­ced by a different practice. Here it would seem, that the change is not made upon the mind, which is commonly the case in passive habits, but only upon the body.

When rich food is brought down by in­gredients of a plainer taste, the composition [Page 99] is susceptible of a specific habit. Thus the sweet taste of sugar, rendered less poignant in a mixture, may, in course of time, pro­duce a specific habit for such mixture. As moderate pleasures, by becoming more in­tense, tend to generic habits; so intense pleasures, by becoming more moderate, tend to specific habits.

The beauty of the human figure, by a special recommendation of nature, appears to us supreme, amid the great variety of beauteous forms bestowed upon animals. The various degrees in which individuals enjoy this property, render it an object sometimes of a moderate sometimes of an intense passion. The moderate passion, admitting frequent reiteration without dimi­nution, and occupying the mind without exhausting it, becomes gradually stronger till it settle in a habit. So true this is, that instances are not wanting, of an ugly face, at first disagreeable, afterward rendered in­different by familiarity, and at the longrun agreeable. On the other hand, consum­mate beauty, at the very first view, fills the mind so as to admit no increase. En­joyment [Page 100] in this case lessens the pleasure*; and if often repeated, ends commonly in satiety and disgust. Constant experi­ence shows, that the emotions created by great beauty become weaker by fami­liarity. The impressions made succes­sively by such an object, strong at first and lessening by degrees, constitute a series opposite to that of the weak and increasing emotions, which grow into a specific habit. But the mind, when accustomed to beauty, contracts a relish for it in general, though often repelled from particular objects by the pain of satiety. Thus a generic habit is formed, of which inconstancy in love is the necessary consequence. For a generic habit, comprehending every beautiful object, is an invincible obstruction to a specific habit, which is confined to one.

But a matter which is of great import­ance to the youth of both sexes, deserves more than a cursory view. Though the pleasant emotion of beauty differs widely from the corporeal appetite, yet both may [Page 101] concur upon the same object. When this is the case, they inflame the imagination; and produce a very strong complex pas­sion*, which is incapable of increase, be­cause the mind as to pleasure is limited ra­ther more than as to pain. Enjoyment in this case must be exquisite, and therefore more apt to produce satiety than in any o­ther case whatever. This is a never-failing effect, where consummate beauty on the one side, meets with a warm imagination and great sensibility on the other. What I am here explaining, is the naked truth without exaggeration. They must be in­sensible upon whom this doctrine makes no impression; and it deserves well to be pon­dered by the young and the amorous, who in forming a society which is not dissolvable, are too often blindly impelled by the ani­mal pleasure merely, inflamed by beauty. It may indeed happen after this pleasure is gone, and go it must with a swift pace, that a new connection is formed upon more dignified and more lasting principles. But [Page 102] this is a dangerous experiment. For even supposing good sense, good temper, and in­ternal merit of every sort, which is a very favourable supposition, yet a new connection upon these qualifications is rarely formed. It generally or rather always happens, that such qualifications, the only solid foundation of an indissoluble connection, are rendered altogether invisible by satiety of enjoyment creating disgust.

One effect of custom, different from any that have been explained, must not be o­mitted, because it makes a great figure in human nature. Custom augments mode­rate pleasures, and diminishes those that are intense. It has a different effect with re­spect to pain; for it blunts the edge of every sort of pain and distress great and small. Uninterrupted misery therefore is attended with one good effect. If its tor­ments be incessant, custom hardens us to bear them.

It is extremely curious, to remark the gradual changes that are made in forming habits. Moderate pleasures are augmented gradually by reiteration till they become [Page 103] habitual; and then are at their height. But they are not long stationary; for from that point they gradually decay till they vanish altogether. The pain occasioned by the want of gratification, runs a very differ­ent course. This pain increases uniformly; and at last becomes extreme, when the pleasure of gratification is reduced to nothing.

—It so falls out
That what we have we prize not to the worth,
Whiles we enjoy it; but being lack'd and lost,
Why then we rack the value; then we find
The virtue that possession would not shew us
Whilst it was ours.
Much ado about nothing, act 4. sc. 2.

The effect of custom with relation to a spe­cific habit, is displayed through all its varie­ties in the use of tobacco. The taste of this plant is at first extremely unpleasant. Our disgust lessens gradually till it vanish al­together; at which period the plant is nei­ther agreeable nor disagreeable. Continu­ing the use, we begin to relish it; and our relish increases by use till it come to its ut­most extent. From this state it gradually decays, while the habit becomes stronger [Page 104] and stronger, and consequently the pain of want. The result is, that when the habit has acquired its greatest vigor, the pleasure of gratification is gone. And hence it is, that we often smoke and take snuff habi­tually, without so much as being conscious of the operation. We must except gratifi­cation after the pain of want; because gra­tification in that case is at the height when the habit is strongest. It is of the same kind with the joy one feels upon being de­livered from the rack, the cause of which is explained above*. This pleasure however is but occasionally the effect of habit; and however exquisite, is guarded against as much as possible, by preventing want.

With regard to the pain of want, I can discover no difference betwixt a generic and specific habit: the pain is the same in both. But these habits differ widely with respect to the positive pleasure. I have had occasion to observe, that the pleasure of a specific habit decays gradually till it become imperceptible. Not so the pleasure of a ge­neric [Page 105] habit. So far as I can discover, this pleasure suffers little or no decay after it comes to its height. The variety of gratifi­cation preserves it entire. However it may be with other generic habits, the observa­tion I am certain holds with respect to the pleasures of virtue and of knowledge. The pleasure of doing good has such an un­bounded scope, and may be so variously gratified, that it can never decay. Science is equally unbounded; and our appetite for knowledge has an ample range of gratifica­tion, where discoveries are recommended by novelty, by variety, by utility, or by all of them.

Here is a large field of facts and experi­ments, and several phenomena unfolded, the causes of which have been occasionally suggested. The efficient cause of the power of custom over man, a fundamental point in the present chapter, has unhappily evaded my keenest search; and now I am reduced to hold it an original branch of the human constitution, though I have no better reason for my opinion, than that I cannot resolve it into any other principle. But with respect [Page 106] to the final cause, a point of still greater im­portance, I promise myself more success. It cannot indeed have escaped any thinking person, that the power of custom is a happy contrivance for our good. Exquisite plea­sure produceth satiety: moderate pleasure becomes stronger by custom. Business is our province, and pleasure our relaxation only. Hence, satiety is necessary to check exquisite pleasures, which otherwise would ingross the mind, and unqualify us for bu­siness. On the other hand, habitual increase of moderate pleasure, and even conversion of pain into pleasure, are admirably contri­ved for disappointing the malice of Fortune, and for reconciling us to whatever course of life may be our lot:

How use doth breed a habit in a man!
This shadowy desert, unfrequented woods,
I better brook than flourishing peopled towns.
Here I can sit alone, unseen of any,
And to the nightingale's complaining notes
Tune my distresses, and record my woes.
Two Gentlemen of Verona, act 5. sc. 4.

The foregoing distinction betwixt intense [Page 107] and moderate, holds in pleasure only, not in pain, every degree of which is softened by time and custom. Custom is a catholi­con for pain and distress of every sort; and of this regulation the final cause is so evi­dent as to require no illustration.

Another final cause of custom will be highly relished by every person of humani­ty; and yet has in a great measure been o­verlooked. Custom hath a greater influ­ence than any other known principle, to put the rich and poor upon a level. Weak pleasures, which fall to the share of the lat­ter, become fortunately stronger by custom; while voluptuous pleasures, the lot of the former, are continually losing ground by satiety. Men of fortune, who possess pala­ces, sumptuous gardens, rich fields, enjoy them less than passengers do. The goods of Fortune are not unequally distributed: the opulent possess what others enjoy.

And indeed, if it be the effect of habit to produce the pain of want in a high de­gree while there is little pleasure in enjoy­ment, a voluptuous life is of all the least to be envied. Those who are accustomed [Page 108] to high feeding, easy vehicles, rich furni­ture, a crowd of valets, much deference and flattery, enjoy but a small share of happi­ness, while they are exposed to manifold distresses. To such a man, inslaved by ease and luxury, even the petty inconveniencies of a rough road, bad weather, or homely fare on a journey, are serious evils. He loses his tone of mind, becomes peevish, and would wreak his resentment even upon the common accidents of life. Better far to use the goods of Fortune with moderation. A man who by temperance and activity has acquired a hardy constitution, is, on the one hand, guarded against external accidents, and is, on the other, provided with great variety of enjoyment ever at command.

I shall close this chapter with the discus­sion of a question more delicate than ab­struse, viz. What authority custom ought to have over our taste in the fine arts? It is proper to be premised, that we chearfully abandon to its authority every thing that na­ture leaves to our choice, and where the preference we bestow has no foundation o­ther than whim or fancy. There appears [Page 109] no original difference betwixt the right and the left hand: custom however has esta­blished a difference, so as to make it auk­ward and disagreeable to use the left where the right is commonly used. The various colours, though they affect us differently, are all of them agreeable in their purity, But custom has regulated this matter in an­other manner: a black skin upon a human creature, is to us disagreeable; and a white skin probably not less so to a negro. Thus things originally indifferent, become agree­able or disagreeable by the force of custom. Nor ought this to be surprising after the dis­covery made above, that the original agree­ableness or disagreeableness of an object, is, by the influence of custom, often converted into the opposite quality.

Concerning now those matters of taste where there is naturally a preference of one thing before another; it is certain, in the first place, that our faint and more delicate feelings are readily susceptible of a bias from custom; and therefore that it is no proof of a defective taste, to find these in some mea­sure under the government of custom. [Page 110] Dress, and the modes of external behaviour, are justly regulated by custom in every country. The deep red or vermilion with which the ladies in France cover their cheeks, appears to them beautiful in spite of nature; and strangers cannot altogether be justified in condemning this practice, consi­dering the lawful authority of custom, or of the fashion, as it is called. It is told of the people who inhabit the skirts of the Alps facing the north, that the swelling they universally have in the neck is to them agreeable. So far has custom power to change the nature of things, and to make an object originally disagreeable take on an opposite appearance.

But as to the emotions of propriety and impropriety, and in general as to all emo­tions involving the sense of right or wrong, custom has little authority, and ought to have none at all. Emotions of this kind, be­ing qualified with the consciousness of duty, take naturally place of every other feeling; and it argues a shameful weakness or dege­neracy of mind, to find them in any case so far subdued as to submit to custom.

[Page 111] These few hints may enable us to judge in some measure of foreign manners, whe­ther exhibited by foreign writers or our own. A comparison betwixt the ancients and the moderns, was some time ago a favourite subject. Those who declared for the for­mer, thought it a sufficient justification of ancient manners, that they were supported by the authority of custom. Their antago­nists, on the other hand, refusing submis­sion to custom as a standard of taste, con­demned ancient manners in several instances as irrational. In this controversy, an appeal being made to different principles, without the slightest attempt on either side to esta­blish a common standard, the dispute could have no end. The hints above given tend to establish a standard, for judging how far the lawful authority of custom may be ex­tended, and within what limits it ought to be confined. For the sake of illustration, we shall apply this standard in a few instan­ces.

Human sacrifices, the cruellest effect of blind and groveling superstition, wore gra­dually out of use by the prevalence of rea­son [Page 112] and humanity. In the days of Sopho­cles and Euripides, the traces of this savage practice were still recent; and the Athe­nians, through the prevalence of custom, could without disgust suffer human sacrifices to be represented in their theatre. The I­phigenia of Euripides is a proof of this fact. But a human sacrifice, being altoge­ther inconsistent with modern manners, as producing horror instead of pity, cannot with any propriety be introduced upon a modern stage. I must therefore condemn the Iphigenia of Racine, which, instead of the tender and sympathetic passions, substi­tutes disgust and horror. But this is not all. Another objection occurs against every fable that deviates so remarkably from improved notions and sentiments. If it should even command our belief, by the authority of genuine history, its fictitious and unnatural appearance, however, would prevent its ta­king such hold of the mind as to produce a perception of reality*. A human sacrifice is so unnatural, and to us so improbable, [Page 113] that few will be affected with the represen­tation of it more than with a fairy tale. The objection first mentioned strikes also against the Phedra of this author. The queen's passion for her stepson, being unnatural and beyond all bounds, creates aversion and hor­ror rather than compassion. The author in his preface observes, that the queen's pas­sion, however unnatural, was the effect of destiny and the wrath of the gods; and he puts the same excuse in her own mouth. But what is the wrath of a heathen god to us Christians? We acknowledge no desti­ny in passion; and if love be unnatural, it never can be relished. A supposition, like what our author lays hold of, may possibly cover slight improprieties; but it will ne­ver engage our sympathy for what appears to us frantic or extravagant.

Neither can I relish the catastrophe of this tragedy. A man of taste may peruse, without disgust, a Grecian performance describing a sea-monster sent by Neptune to destroy Hippolytus. He considers, that such a sto­ry might agree with the religious creed of Greece; and, entering into ancient opi­nions, [Page 114] may be pleased with the story, as what probably had a strong effect upon a Grecian audience. But he cannot have the same indulgence for such a representation upon a modern stage; for no story which carries a violent air of fiction, can ever move us in any considerable degree.

In the Coëphores of Eschylus*, Orestes is made to say, that he was commanded by Apollo to avenge his father's murder; and yet if he obeyed, that he was to be deli­vered to the furies, or be struck with some horrible malady. The tragedy according­ly concludes with a chorus, deploring the fate of Orestes, obliged to take vengeance against a mother, and involved thereby in a crime against his will. It is impossible for any man at present to accommodate his mind to opinions so irrational and absurd, which must disgust him in perusing even a Grecian story. Among the Greeks again, grossly superstitious, it was a common opi­nion, that the report of a man's death was a presage of his death; and Orestes, in [Page 115] the first act of Electra, spreading a report of his own death in order to blind his mo­ther and her adulterer, is even in this case affected with the presage. Such im­becility can never find grace with a modern audience. It may indeed produce some degree of compassion for a people afflicted to such a degree with absurd terrors, similar to what is felt in perusing a description of the Hottentotes: but manners of this kind will not interest our affections, nor excite any degree of social concern.

CHAP. XV. External Signs of Emotions and Passions.

SO intimately connected are the soul and body, that there is not a single agitation in the former, but what produceth a visible effect upon the latter. There is, at the same time, a wonderful uniformity in this operation; each class of emotions being invariably attended with an external appearance peculiar to itself*. These external appearances or signs, may not improperly be considered as a natural language, expressing to all beholders the several emotions and passions as they arise in the heart. We perceive display'd ex­ternally, hope, fear, joy, grief: we can read the character of a man in his face; and [Page 117] beauty, which makes so strong an impres­sion, is known to result, not so much from regular features and a fine complexion, as from good nature, good sense, sprightliness, sweetness, or other mental quality, ex­pressed some way upon the countenance. Though perfect skill in this language be rare, yet so much knowledge of it is diffused through mankind, as to be sufficient for the ordinary events of life. But by what means we come to understand this language, is a point of some intricacy. It cannot be by sight merely; for upon the most atten­tive inspection of the human visage, all that can be discerned are figure, colour, and motion; and yet these, singly or com­bined, never can represent a passion or a sentiment. The external sign is indeed vi­sible. But to understand its meaning, we must be able to connect it with the passion that causes it; an operation far beyond the reach of eye-sight. Where then is the in­structor to be found, that can unvail this secret connection? If we apply to expe­rience, it is yielded, that from long and di­ligent observation, we may gather in some [Page 118] measure in what manner those we are ac­quainted with express their passions exter­nally. But with respect to strangers, of whom we have no experience, we are left in the dark. And yet we are not puzzled about the meaning of these external expressions in a stranger, more than in a bosom-com­panion*. Further, had we no other means but experience for understanding the exter­nal signs of passion, we could not expect any uniformity or any degree of skill in the bulk of individuals. But matters are ordered so differently, that the external ex­pressions of passion form a language under­stood by all, by the young as well as the old, by the ignorant as well as the learned. I talk of the plain and legible characters of this language; for undoubtedly we are much indebted to experience in decipher­ing the dark and more delicate expressions. Where then shall we apply for a solution of this intricate problem, which seems to penetrate deep into human nature? In my [Page 119] mind it will be convenient to suspend the inquiry, till we be better acquainted with the nature of external signs and with their operations. These articles therefore shall be premised.

The external signs of passion are of two kinds, voluntary and involuntary. The voluntary signs are also of two kinds: some are arbitrary and some natural. Words are arbitrary signs, excepting a few simple sounds expressive of certain internal emo­tions; and these sounds, being the same in all languages, must be the work of nature. But though words are arbitrary, the manner of employing them is not altogether so; for each passion has by nature peculiar ex­pressions and tones suited to it. Thus the unpremeditated tones of admiration, are the same in all men; as also of compassion, resentment, and despair. Dramatic wri­ters ought to be well acquainted with this natural manner of expressing passion. The chief talent of a fine writer, is a ready com­mand of the expressions that nature dic­tates to every man when any vivid emotion struggles for utterance; and the chief ta­lent [Page 120] of a fine reader, is a ready command of the tones suited to these expressions.

The other kind of voluntary signs, com­prehends certain attitudes and gestures that naturally accompany certain emo­tions with a surprising uniformity. Thus excessive joy is expressed by leaping, dan­cing, or some elevation of the body; and excessive grief by sinking or depressing it. Thus prostration and kneeling have been employ'd by all nations and in all ages to signify profound veneration. Another cir­cumstance, still more than uniformity, de monstrates these gestures to be natural, viz. their remarkable conformity or resemblance to the passions that produce them*. Joy, which produceth a chearful elevation of mind, is expressed by an elevation of body. Pride, magnanimity, courage, and the whole tribe of elevating passions, are expressed by external gestures that are the same as to the circumstance of elevation, however distinguishable in other respects. Hence it comes, that an erect posture is a sign or expression of dignity:

[Page 121]
Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,
Godlike erect, with native honour clad,
In naked majesty, seem'd lords of all.
Paradise Lost, book 4.

Grief, on the other hand, as well as respect, which depress the mind, cannot for that reason be expressed more significantly than by a similar depression of the body. Hence, to be cast down, is a common phrase, signi­fying to be grieved or dispirited.

One would not imagine, who has not given peculiar attention, that the body is susceptible of such a variety of attitude and motion, as readily to accompany every dif­ferent emotion with a corresponding gesture. Humility, for example, is expressed natu­rally by hanging the head; arrogance, by its elevation; and langour or despondence, by reclining it to one side. The expressions of the hands are manifold. By different at­titudes and motions, the hands express de­sire, hope, fear: they assist us in promi­sing, in inviting, in keeping one at a di­stance: they are made instruments of threat­ening, of supplication, of praise, and of [Page 122] horror: they are employ'd in approving, in refusing, in questioning; in showing our joy, our sorrow, our doubts, our regret, our admiration. These gestures, so obe­dient to passion, are extremely difficult to be imitated in a calm state. The ancients, sensible of the advantage as well as difficul­ty of having these expressions at command, bestowed much time and care, in collecting them from observation, and in digesting them into a practical art, which was taught in their schools as an important branch of education.

The foregoing signs, though in a strict sense voluntary, cannot however be re­strained but with the utmost difficulty when they are prompted by passion. Of this we scarce need a stronger proof, than the gestures of a keen player at bowls. Observe only how he wreaths his body, in order to restore a stray bowl to the right track. It is one article of good breeding, to suppress, as much as possible, these ex­ternal signs of passion, that we may not in company appear too warm or too interested. The same observation holds in speech. A [Page 123] passion, it is true, when in extreme, is si­lent*; but when less violent, it must be vented in words, which have a peculiar force, not to be equalled in a sedate com­position. The ease and trust we have in a confident, encourages us no doubt to talk of ourselves and of our feelings. But the cause is more general; for it operates when we are alone as well as in company. Passion is the cause; for in many instances it is no slight gratification to vent a passion ex­ternally by words as well as by gestures. Some passions, when at a certain height, impel us so strongly to vent them in words, that we speak with an audible voice even where there is none to listen. It is this cir­cumstance in passion, that justifies solilo­quies; and it is this circumstance that proves them to be natural. The mind [Page 124] sometimes favours this impulse of passion, by bestowing a temporary sensibility upon any object at hand, in order to make it a confident. Thus in the Winter's Tale *, Antigonus addresses himself to an infant whom he was ordered to expose:

Come, poor babe,
I have heard, but not believ'd, the spirits of the dead
May walk again: if such thing be, thy mother
Appear'd to me last night; for ne'er was dream
So like a waking.

[Page 125] The involuntary signs, which are all of them natural, are either peculiar to one pas­sion or common to many. Every violent passion hath an external expression peculiar to itself, not excepting pleasant passions: witness admiration and mirth. The plea­sant emotions that are less vivid, have one common expression; from which we may gather the strength of the emotion, but scarce the kind: we perceive a chearful or contented look; and we can make no more of it. Painful passions, being all of them violent, are distinguishable from each other by their external expressions. Thus fear, shame, anger, anxiety, dejection, despair, have each of them peculiar expressions; which are apprehended without the least confusion. Some of these passions produce violent effects upon the body, such as trem­bling, starting, and swooning. But these effects, depending in a good measure upon singularity of constitution, are not uniform in all men.

The involuntary signs, such of them as are display'd upon the countenance, are of two kinds. Some make their appearance [Page 126] occasionally with the emotions that produce them, and vanish with the emotions: o­thers are formed gradually by some violent passion often recurring; and, becoming per­manent signs of this prevailing passion, serve to denote the disposition or temper. The face of an infant indicates no particular dis­position, because it cannot be marked with any character to which time is necessary. And even the temporary signs are extremely aukward, being the first rude essays of Na­ture to discover internal feelings. Thus the shrieking of a new-born infant, with­out tears or sobbings, is plainly an at­tempt to weep. Some of the temporary signs, as smiling and frowning, cannot be observed for some months after birth. The permanent signs, formed in youth while the body is soft and flexible, are preserved entire by the firmness and solidity which the body acquires; and are never oblitera­ted even by a change of temper. Perma­nent signs are not produced after a certain age when the fibres become rigid; some violent cases excepted, such as reiterated fits of the gout or stone through a course of [Page 127] time. But these signs are not so obstinate as what are produced in youth; for when the cause is removed, they gradually wear away, and at last vanish.

The natural signs of emotions, voluntary and involuntary, being nearly the same in all men, form an universal language, which no distance of place, no difference of tribe, no diversity of tongue, can darken or ren­der doubtful. Education, though of migh­ty influence, hath not power to vary or so­phisticate, far less to destroy, their significa­tion. This is a wise appointment of Provi­dence. For if these signs were, like words, arbitrary and variable, it would be an intri­cate science to decipher the actions and mo­tives of our own species, which would prove a great or rather invincible obstruction to the formation of societies. But as matters are ordered, the external appearances of joy, grief, anger, fear, shame, and of the other passions, forming an universal lan­guage, open a direct avenue to the heart. As the arbitrary signs vary in every country, there could be no communication of thoughts among different nations, were it not for the [Page 128] natural signs in which all agree. Words are sufficient for the communication of sci­ence, and of all mental conceptions: but the discovering passions instantly as they a­rise, being essential to our well-being and often necessary for self-preservation, the au­thor of our nature, attentive to our wants, hath provided a passage to the heart, which never can be obstructed while our external senses remain entire.

In an inquiry concerning the external signs of passion, actions ought not altogether to be overlooked: for though singly they af­ford no clear light, they are upon the whole the best interpreters of the heart*. By ob­serving [Page 129] a man's conduct for a course of time, we discover unerringly the various passions that move him to action, what he loves and what he hates. In our younger years, eve­ry single action is a mark not at all ambigu­ous of the temper; for in childhood there is little or no disguise. The subject becomes more intricate in advanced age; but even there, dissimulation is seldom carried on for any length of time. And thus the conduct of life is the most perfect expression of the internal disposition. It merits not indeed the title of an universal language; because it is not thoroughly understood but by those who either have a penetrating genius or ex­tensive observation. It is a language, how­ever, which every one can decipher in some measure; and which, joined with the other external signs, affords sufficient means for the direction of our conduct with re­gard to others. If we commit any mistake when such light is afforded, it never can be the effect of unavoidable ignorance, but of rashness or inadvertence.

In reflecting upon the various expressions of our emotions, voluntary and involuntary, [Page 130] we must recognise the anxious care of Na­ture to discover men to each other. Strong emotions, as above hinted, beget an impa­tience to express them externally by speech and other voluntary signs, which cannot be suppressed without a painful effort. Thus a sudden fit of passion is a common excuse for indecent behaviour or harsh words. As to the involuntary signs, these are altoge­ther unavoidable. No volition or effort can prevent the shaking of the limbs or a pale visage, when one is agitated with a vio­lent fit of terror. The blood flies to the face upon a sudden emotion of shame, in spite of all opposition:

Vergogna, che'n altrui stampo natura,
Non si puo' rinegar: che se tu'tenti
Di cacciarla dal cor, fugge nel volto.
Pastor Fido, act 2. sc. 5.

Emotions indeed properly so called, which are quiescent, produce no remarkable signs externally; nor is it necessary that the more deliberate passions should, because the ope­ration of such passions is neither sudden nor violent. These however remain not alto­gether [Page 131] in the dark. Being more frequent than violent passion, the bulk of our actions are directed by them. Actions therefore display, with sufficient evidence, the more deliberate passions, and complete the admi­rable system of external signs, by which we become skilful in human nature.

Next in order comes an article of great importance, which is, to examine the effects produced upon a spectator by external signs of passion. None of these signs are beheld with indifference: they are productive of various emotions tending all of them to ends wise and good. This curious article makes a capital branch of human nature. It is peculiarly useful to writers who deal in the pathetic; and with respect to history­painters, it is altogether indispensable.

When we enter upon this article, we ga­ther from experience, that each passion, or class of passions, hath its peculiar signs; and that these invariably make certain impres­sions on a spectator. The external signs of joy, for example, produce a chearful emo­tion, the external signs of grief produce pity, and the external signs of rage produce a [Page 132] sort of terror even in those who are not aim­ed at.

Secondly, it is natural to think, that pleasant passions should express themselves externally by signs that appear agreeable, and painful passions by signs that appear dis­agreeable. This conjecture, which Nature suggests, is confirmed by experience. Pride seems to be an exception; its external signs being disagreeable, though it be commonly reckoned a pleasant passion. But pride is not an exception; for in reality it is a mix­ed passion, partly pleasant partly painful. When a proud man confines his thoughts to himself, and to his own dignity or import­ance, the passion is pleasant, and its exter­nal signs agreeable: but as pride chiefly consists in undervaluing or contemning o­thers, it is so far painful, and its external signs disagreeable.

Thirdly, it is laid down above, that an agreeable object produceth always a pleasant emotion, and a disagreeable object one that is painful*. According to this law, the [Page 133] external signs of a pleasant passion, being a­greeable, must produce in the spectator a pleasant emotion; and the external signs of a painful passion, being disagreeable, must produce in him a painful emotion.

Fourthly, in the present chapter it is ob­served, that pleasant passions are, for the most part, expressed externally in one uniform manner; and that only the painful passions are distinguishable from each other by their external expressions. In the emotions ac­cordingly raised by external signs of pleasant passions, there is little variety. They are pleasant or chearful, and we have not words to reach a more particular description. But the external signs of painful passions produce in the spectator emotions of different kinds: the emotions, for example, raised by external signs of grief, of remorse, of anger, of en­vy, of malice, are clearly distinguishable from each other.

Fifthly, emotions raised by the external signs of painful passions, are some of them attractive, some repulsive. Every painful [Page 134] passion that is also disagreeable*, raises by its external signs a repulsive emotion, repel­ling the spectator from the object. Thus the emotions raised by external signs of envy and rage, are repulsive. But this is not the case of painful passions that are agreeable. Their external signs, it is true, are disagree­able, and raise in the spectator a painful e­motion. But this painful emotion is not re­pulsive. On the contrary, it is attractive; and produceth in the spectator good-will to the man who is moved by the passion, and a desire to relieve or comfort him. This cannot be better exemplified than by distress painted on the countenance, which instan­taneously inspires the spectator with pity, and impels him to afford relief. The cause of this difference among the painful emo­tions raised by external signs of passion, may be readily gathered from what is laid down chapter Emotions and passions, part 7.

It is now time to look back to the que­stion proposed in the beginning, How we come to understand external signs, so as [Page 135] readily to ascribe each sign to its proper pas­sion? We have seen that this branch of knowledge, cannot be derived originally from sight, nor from experience. Is it then im­planted in us by nature? The following considerations will help us to answer this question in the affirmative. In the first place, the external signs of passion must be natural; for they are invariably the same in every country, and among the different tribes of men. Pride, for example, is al­ways expressed by an erect posture, reve­rence by prostration, and sorrow by a de­jected look. Secondly, we are not even indebted to experience for the knowledge that these expressions are natural and uni­versal. We are so framed as to have an innate conviction of the fact. Let a man change his habitation to the other side of the globe; he will, from the accustom­ed signs, infer the passion of fear among his new neighbours, with as little hesitation as he did at home. And upon second thoughts, the question may be answered without any preliminaries. If the branch of knowledge we have been inquiring about be [Page 136] not derived from sight nor from experience, there is no remaining source from whence it can be derived but from nature.

We may then venture to pronounce, with some degree of confidence, that man is provided by nature with a sense or facul­ty which lays open to him every passion by means of its external expressions. And I ima­gine that we cannot entertain any reasonable doubt of this fact, when we reflect, that e­ven infants are not ignorant of the mean­ing of external signs. An infant is remark­ably affected with the passions of its nurse expressed on her countenance: a smile chears it, and a frown makes it afraid. Fear thus generated in the infant, must, like every other passion, have an object. What is the object of this passion? Surely not the frown considered abstractly, for a child never abstracts. The nurse who frowns is evidently the object. Fear, at the same time, cannot arise but from apprehend­ing danger. But what danger can a child apprehend, if it be not sensible that the person who frowns is angry? We must therefore admit, that a child can read anger [Page 137] in its nurse's face; and it must be sensible of this intuitively, for it has no other means of knowledge. I have no occasion to af­sirm, that these particulars are clearly ap­prehended by the child. To produce clear and distinct perceptions, reflection and ex­perience are requisite. But that even an infant, when afraid, must have some no­tion of its being in danger, is extremely e­vident.

That we should be conscious intuitively of a passion from its external expressions, is conformable to the analogy of nature. The knowledge of this language is of too great importance to be left upon experience. To rest it upon a foundation so uncertain and precarious, would prove a great obsta­cle to the formation of societies. Wisely therefore is it ordered, and agreeably to the system of Providence, that we should have Nature for our instructor.

Manifold and admirable are the purpo­ses to which the external signs of passion are made subservient by the author of our nature. What are occasionally mentioned [Page 138] above, make but a part. Several final cau­ses remain to be unfolded; and to this task I apply myself with alacrity. In the first place, the signs of internal agitation that are displayed externally to every spectator, tend to fix the signification of many terms. The only effectual means to ascertain the meaning of any doubtful word, is an ap­peal to the thing it represents. Hence the ambiguity of words expressive of things that are not objects of external sense; for in that case an appeal is denied. Passion, strictly speaking, is not an object of exter­nal sense: but its external signs are; and by means of these signs, passions may be appealed to, with tolerable accuracy. Thus the words that denote our passions, next to those that denote external objects, have the most distinct meaning. Words signifying internal action and the more delicate feel­ings, are less distinct. This defect with respect to internal action, is what chiefly occasions the intricacy of logic. The terms of that science are far from being sufficient­ly ascertained, even after the care and la­bour [Page 139] bestowed by an eminent writer*: to whom however the world is greatly indebt­ed, for removing a mountain of rubbish, and moulding the subject into a rational and correct form. The same defect is remark­able in criticism, which has for its object the more delicate feelings. The terms that denote these feelings, are not more distinct than those of logic. To reduce this science of criticism to any regular form, has never once been attempted. However rich the ore may be, no critical chymist has been found to give us a regular analysis of its constituent parts, and to distinguish each by its own name.

In the second place, society among in­dividuals is greatly promoted by this uni­versal language. The distance and reserve that strangers naturally discover, show its utility. Looks and gestures give direct ac­cess to the heart; and lead us to select with tolerable accuracy the persons who may be trusted. It is surprising how quickly, and [Page 140] for the most part how correctly, we judge of character from external appearances.

Thirdly, after social intercourse is com­menced, these external signs contribute a­bove all other means to the strictest union, by diffusing through a whole assembly the feelings of each individual. Language no doubt is the most comprehensive vehicle for communicating emotions: but in expedi­tion, as well as in the power of conviction, it falls short of the signs under considera­tion; the involuntary signs especially, which are incapable of deceit. Where the coun­tenance, the tones, the gestures, the ac­tions, join with the words, in communica­ting emotions, these united have a force ir­resistible. Thus all the agreeable emotions of the human heart, with all the social and virtuous affections, are, by means of these external signs, not only perceived but felt. By this admirable contrivance, social inter­course becomes that lively and animating a­musement, without which life would at best be insipid. One joyful countenance spreads chearfulness instantaneously through a mul­titude of spectators.

[Page 141] Fourthly, dissocial passions being hurtful by prompting violence and mischief, are no­ted by the most conspicuous external signs, in order to put us upon our guard. Thus anger and revenge, especially when sudden­ly provoked, display themselves on the countenance in legible characters*. The external signs again of every passion that threatens danger, raise in us the passion of fear. Nor is this passion occasioned by con­sciousness of danger, though it may be infla­med [Page 142] by such consciousness. It is an instinc­tive passion, which operating without rea­son or reflection, moves us by a sudden im­pulse to avoid the impending danger*.

In the fifth place, these external signs are made subservient in a curious manner to the cause of virtue. The external signs of a painful passion that is virtuous or inno­cent, and consequently agreeable, produce indeed a painful emotion. But this emo­tion is attractive, and connects the spectator with the person who suffers. Disagreeable passions only, are productive of repulsive e­motions involving the spectator's aversion, and frequently his indignation. This art­ful contrivance makes us cling to the virtu­ous and abhor the wicked.

Sixthly, of all the external signs of pas­sion, those of affliction or distress are the most illustrious with respect to a final cause; and deservedly merit a place of distinction. They are illustrious by the singularity of their con­trivance; and they are still more illustrious by the sympathy they inspire, a passion to [Page 143] which human society is indebted for its greatest blessing, that of securing relief in all cases of distress. A subject so interesting, ought to be examined with leisure and at­tention. The conformity of the nature of man to his external circumstances, is in e­very particular wonderful. His nature makes him prone to society; and his situa­tion makes it necessary for him. In a soli­tary state he is the most helpless of beings; destitute of support, and in his manifold di­stresses destitute of relief. Mutual support, the shining attribute of society, being essen­tial to the well-being of man, is not left up­on reason, but is inforced even instinctively by the passion of sympathy. Here sympathy makes a capital figure; and contributes, more than any other means, to make life easy and comfortable. But however essen­tial sympathy be to comfortable existence, one thinking of it beforehand, would find difficulty in conjecturing how it could be raised by external signs of distress. For con­sidering the analogy of nature, if these signs be agreeable, they must give birth to a plea­sant emotion leading every beholder to be [Page 144] pleased with human misfortunes. If they be disagreeable, as they undoubtedly are, ought not the painful emotion they produce to repel the spectator from them, in order to be relieved from pain? Such would be the conjecture, in thinking of this matter be­forehand; and such would be the effect, were man purely a selfish being. But the benevolence of our nature gives a very dif­ferent direction to the painful passion of sympathy, and to the desire involved in it. Far from flying from distress, we fly to it in order to afford relief; and our sympathy cannot be otherwise gratified than by giving all the succour in our power*. Thus ex­ternal signs of distress, though disagreeable, are attractive; and the sympathy they in­spire us with is a powerful cause, impelling us to afford relief even to a stranger as if he were our friend or blood-relation.

