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Title: Elements of Criticism, Volume II.
Author: Home, Henry
Language: English
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                              VOLUME II.

                    Printed for A. MILLAR, London;
                   A. KINCAID & J. BELL, Edinburgh.



Congruity and Propriety.

Man is distinguished from the brute creation, not more remarkably by the
superiority of his rational faculties, than by the greater delicacy of
his perceptions and feelings. With respect to the gross pleasures of
sense, man probably has little superiority over other animals. Some
obscure perception of beauty may also fall to their share. But they are
probably not acquainted with the more delicate conceptions of
regularity, order, uniformity, or congruity. Such refined conceptions,
being connected with morality and religion, are reserved to dignify the
chief of the terrestrial creation. Upon this account, no discipline is
more suitable to man, or more _congruous_ to the dignity of his nature,
than that by which his taste is refined, to distinguish in every
subject, what is regular, what is orderly, what is suitable, and what is
fit and proper[1].

No discerning person can be at a loss about the meaning of the terms
_congruity_ and _propriety_, when applied to dress, behaviour, or
language; that a decent garb, for example, is proper for a judge, modest
behaviour for a young woman, and a lofty style for an epic poem. In the
following examples every one is sensible of an unsuitableness or
incongruity: a little woman sunk in an overgrown farthingale, a coat
richly embroidered covering coarse and dirty linen, a mean subject in an
elevated style, or an elevated subject in a mean style, a first minister
darning his wife’s stocking, or a reverend prelate in lawn sleeves
dancing a hornpipe.

But it is not sufficient that these terms be understood in practice; the
critical art requires, that their meaning be traced to its foundation in
human nature. The relations that connect objects together, have been
examined in more than one view. Their influence in directing the train
of our perceptions, is handled in the first chapter; and in the second,
their influence in generating passion. Here they must be handled in a
new view; for they are clearly the occasion of congruity and propriety.
We are so framed by nature, as to require a certain suitableness or
correspondence among things connected by any relation. This suitableness
or correspondence is termed _congruity_ or _propriety_; and the want of
it, _incongruity_ or _impropriety_. Among the many principles that
compose the nature of man, a sense of congruity or propriety is one.
Destitute of this sense, we could have no notion of congruity or
propriety: the terms to us would be unintelligible[2].

As this sense is displayed upon relations, it is reasonable beforehand
to expect, that we should be so formed, as to require among connected
objects a degree of congruity proportioned to the degree of the
relation. And upon examination we find this to hold in fact. Where the
relation is strong and intimate as betwixt a cause and its effect, a
body and its members, we require that the things be suited to each other
in the strictest manner. On the other hand, where the relation is
slight, or accidental, as among things jumbled together in the same
place, we demand little or no congruity. The strictest propriety is
required in behaviour and manner of living; because a man is connected
with these by the relation of cause and effect. The situation of a great
house ought to be lofty; for the relation betwixt an edifice and the
ground it stands upon, is of the most intimate kind. Its relation to
neighbouring hills, rivers, plains, being that of propinquity only,
demands but a small share of congruity. Among members of the same club,
the congruity ought to be considerable, as well as among things placed
for show in the same niche. Among passengers in a stage-coach, we
require very little congruity; and less still at a public spectacle.

Congruity is so nearly allied to beauty, as commonly to be held a
species of it. And yet they differ so essentially, as never to coincide.
Beauty, like colour, is placed upon a single subject; congruity upon a
plurality. Further, a thing beautiful in itself, may, with relation to
other things, produce the strongest sense of incongruity.

Congruity and propriety are commonly reckoned synonymous terms; and
hitherto in opening the subject they are used indifferently. But they
are distinguishable; and the precise meaning of each must be
ascertained. Congruity is the genus, of which propriety is a species.
For we call nothing propriety, but that congruity or suitableness which
ought to subsist betwixt sensible beings and their thoughts, words, and

In order to give a full view of this subject, I shall trace it through
some of the most considerable relations. The relation of a part to the
whole, being extremely intimate, demands the utmost degree of congruity.
For that reason, the slightest deviation is disgustful. Every one must
be sensible of a gross incongruity in the _Lutrin_, a burlesque poem,
being closed with a serious and warm panegyric on Lamoignon, one of the
King’s judges:

                         ---- Amphora cœpit
    Institui; currente rota, cur urceus exit?

