Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

my soul.

not tacit, but communicable and [470 of France. Calais was peopled with overt. Salisbury Plain is barren of criti- novelty and delight. The confused, busy cism, but Stonehenge will bear a discus- murmur of the place was like oil and wine sion antiquarian, picturesque, and philo- poured into my ears; nor did the mariners' sophical. In setting out on a party of hymn, which was sung from the top of an pleasure, the first consideration always is old crazy vessel in the harbor, as the sun where we shall go to: in taking a solitary went down, send an alien sound into ramble, the question is what we shall

I only breathed the air of meet with by the way. “The mind is its general humanity. I walked over [530 own place”; nor are we anxious to arrive the vine-covered hills and gay regions of at the end of our journey. I can my- [480 France," erect and satisfied; for the self do the honors indifferently well to image of man was not cast down and works of art and curiosity. I once took chained to the foot of arbitrary thrones. a party to Oxford with no mean éclat, I was at no loss for language, for that of showed them that seat of the Muses at all the great schools of painting was open a distance,

to me. The whole is vanished like a “With glistering spires and pinnacles

shade. Pictures, heroes, glory, freedom, adorned,”

all are fled: nothing remains but the

Bourbons and the French people!-- (540 descanted on the learned air that breathes There is undoubtedly a sensation in travelfrom the grassy quadrangles and stone ling into foreign parts that is to be had walls of halls and colleges-was at home nowhere else; but it is more pleasing at the in the Bodleian; and at Blenheim [490 time than lasting. It is too remote from quite superseded the powdered Cicerone our habitual associations to be a common that attended us, and that pointed in topic of discourse or reference, and, like vain with his wand to commonplace a dream or another state of existence, beauties in matchless pictures. As an- does not piece into our daily modes of life. other exception to the above reasoning, It is an animated but a momentary halI should not feel confident in venturing | lucination. It demands an effort to (550 on a journey in a foreign country without exchange our actual for our ideal identity; a companion. I should want at intervals and to feel the pulse of our old transports to hear the sound of my own language. revive very keenly, we must "jump" all There is an involuntary antipathy in 1500 our present comforts and connections. the mind of an Englishman to foreign Our romantic and itinerant character is manners and notions that requires the not to be domesticated. Dr. Johnson assistance of social sympathy to carry it remarked how little foreign travel added off. As the distance from home increases, to the facilities of conversation in those this relief, which was at first a luxury, who had been abroad. In fact, the time becomes a passion and an appetite. A we have spent there is both delightful, [560 person would almost feel stifled to find and in one sense instructive; but it aphimself in the deserts of Arabia without pears to be cut out of our substantial, friends and countrymen: there must be downright existence, and never to join allowed to be something in the view (510 kindly on to it. We are not the same, but of Athens or old Rome that claims the another, and perhaps more enviable utterance of speech; and I own that the individual, all the time we are out of our Pyramids are too mighty for any single own country. We are lost to ourselves, contemplation. In such situations, so as well as our friends. So the poet someopposite to all one's ordinary train of what quaintly sings: ideas, one seems a species by one's-self, a limb torn off from society, unless one

“Out of my country and myself I go.” [570 can meet with instant fellowship and Those who wish to forget painful thoughts, support. Yet I did not feel this want or do well to absent themselves for a while craving very pressing once, when I (520 from the ties and objects that recall them; first set my foot on the laughing shores but we can be said only to fulfil our destiny in the place that gave us birth. I the author's meaning, as you must find should on this account like well enough the proper words and style to express to spend the whole of my life in travelling yourself by fixing your thoughts on the abroad, if I could anywhere borrow subject you have to write about. Any another life to spend afterwards at one may mouth out a passage with a home!