This branch of human nature concern­ing the external signs of passion, is so fine­ly adjusted to answer its end, that those who understand it the best will admire it the [Page 145] most. These external signs, being all of them resolvable into colour, figure, and motion, should not naturally make any deep impression on a spectator. And supposing them qualified for making deep impressions, we have seen above, that the effects they produce are not what would be expected. We cannot therefore account otherwise for the operation of these external signs, than by ascribing it to the original constitution of human nature. To improve the social state, by making us instinctively rejoice with the glad of heart, weep with the mourner, and shun those who threaten danger, is a contri­vance illustrious for its wisdom as well as be­nevolence. With respect to the external signs of distress in particular, to judge of the excellency of their contrivance, we need only reflect upon several other means seem­ingly more natural, that would not have an­swered the end proposed. I am attracted by this amusing speculation, and will not ask pardon for indulging in it. We shall in the first place reverse the truth, by putting the case that the external signs of joy were dis­agreeable, and the external signs of distress [Page 146] agreeable. This is no whimsical supposi­tion; for these external signs, so far as can be gathered from their nature, seem indif­ferent to the production of pleasure or pain. Admitting then the supposition, the question is, How would our sympathy operate? There is no occasion to deliberate for an an­swer. Sympathy, upon that supposition, would be not less destructive, than accor­ding to the real case it is beneficial. We should be incited, to cross the happiness of others if its external signs were disagreeable to us, and to augment their distress if its external signs were agreeable. I make a second supposition, That the external signs of distress were indifferent to us, and pro­ductive neither of pleasure nor pain. This would annihilate the strongest branch of sympathy, that which is raised by means of sight. And it is evident, that reflective sympathy, felt by those only who have more than an ordinary share of sensibility, would be far from being sufficient to fulfil the ends of the social state. I shall approach nearer truth in a third supposition, That the exter­nal signs of distress being disagreeable, were [Page 147] productive of a painful repulsive emotion. Sympathy upon this supposition would not be annihilated; but it would be rendered useless. For it would be gratified by flying from or avoiding the object, instead of cling­ing to it, and affording relief. The condi­tion of man would in reality be worse than if sympathy were totally eradicated; because sympathy would only serve to plague those who feel it, without producing any good to the afflicted.

Loath to quit so interesting a subject, I add a reflection, with which I shall conclude. The external signs of passion are a strong in­dication, that man, by his very constitution, is framed to be open and sincere. A child, in all things obedient to the impulses of na­ture, hides none of its emotions: the savage and clown, who have no guide other than pure nature, expose their hearts to view by giving way to all the natural signs: and even when men learn to dissemble their senti­ments, and when behaviour degenerates in­to art, there still remain checks, which keep dissimulation within bounds, and pre­vent a great part of its mischievous effects. [Page 148] The total suppression of the voluntary signs during any vivid passion, begets the utmost uneasiness, which cannot be endured for a­ny considerable time. This operation be­comes indeed less painful by habit: but luc­kily the involuntary signs, cannot by any ef­fort be suppressed or even dissembled. An absolute hypocrisy, by which the character is concealed and a fictitious one assumed, is made impracticable; and nature has there­by prevented much harm to society. We may pronounce therefore, that nature, her­self sincere and candid, intends that man­kind should preserve the same character, by cultivating simplicity and truth, and banish­ing every sort of dissimulation that tends to mischief.


EVERY thought suggested by a passion or emotion, is termed a sentiment *.

The knowledge of the sentiments peculiar to each passion considered abstract­ly, will not alone enable an artist to make a just representation of nature. He ought, over and above, to be acquainted with the various appearances of the same passion in different persons. Passions, it is certain, re­ceive a tincture from every peculiarity of character; and for that reason, it rarely happens that any two persons vent their pas­sions precisely in the same manner. Hence the following rule concerning dramatic and epic compositions. That a passion be adjusted to the character, the sentiments to the pas­sion, and the language to the sentiments. [Page 150] If nature be not faithfully copied in each of these, a defect in execution is perceived. There may appear some resemblance; but the picture upon the whole will be insipid, through want of grace and delicacy. A painter, in order to represent the various at­titudes of the body, ought to be intimately acquainted with muscular motion: not less intimately acquainted with emotions and cha­racters ought a writer to be, in order to re­present the various attitudes of the mind. A general notion of the passions, in their grosser differences of strong and weak, ele­vated and humble, severe and gay, is far from being sufficient. Pictures formed so superficially, have little resemblance, and no expression. And yet it will appear by and by, that in many instances our reputed ma­sters are deficient even in this superficial knowledge.

In handling the present subject, it would be endless to trace even the ordinary pas­sions through their nicer and more minute differences. Mine shall be an humbler task; which is, to select from the best wri­ters instances of faulty sentiments, after pa­ving [Page 151] the way by some general observations.

To talk in the language of music, each passion hath a certain tone, to which every sentiment proceeding from it ought to be tuned with the greatest accuracy. This is no easy work, especially where such har­mony is to be supported during the course of a long theatrical representation. In or­der to reach such delicacy of execution, it is necessary that a writer assume the precise character and passion of the personage re­presented. This requires an uncommon genius. But it is the only difficulty; for the writer, who, forgetting himself, can thus personate another, so as to feel truly and distinctly the various agitations of the passion, need be in no pain about the sen­timents: these will flow without the least study, or even preconception; and will fre­quently be as delightfully new to himself as afterward to his reader. But if a lively pic­ture even of a single emotion require an ef­fort of genius; how much greater must the effort be, to compose a passionate dialogue, in which there are as many different tones of passion as there are speakers? With what [Page 152] ductility of feeling ought a writer to be en­dued who aims at perfection in such a work; when, to execute it correctly, it is necessa­ry to assume different and even opposite characters and passions, in the quickest suc­cession? And yet this work, difficult as it is, yields to that of composing a dialogue in genteel comedy devoid of passion; where the sentiments must be tuned to the nicer and more delicate tones of different charac­ters. That the latter is the more difficult task, appears from considering, that a cha­racter is greatly more complex than a pas­sion, and that passions are more distinguish­able from each other than characters are. Many writers accordingly who have no ge­nius for characters, make a shift to repre­sent, tolerably well, an ordinary passion in its plain movements. But of all works of this kind, what is truly the most difficult, is a characteristical dialogue upon any philoso­phical subject. To interweave characters with reasoning, by adapting to the peculiar cha­racter of each speaker a peculiarity not only of thought but of expression, requires the perfection of genius, taste, and judgement.

[Page 153] How hard dialogue-writing is, will be evident, even without reasoning, from the imperfect compositions of this kind found without number in all langua­ges. The art of mimicking any singulari­ty in voice or gesture, is a rare talent, though directed by sight and hearing, the acutest and most lively of our external sen­ses: how much more rare must the talent be of imitating characters and internal e­motions, tracing all their different tints, and representing them in a lively manner by natural sentiments properly expressed? The truth is, such execution is too delicate for an ordinary genius; and for that reason, the bulk of writers, instead of expressing a passion like one who is under its power, content themselves with describing it like a spectator. To awake passion by an inter­nal effort merely, without any external cause, requires great sensibility; and yet this operation is necessary not less to the writer than to the actor; because none but they who actually feel a passion, can repre­sent it to the life. The writer's part is much more complicated: he must join composi­tion [Page 154] with action; and, in the quickest suc­cession, be able to adopt every different character introduced in his work. But a very humble flight of imagination, may serve to convert a writer into a spectator, so as to figure, in some obscure manner, an action as passing in his sight and hear­ing. In this figured situation, he is led naturally to describe as a spectator, and at second hand to entertain his readers with his own observations, with cool description and florid declamation; instead of making them eye-witnesses, as it were, to a real e­vent, and to every movement of genuine passion*. Thus, in the bulk of plays, a [Page 155] tiresome monotony prevails, a pompous de­clamatory style, without entering into dif­ferent characters or passions.

This descriptive manner of expressing pas­sion, has a very unhappy effect. Our sym­pathy is not raised by description: we must be lulled first into a dream of reality; and every thing must appear as actually pre­sent and passing in our sight*. Unhappy is the player of genius who acts a capital part in what may be termed a descriptive tragedy. After he has assumed the very passion that is to be represented, how must he be cramped in his action, when he is forced to utter, not the sentiments of the passion he feels, but a cold description in the language of a by-stander? It is this im­perfection, I am persuaded, in the bulk of our plays, that confines our stage almost entirely to Shakespear, his many irregula­rities notwithstanding. In our latest Eng­lish tragedies, we sometimes find senti­ments tolerably well adapted to a plain pas­sion. But it would be fruitless labour, to [Page 156] search in any of them for a sentiment ex­pressive of character; and, upon that very account, all our modern performances of the dramatic kind, are intolerably insipid.

Looking back upon the foregoing obser­vation, I am uncertain whether it will be sufficiently apprehended; for, upon this complicated subject, I find some difficulty to express myself with perspicuity. I de­spair not however to place this matter in the clearest light, by adding example to precept. In the front shall be set one or two examples of sentiments that appear the legitimate offspring of passion; and to them shall be opposed a few others that are de­scriptive only, and illegitimate. In making this comparison, I shall borrow my instan­ces from Shakespear and Corneille, who for genius in dramatic composition stand up­permost in the rolls of fame.

Shakespear shall furnish the first instance, being of sentiments dictated by a violent and perturbed passion.

—Filial ingratitude!
Is it not, as if this mouth should tear this hand
[Page 157] For lifting food to't?—But I'll punish home;
No, I will weep no more.—In such a night,
To shut me out!—Pour on, I will endure.
In such a night as this! O Regan, Gonerill,
Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all—
O, that way madness lies; let me shun that;
No more of that.—
Good, my Lord, enter here.
Pr'ythee, go in thy thyself, seek thine own ease,
This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
On things would hurt me more—but I'll go in;
In, boy, go first. You houseless poverty—
Nay, get thee in; I'll pray, and then I'll sleep—
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm!
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these?—O I have ta'en
Too little care of this! take physic, Pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou may'st shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.
King Lear. act 3. sc. 5.

To illustrate the foregoing doctrine, one other instance of the same kind may suffice, [Page 158] expressing sentiments arising from remorse and despair.

Lo! I have a weapon:
A better never did itself sustain
Upon a soldier's thigh. I've seen the day,
That with this little arm, and this good sword,
I've made my way through more impediments
Than twenty times your stop. But, oh vain boast!
Who can controul his fate? 'tis not so now.
Be not afraid, though you do see me weapon'd;
Here is my journey's end, here is my butt,
The very sea mark of my outmost sail.
Do you go back dismay'd? 'tis a lost fear.
Man but a rush against Othello's breast,
And he retires. Where should Othello go?
Now—how dost thou look now? Oh ill-starr'd wench!
Pale as thy smoke! when we shall meet at compt,
This look of thine will hurl my soul from heav'n,
And fiends will snatch at it. Cold, cold, my girl,
Ev'n like thy chastity. O cursed slave!
Whip me, ye devils,
From the possession of this heav'nly sight;
Blow me about in winds, roast me in sulphur,
Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire—
[Page 159] Oh, Desdemona! Desdemona! dead! dead! oh, oh!
Othello, act 5. sc. 9.

The sentiments here display'd flow so na­turally from the passions represented, and are such genuine expressions of these pas­sions, that it is not possible to conceive any imitation more perfect.

With regard to the French author, truth obliges me to acknowledge, that he de­scribes in the style of a spectator, instead of expressing passion like one who feels it; and also that he is thereby betray'd into the other faults above mentioned, a tire­some monotony, and a pompous declama­tory style*. It is scarce necessary to pro­duce [Page 160] particular instances; for he never va­ries from this tone. I shall however take two passages at a venture, in order to be [Page 161] confronted with those transcribed above. In the tragedy of Cinna, Aemilia, after the conspiracy was discovered, having nothing in view but racks and death to herself and her lover, receives a pardon from Augustus, attended with the brightest circumstances of magnanimity and tender­ness. This is a happy situation for repre­senting the passions of surprise and gratitude in their different stages. These passions, raised at once to the utmost pitch, are at first too big for utterance; and Aemilia's feelings must, for some moments, have been expressed by violent gestures only. So soon as there is a vent for words, the [Page 162] first expressions are naturally broken and interrupted. At last we ought to expect a tide of intermingled sentiments, occasioned by the fluctuation of the mind betwixt the two passions. Aemilia is made to behave in a very different manner. With extreme coolness she describes her own situation, as if she were merely a spectator; or rather the poet takes the task off her hands.

Et je me rens, Seigneur, à ces hautes bontés,
Je recouvre la vûe auprés de leurs clartés,
Je connois mon forfait qui me sembloit justice,
Et ce que n'avoit pû la terreur du supplice,
Je sens naitre en mon ame un repentir puissant;
Et mon coeur en secret me dit, qu'il y consent.
Le ciel a résolu votre grandeur suprême,
Et pour preuve, Seigneur, je n'en veux que moi­même;
J'ose avec vanité me donner cet éclat,
Puisqu'il change mon coeur, qu'il veut changer l'état.
Ma haine va mourir que j'ai crue immortelle,
Elle est morte, et ce coeur devient sujet fidéle,
Et prenant désormais cette haine en horreur,
L'ardeur de vous servir succede à sa fureur.
Act 5. sc. 3.

[Page 163] In the tragedy of Sertorius, the Queen, surprised with the news that her lover was assassinated, instead of venting any passion, degenerates into a cool spectator, even so much as to instruct the by-standers how a queen ought to behave on such an occasion.

Il m'en fait voir ensemble, et l'auteur, et la cause.
Par cet assassinat c'est de moi qu'on dispose,
C'est mon trône, c'st moi qu'on pretend conquerir,
Et c'est mon juste choix qui seul l'a fait perir.
Madame, aprés sa perte, et parmi ces alarmes,
N'attendez point de moi de soupirs, ni de larmes;
Ce sont amusemens que dédaigne aisement
Le prompt et noble orgueil d'un vif ressentiment.
Qui pleure, l'affoiblit, qui soupire, l'exhale,
Il saut plus de fierté dans une ame royale;
Et ma douleur soumise aux soins de le venger, &c.
Act 5. sc. 3.

So much in general upon the genuine sentiments of passion. I proceed now to particular observations. And, first, Pas­sions are seldom uniform for any consider­able time: they generally fluctuate, swell­ing and subsiding by turns, often in a quick [Page 164] succession*. This fluctuation, in the case of a real passion, will be expressed exter­nally by proper sentiments; and ought to be imitated in writing and acting. Accor­dingly, a climax shows never better than in expressing a swelling passion. The fol­lowing passages shall suffice for an illustra­tion.

—Can you raise the dead?
Pursue and overtake the wings of time?
And bring about again, the hours, the days,
The years, that made me happy?
Oroonoko, act 2. sc. 2.

—How hast thou charm'd
The wildness of the waves and rocks to this?
That thus relenting they have giv'n thee back
To earth, to light and life, to love and me?
Mourning Bride, act 1. sc. 7.

I would not be the villain that thou think'st
For the whole space that's in the tyrant's grasp,
And the rich earth to boot.
Macbeth, act 4. sc. 4.

[Page 165] The following passage expresses finely the progress of conviction.

Let me not stir, nor breathe, lest I dissolve
That tender, lovely form, of painted air,
So like Almeria. Ha! it sinks, it falls;
I'll catch it ere it goes, and grasp her shade.
'Tis life! 'tis warm! 'tis she! 'tis she herself!
It is Almeria! 'tis, it is my wife!
Mourning Bride, act 2. sc. 6.

In the progress of thought, our resolutions become more vigorous as well as our pas­sions.

If ever I do yield or give consent,
By any action, word, or thought, to wed
Another Lord; may then just Heav'n show'r down, &c.
Mourning Bride, act 1. sc. 1.

And this leads to a second observation, That the different stages of a passion, and its different directions, from its birth to its extinction, ought to be carefully re­presented in the sentiments, which other­wise will often be misplaced. Resentment, for example, when provoked by an atro­cious injury, discharges itself first upon the [Page 166] author. Sentiments therefore of revenge take place of all others, and must in some measure be exhausted before the person injured think of pitying himself, or of grie­ving for his present distress. In the Cid of Corneille, Don Diegue having been affront­ed in a cruel manner, expresses scarce any sentiment of revenge, but is totally occu­pied in contemplating the low situation to which he was reduced by the affront.

O rage! ô desespoir! ô vieillesse ennemie!
N'ai je donc tant vecu que pour cette infamie?
Et ne suis-je blanchi dans les travaux guerriers,
Que pour voir en une jour fletrir tant de lauriers?
Mon bras, qu'avec respect toute l'Espagne admire,
Mon bras, qui tant de fois a sauvé cet empire,
Tant de fois affermi le trône de son roi,
Trahit donc ma querelle, et ne fait rien pour moi!
O cruel souvenir de ma gloire passée!
Oeuvre de tant de jours en un jour effacée!
Nouvelle dignité fatale à mon bonheur!
Precipice élevé d'ou tombe mon honneur!
Faut-il de votre éclat voir triompher le Comte,
Et mourir sans vengeance, ou vivre dans la honte?
Comte, sois de mon Prince à present gouverneur,
Ce haut rang n'admet point un homme sans honneur;
Et ton jaloux orgueil par cet affront insigne,
Malgré le choix du Roi, m'en a sû rendre indigne.
[Page 167] Et toi, de mes exploits glorieux instrument,
Mais d'un corps tout de glace inutile ornement,
Fer jadis tant à craindre, et qui dans cette offense
M'as servi de parade, et non pas de defense,
Va, quitte desormais le dernier des humains,
Passe pour me vanger en de meilleures mains.
Le Cid, act 1. sc. 4.

These sentiments are certainly not what oc­cur to the mind in the first movements of the passion. In the same manner as in re­sentment, the first movements of grief are always directed upon its object. Yet with relation to the sudden and severe distemper that seized Alexander bathing in the ri­ver Cydnus, Quintus Curtius describes the first emotions of the army as directed upon themselves, lamenting that they were left without a leader far from home, and had scarce any hopes of returning in safety. Their King's distress, which must naturally have been their first concern, occupies them but in the second place according to that author. In the Aminta of Tasso, Sylvia, upon a report of her lover's death, which she believed certain, instead of bemoaning the loss of a beloved object, turns her [Page 168] thoughts upon herself, and wonders her heart does not break.

Ohime, ben son di sasso,
Poi che questa novella non m'uccide.
Act 4. sc. 2.

In the tragedy of Jane Shore, Alicia, in the full purpose of destroying her rival, has the following reflection:

Oh Jealousy! thou bane of pleasing friendship,
Thou worst invader of our tender bosoms;
How does thy rancour poison all our softness,
And turn our gentle natures into bitterness?
See where she comes! Once my heart's dearest blessing,
Now my chang'd eyes are blasted with her beauty,
Loathe that known face, and sicken to behold her.
Act 3. sc. 1.

These are the reflections of a cool specta­tor. A passion while it has the ascendant, and is freely indulged, suggests not to the man who feels it any sentiment to its own prejudice. Reflections like the foregoing, occur not to him readily till the passion have spent its vigor.

[Page 169] A person sometimes is agitated at once by different passions. The mind in this case vibrating like a pendulum, vents itself in sentiments which partake of the same vibra­tion. This I give as a third observation:

'Would I had never trod this English earth,
Or felt the flatteries that grow upon it!
Ye've angels faces, but Heav'n knows your hearts.
What shall become of me now! wretched lady!
I am the most unhappy woman living.
Alas! poor wenches, where are now your fortunes?
[To her women.
Shipwreck'd upon a kingdom, where no pity,
No friends, no hope! no kindred weep for me!
Almost, no grave allow'd me.
Henry VIII. act 3. sc. 1.

Oh devil, devil!
If that the earth could teem with woman's tears,
Each drop she falls, would prove a crocodile.
Out of my sight.
I will not stay t' offend you.
Truly, an obedient lady:
I do beseech your Lordship, call her back.
My Lord.
[Page 170]
What would you with her, Sir?
Who, I, my Lord?
Ay; you did wish that I would make her turn:
Sir, she can turn and turn, and yet go on;
And turn again. And she can weep, Sir, weep;
And she's obedient: as you say, obedient;
Very obedient—proceed you in your tears—
Concerning this, Sir,—oh well-painted passion!—
I am commanded home—get you away,
I'll send for you anon—Sir, I obey the mandate,
And will return to Venice.—Hence, avaunt!
[Exit Desaemona.
Othello, act 4. sc. 6.

Oh! my good Lord, I would speak a word with you.
Yes, 'tis Aemilia—by and by—she's dead.
'Tis like, she comes to speak of Cassio's death;
The noise was high.—Ha, no more moving?
Still as the grave. Shall she come in? were't good?
I think she stirs again—No—what's the best?
If she come in, she'll, sure, speak to my wife;
My wife! my wife! What wife? I have no wife.
Oh insupportable! oh heavy hour!
Othello, act 5. sc. 7.

[Page 171] A fourth observation is, that nature, which gave us passions, and made them extremely beneficial when moderate, in­tended undoubtedly that they should be subjected to the government of reason and conscience*. It is therefore against the or­der of nature, that passion in any case should take the lead in contradiction to reason and conscience. Such a state of mind is a sort of anarchy, which every one is ashamed of, and endeavours to hide or dissemble. Even love, however laudable, is attended with a conscious shame when it becomes immode­rate: it is covered from the world, and dis­closed only to the beloved object:

Et que l'amour souvent de remors combattu
Paroisse une foiblesse, et non une vertu.
Boileau, L'art poet. chant. 3. l. 101.

O, they love least that let men know their love.
Two Gentlemen of Verona, act 1. sc. 3.

Hence a capital rule in the representation of strong passions, that their genuine sentiments [Page 172] ought to be hid or dissembled as much as possible. And this holds in an especial man­ner with respect to criminal passions. One never counsels the commission of a crime in plain terms. Guilt must not appear in its native colours, even in thought: the pro­posal must be made by hints, and by repre­senting the action in some favourable light. Of the propriety of sentiment upon such an occasion, Shakespear, in the Tempest, has given us a beautiful example. The subject is a proposal made by the usurping Duke of Milan to Sebastian, to murder his brother the King of Naples.

—What might
Worthy Sebastian—O, what might—no more.
And yet, methinks, I see it in thy face,
What thou should'st be: th'occasion speaks thee, and
My strong imagination sees a crown
Dropping upon thy head.
Act 2. sc. 1.

There cannot be a finer picture of this sort, than that of King John soliciting Hubert to murder the young Prince Arthur.

[Page 173]
K. John.
Come hither, Hubert. O my gentle Hubert,
We owe thee much; within this wall of flesh
There is a soul counts thee her creditor,
And with advantage means to pay thy love.
And, my good friend, thy voluntary oath
Lives in this bosom, dearly cherished.
Give me thy hand, I had a thing to say—
But I will fit it with some better time.
By Heaven, Hubert, I'm almost asham'd
To say what good respect I have of thee.
I am much bounden to your Majesty.
K. John.
Good friend, thou hast no cause to say so yet—
But thou shalt have—and creep time ne'er so slow,
Yet it shall come for me to do thee good.
I had a thing to say—but, let it go:
The sun is in the heav'n, and the proud day,
Attended with the pleasures of the world,
Is all too wanton, and too full of gawds,
To give me audience. If the midnight-bell
Did with his iron tongue and brazen mouth
Sound one into the drowsy race of night;
If this same were a church-yard where we stand,
And thou possessed with a thousand wrongs;
Or if that surly spirit Melancholy
Had bak'd thy blood and made it heavy-thick,
Which else runs tickling up and down the veins,
[Page 174] Making that idiot Laughter keep men's eyes,
And strain their cheeks to idle merriment,
(A passion hateful to my purposes);
Or if that thou could'st see me without eyes,
Hear me without thine ears, and make reply
Without a tongue, using conceit alone,
Without eyes, ears, and harmful sounds of words;
Then, in despight of broad-ey'd watchful day,
I would into thy bosom pour my thoughts.
But ah, I will not—Yet I love thee well;
And, by my troth, I think thou lov'st me well.
So well, that what you bid me under­take,
Though that my death were adjunct to my act,
By Heav'n, I'd do't.
K. John.
Do not I know, thou would'st?
Good Hubert, Hubert, Hubert, throw thine eye
On you young boy. I'll tell thee what, my friend;
He is a very serpent in my way.
And, wheresoe'er this foot of mine doth tread,
He lies before me. Dost thou understand me?
Thou art his keeper.
King John, act 3. sc. 5.

As things are best illustrated by their contraries, I proceed to collect from classi­cal authors, sentiments that appear faulty. The first class shall consist of sentiments that [Page 175] accord not with the passion; or, in other words, sentiments that the passion represent­ed does not naturally suggest. In the se­cond class, shall be ranged sentiments that may belong to an ordinary passion, but un­suitable to it as tinctured by a singular cha­racter. Thoughts that properly are not sentiments, but rather descriptions, make a third. Sentiments that belong to the pas­sion represented, but are faulty as being introduced too early or too late, make a fourth. Vicious sentiments exposed in their native dress, instead of being concealed or disguised, make a fifth. And in the last class, shall be collected sentiments suited to no character or passion, and therefore un­natural.

The first class contains faulty sentiments of various kinds, which I shall endeavour to distinguish from each other. And first sentiments that are faulty by being above the tone of the passion.

—O my soul's joy!
If after every tempest come such calms,
May the winds blow till they have waken'd death:
[Page 176] And let the labouring bark climb hills of seas
Olympus high, and duck again as low
As hell's from heaven!
Othello, act 2. sc. 6.

This sentiment is too strong to be suggested by so slight a joy as that of meeting after a storm at sea.

Place me, some god, upon a pyramid
Higher than hills of earth, and lend a voice
Loud as your thunder to me, that from thence
I may discourse to all the under-world
The worth that dwells in him.
Philaster of Beaumont and Fletcher, act 4.

Secondly, Sentiments below the tone of the passion. Ptolemy, by putting Pompey to death, having incurred the displeasure of Caesar, was in the utmost dread of be­ing dethroned. In this agitating situation, Corneille makes him utter a speech full of cool reflection, that is in no degree expres­sive of the passion.

Ah! si je t'avois crû, je n'aurois pas de maître,
Je serois dans le trône où le Ciel m'a fait naître;
Mais c'est une imprudence assez commune aux rois,
D'ecouter trop d'avis, et se tromper au choix.
[Page 177] Le Destin les aveugle au bord du précipice,
Ou si quelque lumiere en leur ame se glisse,
Cette fausse clarté dont il les eblouit,
Le plonge dans une gouffre, et puis s'evanouit.
La mort de Pompée, act 4. sc. 1.

In Les Freres ennemies of Racine, the second act is opened with a love-scene. Hemon talks to his mistress of the torments of ab­sence, of the lustre of her eyes, that he ought to die no where but at her feet, and that one moment of absence was a thousand years. Antigone on her part acts the coquette, and pretends she must be gone to wait on her mother and brother, and cannot stay to li­sten to his courtship. This is odious French gallantry, below the dignity of the passion of love. It would scarce be excusable in painting modern French manners; and is insufferable where the ancients are brought upon the stage. The manners painted in the Alexandre of the same author are not more just. French gallantry prevails there throughout.

Third. Sentiments that agree not with the tone of the passion; as where a pleasant sen­timent [Page 178] is grafted upon a painful passion, or the contrary. In the following instances the sentiments are too gay for a serious pas­sion.

No happier task these faded eyes pursue;
To read and weep is all they now can do.
Eloisa to Abelard, l. 47.


Heav'n first taught letters for some wretch's aid,
Some banish'd lover, or some captive maid;
They live, they speak, they breathe what love in­spires,
Warm from the soul, and faithful to its fires;
The virgin's wish without her fears impart,
Excuse the blush, and pour out all the heart;
Speed the soft intercourse from soul to soul,
And waft a sigh from Indus to the pole.
Eloisa to Abelard, l. 51.

These thoughts are pretty; they suit Pope extremely, but not Eloisa.

Satan, enraged by a threatening of the angel Gabriel, answers thus:

Then when I am thy captive talk of chains,
Proud limitary cherub; but ere then
[Page 179] Far heavier load thyself expect to feel
From my prevailing arm, though Heaven's King
Ride on thy wings, and thou with thy compeers,
Us'd to the yoke, draw'st his triumphant wheels
In progress through the road of heav'n star-pav'd.
Paradise Lost, book 4.

The concluding epithet forms a grand and delightful image, which cannot be the ge­nuine offspring of rage.

Fourth. Sentiments too artificial for a serious passion. I give for the first example a speech of Piercy expiring:

O, Harry, thou hast robb'd me of my growth:
I better brook the loss of brittle life,
Than those proud titles thou hast won of me;
They wound my thoughts, worse than thy sword my flesh.
But thought's the slave of life, and life time's fool;
And time, that takes survey of all the world,
Must have a stop.
First part, Henry IV. act 5. sc. 9.

Livy inserts the following passage in a plaintive oration of the Locrenses accusing Pleminius the Roman legate of oppression. [Page 180]"In hoc legato vestro, nec hominis quic­quam est, Patres Conscripti, praeter figu­ram et speciem; neque Romani civis, praeter habitum vestitumque, et sonum linguae Latinae. Pestis et bellua imma­nis, quales fretum, quondam, quo ab Sicilia dividimur, ad perniciem navigan­tium circumsedisse, fabulae ferunt*."’

Congreve shows a fine taste in the sentiments of the Mourning Bride. But in the follow­ing passage the picture is too artful to be suggested by severe grief:

O no! Time gives increase to my af­flictions.
The circling hours, that gather all the woes
Which are diffus'd through the revolving year,
Come heavy-laden with th' oppressing weight
To me; with me, successively, they leave
The sighs, the tears, the groans, the restless cares,
And all the damps of grief, that did retard their flight,
They shake their downy wings, and scatter all
The dire collected dews on my poor head;
Then fly with joy and swiftness from me.
Act 1. sc. 1.

[Page 181] In the same play, Almeria seeing a dead body, which she took to be Alphonso's, ex­presses sentiments strained and artificial, which nature suggests not to any person up­on such an occasion:

Had they, or hearts, or eyes, that did this deed?
Could eyes endure to guide such cruel hands?
Are not my eyes guilty alike with theirs,
That thus can gaze, and yet not turn to stone?
—I do not weep! The springs of tears are dry'd,
And of a sudden I am calm, as if
All things were well; and yet my husband's mur­der'd!
Yes, yes, I know to mourn! I'll sluice this heart,
The source of wo, and let the torrent loose.
Act 5. sc. 11.

Lady Trueman.

How could you be so cruel to defer giving me that joy which you knew I must receive from your presence? You have robb'd my life of some hours of happiness that ought to have been in it.

Drummer, act 5.

Pope's Elegy to the memory of an unfor­tunate lady, expresses delicately the most tender concern and sorrow for the deplorable [Page 182] fate of a person of worth. A poem of this kind, deeply serious and pathetic, rejects all fiction with disdain. We therefore can give no quarter to the following passage, which is eminently discordant with the sub­ject. It is not the language of the heart, but of the imagination indulging its flights at ease. It would be a still more severe censure, if it should be ascribed to imitation, copying indiscreetly what has been said by others.

What though no weeping loves thy ashes grace,
Nor polish'd marble emulate thy face?
What though no sacred earth allow thee room,
Nor hallow'd dirge be mutter'd o'er thy tomb?
Yet shall thy grave with rising flow'rs be drest,
And the green turf lie lightly on thy breast:
There shall the morn her earliest tears bestow,
There the first roses of the year shall blow;
While angels with their silver wings o'ershade
The ground, now sacred by thy reliques made.

Fifth. Fanciful or finical sentiments, sen­timents that degenerate into point or con­ceit, however they may amuse in an idle hour, can never be the offspring of any se­rious or important passion. In the Ierusalem [Page 183] of Tasso, Tancred, after a single combat, spent with fatigue and loss of blood, falls into a swoon. In this situation, un­derstood to be dead, he is discovered by Erminia, who was in love with him to distraction. A more happy situation can­not be imagined, to raise grief in an instant to its highest pitch; and yet, in venting her sorrow, she descends most abominably to antithesis and conceit, even of the lowest kind.

E in lui versò d'inessicabil vena
Lacrime, e voce di sospiri mista.
In che misero punto hor qui me mena
Fortuna? a che veduta amara e trista?
Dopo gran tempo i' ti ritrovo à pena
Tancredi, e ti riveggio, e non son vista,
Vista non son da te, benche presente
E trovando ti perdo eternamente.
Cant. 19. st. 105.

Armida's lamentation respecting her lover Rinaldo*, is in the same vitious taste.

Give me no help in lamentation,
I am not barren to bring forth complaints:
[Page 184] All springs reduce their currents to mine eyes,
That I, being govern'd by the wat'ry moon,
May send forth plenteous tears to drown the world.
Ah, for my husband, for my dear Lord Edward.
King Richard III. act 2. sc. 2.

Jane Shore.
Let me be branded for the public scorn,
Turn'd forth, and driven to wander like a vaga­bond,
Be friendless and forsaken, seek my bread
Upon the barren wild, and desolate waste,
Feed on my sighs, and drink my falling tears;
Ere I consent to teach my lips injustice,
Or wrong the orphan who has none to save him.
Jane Shore, act 4.

Give me your drops, ye soft-descending rains,
Give me your streams, ye never-ceasing springs,
That my sad eyes may still supply my duty,
And feed an everlasting flood of sorrow.
Jane Shore, act 5.

Jane Shore utters her last breath in a witty conceit.

Then all is well, and I shall sleep in peace—
'Tis very dark, and I have lost you now—
[Page 185] Was there not something I would have bequeath'd you?
But I have nothing left me to bestow,
Nothing but one sad sigh. Oh mercy, Heav'n!
Act 5.

Gilford to Lady Jane Gray, when both were condemned to die:

Thou stand'st unmov'd;
Calm temper sits upon thy beauteous brow;
Thy eyes that flow'd so fast for Edward's loss,
Gaze unconcern'd upon the ruin round thee,
As if thou hadst resolv'd to brave thy fate,
And triumph in the midst of desolation.
Ha! see, it swells, the liquid crystal rises,
It starts in spight of thee—but I will catch it,
Nor let the earth be wet with dew so rich.
Lady Jane Gray, act 4. near the end.

The concluding sentiment is altogether fi­nical, unsuitable to the importance of the occasion, and even to the dignity of the pas­sion of love.

Corneille, in his Examen of the Cid *, an­swering [Page 186] an objection, that his sentiments are sometimes too much refined for persons in deep distress, observes, that if poets did not indulge sentiments more ingenious or refined than are prompted by passion, their performances would often be low; and ex­treme grief would never suggest but excla­mations merely. This is in plain language to assert, That forced thoughts are more relished than such as are natural, and there­fore ought to be preferred.

The second class is of sentiments that may belong to an ordinary passion, but are not perfectly concordant with it, as tinctured by a singular character. In the last act of that excellent comedy, The Careless Hus­band, Lady Easy, upon Sir Charles's refor­mation, is made to express more violent and turbulent sentiments of joy, than are con­sistent with the mildness of her character.

Lady Easy.

O the soft treasure! O the dear re­ward of long-desiring love—Thus! thus to have you mine, is something more than happiness, 'tis double life, and madness of abounding joy.

[Page 187] If the sentiments of a passion ought to be suited to a peculiar character, it is still more necessary that sentiments devoid of passion be suited to the character. In the 5th act of the Drummer, Addison makes his gar­dener act even below the character of an ig­norant credulous rustic: he gives him the behaviour of a gaping idiot.

The following instances are descriptions rather than sentiments, which compose a third class.

Of this descriptive manner of painting the passions, there is in the Hippolytus of Euri­pides, act 5. an illustrious instance, viz. the speech of Theseus, upon hearing of his son's dismal exit. In Racine's tragedy of Esther, the Queen hearing of the decree issued against her people, instead of express­ing sentiments suitable to the occasion, turns her attention upon herself, and de­scribes with accuracy her own situation.

Juste Ciel? Tout mon sang dans mes veines se glace.
Act 1. sc. 3.