No relation affords more examples of congruity and incongruity, than
that betwixt a subject and its ornaments. A literary performance
intended merely for amusement, is susceptible of much ornament, as well
as a music-room or a play-house. In gaiety, the mind hath a peculiar
relish for show and decoration. The most gorgeous apparel, however
unsuitable to an actor in a regular tragedy, disgusts not at an opera.
The truth is, an opera, in its present form, is a mighty fine thing; but
as it deviates from nature in its capital circumstances, we look not for
any thing natural in those which are accessory. On the other hand, a
serious and important subject, admits not much ornament[3]: nor a
subject that of itself is extremely beautiful. And a subject that fills
the mind with its loftiness and grandeur, appears best in a dress
altogether plain.

To a person of a mean appearance, gorgeous apparel is unsuitable: which,
beside the incongruity, has a bad effect; for by contrast it shows the
meanness of appearance in the strongest light. Sweetness of look and
manner, requires simplicity of dress joined with the greatest elegance.
A stately and majestic air requires sumptuous apparel, which ought not
to be gaudy, or crowded with little ornaments. A woman of consummate
beauty can bear to be highly adorned, and yet shows best in a plain

                  ----For loveliness
    Needs not the foreign aid of ornament,
    But is when unadorn’d, adorn’d the most.
         _Thomson’s Autumn_, 208.

In judging of the propriety of ornament, we must attend, not only to the
nature of the subject that is to be adorned, but also to the
circumstances in which it is placed. The ornaments that are proper for a
ball, will appear not altogether so decent at public worship; and the
same person ought to dress differently for a marriage-feast and for a

Nothing is more intimately related to a man, than his sentiments, words,
and actions; and therefore we require here the strictest conformity.
When we find what we thus require, we have a lively sense of propriety:
when we find the contrary, our sense of impropriety is not less lively.
Hence the universal distaste of affectation, which consists in making a
shew of greater delicacy and refinement than is suited either to the
character or circumstances of the person. Nothing hath a worse effect in
a story than impropriety of manners. In Corneille’s tragedy of _Cinna_,
Æmilia, a favourite of Augustus, receives daily marks of his affection,
and is loaded with benefits; yet all the while is laying plots to
assassinate her benefactor, directed by no other motive but to avenge
her father’s death[4]. Revenge against a benefactor founded solely upon
filial piety, will never suggest unlawful means; because it can never
exceed the bounds of justice. And yet the crime here attempted, murder
under trust reposed, is what even a miscreant will scarce attempt
against his bitterest enemy.

What is said may be thought sufficient to explain the qualities of
congruity and propriety. But the subject is not exhausted. On the
contrary, the prospect enlarges upon us, when we take under view the
effects these qualities produce in the mind. Congruity and propriety,
where-ever perceived, appear agreeable; and every agreeable object
produceth in the mind a pleasant emotion. Incongruity and impropriety,
on the other hand, are disagreeable; and consequently produce painful
emotions. An emotion of this kind sometimes vanisheth without any
consequence; but more frequently is the occasion of other emotions.
When any slight incongruity is perceived in an accidental combination of
persons or things, as of passengers in a stage-coach or of individuals
dining at an ordinary, the emotion of incongruity, after a momentary
existence, vanisheth without producing any effect. But this is not the
case of propriety and impropriety. Voluntary acts, whether words or
deeds, are imputed to the author: when proper, we reward him with our
esteem: when improper, we punish him with our contempt. Let us suppose,
for example, an heroic action suitable to the character of the author,
which raises in him and in every spectator the pleasant emotion of
propriety. This emotion generates in the author both self-esteem and
joy; the former when he considers his relation to the action, and the
latter when he considers the good opinion that others will entertain of
him. The same emotion of propriety, produceth in the spectators, esteem
for the author of the action: and when they think of themselves, it also
produceth, by means of contrast, an emotion of humility. To discover the
effects of an unsuitable action, we must invert each of these
circumstances. The painful emotion of impropriety, generates in the
author of the action both humility and shame; the former when he
considers his relation to the action, and the latter when he considers
what others will think of him. The same emotion of impropriety,
produceth in the spectators, contempt for the author of the action; and
it also produceth, by means of contrast when they think of themselves,
an emotion of self-esteem. Here then are many different emotions,
derived from the same action considered in different views by different
persons; a machine provided with many springs, and not a little
complicated. Propriety of action, it would seem, is a chief favourite of
nature, or of the author of nature, when such care and solicitude is
bestowed upon it. It is not left to our own choice; but, like justice,
is required at our hands; and, like justice, inforced by natural rewards
and punishments. A man cannot, with impunity, do any thing unbecoming or
improper. He suffers the chastisement of contempt inflicted by others,
and of shame inflicted by himself. An apparatus so complicated and so
singular, ought to rouse our attention. Nature doth nothing in vain; and
we may conclude with great certainty, that this curious branch of the
human constitution is intended for some valuable purpose. To the
discovery of this purpose I shall with ardor apply my thoughts, after
discoursing a little more at large upon the punishment, for I may now
call it so, that Nature hath provided for indecent or unbecoming
behaviour. This, at any rate, is necessary, in order to give a full view
of the subject; and who knows whether it may not, over and above, open
some track that will lead us to what we are in quest of?

