Page images

Je crains Dieu, cher Abner, et n'ai point d'autre crainte.

In these examples, the name of the perfon addressed to, makes a mean figure, being like a circumstance flipt into a corner. That this criticism is well found ed, we need no other proof than Addison's transla tion of the last example :

O Abner! I fear my God, and I fear none but him,

Guardian, No. 117.

O father, what intends thv hand, the cry'd,
Against thy only fon? What fury, O fen,
Pollefles thee to bend that mortal dart
Against thy father's head?

Paradise loft, book 2. l. 727.

Every one must be fenfible of a dignity in the invocation at the beginning, which is not attained by that in the middle. I mean not however to censure this pássage: on the contrary, it appears beautiful, by distinguishing the respect that is due to a father from that which is due to a fon.

The fubftance of what is said in this and the foregoing section, upon the method of arranging words in a period, so as to make the deepest impression with respect to found as well as fignification, is conprehended in the following observation : That order of words in a period will always be the most agrecable, where, without obscuring the senle, the most important images, the most fonorous words, and the longest members, bring up the rear.

Ilitherto of arranging single words, single members, and single circumstances. But the enumeration of many particulars in the same period is often neceflary : 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 rule : but luckily, reflecting upon what is said in the first chapter about order, we find rules laid down to our hand, which leave us no talk but that of applying them to the present question. And, firit, with respect to the enumerating particulars of equal rank, it is laid down in the place quoted, that as there is no cause 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 fame kind, differing only in fize, are to be fanged along a straight line, the most agreeable order to the eye is that of an increasing feries. In furveying a number of such objects, beginning at the least, and proceeding to greater and greater, the mind fwells gradually with the successive objects, and in its progress has a very sensible pleasure.' Precisely for the fame reason, words expreflive of such objects ought to be placed in the same order. The beauty of this figure, which may be termed a climax in fenfi, has escaped lord Bolingbroke in the first member of the following period.

Let but one great, brave, disinterested, active man arife, and he will be received, followed, and alinost adored.

The following arrangement has sensibly a better effe&t:

Let but one brave, great, active, disinterested man arise,


Whether the same rule ought to be followed in enu. merating men of different ranks, seems doubtful : on the one hand, a number of persons presented to


[ocr errors]

the eye in form of an incrcasing series, is undoubtedly the most agreeable order : on the other hand, in every list of names, we set the person of the greatest dignity at the top, and 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 choose the former order. 3dly, As the sense of order directs the eye

to descend from the principal to its greateit acceflory, and from the whole to its greatest part, and in the same order through all the parts and acceffories till we arrive at the minutelt; the same order ought to be followed in the enumeration of such particulars. I hall give one familiar example. Talking of the parts of a column, the base, the shaft, the capital, these are capable of six different arrangements, and the question is, Which is the beit? When we have in view the erecting a column, we are naturally led to express the parts in the order above mentioned ; which at the saine time is agreeable by ascending. But considering the column as it stands, without reference to its eredion the sense of order, as observed above, requires the chief part to be named firit: 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 hiin to his descendants : but in describing a lofty oak, we begin with the trunk, and ascend to the branches.

When force and liveliness of expresiion are dcmanded, the rule is, to suspend the thought as long as polüble, and to bring it out full and entire at the


close : which cannot be done but by inverting the natural arrangement. By introducing a word or member before its time, curiosity is raised about what is to follow ; and it is agreeable to have our curiosity gratified at the close of the period : the pleasure we feel resembles that of seeing a stroke exerted upon a 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 clofe, and what follows appears languid or superfluous : his disappointment contributes also to that appearance, when he finds, contrary to expectation, that 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 it frequently is, it ought at any rate to be the 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.

Were instruction an esfontial circumstance in epic poetry, I doubt whether a single instance could be given of this species of composition, in any language.

[ocr errors]

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 effential circumstance in epic poetry, I doubt whether, in any language, a single instance could be given of this species of composition.


[ocr errors]

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. 9o.

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 or less, with these groundless horrors and presages of futurity, upon surveying the most indifferent works of nature.

Spectator, No. 505


Upon surveying the most indifferent works of nature, men of the best fenfe, &c.

She foon 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.


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 hifiory, vol. 1. let. 7. Bolingbroke. Better,

-that for the sake of it he exposed the empire doubly to desolation and ruin.


« PreviousContinue »