[Page 188] Again,

C'en est fait. Mon orgueil est forcé de plier,
L'inexorable Aman est reduit a prier.
Esther, act 3. sc. 5.

Quel prodige nouveau me trouble et m'embarrasse?
La douceur de sa voix, son enfance, sa grace,
Font insensiblement à mon inimitié
Succéder—Je serois sensible a la pitié?
Athalie, act 2. sc. 7.

O de ma passion fureur desesperée!
Brutus of Voltaire, act 3. sc. 6.

What other are the foregoing instances than describing the passion another feels?

An example is given above of remorse and despair expressed by genuine and natu­ral sentiments. In the fourth book of Pa­radise Lost, Satan is made to express his re­morse and despair in sentiments, which though beautiful, are not altogether na­tural. They are rather the sentiments of a spectator, than of a person who actually is tormented with these passions.

[Page 189] The fourth class is of sentiments intro­duced too early or too late.

Some examples mentioned above belong to this class. Add the following from Ve­nice preserv'd, act 5. at the close of the scene betwixt Belvidera and her father Pri­uli. The account given by Belvidera of the danger she was in, and of her husband's threatening to murder her, ought naturally to have alarmed her relenting father, and to have made him express the most per­turbed sentiments. Instead of which he dissolves into tenderness and love for his daughter, as if he had already delivered her from danger, and as if there were a perfect tranquillity.

Canst thou forgive me all my follies past?
I'll henceforth be indeed a father; never,
Never more thus expose, but cherish thee,
Dear as the vital warmth that feeds my life,
Dear as these eyes that weep in fondness o'er thee:
Peace to thy heart.

Immoral sentiments exposed in their na­tive [Page 190] colours, instead of being concealed or disguised, compose the fifth class.

The Lady Macbeth projecting the death of the King, has the following soliloquy:

—The raven himself's not hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come all you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to th' toe, top-full
Of direct cruelty; make thick my blood,
Stop up th' access and passage to remorse
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose.
Macbeth, act 1. sc. 7.

This speech is not natural. Murder under trust was never perpetrated even by the most hardened miscreant without compunc­tion. And that the lady here must have been in horrible agitation appears, from her invoking the infernal spirits to fill her with cruelty, and to stop up all avenues to re­morse. But in this state of mind, it is a ne­ver-failing device of self-deceit, to draw the thickest veil over the wicked action, and to extenuate it by all circumstances that ima­gination [Page 191] can suggest. And if the crime cannot bear disguise, the next attempt is, to thrust it out of mind altogether, and to rush on to action without thought. This last was the husband's method.

Strange things I have in head, that will to hand;
Which must be acted, ere they must be scann'd.
Act 3. sc. 5.

The lady follows neither of these courses, but in a deliberate manner endeavours to fortify her heart in the commission of an ex­ecrable crime, without even attempting a disguise. This I think is not natural. I hope there is no such wretch to be found, as is here represented. In the Pompey of Cor­neille*, Photine counsels a wicked action in the plainest terms without disguise.

Seigneur, n'attirez point le tonnerre en ces lieux,
Rangez-vous du parti des destins et des dieux,
Et sans les accuser d'injustice, ou d'outrage,
Puis qu'ils font les heureux, adorez leur ouvrage;
[Page 192] Quels que soient leurs decrets, déclarez-vouz pour eux,
Et pour leur obéir, perdez le malheureux.
Pressé de toutes parts des coléres celestes,
Il en vient dessus vous faire fondre les restes;
Et sa tête qu'à peine il a pû dérober,
Tout prête de choir, cherche avec qui tomber.
Sa retraite chez vous en effet n'est qu'un crime;
Elle marque sa haine, et non pas son estime;
Il ne vient que vous perdre en venant prendre port,
Et vous pouvez douter s'il est digne de mort!
Il devoit mieux remplir nos voeux et notre attente,
Faire voir sur ses nefs la victoire flotante;
Il n'eût ici trouvé que joye et que festins,
Mais puisqu'il est vaincu, qu'il s'en prenne aux destins.
J'en veux à sa disgrace et non à sa personne,
J'exécute à regret ce que le ciel ordonne,
Et du même poignard, pour César destiné,
Je perce en soupirant son coeur infortuné.
Vouz ne pouvez enfin qu'aux dépens de sa tête
Mettre à l'abri la vôtre, et parer la tempête.
Laissez nommer sa mort un injuste attentat,
La justice n'est pas une vertu d'etat.
Le choix des actions, ou mauvaises, ou bonnes,
Ne fait qu'anéantir la force des couronnes;
Le droit des rois consiste à ne rien épargner;
La timide équité détruit l'art de regner,
[Page 193] Quand on craint d'être injuste on a toûjours à craindre,
Et qui veut tout pouvoir doit oser tout enfraindre,
Fuir comme un deshonneur la vertu qui le pert.
Et voler sans scrupule au crime qui lui sert.

In the tragedy of Esther *, Haman acknow­ledges, without disguise, his cruelty, inso­lence, and pride. And there is another example of the same kind in the Agamem­non of Seneca. In the tragedy of Atha­lie , Mathan, in cool blood, relates to his friend many black crimes he had been guil­ty of to satisfy his ambition.

In Congreve's Double-dealer, Maskwell, instead of disguising or colouring his crimes, values himself upon them in a soliloquy:

Cynthia, let thy beauty gild my crimes; and whatsoever I commit of treachery or deceit, shall be imputed to me as a merit.—Treachery! what treachery? Love cancels all the bonds of friend­ship, and sets men right upon their first founda­tions.

Act 2. sc. 8.

[Page 194] In French plays, love, instead of being hid or disguised, is treated as a serious concern, and of greater importance than for­tune, family, or dignity. I suspect the reason to be, that in the capital of France, love, by the easiness of intercourse, has dwindled down from a real passion to be a connec­tion that is regulated entirely by the mode or fashion*. This may in some measure excuse their writers, but will never make their plays be relished among foreigners.

Quoi, trahir, mon ami!
—L'amour rend tout permis,
Un véritable amant ne connoît point d'amis.
Cinna, act 3. sc. 1.

Reine, tout est paisible, et la ville cal­mée,
Qu'un trouble assez leger avoit trop alarmée,
[Page 195] N'a plus à redouter le divorce intestin
Du soldat insolent, et du peuple mutin.
Mais, ô Dieux! ce moment que je vous ai quittée,
D'un trouble bien plus grand à mon ame agitée,
Et ces soins importuns qui m'arrachoient de vous
Contre ma grandeur même allumoient mon courroux.
Je lui voulois du mal de m' être si contraire,
De rendre ma presence ailleurs si necessaire.
Mais je lui pardonnois au simple souvenir
Du bonheur qu'a ma flâme elle fait obtenir.
C'est elle dont je tiens cette haute espérance,
Qui flate mes desirs d'une illustre apparence,
Et fait croire à Cesar qu'il peut former de voeux,
Qu'il n'est pas tout-à-fait indigne de vos feux,
Et qu'il peut en pretendre une juste conquête,
N'ayant plus que les Dieux au dessus de sa tête.
Oui, Reine, si quelqu'un dans ce vaste univers
Pouvoit porter plus haut la gloire de vos fers;
S'il étoit quelque trône où vous puissiez paroître
Plus dignement assise en captivant son maître,
J'irois, j'irois à lui, moins pour le lui ravir,
Que pour lui disputer le droit de vous servir;
Et je n'aspirerois au bonheur de vous plaire,
Qu'aprés avoir mis bas un si grand adversaire.
C'etoit pour acquerir un droit si précieux,
Que combatoit par tout mon bras ambitieux,
Et dans Pharsale même il a tiré l'epée
Plus pour le conserver, que pour vaincre Pompée.
[Page 196] Je l'ai vaincu, Princesse, et le Dieu de combats
M'y favorisoit moins que vos divins appas.
Ils conduisoient ma main, ils enfloient mon courage,
Cette pleine victoire est leur dernier ouvrage,
C'est l'effet des ardeurs qu'ils diagnoient m'inspi­rer;
Et vos beaux yeux enfin m'ayant fait soûpirer,
Pour faire que votre ame avec gloire y réponde,
M'ont rendu le premier, et de Rome, et du monde;
C'est ce glorieux titre, à présent effectif,
Que je viens ennoblir par celui de captif;
Heureux, si mon ésprit gagne tant sur le vôtre,
Qu'il en estime l'un, et me permette l'autre.
Pompée, act 4. sc. 3.

The last class comprehends sentiments that are unnatural, as being suited to no character nor passion. These may be sub­divided into three branches: first, senti­ments unsuitable to the constitution of man and the laws of his nature; second, incon­sistent sentiments; third, sentiments that are pure rant and extravagance.

When the fable is of human affairs, eve­ry event, every incident, and every circum­stance, ought to be natural, otherwise the imitation is imperfect. But an imperfect [Page 197] imitation is a venial fault, compared with that of running cross to nature. In the Hippolytus of Euripides*, Hippolytus, wish­ing for another self in his own situation, How much (says he) should I be touched with his misfortune! as if it were natural to grieve more for the misfortunes of ano­ther than for one's own.

Yet I behold her—yet—and now no more.
Turn your lights inward, Eyes, and view my thought,
So shall you still behold her—'twill not be.
O impotence of sight! mechanic sense
Which to exterior objects ow'st thy faculty,
Not seeing of election, but necessity.
Thus do our eyes, as do all common mirrors,
Successively reflect succeeding images.
Nor what they would, but must; a star or toad;
Just as the hand of Chance administers!
Mourning Bride, act 2. sc. 8.

No man, in his senses, ever thought of ap­plying his eyes to discover what passes in his mind; far less of blaming his eyes for not [Page 198] seeing a thought or idea. In Moliere's L'A­vare *, Harpagon being robbed of his mo­ney, seizes himself by the arm, mistaking it for that of the robber. And again he expresses himself as follows:

Je veux aller querir la justice, et faire donner la question à toute ma maison; à servantes, à valets, a fils, à fille, et à moi aussi.

This is so absurd as scarce to provoke a smile if it be not at the author.

Of the second branch the following are examples.

—Now bid me run
And I will strive with things impossible,
Yea get the better of them.
Julius Caesar, act 2. sc. 3.

Vos mains seules ont droit de vaincre un invincible.
Le Cid, act 5. sc. last.

Que son nom soit beni. Que son nom soit chanté.
Que l'on celebre ses ouvrages
Au de la de l'eternité.
Esther, act 5. sc. last.

[Page 199]
Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is hell: myself am hell:
And in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threat'ning to devour me, opens wide;
To which, the hell I suffer seems a heav'n.
Paradise Lost, book 4.

Of the third branch, take the following samples.

Lucan, talking of Pompey's sepulchre,

—Romanum nomen, et omne
Imperium Magno est tumuli modus. Obrue saxa
Crimine plena deûm. Si tota est Herculis Oete,
Et juga tota vacant Bromio Nyseia; quare
Unus in Egypto Magno lapis? Omnia Lagi
Rura tenere potest, si nullo cespite nomen
Haeserit. Erremus populi, cinerumque tuorum,
Magne, metu nullas Nili calcemus arenas.
L. 8. l. 798.

Thus in Rowe's translation:

Where there are seas, or air, or earth, or skies,
Where-e'er Rome's empire stretches, Pompey lies.
[Page 200] Far be the vile memorial then convey'd!
Nor let this stone the partial gods upbraid.
Shall Hercules all Oeta's heights demand,
And Nysa's hill for Bacchus only stand;
While one poor pebble is the warrior's doom
That fought the cause of liberty and Rome?
If fate decrees he must in Egypt lie,
Let the whole fertile realm his grave supply,
Yield the wide country to his awful shade,
Nor let us dare on any part to tread,
Fearful we violate the mighty dead.

The following passages are pure rant. Coriolanus speaking to his mother,

What is this?
Your knees to me? to your corrected son?
Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach
Fillop the stars: then let the mutinous winds
Strike the proud cedars 'gainst the fiery sun:
Murd'ring impossibility, to make
What cannot be, slight work.
Coriolanus, act 5. sc. 3.

—Danger knows full well,
That Caesar is more dangerous than he.
We were two lions litter'd in one day,
And I the elder and more terrible.
Julius Caesar, act 2. sc. 4.

[Page 201]
This day—
I gave my faith to him, he his to me.
Good Heav'n, thy book of fate be­fore me lay
But to tear out the journal of this day.
Or if the order of the world below,
Will not the gap of one whole day allow,
Give me that minute when she made that vow.
That minute ev'n the happy from their bliss might give,
And those who live in grief a shorter time would live.
So small a link if broke, th'eternal chain
Would like divided waters join again.
Conquest of Granada, act 3.

—I'll hold it fast
As life; and when life's gone, I'll hold this last.
And if thou tak'st it after I am slain,
I'll send my ghost to fetch it back again.
Conquest of Granada, part 2. act 3.

A crown is come, and will not fate allow.
And yet I feel something like death is near.
My guards, my guards—
Let not that ugly skeleton appear.
Sure Destiny mistakes; this death's not mine;
She doats, and meant to cut another line.
[Page 202] Tell her I am a queen—but 'tis too late;
Dying, I charge rebellion on my fate;
Bow down, ye slaves—
Bow quickly down and your submission show;
I'm pleas'd to taste an empire ere I go.
Conquest of Granada, part 2. act 5.

But you, ere love misled your wan­d'ring eyes,
Were, sure, the chief and best of human race,
Fram'd in the very pride and boast of nature,
So perfect, that the gods who form'd you wonder'd
At their own skill, and cry'd, A lucky hit
Has mended our design.
Dryden, All for Love, act 1.

Not to talk of the impiety of this sentiment, it is ludicrous instead of being lofty.

The famous Epitaph on Raphael is not less absurd than any of the foregoing pas­sages:

Raphael, timuit, quo sospite, vinci
Rerum magna parens, et moriente mori.

Imitated by Pope in his Epitaph on Sir God­frey Kneller:

[Page 203]
Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvie
Her works; and dying, fears herself may die.

Such is the force of imitation; for Pope of himself would never have been guilty of a thought so extravagant.

CHAP. XVII. Language of Passion.

AMONG the particulars that compose the social part of our nature, a pro­pensity to communicate our opi­nions, our emotions, and every thing that affects us, is remarkable. Bad fortune and injustice affect every one greatly; and of these we are so prone to complain, that if we have no friend or acquaintance to take part in our sufferings, we sometimes utter our complaints aloud even where there are none to listen.

But this propensity, though natural, ope­rates not in every state of mind. A man immoderately grieved, seeks to afflict him­self; and self-affliction is the gratification of the passion. Immoderate grief is therefore mute; because complaining is struggling for relief:

It is the wretch's comfort still to have
[Page 205] Some small reserve of near and inward wo,
Some unsuspected hoard of inward grief,
Which they unseen may wail, and weep, and mourn,
And glutton-like alone devour.
Mourning Bride, act 1. sc. 1.

When grief subsides, it then and no sooner finds a tongue. We complain, because complaining is an effort to disburden the mind of its distress*.

Surprise and terror are silent passions for a different reason: they agitate the mind so violently, as for a time to suspend the ex­ercise of its faculties, and in particular that of speech.

Love and revenge, when immoderate, [Page 206] are not more loquacious than immoderate grief. But when these passions become moderate, they set the tongue free, and, like moderate grief, become loquacious. Mo­derate love, when unsuccessful, is vented in complaints; when successful, is full of joy expressed both in words and gestures.

As no passion hath any long uninterrupted existence* nor beats always with an equal pulse, the language suggested by passion is also unequal and interrupted. And even du­ring an uninterrupted fit of passion, we only express in words the more capital sentiments. In familiar conversation, one who vents every single thought is justly branded with [Page 207] the character of loquacity. Sensible persons express no thoughts but what make some figure. In the same manner, we are only disposed to express the strongest impulses of passion, especially when it returns with im­petuosity after some interruption.

I already have had occasion to observe*, that the sentiments ought to be tuned to the passion, and the language to both. E­levated sentiments require elevated language: tender sentiments ought to be clothed in words that are soft and flowing: when the mind is depressed with any passion, the sen­timents must be expressed in words that are humble, not low. Words have an intimate connection with the ideas they represent; and the representation must be imperfect, if the words correspond not precisely to the ideas. An elevated tone of language to ex­press a plain or humble sentiment, has a bad effect by a discordant mixture of feeling. There is not less discord when elevated sen­timents are dressed in low words:

[Page 208]
Versibus exponi tragicis res comica non vult.
Indignatur item privatis ac prope Socco
Dignis carminibus narrari coena Thyestae.
Horace, Ars poet. l. 89.

This however excludes not figurative ex­pression, which, within moderate bounds, communicates to the sentiment an agree­able elevation. We are sensible of an effect directly opposite, where figurative expres­sion is indulged beyond a just measure. The opposition betwixt the expression and the sentiment, makes the discord appear greater than it is in reality*,

At the same time, all passions admit not equally of figures. Pleasant emotions, which elevate or swell the mind, vent themselves in strong epithets and figurative expression. Humbling and dispiriting pas­sions, on the contrary, affect to speak plain:

Et tragicus plerumque dolet sermone pedestri
Telephus et Peleus: cum pauper et exul uterque;
Projicit ampullas et sesquipedalia verba,
Si curat cor spectantis tetigisse querela.
Horace, Ars poet. 95.

[Page 209] Figurative expression is the work of an en­livened imagination, and for that reason cannot be the language of anguish or distress. A scene of this kind is painted by Otway in colours finely adapted to the subject. There is scarce a figure in it, except a short and natural simile with which the speech is in­troduced.

Belvidera talking to her father of her hus­band:

Think you saw what pass'd at our last parting;
Think you beheld him like a raging lion,
Pacing the earth, and tearing up his steps,
Fate in his eyes, and roaring with the pain
Of burning fury; think you saw his one hand
Fix'd on my throat, while the extended other
Grasp'd a keen threat'ning dagger; oh, 'twas thus
We last embrac'd, when, trembling with revenge,
He dragg'd me to the ground, and at my bosom
Presented horrid death; cry'd out, My friends,
Where are my friends? swore, wept, rag'd, threa­ten'd, lov'd;
For he yet lov'd, and that dear love preserv'd me
To this last trial of a father's pity.
I fear not death, but cannot bear a thought
That that dear hand should do th'unfriendly office;
If I was ever then your care, now hear me;
[Page 210] Fly to the senate, save the promis'd lives
Of his dear friends, ere mine be made the sacrifice.
Venice preserv'd, act 5.

To preserve this resemblance betwixt words and their meaning, the sentiments of active and hurrying passions ought to be dressed in words where syllables prevail that are pronounced short or fast; for these make an impression of hurry and precipitation. Emotions, on the other hand, that rest upon their objects, are best expressed by words where syllables prevail that are pronounced long or slow. A person affected with me­lancholy has a languid and slow train of per­ceptions. The expression best suited to this state of mind, is where words not only of long but of many syllables abound in the composition. For that reason, nothing can be finer than the following passage:

In those deep solitudes, and awful cells,
Where heav'nly-pensive Contemplation dwells,
And ever-musing Melancholy reigns.
Pope, Eloisa to Abelard.

To preserve the same resemblance, another [Page 211] circumstance is requisite, that the language conformable to the emotion, be rough or smooth, broken or uniform. Calm and sweet emotions are best expressed by words that glide softly; surprise, fear, and other turbulent passions, require an expression both rough and broken.

It cannot have escaped any diligent inqui­rer into nature, that in the hurry of passion, one generally expresses that thing first which is most at heart. This is beautifully done in the following passage.

Me, me; adsum qui feci: in me convertite ferrum,
O Rutuli, mea fraus omnis.
Aeneid ix. 427.

Passion has often the effect of redoubling words, the better to make them express the strong conception of the mind. This is finely represented in the following exam­ples:

—Thou sun, said I, fair light!
And thou enlighten'd earth, so fresh and gay!
Ye hills and dales, ye rivers, woods, and plains!
And ye that live, and move, fair creatures! tell
[Page 212] Tell, if ye saw, how came I thus, how here.—
Paradise Lost, b. viii. 273.

—Both have sinn'd! but thou
Against God only; I, 'gainst God and thee:
And to the place of judgement will return.
There with my cries importune Heav'n; that all
The sentence, from thy head remov'd, may light
On me, sole cause to thee of all this woe;
Me! Me! only just object of his ire.
Paradise Lost, book x. 930.

Shakespear is superior to all other writers in delineating passion. It is difficult to say in what part he most excels, whether in moulding every passion to peculiarity of character, in discovering the sentiments that proceed from various tones of passion, or in expressing properly every different sentiment. He imposes not upon his reader, general de­clamation and the false coin of unmeaning words, which the bulk of writers deal in. His sentiments are adjusted, with the great­est propriety, to the peculiar character and circumstances of the speaker; and the pro­priety is not less perfect betwixt his senti­ments and his diction. That this is no ex­aggeration, [Page 213] will be evident to every one of taste, upon comparing Shakespear with o­ther writers, in similar passages. If upon a­ny occasion he fall below himself, it is in those scenes where passion enters not. By endeavouring in this case to raise his dialogue above the style of ordinary conversation, he sometimes deviates into intricate thought and obscure expression*. Sometimes, to [Page 214] throw his language out of the familiar, he employs rhyme. But may it not in some measure excuse Shakespear, I shall not say his works, that he had no pattern, in his own or in any living language, of dialogue fitted for the theatre? At the same time, it ought not to escape observation, that the stream clears in its progress, and that in his later plays he has attained the purity and perfection of dialogue; an observation that, with greater certainty than tradition, will direct us to arrange his plays in the order of time. This ought to be considered by those who magnify every blemish that is discover­ed in the finest genius for the drama ever the world enjoy'd. They ought also for their own sake to consider, that it is easier to discover his blemishes, which lie general­ly at the surface, than his beauties, of which none can have a thorough relish but those who dive deep into human nature. One thing must be evident to the meanest capa­city, that where-ever passion is to be dis­play'd, Nature shows itself strong in him, [Page 215] and is conspicuous by the most delicate pro­priety of sentiment and expression*.

I return to my subject from a digression I cannot repent of. That perfect harmony which ought to subsist among all the con­stituent parts of a dialogue, is a beauty, not less rare than conspicuous. As to expres­sion in particular, were I to give instances, where, in one or other of the respects above mentioned, it corresponds not precisely to the characters, passions, and sentiments, I might from different authors collect vo­lumes. Following therefore the method laid down in the chapter of sentiments, I shall confine my citations to the grosser er­rors, which every writer ought to avoid.

[Page 216] And, first, of passion expressed in words flowing in an equal course without inter­ruption.

In the chapter above cited, Corneille is cen­sured for the impropriety of his sentiments; and here, for the sake of truth, I am obli­ged to attack him a second time. Were I to give instances from that author of the fault under consideration, I might co­py whole tragedies; for he is not less faulty in this particular, than in passing up­on us his own thoughts as a spectator, in­stead of the genuine sentiments of passion. Nor would a comparison betwixt him and Shakespear upon the present point, re­dound more to his honour, than the for­mer upon the sentiments. Racine here is less incorrect than Corneille, though many degrees inferior to the English author. From Racine I shall gather a few instan­ces. The first shall be the description of the sea-monster in his Phaedra, given by Theramene the companion of Hippolytus, and an eye-witness to the disaster. The­ramene is represented in terrible agitation, which appears from the following passage, [Page 217] so boldly figurative as not to be excused but by violent perturbation of mind.

Le ciel avec horreur voit ce monstre sauvage,
La terre s'en émeut, l'air en est infecté,
Le flot, qui l'apporta, recule epouvanté.

Yet Theramene gives a long pompous connected description of this event, dwelling upon every minute circumstance, as if he had been only a cool spectator.

A peine nous sortions des portes de Trézene, &c.
Act 5. sc. 6.

The last speech of Atalide, in the tragedy of Bajazet, of the same author, is a conti­nued discourse, and but a faint representa­tion of the violent passion which forc'd her to put an end to her own life.

Enfin, c'en est donc fait, &c.
Act 5. sc. last.

Though works, not authors, are the professed subject of this critical underta­king, I am tempted by the present specu­lation, to transgress once again the limits [Page 218] prescribed, and to venture a cursory reflec­tion upon this justly-celebrated author, That he is always sensible, generally correct, never falls low, maintains a moderate de­gree of dignity without reaching the sub­lime, paints delicately the tender passions, but is a stranger to the true language of enthusiastic or fervid passion.

If in general the language of violent pas­sion ought to be broken and interrupted, so­liloquies ought to be so in a peculiar manner. Language is intended by nature for society; and a man when alone, though he always clothes his thoughts in words, seldom gives his words utterance unless when prompted by some strong emotion; and even then by starts and intervals only*. Shakespear's soliloquies may be justly established as a model; for it is not easy to conceive any model more perfect. Of his many incom­parable soliloquies, I confine myself to the two following, being different in their manner.

[Page 219]
Oh, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His cannon 'gainst self-slaughter? O God! O God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! O fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed: things rank and gross in na­ture
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead, nay not so much; not two—
So excellent a king, that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr: so loving to my mother,
That he permitted not the winds of heav'n
Visit her face too roughly. Heav'n and earth!
Must I remember,—why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on; yet, within a month—
Let me not think—Frailty, thy name is Wo­man!
A little month, or ere those shoes were old,
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears—why she, ev'n she—
(O Heav'n! a beast that wants discourse of reason
[Page 220] Would have mourn'd longer—) married with mine uncle,
My father's brother; but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules—Within a month—
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her gauled eyes,
She married—Oh, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, nor it cannot come to good.
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
Hamlet, act 1. sc. 3.


Hum! ha! is this a vision? is this a dream? do I sleep? Mr Ford, awake; awake Mr Ford; there's a hole made in your best coat, Mr Ford! this 'tis to be married! this 'tis to have linen and buck baskets! Well, I will proclaim myself what I am; I will now take the leacher; he is at my house, he cannot 'scape me; 'tis im­possible he should; he cannot creep into a half-penny purse, nor into a pepper-box. But lest the devil that guides him should aid him, I will search impossible places; though what I am I cannot a­void, yet to be what I would not, shall not make me tame.

Merry Wives of Windsor, act 3. sc. last.

These soliloquies are accurate copies of na­ture. In a passionate soliloquy one begins [Page 221] with thinking aloud; and the strongest feelings only, are expressed. As the speaker warms, he begins to imagine one listening, and gradually slides into a connected dis­course.

How far distant are soliloquies generally from these models? They are indeed for the most part so unhappily executed, as to give disgust instead of pleasure. The first scene of Iphigenia in Tauris discovers that princess, in a soliloquy, gravely reporting to herself her own history. There is the same impropriety in the first scene of Alcestes, and in the other introductions of Euripides, almost without exception. Nothing can be more ridiculous. It puts one in mind of that ingenious device in Gothic paint­ings, of making every figure explain itself by a written label issuing from its mouth. The description a parasite, in the Eunuch of Terence*, gives of himself in the form of a soliloquy, is lively; but against all the rules of propriety; for no man, in his or­dinary state of mind, and upon a familiar [Page 222] subject, ever thinks of talking aloud to himself. The same objection lies against a soliloquy in the Adelphi of the same au­thor*. The soliloquy which makes the third scene, act third, of his Heicyra, is in­sufferable; for there Pamphilus, soberly and circumstantially, relates to himself an adventure which had happened to him a moment before.

Corneille is not more happy in his solilo­quies than in his dialogue. Take for a spe­cimen the first scene of Cinna.

Racine also is extremely faulty in the same respect. His soliloquies, almost without exception, are regular harangues, a chain completed in every link, without interrup­tion or interval. That of Antiochus in Be­renice resembles a regular pleading, where the parties pro and con display their argu­ments at full length. The following soli­loquies are equally destitute of propriety: Bajazet, act 3. sc. 7. Mithridate, act 3. sc. 4. & act 4. sc. 5. Iphigenia, act 4. sc. 8.

Soliloquies upon lively or interesting sub­jects, [Page 223] but without any turbulence of passion, may be carried on in a continued chain of thought. If, for example, the nature and sprightliness of the subject prompt a man to speak his thoughts in the form of a dialogue, the expression must be carried on without break or interruption, as in a dialogue be­twixt two persons. This justifies Falstaff's soliloquy upon honour:

What need I be so forward with Death, that calls not on me? Well, 'tis no matter, Honour pricks me on. But how if Honour prick me off, when I come on? how then? Can Honour set a leg? No: or an arm? No: or take away the grief of a wound? No: Honour hath no skill in surgery then? No. What is Honour? A word.—What is that word honour? Air; a trim reckoning.—Who hath it? He that dy'd a Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. Is it insensible then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No: Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore, I'll none of it; honour is a mere scutcheon; and so ends my catechism.

First part Henry IV. act 5. sc. 2.

And even without dialogue, a continued discourse may be justified, where the solilo­quy [Page 224] is upon an important subject that makes a strong impression, but without much agita­tion. For if it be at all excusable to think a­loud, it is necessary that the language with the reasoning be carried on in a chain without a broken link. In this view that admirable soliloquy in Hamlet upon life and immorta­lity, being a serene meditation upon the most interesting of all subjects, ought to e­scape censure. And the same consideration will justify the soliloquy that introduces the 5th act of Addison's Cato.

The next class of the grosser errors which all writers ought to avoid, shall be of lan­guage elevated above the tone of the senti­ment; of which take the following instan­ces.

Swift as occasion, I
Myself will fly; and earlier than the morn
Wake thee to freedom. Now 'tis late; and yet
Some news few minutes past arriv'd, which seem'd
To shake the temper of the King—Who knows
What racking cares disease a monarch's bed?
Or love, that late at night still lights his lamp,
And strikes his rays through dusk, and folded lids,
[Page 225] Forbidding rest, may stretch his eyes awake,
And force their balls abroad at this dead hour.
I'll try.
Mourning Bride, act 3. sc. 4.

The language here is undoubtedly too pompous and laboured for describing so simple a circumstance as absence of sleep. In the following passage, the tone of the language, warm and plaintive, is well suited to the passion, which is recent grief. But every one will be sensible, that in the last couplet save one, the tone is changed, and the mind suddenly elevated to be let fall as suddenly in the last couplet.

Il déteste à jamais sa coupable victoire,
Il renonce à la cour, aux humains, à la gloire;
Et se fuïant lui-même, au milieu des deserts,
Il va cacher sa peine au bout de l'univers;
La, soit que le soleil rendît le jour au monde,
Soit qu'il finît sa course au vaste sein de l'onde,
Sa voix faisoit redire aux echos attendris,
Le nom, le triste nom, de son malheureux fils.
Henriade, chant. viii. 229.

Language too artificial or too figurative [Page 226] for the gravity, dignity, or importance, of the occasion, may be put in a third class.

Chimene demanding justice against Ro­drigue who killed her father, instead of a plain and pathetic expostulation, makes a speech stuffed with the most artificial flowers of rhetoric:

Sire, mon pere est mort, mes yeux ont vû son sang
Couler à gros bouillons de son généreux flanc;
Ce sang qui tant de fois garantit vos murailles,
Ce sang qui tant de fois vous gagna des batailles,
Ce sang qui, tout sorti fume encore de courroux
De se voir répandu pour d'autres que pour vous,
Qu'au milieu des hazards n'osoit verser la guerre,
Rodrigue en votre cour vient d'en couvrir la terre.
J'ai couru sur le lieu sans force, et sans couleur;
Je l'ai trouvé sans vie. Excusez ma douleur,
Sire; la voix me manque à ce récit funeste,
Mes pleurs et mes soupirs vous diront mieux le reste.

And again:

Son flanc etoit ouvert, et, pour mieux m'emouvoir,
Son sang sur la poussiére écrivoit mon devoire;
Ou plutôt sa valeur en cet état réduite
Me parloit par sa plaie, et hâtoit ma pursuite,
[Page 227] Et pour se faire entendre au plus juste des Rois,
Par cette triste bouche elle empruntoit ma voix.
Act 2. sc. 9.

Nothing can be contrived in language more averse to the tone of the passion than this florid speech. I should imagine it more apt to provoke laughter than to inspire concern or pity.

In a fourth class shall be given specimens of language too light or airy for a severe passion.

The agony a mother must feel upon the savage murder of two hopeful sons, rejects all imagery and figurative expression, as dis­cordant in the highest degree. Therefore the following passage is undoubtedly in a bad taste:

Ah, my poor princes! ah, my tender babes,
My unblown flow'rs, new-appearing sweets!
If yet your gentle souls fly in the air,
And be not fixt in doom perpetual,
Hover about me with your airy wings,
[Page 228] And hear your mother's lamentation.
Richard III. act 4. sc. 4.


K. Philip.
You are as fond of grief as of your child.
Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garment with his form;
Then have I reason to be fond of grief.
King John, act 3. sc. 6.

A thought that turns upon the expression instead of the subject, commonly called a play of words, being low and childish, is un­worthy of any composition, whether gay or serious, that pretends to the smallest share of dignity. Thoughts of this kind make a fifth class.

In the Aminta of Tasso* the lover falls into a mere play of words, demanding how [Page 229] he who had lost himself, could find a mi­stress. And for the same reason, the fol­lowing passage in Corneille has been gene­rally condemned:

Mon pere est mort, Elvire, et la pre­miére épée
Dont s'est armé Rodrigue à sa trame coupée.
Pleurez, pleurez, mes yeux, et fondez-vous en eau,
La moitié de ma vie a mis l'autre au tombeau,
Et m'oblige à venger, aprés ce coup funeste,
Celle que je n'ai plus, sur celle qui me reste.
Cid, act 3. sc. 3.

To die is to be banish'd from myself:
And Sylvia is myself; banish'd from her,
Is self from self; a deadly banishment!
Two Gentlemen of Verona, act 3. sc. 3.

I pray thee, Lady, have a better cheer:
If thou ingrossest all the griefs as thine,
Thou robb'st me of a moiety.
All's well that ends well, act 3. sc. 3.

K. Henry.
O my poor kingdom, sick with civil blows!
When that my care could not with-hold thy riots,
[Page 230] What wilt thou do when riot is thy care?
O, thou wilt be a wilderness again,
Peopled with wolves, thy old inhabitants.
Second part, Henry IV. act 4. sc. 11.

Cruda Amarilli, che col nome ancora
D'amar, ahi lasso, amaramente insegni.
Pastor Fido, act 1. sc. 2.

Antony, speaking of Julius Caesar:

O world! thou wast the forest of this hart;
And this, indeed, O world, the heart of thee.
How like a deer, stricken by many princes,
Dost thou here lie!
Julius Caesar, act 3. sc. 3.

Playing thus with the sound of words, which is still worse than a pun, is the meanest of all conceits. But Shakespear, when he descends to a play of words, is not always in the wrong; for it is done sometimes to denote a peculiar character; as is the following passage.

King Philip.
What say'st thou, boy? look in the lady's face.
I do, my Lord, and in her eye I find
A wonder, or a wond'rous miracle;
The shadow of myself form'd in her eye;
[Page 231] Which being but the shadow of your son,
Becomes a sun, and makes your son a shadow.
I do protest, I never lov'd myself,
Till now infixed I beheld myself
Drawn in the flatt'ring table of her eye.
Drawn in the flatt'ring table of her eye!
Hang'd in the frowning wrinkle of her brow!
And quarter'd in her heart! he doth espy
Himself Love's traitor: this is pity now,
That hang'd, and drawn, and quarter'd, there should be,
In such a love so vile a lout as he.
King John, act. 2. sc. 5.

A jingle of words is the lowest species of this low wit; which is scarce sufferable in any case, and least of all in an heroic poem. And yet Milton in some instances has descended to this puerility:

And brought into the world a world of wo.
—Begirt th' almighty throne
Beseeching or besieging—
Which tempted our attempt—
At one slight bound high overleap'd all bound.
—With a shout
Loud as from numbers without number.

[Page 232] One should think it unnecessary to enter a caveat against an expression that has no meaning, or no distinct meaning; and yet somewhat of this kind may be found even among good writers. These make a sixth class.