A gross impropriety is punished with contempt and indignation, which are
vented against the offender by every external expression that can
gratify these passions. And even the slightest impropriety raises some
degree of contempt. But there are improprieties, generally of the
slighter kind, that provoke laughter; of which we have examples without
end in the blunders and absurdities of our own species. Such
improprieties receive a different punishment, as will appear by what
follows. The emotions of contempt and of laughter occasioned by an
impropriety of this kind, uniting intimately in the mind of the
spectator, are expressed externally by a peculiar sort of laugh, termed
_a laugh of derision_ or _scorn_[5]. An impropriety that thus moves not
only contempt but laughter, is distinguished by the epithet of
_ridiculous_; and a laugh of derision or scorn is the punishment
provided for it by nature. Nor ought it to escape observation, that we
are so fond of inflicting this punishment, as sometimes to exert it even
against creatures of an inferior species; witness a Turkycock swelling
with pride, and strutting with displayed feathers. This object appears
ridiculous, and in a gay mood is apt to provoke a laugh of derision.

We must not expect that the improprieties to which these different
punishments are adapted, can be separated by any precise boundaries. Of
improprieties, from the slightest to the most gross, from the most
risible to the most serious, a scale may be formed ascending by degrees
almost imperceptible. Hence it is, that in viewing some unbecoming
actions, too risible for anger and too serious for derision, the
spectator feels a sort of mixt emotion partaking both of derision and of
anger. This accounts for an expression, common with respect to the
impropriety of some actions, That we know not whether to laugh or be

It cannot fail to be observed, that in the case of a risible
impropriety, which is always slight, the contempt we have for the
offender is extremely faint, though derision, its gratification, is
extremely pleasant. This disproportion betwixt a passion and its
gratification, seems not conformable to the analogy of nature. In
looking about for a solution, I reflect upon what is laid down above,
that an improper action, not only moves our contempt for the author, but
also, by means of contrast, swells the good opinion we have of
ourselves. This contributes, more than any other article, to the
pleasure we feel in ridiculing the follies and absurdities of others.
And accordingly, it is well known, that they who put the greatest value
upon themselves, are the most prone to laugh at others. Pride is a vivid
passion, as all are which have self for their object. It is extremely
pleasant in itself, and not less so in its gratification. This passion
singly would be sufficient to account for the pleasure of ridicule,
without borrowing any aid from contempt. Hence appears the reason of a
noted observation, That we are the most disposed to ridicule the
blunders and absurdities of others, when we are in high spirits; for in
high spirits, self-conceit displays itself with more than ordinary

Having with wary steps traced an intricate road, not without danger of
wandering; what remains to complete our journey, is to account for the
final cause of congruity and propriety, which make so great a figure in
the human constitution. One final cause, regarding congruity, is pretty
obvious. The sense of congruity, as one of the principles of the fine
arts, contributes in a remarkable degree to our entertainment. This is
the final cause assigned above for our sense of proportion[6], and need
not be enlarged upon here. Congruity indeed with respect to quantity,
coincides with proportion. When the parts of a building are nicely
adjusted to each other, it may be said indifferently, that it is
agreeable by the congruity of its parts, or by the proportion of its
parts. But propriety, which regards voluntary agents only, can never in
any instance be the same with proportion. A very long nose is
disproportioned, but cannot be termed _improper_. In some instances, it
is true, impropriety coincides with disproportion in the same subject,
but never in the same respect. I give for an example a very little man
buckled to a long toledo. Considering the man and the sword with respect
to size, we perceive a disproportion. Considering the sword as the
choice of the man, we perceive an impropriety.