theatrical cadence, or get upon stilts (50 to tell his thoughts; but to write or speak

with propriety and simplicity is a more ON FAMILIAR STYLE

difficult task. Thus it is easy to affect a

pompous style, to use a word twice as It is not easy to write a familiar | big as the thing you want to express: it style. Many people mistake a familiar is not so easy to pitch upon the very word for a vulgar style, and suppose that that exactly fits it. Out of eight or ten to write without affectation is to write words equally common, equally intelliat random. On the contrary, there gible, with nearly equal pretensions, it is nothing that requires more precision, is a matter of some nicety and dis- [60 and, if I may so say, purity of ex- crimination to pick out the very one the pression, than the style I am speak- preferableness of which is scarcely pering of. It utterly rejects not only all ceptible, but decisive. The reason why unmeaning pomp, but all low, cant (10 I object to Dr. Johnson's style is that phrases, and loose, unconnected, slip- there is no discrimination, no selection, shod allusions. It is not to take

no variety in it. He uses none but "tall, the first word that offers, but the opaque words," taken from the "first best word in common

use; it is not row of the rubric;”—words with the to throw words together in any com- greatest number of syllables, or Latin binations we please, but to follow and phrases with merely English termina- (70 avail ourselves of the true idiom of the tions.

tions. If a fine style depended on this language. To write a genuine familiar or sort of arbitrary pretension, it would be truly English style is to write as any one fair to judge of an author's elegance by would speak in common conversation (20 the measurement of his words, and the who had a thorough command and choice substitution of foreign circumlocutions of words, or who could discourse with (with no precise associations) for the ease, force, and perspicuity, setting aside mother-tongue. How simple it is to be all pedantic and oratorical flourishes. dignified without ease, to be pompous Or, to give another illustration, to write without meaning! Surely, it is but naturally is the same thing in regard to a mechanical rule for avoiding what (80 common conversation as to read naturally is low, to be

to be always pedantic and is in regard to common speech. It does affected. It is clear you cannot use not follow that it is an easy thing to give a vulgar English word if you never the true accent and inflection to the (30 use a common English word at all. A words you utter, because you do not fine tact is shown in adhering to those attempt to rise above the level of ordinary which are perfectly common, and yet life and colloquial speaking. You do not never falling into any expressions which assume, indeed, the solemnity of the are debased by disgusting circumstances, pulpit, or the tone of stage-declamation; or which owe their signification and neither are you at liberty to gabble on at point to technical or professional (90 a venture, without emphasis or discre- allusions. A truly natural or familiar tion, or to resort to vulgar dialector style can never be quaint or vulgar, for clownish pronunciation. You must steer this reason, that it is of universal force a middle course. You are tied down [40 and applicability, and that quaintness to a given and appropriate articulation, which is determined by the habitual as

1 I have heard of such a thing as an author who makes it

a rule never to admit a monosyllable into his vapid verse. sociations between sense and sound, and Yet the charm and sweetness of Marlowe's lines depended which you can only hit by entering into

often on their being made up almost entirely of monosyllables

(Hazlitt.

and vulgarity arise out of the immediate posing from its learning and novelty, and connection of certain words with coarse yet in the connection in which it is (150 and disagreeable or with confined ideas. introduced may be quite pointless and The last form what we understand by irrelevant. It is not pomp or pretension, cant or slang phrases.—To give an exam- but the adaptation of the expression to ple of what is not very clear in the (100 the idea, that clenches a writer's meangeneral statement. I should say that ing as it is not the size or glossiness of the phrase To cut with a knife, or To cut the materials, but their being fitted each a piece of wood, is perfectly free from to its place, that gives strength to the vulgarity, because it is perfectly com- arch; or as the pegs and nails are as necesmon; but To cut an acquaintance is not sary to the support of the building as quite unexceptionable, because it is not the larger timbers, and more so than (160 perfectly common or intelligible, and the mere showy, unsubstantial ornaments. has hardly yet escaped out of the limits I hate anything that occupies more space of slang phraseology. I should hardly, than it is worth. I hate to see a load of therefore, use the word in this (110 bandboxes go along the street, and I hate sense without putting it in italics as a to see a parcel of big words without anylicense of expression, to be received cum thing in them. A person who does not grano salis. All provincial or bye-phrases deliberately dispose of all his thoughts come under the same mark of reproba- alike in cumbrous draperies and flimsy distion-all such as the writer transfers to guises may strike out twenty varieties the page from his fireside or a particular of familiar everyday language, each (170 coterie, or that he invents for his own coming somewhat nearer to the feeling he sole use and convenience. I conceive that wants to convey, and at last not hit upon words are like money, not the worse for that particular and only one which may being common, but that it is the stamp (120 be said to be identical with the exact of custom alone that gives them circula- impression in his mind. This would seem tion or value. I am fastidious in this to show that Mr. Cobbett is hardly right respect, and would almost as soon coin in saying that the first word that occurs the currency of the realm as counterfeit is always the best. It may be a very the King's English. I never invented or good one; and yet a better may present itgave a new and unauthorised meaning self on reflection or from time to time. (180 to any word but one single one (the It should be suggested naturally, however, term impersonal applied to feelings), and and spontaneously, from a fresh and lively that was in an abstruse metaphysical dis- conception of the subject. We seldom cussion to express a very difficult dis- (130 succeed by trying at improvement, or by tinction. I have been (I know) loudly ac- merely substituting one word for another cused of revelling in vulgarisms and broken that we are not satisfied with, as we canEnglish. I cannot speak to that point; but not recollect the name of a place or person so far I plead guilty to the determined by merely plaguing ourselves about it. use of acknowledged idioms and common We wander farther from the point by elliptical expressions. I am not sure that persisting in a wrong scent; but it (190 the critics in question know the one from starts up accidentally in the memory the other, that is, can distinguish any when we least expected it, by touching medium between formal pedantry and some link in the chain of previous assothe most barbarous solecism. As an (140 ciation. author I endeavor to employ plain words There are those who hoard up and make and popular modes of construction, as, a cautious display of nothing but rich and were I a chapman and dealer, I should rare phraseology;--ancient medals, obcommon weights and measures.