I beg no pity for this mould'ring clay.
For if you give it burial, there it takes
Possession of your earth:
If burnt and scatter'd in the air; the winds
That strow my dust, diffuse my royalty,
And spread me o'er your clime; for where one a­tom
Of mine shall light, know there Sebastian reigns.
Dryden, Don Sebastian King of Portugal, act 1.

Now, what news my Charmion?
Will he be kind? and will he not forsake me?
Am I to live or die? nay, do I live?
Or am I dead? for when he gave his answer,
Fate took the word, and then I liv'd or dy'd.
Dryden, All for Love, act 2.

If she be coy, and scorn my noble fire,
If her chill heart I cannot move;
Why, I'll enjoy the very love,
And make a mistress of my own desire.
Cowley, poem inscribed, The Request.

[Page 233] His whole poem, inscribed, My Picture, is a jargon of the same kind:

—'Tis he, they cry, by whom
Not men, but war itself is overcome.
Indian Queen.

Such empty expressions are finely ridiculed in the Rehearsal:

Was't not unjust to ravish hence her breath,
And in life's stead to leave us nought but death?
Act 4. sc. 1.

CHAP. XVIII. Beauty of Language.

OF all the fine arts, painting only and sculpture are in their nature imita­tive. A field laid out with taste, is not, properly speaking, a copy or imita­tion of nature, but nature itself embellished. Architecture deals in originals, and copies not from nature. Sound and motion may in some measure be imitated by music; but for the most part music, like architecture, deals in originals. Language has no archetype in nature, more than music or architecture; unless where, like mu­sic, it is imitative of sound or motion. In the description of particular sounds, lan­guage sometimes happily furnisheth words, which, beside their customary power of ex­citing ideas, resemble by their softness or harshness the sound described: and there are words, which, by the celerity or slow­ness of pronunciation, have some resemblance [Page 235] to the motion they signify. This imitative power of words goes one step farther. The loftiness of some words, makes them pro­per symbols of lofty ideas: a rough sub­ject is imitated by harsh-sounding words; and words of many syllables pronounced slow and smooth, are naturally expressive of grief and melancholy. Words have a sepa­rate effect on the mind, abstracting from their signification and from their imitative power. They are more or less agreeable to the ear, by the roundness, sweetness, faint­ness, or roughness, of their tones.

These are beauties, but not of the first rank: They are relished by those only, who have more delicacy of sensation than be­longs to the bulk of mankind. Language possesseth a beauty superior greatly in de­gree, of which we are eminently conscious when a thought is communicated in a strong and lively manner. This beauty of lan­guage, arising from its power of expressing thought, is apt to be confounded with the beauty of the thought expressed; which beauty, by a natural transition of feeling a­mong things intimately connected, is con­vey'd [Page 236] to the expression, and makes it ap­pear more beautiful*. But these beauties, if we wish to think accurately, must be carefully distinguished from each other. They are indeed so distinct, that we some­times are conscious of the highest pleasure language can afford, when the subject ex­pressed is disagreeable. A thing that is loathsome, or a scene of horror to make one's hair stand on end, may be described in the liveliest manner. In this case, the disagree­ableness of the subject, doth not even ob­scure the agreeableness of the description. The causes of the original beauty of lan­guage considered as significant, which is a branch of the present subject, will be explain­ed in their order. I shall only at present observe, that this beauty is the beauty of means fitted to an end, viz. the communi­cation of thought. And hence it evidently appears, that of several expressions all con­veying the same thought, the most beauti­ful, in the sense now mentioned, is that [Page 237] which in the most perfect manner answers its end.

The several beauties of language above mentioned, being of different kinds and distinguishable from each other, ought to be handled separately. I shall begin with those beauties of language which arise from sound; after which will follow the beauties of language considered as significant. This or­der appears natural; for the sound of a word is attended to, before we consider its significa­tion. In a third section come those singular beauties of language that are derived from a resemblance betwixt sound and signification. The beauties of verse I propose to handle in the last section. For though the foregoing beauties are found in verse as well as in prose; yet verse has many peculiar beauties, which for the sake of perspicuity must be brought under one view. And versification, at any rate, is a subject of so great import­ance, as to deserve a place by itself.

SECT. I. Beauty of language with respect to sound.

I Propose to handle this subject in the fol­lowing order, which appears the most natural. The sounds of the different letters come first. Next, these sounds as united in syllables. Third, syllables united in words. Fourth, words united in a period. And in the last place, periods united in a discourse.

With respect to the first article, every vowel is sounded by a single expiration of air from the wind-pipe through the cavity of the mouth; and by varying this cavity, the different vowels are sounded. The air in passing through cavities differing in size, produceth various sounds, some high or sharp, some low or flat. A small cavity occasions a high sound, a large cavity a low sound. The five vowels accordingly, pro­nounced with the same extension of the [Page 239] wind-pipe, but with different openings of the mouth, form a regular series of sounds, descending from high to low, in the follow­ing order, i, e, a *, o, u. Each of these sounds is agreeable to the ear. And if it be inquired which of them is the most agree­able, it is perhaps the safest side to hold, that there is no universal preference of any one before the rest. Probably those vowels which are farthest removed from the ex­tremes, will generally be the most relished. This is all I have to remark upon the first article. For consonants being letters which of themselves have no sound, have no other power but to form articulate sounds in con­junction with vowels; and every such arti­culate sound being a syllable, consonants come naturally under the second article. To which therefore we proceed.

All consonants are pronounced with a less cavity than any of the vowels; and con­sequently they contribute to form a sound still more sharp than the sharpest vowel pronounced single. Hence it follows, that [Page 240] every articulate sound into which a consonant enters, must necessarily be double, though pronounced with one expiration of air, or with one breath as commonly expressed. The reason is, that though two sounds readily unite; yet where they differ in tone, both of them must be heard if neither of them be suppressed. For the same reason, every syllable must be composed of as many sounds as there are letters, supposing every letter to be distinctly pronounced.

We next inquire, how far articulate sounds into which consonants enter, are agreeable to the ear. With respect to this point, there is a noted observation, that all sounds of dif­ficult pronunciation are to the ear harsh in proportion. Few tongues are so polished as entirely to have rejected sounds that are pronounced with difficulty; and such sounds must in some measure be disagreeable. But with respect to agreeable sounds, it appears, that a double sound is always more agree­able than a single sound. Every one who has an ear must be sensible, that the diph­thongs oi or ai are more agreeable than any of these vowels pronounced singly. [Page 241] And the same holds where a consonant en­ters into the double sound. The sylla­ble le has a more agreeable sound than the vowel e or than any vowel. And in support of experience, a satisfactory argu­ment may be drawn from the wisdom of Providence. Speech is bestowed upon man, to qualify him for society. The provision he hath of articulate sounds, is proportioned to the use he hath for them. But if sounds that are agreeable singly were not also agree­able in conjunction, the necessity of a pain­ful selection would render language intricate and difficult to be attained in any perfection. And this selection, at the same time, would tend to abridge the number of useful sounds, so as perhaps not to leave sufficient for an­swering the different ends of language.

In this view, the harmony of pronuncia­tion differs widely from that of music pro­perly so called. In the latter are discovered many sounds singly agreeable, that in con­junction are extremely disagreeable; none but what are called concordant sounds having a good effect in conjunction. In the for­mer, all sounds singly agreeable are in con­junction [Page 242] concordant; and ought to be, in order to fulfil the purposes of language.

Having discussed syllables, we proceed to words; which make a third article. Mo­nosyllables belong to the former head. Po­lysyllables open a different scene. In a cur­sory view, one will readily imagine, that the effect a word hath upon the ear, must depend entirely upon the agreeableness or disagreeableness of its component syllables. In part it doth; but not entirely; for we must also take under consideration the effect that a number of syllables composing a word have in succession. In the first place, sylla­bles in immediate succession, pronounced, each of them, with the same or nearly the same aperture of the mouth, produce a weak and imperfect sound; witness the French words détêté (detested), dit-il (says he), patetique (pathetic). On the other hand, a syllable of the greatest aperture succeed­ing one of the smallest, or the opposite, makes a succession, which, because of its remarkable disagreeableness, is distinguish­ed by a proper name, viz. hiatus. The most agreeable succession, is, where the [Page 243] cavity is increased and diminished alternate­ly by moderate intervals. Secondly, words consisting wholly of syllables pronounced slow or of syllables pronounced quick, com­monly called long and short syllables, have little melody in them. Witness the words petitioner, fruiterer, dizziness. On the o­ther hand, the intermixture of long and short syllables is remarkably agreeable; for example, degree, repent, wonderful, altitude, rapidity, independent, impetuosity. The cause will be explained afterward, in treat­ing of versification.

Distinguishable from the beauties above mentioned, there is a beauty of some words which arises from their signification. When the emotion raised by the length or shortness, the roughness or smoothness, of the sound, resembles in any degree what is raised by the sense, we feel a very remarkable plea­sure. But this subject belongs to the third section.

The foregoing observations afford a stan­dard to every nation, for estimating, pretty accurately, the comparative merit of the words that enter into their own language. [Page 244] And though at first view they may be thought equally useful for estimating the comparative merit of different languages; yet this holds not in fact, because no per­son can readily be found who is sufficiently qualified to apply the standard. What I mean is, that different nations judge differ­ently of the harshness or smoothness of ar­ticulate sounds: a sound, harsh and disa­greeable to an Italian, may be abundantly smooth to a northern ear. Where are we to find a judge to determine this contro­versy? and supposing a judge, upon what principle is his decision to be founded? The case here is precisely the same as in behaviour and manners. Plain-dealing and sincerity, liberty in words and actions, form the character of one people. Polite­ness, reserve, and a total disguise of every sentiment that can give offence, form the character of another people. To each the manners of the other are disagreeable. An effeminate mind cannot bear the least of that roughness and severity, which is generally esteemed manly when exerted upon proper occasions. Neither can an effeminate ear [Page 245] bear the least harshness in words that are deemed nervous and sounding by those ac­customed to a rougher tone of language. Must we then relinquish all thoughts of comparing languages in the point of rough­ness and smoothness, as a fruitless inquiry? Not altogether so; for we may proceed a certain length, though without hope of an ultimate decision. A language with difficulty pronounced even by natives, must yield the preference to a smoother lan­guage. Again, supposing two languages pro­nounced with equal facility by natives, the preference, in my judgement, ought to be in favour of the rougher language; provided it be also stored with a competent share of more mellow sounds. This will be evident from attending to the different effects that articu­late sound hath upon the mind. A smooth gliding sound is agreeable, by smoothing the mind and lulling it to rest. A rough bold sound, on the contrary, animates the mind. The effort perceived in pronoun­cing, is communicated to the hearers: they feel in their own minds a similar effort, [Page 246] which rouses their attention and dispo­ses them to action. I must add another consideration. The agreeableness of con­trast in the rougher language, for which the great variety of sounds gives ample op­portunity, must, even in an effeminate ear, prevail over the more uniform sounds of the smoother language*. This appears to me all that can be safely determined upon the present point. With respect to the o­ther circumstances that constitute the beau­ty of words, the standard above mentioned is infallible when apply'd to foreign langua­ges as well as to our own. For every man, whatever be his mother-tongue, is equally capable to judge of the length or shortness of words, of the alternate opening and closing of the mouth in speaking, and of the relation which the sound bears to the sense. In these particulars, the judgement is susceptible of no prejudice from custom, at least of no invincible prejudice.

[Page 247] That the English tongue, originally harsh, is at present much softened by drop­ing in the pronunciation many redundant consonants, is undoubtedly true. That it is not capable of being farther mellowed, without suffering in its force and energy, will scarce be thought by any one who possesses an ear. And yet such in Britain is the propensity for dispatch, that over­looking the majesty of words composed of many syllables aptly connected, the pre­vailing taste is, to shorten words, even at the expence of making them disagreeable to the ear and harsh in the pronunciation. But I have no occasion to insist upon this article, being prevented by an excellent writer, who possessed, if any man ever did, the true genius of the English tongue*. I cannot however forbear urging one ob­servation borrowed from that author. Seve­ral tenses of our verbs are formed by add­ing the final syllable ed, which, being a weak sound, has remarkably the worse ef­fect [Page 248] by possessing the most conspicuous place in the word. Upon that account, the vowel is in common speech generally suppressed, and the consonant is added to the foregoing syllable. Hence the follow­ing rugged sounds, drudg'd, disturb'd, re­buk'd, fledg'd. It is still less excuseable to follow this practice in writing; for the hur­ry of speaking may excuse what is altoge­ther improper in a composition of any va­lue. The syllable ed, it is true, makes but a poor figure at the end of a word: but we ought to submit to that defect, rather than multiply the number of harsh words, which, after all that has been done, bear an over­proportion in our tongue. The author a­bove mentioned, by showing a good ex­ample, did all in his power to restore that syllable; and he well deserves to be imi­tated. Some exceptions however I would make. A word which signifies labour, or any thing harsh or rugged, ought not to be smooth. Therefore forc'd, with an apo­strophe, is better than forced, without it. Another exception is, where the penult syllable ends with a vowel. In that case [Page 249] the final syllable ed may be apostrophized without making the word harsh. Examples, betray'd, carry'd, destroy'd, employ'd.

The article next in order, is to consider the music of words as united in a period. And as the arrangement of words in suc­cession so as to afford the greatest pleasure to the ear, depends on principles pretty re­mote from common view, it will be neces­sary to premise some general observations upon the effect that a number of objects have upon the mind when they are placed in an increasing or decreasing series. The effect of such a series will be very different, according as resemblance or contrast pre­vails. Where the members of a series vary by small differences, resemblance pre­vails; which, in ascending, makes us con­ceive the second object of no greater size than the first, the third of no greater size than the second, and so of the rest. This diminisheth in appearance the size of the whole. Again, when beginning at the largest object, we proceed gradually to the least, resemblance makes us imagine the second as large as the first, and the third as [Page 250] large as the second; which in appearance magnifies every object of the series except the first. On the other hand, in a series varying by great differences, where contrast prevails, the effects are directly opposite. A large object succeeding a small one of the same kind, appears by the opposition lar­ger than usual: and a small object, for the same reason, succeeding one that is large, appears less than usual*. Hence a remarkable pleasure in viewing a series ascending by large intervals; directly op­posite to what we feel when the intervals are small. Beginning at the smallest object of a series where contrast prevails, this object has the same effect upon the mind as if it stood single without making a part of the series. But this is not the case of the second object, which by means of contrast makes a much greater figure than when viewed singly and apart; and the same effect is perceived in ascending progressively, till we arrive at the last object. The direct contrary effect is produced in descending; for in this direc­tion, [Page 251] every object, except the first, makes a less figure than when viewed separately and independent of the series. We may then lay down as a maxim, which will hold in the composition of language as well as of other subjects, That a strong impulse suc­ceeding a weak, makes a double impres­sion on the mind; and that a weak impulse succeeding a strong, makes scarce any im­pression.

After establishing this maxim, we can be at no loss about its application to the sub­ject in hand. The following rule is laid down by Diomedes*. ‘"In verbis obser­vandum est, ne a majoribus ad minora descendat oratio; melius enim dicitur, Vir est optimus, quam, Vir optimus est."’ This rule is applicable not only to single words, but equally to entire members of a period, which, according to our author's expression, ought not more than single words to proceed from the greater to the less, but from the less to the greater. In arranging the members of a period, on wri­ter [Page 252] equals Cicero. The beauty of the fol­lowing examples out of many, will not suf­fer me to slur them over by a reference.

Quicum quaestor fueram,
Quicum me sors consuetudoque majorum,
Quicum me Deorum hominumque judicium con­junxerat.


Habet honorem quem petimus,
Habet spem quam praepositam nobis habemus,
Habet existimationem, multo sudore, labore, vi­giliisque, collectam.


Eripite nos ex miseriis,
Eripite nos ex faucibus eorum,
Quorum crudelitas, nostro sanguine non potest expleri.
De oratore, l. 1. § 52.

This order of words or members gradually increasing in length, may, so far as con­cerns the pleasure of sound singly, be de­nominated a climax in sound.

[Page 253] The last article is the music of periods as united in a discourse; which shall be dis­patched in a very few words. By no other human means is it possible to present to the mind, such a number of objects and in so swift a succession, as by speaking or wri­ting. And for that reason, variety ought more to be studied in these, than in any o­ther sort of composition. Hence a rule re­garding the arrangement of the members of different periods with relation to each o­ther, That to avoid a tedious uniformity of sound and cadence, the arrangement, the cadence, and the length of these members, ought to be diversified as much as possible. And if the members of different periods be sufficiently diversified, the periods them­selves will be equally so.

SECT. II. Beauty of language with respect to signifi­cation.

IT is well said by a noted writer*, ‘"That by means of speech we can divert our sorrows, mingle our mirth, impart our secrets, communicate our counsels, and make mutual compacts and agreements to supply and assist each other."’ Considering speech as contributing thus to so many good purposes, it follows, that the chusing words which have an accurate meaning, and tend to convey clear and distinct ideas, must be one of its capital beauties. This cause of beauty, is too extensive to be handled as a branch of any other subject. To ascertain with accuracy even the proper meaning of words, not to talk of their figurative power, would require a large volume; an useful work indeed; but not to be attempted with­out a large stock of time, study, and reflec­tion. [Page 255] This branch therefore of the subject I must humbly decline. Nor do I propose to exhaust all the other beauties of language with respect to signification. The reader, in a work like the present, cannot fairly expect more than a slight sketch of those that make the greatest figure. This is a task which I attempt the more willingly, as it appears to be connected with some prin­ciples in human nature; and the rules I shall have occasion to lay down, will, if I judge aright, be agreeable illustrations of these principles. Every subject must be of importance that tends in any measure to un­fold the human heart; for what other science is more worthy of human beings?

The present subject is so extensive, that, to prevent confusion, it must be divided in­to parts; and what follows suggests a di­vision into two parts. In every period, two things are to be regarded, equally capital; first, the words of which the period is com­posed; next, the arrangement of these words. The former resemble the stones that com­pose a building; and the latter resembles the order in which these stones are placed. [Page 256] Hence the beauty of language with respect to its meaning, may not improperly be dis­tinguished into two kinds. The first con­sists in a right choice of words or materials for constructing the period; and the other consists in a due arrangement of these words or materials. I shall begin with rules that direct us to a right choice of words, and then proceed to rules that concern their ar­rangement.

And with respect to the former, commu­nication of thought being the principal end of language, it is a rule, That perspicuity ought not to be sacrificed to any other beauty whatever. If it should be doubted whether perspicuity be a positive beauty, it cannot be doubted, that the want of it is the greatest defect. Nothing therefore in the structure of language ought more to be studied, than to prevent all obscurity in the expression; for to have no meaning, is but one degree worse than to express it so as not to be un­derstood. Want of perspicuity from a wrong arrangement, belongs to the next branch. I shall give a few examples where the obscurity arises from a wrong choice of [Page 257] words; and as this defect is so common in ordinary writers as to make examples from them unnecessary, I confine myself to the most celebrated authors.

Livy, speaking of a rout after a battle,

Multique in ruina majore quam fuga oppressi ob­truncatique.
L. 4. §46.

Unde tibi reditum certo subtemine Parcae
Horace, epod. xiii. 22.

Qui persaepe cava testudine flevit amorem,
Non elaboratum ad pedem.
Horace, epod. xiv. 11.

Me fabulosae Vulture in Appulo,
Altricis extra limen Apuliae,
Ludo, fatigatumque somno,
Fronde nova puerum palumbes
Horace, Carm. l. 3. ode 4.

Purae rivus aquae, silvaque jugerum
Paucorum, et segetis certa fides meae,
Fulgentem imperio fertilis Africae
Fallit sorte beatior.
Horace, Carm. l. 3. ode 16.

[Page 258]
Cum fas atque nefas exiguo fine libidinum
Discernunt avidi.
Horace, Carm. l. 1. ode 18.

Ac spem fronte serenat.
Aeneid iv. 477.

There is want of neatness even in an am­biguity so slight as that is which arises from the construction merely; as where the pe­riod commences with a member which is conceived to be in the nominative case, and which afterward is found to be in the accu­sative. Example: ‘"Some emotions more peculiarly connected with the fine arts, I propose to handle in separate chapters*."’ Better thus: ‘"Some emotions more pecu­liarly connected with the fine arts, are proposed to be handled in separate chap­ters."’

The rule next in order, because next in importance, is, That the language ought to correspond to the subject. Grand or heroic actions or sentiments require elevated lan­guage: tender sentiments ought to be ex­pressed [Page 259] in words soft and flowing; and plain language devoid of ornament, is adapted to subjects grave and didactic. Language may be considered as the dress of thought; and where the one is not suited to the other, we are sensible of incongruity, in the same man­ner as where a judge is dressed like a fop, or a peasant like a man of quality. The in­timate connection that words have with their meaning, requires that both be in the same tone. Or, to express the thing more plainly, the impression made by the words ought as nearly as possible to resemble the impression made by the thought. The si­milar emotions mix sweetly in the mind, and augment the pleasure*. On the other hand, where the impressions made by the thought and the words are dissimilar, they are forc'd into a sort of unnatural union, which is disagreeable.

In the preceding chapter, concerning the language of passion, I had occasion to give many examples of deviations from this [Page 260] rule with regard to the manner of express­ing passions and their sentiments. But as the rule concerns the manner of expressing thoughts and ideas of all kinds, it has an extensive influence in directing us to the choice of proper materials. In that view it must be branched out into several particu­lars. And I must observe, in the first place, that to write with elegance, it is not sufficient to express barely the conjunction or disjunction of the members of the thought. It is a beauty to find a similar conjunction or disjunction in the words. This may be illustrated by a familiar exam­ple. When we have occasion to mention the intimate connection that the soul has with the body, the expression ought to be the soul and body; because the particle the, re­lative to both, makes a connection in the ex­pression, which resembles in some degree the connection in the thought. But when the soul is distinguished from the body, it is better to say the soul and the body, because the disjunction in the words resembles the disjunction in the thought. In the follow­ing [Page 261] examples the connection in the thought is happily imitated in the expression. ‘Constituit agmen; et expedire tela animosque, equitibus jussis, &c. Livy, l. 38. § 25. Again: ‘Quum ex paucis quotidie aliqui eorum caderent aut vulnerarentur, et qui superarent, fessi et cor­poribus et animis essent, &c. Livy, l. 38. § 29.

Post acer Mnestheus adducto constitit arcu,
Alta petens, pariterque oculos telumque tetendit.
Aeneid, l. v. 507.

The following passage of Tacitus appears to me not so happy. It approaches to wit by connecting in the foregoing manner things but slightly related, which is not altogether suitable to the dignity or gravity of history. ‘Germania omnis a Galliis, Rhaetiisque, et Pan­noniis, Rheno et Danubio fluminibus; a Sarmatis Dacisque, mutuo metu aut montibus separatur. De moribus Germanorum. [Page 262] I am more doubtful about this other in­stance:

—The fiend look'd up, and knew
His mounted scale aloft; nor more, but fled
Murm'ring, and with him fled the shades of night.
Paradise Lost, B. 4. at the end.

I shall add some other examples where the opposition in the thought is imitated in the words; an imitation that is distinguished by the name of antithesis.

Speaking of Coriolanus soliciting the peo­ple to be made consul:

With a proud heart he wore his humble weeds.

Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves; than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men?

Julius Caesar.

‘He hath cool'd my friends and heated mine ene­mies. Shakespear.

Why, if two gods should play some heav'nly match,
And on the wager lay two earthly women,
And Portia one, there must be something else
[Page 263] Pawn'd with the other; for the poor rude world
Hath not her fellow.
Merchant of Venice, act 3. sc. 6.

This rule may be extended to govern the construction of sentences or periods. A sentence or period in language ought to ex­press one entire thought or mental proposi­tion; and different thoughts ought to be se­parated in the expression by placing them in different sentences or periods. It is therefore offending against neatness, to crowd into one period entire thoughts which require more than one; for this is conjoining in language things that are sepa­rated in reality; and consequently rejecting that uniformity which ought to be preser­ved betwixt thought and expression. Of errors against this rule take the following examples.

Caesar, describing the Suevi: ‘Atque in eam se consuetudinem adduxerunt, ut locis frigidissimis, neque vestitus, praeter pelles, habeant quidquam, quarum, propter exiguitatem, [Page 264] magna est corporis pars operta, et laventur in flu­minibus. Commentaria, l. 4. prin.

Burnet, in the history of his own times, giving Lord Sunderland's character, says,

His own notions were always good; but he was a man of great expence.
I have seen a woman's face break out in heats, as she has been talking against a great lord, whom she had never seen in her life; and indeed never knew a party-woman that kept her beauty for a twelvemonth. Spectator, No 57.

Lord Bolingbroke, speaking of Strada: ‘I single him out among the moderns, because he had the foolish presumption to censure Tacitus, and to write history himself: and your Lordship will forgive this short excursion in honour of a favourite author. Letters on history, vol. 1. let. 5. ‘It seems to me, that in order to maintain the moral system of the world at a certain point, far below that of ideal perfection, (for we are made capable of conceiving what we are incapable of at­taining), [Page 265] but however sufficient upon the whole to constitute a state easy and happy, or at the worst tolerable: I say, it seems to me, that the author of nature has thought fit to mingle from time to time, among the societies of men, a few, and but a few, of those on whom he is graciously pleased to bestow a larger proportion of the ethereal spirit than is given in the ordinary course of his provi­dence to the sons of men. Bolingbroke, on the spirit of patriotism, let. 1.

To crowd into a single member of a pe­riod, different subjects, is still worse than to crowd them into one period.

—Trojam, genitore Adamasto
Paupere (mansissetque utinam fortuna) profectus.
Aeneid. iii. 614.

Where two things are so connected as to require but a copulative, it is pleasant to find a resemblance in the members of the period, were it even so slight as where both begin with the same letter: ‘The peacock, in all his pride, does not display half the colour that appears in the garments of a [Page 266] British lady, when she is either dressed for a ball or a birth-day. Spectator, No 265. ‘Had not my dog of a steward run away as he did, without making up his accounts, I had still been immersed in sin and sea coal. Ibid. No. 530.

My life's companion, and my bosom-friend,
One faith, one fame, one fate shall both attend.
Dryden, Translation of Aeneid.

There is obviously a sensible defect in neat­ness when uniformity is in this case totally neglected*; witness the following exam­ple, where the construction of two mem­bers connected by a copulative is unnecessa­rily varied.‘For it is confidently reported, that two young gentlemen of real hopes, bright wit, and profound judgment, who upon a thorough examination of causes and effects, and by the mere force of natu­ral abilities, without the least tincture of learning, have made a discovery that there was no God, and [Page 267] generously communicating their thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, by an unparallelled severity, and upon I know not what obsolete law, broke for blasphemy*. [Better thus]: Having made a discovery that there was no God, and having generously communicated their thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, &c. ‘He had been guilty of a fault, for which his master would have put him to death, had he not found an opportunity to escape out of his hands, and fled into the deserts of Numidia. Guardian, No 139. ‘If all the ends of the revolution are already ob­tained, it is not only impertinent to argue for ob­taining any of them, but factious designs might be imputed, and the name of incendiary be applied with some colour, perhaps, to any one who should persist in pressing this point. Dissertation upon parties, Dedication.

It is even unpleasant to find a negative and affirmative proposition connected by a copulative.

[Page 268]
Nec excitatur classico miles truci,
Nec horret iratum mare;
Forumque vitat, et superba civium
Potentiorum limina.
Horace, Epod. 2. l. 5.

If it appear not plain, and prove untrue,
Deadly divorce step between me and you.

An artificial connection among the words, is undoubtedly a beauty when it represents any peculiar connection among the consti­tuent parts of the thought; but where there is no such connection, it is a positive de­formity, because it makes a discordance be­twixt the thought and expression. For the same reason, we ought also to avoid every artificial opposition of words where there is none in the thought. This last, termed verbal antithesis, is studied by writers of no taste; and is relished by readers of the same stamp, because of a certain degree of live­liness in it. They do not consider how incongruous it is, in a grave composition, to cheat the reader, and to make him ex­pect [Page 269] a contrast in the thought, which upon examination is not found there.

A light wife doth make a heavy husband.
Merchant of Venice.

Here is a studied opposition in the words, not only without any opposition in the sense, but even where there is a very inti­mate connection, that of cause and effect; for it is the levity of the wife that vexes the husband.

—Will maintain
Upon his bad life to make all this good.
King Richard II. act 1. sc. 2.

What, shall these papers lie like tell­tales here?


If thou respect them, best to take them up.


Nay, I was taken up for laying them down.

Two Gentlemen of Verona, act 1. sc. 3.

To conjoin by a copulative, members that signify things opposed in the thought, is an error too gross to be commonly practi­sed. [Page 270] And yet writers are guilty of this fault in some degree, when they conjoin by a copulative things transacted at different pe­riods of time. Hence a want of neatness in the following expression. ‘The nobility too, whom the King had no means of retaining by suitable offices and preferments, had been seized with the general discontent, and unwarily threw themselves into the scale, which began already too much to preponderate. History of G. Britain, vol. 1. p. 250. In periods of this kind, it appears more neat to express the past time by the participle passive, thus: ‘The nobility having been seized with the gene­ral discontent, unwarily threw themselves, &c. [or], The nobility who had been seized, &c. un­warily threw themselves, &c.

So much upon conjunction and disjunc­tion in general. I proceed to apply the rule to comparisons in particular. Where a resemblance betwixt two objects is described, the writer ought to study a resemblance be­twixt the two members that express these [Page 271] objects. For it makes the resemblance the more entire to find it extended even to the words. To illustrate this rule, I shall give various examples of deviations from it. I begin with the words that express the re­semblance. ‘I have observed of late, the style of some great ministers very much to exceed that of any other productions. Letter to the Lord High Treasurer. Swift. This, instead of studying the resemblance of words in a period that expresses a com­parison, is going out of one's road to avoid it. Instead of productions which resemble not ministers great or small, the proper word is writers or authors. ‘If men of eminence are exposed to censure on the one hand, they are as much liable to flattery on the other. If they receive reproaches which are not due to them, they likewise receive praises which they do not deserve. Spectator. Here the subject plainly demands uniformi­ty in expression instead of variety; and [Page 272] therefore it is submitted whether the period would not do better in the following manner: ‘If men of eminence be exposed to censure on the one hand, they are as much exposed to flattery on the other. If they receive reproaches which are not due, they likewise receive praises which are not due.’ ‘I cannot but fancy, however, that this imitation, which passes so currently with other judgements, must at some time or other have stuck a little with your Lordship *. [Better thus:] I cannot but fancy, however, that this imitation, which passes so currently with others, must at some time or other have stuck a little with your Lordship.’ ‘A glutton or mere sensualist is as ridiculous as the other two characters. Shaftesbury, vol. 1. p. 129. ‘They wisely prefer the generous efforts of good­will and affection, to the reluctant compliances of such as obey by force. Remarks on the history of England. Letter 5. Bolingbroke.

[Page 273] Titus Livius, concerning the people of Enna demanding the keys from the Ro­man garrison, makes the governor say, ‘Quas simul tradiderimus, Carthaginiensium ex­templo Enna erit, foediusque hic trucidabimur, quam Murgantiae praesidium interfectum est. L. 24. § 38.

Quintus Curtius, speaking of Porus mount­ed on an elephant, and leading his army to battle: ‘Magnitudini Pori adjicere videbatur bellua qua vehebatur, tantum inter caeteras eminens, quanto aliis ipse praestabat. L. 8. cap. 14.

It is a still greater deviation from congru­ity, to affect not only variety in the words, but also in the construction. Describing Thermopylae, Titus Livius says, ‘Id jugum, sicut A pennini dorso Italia dividitur, ita mediam Graeciam deremit. L. 36. § 15. [Page 274] Speaking of Shakespear: ‘There may remain a suspicion that we over-rate the greatness of his genius; in the same manner as bodies appear more gigantic on account of their be­ing disproportioned and mishapen. History of G. Britain, vol. 1. p. 138. This is studying variety in a period where the beauty lies in uniformity. Better thus: ‘There may remain a suspicion that we over-rate the greatness of his genius, in the same manner as we over-rate the greatness of bodies which are dis­proportioned and mishapen.’

Next as to the length of the members that signify the resembling objects. To produce a resemblance betwixt such mem­bers, they ought not only to be constructed in the same manner, but as nearly as pos­sible be equal in length. By neglecting this circumstance, the following example is de­fective in neatness. ‘As the performance of all other religious duties will not avail in the sight of God, without charity, so neither will the discharge of all other ministerial [Page 275] duties avail in the sight of men without a faithful discharge of this principal duty. Dissertation upon parties, dedication. In the following passage all the errors are accumulated that a period expressing a re­semblance can well admit: ‘Ministers are answerable for every thing done to the prejudice of the constitution, in the same pro­portion as the preservation of the constitution in its purity and vigour, or the perverting and weakening it, are of greater consequence to the nation, than any other instances of good or bad government. Dissertation upon parties, dedication.

The same rule obtains in a comparison where things are opposed to each other. Objects contrasted, not less than what are similar, require a resemblance in the mem­bers of the period that express them. The reason is, that contrast has no effect up­on the mind, except where the things com­pared have a resemblance in their capital parts*. Therefore, in opposing two cir­cumstances [Page 276] to each other, it remarkably heightens the contrast, to make as entire as possible the resemblance betwixt the other parts, and in particular betwixt the mem­bers expressing the two circumstances con­trasted. As things are often best illustrated by their contraries, I shall also give exam­ples of deviations from the rule in this case.

Addison says, ‘A friend exaggerates a man's virtues, an enemy inflames his crimes. Spectator, No 399. Would it not be neater to study uniformity instead of variety? as thus: ‘A friend exaggerates a man's virtues, an enemy his crimes.’ For here the contrast is only betwixt a friend and an enemy; and betwixt all the other circumstances, including the members of the period, the resemblance ought to be pre­served as entire as possible.

Speaking of a lady's head-dress: ‘About ten years ago it shot up to a very great [Page 277] height, insomuch that the female part of our spe­cies were much taller than the men. Spectator, No 98. It should be, ‘Than the male part.’ ‘The wise man is happy when he gains his own approbation; the fool when he recommends him­self to the applause of those about him. Ibid. No 73. Better: ‘The wise man is happy when he gains his own approbation; the fool when he gains that of o­thers.’ ‘Sicut in frugibus pecudibusque, non tantum se­mina ad servandum indolem valent, quantum ter­rae proprietas coelique, sub quo aluntur, mutat. Livy, l. 38. § 17.

Sallust, in his history of Catiline's con­spiracy: ‘Per illa tempora quicumque rempublicam agita­vere, honestis nominibus, alii, sicuti populi jura defenderent, pars, quo senati auctoritas maxuma [Page 278] foret, bonum publicum simulantes, pro sua quis­que potentia certabant. Cap. 38.

We proceed to a rule of a different kind. During the course of a period, the same scene ought to be continued without variation. The changing from person to person, from subject to subject, or from person to subject, within the bounds of a single period, distracts the mind, and af­fords no time for a solid impression. I il­lustrate this rule by giving examples of de­viations from it. Honos alit artes, omnesque incenduntur ad studia gloriâ; jacentque ea semper quae apud quosque im­probantur. Cicero, Tuscul. quaest. l. 1. Speaking of the distemper contracted by Alexander bathing in the river Cydnus and of the cure offered by Philip the phy­sician: ‘Inter haec à Parmenione fidissimo purpurato­rum, literas accipit, quibus ei denunciabat, ne sa­lutem suam Philippo committeret. Quintus Curtius, l. 3. cap. 6. [Page 279] Hook, in his Roman history, speaking of Eumenes, who had been beat down to the ground with a stone, says, ‘After a short time he came to himself; and the next day, they put him on board his ship, which conveyed him first to Corinth, and thence to the island of Aegina.’ I give another example of a period which is unpleasant, even by a very slight devia­tion from the rule.‘That sort of instruction which is acquired by in­culcating an important moral truth, &c. This expression includes two persons, one acquiring, and one inculcating; and the scene is changed without necessity. To a­void this blemish, the thought may be ex­pressed thus: ‘That sort of instruction which is afforded by in­culcating, &c. The bad effect of this change of person is remarkable in the following passage. [Page 280] The Britains, daily harassed by cruel inroads from the Picts, were forced to call in the Saxons for their defence, who consequently reduced the greatest part of the island to their own power, drove the Britains into the most remote and moun­tainous parts, and the rest of the country, in cu­stoms, religion, and language, became wholly Saxons. Letter to the Lord High Treasurer. Swift. The following example is a change from subject to persons. This prostitution of praise is not only a deceit upon the gross of mankind, who take their notion of characters from the learned; but also the better sort must by this means lose some part at least of that desire of fame which is the incentive to gene­rous actions, when they find it promiscuously be­stowed on the meritorious and undeserving. Guardian, No 4.