The sense of impropriety with respect to mistakes, blunders, and
absurdities, is happily contrived for the good of mankind. In the
spectators it is productive of mirth and laughter, excellent recreation
in an interval from business. The benefit is still more extensive. It is
not agreeable to be the subject of ridicule; and to punish with ridicule
the man who is guilty of an absurdity, tends to put him more upon his
guard in time coming. Thus even the most innocent blunder is not
committed with impunity; because, were errors licensed where they do no
hurt, inattention would grow into a habit, and be the occasion of much

The final cause of propriety as to moral duties, is of all the most
illustrious. To have a just notion of it, the two sorts of moral duties
must be kept in view, _viz._ those that respect others, and those that
respect ourselves. Fidelity, gratitude, and the forbearing injury, are
examples of the first sort; temperance, modesty, firmness of mind, are
examples of the other. The former are made duties by means of the moral
sense; the latter, by means of the sense of propriety. Here is a final
cause of the sense of propriety, that must rouse our attention. It is
undoubtedly the interest of every man, to regulate his behaviour
suitably to the dignity of his nature, and to the station allotted him
by Providence. Such rational conduct contributes in every respect to
happiness: it contributes to health and plenty: it gains the esteem of
others: and, which is of all the greatest blessing, it gains a
justly-founded self-esteem. But in a matter so essential to our
well-being, even self-interest is not relied on. The sense of propriety
superadds the powerful authority of duty to the motive of interest. The
God of nature, in all things essential to our happiness, hath observed
one uniform method. To keep us steady in our conduct, he hath fortified
us with natural principles and feelings. These prevent many aberrations,
which would daily happen were we totally surrendered to so fallible a
guide as is human reason. The sense of propriety cannot justly be
considered in another light, than as the natural law that regulates our
conduct with respect to ourselves; as the sense of justice is the
natural law that regulates our conduct with respect to others. I call
the sense of propriety a law, because it really is so, not less than
the sense of justice. If by law be meant a rule of conduct that we are
conscious ought to be obeyed, this definition, which I conceive to be
strictly accurate, is applicable undoubtedly to both. The sense of
propriety includes this consciousness; for to say an action is proper,
is, in other words, to say, that it _ought_ to be performed; and to say
it is improper, is, in other words, to say, that it _ought_ to be
forborn. It is this very consciousness of _ought_ and _should_ included
in the moral sense, that makes justice a law to us. This consciousness
of duty, when applied to propriety, is perhaps not so vigorous or strong
as when applied to justice: but the difference is in degree only, not in
kind: and we ought, without hesitation or reluctance, to submit equally
to the government of both.

But I have more to urge upon this head. It must, in the next place, be
observed, that to the sense of propriety as well as of justice are
annexed the sanctions of rewards and punishments; which evidently prove
the one to be a law as well as the other. The satisfaction a man hath
in doing his duty, joined with the esteem and good-will of others, is
the reward that belongs to both equally. The punishments also, though
not the same, are nearly allied; and differ in degree more than in
quality. Disobedience to the law of justice, is punished with remorse;
disobedience to the law of propriety, with shame, which is remorse in a
lower degree. Every transgression of the law of justice raises
indignation in the beholder; and so doth every flagrant transgression of
the law of propriety. Slighter improprieties receive a milder
punishment: they are always rebuked with some degree of contempt, and
frequently with derision. In general, it is true, that the rewards and
punishments annexed to the sense of propriety are slighter in degree
than those annexed to the sense of justice. And that this is wisely
ordered, will appear from considering, that to the well-being of
society, duty to others is still more essential than duty to ourselves;
for society could not subsist a moment, were individuals not protected
from the headstrong and turbulent passions of their neighbours.

