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Of vivacity as depending on the number of the words.

If we consider the meaning, there is mention made here of two facts, which it was impossible that any body of common sense, in this lady's circumstances, should not have observed, and of a resolution in consequence of these, which it was natural for every person who had a resentment of bad usage to make. Whence then results the vivacity, the fire which is so manifest in the letter? Not from any thing extraordinary in the matter, but purely from the laconism of the manner. An ordinary spirit would have employed as many pages to express the same thing, as there are affirmations in this short letter. The epistle might in that case have been very sensible, and withal very dull, but would never have been thought worthy of being recorded as containing any thing uncommon, or deserving a reader's notice.

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Of all our English poets, none hath more successfully studied consciseness, or rendered it more conducive to vivacity, than Pope. Take the following lines as one example of a thousand which might be produced from his writings:

See how the world its veterans rewards !
A youth of frolics, an old age of cards;
Fair to no purpose, artful to no end;
Young without lovers, old without a friend;
A fop their passion, but their prize a sot;
Alive ridiculous, and dead forgot *.

* Moral Essays, Ep. II.

Sect. I.

This quality explained ani exemplied.

Nothing is more evident than that the same passage may have great beauties and great blemishes. There is a monotony in the measure of the above quotation, (the lines being all so equally divided by the pauses) which would render it, if much longer, almost as tiresome to the ear as a speech in a French tragedy ; besides, the unvaried run of antithesis through five successive lines is rather too much, as it gives an air of quaintness to the whole. Yet that there is a great degree of liveliness in the expression is undeniable. This excellence is not, I acknowledge, to be ascribed solely to the brevity. Somewhat is doubtless imputable both to the words themselves and to their arrangement; but the first mentioned is still the principal

The trope in the fifth line, their passion, for the object of their passion, conduceth to vivacity, not only as being a trope, but as rendering the expression briefer, and thereby more nervous. Even the omis.. sion of the substantive verb, of the conjunctions, and of the personal pronouns, contribute not a little to the same end. Such ellipses are not indeed to be adopted into prose, and may even abound too much in verse. This author in particular hath sometimes exceeded in this way, and hath sacrificed both perspicuity and a natural simplicity of expression, to the ambition of saying a great deal in few words. But there is no beauty of style for which one may not pay too high a price. And if any price ought to be deemed too high, either of these certainly ought ; especially perspicuity, be


Of vivacity as depending on the number of the words.

cause it is this which throws light on every other beauty,

PROPRIETY may sometimes be happily violated. An improper expression may have a vivacity, which, if we should reduce the words to grammatical correctness, would be annihilated. Shakespeare abounds in such happy improprieties. For instance,

And be these juggling fiends no more believed,
That palter with us in a double sense,
That keep the word of promise 10 our ear,
And break it to our hope *.

In another place,

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It is a custom
More honour'd in the breach than the observance t.

David's accusation of Joab, that he had shed the blood of war in peace t, or what Solomon says of the virtuous woman, that she eateth not the bread of idleness ll, serve also to verify the same remark. Every body understands these expressions; every body that knows English, perceives an impropriety in them, which it is perhaps impossible to mend without destroying their energy s. But a beauty that is unper

* Macbeth. + Hamlet. I 1 Kings ii. 5. || Prov. xxxi. 37.

s The Hebraism in each of these quotations from scripture, constitutes the peculiarity, and as the reasons are nearly equal with regard to all modern languages, for either admitting or rejecting an

Sect. I.

This quality explained and exemplified.

ceivable is no beauty. Without perspicuity, words are not signs, they are empty sounds ; speaking is beating the air, and the most fluent declaimer is but as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.

oriental idiom, the observation will equally affect other European tongues into which the Bible is translated. A scrupulous attention to the purity of the language into which the version is made, must often hurt the energy of the expression. Saci, who in his translation hath been too solicitous to frenchify the style of scripture, hath made nonsense of the first passage, and (to say the least) hath greatly enervated the second. The first he renders in such a manner as implies that Joab had killed Abner and Amasa oftener than once. " Ayant repandu leur sang (le sang d'Abner et d'Amasa) durant " la paix, comme il avoit fait, durant la guerre.”

A terrible man

this Joab.

And thrice he routed all his foes, and thrice he slew the slain.


The other passage he renders, “ Elle n'a point mangé son pain dans l'oisiveté.” The meaning is very indistinctly expressed here. Can a sluggard be said to be idle when eating ? or does the most industrious disposition require that in the time of eating one should be employed in something else? Such a translation as this, is too free to exhibit the style of the original, too literal to express the sens, and therefore is unlucky enough to hit neither. Diodati hath succeeded better in both. The last he renders literally as we do, and the first in this manner, Spandendo in tempo di pace, ,


sangue “che si spande in battaglia.” This clearly enough exhibits the sense, and is sufficiently literal. The meaning of the other passage, stripped of the idiom, and expressed in plain English, is neither more nor less than this, “ She eateth not the bread which she hath “ 'not earned." In

be difficult to


whether propriety or energy should have the preference. I think it safer in every dubious case to secure the former.

many cases it

Of vivacity as depending on the number of the words.


Yet there is a sort and a degree of obscurity which ought not to be considered as falling under this cen

I speak not of those sentences wherein more is meant than meets the ear, the literal meaning being intended purely to suggest a further meaning, which the speaker had chiefly in view. I gave some examples in this way, when on the subject of perspicuity, and showed that they are not to be regarded as exceptions from the rule *. But what I here principally allude to, is a species of darkness, if I may call it so, resulting from an excess of vivacity and conciseness, which, to a certain degree, in some sorts of composițion, is at least pardonable. In the ode, for instance, the enthusiastic fervour of the poet naturally carries him to overlook those minutenesses in language, on which perspicuity very much depends. It is to abruptness of transition, boldness of figure, laconism of expression, the congenial issue of that frame of mind in which the piece is composed, that we owe entirely the

Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.

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Hence proceeds a character of the writing, which may not unhappily be expressed in the words of Milton, “ Dark with excessive Bright. I have compared vivacity produced by a happy conciseness, to the splendour occasioned by concentring sunbeams into a little spot. Now, if by means of this the light is rendered

* Book II. Chap. viii. Sect. 2.

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