Even so slight a change as to vary the construction in the same period, is unplea­sant: ‘Annibal luce prima, Balearibus levique alia ar­matura praemissa, transgressus flumen, ut quosque [Page 281] traduxerat, ita in acie locabat; Gallos Hispanos­que equites prope ripam laevo in cornu adversus Romanum equitatum; dextrum cornu Numidis equitibus datum. Tit. Liv. l. 22. § 46. Speaking of Hannibal's elephants drove back by the enemy upon his own army: ‘Eo magis ruere in suos belluae, tantoque majo­rem stragem edere quam inter hostes ediderant, quanto acrius pavor consternatam agit, quam insi­dentis magistri imperio regitur. Liv. l. 27. § 14. This passage is also faulty in a different re­spect, that there is no resemblance betwixt the members of the expression, though they import a comparison.

The present head, which relates to the choice of materials, shall be closed with a rule concerning the use of copulatives. Longinus observes, that it animates a period to drop the copulatives; and he gives the following example from Xenophon. [Page 282] Closing their shields together, they were push'd, they fought, they slew, they were slain. Treatise of the Sublime, cap. 16. The reason I take to be what follows. A continued sound, if not strong, tends to lay us asleep. An interrupted sound rou­ses and animates by its repeated impulses. Hence it is, that syllables collected into feet, being pronounced with a sensible in­terval betwixt each, make more lively im­pressions than can be made by a continued sound. A period, the members of which are connected by copulatives, produceth an effect upon the mind approaching to that of a continued sound: and therefore to suppress the copulatives must animate a description. To suppress the copulatives hath another good effect. The mem­bers of a period connected by the proper copulatives, glide smoothly and gently a­long; and are a proof of sedateness and leisure in the speaker. On the other hand, a man in the hurry of passion, neglecting copulatives and other particles, expresses the principal image only. Hence it is, that [Page 283] hurry or quick action is best expressed with­out copulatives:

Veni, vidi, vici.
Ferte cite flammas, date vela, impellite remos.
Aeneid. iv. 593.

Quis globus, O Cives, caligine volvitur atra?
Ferte cite ferrum, date tela, scandite muros.
Hostis adest, eja.
Aeneid. ix. 36.

In this view Longinus* justly compares co­pulatives in a period to strait tying, which in a race obstructs the freedom of motion.

It follows from the same premisses, that to multiply copulatives in the same period ought to be avoided. For if the laying aside copulatives give force and liveliness, a redun­dancy of them must render the period languid. I appeal to the following instance, though there are not more than two copulatives. ‘Upon looking over the letters of my female cor­respondents, I find several from women complain­ing of jealous husbands; and at the same time pro­testing their own innocence, and desiring my ad­vice upon this occasion. Spectator, No 170. [Page 284] I except the case where the words are in­tended to express the coldness of the speak­er; for there the redundancy of copulatives is a beauty.

Dining one day at an alderman's in the city, Peter observed him expatiating after the manner of his brethren, in the praises of his sirloin of beer. ‘"Beef,"’ said the sage magistrate, ‘"is the king of meat: Beef comprehends in it the quintes­cence of partridge, and quail, and venison, and pheasant, and plum-pudding, and custard."’

Tale of Tub, § 4.

And the author shows great taste in vary­ing the expression in the mouth of Peter, who is represented more animated.

‘"Bread,"’ says he, ‘"dear brothers, is the staff of life, in which bread is contained, inclusivè, the quintescence of beef, mutton, veal, veni­son, partridge, plum-pudding, and custard."’

We proceed to the second kind of beauty, which consists in a due arrangement of the words or materials. This branch of the subject is not less nice than extensive; and [Page 285] I despair to put it in a clear light, until a sketch be given of the general principles that govern the structure or composition of language.

Every thought, generally speaking, con­tains one capital object considered as acting or as suffering. This object is expressed by a substantive noun. Its action is ex­pressed by an active verb; and the thing affected by the action is expressed by ano­ther substantive noun. Its suffering or pas­sive state is expressed by a passive verb, and the thing which acts upon it, by a substantive noun. Beside these, which are the capital parts of a sentence or period, there are generally under-parts. Each of the substan­tives as well as the verb, may be qualified. Time, place, purpose, motive, means, in­strument, and a thousand other circum­stances, may be necessary to complete the thought. And in what manner these seve­ral parts are connected together in the ex­pression, will appear from what follows.

In a complete thought or mental propo­sition, all the members and parts are mu­tually related, some slightly, some more inti­mately. [Page 286] In communicating such a thought, it is not sufficient that the component ideas be clearly expressed: it is also necessary, that all the relations contained in the thought be expressed according to their different de­grees of intimacy. To annex a certain meaning to a certain sound or word, re­quires no art. The great nicety in all lan­guages is, to express the various relations that connect together the parts of the thought. Could we suppose this branch of language to be still a secret, it would puzzle, I am apt to think, the greatest grammarian ever existed, to invent an expeditious me­thod. And yet, by the guidance merely of nature, the rude and illiterate have been led to a method so perfect, that it appears not susceptible of any improvement. Without a clear conception of the manner of express­ing relations, one at every turn must be at a loss about the beauties of language; and upon that subject therefore I find it necessary to say a few words.

Words that import a relation, must be distinguished from those that do not. Sub­stantives commonly imply no relation, such [Page 287] as animal, man, tree, river. Adjectives, verbs, and adverbs, imply a relation. The adjective good must be connected with some substantive, some being possessed of that quality. The verb write must be applied to some person who writes; and the adverbs moderately, diligently, have plainly a refer­ence to some action which they modify. When in language a relative term is intro­duced, all that is necessary to complete the expression, is, to ascertain that thing to which the term relates. For answering this purpose, I observe in Greek and Latin two different methods. Adjectives are declined as well as substantives; and declension serves to ascertain the connection that is betwixt them. If the word that expresses the sub­ject be, for example, in the nominative case, so also must the word be that expresses its quality. Example, vir bonus. Again, verbs are related, on the one hand, to the agent; and, on the other, to the subject upon which the action is exerted. A contrivance similar to that now mentioned, serves to ex­press this double relation. The nominative case is appropriated to the agent, the accu­sative [Page 286] [...] [Page 287] [...] [Page 288] to the passive subject; and the verb is put in the first second or third person, to correspond the more intimately with both. Examples: Ego amo Tulliam; tu amas Sem­proniam; Brutus amat Portiam. The other method is by juxtaposition, which is ne­cessary with respect to words only that are not declined, adverbs for example, articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. In the English language there are few declensions; and therefore juxtaposition is our chief re­source. Adjectives accompany their sub­stantives*; an adverb accompanies the word it qualifies; and the verb occupies the middle place betwixt the active and pas­sive subjects to which it relates.

It must be obvious, that those terms which have nothing relative in their signification, [Page 289] cannot be connected in so easy a manner. When two substantives happen to be con­nected, as cause and effect, as principal and accessory, or in any other manner, such connection cannot be expressed by contigu­ity solely; for words must often in a period be placed together which are not thus rela­ted. The relation betwixt substantives, therefore, cannot otherwise be expressed than by particles denoting the relation. Latin indeed and Greek, by their declen­sions, go a certain length to express such re­lations, without the aid of particles. The relation of property, for example, betwixt Caesar and his horse is, expressed by putting the latter in the nominative case, the for­mer in the genitive; equus Caesaris. The like in English, Caesar's horse. But in other instances, declensions not being used in the English language, relations of this kind are commonly expressed by prepositions.

This form of connecting by prepositions, is not confined to substantives. Qualities, at­tributes, manner of existing or acting, and all other circumstances, may in the same manner be connected with the substantives [Page 290] to which they relate. This is done artifi­cially by converting the circumstance into a substantive, in which condition it is qualified to be connected with the principal subject by a preposition, in the manner above descri­bed. For example, the adjective wise being converted into the substantive wisdom, gives opportunity for the expression ‘"a man of wisdom,"’ instead of the more simple ex­pression, a wise man. This variety in the ex­pression, enriches language. I observe be­side, that the using a preposition in this case, is not always a matter of choice. It is in­dispensable with respect to every circum­stance that cannot be expressed by a single adjective or adverb.

To pave the way for the rules of arrange­ment, one other preliminary must be dis­cussed, which is, to explain the difference betwixt a natural style, and that where transposition or inversion prevails. There are, it is true, no precise boundaries betwixt these two; for they run into each other, like the shades of different colours. No person however is at a loss to distinguish them in their extremes: and it is necessary to make [Page 291] the distinction; because though some of the rules I shall have occasion to mention are common to both, yet each has rules peculiar to itself. In a natural style, relative words are by juxtaposition connected with those to which they relate, going before or after, according to the peculiar genius of the lan­guage. Again, a circumstance connected by a preposition, follows naturally the word with which it is connected. But this ar­rangement may be varied, when a different order is more beautiful. A circumstance may be placed before the word with which it is connected by a preposition; and may be interjected even betwixt a relative word and that to which it relates. When such liberties are frequently taken, the style be­comes inverted or transposed.

But as the liberty of inversion is a capital point in handling the present subject, it will be necessary to examine it more narrowly, and in particular to trace the several degrees in which an inverted style recedes more and more from that which is natural. And first, as to the placing a circumstance before the word with which it is connected, I observe, [Page 292] that it is the easiest of all inversion, even so easy as to be consistent with a style that is properly termed natural. Witness the fol­lowing examples.‘In the sincerity of my heart, I profess, &c. ‘By our own ill management, we are brought to so low an ebb of wealth and credit, that, &c. ‘On Thursday morning there was little or nothing transacted in Change-alley.’ ‘At St Bride's church in Fleetstreet, Mr Wool­ston, (who writ against the miracles of our Saviour), in the utmost terrors of conscience made a public recantation.’

The interjecting a circumstance betwixt a relative word and that to which it relates, is more properly termed inversion; because, by a violent disjunction of words intimately connected, it recedes farther from a natural style. But this liberty has also degrees; for the disjunction is more violent in some cases than in others. This I must also explain: and to give a just notion of the difference, I must crave liberty of my reader to enter a [Page 293] little more into an abstract subject, than would otherwise be my choice.

In nature, though a substance cannot ex­ist without its qualities, nor a quality with­out a substance; yet in our conception of these, a material difference may be remark­ed. I cannot conceive a quality but as be­longing to some subject: it makes indeed a part of the idea which is formed of the sub­ject. But the opposite holds not. Though I cannot form a conception of a subject de­void of all qualities, a partial conception may however be formed of it, laying aside or abstracting from any particular quality. I can, for example, form the idea of a fine Arabian horse without regard to his colour, or of a white horse without regard to his size. Such partial conception of a subject, is still more easy with respect to action or motion; which is an occasional attribute only, and has not the same permanency with colour or figure. I cannot form an idea of motion independent of a body; but there is nothing more easy than to form an idea of a body at rest. Hence it appears, that the degree of inversion depends greatly [Page 294] on the order in which the related words are placed. When a substantive occupies the first place, we cannot foresee what is to be said of it. The idea therefore which this word suggests, must subsist in the mind at least for a moment, independent of the re­lative words afterward introduced; and if it can so subsist, that moment may without difficulty be prolonged by interjecting a cir­cumstance betwixt the substantive and its connections. Examples therefore of this kind, will scarce alone be sufficient to deno­minate a style inverted. The case is very different, where the word that occupies the first place, denotes a quality or an action; for as these cannot be conceived without a subject, they cannot without greater violence be separated from the subject that follows. And for that reason, every such separation by means of an interjected circumstance belongs to an inverted style.

To illustrate this doctrine examples being necessary, I shall begin with those where the word first introduced does not imply a relation.

[Page 295]
—Nor Eve to iterate
Her former trespass fear'd.

—Hunger and thirst at once,
Powerful persuaders, quicken'd at the scent
Of that alluring fruit, urg'd me so keen.

Moon, that now meet'st the orient sun, now fli'st
With the fix'd stars, fix'd in their orb that flies,
And ye five other wand'ring fires that move
In mystic dance not without song, resound
His praise.

In the following examples, where the word first introduced imports a relation, the disjunction will be found more violent.

Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our wo,
With loss of Eden, till one greater man
Restore us, and regain the blessful seat,
Sing heav'nly muse.

—Upon the firm opacous globe
Of this round world, whose first convex divides
The luminous inferior orbs, inclos'd
From chaos and th' inroad of darkness old
Satan alighted walks.

[Page 296]
—On a sudden open fly,
With impetuous recoil and jarring sound,
Th' infernal doors.

—Wherein remain'd,
For what could else? to our almighty foe
Clear victory, to our part loss and rout.

—Forth rush'd with whirlwind sound
The chariot of paternal Deity.

Language would have no great power, were it confined to the natural order of i­deas. A thousand beauties may be compass­ed by inversion, that must be relinquished in a natural arrangement. I shall soon have an opportunity to make this evident. In the mean time, it ought not to escape ob­servation, that the mind of man is happily so constituted as to relish inversion, though in one respect unnatural; and to relish it so much, as in many cases to admit a violent disjunction of words that by the sense are in­timately connected. I scarce can say that inversion has any limits; though I may venture to pronounce, that the disjunction of articles, conjunctions, or prepositions, [Page 297] from the words to which they belong, ne­ver has a good effect. The following ex­ample with relation to a preposition, is per­haps as tolerable as any of the kind.‘He would neither separate from, nor act against them.’

I give notice to the reader, that I am now ready to enter upon the rules of ar­rangement; beginning with a natural style, and proceeding gradually to what is the most inverted. And in the arrangement of a period, as well as in a right choice of words, the first and great object being perspi­cuity, it is above laid down as a rule, That perspicuity ought not to be sacrificed to any other beauty whatever. Ambiguities occa­sioned by a wrong arrangement are of two sorts; one where the arrangement leads to a wrong sense, and one where the sense is left doubtful. The first being the more culpable, shall take the lead, beginning with examples of words put in a wrong place. ‘How much the imagination of such a presence must exalt a genius, we may observe merely from [Page 298] the influence which an ordinary presence has over men. Characteristics, vol. 1. p. 7. This arrangement leads to a wrong sense: The adverb merely seems by its position to affect the preceding word; whereas it is intended to affect the following words an ordinary presence; and therefore the ar­rangement ought to be thus. ‘How much the imagination of such a presence must exalt a genius, we may observe from the in­fluence which an ordinary presence merely has o­ver men.’ ‘The time of the election of a poet-laureat be­ing now at hand, it may be proper to give some ac­count of the rites and ceremonies anciently used at that solemnity, and only discontinued through the neglect and degeneracy of later times. Guardian. The term only is intended to qualify the noun degeneracy, and not the participle dis­continued; and therefore the arrangement ought to be as follows. [Page 299] —and discontinued through the neglect and degeneracy only, of later times.’ ‘Sixtus the Fourth was, if I mistake not, a great collector of books at least. Letters on history, vol. 1. let. 6. Bolingbroke. The expression here leads evidently to a wrong sense. The averb at least, ought not to be connected with the substantive books, but with collector, thus: ‘Sixtus the Fourth was a great collector at least, of books.’

Speaking of Lewis XIV. ‘If he was not the greatest king, he was the best actor of majesty at least, that ever filled a throne. Ibid. letter 7. Better thus: ‘If he was not the greatest king, he was at least the best actor of majesty, &c. This arrangement removes the wrong sense occasioned by the juxtaposition of majesty and at least.

[Page 300] The following examples are of the wrong arrangement of members. ‘I have confined myself to those methods for the advancement of piety, which are in the power of a prince limited like ours by a strict execution of the laws. A project for the advancement of religion. Swift. The structure of this period leads to a meaning which is not the author's, viz. power limited by a strict execution of the laws. This wrong sense is removed by the following arrangement. ‘I have confined myself to those methods for the advancement of piety, which, by a strict execution of the laws, are in the power of a prince limited like ours.’ ‘This morning when one of Lady Lizard's daugh­ters was looking over some hoods and ribands brought by her tirewoman, with great care and diligence, I employed no less in examining the box which contained them. Guardian, No 4. The wrong sense occasioned by this ar­rangement, may be easily prevented by va­rying it thus: [Page 301] This morning when, with great care and dili­gence, one of Lady Lizard's daughters was look­ing over some hoods and ribands, &c. ‘A great stone that I happened to find after a long search by the sea-shore, served me for an anchor. Gulliver's Travels, part 1. chap. 8. One would think that the search was con­fined to the sea-shore; but as the meaning is, that the great stone was found by the sea-shore, the period ought to be arranged thus: ‘A great stone, that, after a long search, I hap­pened to find by the sea-shore, served me for an­chor.’

Next of a wrong arrangement where the sense is left doubtful; beginning, as in the former sort, with examples of the wrong arrangement of words in a member. ‘These forms of conversation by degrees multi­tiplied and grew troublesome. Spectator, No 119. [Page 302] Here it is left doubtful whether the modi­fication by degrees relate to the preceding member or to what follows. It should be, ‘These forms of conversation multiplied by de­grees.’ ‘Nor does this false modesty expose us only to such actions as are indiscreet, but very often to such as are highly criminal. Spectator, No 458. The ambiguity is removed by the follow­ing arrangement. ‘Nor does this false modesty expose us to such actions only as are indiscreet, &c. ‘The empire of Blefuscu is an island situated to the north-east side of Lilliput, from whence it is parted only by a channel of 800 yards wide. Gulliver's Travels, part 1. chap. 5. The ambiguity may be removed thus: ‘—from whence it is parted by a chan­nel of 800 yards wide only.’

In the following examples the sense is left [Page 303] doubtful by a wrong arrangement of mem­bers. ‘The minister who grows less by his elevation, like a little statue placed on a mighty pedestal, will always have his jealousy strong about him. Dissertation upon parties, dedication. Bolingbroke. Here, so far as can be gathered from the arrangement, it is doubtful, whether the object introduced by way of simile, relate to what goes before or to what follows. The ambiguity is removed by the following arrangement. ‘The minister who, like a little statue placed on a mighty pedestal, grows less by his elevation, will always, &c. ‘Since this is too much to ask of freemen, nay of slaves, if his expectation be not answered, shall he form a lasting division upon such transient motives? Ibid. Better thus: ‘Since this is too much to ask of freemen, nay of slaves, shall he, if his expectation be not an­swered, form, &c. [Page 304] Speaking of the superstitious practice of locking up the room where a person of dis­tinction dies: ‘The knight, seeing his habitation reduced to so small a compass, and himself in a manner shut out of his own house, upon the death off his mother or­dered all the apartments to be flung open, and ex­orcised by his chaplain. Spectator, No 110. Better thus: ‘The knight, seeing his habitation reduced to so small a compass, and himself in a manner shut out of his own house, ordered, upon the death of his mother, all the apartments to be flung open."’

Speaking of some indecencies in conver­sation: ‘As it is impossible for such an irrational way of conversation to last long among a people that make any profession of religion, or show of modesty, if the country-gentlemen get into it, they will certainly be left in the lurch. Spectator, No. 119. The ambiguity vanishes in the following arrangement. ‘—the country-gentlemen, if they get into it, will certainly be left in the lurch.’

[Page 305] Speaking of a discovery in natural phi­losophy, that colour is not a quality of mat­ter: ‘As this is a truth which has been proved incon­testably by many modern philosophers, and is in­deed one of the finest speculations in that science, if the English reader would see the notion explained at large, he may find it in the eighth chapter of the second book of Mr Locke's essay on human understanding. Spectator, No 413. Better thus: ‘As this is a truth, &c. the English reader, if he would see the notion explained at large, may find it, &c. ‘A woman seldom asks advice before she has bought her wedding-cloaths. When she has made her own choice, for form's sake she sends a conge d'elire to her friends. Ibid. No 475. Better thus: ‘—she sends for form's sake a conge d'elire to her friends.’ ‘And since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and [Page 306] dealing upon credit, where fraud is permitted or connived at, or hath no law to punish it, the honest dealer is always undone, and the knave gets the advantage. Gulliver's Travels, part 1. chap. 6. Better thus: ‘And since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, the honest dealer, where fraud is permitted or connived at, or hath no law to punish it, is always undone, and the knave gets the advantage.’

From these examples, the following ob­servation will readily occur, that a circum­stance ought never to be placed betwixt two capital members of a period; for by such situation it must always be doubtful, so far as we gather from the arrangement, to which of the two members it belongs. Where it is interjected, as it ought to be, betwixt parts of the member to which it belongs, the ambiguity is removed, and the capital members are kept distinct, which is a great beauty in composition. In gene­ral, to preserve members distinct which signify things distinguished in the thought, [Page 307] the sure method is, to place first in the consequent member some word that cannot connect with what precedes it.

If by any one it shall be thought, that the objections here are too scrupulous, and that the defect of perspicuity is easily sup­plied by accurate punctuation; the answer is, That punctuation may remove an am­biguity, but will never produce that pecu­liar beauty which is felt when the sense comes out clearly and distinctly by means of a happy arrangement. Such influence has this beauty, that by a natural transition of feeling, it is communicated to the very sound of the words, so as in appearance to improve the music of the period. But as this curious subject comes in more properly afterward, it is sufficient at present to appeal to experience, that a period so arranged as to bring out the sense clear, seems always more musical than where the sense is left in any degree doubtful.

A rule deservedly occupying the second place, is, That words expressing things con­nected in the thought, ought to be placed as near together as possible. This rule is [Page 308] derived immediately from human nature, in which there is discovered a remarkable propensity to place together things that are in any manner connected*. Where things are arranged according to their connections, we have a sense of order: otherwise we have a sense of disorder, as of things placed by chance. And we naturally place words in the same order in which we would place the things they signify. The bad effect of a violent separation of words or members thus intimately connected, will appear from the following examples. ‘For the English are naturally fanciful, and ve­ry often disposed, by that gloominess and melancho­ly of temper which is so frequent in our nation, to many wild notions and visions, to which others are not so liable. Spectator, No 419. Here the verb or assertion is, by a pretty long circumstance, violently separated from the subject to which it refers. This makes a harsh arrangement; the less excusable that [Page 309] the fault is easily prevented by placing the circumstance before the verb or assertion, af­ter the following manner: ‘For the English are naturally fanciful, and, by that gloominess and melancholy of temper which is so frequent in our nation, are often disposed to many wild notions, &c. ‘For as no mortal author, in the ordinary fate and vicissitude of things, knows to what use his works may, some time or other, be applied, &c. Spectator, No 85. Better thus: ‘For as, in the ordinary fate and vicissitude of things, no mortal author knows to what use, some time or other, his works may be apply'd.’ ‘From whence we may date likewise the rival­ship of the house of France, for we may reckon that of the Valois and that of Bourbon as one upon this occasion, and the house of Austria, that conti­nues at this day, and has oft cost so much blood and so much treasure in the course of it. Letters on history, vol. 1. letter 6. Bolingbroke. [Page 310] It cannot be impertinent or ridiculous therefore in such a country, whatever it might be in the Ab­bot of St Real's, which was Savoy I think; or in Peru, under the Incas, where Garcilasso de la Ve­ga says it was lawful for none but the nobility to study—for men of all degrees to instruct themselves in those affairs wherein they may be actors, or jud­ges of those that act, or controllers of those that judge. Letters on history, vol. 1. letter 5. Bolingbroke. ‘If Scipio, who was naturally given to women, for which anecdote we have, if I mistake not, the authority of Polybius, as well as some verses of Nevius preserved by Aulus Gellius, had been edu­cated by Olympias at the court of Philip, it is im­probable that he would have restored the beautiful Spaniard. Ibid. letter 3. If any one have a curiosity for more speci­mens of this kind, they will be found with­out number in the works of the same au­thor.

A pronoun, which saves the naming a person or thing a second time, ought to be placed as near as possible to the name of that person or thing. This is a branch of [Page 311] the foregoing rule; and with the reason there given, another concurs, viz. That if other ideas intervene, it is difficult to recal the person or thing by reference. ‘If I had leave to print the Latin letters transmit­ted to me from foreign parts, they would fill a vo­lume, and be a full defence against all that Mr Partridge, or his accomplices of the Portugal inqui­sition, will be ever able to object; who, by the way, are the only enemies my predictions have ever met with at home or abroad.’ Better thus: ‘—and be a full defence against all that can be objected by Mr Partridge, or his accomplices of the Portugal inquisition; who, by the way, are, &c. ‘There being a round million of creatures in hu­man figure, throughout this kingdom, whose whole subsistence, &c. A modest proposal, &c. Swift. Better: ‘There being, throughout this kingdom, a round million of creatures in human figure, whose whole subsistence, &c. [Page 312] Tom is a lively impudent clown, and has wit enough to have made him a pleasant companion, had it been polished and rectified by good manners. Guardian, No 162. ‘It is the custom of the Mahometans, if they see any printed or written paper upon the ground, to take it up, and lay it aside carefully, as not know­ing but it may contain some piece of their Alcoran. Spectator, No 85. The arrangement here leads to a wrong sense, as if the ground were taken up, not the paper. Better thus: ‘It is the custom of the Mahometans, if they see upon the ground any printed or written paper, to take it up, &c.

The following rule depends on the com­munication of emotions or feelings to rela­ted objects, a principle in human nature we have had more than one occasion to mention. We find this operation, even where the objects are not otherwise related than by the juxtaposition of the words that express them. Hence to elevate or depress an ob­ject, one method is, to join it in the ar­rangement [Page 313] to another that is naturally high or low. Witness the following speech of Eumenes to the Roman senate. ‘Causam veniendi sibi Roman fuisse, praeter cu­piditatem visendi deos hominesque, quorum beneficio in ea fortuna esset, supra quam ne optare quidem auderet, etiam ut coram moneret senatum ut Persei conatus obviam iret. Livy, l. 42. cap. 11. To join the Romans with the gods in the same enunciation, is an artful stroke of flattery, because it tacitly puts them on a le­vel. On the other hand, when the pur­pose is to degrade or vilify an object, this is done successfully by ranking it with one that is really low: ‘I hope to have this entertainment in a readiness for the next winter; and doubt not but it will please more than the opera or puppet-show. Spectator, No 28. ‘Manifold have been the judgments which Hea­ven from time to time, for the chastisement of a sin­ful people, has inflicted upon whole nations. For when the degeneracy becomes common, 'tis but [Page 314] just the punishment should be general. Of this kind, in our own unfortunate country, was that destructive pestilence, whose mortality was so fa­tal as to sweep away, if Sir William Petty may be believed, five millions of Christian souls, besides women and Jews. God's revenge against punning. Arbuthnot. ‘Such also was that dreadful conflagration ensuing in this famous metropolis of London, which con­sumed, according to the computation of Sir Samuel Morland, 100,000 houses, not to mention church­es and stables. Ibid. ‘But on condition it might pass into a law, I would gladly exempt both lawyers of all ages, sub­altern and field officers, young heirs, dancing-ma­sters, pickpockets, and players. An infallible scheme to pay the public debts. Swift.

Circumstances in a period resemble small stones in a building employ'd to fill up va­cancies among those of a larger size. In the arrangement of a period, such under­parts crowded together make a poor figure; and never are graceful but when intersper­sed among the capital parts. I shall illustrate this rule by the following example. [Page 315] It is likewise urged, that there are, by computa­tion, in this kingdom, above 10,000 parsons, whose revenues, added to those of my Lords the bishops, would suffice to maintain, &c. Argument against abolishing Christianity. Swift. Here two circumstances, viz. by computa­tion and in this kingdom, are crowded toge­ther unnecessarily. They make a better ap­pearance separated in the following manner.‘It is likewise urged, that in this kingdom there are, by computation, above 10,000 parsons, &c.

If there be room for a choice, the sooner a circumstance be introduced, the better. Circumstances are proper for that coolness of mind, with which a period as well as a work is commenced. In the progress, the mind warms, and has a greater relish for matters of importance. When a circum­stance is placed at the beginning or near the beginning of the period, the transition from it to the principal subject is agreeable: it is like ascending or mounting upward. On the other hand, to place it late in the period has a bad effect; for after being engaged in [Page 316] the principal subject, one is with reluctance brought down to give attention to a circum­stance. Hence evidently the preference of the following arrangement, ‘Whether in any country a choice altogether un­exceptionable has been made, seems doubtful,’ before this other, ‘Whether a choice altogether unexceptionable has in any country been made, &c. For this reason the following period is ex­ceptionable in point of arrangement: ‘I have considered formerly, with a good deal of attention, the subject upon which you command me to communicate my thoughts to you. Bolingbroke of the study of history, letter 1. which, with a slight alteration, may be im­proved thus: ‘I have formerly, with a good deal of attention, considered the subject, &c.

The bad effect of placing a circumstance [Page 317] last or late in a period, will appear from the following examples. ‘Let us endeavour to establish to ourselves an in­terest in him who holds the reins of the whole creation in his hand. Spectator, No 12. Better thus: ‘Let us endeavour to establish to ourselves an in­terest in him, who, in his hand, holds the reins of the whole creation.’ ‘Virgil, who has cast the whole system of Platonic philosophy, so far as it relates to the soul of man, into beautiful allegories, in the sixth book of his Aeneid, gives us the punishment, &c. Spectator, No 90. Better thus: ‘Virgil, who in the sixth book of his Aeneid has cast, &c. ‘And Philip the Fourth was obliged at last to con­clude a peace, on terms repugnant to his inclina­tion, to that of his people, to the interest of Spain, and to that of all Europe, in the Pyrenean treaty. Letters on history, vol. 1. letter 6. Bolingbroke. [Page 318] Better thus: ‘And at last, in the Pyrenean treaty, Philip the Fourth was obliged to conclude a peace, &c.

In arranging a period, it is of importance to determine in what part of it a word makes the greatest figure, whether in the begin­ning, during the currency, or at the close. The breaking silence rouses the attention to what is said; and therefore deeper impres­sion is made at the beginning than during the currency. The beginning, however, must yield to the close; which being suc­ceeded by a pause, affords time for a word to make its deepest impression. Hence the following rule, That to give the utmost force to a period, it ought if possible to be closed with that word which makes the greatest figure. The opportunity of a pause should not be thrown away upon accessories, but reserved for the principal object, in order that it may make a full impression. This is an additional reason against closing a pe­riod with a circumstance. There are how­ever periods that admit not this structure; [Page 319] and in that case, the capital word ought if possible to be placed in the front, which next to the close is the most advantageous for making an impression. Hence, in di­recting our discourse to any man, we ought to begin with his name; and one will be sensible of a degradation, when this rule is neglected, as it frequently is for the sake of verse. I give the following examples.

Integer vitae, scelerisque purus,
Non eget Mauris jaculi, neque arcu,
Nec venenatis gravidâ sagittis,
Fusce, pharetrâ.
Horat. Carm. l. 1. ode 22.

‘Je crains Dieu, cher Abner, et n'ai point d'autre crainte.’ In these examples the name of the person addressed to makes a mean figure, being like a circumstance slipt into a corner. That this criticism is well founded, we need no other proof than Addison's translation of the last example. [Page 320] O Abner! I fear my God, and I fear none but him. Guardian, No 117.

O father, what intends thy hand, she cry'd,
Against thy only son? What fury, O son,
Possesses thee to bend that mortal dart
Against thy father's head?
Paradise Lost, book 2. l. 727.

Every one must be sensible of a dignity in the invocation at the beginning, which that in the middle is far from reaching. I mean not however to censure this expression. On the contrary it appears beautiful, by distin­guishing the respect due to a father and to a son.

The substance of what is said in this and the foregoing section, upon the method of arranging the words of a period so as to make the strongest impression with respect to sound as well as signification, is compre­hended in the following observation. That order of the words in a period will always be the most agreeable, where, without ob­scuring the sense, the most important i­mages, [Page 321] the most sonorous words, and the longest members, bring up the rear.

Hitherto of arranging single words, sin­gle members, and single circumstances. But the enumeration of many particulars in the same period is often necessary; and the question is, In what order they should be placed. It does not seem easy at first view to bring a subject apparently so loose under any general rules. But luckily reflecting upon what is said in the first chapter about order, we find rules laid down to our hand, so as to leave us no harder task than their application to the present question. And, first, with respect to the enumerating a number of particulars of equal rank, it is laid down in the place cited, that as there is no foundation for preferring any one be­fore the rest, it is indifferent to the mind in what order they be viewed. And it is only necessary to be added here, that for the same reason, it is indifferent in what order they be named. 2dly, If a number of objects of the same kind, differing only in size, are to be ranged along a straight [Page 322] line, the most agreeable order to the eye is that of an increasing series. In surveying a number of such objects, beginning at the least and proceeding to greater and greater, the mind swells gradually with the successive objects, and in its progress has a very sen­sible pleasure. Precisely for the same rea­son, the words expressive of such objects ought to be placed in the same order. The beauty of this figure, which may be term­ed a climax in sense, has escaped Lord Bo­lingbroke in the first member of the fol­lowing period.‘Let but one great, brave, disinterested, active man arise, and he will be received, followed, and almost adored.’ The following arrangement has sensibly a better effect.‘Let but one brave, great, active, disinterest­ed man arise, &c. Whether the same rule ought to be follow­ed in enumerating men of different ranks, seems doubtful. On the one hand, a pro­cession [Page 323] of a number of persons, presenting the lowest class first, and rising upon the eye in succession till it terminate upon the high­est, is undoubtedly the most agreeable or­der. On the other hand, in every list of names, it is customary to set the person of the greatest dignity at the top, and to descend gradually through his inferiors. Where the purpose is to honour the persons named according to their rank, the latter order ought to be followed; but every one who regards himself only, or his reader, will chuse the former order. 3dly, As the sense of order directs the eye to descend from the principal to its greatest accessory, and from the whole to its greatest part, and in the same order through all the parts and accessories till we arrive at the minu­test; the same order ought to be followed in the enumeration of such particulars. I shall give on familiar example. Talking of the parts of a column, viz. the base, the shaft, the capital, these are capable of six different arrangements, and the question is, Which is the best? When one has in view the erection of a column, he will na­turally [Page 324] be led to express the parts in the or­der above mentioned; which at the same time is agreeable by mounting upward. But considering the column as it stands without reference to its erection, the sense of order, as observed above, requires the chief part to be named first. For that reason we begin with the shaft; and the base comes next in order, that we may a­scend from it to the capital. Lastly, In tracing the particulars of any natural ope­ration, order requires that we follow the course of nature. Historical facts are rela­ted in the order of time. We begin at the founder of a family, and proceed from him to his descendents. But in describing a lofty oak, we begin with the trunk, and ascend to the branches.