scure coins, and Spanish pieces of eight. The proper force of words lies not in the They are very curious to inspect; but I words themselves, but in their applica- myself would neither offer nor take (200 tion. A word may be a fine-sounding them in the course of exchange. A word, of an unusual length, and very im- sprinkling of archaisms is not amiss; but a tissue of obsolete expressions is more than the one of which I have here been fit for keep than wear. I do not say I would speaking. not use any phrase that had been brought It is as easy to write a gaudy style into fashion before the middle or the end without ideas as it is to spread a pallet of of the last century; but I should be shy of showy colors or to smear in a flaunt- (260 using any that had not been employed by ing transparency. “What do you read?” any approved author during the whole of “Words, words, words.”—“What is the that time. Words, like clothes, get (210 matter?" "Nothing," it might be anold-fashioned, or mean and ridiculous, swered. The florid style is the reverse of when they have been for some time laid the familiar. The last is employed as aside. Mr. Lamb is the only imitator an unvarnished medium to convey ideas; old English style I can read with pleasure; the first is resorted to as a spangled veil and he is so thoroughly imbued with the to conceal the want of them. When there spirit of his authors that the idea of imi- is nothing to be set down but words, it tation is almost done away. There is an costs little to have them fine. Look (270 inward unction, a marrowy vein both in through the dictionary, and cull out a the thought and feeling, an intuition, deep florilegium, rival the tulippomania. Rouge and lively, of his subject, that carries (220 high enough, and never mind the natural off any quaintness or awkwardness arising complexion. The vulgar, who are not from an antiquated style and dress. The in the secret, will admire the look of prematter is completely his own, though the ternatural health and vigor; and the fashmanner is assumed. Perhaps his ideas are ionable, who regard only appearances, altogether so marked and individual as will be delighted with the imposition. to require their point and pungency to be Keep to your sounding generalities, your neutralised by the affectation of a sin- tinkling phrases, and all will be well. [280 gular but traditional form of conveyance. Swell out an unmeaning truism to a Tricked out in the prevailing costume, perfect tympany of style. A thought, a they would probably seem more (230 distinction, is the rock on which all this startling and out of the way. The old brittle cargo of verbiage splits at once. English authors, Burton, Fuller, Coryate, Such writers have merely verbal imaginaSir Thomas Browne, are a kind of media- tions, that retain nothing but words. tors between us and the more eccentric Or their puny thoughts have dragon-wings and whimsical modern, reconciling us to all green and gold. They soar far above his peculiarities. I do not, however, know the vulgar failing of the sermo kumi how far this is the case or not, till he con- obrepens—their most ordinary speech (290 descends to write like one of us. I must is never short of an hyperbole, splendid, confess that what I like best of his papers imposing, vague, incomprehensible, magunder the signature of Elia (still I (240 niloquent, a cento of sounding commondo not presume, amidst such excellence, places. If some of us, whose “ambition to decide what is most excellent) is the is more lowly,” pry a little too narrowly account of “Mrs. Battle's Opinions on into nooks and corners to pick up a numWhist,” which is also the most free from ber of “unconsidered trifles,” they never obsolete allusions and turns of expres- once direct their eyes or lift their hands sion

to seize on any but the most gorgeous, “A well of native English undefiled.”

