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Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

rit of an address to the fancy immediately results. By vivacity of expression, resemblance is attained, as far as language can contribute to the attainment; by elegance, dignity of manner.

I BEGIN with vivacity, whose nature (though perhaps the word is rarely used in a signification so extensive) will be best understood by considering the several principles from which it arises. There are three things in style on which its vivacity depends, the choice of words, their number, and their arrange


THE first thing then that comes to be examined, is the words chosen. Words are either proper terms or rhetorical tropes: and whether the one or the other, they may be regarded not only as signs, but as sounds; and consequently as capable, in certain cases, of bearing in some degree a natural resemblance or affinity to the things signified. These three articles, therefore, proper terms, rhetorical tropes, and the relation which the sound may be made to bear to the sense, I shall, on the first topic, the choice of words, consider severally, as far as concerns the subject of vivacity.

SECT. I....Proper terms.

I BEGIN with proper terms, and observe that the quality of chief importance in these for producing the

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end proposed, is their specialty. Nothing can contribute more to enliven the expression, than that all the words employed be as particular and determinate in their signification, as will suit with the nature and the scope of the discourse. The more general the terms are, the picture is the fainter; the more special they are, it is the brighter. The same sentiments may be expressed with equal justness, and even perspicuity, in the former way, as in the latter; but as the colouring will in that case be more languid, it cannot give equal pleasure to the fancy, and by consequence will not contribute so much either to fix the attention, or to impress the memory. I shall illustrate this doctrine by some examples.


In the song of Moses, occasioned by the miraculous passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea, the inspired poet, speaking of the Egyptians, says, "They "sank as lead in the mighty waters *. Make but a small alteration on the expression, and say, "They "fell as metal in the mighty waters ;" and the difference in the effect will be quite astonishing. Yet the sentiment will be equally just, and in either way the meaning of the author can hardly be mistaken. Nor is there another alteration made upon the sentence, but that the terms are rendered more comprehensive or generical. To this alone, therefore, the difference of the effect must be ascribed. To sink is, as it were,

* Exod. xv. 10.

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

the species, as it implies only falling or moving 'downwards in a liquid element; to fall answers to the genus *; in like manner, lead is the species, metal is the genus.

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"CONSIDER," says our Lord," the lillies how they they grow they toil not, they spin not; and yet, "I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory, was "not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe "the grass which to-day is in the field, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, how much more will he "clothe you?" Let us here adopt a little of the tastless manner of modern paraphrasts, by the substitution of more general terms, one of their many expedients of infrigidating, and let us observe the effect produced by this change. "Consider the flowers, "how they gradually increase in their size, they do "no manner of work, and yet I declare to you, that "no king whatever, in his most splendid habit, is

* I am sensible that genus and species are not usually, and perhaps cannot be so properly applied to verbs; yet there is in the reference which the meanings of two verbs sometimes bear to each other, what nearly resembles this relation. It is only when to fall means to move downwards, as a brick from a chimney-top, or a pear from the tree, that it may be denominated a genus in respect of the verb to sink. Sometimes, indeed, the former denotes mere. ly a sudden change of posture, from erect to prostrate, as when a man who stands upon the ground is said to fall, though he remain still on the ground. In this way we speak of the fall of a tower, of a house, or of a wall.

† Luke xii. 27, 28.

Sect I.


Proper terms.

"dressed up like them. If then God in his provi"dence doth so adorn the vegetable productions, "which continue but a little time on the land, and "are afterwards put into the fire, how much more "will he provide clothing for you?" How spiritless is the same sentiment rendered by these small variations? The very particularising of to-day and to-morrow, is infinitely more expressive of transitoriness, than any description wherein the terms are general, that can be substituted in its room.

YET to a cold annotator, a man of mere intellection, without fancy, the latter exhibition of the sentiment would appear the more emphatical of the two. Nor would he want some show of reason for this preference. As a specimen, therefore, of a certain mode of criticising, not rarely to be met with, in which there is I know not what semblance of judgment without one particle of taste, I shall suppose a critic of this stamp entering on the comparison of the preceding quotation, and the paraphrase. "In the one," he would argue, "the beauty of only one sort of

flowers is exalted above the effects of human industry, in the other the beauty of the whole kind. In "the former one individual monarch is said not to "have equalled them in splendor, in the latter it is "affirmed that no monarch whatever can equal them." However specious this way of reasoning may be, we are certain that it is not solid, because it doth not correspond with the principles of our nature. Indeed

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Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

what was explained above *, in regard to abstraction, and the particularity of our ideas, properly so called, may serve in a great measure to account for the effect which speciality hath upon the imagination. Philosophy, which strictly considered addresseth only the understanding, and is conversant about abstract truth, abounds in general terms, because these alone are adequate to the subject treated. On the contrary, when the address is made by eloquence to the fancy, which requires a lively exhibition of the object presented to it, those terms must be culled that are as particular as possible, because it is solely by these that the object can be depicted. And even the most rigid philosopher, if he choose that his disquisitions be not only understood but relished, (and without being relished they are understoed to little purpose), will not disdain sometimes to apply to the imagination of his disciples, mixing the pleasant with the useful. This is one way of sacrificing to the Graces.

BUT I proceed to give examples in such of the different parts of speech as are most susceptible of this beauty. The first shall be in the verbs.

It seem'd as there the British Neptune stood,
With all his hosts of waters at command;
Beneath them to submit th' officious flood;

And with his trident shov'd them off the sand †.

* Book II. Chap. VII. Sect. Ia

+ Dryden's Year of Wonders.

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