When force and liveliness of expression are aimed at, the rule is, to suspend the thought as much as possible, and to bring it out full and entire at the close. This cannot be done but by inverting the natu­ral arrangement, and by introducing a word or member before its time. By such in­version our curiosity is raised about what is [Page 325] to follow; and it is agreeable to have our curiosity gratified at the close of the period. Such arrangement produceth on the mind an effect similar to a stroke exerted upon the body by the whole collected force of the agent. On the other hand, where a pe­riod is so constructed as to admit more than one complete close in the sense, the curiosity of the reader is exhausted at the first close, and what follows appears languid or super­fluous. His disappointment contributes al­so to this appearance, when he finds, that, contrary to his expectation, the period is not yet finished. Cicero, and after him Quintilian, recommend the verb to the last place. This method evidently tends to suspend the sense till the close of the pe­riod; for without the verb the sense can­not be complete. And when the verb happens to be the capital word, which is frequently the case, it ought at any rate to be put last, according to another rule, above laid down. I proceed as usual to illustrate this rule by examples. The following pe­riod is placed in its natural order. [Page 326] Were instruction an essential circumstance in epic poetry, I doubt whether a single instance could be given of this species of composition, in any lan­guage.’ The period thus arranged admits a full close upon the word composition; after which it goes on languidly, and closes without force. This blemish will be avoided by the following arrangement. ‘Were instruction an essential circumstance in epic poetry, I doubt whether, in any language, a single instance could be given of this species of composi­tion.’ ‘Some of our most eminent divines have made use of this Platonic notion, as far as it regards the subsistence of our passions after death, with great beauty and strength of reason. Spectator, No 90. Better thus: ‘Some of our most eminent divines have, with great beauty and strength of reason, made use of this Platonic notion, &c. ‘Men of the best sense have been touched, more [Page 237] or less, with these groundless horrors and presages of futurity, upon surveying the most indifferent works of nature. Spectator, No 505. Better: ‘Upon surveying the most indifferent works of nature, men of the best sense, &c. ‘She soon informed him of the place he was in, which, notwithstanding all its horrors, appeared to him more sweet than the bower of Mahomet, in the company of his Balsora. Guardian, No 167. Better: ‘She soon, &c. appeared to him, in the compa­ny of his Balsora, more sweet, &c. ‘The Emperor was so intent on the establishment of his absolute power in Hungary, that he expo­sed the Empire doubly to desolation and ruin for the sake of it. Letters on history, vol. 1. let. 7. Bolingbroke. Better: ‘—that for the sake of it he exposed the Empire doubly to desolation and ruin.’

[Page 328] None of the rules for the composition of periods are more liable to be abused, than those last mentioned: witness many Latin writers, among the moderns especially, whose style, by inversions too violent, is rendered harsh and obscure. Suspension of the thought till the close of the period, ought never to be preferred before perspi­cuity. Neither ought such suspension to be attempted in a long period; because in that case the mind is bewildered among a profusion of words. A traveller, while he is puzzled about the road, relishes not the finest prospects.‘All the rich presents which Astyages had given him at parting, keeping only some Median horses, in order to propagate the breed of them in Persia, he distributed among his friends whom he left at the court of Ecbatana. Travels of Cyrus, book 1.

The foregoing rules concern the arrange­ment of a single period. I shall add one rule more concerning the distribution of a discourse into different periods. A short period is lively and familiar. A long pe­riod, [Page 329] requiring more attention, makes an impression grave and solemn. In general, a writer ought to study a mixture of long and short periods, which prevents an irk­some uniformity, and entertains the mind with variety of impressions. In particular, long periods ought to be avoided till the reader's attention be thoroughly engaged; and therefore a discourse, especially of the familiar kind, ought never to be introduced with a long period. For that reason, the commencement of a letter to a very young lady on her marriage is faulty. ‘Madam, The hurry and impertinence of recei­ving and paying visits on account of your marriage, being now over, you are beginning to enter into a course of life, where you will want much advice to divert you from falling into many errors, foppe­ries, and follies, to which your sex is subject. Swift. See a stronger example in the commence­ment of Cicero's oration, Pro Archia poeta.

Before we proceed farther, it may be proper to take a review of the rules laid [Page 330] down in this and the preceding section, in order to make some general observations. The natural order of the words and mem­bers of a period, is undoubtedly the same with the natural order of the ideas that compose the thought. The tendency of many of the foregoing rules, is to substitute an artificial arrangement, in order to reach some beauty either of sound or meaning that cannot be reached in the natural or­der. But seldom it happens, that in the same period there is place for a plurality of these rules. If one beauty can be catched, another must be relinquished. The only question is, Which ought to be preferred? This is a question that cannot be resolved by any general rule. But practice, sup­ported by a good taste, will in most instan­ces make the choice easy. The component words and members of a period, are ascer­tained by the subject. If the natural order be not relished, a few trials will discover that artificial order which has the best effect. All that can be said in general is, that in making a choice, sound ought to yield to signification.

[Page 331] The transposing words and members out of their natural order, so remarkable in the learned languages, has been the subject of much speculation. It is agreed on all hands, that such transposition or inversion bestows upon a period a very sensible degree of force and elevation; and yet writers seem to be at a loss in what manner to account for this effect. Cerçeau* ascribes so much power to inversion, as to make it the characteristic of French verse, and the single circumstance which in that language distinguishes verse from prose. And yet he pretends not to say, that it hath any other power but to raise surprise; he must mean curiosity; which is done by suspending the thought during the period, and bringing it out en­tire at the close. This indeed is one power of inversion; but neither its sole power, nor even that which is the most remarkable, as is made plain above. But waving censure, which is not an agreeable task, I enter into the matter. And I begin with observing, that if a conformity betwixt words and their [Page 332] meaning be agreeable, it must of course be agreeable to find the same order or ar­rangement in both. Hence the beauty of a plain or natural style, where the order of the words corresponds precisely to the order of the ideas. Nor is this the single beauty of a natural style: it is also agreeable upon account of its simplicity and perspicuity. This observation throws light upon the subject. For if a natural style be in itself agreeable, a transposed style cannot be so. And therefore, it cannot otherwise be a­greeable, but as contributing to some posi­tive beauty which is excluded in a natural style. To be confirmed in this opinion, we need but reflect upon some of the fore­going rules, which make it evident, that language, by means of inversion, is suscep­tible of many beauties that are totally ex­cluded in a natural arrangement of words. From these premisses it clearly follows, that inversion ought not to be indulged, un­less in order to reach some beauty supe­rior to that of a natural style. It may with great certainty be pronounced, that every inversion which is not governed by [Page 333] this rule, will appear harsh and strained, and be disrelished by every one of taste. Hence the beauty of inversion when happily conducted; the beauty, not of an end, but of means, as furnishing opportunity for num­berless ornaments that find no place in a natu­ral style. Hence the force, the elevation, the harmony, the cadence, of some composi­tions. Hence the manifold beauties of the Greek and Roman tongues, of which li­ving languages afford but faint imitations.

SECT. III. Beauty of language from a resemblance betwixt sound and signification.

THE resemblance betwixt the sound and signification of certain words, is a beauty, which has escaped no critical wri­ter, and yet is not handled with accuracy by any of them. They have probably been erroneously of opinion, that a beauty so obvious in the feeling, requires no ex­planation [Page 334] in the understanding. In order to supply this defect, I shall give examples of the various resemblances betwixt sound and signification; and at the same time shall endeavour to explain why such resem­blances are beautiful. I begin with exam­ples where the resemblance betwixt the sound and signification is the most entire; proceeding to others, where the resem­blance is less and less so.

There being frequently a strong resem­blance betwixt different sounds, it will not be surprising to find a natural sound imita­ted by one that is articulate. Thus the sound of a bow-string is imitated by the words that express it.

—The string let fly,
Twang'd short and sharp, like the shrill swallow's cry.
Odyssey xxi. 449.

The sound of felling trees in a wood:

Loud sounds the ax, redoubling strokes on strokes;
On all sides round the forest hurls her oaks
[Page 335] Headlong. Deep-echoing groan the thickets brown,
Then rustling, crackling, crashing, thunder down.
Iliad, xxiii. 144.

But when loud surges lash the sounding shore
The hoarse rough verse should like the torrent roar!
Pope's Essay on Criticism, 369.

No person can be at a loss about the cause of this beauty. It is obviously that of imi­tation.

That there is any other natural resem­blance betwixt sound and signification, must not be taken for granted. There is evidently no resemblance betwixt sound and motion, nor betwixt sound and sentiment. In this matter, we are apt to be deceived by artful reading or pronouncing. The same passage may be pronounced in many different tones, elevated or humble, sweet or harsh, brisk or melancholy, so as to accord with the thought or sentiment. Such concord, de­pending on artful pronunciation, must be distinguished from that concord betwixt sound and sense, which is perceived in some expressions independent of artful pronun­ciation. [Page 336] The latter is the poet's work: the former must be attributed to the reader. Another thing contributes still more to the deceit. In language, sound and sense are so intimately connected, as that the proper­ties of the one are readily communicated to the other. An emotion of grandeur, of sweetness, of melancholy, or of compassion, though occasioned by the thought solely, is transferred upon the words, which by that means resemble in appearance the thought that is expressed by them*. I have great reason to recommend these observations to my reader, considering how inaccurately the present subject is handled by critics. Not one of them distinguishes the natural re­semblance of sound and signification, from the artificial resemblance now described. Witness Vida in particular, who in a very long passage has given very few examples, but what are of the latter kind.

That there may be a resemblance betwixt natural and artificial sounds, is self-evident; [Page 337] and that in fact there exist such resemblances successfully employ'd by writers of genius, is clear from the foregoing examples, and many others that might be given. But we may safely pronounce, that this natural re­semblance can be carried no farther. The objects of the several senses, differ so widely from each other as to exclude any resem­blance. Sound in particular, whether arti­culate or inarticulate, resembles not in any degree taste, smell, or motion; and as little can it resemble any internal sentiment, feel­ing, or emotion. But must we then agree, that nothing but natural sound can be imi­tated by that which is articulate? Taking imitation in its proper sense, as involving a resemblance betwixt two objects, the pro­position must be admitted. And yet in ma­ny passages that are not descriptive of natu­ral sound, every one must be sensible of a peculiar concord betwixt the sound of the words and their meaning. As there can be no doubt of the fact, what remains is, to in­quire into its cause.

Resembling causes may produce effects that have no resemblance; and causes that [Page 338] have no resemblance may produce resem­bling effects. A magnificent building, for example, resembles not in any degree an he­roic action; and yet the emotions they pro­duce, being concordant, bear a resemblance to each other. We are still more sensible of this resemblance, in a song where the music is properly adjusted to the sentiment. There is no resemblance betwixt thought and sound; but there is the strongest resem­blance betwixt the emotion raised by music tender and pathetic, and that raised by the complaint of an unsuccessful lover. To ap­ply these examples to the present subject, I observe, that the sound even of a single word makes, in some instances, an impression resembling that which is made by the thing it signifies; witness the word running, com­posed of two short syllables; and more re­markably the words rapidity, impetuosity, precipitation. Brutal manners produce in the spectator, an emotion not unlike what is produced by a harsh and rough sound. Hence the figurative expression, rugged manners; an expression peculiarly agreeable by the relation of the sound to the sense. [Page 339] Again, the word little, being pronounced with a very small aperture of the mouth, has a weak and faint sound, which makes an impression resembling that made by any diminutive object. This resemblance of ef­fects, is still more remarkable where a num­ber of words are connected together in a period. Words pronounced in succession make often a strong impression; and when this impression happens to accord with that made by the sense, a peculiar pleasure arises. The thought or sentiment produces one pleasant emotion: the melody or tone of the words produces another. But the chief pleasure proceeds from having these two concordant emotions combined in perfect harmony, and carried on in the mind to a full close*. Ex­cept in the single case where sound is de­scribed, all the examples given by critics of sense being imitated in sound, resolve into a resemblance of effects. Emotions raised by sound and signification may have a re­semblance; but sound itself cannot have a resemblance to any thing but sound.

[Page 340] Proceeding now to particulars, and be­ginning with those cases where the emo­tions have the strongest resemblance, I ob­serve, first, That in pronouncing a number of syllables in succession, an emotion is sometimes raised extremely similar to that raised by successive motion. This may be made evident even to those who are defective in taste, by the following fact, that the term movement in all languages is equally apply'd to both. In this manner, successive mo­tion, such as walking, running, galloping, can be imitated by a succession of long or short syllables, or by a due mixture of both. For example, slow motion may be aptly imitated in a verse where long syllables pre­vail; especially when aided by a slow pro­nunciation: ‘Illi inter sese magnâ vi brachia tollunt. Georg. iv. 174.

On the other hand, swift motion is imi­tated by a succession of short syllables: ‘Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula cam­pum.’ [Page 341] Again: ‘Radit iter liquidum, celeres neque commovet alas.’

Thirdly, a line composed of monosyl­lables, makes an impression, by the frequen­cy of its pauses, similar to what is made by laborious interrupted motion:

With many a weary step, and many a groan,
Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone.
Odyssey, xi. 736.

First march the heavy mules, securely slow;
O'er hills, o'er dales, o'er craggs, o'er rocks, they go.
Iliad, xxiii. 138.

Fourthly, the impression made by rough sounds in succession, resembles that made by rough or tumultuous motion. On the other hand, the impression of smooth sounds resembles that of gentle motion. The fol­lowing is an example of both.

Two craggy rocks projecting to the main,
The roaring wind's tempestuous rage restrain;
[Page 342] Within, the waves in softer murmurs glide,
And ships secure without their haulsers ride.
Odyssey, iii. 118.

Another example of the latter:

Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows.
Essay on Crit. 366.

Fifthly, prolonged motion is expressed in an Alexandrine line. The first exam­ple shall be of slow motion prolonged:

A needless Alexandrine ends the song;
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
Essay on Crit. 356.

The next example is of forcible motion pro­longed:

The waves behind impel the waves before,
Wide-rolling, foaming high, and tumbling to the shore.
Iliad, xiii. 1004.

The last shall be of rapid motion prolonged:

[Page 343]
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main.
Essay on Crit. 373.

Again, speaking of a rock torn from the brow of a mountain,

Still gath'ring force, it smokes, and, urg'd amain,
Whirls, leaps, and thunders down, impetuous to the plain.
Iliad, xiii. 197.

Sixthly, a period consisting mostly of long syllables, that is, of syllables pronounced slow, produceth an emotion resembling faintly that which is produced by gravity and solemnity. Hence the beauty of the following verse.‘Olli sedato respondit corde Latinus.’

Seventhly, a slow succession of ideas is a circumstance that belongs equally to settled melancholy, and to a period composed of polysyllables pronounced slow. Hence, by similarity of emotions, the latter is imitative of the former:

[Page 344]
In those deep solitudes and awful cells,
Where heav'nly-pensive Contemplation dwells,
And ever-musing Melancholy reigns.
Pope. Eloisa to Abelard.

Eighthly, a long syllable made short, or a short syllable made long, raises, by the diffi­culty of pronouncing contrary to custom, a feeling similar to that of hard labour:

When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
The line too labours, and the words move slow.
Essay on Crit. 370.

Ninthly, harsh or rough words pronoun­ced with difficulty, excite a feeling resem­bling that which proceeds from the labour of thought to a dull writer:

Just writes to make his barrenness appear,
And strains from hard-bound brains eight lines a­year.
Pope's epistle to Dr Arbuthnot, l. 181.

I shall close with one other example, which of all makes the finest figure. In the first section mention is made of a climax in sound, and in the second of a climax in [Page 345] sense. It belongs to the present subject to observe, that when these coincide in the same passage, the concordance of sound and sense is delightful. The reader is conscious not only of pleasure from the two climaxes separately, but of an additional pleasure from their concordance, and from finding the sense so justly imitated by the sound. In this respect, no periods are more perfect than those borrowed from Cicero in the first sec­tion.

The concord betwixt sense and sound is not less agreeable in what may be termed an anticlimax, where the progress is from great to little; for this has the effect to make di­minutive objects appear still more diminu­tive. Horace affords a striking example: ‘Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.’ The arrangement here is singularly artful. The first place is occupied by the verb, which is the capital word by its sense as well as sound. The close is reserved for the word that is the meanest in sense as well as in sound. And it must not be overlooked, [Page 346] that the resembling sounds of the two last syllables give a ludicrous air to the whole.

Reviewing the foregoing examples, it ap­pears to me, contrary to expectation, that in passing from the strongest resemblances to those that are fainter, the pleasure rises gradually in proportion. Can this be ac­counted for? or shall I renounce my taste as capricious? When I renew the experi­ment again and again, I feel no wavering, but the greatest pleasure constantly from the faintest resemblances. And yet how can this be? for if the pleasure lie in imitation, must not the strongest resemblance afford the greatest pleasure? From this vexing dilemma, I am happily relieved, by reflect­ing on a doctrine established in the chapter of resemblance and contrast, that the plea­sure of resemblance is the greatest, where it is least expected, and where the objects compared are in their capital circumstances widely different. Nor will this appear sur­prising, when we descend to familiar exam­ples. It raiseth not wonder in the smallest degree, to find the most perfect resemblance betwixt two eggs of the same animal. It is [Page 347] more rare to find such resemblance betwixt two human faces; and upon that account such an appearance raises some degree of wonder. But this emotion rises to a still greater height, when we find in a pebble, an aggat, or any natural production, a per­fect resemblance to a tree or other organi­sed body. We cannot hesitate a moment, in applying these observations to the present subject. What occasion of wonder can it be to find one sound resembling another, where both are of the same kind? It is not so common to find a resemblance betwixt an articulate sound and one not articulate; and accordingly the imitation here affords some slight pleasure. But the pleasure swells greatly, when we employ sound to imitate things it resembles not otherwise than by the effects produced in the mind.

I have had occasion to observe, that to complete the resemblance betwixt sound and sense, artful pronunciation contributes not a little. Pronunciation therefore may be considered as a branch of the present subject; and with some observations upon it I shall conclude the section.

[Page 348] In order to give a just idea of pronuncia­tion, it must be distinguished from singing. The latter is carried on by notes, requiring each of them a different aperture of the windpipe. The notes properly belonging to the former, are expressed by different a­pertures of the mouth, without varying the aperture of the windpipe. This however doth not hinder pronunciation to borrow from singing, as a man sometimes is natu­rally led to do, in expressing a vehement passion.

In reading, as in singing, there is a key-note. Above this note the voice is fre­quently elevated, to make the sound corre­spond to the elevation of the subject. But the mind in an elevated state, is disposed to action. Therefore in order to a rest, it must be brought down to the key-note. Hence the term cadence.

The only general rule that can be given for directing the pronunciation, is, To sound the words in such a manner as to imitate the things they represent, or of which they are the symbols. The ideas which make the greatest figure, ought to be expressed [Page 349] with a peculiar emphasis. In expressing an elevated subject, the voice ought to be rai­sed above its ordinary pitch; and words signifying dejection of mind, ought to be pronounced in a low note. A succession of sounds gradually ascending from low to high notes, represents an ascending series of objects. An opposite succession of sounds, is fitted for objects or sentiments that descend gradually. In Dryden's ode of Alexander's feast, the line, Faln, faln, faln, faln, ought to be pronounced with a falling voice; and is pronounced in that manner, by every one of taste, without in­struction. Another circumstance contri­butes to the resemblance betwixt sense and sound, which is slow or quick pronuncia­tion. For though the length or shortness of the syllables with relation to each other, be in prose ascertained in some measure, and in verse always; yet taking a whole line or period together, it is arbitrary to pronounce it slow or fast. Hence it is, that a period expressing what is solemn or deli­berate, ought to be pronounced slow; and ought to be pronounced quick, when it ex­presses [Page 350] any thing brisk, lively, or impe­tuous.

The art of pronouncing with propriety and grace, being calculated to make the sound an echo to the sense, scarce admits of any other general rule than that above mentioned. This rule may indeed be branched out into many particular rules and observations: but these belong not properly to the present undertaking, because they cannot be explained in words. We have not words to signify the different degrees of high and low, loud and soft, fast and slow; and before these differences can be made the subject of regular instruction, notes must be invented resembling those employ'd in music. We have reason to believe, that in Greece every tragedy was accompanied with such notes, in order to ascertain the pronunciation. But the moderns hitherto have not thought of this refinement. Ci­cero indeed*, without the help of notes, pretends to give rules for ascertaining the several tones of voice that are proper in ex­pressing [Page 351] the several passions; and it must be acknowledged, that in this attempt he has exhausted the whole power of lan­guage. At the same time, every person of judgement must see, that these rules a­vail little in point of instruction. The very words he employs, are scarce intelli­gible, except to those who beforehand are acquainted with the subject.

To vary the scene a little, I propose to close with a slight comparison betwixt sing­ing and pronouncing. In this comparison the five following circumstances relative to articulate sound, must be kept in view. 1st, It is harsh or smooth. 2d, A sound or syllable, is long or short. 3d, It is pronounced high or low. 4th, It is pro­nounced loud or soft. And, lastly, a num­ber of words in succession constituting a pe­riod or member of a period, are pronoun­ced slow or quick. Of these five, the first depending on the component letters, and the second being ascertained by custom, admit not any variety in pronouncing. The three last are arbitrary, depending on the will of the person who pronounces; [Page 352] and it is chiefly in the artful management of these, that just pronunciation consists. With respect to the first circumstance, mu­sic has evidently the advantage; for all its notes are agreeable to the ear, which is not always the case of articulate sound. With respect to the second, long and short syl­lables variously combined, produce a great variety of feet; yet far inferior to the varie­ty which is found in the multiplied com­binations of musical notes. With respect to high and low notes, pronunciation is still more inferior to singing. For it it obser­ved by Dionysius of Halicarnassus*, that in pronouncing, i. e. without altering the aperture of the windpipe, the voice is con­fined within three notes and a half. Sing­ing has a much greater compass. With respect to the two last circumstances, pro­nunciation equals singing.

In this discourse, I have mentioned none of the beauties of language, but what arise [Page 353] from words taken in their proper sense. Those beauties that depend on the meta­phorical and figurative power of words, are reserved to be treated in chap. 20.


THE music of verse, though handled by every grammarian, merits more attention than has been given it. The sub­ject is intimately connected with human nature; and to explain it thoroughly, seve­ral nice and delicate feelings must be em­ploy'd. Entering upon this subject, it oc­curs as a preliminary point, By what mark is verse distinguished from prose? The dis­cussion of this point is necessary, were it for no other purpose but to ascertain the nature and limits of our subject. To produce this distinguishing mark, is a task not perhaps so easy as may at first be apprehended. Verse of every sort, has, it is true, rules for [Page 354] its construction. It is composed of feet, the number and variety of which are ascer­tained. Prose, though also composed of feet, is more loose and scarce subjected to any rules. But many are ignorant of these rules: Are such left without means to make the distinction? And even with respect to the learned, must they apply the rule be­fore they can with certainty pronounce whether the composition be prose or verse? This will hardly be maintained; and there­fore, instead of rules, the ear must be ap­pealed to as the proper judge. But what gain we by being thus referred to another standard? It still recurs, by what mark does the ear distinguish verse from prose? The proper and satisfactory answer is, That these make different impressions, which are readily distinguishable by every one who hath an ear. This advances us one step in our inquiry.

Taking it then for granted, that verse makes upon the ear a different impression from that of prose; nothing remains but to explain this difference, and to assign its cause. To these ends, I must call to my [Page 355] aid an observation made above in treating of the sound of words, that they are more agreeable to the ear when composed of long and short syllables than when all the sylla­bles are of the same sort. A continued sound in the same tone, makes an impres­sion that comes not up to any idea we have of music. The same note successively re­newed by intervals, is more agreeable; but still makes not a musical impression. To produce this impression, variety is necessary as well as number. The successive sounds or syllables, must be some of them long, some of them short; and if also high and low, the music is the more perfect. Now if this impression can be made by single words, much more by a plurality in an or­derly succession. The musical impression made by a period consisting of long and short syllables arranged in a certain order, is what the Greeks call rhythmus, the La­tins, numerus, and we modulation or mea­sure. Cicero justly observes, that in one continued sound there is no modulation: ‘"Numerus in continuatione nullus est."’ But in what follows he is wide of the truth, [Page 356] if by numerus he means modulation or mu­sical measure. ‘"Distinctio, et aequalium et saepe variorum intervallorum percussio, numerum conficit; quem in cadentibus guttis, quod intervallis distinguuntur, notare possumus."’ Falling drops, whe­ther with equal or unequal intervals, are certainly not musical. We begin then only to be sensible of a musical expression, when the notes are varied. And this also was probably the opinion of the author ci­ted, though his expression be a little un­guarded*.

It will probably occur, that modulation, so far as connected with long and short syllables combined in a sentence, may be found in prose as well as in verse; consi­dering especially, that in both, particular words are accented or pronounced in a [Page 357] higher tone than ordinary; and therefore that the difference betwixt them cannot consist in modulation merely. The obser­vation is just; and it follows, that the dis­tinction betwixt prose and verse, since it depends not on modulation merely, must arise from the difference of the modula­tion. This is precisely the case, though the difference cannot with any accuracy be explained in words. Verse is more musi­cal than prose; and of the former, the modulation is more perfect than of the latter. The difference betwixt verse and prose, re­sembles the difference in music properly so called betwixt the song and the recitative. And the resemblance is not the less com­plete, that these differences, like the shades of colours, approximate sometimes so near­ly as scarce to be discernible. A recitative in its movement approaches sometimes to the liveliness of a song; which on the o­ther hand degenerates sometimes toward a plain recitative. Nothing is more distin­guishable from prose, than the bulk of Virgil's hexameters. Many of those com­posed [Page 358] by Horace, are very little removed from prose. Sapphic verse has a very sen­sible modulation. That on the other hand of an Iambic, is extremely faint*.

This more perfect modulation of articu­late sounds, is what distinguisheth verse from prose. Verse is subjected to certain inflex­ible laws. The number and variety of the component syllables are ascertained, and in some measure the order of succession. Such restraint makes it a matter of difficulty to compose in verse; a difficulty that is not to be surmounted but by a singular genius. Useful lessons of every sort convey'd to us in verse, are agreeable by the union of mu­sic with instruction. But are we for that reason to reject knowledge offered in a plain­er dress? This would be ridiculous; for knowledge may be acquired without music, and music is entertaining independent of knowledge. Many there are, not less will­ing [Page 359] than capable to instruct us, who have no genius for verse. Hence the use of prose, which, for the reason now given, is not confined to precise rules. There belongs to it, a certain modulation of an inferior kind, which, being extremely ornamental, ought to be the aim of every writer. But to succeed in it, practice is necessary more than genius. Nor are we rigid on this article. Provided the work answer its chief end of instruction, we are the less solicitous about its dress.

Having ascertained the nature and limits of our subject, I proceed to the laws by which it is regulated. These would be endless, were verse of all different kinds to be taken under consideration. I propose therefore to confine the inquiry, to Latin or Greek hexameter, and to French and Eng­lish heroic verse; which perhaps will carry me farther than the reader may chuse to fol­low. The observations I shall have occa­sion to make, will at any rate be sufficient for a specimen; and these with proper va­riations may easily be transferred to the composition of other sorts of verse.

Before I enter upon particulars, it must [Page 360] be premised in general, that to verse of eve­ry kind, five things are of importance. 1st, The number of syllables that compose a verse. 2d, The different lengths of syl­lables, i. e. the difference of time taken in pronouncing. 3d, The arrangement of these syllables combined in words. 4th, The pauses or stops in pronouncing. 5th, Pronouncing syllables in a high or low tone. The three first mentioned are obviously es­sential to verse. If any of them be wanting, there cannot be that higher degree of mo­dulation which distinguisheth verse from prose. To give a just notion of the fourth, it must be observed, that pauses are neces­sary for three different purposes. One is, to separate periods and members of the same period according to the sense: another is, to improve the modulation of verse: and the last is, to afford opportunity for drawing breath in reading. A pause of the first kind is variable, being long or short, frequent or less frequent, as the sense requires. A pause of the second kind, is in no degree arbitrary; its place being determined by the modulation. The last sort again is in a [Page 361] measure arbitrary, depending on the read­er's command of breath. This sort ought always to coincide with the first or second; for one cannot read with grace, unless, for drawing breath, opportunity be taken of a pause in the sense or in the melody; and for that reason this pause may be neglected. With respect then to the pauses of sense and of melody, it may be affirmed without he­sitation, that their coincidence in verse is a capital beauty. But as it cannot be expect­ed, in a long work especially, that every line should be so perfect; we shall after­ward have occasion to see, that the pause necessary for sense must often, in some de­gree, be sacrificed to the verse-pause; and the latter sometimes to the former.

The pronouncing syllables in a high or low tone, contributes also to melody. In reading, whether verse or prose, a certain tone is assumed, which may be called the key-note; and in this tone the bulk of the words are sounded. Sometimes to humour the sense and sometimes the melody, a parti­cular syllable is sounded in a higher tone; and this is termed accenting a syllable, or gracing [Page 362] it with an accent. Opposed to the accent, is the cadence, which I have not mentioned as one of the requisites of verse, because it is entirely regulated by the sense, and hath no peculiar relation to verse. The cadence is a falling of the voice below the key-note at the close of every period; and so little is it essential to verse, that in correct reading the final syllable of every line is accent­ed, that syllable only excepted which closes the period, where the sense requires a cadence. The reader may be satisfied of this by experiments; and for that purpose I recommend to him the Rape of the Lock, which, in point of versification, is the most complete performance in the English lan­guage. Let him consult in particular a pe­riod canto 2. beginning at line 47. and closed line 52. with the word gay, which only of the whole final syllables is pronoun­ced with a cadence. He may also examine another period in the 5th canto, which runs from line 45. to line 52.

Though the five requisites above mention­ed, enter the composition of every species of verse, they are however governed by differ­ent [Page 363] rules, peculiar to each species. Upon quantity only, one general observation may be premised, because it is applicable to eve­ry species of verse. Syllables, with respect to the time taken in pronouncing, are distin­guished into long and short; two short syl­lables, with respect to time, being precisely equal to one long. These two lengths are essential to verse of all kinds; and to no verse, so far as I know, is a greater variety of time necessary in pronouncing syllables. The voice indeed is frequently made to rest longer than commonly, upon a word that bears an important signification. But this is done to humour the sense, and is not ne­cessary for the modulation. A thing not more necessary occurs with respect to ac­centing, similar to that now mentioned. A word signifying any thing humble, low, or dejected, is naturally, in prose as well as in verse, pronounced in a tone below the key­note.

We are now sufficiently prepared for en­tering upon particulars; and Latin or Greek Hexameter, which are the same, coming first in order, I shall exhaust what I have to [Page 364] say upon this species of verse, under the four following heads; of number, arrange­ment, pause, and accent; for as to quanti­ty, so far as concerns the present point, what is observed above may suffice.

Hexameter lines are, with respect to time, all of the same length. A line may consist of seventeen syllables; and when regular and not Spondaic, it never has fewer than thirteen. Hence it is plain, that where the syllables are many, the plurality must be short; where few, the plurality must be long. And upon the whole, the number of syllables in every line with respect to the time taken in pronouncing, are equivalent to twelve long syllables, or twenty-four short.

With regard to arrangement, this line is susceptible of much variety. The succession of long and short syllables, may be great­ly varied without injuring the melody. It is subjected however to laws, that confine its variety within certain limits. For trying the arrangement, and for determining whe­ther it be perfect or faulty, grammarians have invented a rule by Dactyles and Spon­dees, [Page 365] which they denominate feet. One at first view is led to think, that these feet are also intended to regulate the pronunciation. But this is far from being the case. It will appear by and by, that the rules of pronun­ciation are very different. And indeed were one to pronounce according to these feet, the melody of a Hexameter line would be destroy'd, or at best be much inferior to what it is when properly pronounced*. These feet then must be confined to their [Page 366] sole province of regulating the arrangement, for they serve no other purpose. They are withal so artificial and complex, that, neg­lecting them altogether, I am tempted to substitute in their room, other rules, more simple and of more easy application; for example, the following. 1st, The line must always commence with a long syllable, and close with two long preceded by two short. 2d, More than two short can never be [Page 367] found in any part of the line, nor fewer than two if any. And, 3d, Two long syl­lables which have been preceded by two short, cannot also be followed by two short. These few rules fulfil all the conditions of a Hexameter line, with relation to order or arrangement. To these again a single rule may be substituted, for which I have a still greater relish, as it regulates more affirma­tively the construction of every part. That I may put this rule into words with the [Page 368] greater facility, I take a hint from the twelve long syllables that compose an Hex­ameter line, to divide it into twelve equal parts or portions, being each of them one long syllable or two short. This prelimi­nary being established, the rule is shortly what follows. The 1st, 3d, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, and 12th portions, must each of them be one long syllable; the 10th must always be two short syllables; the 2d, 4th, 6th, and 8th, may indifferently be one long or two short. Or to express the thing still more curtly, The 2d, 4th, 6th, and 8th portions may be one long syl­lable or two short; the 10th must be two short syllables; all the rest must consist of one long syllable. This fulfils all the con­ditions of an Hexameter line, and compre­hends all the combinations of Dactyles and Spondees that this line admits.

Next in order comes the pause. At the end of every Hexameter line, no ear but must be sensible of a complete close or full pause. This effect is produced by the fol­lowing [Page 369] means. Every line invariably is fi­nished with two long syllables preceded by two short; a fine preparation for a full close. Syllables pronounced slow, resemble a slow and languid motion tending to rest. The mind put in the same tone by the pronun­ciation, is naturally disposed to a pause. And to this disposition the two preceding short syllables contribute; for these, by contrast, make the slow pronunciation of the final syllables the more conspicuous. Beside this complete close or full pause at the end, others are also requisite for the sake of me­lody. I discover two clearly, and perhaps there may be more. The longest and most remarkable, succeeds the 5th portion, ac­cording to the foregoing measure. The other, which being more faint, may be called the semipause, succeeds the 8th por­tion. So striking is the pause first mention­ed, as to be distinguished even by the rudest ear. The monkish rhymes are evi­dently built upon it. In these, it is an in­variable rule, to make the final word chime with that which immediately precedes the pause:

[Page 370]
De planctu cudo ‖ mitrum cum carmine nudo
Mingere cum bumbis ‖ res est soluberrima lumbis.

The difference of time in the pause and semipause, occasions another difference not less remarkable. The pause ought regu­larly to be at the end of a word; but it is lawful to divide a word by a semipause. The bad effect of dividing a word by the pause, is sensibly felt in the following ex­amples.

Effusus labor, at‖que inmitis rupta Tyranni


Observans nido im‖plumes detraxit; at illa


Loricam quam De‖moleo detraxerat ipse

The dividing a word by a semipause has not the same bad effect:

Jamque pedem referens ‖ casus e|vaserat omnes.


Qualis populea ‖ moerens Philo|mela sub umbra

[Page 371] Again,

Ludere quae vellem ‖ calamo per|misit agresti.

Lines, however, where words are left entire to be pronounced as they ought to be, with­out being divided even by a semipause, run by that means much the more sweetly.

Nec gemere aërea ‖ cessabit | turtur ab ulmo.


Quadrupedante putrem ‖ sonitu quatit | ungula cam­pum.


Eurydicen toto ‖ referebant | flumine ripae.

The reason of these observations, will be e­vident upon the slightest reflection. Be­twixt things so intimately connected as sense and sound in pronunciation, to find dis­cordance is unpleasant to the ear; and for that reason, it is a matter of importance, to make the musical pauses coincide as much as possible with those of the sense. This is requisite, more especially, with respect [Page 372] to the pause. A deviation from the rule is less remarkable in a semipause, which makes but a slight impression. Consi­dering the matter as to modulation solely, it is indifferent whether the pauses be at the end of words or in the middle. But when we carry the sense along, nothing is more disagreeable than to find a word split into two parts, neither of which separately have any meaning. This bad effect, though it regard the sense only, is by an easy trans­ition of ideas transferred to the sound, with which the sense is intimately connect­ed; and by this means, we conceive a line to be harsh and grating to the ear, which in reality is only so to the understanding*.

To the rule which places the pause after the 5th portion, there is one exception, and no more. If the syllable succeeding the 5th portion be short, the pause is sometimes postponed to it:

Pupillis quos dura ‖ premit custodia matrum

[Page 373] Again,

In terris oppressa ‖ gravi sub religione


Et quorum pars magna ‖ fui; quis talia fando

This contributes to diversify the melody; and where the words are smooth and li­quid, is not ungraceful; as in the follow­ing examples.