tarnished, threadbare, patchwork set (300

of phrases, the left-off finery of poetic To those acquainted with his admired pro- extravagance, transmitted down through totypes, these Essays of the ingenious and successive generations of barren prehighly gifted author have the same (250 tenders. If they criticise actors and acsort of charm and relish that Erasmus's tresses, a huddled phantasmagoria of Colloquies or a fine piece of modern Latin feathers, spangles, floods of light, and have to the classical scholar. Certainly, oceans of sound float before their morbid I do not know any borrowed pencil that sense, which they paint in the style of has more power or felicity of execution | Ancient Pistol. Not a glimpse can you

[ocr errors]

get of the merits or defects of the per- (310 of fancy, the varnish of sentiment. Objects formers: they are hidden in a profusion are not linked to feelings, words to things, of barbarous epithets and wilful rhodo- but images revolve in splendid mockery, montade. Our hypercritics are not think- words represent themselves in their ing of these little fantoccini beings- strange rhapsodies. The categories of “That strut and fret their hour upon pride in outside show, to which they sacri

such a mind are pride and ignorance the stage”

fice everything, and ignorance of the true but of tall phantoms of words, abstrac- worth and hidden structure both of words tions, genera and species, sweeping clauses, and things. With a sovereign con- (370 periods that unite the Poles, forced al

tempt for what is familiar and natural, literations, astounding antitheses- (319 they are the slaves of vulgar affectation“And on their pens Fustian sits plumed.” of a routine of high-flown phrases. Scorn

ing to imitate realities, they are unable If they describe kings and queens, it is to invent anything, to strike out one an Eastern pageant. The Coronation at original idea. They are not copyists of either House is nothing to it. We get at nature, it is true; but they are the poorest four repeated images-a curtain, a throne, of all plagiarists, the plagiarists of words. a sceptre, and a foot-stool. These are All is far-fetched, dear-bought, artificial, with them the wardrobe of a lofty imagina- oriental in subject and allusion; (380 tion; and they turn their servile strains all is mechanical, conventional, vapid, to servile uses. Do we read a description formal, pedantic in style and execution. of pictures? It is not a reflection of tones They startle and confound the underand hues which “nature's own sweet (330 standing of the reader by the remoteness and cunning hand laid on," but piles of and obscurity of their illustrations; they precious stones, rubies, pearls, emeralds, soothe the ear by the monotony of the Golconda's mines, and all the blazonry same everlasting round of circuitous of art. Such persons are in fact besotted metaphors. They are the mock-school in with words, and their brains are turned poetry and prose. They flounder about bewith the glittering but empty and sterile tween fustian in expression and bathos (390 phantoms of things. Personifications, in sentiment. They tantalise the fancy, capital letters, seas of sunbeams, visions but never reach the head nor touch the of glory, shining inscriptions, the figures heart. Their Temple of Fame is like a of a transparency, Britannia with her (340 shadowy structure raised by Dulness to shield, or Hope leaning on an anchor, Vanity, or like Cowper's description of make up their stock in trade. They may the Empress of Russia's palace of ice, be considered as hieroglyphical writers. 'as worthless as in show 'twas glitterImages stand out in their minds isolated ing”and important merely in themselves,

“It smiled, and it was cold!” without any groundwork of feeling—there is no context in their imaginations. Words affect them in the same way, by the mere THOMAS DE QUINCEY (1786-1859) sound, that is, by their possible, not by their actual application to the subject (350 From CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGin hand. They are fascinated by first

LISH OPIUM-EATER appearances, and have no sense of consequences. Nothing more is meant by I have often been asked how I came to them than meets the ear: they under- be a regular opium eater; and have sufstand or feel nothing more than meets fered, very unjustly, in the opinion of their eye. The web and texture of the my acquaintance, from being reputed to universe, and of the heart of man, is have brought upon myself all the suffera mystery to them: they have no faculty ings which I shall have to record, by a that strikes a chord in unison with it. long course of indulgence in this practice They cannot get beyond the daubings (360 | purely for the sake of creating an artificial

« AnteriorContinuar »