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ample seems worthy of the preference; and it must be established as a rule, that no other order in any case is to be admitted.
sentiments, the rapidity and ease of utterance, necessarily produce such abbreviations. It appears indeed so natural, that I think it requires, that people be more than commonly phlegmatic, not to say stupid, to be able to avoid them. Upon the whole, therefore, this tendency, in my opinion, ought to have been checked and regulated, but not entirely crushed. That contracting serves to improve the expression in vivacity is manifest; it was necessary only to take care, that it might not hurt it in harmony or in perspicuity. It is certainly this which constitutes one of the greatest beauties in French dialogue ; as by means of it, what, in other languages, is expressed by a pronoun and a preposition, they sometimes convey not by a single syliable, but by a single-letter. At the same time, it must be owned, they have never admitted contractions that could justly be denominated harsh; that they have not, on the other hand, been equally careful to avoid such as are equivocal, hath been observed already. We are apt to imagine, that there is something in the elision of letters and contraction of syllables that is particularly unsuitable to the grave and solemn style. This notion of ours is, I suspect, more the consequence of the disuse than the cause ; since such abbreviations do not offend the severest critic, when they occur in books written in an ancient or a foreign language. Even the sacred penmen have not disdained to adopt them into the simple, but very serious style of holy writ. Witnesss the xyw for xai syw, ax Eus for απο εμδ, xáxuvos for xai exuvos, and many others. No doubt desuetude alone is sufficient to create an unsuitableness in any language. I will admit further, that there is some convenience in discriminating the different characters of writing by some such differences in the style. For both these reasons, I should not now wish to see them revived in performances of a serious or solemn nature.
Of the connectives employed in combining the parts of a sentence.
BUT we are not peculiar in this disposition, though we may be peculiar in some of our ways of exerting it. The French critics, and even the academy, have proceeded, if not always in the same manner, on much the same principle in the improvements they have made on their language. They have indeed cleared it of many, not of all their low idioms, cant phrases, and useless anomalies; they have rendered the style in the main more perspicuous, more grammatical, and more precise, than it was before. But they have not known where to stop. Their criticisms often degenerate into refinements, and every thing is carried to excess. If one mode of construction, or form of expression, hath been lucky enough to please these arbitrators of the public taste, and to obtain their sanction, no different mode or form must expect so much as a toleration. What is the consequence? They have purified their language; at the same time they have impoverished it, and have, in a considerable measure, reduced all kind of composition to a tasteless uniformity. Accordingly, in perhaps no language, ancient or modern, will you find so little variety of expression in the various kinds of writing, as in French. In prose and verse, in philosophy and romance, in tragedy and comedy, in epic and pastoral, the difference may be very great in the sentiments, but it is nothing, or next to nothing, in the style.
Is this insipid sameness to be envied them as an excellence? Or shall we Britons, who are lovers of
freedom almost to idolatry, voluntarily hamper ourselves in the trammels of the French academy? Not that I think we should disdain to receive instruction from any quarter, from neighbours, or even from enemies. But as we renounce implicit faith in more important matters, let us renounce it here too. Before we adopt any new measure or limitation, by the praċtice of whatever nation it comes recommended to us, let us give it an impartial examination, that we may not, like servile imitators, copy the bad with the good. The rules of our language should breathe the same spirit with the laws of our country. They ought to prove bars against licentiousness, without being checks to liberty.
SECT. III....Modern languages compared with Greek and Latin, particularly in regard to the composition of sentences.
BEFORE I conclude this chapter, I must beg leave to offer a few general remarks on the comparison of modern languages with Greek and Latin. This I am the rather disposed to do, that it will serve further to illustrate the principles above laid down. I make no doubt but the former have some advantages in respect of perspicuity. I think not only that the disposition of the words, according to certain stated rules, may be made more effectually to secure the sentence against ambiguous construction, than can be done VOL. II. ጊ
Of the connectives employed in combining the parts of a sentence.
merely by inflection, but even that an habitual method of arranging words which are in a certain way related to one another, must, from the natural influence of habit, on the principle of association, even where there is no risk of misconstruction, more quickly suggest the meaning, than can be done in the freer and more varied methods made use of in those ancient languages. This holds especially with regard to Latin, wherein the number of equivocal inflections is considerably greater than in Greek; and wherein there are no articles, which are of unspeakable advantage, as for several other purposes, so in particular for ascertaining the construction. But whilst the latter, though in this respect inferior, are, when skilfully managed, by no means ill adapted for perspicuous expression, they are, in respect of vivacity, elegance, animation, and variety of harmony, incomparably superior. I shall at present consider their advantage principally in point of vivacity, which in a great measure, when the subject is of such a nature as to excite passion, secures animation also.
IN the first place, the brevity that is attainable in these languages gives them an immense superiority. Some testimonies in confirmation of this remark may be obtained by comparing the Latin examples of antithesis quoted in the notes of the second section of the preceding chapter, with any English translation that can be made of these passages. And I suspect, if a version were attempted into any other European
Sect. III. Modern languages compared with Greek and Latin, &c.
tongue, the success would not be much better. M is remarkable, that in any inscription in which it is intended to convey something striking or emphatical, we can scarcely endure a modern language.. Latin is almost invariably employed for this purpose in all the nations of Europe. Nor is this the effect of caprice or pedantry, as some perhaps will be apt to imagine. Neither does it proceed merely, as others will suppose, from the opinion that that language is more universally understood; for I suspect that this is a prerogative which will be warmly contested by the French; but it proceeds from the general conviction there is, of its superiority in point of vivacity. That we may be satisfied of this, let us make a trial, by translating any of the best Latin inscriptions or mottos which we remember, and we shall quickly perceive, that what charms us expressed in their idiom, is scarcely supportable when rendered into our own*. The
* Let us make the experiment on the inscriptions of some of the best devices or emblems that are extant. shall give a few examples, for illustration's sake, from the sixth of Bouhour's Entre tiens d'Ariste et d'Eugene, called Les devises. The first shall be, that of a starry sky without the moon, as representing an assembly of the fair, in which the lover finds not the object of his passion. The motto is, "Non mille quod absens." In English we must say, “A thousand cannot equal one that is absent." Another instance shall be that of a rock in the midst of a tempestuous sea, to denote a hero, who with facility baffles all the assaults of his enemies. The motto, "Conantia frangere frangit." In English, "I
In this example
"break the things which attempt to break me."