Formosam resonare ‖ doces Amaryllida sylvas


Agricolas, quibus ipsa ‖ procul discordibus armis

If this pause, postponed as aforesaid to the short syllable, happen also to divide a word, the melody by these circumstances is totally annihilated: witness the following line of Ennius, which is plain prose.

Romae moenia terru‖it impiger | Hannibal armis

Hitherto the arrangement of the long and short syllables of an Hexameter line and [Page 374] its different pauses, have been considered with respect to melody. But to have a just notion of Hexameter verse, these particulars must also be considered with respect to sense. There is not perhaps in any other sort of verse, such a latitude in the long and short syllables. This circumstance contributes greatly to that richness of modulation which is remarkable in Hexameter verse; and which makes Aristotle pronounce, that an epic poem in any other sort would not succeed*. One defect however must not be dissembled. The same means that con­tribute to the richness of the melody, ren­der it less fit than several other sorts for a narrative poem. With regard to the melo­dy, as above observed, there cannot be a more artful contrivance than to close an Hexameter line with two long syllables pre­ceded by two short. But unhappily this construction proves a great imbarrassment to the sense; as will be evident from what follows. As in general there ought to be a strict concordance betwixt every thought [Page 375] and the words in which it is dressed, so in particular, every close in the sense, com­plete and incomplete, ought to be accom­panied with a similar close in the sound. In the composition of prose, there is suffi­cient latitude for applying this rule in the strictest manner. But the same strictness in verse, would occasion insuperable difficul­ties. Some share of the concordance be­twixt thought and expression, may be just­ly sacrificed to the melody of verse; and therefore during the course of a line, we freely excuse the want of coincidence of the musical pause with that of the sense. But the close of an Hexameter line is too conspicuous to admit a total neglect of this coincidence. And hence it follows, that there ought to be always some pause in the sense at the end of every Hexameter line, were it but such a pause as is marked with a comma. It follows also, for the same rea­son, that there ought never to be a full close in the sense but at the end of a line, because there the modulation is closed. An Hexameter line, to preserve its melody, cannot well permit any greater relaxation; [Page 376] and yet in a narrative poem, it is extremely difficult to keep up to the rule even with these indulgences. Virgil, the greatest poet for versification that ever existed, is forc'd often to end a line without any close in the sense, and as often to close the sense during the running of a line: though a close in the melody during the movement of the thought, or a close in the thought during the movement of the melody, can­not fail to be disagreeable.

The accent, to which we proceed, is not less essential than the other circumstances a­bove handled. By a good ear it will be discerned, that in every line there is one syllable distinguishable from the rest by a strong accent. This syllable making the 7th portion, is invariably long; and in point of time occupies a place nearly at an equal distance from the pause which suc­ceeds the 5th portion, and the semipause, which succeeds the 8th:

Nec bene promeritis ‖ capitûr nec | tangitur ira

[Page 377] Again,

Non sibi sed toto ‖ genitûm se | credere mundo


Qualis spelunca ‖ subitô com|mota columba

In these examples, the accent is laid upon the last syllable of a word. And that this is a favourable circumstance for the melody, will appear from the following consideration. In reading, there must be some pause after every word, to separate it from what follows; and this pause, however short, supports the accent. Hence it is, that a line thus accented, has a more spirited air, than where the accent is placed on any other syllable. Compare the fore­going lines with the following.

Alba neque Assyrio ‖ fucâtur | lana veneno


Panditur interea ‖ domus ômnipo|tentis Olympi


Olli sedato ‖ respôndit | corde Latinus

[Page 378] In lines where the pause comes after the short syllable succeeding the 5th portion, the accent is displaced and rendered less sensible. It seems to be split into two, and to be laid partly on the 5th portion, and partly on the 7th, its usual place; as in

Nuda genu, nodôque ‖ sinûs col|lecta fluentes


Formosam resonâre ‖ docês Amar|yllida sylvas

Beside this capital accent, slighter ac­cents are laid upon other portions; particu­larly upon the 4th, unless where it consists of two short syllables; upon the 9th, which is always a long syllable; and upon the 11th, where the line concludes with a mo­nosyllable. Such conclusion, by the by, lessens the melody, and for that reason is not to be indulged unless where it is expres­sive of the sense. The following lines are marked with all the accents.

Ludere quae vêllem calamô permîsit agresti

[Page 379] Again,

Et durae quêrcus sudâbunt rôscida mella


Parturiunt môntes, nascêtur rîdiculûs mus

Inquiring into the melody of Hexameter verse, we soon discover, that order or ar­rangement doth not constitute the whole of it. Comparing different lines, equally re­gular as to the succession of long and short syllables, the melody is found in very differ­ent degrees of perfection. Nor does the difference arise from any particular combi­nation of Dactyles and Spondees, or of long and short syllables. On the contrary, we find lines where Dactyles prevail and lines where Spondees prevail, equally melodious. Of the former take the following instance:

Aeneadum genetrix hominum divumque voluptas.

Of the latter:

Molli paulatim flavescet campus arista.

What can be more different as to melody [Page 380] than the two following lines, which, how­ever, as to the succession of long and short syllables, are constructed precisely in the same manner?

Ad taSpond.los stolaDact. dimisSpond.sa et cirSpond.cumdataDact. palla.Spond.

PlacaSpond.tumque niDact.tet diSpond.ffusoSpond. lumineDact. coelum.Spond.

In the former, the pause falls in the mid­dle of a word, which is a great blemish, and the accent is disturbed by a harsh elision of the vowel a upon the particle et. In the latter the pauses and the accent are all of them distinct and full: there is no elision: and the words are more liquid and sound­ing. In these particulars consists the beauty of an Hexameter line with respect to melo­dy; and by neglecting these, many lines in the Satires and Epistles of Horace are less agreeable than plain prose; for they are neither the one nor the other in perfection. To make these lines sound, they must be pronounced without relation to the sense. It must not be regarded, that words are di­vided [Page 381] by pauses, nor that harsh elisions are multiplied. To add to the account, prosaic low sounding words are introduced; and which is still worse, accents are laid on them. Of such faulty lines take the following in­stances.

Candida rectaque sit, munda hactenus sit neque longa.
Jupiter exclamat simul atque audirit; at in se
Custodes, lectica, ciniflones, parasitae
Optimus est modulator, ut Alfenus Vafer omni
Nunc illud tantum quaeram, meritone tibi sit.

Next in order comes English heroic verse, which shall be examined under the whole five heads, of number, quantity, arrange­ment, pause, and accent. This verse some­times employs rhymes and sometimes not, which distinguishes it into two kinds; one named metre, and one blank verse. In the former, the lines are connected two and two by similarity of sound in the final sylla­bles; and such connected lines are termed couplets. Similarity of sound being avoided in the latter, banishes couplets. These two sorts must be handled separately, because there [Page 382] are many peculiarities in each. The first article with respect to rhyme or metre, shall be discussed in a few words. Every line consists of ten syllables, five short and five long. There are but two exceptions, both of them rare. A couplet can bear to be drawn out, by adding a short syllable at the end of each of the two lines:

There hero's wits are kept in pond'rous vases,
And beau's in snuff-boxes and tweezer-cases.

The piece, you think, is incorrect? Why, take it;
I'm all submission; what you'd have it, make it.

This licence is sufferable in a single couplet; but if frequent would soon become disgust­ful.

The other exception concerns the second line of a couplet, which is sometimes stretched out to twelve syllables, termed an Alexandrine line.

A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.

[Page 383] It doth extremely well when employ'd to close a period with a certain pomp and so­lemnity suitable to the subject.

With regard to the second article, it is un­necessary to mention a second time, that the quantities employ'd in verse are but two, the one double of the other; that every syl­lable is reducible to one or other of these standards; and that a syllable of the larger quantity is termed long, and of the lesser quantity short. It belongs more to the present article, to examine what pecu­liarities there may be in the English lan­guage as to long and short syllables. In every language, there are syllables that may be pronounced long or short at pleasure; but the English above all abounds in syllables of that kind. In words of three or more syllables, the quantity for the most part is invariable. The exceptions are more fre­quent in dissyllables; but as to monosylla­bles, they may without many exceptions be pronounced either long or short. Nor is the ear hurt by this liberty; being accustomed to the variation of quantity in the same word. This shows that the melody of Eng­lish [Page 384] verse must depend less upon quantity, than upon other circumstances. In that par­ticular it differs widely from Latin verse. There, every syllable having but one sound, strikes the ear constantly with its accustom­ed impression; and a reader must be de­lighted to find a number of such syllables, disposed so artfully as to raise a lively sense of melody. Syllables variable in quantity can­not possess this power. Custom may ren­der familiar, both a long and short pronun­ciation of the same word; but the mind constantly wavering betwixt the two sounds, cannot be so much affected with a syllable of this kind as with one which bears always the same sound. What I have further to say upon quantity, will come in more pro­perly under the following head, of arrange­ment.

And with respect to arrangement, which may be brought within a narrow compass, the English heroic line is commonly Iam­bic, the first syllable short, the second long, and so on alternately through the whole line. One exception there is, pretty fre­quent. Many lines commence with a [Page 385] Trochaeus, viz. a long and a short syllable. But this affects not the order of the follow­ing syllables. These go on alternately as usual, one short and one long. The fol­lowing couplet affords an example of each kind:

Sōme ĭn thĕ fīelds ŏf pūrĕst ǣthĕr plāy,
Ănd bāsk ănd whītĕn īn thĕ blāze ŏf dāy.

It is unhappy in the construction of English verse, that it excludes the bulk of polysyllables, though the most sounding words in our language; for upon examina­tion it will be found, that very few of them are composed of such alternation of long and short syllables as to correspond to either of the arrangements mentioned. English verse accordingly is almost totally reduced to dissyllables and monosyllables. Magna­nimity is a sounding word totally excluded. Impetuosity is still a finer word by the resem­blance of the sound and sense; and yet a negative is put upon it, as well as upon numberless words of the same kind. Poly­syllables composed of syllables long and short alternately, make a good figure in [Page 386] verse; for example, observance, opponent, ostensive, pindaric, productive, prolific, and such others of three syllables. Imitation, imperfection, misdemeanour, mitigation, mo­deration, observator, ornamental, regulator, and others similar of four syllables, begin­ning with two short syllables, the third long, and the fourth short, may find a place in a line commencing with a Trochaeus. I know not if there be any of five syllables. One I know of six, viz. misinterpretation. But words so composed are not frequent in our language.

One would not imagine without trial, how uncouth false quantity appears in verse; not less than a provincial tone or idiom. The article the is one of the few monosyllables that is invariably short. See how harsh it makes a line where it must be pronounced long:

Thĭs nȳmph, tŏ thē dĕstrūctiŏn ōf mănkīnd,


Th'ădvēnt'rŏus bārŏn thē brĭght lōcks ădmīr'd.

[Page 387] Let the article be pronounced short, and it reduces the melody almost to nothing. Better so however than a false quantity. In the following examples we perceive the same defect.

And old impertinence ‖ expel by new.
With varying vanities ‖ from ev'ry part.
Love in these labyrinths ‖ his slaves detains.
New stratagems ‖ the radiant lock to gain.
Her eyes half-languishing ‖ half-drown'd in tears.
Roar'd for the handkerchief ‖ that caus'd his pain.
Passions like elements ‖ though born to fight.

The great variety of modulation conspi­cuous in English verse, will be found upon trial to arise chiefly from the pauses and ac­cents; and therefore these circumstances are of greater importance than is commonly thought. There is a degree of intricacy in this branch of our subject, and it will re­quire some pains to give a distinct view of it. But we must not be discouraged by dif­ficulties. The pause, which paves the way to the accent, offers itself first to our exami­nation. From a very short trial, the fol­lowing [Page 388] facts will be verified. 1st, A line admits but one capital pause, 2d, In different lines, we find this pause after the fourth syllable, after the fifth, after the sixth, and after the seventh. These parti­culars lay a solid foundation for dividing English heroic lines into four sorts, distin­guished by the different places of the pause. Nor is this an idle distinction. On the contrary, unless it be kept in view, we can­not have any just notion of the richness and variety of English versification. Each sort or order hath a melody peculiar to itself, readily distinguishable by a good ear; and, in the sequel, I am not without hopes to make the cause of this peculiarity sufficient­ly evident. It must be observed, at the same time, that the pause cannot be made indifferently at any of the places mentioned. It is the sense that regulates the pause, as will be seen more fully afterward; and con­sequently, it is the sense that determines of what order every line must be. There can be but one capital musical pause in a line; and this pause ought to coincide, if possible, [Page 389] with a pause in the sense; in order that the sound may accord with the sense.

What is said must be illustrated by ex­amples of each sort or order. And first of the pause after the fourth syllable:

Back through the paths ‖ of pleasing sense I ran


Profuse of bliss ‖ and pregnant with delight

After the 5th:

So when an angel ‖ by divine command,
With rising tempests ‖ shakes a guilty land,

After the 6th:

Speed the soft intercourse ‖ from soul to soul


Then from his closing eyes ‖ thy form shall part

After the 7th:

And taught the doubtful battle ‖ where to rage

[Page 390] Again,

And in the smooth description ‖ murmur still

Beside the capital pause now mentioned, other inferior or semipauses will be disco­vered by a nice ear. Of these there are commonly two in each line; one before the capital pause, and one after it. The former is invariably placed after the first long syl­lable, whether the line begin with a long syllable or a short. The other in its variety imitates the capital pause. In some lines it follows the 6th syllable, in some the 7th, and in some the 8th. Of these semipauses take the following examples.

1st and 8th:

Led | through a sad ‖ variety | of wo.

1st and 7th:

Still | on that breast ‖ enamour'd | let me lie

2d and 8th:

From storms | a shelter ‖ and from heat | a shade

[Page 391] 2d and 6th:

Let wealth | let honour ‖ wait | the wedded dame

2d and 7th:

Above | all pain ‖ all passion | and all pride

Even from these few examples, it ap­pears, that the place of the last semipause, like that of the full pause, is directed in a good measure by the sense. Its proper place with respect to the melody is after the eighth syllable, so as to finish the line with an Iambus distinctly pronounced, which, by a long syllable after a short, is a preparation for rest. If this hold, the pla­cing this semipause after the 6th or after the 7th syllable, must be directed by the sense, in order to avoid a pause in the middle of a word, or betwixt two words intimately connected; and so far melody is justly sa­crificed to sense.

In discoursing of the full pause in a Hex­ameter line, it is laid down as a rule, That it ought never to divide a word. Such licence deviates too far from the connection [Page 392] that ought to be betwixt the pauses of sense and of melody. And in an English line, it is for the same reason equally wrong to divide a word by a full pause. Let us justify this reason by experiments.

A noble super‖fluity it craves

Abhor, a perpe‖tuity should stand

Are these lines distinguishable from prose? Scarcely, I think.

The same rule is not applicable to a se­mipause, which being short and faint, is not sensibly disagreeable when it divides a word.

Relent|less walls ‖ whose darksome round | contains
For her | white virgins ‖ hyme|neals sing
In these | deep solitudes ‖ and aw|ful cells

It must however be acknowledged, that the melody here suffers in some degree. A word ought to be pronounced without any rest betwixt its component syllables. The [Page 393] semipause must bend to this rule, and thereby vanisheth almost altogether.

With regard to the capital pause, it is so essential to the melody, that a poet cannot be too nice in the choice of its place, in or­der to have it full, clear, and distinct. It cannot be placed more happily than with a pause in the sense; and if the sense require but a comma after the fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh syllable, there can be no diffi­culty about this musical pause. But to make such coincidence essential, would cramp versification too much; and we have experience for our authority, that there may be a pause in the melody where the sense requires none. We must not how­ever imagine, that a musical pause may be placed at the end of any word indifferently. Some words, like syllables of the same word, are so intimately connected as not to bear a separation even by a pause. No good poet ever attempted to separate a substantive from its article: the dividing such intimate companions, would be harsh and unplea­sant. The following line, for example, [Page 394] cannot be pronounced with a pause as marked.

If Delia smile, the ‖ flow'rs begin to spring

But ought to be pronounced in the follow­ing manner.

If Delia smile, ‖ the flow'rs begin to spring.

If then it be not a matter of indifferency where to make the pause, there ought to be rules for determining what words may be separated by a pause and what are in­capable of such separation. I shall endea­vour to unfold these rules; not chiefly for their utility, but in order to exemplify some latent principles that tend to regulate our taste even where we are scarce sensible of them. And to that end, it seems the eli­gible method to run over the verbal rela­tions, beginning with the most intimate. The first that presents itself, is that of ad­jective and substantive, being the relation of substance and quality, the most in­timate of all. A quality cannot exist inde­pendent of a substance, nor is it separable from it even in imagination, because they [Page 395] make parts of the same idea; and for that reason, it must, with regard to melody, be disagreeable, to bestow upon the adjective a sort of independent existence, by inter­jecting a pause betwixt it and its substan­tive. I cannot therefore approve the fol­lowing lines, nor any of the sort; for to my taste they are harsh and unpleasant.

Of thousand bright ‖ inhabitants of air

The sprites of fiery ‖ termagants inflame

The rest, his many-colour'd ‖ robe conceal'd

The same, his ancient ‖ personage to deck

Ev'n here, where frozen ‖ Chastity retires

I sit, with sad ‖ civility, I read

Back to my native ‖ moderation slide

Or shall we ev'ry ‖ decency confound

Time was, a sober ‖ Englishman wou'd knock

And place, on good ‖ security, his gold

Taste, that eternal ‖ wanderer, which flies

But ere the tenth ‖ revolving day was run

[Page 396]
First let the just ‖ equivalent be paid

Go, threat thy earth-born ‖ Myrmidons; but here

Haste to the fierce ‖ Achilles' tent (he cries)

All but the ever-wakeful ‖ eyes of Jove

Your own resistless ‖ eloquence employ

I have upon this article multiplied exam­ples, that in a case where I have the mis­fortune to dislike what passes current in practice, every man upon the spot may judge by his own taste. The foregoing reasoning, it is true, appears to me just: it is however too subtile, to afford conviction in opposition to taste.

Considering this matter in a superficial view, one might be apt to imagine, that it must be the same, whether the adjective go first, which is the natural order, or the substantive, which is indulged by the laws of inversion. But we soon disco­ver this to be a mistake. Colour cannot be conceived independent of the surface co­loured; but a tree may be conceived, as growing in a certain spot, as of a cer­tain [Page 397] kind, and as spreading its extended branches all around, without ever thinking of the colour. In a word, qualities, though related all to one subject, may be considered separately, and the subject may be consider­ed with some of its qualities independent of others; though we cannot form an image of any single quality independent of the subject. Thus then, though an adjective named first be inseparable from the sub­stantive, the proposition does not recipro­cate. An image can be formed of the sub­stantive independent of the adjective; and for this reason, they may be separated by a pause, when the former is introduced be­fore the latter:

For thee, the fates ‖ severely kind ordain

And curs'd with hearts ‖ unknowing how to yield.

The verb and adverb are precisely in the same condition with the substantive and ad­jective. An adverb, which expresses a cer­tain modification of the action expressed by the verb, is not separable from it even in i­magination. And therefore I must also give up the following lines.

[Page 398]
And which it much ‖ becomes you to forget

'Tis one thing madly ‖ to disperse my store

But an action may be conceived leaving out a particular modification, precisely as a sub­ject may be conceived leaving out a particu­lar quality; and therefore when by inver­sion the verb is first introduced, it has no bad effect to interject a pause betwixt it and the adverb which follows. This may be done at the close of a line, where the pause is at least as full as that is which divides the line:

While yet he spoke, the Prince advancing drew
Nigh to the lodge, &c.

The agent and its action come next, ex­pressed in grammar by the active substan­tive and its verb. Betwixt these, placed in their natural order, there is no difficulty of interjecting a pause. An active being is not always in motion, and therefore it is easily separable in idea from its action. When in a sentence the substantive takes the lead, we know not that action is to follow; and [Page 399] as rest must precede the commencement of motion, this interval is a proper opportu­nity for a pause.

On the other hand, when by inversion the verb is placed first, is it lawful to sepa­rate it by a pause from the active substan­tive? I answer not, because an action is not in idea separable from the agent, more than a quality from the substance to which it belongs. Two lines of the first rate for beauty have always appeared to me excep­tionable, upon account of the pause thus interjected betwixt the verb and the conse­quent substantive; and I have now disco­vered a reason to support my taste:

In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
Where heav'nly-pensive ‖ Contemplation dwells,
And ever-musing ‖ Melancholy reigns.

The point of the greatest delicacy regards the active verb and the passive substantive placed in their natural order. On the one side it will be observed, that these words signify things which are not separable in idea. Killing cannot be conceived with­out [Page 400] some being that is put to death, nor painting without a surface upon which the colours are spread. On the other side, an action and the thing on which it is exerted, are not, like substance and quality, united in one individual subject. The active subject is perfectly distinct from that which is pas­sive; and they are connected by one cir­cumstance only, that the action exerted by the former, is exerted upon the latter. This makes it possible to take the action to pieces, and to consider it first with relation to the a­gent, and next with relation to the patient. But after all, so intimately connected are the parts of the thought, that it requires an effort to make a separation even for a mo­ment. The subtilising to such a degree is not agreeable, especially in works of imagi­nation. The best poets however, taking advantage of this subtilty, scruple not to separate by a pause an active verb from its passive subject. Such pauses in a long work may be indulged; but taken singly, they certainly are not agreeable. I appeal to the following examples.

[Page 401]
The peer now spreads ‖ the glitt'ring forfex wide

As ever sully'd ‖ the fair face of light

Repair'd to search ‖ the gloomy cave of Spleen

Nothing, to make ‖ philosophy thy friend

Shou'd chance to make ‖ the well-dress'd rabble stare

Or cross, to plunder ‖ provinces, the main

These madmen never hurt ‖ the church or state

How shall we fill ‖ a library with wit

What better teach ‖ a foreigner the tongue?

Sure, if I spare ‖ the minister, no rules
Of honour bind me, not to maul his tools.

On the other hand, when the passive sub­ject by inversion is first named, there is no difficulty of interjecting a pause betwixt it and the verb, more than when the active subject is first named. The same reason holds in both, that though a verb cannot be separated in idea from the substantive which governs it, and scarcely from the substantive it governs; yet a substantive [Page 402] may always be conceived independent of the verb. When the passive subject is in­troduced before the verb, we know not that an action is to be exerted upon it; therefore we may rest till the action com­mences. For the sake of illustration take the following examples.

Shrines! where their vigils ‖ pale-ey'd virgins keep

Soon as thy letters ‖ trembling I unclose

No happier task ‖ these faded eyes pursue

What is said about placing the pause, leads to a general observation, which I shall have occasion for afterwards. The natural order of placing the active substantive and its verb, is more friendly to a pause than the inverted order. But in all the other connections, inversion affords by far a bet­ter opportunity for a pause. Upon this de­pends one of the great advantages that blank verse hath over rhyme. The privi­lege of inversion, in which it far excels rhyme, gives it a much greater choice of pauses, than can be had in the natural order of arrangement.

[Page 403] We now proceed to the slighter connec­tions, which shall be discussed in one gene­ral article. Words connected by conjunc­tions and prepositions freely admit a pause betwixt them, which will be clear from the following instances.

Assume what sexes ‖ and what shape they please

The light militia ‖ of the lower sky

Connecting particles were invented to unite in a period two substantives signifying things occasionally united in the thought, but which have no natural union. And be­twixt two things not only separable in idea, but really distinct, the mind, for the sake of melody, chearfully admits by a pause a momentary disjunction of their occasional union.

One capital branch of the subject is still upon hand, to which I am directed by what is just now said. It concerns those parts of speech which singly represent no idea, and which become not significant till they be joined to other words. I mean conjunctions, [Page 404] prepositions, articles, and such like accesso­ries, passing under the name of particles. Upon these the question occurs, Whether they can be separated by a pause from the words that make them significant? Whe­ther, for example, in the following lines, the separation of the accessory preposition from the principal substantive, be according to rule?

The goddess with ‖ a discontented air

And heighten'd by ‖ the diamond's circling rays

When victims at ‖ you altar's foot we lay

So take it in ‖ the very words of Creech

An ensign of ‖ the delegates of Jove

Two ages o'er ‖ his native realm he reign'd

While angels, with ‖ their silver wings o'ershade

Or separating the conjunction from the word it connects with what goes before:

Talthybius and ‖ Eurybates the good

It will be obvious at the first glance, that the foregoing reasoning upon objects natu­rally [Page 405] connected, are not applicable to words which of themselves are mere ciphers. We must therefore have recourse to some other principle for solving the present question. These particles out of their place are total­ly insignificant. To give them a meaning, they must be joined to certain words. The necessity of this junction, together with custom, forms an artificial connection, which has a strong influence upon the mind. It cannot bear even a momentary separation, which destroys the sense, and is at the same time contradictory to practice. Another circumstance tends still more to make this separation disagreeable. The long syllable immediately preceding the full pause, must be accented; for this is requi­red by the melody, as will afterward ap­pear. But it is ridiculous to accent or put an emphasis upon a low word that raises no idea, and is confined to the humble pro­vince of connecting words that raise ideas. And for that reason, a line must be disa­greeable where a particle immediately pre­cedes the full pause; for such construction [Page 406] of a line makes the melody discord with the sense.

Hitherto we have discoursed upon that pause only which divides the line. Are the same rules applicable to the concluding pause? This must be answered by making a distinction. In the first line of a couplet, the concluding pause differs little, if at all, from the pause which divides the line; and for that reason, the rules are applicable to both equally. The concluding pause of the couplet, is in a different condition: it re­sembles greatly the concluding pause in a Hexameter line. Both of them indeed are so remarkable, that they never can be grace­ful, unless when they accompany a pause in the sense. Hence it follows, that a couplet ought always to be finished with some close in the sense; if not a point, at least a comma. The truth is, that this rule is seldom trans­gressed. In Pope's works, upon a cursory search indeed, I found but the following deviations from the rule.

[Page 407]
Nothing is foreign: parts relate to whole;
One all-extending, all-preserving soul
Connects each being—


To draw fresh colours from the vernal flow'rs,
To steal from rainbows ere they drop in show'rs
A brighter wash—

But now, supposing the connection to be so slender as to admit a pause, it follows not that a pause may always be put. There is one rule to which every other ought to bend, That the sense must never be wound­ed or obscured by the music; and upon that account, I condemn the following lines:

Ulysses, first ‖ in public cares, she found.


Who rising, high ‖ th'imperial sceptre rais'd.

With respect to inversion, it appears both from reason and experiments, that many words which cannot bear a separation in their natural order, admit a pause when in­verted. And it may be added, that when [Page 408] two words, or two members of a sentence, in their natural order, can be separated by a pause, such separation can never be amiss in an inverted order. An inverted period, which runs cross to the natural train of ideas, requires to be marked in some mea­sure even by pauses in the sense, that the parts may be distinctly known. Take the following examples.

As with cold lips ‖ I kiss'd the sacred veil.

With other beauties ‖ charm my partial eyes.

Full in my view ‖ set all the bright abode.

With words like these ‖ the troops Ulysses rul'd.

Back to th' assembly roll ‖ the thronging train.

Not for their grief ‖ the Grecian host I blame.

The same where the separation is made at the close of the first line of the couplet:

For spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease
Assume what sexes and what shapes they please.

The pause is tolerable even at the close of the couplet, for the reason just now suggest­ed, [Page 409] that inverted members require some slight pause in the sense:

'Twas where the plane-tree spread its shades a­round:
The altars heav'd; and from the crumbling ground
A mighty dragon shot.

Thus a train of reasoning hath insensibly led us to conclusions with regard to the musical pause, very different from those in the first section, concerning the separating by an interjected circumstance words inti­mately connected. One would conjecture, that where-ever words are separable by in­terjecting a circumstance, they should be e­qually separable by interjecting a pause. But, upon a more narrow inspection, the appearance of analogy vanisheth. To make this evident, I need only premise, that a pause in the sense distinguishes the different members of a period from each other; that two words of the same member may be se­parated by a circumstance, all the three making still but one member; and therefore that a pause in the sense has no connection with the separation of words by interjected [Page 410] circumstances. This sets the matter in a clear light. It is observed above, that the musical pause is intimately connected with the pause in the sense; so intimately indeed, that regularly they ought to coincide. As this would be too great a restraint, a licence is indulged, to place pauses for the sake of the music where they are not necessary for the sense. But this licence must be kept within bounds. And a musical pause ought never to be placed where a pause is excluded by the sense; as, for example, be­twixt the adjective and following substantive which make parts of the same idea, and still less betwixt a particle and the word which makes it significant.

Abstracting at present from the peculia­rity of modulation arising from the different pauses, it cannot fail to be observed in general, that they introduce into our verse no slight degree of variety. Nothing more fatigues the ear, than a number of uniform lines having all the same pause, which is extremely remarkable in the French versifi­cation. This imperfection will be discern­ed by a fine ear even in the shortest succes­sion, [Page 411] and becomes intolerable in a long poem. Pope excels all the world in the variety of his modulation, which indeed is not less perfect of its kind than that of Virgil.

From what is now said, there ought to be one exception. Uniformity in the members of a thought, demands equal uni­formity in the members of the period which expresses that thought. When therefore resembling objects or things are expressed in a plurality of verse-lines, these lines in their structure ought to be as uniform as possible, and the pauses in particular ought all of them to have the same place. Take the following examples.

By foreign hands ‖ thy dying eyes were clos'd,
By foreign hands ‖ thy decent limbs compos'd,
By foreign hands ‖ thy humble grave adorn'd.


Bright as the sun, ‖ her eyes the gazers strike,
And, like the sun, ‖ they shine on all alike.

[Page 412] Speaking of Nature, or the God of Nature:

Warms in the sun ‖ refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars ‖ and blossoms in the trees,
Lives through all life ‖ extends through all extent,
Spreads undivided ‖ operates unspent.

Pauses are like to dwell longer upon hand than I imagined; for the subject is not yet exhausted. It is laid down above, that English heroic verse, considering melo­dy only, admits no more than four capital pauses; and that the capital pause of every line is determined by the sense to be after the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, or seventh syllable. And that this doc­trine holds true so far as melody alone is concerned, every good ear will bear testi­mony. At the same time, examples are not unfrequent, in Milton especially, of the capital pause being after the first, the se­cond, or the third syllable And that this licence may be taken, even gracefully, when it adds vigour to the expression, I readily admit. So far the sound may be justly sacrificed to the sense or expression. That this licence may be successfully taken, [Page 413] will be clear from the following example. Pope, in his translation of Homer, de­scribes a rock broke off from a mountain, and hurling to the plain, in the following words.

From steep to steep the rolling ruin bounds;
At every shock the crackling wood resounds;
Still gath'ring force, it smocks; and urg'd amain,
Whirls, leaps, and thunders down, impetuous to the plain:
There stops ‖ So Hector. Their whole force he prov'd,
Resistless when he rag'd; and when he stopt, un­mov'd.

In the penult line the proper place of the musical pause is at the end of the fifth syl­lable; but it enlivens the expression by its coincidence with that of the sense at the end of the second syllable. The stop­ping short before the usual pause in the melody, aids the impression that is made by the description of the stone's stopping short. And what is lost to the melody by this artifice, is more than compensated by the force that is added to the description. [Page 414] Milton makes a happy use of this licence; witness the following examples from his Paradise Lost.

—Thus with the year
Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day ‖ or the sweet approach of even or morn.

Celestial voices to the midnight-air
Sole ‖ or responsive each to others note.

And over them triumphant Death his dart
Shook ‖ but delay'd to strike.

—And wild uproar
Stood rul'd ‖ stood vast infinitude confin'd.

—And hard'ning in his strength
Glories ‖ for never since created man
Met such embodied force.

From his slack hand the garland wreath'd for Eve
Down drop'd ‖ and all the faded roses shed.

Of unessential night, receives him next,
Wide gaping ‖ and with utter loss of being
Threatens him, &c.

[Page 415]
—For now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
Torments him ‖ round he throws his baleful eyes, &c.

If we consider the foregoing passages with respect to melody singly, the pauses are undoubtedly out of their proper place. But being united with those of the sense, they inforce the expression and enliven it greatly. And the beauty of expression is communicated to the sound, which, by a natural deception, makes even the melody appear more perfect than if the musical pauses were regular.

To explain the rules of accenting, two general observations must be premised. The first is, That accents have a double effect. They contribute to the melody, by giving it air and spirit: they contribute not less to the sense, by distinguishing important words from others. These two effects ought never to be separated. If a musical accent be put where the sense rejects it, we feel a discordance betwixt the thought and [Page 416] the melody. An accent, for example, placed on a word that makes no figure, has the effect to burlesk it, by giving it an unnatural elevation. The injury thus done to the sense, is communicated to the melo­dy by the intimacy of connection, and both seem to be wounded. This rule is applicable in a peculiar manner to particles. It is indeed ridiculous to put an emphasis on a word which of itself has no meaning, and like cement serves only to unite words significant. The other general observation is, That a word of whatever number of syllables, is not accented upon more than one of them. Nor is this an arbitrary prac­tice. The object represented by the word, is set in its best light by a single accent: reiterated accents on different syllables in succession, make not the emphasis stronger; but have an air, as if the sound only of the accented syllables were regarded, and not the sense of the word.

Keeping in view the foregoing observa­tions, the doctrine of accenting English he­roic verse, is extremely simple. In the first place, accenting is confined to the long [Page 417] syllables; for the melody admits not an accent upon any short syllable. In the next place, as the melody is inriched in propor­tion to the number of accents, every word that has a long syllable ought to be accent­ed, unless where the accent is rejected by the sense: a word, as observed, that makes no figure by its signification, cannot bear an accent. According to this rule, a line may admit five accents; a case by no means rare.

But supposing every long syllable to be accented, there is constantly, in every line, one accent which makes a greater figure than the rest. This capital accent is that which precedes the capital pause. Hence it is distinguishable into two kinds; one that is immediately succeeded by the pause, and one that is divided from the pause by a short syllable. The former be­longs to lines of the first and third order: the latter to those of the second and fourth. Examples of the first kind.

Smooth flow the wâves ‖ the zephyrs gently play,
Belinda smîl'd ‖ and all the world was gay.
[Page 418] He rais'd his azure wând ‖ and thus begun

Examples of the second.

There lay three gârters ‖ half a pair of gloves;
And all the trôphies ‖ of his former loves.

Our humble prôvince ‖ is to tend the fair,
Not a less plêasing ‖ though less glorious care.

And hew triumphal ârches ‖ to the ground

These accents make different impressions on the mind, which will be the subject of a following speculation. In the mean time, it may be safely pronounced a capi­tal defect in the composition of verse, to put a low word, incapable of an accent, in the place where this accent should be. This bars the accent altogether; and I know no other fault more subversive of the melody, if it be not that of barring a pause altogether. I may add affirmatively, that it is a capital beauty in the composition of verse, to have the most important word of the sentence, so placed as that this capital accent may be laid upon it. No single circumstance contri­butes more to the energy of verse, than to [Page 419] have this accent on a word, that, by the importance of its meaning, is intitled to a peculiar emphasis. To show the bad effect of excluding the capital accent, I refer the reader to some instances given above, p. 000, where particles are separated by a pause from the capital words that make them significant, and which particles ought, for the sake of the melody, to be accented, were they capable of an accent. Add to these the following instances from the Essay on Criticism.

Oft, leaving what ‖ is natural and fit,
line 448.

Not yet purg'd off, ‖ of spleen and sour disdain
l. 528.

No pardon vile ‖ obscenity should find
l. 531.

When love was all ‖ an easy monarch's care
l. 537.

For 'tis but half ‖ a judge's task, to know
l. 562.

'Tis not enough, ‖ taste, judgement, learning, join
l. 563.

[Page 420]
That only makes ‖ superior sense belov'd
l. 578.

Whose right it is, ‖ uncensur'd, to be dull
l. 590.

'Tis best sometimes ‖ your censure to restrain
l. 597.

