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Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

man nature, as the term implies only the direct acknowledgment of those enjoyed in common with the brutes, or even with the whole creation. The phrases no creature, and every creature, like all the world, are a kind of hyperbolic idioms which come not under this category. Thirdly, they may proceed from a love of brevity in cases wherein perspicuity cannot be hurt. Thus to say,

Your friend Alexander lies here interr'd,


is briefer, and not less perspicuous, than to say, " The corps of your friend Alexander"-Fourthly, they may spring from a desire to find a term that will make a better counterpart, in respect either of the sense or of the sound, to some other word which the speaker or the writer hath had occasion to use, the ideas conveyed by the two words being also related. This occasions sometimes not only that the genus is used for the species, but that the matter is made to signify the thing made of it; both of which will be further illustrated when I come to consider how far vivacity may result from arrangement. Fifthly (and this is the last source that occurs to my thoughts), tropes of this kind may arise from a desire of palliating the representation, and that either from humanity, from courtesy, or from decency.

By the first of the five principles above mentioned, if used discreetly, something is done for the sake of variety, where the vivacity of the expression is little

Sect. II. Rhetorical tropes.... Part III. The use of tropes obstructive to vivacity.

affected; by the second, even a farther end, a species of animation is attained; by the third and fourth, what is lost of vivacity in one way, is more than compensated in another; but by the fifth, we are led to avoid this quality as a fault.



THERE are some subjects of which it may be necessary on certain occasions to speak, which, nevertheless, present an object to the imagination that is either disagreeable or indecent. It is sufficient that such things be hinted to the understanding, so that the meaning may be apprehended, it is by no means fit that they be painted in the liveliest colours to the fancy. There are some things which a painter may find it expedient to introduce into a picture, and to render just discoverable, by placing them in the shade, in the back-ground, or at a corner, which it would be extremely improper to set in such a point of view as would immediately attract and fix the eye of the spectator. The like doubtless holds with regard to the orator. And it hath been chiefly to veil without darkening what the smallest degree of delicacy requires us to avoid exposing in the strongest light, that certain sorts of tropes and modes of expression have first been brought into use. To the same cause is also to be ascribed, the recourse that is often had to circumlocution, which will fall to be considered in the ensuing chapter.

ALL such tropes and modes of expression have come

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Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

under the common denomination of the euphemism, a name that hath been assigned purely from the consideration of the purpose for which they are employed; which is to express in terms that are inoffensive, an object in some respect or other offensive. The euphemism is not a distinct trope, (as it hath improperly been accounted by some critics) but a certain application of other tropes, especially of metaphor and synecdoché, and even of some of the figures of elocution, the periphrasis in particular. Sometimes we are led to this from a principle of civility, or even affection, when the plain and direct mention of an object might either recal grief, or hurt sensibility, and sometimes from ideas of decorum,

It is by an euphemism that the words deceased and departed came at first to be used instead of dead, which is no other than a synecdoché of the genus for the species; falling asleep for dying, which is a metaphor, there being an evident resemblance between sleep and death, and stopping payment for becoming bankrupt, which is a metonymy of the effect for the cause. There is indeed, in employing this figure, the euphemism, more than in any other, a natural tendency to change. The reason may easily be deduced from the general doctrine concerning tropes, explained in the first part of this section. The frequent use of any word in this manner, brings it insensibly to have all the effect of the proper term whose place it was intended to supply: no sooner is this effect pro

Sect. II. Rhetorical tropes....Part III. The use of tropes obstructive to vivacity.

duced by it, than the same principle that influenced us at first to employ it, operates with equal strength in influencing us to lay it aside, and in its stead to adopt something newer and still more remote. The excessive delicacy of the French in this respect hath given rise to expressions which it would not be easy to trace, from any known trope or figure of oratory, and which, to say the truth, have something ridiculous in their appearance. Thus a disbanded regiment is with them a reformed regiment; a cashiered officer is a reformed officer, and a man is said to reform his equipage, when necessity obliges him to give it up; even the hangman, through the superabundance of their complaisance, is titled the master of the high works*. In the use of this figure among the ancients, superstition in regard to some words which were thought to be of bad omen, seems to have had as great a share, as either a delicate sympathy with the feelings of others, or a very nice sense of what is decent and cleanly.

As to the nature and extent of the last source which was assigned of the euphemism, it will be proper to be a little more particular. Those things which it is indecent to express vividly are always such as are conceived to have some turpitude in them, either natural or moral. An example of this decency in expression, where the subject hath some natural turpi

* Le maitre des hautes œuvres,

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

tude, you will find in Martha's answer, as it is in the original, when our Saviour gave orders to remove the stone from the sepulchre of her brother Lazarus, "Lord, by this time he smelleth, for he hath been "dead four days +." In our version it is somewhat indelicately, not to say indecently, rendered stinketh. Our translators have in this instance unnecessarily receded from their ordinary rule of keeping as close as possible to the letter. The synecdoché in this place answers just as well in English as in Greek; the perspicuity is such as secures the reader from the possibility of a mistake, at the same time that the expression is free from the indecency with which the other is chargeable. But if it be necessary to avoid a vivid exhibition of what appears uncleanly to the external senses, it is much more necessary in whatever may have a tendency to pollute the mind. It is not always the mention of vice as such, which has this tendency. Many of the most attrocious crimes may be mentioned with great plainness, without any such danger, and therefore without the smallest indecorum. What the subjects are which are in this way dangerous, it is surely needless to explain. And as every person of sense will readily conceive the truth of the general sentiment, to propose without necessity to produce examples for the elucidation of it, might justly be charged with being a breach of that decency of which I am treating.

† John xi. 39. ndn oher.

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