When this fault is at the end of the line that closes a couplet, it leaves not the least trace of melody:

But of this frame the bearings, and the ties,
The strong connections, nice dependencies

In a line expressive of what is humble or dejected, it improves the resemblance be­twixt the sound and sense, to exclude the capital accent. This, to my taste, is a beauty in the following lines.

In thêse deep sôlitudes ‖ and aŵful cells

The pôor inhâbitant ‖ behôlds in vain

To conclude this article, the accents are not, like the syllables, confined to a certain number Some lines have no fewer than [Page 421] five, and there are lines that admit not a­bove one. This variety, as we have seen, depends entirely on the different powers of the component words. Particles, even where they are long by position, cannot be accented; and polysyllables, whatever space they occupy, admit but one accent. Poly­syllables have another defect, that they generally exclude the full pause. I have shown above, that few polysyllables can find place in the construction of English verse. Here are reasons for excluding them, could they find place.

I am now prepared to fulfil a promise concerning the four sorts of lines that enter into English heroic verse. That these have, each of them, a peculiar melody distinguish­able by a good ear, I ventured to suggest, and promised to account for: and though this subject is extremely delicate, I am not without hopes of making good my engage­ment. First, however, like a wary gene­ral, I take all advantages the ground will permit. I do not aver, that this peculiarity of modulation is in every instance per­ceptible. [Page 422] Far from it. The impression made by a period, whether it be verse or prose, is occasioned chiefly by the thought, and in an inferior degree by the words; and these articles are so intimately uni­ted with the melody, that they have each of them a strong influence upon the others. With respect to the melody in particular, instances are without number, of melody, in itself poor and weak, passing for rich and spirited where it is supported by the thought and expression. I am therefore intitled to insist, that this experiment be tried upon lines of equal rank. And to a­void the perplexity of various cases, I must also insist, that the lines chosen for a trial be regularly accented before the pause: for upon a matter abundantly refined in itself, I would not willingly be imbarrassed with faulty and irregular lines. These prelimi­naries being adjusted, I begin with some general observations, that will save repeating the same thing over and over upon each par­ticular case. And, first, an accent succeed­ed by a pause, makes sensibly a deeper im­pression than where the voice goes on with­out [Page 423] a stop: to make an impression re­quires time; and there is no time where there is no pause. The fact is so certain, that in running over a few lines, there is scarce an ear so dull as not readily to distinguish from others, that particular accent which immediately precedes the full pause. In the next place, the elevation of an accenting tone, produceth in the mind a similar ele­vation, which is continued during the pause. Every circumstance is different where the pause is separated from the accent by a short syllable. The impression made by the ac­cent is more slight when there is no stop; and the elevation of the accent is gone in a moment by the falling of the voice in pro­nouncing the short syllable that follows. The pause also is sensibly affected by the position of the accent. In lines of the first and third order, the close conjunction of the accent and pause, occasions a sudden stop without preparation, which rouses the mind, and bestows on the melody a spirit­ed air. When, on the other hand, the pause is separated from the accent by a short syllable, which always happens in [Page 424] lines of the second and fourth order, the pause is soft and gentle. This short unac­cented syllable succeeding one that is ac­cented, must of course be pronounced with a falling voice, which naturally prepares for a pause. The mind falls gently from the accent­ed syllable, and slides into rest as it were insensibly. Further, the lines themselves, derive different powers from the position of the pause. A pause after the fourth sylla­ble divides the line into two unequal por­tions, of which the largest comes last. This circumstance resolving the line into an ascending series, makes an impression in pronouncing like that of mounting upward. And to this impression contributes the re­doubled effort in pronouncing the largest portion, which is last in order. The mind has a different feeling when the pause succeeds the fifth syllable. The line being divided into two equal parts by this pause, these parts, pronounced with equal effort, are agreeable by their uniformity. A line divided by a pause after the sixth syllable, makes an impression opposite to that first mentioned. Being divided into two une­qual [Page 425] portions, of which the shortest is last in order, it appears like a slow descending series; and the second portion being pro­nounced with less effort than the first, the diminished effort prepares the mind for rest. And this preparation for rest is still more sensibly felt where the pause is after the seventh syllable, as in lines of the fourth order.

No person can be at a loss in applying these observations. A line of the first order is of all the most spirited and lively. To produce this effect, several of the circum­stances above mentioned concur. The accent, being followed instantly by a pause, makes an illustrious figure: the elevated tone of the accent elevates the mind: the mind is sup­ported in its elevation by the sudden un­prepared pause which rouses and animates: and the line itself, representing by its une­qual division an ascending series, carries the mind still higher, making an impression si­milar to that of mounting upward. The second order has a modulation sensibly sweet, soft, and flowing. The accent is not so sprightly as in the former, because a [Page 426] short syllable intervenes betwixt it and the pause: its elevation, by the same means, vanisheth instantaneously: the mind, by a falling voice, is gently prepared for a stop: and the pleasure of uniformity from the di­vision of the line into two equal parts, is calm and sweet. The third order has a modulation not so easily expressed in words. It in part resembles the first order, by the liveliness of an accent succeeded instantly by a full pause. But then the elevation oc­casioned by this circumstance, is balanced in some degree by the remitted effort in pronouncing the second portion, which re­mitted effort has a tendency to rest. An­other circumstance distinguisheth it remark­ably. Its capital accent comes late, being placed on the sixth syllable; and this cir­cumstance bestows on it an air of gravity and solemnity. The last order resembles the second in the mildness of its accent and softness of its pause. It is still more solemn than the third, by the lateness of its capital accent. It also possesses in a higher degree than the third, the tendency to rest; and by that circumstance is of all the best qua­lified [Page 427] for closing a period in the completest manner.

But these are not all the distinguishing characters of the different orders. Each order also, by means of its final accent and pause, makes a peculiar impression; so pe­culiar as to produce a melody clearly dis­tinguishable from that of the others. This peculiarity is occasioned by the division which the capital pause makes in a line. By an unequal division in the first order, the mind has an impression of ascending; and is left at the close in the highest eleva­tion, which is display'd on the concluding syllable. By this means, a strong emphasis is naturally laid upon the concluding sylla­ble, whether by raising the voice to a sharper tone, or by expressing the word in a fuller tone. This order accordingly is of all the least proper for concluding a period, where a cadence is proper, and not an ac­cent. In the second order, the final ac­cent makes not so capital a figure. There is nothing singular in its being marked by a pause, for this is common to all the orders; and this order, being destitute of the im­pression [Page 428] of ascent, cannot rival the first or­der in the elevation of its accent, nor con­sequently in the dignity of its pause; for these always have a mutual influence. This order, however, with respect to its close, maintains a superiority over the third and fourth orders. In these the close is more humble, being brought down by the impression of descent, and by the remitted effort in pronouncing; considerably in the third order, and still more considerably in the last. According to this description, the concluding accents and pauses of the four orders being reduced to a scale, will form a descending series probably in an arithmeti­cal progression.

After what is said, will it be thought re­fining too much to suggest, that the different orders are qualified for different purposes, and that a poet of genius will be naturally led to make a choice accordingly? I cannot think this altogether chimerical. It appears to me, that the first order is proper for a sen­timent that is bold, lively, or impetuous; that the third order is proper for subjects grave, solemn, or lofty; the second for [Page 429] what is tender, delicate, or melancholy, and in general for all the sympathetic emo­tions; and the last for subjects of the same kind, when tempered with any degree of solemnity. I do not contend, that any one order is fitted for no other task, than that assigned it. At that rate, no sort of modu­lation would be left for accompanying ordi­nary thoughts, that have nothing peculiar in them. I only venture to suggest, and I do it with diffidence, that one order is pe­culiarly adapted to certain subjects, and better qualified than the others for express­ing such subjects. The best way to judge is by experiment; and to avoid the impu­tation of a partial search, I shall confine my instances to a single poem, beginning with the first order.

On her white breast, a sparkling cross she wore,
Which Jews might kiss, and Infidels adore.
Her lively looks, a sprightly mind disclose,
Quick as her eyes, and as unfix'd as those:
Favours to none, to all she smiles extends;
Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike,
And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.
[Page 430] Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride,
Might hide her faults, if belles had faults to hide:
If to her share some female errors fall,
Look on her face, and you'll forget 'em all.
Rape of the Lock.

In accounting for the remarkable liveliness of this passage, it will be acknowledged by every one who has an ear, that the modu­lation must come in for a share. The lines, all of them, are of the first order; a very unusual circumstance in the author of this poem, so eminent for variety in his versifi­cation. Who can doubt, that, in this pas­sage, he has been led by delicacy of taste to employ the first order preferably to the o­thers?

Second order.

Our humbler province is to tend the fair,
Not a less pleasing, though less glorious care;
To save the powder from too rude a gale,
Nor let th' imprison'd essences exhale;
To draw fresh colours from the vernal flow'rs;
To steal from rainbows ere they drop their show'rs, &c.

[Page 431] Again,

Oh, thoughtless mortals! ever blind to fate,
Too soon dejected, and too soon elate.
Sudden, these honours shall be snatch'd away,
And curs'd for ever this victorious day.

Third order.

To fifty chosen sylphs, of special note,
We trust th'important charge, the petticoat.


Oh say what stranger cause, yet unexplor'd,
Could make a gentle belle reject a lord?

A plurality of lines of the fourth order, would not have a good effect in succession; because, by a remarkable tendency to rest, its proper office is to close a period. The reader, therefore, must be satisfied with in­stances where this order is mixed with o­thers.

Not louder shrieks to pitying Heav'n are cast,
When husbands, or when lapdogs, breathe their last.

[Page 432] Again,

Steel could the works of mortal pride confound,
And hew triumphal arches to the ground.


She sees, and trembles at th' approaching ill,
Just in the jaws of ruin, and codille.


With earnest eyes, and round unthinking face,
He first the snuff-box open'd, then the case.

And this suggests another experiment, which is, to set the different orders more di­rectly in opposition, by giving examples where they are mixed in the same passage.

First and second orders.

Sol through white curtains shot a tim'rous ray,
And ope'd those eyes that must eclipse the day.


Not youthful kings in battle seiz'd alive,
Not scornful virgins who their charms survive,
Not ardent lovers robb'd of all their bliss,
Not ancient ladies when refus'd a kiss,
[Page 433] Not tyrants fierce that unrepenting die,
Not Cynthia when her manteau's pinn'd awry,
E'er felt such rage, resentment, and despair,
As thou, sad virgin! for thy ravish'd hair.

First and third.

Think what an equipage thou hast in air,
And view with scorn two pages and a chair.


What guards the purity of melting maids,
In courtly balls, and midnight-masquerades,
Safe from the treach'rous friend, the daring spark,
The glance by day, the whisper in the dark?


With tender billet-doux he lights the pyre,
And breathes three am'rous sighs to raise the fire;
Then prostrate falls, and begs, with ardent eyes,
Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize.


Jove's thunder roars, heav'n trembles all around,
Blue Neptune storms, the bellowing deeps resound,
[Page 434] Earth shakes her nodding tow'rs, the ground gives way,
And the pale ghosts start at the flash of day!

Second and third.

Sunk in Thalestris' arms, the nymph he found,
Her eyes dejected, and her hair unbound.


On her heav'd bosom hung her drooping head,
Which with a sigh she rais'd; and thus she said.

Musing on the foregoing subject, I begin to doubt whether I have not been all this while in a reverie. Here unexpectedly a sort of fairy-scene opens, where every ob­ject is new and singular. Is there any truth in the appearance, or is it merely a work of imagination? The scene seems to be a reality; and if it can bear ex­amination, it must exalt greatly the me­lody of English heroic verse. If uni­formity prevail, in the arrangement, in the equality of the lines, and in the re­semblance of the final sounds; variety is still more conspicuous in the pauses and accents, [Page 435] which are diversified in a surprising man­ner. The beauty that results from com­bined objects, is justly observed to consist in a due mixture of uniformity and varie­ty*. Of this beauty many instances have already occurred, but none more illustrious than English versification. However rude it may be by the simplicity of arrange­ment, it is highly melodious by its pau­ses and accents, so as already to rival the most perfect species known in Greece or Rome. And it is no disagreeable pro­spect to find it susceptible of still greater re­finement.

We proceed to blank verse, which hath so many circumstances in common with rhyme, that what is necessary to be said upon it may be brought within a narrow compass. With respect to form, it differs not from rhyme farther than in rejecting the jingle of similar sounds. But let us not think this difference a trifle, or that we gain nothing by it but the purifying our [Page 436] verse from a pleasure so childish. In truth, our verse is extremely cramped by rhyme; and the great advantage of blank verse is, that, being free from the fetters of rhyme, it is at liberty to attend the imagination in its boldest flights. Rhyme necessarily di­vides verse into couplets: each couplet makes a complete musical period; the parts of which are divided by pauses, and the whole summed up by a full close at the end: the modulation begins anew with the next couplet: and in this manner a composition in rhyme proceeds couplet after couplet. I have more than once had occa­sion to observe the influence that sound and sense have upon each other by their intimate union. If a couplet be a com­plete period with regard to the melody, it ought regularly to be so also with re­gard to the sense. This, it is true, proves too great a cramp upon composition; and licences are indulged, as explained a­bove. These however must be used with discretion, so as to preserve some degree of uniformity betwixt the sense and the music. [Page 437] There ought never to be a full close in the sense but at the end of a couplet; and there ought always to be some pause in the sense at the end of every couplet. The same period as to sense may be extended through several couplets; but in this case each couplet ought to contain a distinct member, distinguished by a pause in the sense as well as in the sound; and the whole ought to be closed with a com­plete cadence. Rules such as these, must confine rhyme within very narrow bounds. A thought of any extent, cannot be redu­ced within its compass. The sense must be curtailed and broken into pieces, to make it square with the curtness of melody: and it is obvious, that short periods afford no latitude for inversion. I have examined this point with the greater accuracy, in or­der to give a just notion of blank verse; and to show that a slight difference in form may produce a very great difference in substance. Blank verse has the same pauses and ac­cents with rhyme; and a pause at the end of every line, like what concludes the first line of a couplet. In a word, the rules of [Page 438] melody in blank verse, are the same that obtain with respect to the first line of a couplet. But luckily, being disengaged from rhyme, or, in other words, from couplets, there is access to make every line run into another, precisely as the first line of a couplet may run into the second. There must be a musical pause at the end of every line; but it is not necessary that it be accompanied with a pause in the sense. The sense may be carried on through dif­ferent lines; till a period of the utmost ex­tent be completed, by a full close both in the sense and the sound. There is no re­straint, other than that this full close be at the end of a line. This restraint is necessa­ry in order to preserve a coincidence be­twixt sense and sound; which ought to be aimed at in general, and is indispensable in the case of a full close, because it has a stri­king effect. Hence the aptitude of blank verse for inversion; and consequently the lustre of its pauses and accents; for which, as observed above, there is greater scope in inversion, than when words run in their na­tural order.

[Page 439] In the second section of this chapter it is shown, that nothing contributes more than inversion to the force and elevation of lan­guage. The couplets of rhyme confine inversion within narrow limits. Nor would the elevation of inversion, were there access for it in rhyme, be extremely concordant with the humbler tone of that sort of verse. It is universally agreed, that the loftiness of Milton's style supports admira­bly the sublimity of his subject; and it is not less certain, that the loftiness of his style arises chiefly from inversion. Shake­spear deals little in inversion. But his blank verse, being a sort of measured prose, is perfectly well adapted to the stage. La­boured inversion is there extremely impro­per, because in dialogue it never can appear natural.

Hitherto I have considered the advantage of laying aside rhyme, with respect to that superior power of expression which verse acquires thereby. But this is not the only advantage of blank verse. It has another not less signal of its kind; and that is, of a more extensive and more complete melody. [Page 440] Its music is not, like that of rhyme, con­fined to a single couplet; but takes in a great compass, so as in some measure to rival music properly so called. The inter­vals betwixt its cadences may be long or short at pleasure; and, by this means, its modulation, with respect both to richness and variety, is superior far to that of rhyme; and superior even to that of the Greek and Latin Hexameter. Of this ob­servation no person can doubt who is ac­quainted with the Paradise Lost. In that work there are indeed many careless lines; but at every turn it shines out in the richest melody as well as in the sublimest senti­ments. Take the following specimen.

Now Morn her rosy steps in th'eastern clime
Advancing, sow'd the earth with orient pearl,
When Adam wak'd, so custom'd, for his sleep
Was aëry light from pure digestion bred,
And temp'rate vapours bland, which th' only sound
Of leaves and fuming rills, Aurora's fan,
Lightly dispers'd, and the shrill matin song
Of birds on every bough; so much the more
His wonder was to find unwaken'd Eve
With tresses discompos'd, and glowing cheek,
[Page 441] As through unquiet rest: he on his side
Leaning half-rais'd, with looks of cordial love
Hung over her enamour'd, and beheld
Beauty, which, whether waking or asleep,
Shot forth peculiar graces; then with voice
Mild, as when Zephyrus on Flora breathes,
Her hand soft touching, whisper'd thus. Awake
My fairest, my espous'd, my latest found,
Heav'n's last best gift, my ever new delight,
Awake; the morning shines, and the fresh field
Calls us; we lose the prime, to mark how spring
Our tended plants, how blows the citron grove,
What drops the myrrh, and what the balmy reed,
How Nature paints her colours, how the bee
Sits on the bloom extracting liquid sweet.
Book 1. l. 1.

Comparing the Latin Hexameter and Eng­lish heroic rhyme, the former has obviously the advantage in the following particulars. It is greatly preferable as to arrangement, by the latitude it admits in placing the long and short syllables. Secondly, the length of an Hexameter line hath a majestic air: ours, by its shortness, is indeed more brisk and lively, but much less fitted for the sub­lime. And, thirdly, the long high-sound­ing [Page 442] words that Hexameter admits, add greatly to its majesty. To compensate these advantages, English rhyme possesses a greater number and greater variety both of pauses and of accents. These two sorts of verse stand indeed pretty much in opposi­tion: in the Hexameter, great variety of arrangement, none in the pauses or accents: in the English rhyme, great variety in the pauses and accents, very little in the ar­rangement.

In blank verse are united, in a good mea­sure, the several properties of Latin Hexa­meter and English rhyme; and it possesses beside many signal properties of its own. It is not confined, like a Hexameter, by a full close at the end of every line; nor, like rhyme, by a full close at the end of every couplet. This form of construction, which admits the lines to run into each other, gives it a still greater majesty than arises from the length of a Hexameter line. By the same means, it admits inversion e­ven beyond the Latin or Greek Haxame­ter, which suffer some confinement by the regular closes at the end of every line. In [Page 443] its music it is illustrious above all. The melody of Hexameter verse, is circumscri­bed to a line; and of English rhyme, to a couplet. The melody of blank verse is under no confinement, but enjoys the ut­most privilege of which the melody of verse is susceptible, and that is to run hand in hand with the sense. In a word, blank verse is superior to the Hexameter in many articles; and inferior to it in none, save in the latitude of arrangement, and in the use of long words.

In the French heroic verse, there are found, on the contrary, all the defects of the Latin Hexameter and English rhyme, without the beauties of either. Subjected to the bondage of rhyme, and to the full close at the end of each couplet, it is fur­ther peculiarly disgustful by the uniformity of its pauses and accents. The line inva­riably is divided by the pause into two equal parts, and the accent is invariably placed before the pause.

Jeune et vaillant herôs ‖ dont la haute sagesse
Ne'st point la fruit tardîf ‖ d'une lente vieillesse.

[Page 444] Here every circumstance contributes to a most tedious uniformity. A constant re­turn of the same pause and of the same ac­cent, as well as an equal division of every line; by which the latter part always an­swers to the former, and fatigues the ear without intermission or change. I cannot set this matter in a better light, than by presenting to the reader a French transla­tion of the following passage of Milton.

Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,
Godlike erect, with native honour clad
In naked majesty seem'd lords of all;
And worthy seem'd, for in their looks divine
The image of their glorious Maker shon,
Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure,
Severe, but in true filial freedom plac'd;
Whence true authority in men: though both
Not equal, as their sex not equal seem'd;
For contemplation he and valour form'd,
For softness she and sweet attractive grace,
He for God only, she for God in him.

Were the pauses of the sense and sound in this passage, but a little better assorted, no­thing in verse could be more melodious. In [Page 445] general, the great defect of Milton's versi­fication, in other respects admirable, is the want of coincidence betwixt the pauses of the sense and sound.

The translation is in the following words.

Ce lieu délicieux, ce paradis charmant,
Reçoit deux objets son plus bel ornement;
Leur port majestueux, et leur démarche altiere,
Semble leur meriter sur la nature entiere
Ce droit de commander que Dieu leur a donné.
Sur leur auguste front de gloire couronné,
Du souverain du ciel drille la resemblance:
Dans leur simples regards éclatte l'innocence,
L'adorable candeur, l'aimable vérité,
La raison, la sagesse, et la sévérité
Qu'adoucit la prudence, et cet air de droiture
Du visage des rois respectable parure.
Ces deux objets divins n'ont pas les mêmes traits,
Ils paroissent formés, quoique tous deux parfaits;
L'un pour la majesté, la force, et la noblesse;
L'autre pour la douceur, la grace, et la tendresse:
Celui-ci pour Dieu seul, l'autre pour l'homme encor.

Here the sense is fairly translated, the words are of equal power, and yet how in­ferior the melody!

[Page 446] I take the liberty to add here a specula­tion, which, though collateral only, arises naturally from the subject, and shall be dis­cussed in a few words. Many attempts have been made to introduce Hexameter verse into the living languages, but without success. The English language, I am in­clined to believe, is not susceptible of this melody; and my reasons are these. First, the polysyllables in Latin and Greek are finely diversified by long and short syllables, a circumstance that qualifies them for the melody of Hexameter verse. Ours are ex­tremely ill qualified for this service, because they superabound in short syllables. Se­condly, the bulk of our monosyllables are arbitrary with regard to length, which is an unlucky circumstance in Hexameter. Custom, as observed above, may render fa­miliar a long or short pronunciation of the same word: but the mind wavering be­twixt the two sounds, cannot be so much affected with either, as with a word that hath always the same sound; and for that reason, arbitrary sounds are ill fitted for a melody which is chiefly supported [Page 447] by quantity. In Latin and Greek Hexa­meter, invariable sounds direct and ascer­tain the melody: English Hexameter would be destitute of melody, unless by artful pronunciation; because of necessity the bulk of its sounds must be arbitrary. The pronunciation is easy in a simple move­ment of alternate short and long syllables; but would be perplexing and unpleasant in the diversified movement of Hexameter verse.

Rhyme makes so great a figure in mo­dern poetry, as to deserve a solemn trial. I have for that reason reserved it to be ex­amined with some deliberation; in order to discover, if possible, its peculiar beauties, and the degree of merit it is intitled to. The first view of this subject leads naturally to the following reflection, ‘"That rhyme having no relation to sentiment, nor any effect upon the ear other than a mere jingle, ought to be banished all com­positions of any dignity, as affording but a trifling and childish pleasure."’ It will also be observed, ‘"That a jingle of words [Page 448] hath in some measure a ludicrous effect; witness the celebrated poem of Hudibras, the double rhymes of which contribute no small share to its drollery; that this effect would be equally remarkable in a serious work, were it not obscured by the nature of the subject; that having how­ever a constant tendency to give a ludi­crous air to the composition, it requires more than ordinary fire to support the dig­nity of the sentiments against such an un­dermining anotagonist*."’

These arguments are specious, and have undoubtedly some weight. Yet, on the o­ther hand, it ought to be considered, that rhyme, in later times, has become univer­sal among men as well as children; and that to give it a currency, it must have some foundation in human nature. In fact, it has been successfully employ'd by poets of genius, in their serious and grave composi­tions, as well as in those which are more light and airy. Here, in weighing autho­rity [Page 449] against argument, the balance seems to hang pretty even; and therefore, to come at any thing decisive, we must pierce a little deeper.

Music has great power over the soul; and may be successfully employ'd to in­flame or sooth our passions, if not actually to raise them. A single sound, however sweet, is not music; but a single sound re­peated after proper intervals, may have an effect upon the mind, by rousing the at­tention and keeping the hearer awake. A variety of similar sounds, succeeding each other after regular intervals, must have a still stronger effect. This is applicable to rhyme, which consists in the connec­tion that two verse-lines have by closing with two words similar in sound. And considering deliberately the effect that this may have; we find, that it rouses the atten­tion, and produceth an emotion moderately gay without dignity or elevation. Like the murmurings of a brook gliding through pebbles, it calms the mind when perturbed, and gently raises it when sunk. These ef­fects are scarce perceived when the whole [Page 450] poem is in rhyme; but are extremely re­markable by contrast, in the couplets which close the several acts of our later tragedies. The tone of the mind is sensibly varied by them, from anguish, distress, or melancho­ly, to some degree of ease and alacrity. For the truth of this observation, I appeal to the speech of Jane Shore in the fourth act, when her doom was pronounced by Glo'­ster; to the speech of Lady Jane Gray at the end of the first act; and to that of Ca­lista, in the Fair Penitent, when she leaves the stage, about the middle of the third act. The speech of Alicia, at the close of the fourth act of Jane Shore, puts the matter beyond doubt. In a scene of deep distress, the rhymes which finish the act, produce a certain gaiety and chearfulness, far from according with the tone of the passion.

For ever? Oh! For ever!
Oh! who can bear to be a wretch for ever!
My rival too! his last thoughts hung on her:
And, as he parted, left a blessing for her.
Shall she be bless'd, and I be curs'd, for ever!
No; since her fatal beauty was the cause
[Page 451] Of all my suff'rings, let her share my pains;
Let her, like me, of ev'ry joy forlorn,
Devote the hour when such a wretch was born:
Like me to deserts and to darkness run,
Abhor the day and curse the golden sun;
Cast ev'ry good and ev'ry hope behind;
Detest the works of nature, loathe mankind:
Like me with cries distracted fill the air,
Tear her poor bosom, and her frantic hair,
And prove the torments of the last despair.

Having described, the best way I can, the impression that rhyme makes on the mind; I proceed to examine whether rhyme be proper for any subject, and to what subjects in particular it is best suited. Great and elevated subjects, which have a powerful influence, claim justly the pre­cedence in this inquiry. In the chapter of grandeur and sublimity, it is established, that a grand or sublime object, inspires a warm enthusiastic emotion disdaining strict regularity and order. This observation is applicable to the present point. The mo­derately-enlivening music of rhyme, gives a tone to the mind very different from that of grandeur and sublimity. Supposing then [Page 452] an elevated subject to be expressed in rhyme, what must be the effect? The intimate union of the music with the subject, pro­duces an intimate union of their emotions; one inspired by the subject, which tends to elevate and expand the mind; and one in­spired by the music, which, confining the mind within the narrow limits of regular cadency and similar sound, tends to prevent all elevation above its own pitch. Emotions so little concordant, cannot in union have a happy effect.

But it is scarce necessary to reason upon a case, that never did, and probably never will happen, viz. an important subject clo­thed in rhyme, and yet supported in its ut­most elevation. A happy thought or warm expression, may at times give a sudden bound upward; but it requires a genius greater than has hitherto existed, to support a poem of any length in a tone much more elevated than that of the melody. Tasso and Ariosto ought not to be made ex­ceptions, and still less Voltaire. And after all, where the poet has the dead weight of rhyme constantly to struggle with, how [Page 453] can we expect an uniform elevation in a high pitch; when such elevation, with all the support it can receive from language, re­quires the utmost effort of the human ge­nius?

But now, admitting rhyme to be an unfit dress for grand and lofty images; it has one advantage however, which is, to raise a low subject to its own degree of elevation. Ad­dison* observes, ‘"That rhyme, without any other assistance, throws the language off from prose, and very often makes an indifferent phrase pass unregarded; but where the verse is not built upon rhymes, there, pomp of sound and energy of ex­pression are indispensably necessary, to support the style and keep it from falling into the flatness of prose."’ This effect of rhyme is remarkable in the French verse, which, being simple and natural and in a good measure unqualified for inversion, rea­dily sinks down to prose where it is not ar­tificially supported. Rhyme, by rousing the mind, raises it somewhat above the [Page 454] tone of ordinary language: rhyme there­fore is indispensable in the French tragedy; and may be proper even for their comedy. Voltaire* assigns this very reason for adhe­ring to rhyme in these compositions. He indeed candidly owns, that even with the support of rhyme, the tragedies of his coun­try are little better than conversation-pieces. This shows, that the French language is weak, and an improper dress for any grand subject. Voltaire was sensible of this im­perfection; and yet Voltaire attempted an epic poem in that language.

The chearing and enlivening power of rhyme, is still more remarkable in poems of short lines, where the rhymes return upon the ear in a quick succession. And for that reason, rhyme is perfectly well ad­apted to gay, light, and airy subjects. Witness the following.

O the pleasing, pleasing anguish.
When we love, and when we languish!
[Page 455] Wishes rising,
Thoughts surprising,
Pleasure courting,
Charms transporting,
Fancy viewing,
Joys ensuing,
O the pleasing, pleasing anguish.
Rosamond, act 1. sc. 2.

For this reason, such frequent rhymes are very improper for any severe or serious pas­sion: the dissonance betwixt the subject and the modulation, is very sensibly felt. Witness the following.

Ardito ti renda,
Di sdegno
D'un figlio
Il periglio
D'un regno
L' amor.
E' dolce ad un' alma
Che aspetta
Il perder la calma
Fra l'ire del cor.
Metastasio. Artaserse, act 3. sc. 3.

[Page 456] Rhyme is not less unfit for deep distress, than for subjects elevated and lofty; and for that reason has been long disused in the English and Italian tragedy. In a work, where the subject is serious though not e­levated, it has not a good effect; because the airiness of the modulation agrees not with the gravity of the subject. The Essay on Man, which treats a subject great and important, would show much better in blank verse. Sportive love, mirth, gaiety, humour, and ridicule, are the province of rhyme. The boundaries assigned it by na­ture, were extended in barbarous and illi­terate ages, and in its usurpations it has long been protected by custom. But taste in the fine arts, as well as in morals, im­proves daily; and makes a progress, slowly indeed, but uniformly, towards perfection: and there is no reason to doubt, that rhyme in Britain will in time be forc'd to abandon its unjust conquests, and to confine itself within its natural limits.

Having thrown out what occurred upon rhyme, I close the section with a general [Page 457] observation. The melody of articulate sound so powerfully inchants the mind, as to draw a vail over very gross faults and imper­fections. Of this power a stronger example cannot be given, than the episode of Ari­staeus, which closes the fourth book of the Georgies. To renew a stock of bees when the former is lost, Virgil asserts, that they will be produced in the intrails of a bullock, slain and managed in a certain manner. This leads him to say, how this strange receipt was invented; which is as follows. Aristaeus having lost his bees by disease and famine, never dreams of employing the ordinary means for obtaining a new stock; but, like a froward child, complains heavily of his misfortune to his mother Cyrene, a water­nymph. She advises him to consult Pro­teus, a sea-god, not how he was to obtain a new stock, but only by what fatality he had lost his former stock; adding, that violence was necessary, because Proteus would say nothing voluntarily. Aristaeus, satisfied with this advice, though it gave him no prospect of repairing his loss, proceeds to execution. Proteus is catched sleeping, [Page 458] bound with cords, and compelled to speak. He declares, that Aristaeus was punished with the loss of his bees, for attempting the chastity of Euridice, the wife of Orpheus; she having got her death by the sting of a serpent in flying his embraces. Proteus, whose sullenness ought to have been con­verted into wrath by the rough treatment he met with, becomes on a sudden cour­teous and communicative. He gives the whole history of Orpheus's expedition to hell in order to recover his spouse; a very entertaining story indeed, but without the least relation to the affair on hand. Aristaeus returning to his mother, is advised to de­precate by sacrifices the wrath of Orpheus, who was now dead. A bullock is sacrificed, and out of the intrails spring miraculously a swarm of bees. How should this have led any mortal to think, that, without a miracle, the same might be obtained natu­rally, as is supposed in the receipt?

A list of the different FEET, and of their NAMES.
  • [Page 459]1. PYRRHICHIUS, consists of two short syllables. Examples: Deus, given, cannot, hillock, running.
  • 2. SPONDEUS, consists of two long sylla­bles. Ex. Omnes, possess, forewarn, mankind, sometime.
  • 3. IAMBUS, composed of a short and a long. Ex. pios, intent, degree, ap­pear, consent, repent, demand, report, suspect, affront, event.
  • 4. TROCHAEUS, or CHOREUS, a long and a short. Ex. fervat, whereby, af­ter, legal, measure, burden, holy, lofty.
  • 5. TRIBRACHYS, three short. Ex. me­lius, property.
  • 6. MOLOSSUS, three long. Ex. dele­ctant.
  • [Page 460] 7. ANAPAESTUS, two short and a long. Ex. animos, condescend, apprehend, overheard, acquiesce, immature, over­charge, serenade, opportune.
  • 8. DACTYLUS, a long and two short. Ex. carmina, evident, excellence, estimate, wonderful, altitude, burden­ed, minister, tenement.
  • 9. BACCHIUS, a short and two long. Ex. dolores.
  • 10. HYPPOBACCHIUS, or ANTIBACCHIUS, two long and a short. Ex. pel­luntur.
  • 11. CRETICUS, or AMPHIMACER, a short syllable betwixt two long. Ex. insito, afternoon.
  • 12. AMPHIBRACHYS, a long syllable be­twixt two short. Ex. honore, consi­der, imprudent, procedure, attended, proposed, respondent, concurrence, ap­prentice, respective, revenue.
  • [Page 461]13. PROCELEUSMATICUS, four short syl­lables. Ex. hominibus, necessary.
  • 14. DISPONDEUS, four long syllables. Ex. infinitis.
  • 15. DIIAMBUS, composed of two Iambi. Ex. severitas.
  • 16. DITROCHAEUS, of two Trochaei. Ex. permanere, procurator.
  • 17. IONICUS, two short syllables and two long. Ex. properabant.
  • 18. Another foot passes under the same name, composed of two long sylla­bles and two short. Ex. calcaribus, possessory.
  • 19. CHORIAMBUS, two short syllables be­twixt two long. Ex. Nobilitas.
  • 20. ANTISPASTUS, two long syllables be­twixt two short. Ex. Alexander.
  • 21. PAEON 1st, one long syllable and three short. Ex. temporibus, ordinary, in­ventory, temperament.
  • [Page 462]22. PAEON 2d, the second syllable long, and the other three short. Ex. potentia, rapidity, solemnity, minority, consi­dered, imprudently, extravagant, re­spectfully, accordingly.
  • 23. PAEON 3d, the third syllable long and the other three short. Ex. anima­tus, independent, condescendence, sa­cerdotal, reimbursement, manufacture.
  • 24. PAEON 4th, the last syllable long and the other three short. Ex. Celeritas.
  • 25. EPITRITUS 1st, the first syllable short and the other three long. Ex. vo­luptates.
  • 26. EPITRITUS 2d, the second syllable short and the other three long. Ex. poeni­tentes.
  • 27. EPITRITUS 3d, the third syllable short and the other three long. Ex. dis­oordias.
  • 28. EPITRITUS 4th, the last syllable short and the other three long. Ex. fortu­natus.
  • [Page 463]29. A word of five syllables composed of a Pyrrhichius and Dactylus. Ex. mi­nisterial.
  • 30. A word of five syllables composed of a Trochaeus and Dactylus. Ex. sin­gularity.
  • 31. A word of five syllables composed of a Dactylus and Trochaeus. Ex. precipitation, examination.
  • 32. A word of five syllables, the second only long. Ex. necessitated, signifi­cancy.
  • 33. A word of six syllables composed of two Dactyles. Ex. impetuosity.
  • 34. A word of six syllables composed of a Tribrachys and Dactyle. Ex. pu­sillanimity.

N. B. Every word may be considered as a prose foot, because every word is distin­guished by a pause; and every foot in verse may be considered as a verse word, composed of syllables pronounced at once without a pause.


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