Reflecting coolly and carefully upon the subject under consideration,
the constitution of man, admirable in all its parts, appears here in a
fine light. The final cause now unfolded of the sense of propriety,
must, to every discerning eye, appear delightful; and yet hitherto we
have given but a partial view of it. The sense of propriety reaches
another illustrious end; which is, to co-operate with the sense of
justice in inforcing the performance of social duties. In fact, the
sanctions visibly contrived to compel a man to be just to himself, are
equally serviceable to compel him to be just to others. This will be
evident from a single reflection, That an action, by being unjust,
ceases not to be improper. An action never appears more eminently
improper, than when it is unjust. It is obviously becoming and suitable
to human nature, that each man do his duty to others; and accordingly
every transgression of duty with respect to others, is at the same time
a transgression of duty with respect to self. This is an undisguised
truth without exaggeration; and it opens a new and delightful view in
the moral landscape. The prospect is greatly enriched, by the
multiplication of agreeable objects. It appears now, that nothing is
overlooked, nothing left undone, that can possibly contribute to the
enforcing social duty. For to all the sanctions that belong to it
singly, are superadded the sanctions of self-duty. A familiar example
shall suffice for illustration. An act of ingratitude considered in
itself, is to the author disagreeable as well as to every spectator:
considered by the author with relation to himself, it raises
self-contempt: considered by him with relation to the world, it makes
him ashamed. Again, considered by others, it raises their contempt and
indignation against the author. These feelings are all of them
occasioned by the impropriety of the action. When the action is
considered as unjust, it occasions another set of feelings. In the
author it produces remorse, and a dread of merited punishment; and in
others, the benefactor chiefly, indignation and hatred directed upon the
ungrateful person. Thus shame and remorse united in the ungrateful
person, and indignation united with hatred in the hearts of others, are
the punishments provided by nature for injustice. Stupid and insensible
must he be in extreme, who, in a contrivance so exquisite, perceives not
the hand of the Sovereign Architect.


Of Dignity and Meanness.

These terms are applied to man in point of character, sentiment, and
behaviour. We say, for example, of one man, that he hath a natural
dignity in his air and manner; of another, that he makes a mean figure.
There is a dignity in every action and sentiment of some persons: the
actions and sentiments of others are mean and vulgar. With respect to
the fine arts, some performances are said to be manly and suitable to
the dignity of human nature: others are termed low, mean, trivial. Such
expressions are common, though they have not always a precise meaning.
With respect to the art of criticism, it must be a real acquisition to
ascertain what these terms truly import; which possibly may enable us to
rank every performance in the fine arts according to its dignity.

Inquiring first to what subjects the terms _dignity_ and _meanness_ are
appropriated, we soon discover, that they are not applicable to any
thing inanimate. The most magnificent palace ever built, may be lofty,
may be grand, but it has no relation to dignity. The most diminutive
shrub may be little, but it is not mean. These terms must belong to
sensitive beings, probably to man only; which will be evident when we
advance in the inquiry.

Of all objects, human actions produce in a spectator the greatest
variety of feelings. They are in themselves grand or little: with
respect to the author, they are proper or improper: with respect to
those affected by them, just or unjust. And I must now add, that they
are also distinguished by dignity and meanness. It may possibly be
thought, that with respect to human actions, dignity coincides with
grandeur, and meanness with littleness. But the difference will be
evident upon reflecting, that we never attribute dignity to any action
but what is virtuous, nor meanness to any but what in some degree is
faulty. But an action may be grand without being virtuous, or little
without being faulty. Every action of dignity creates respect and esteem
for the author; and a mean action draws upon him contempt. A man is
always admired for a grand action, but frequently is neither loved nor
esteemed for it: neither is a man always contemned for a low or little

As it appears to me, dignity and meanness are founded on a natural
principle not hitherto mentioned. Man is endued with a sense of the
worth and excellence of his nature. He deems it to be more perfect than
that of the other beings around him; and he feels that the perfection of
his nature consists in virtue, particularly in virtue of the highest
rank. To express this sense, the term _dignity_ is appropriated.
Further, to behave with dignity, and to refrain from all mean actions,
is felt to be, not a virtue only, but a duty: it is a duty every man
owes to himself. By acting in this manner, he attracts love and esteem.
By acting meanly or below himself, he is disapproved and contemned.

According to the description here given of dignity and meanness, they
will be found to be a species of propriety and impropriety. Many actions
may be proper or improper, to which dignity or meanness cannot be
applied. To eat when one is hungry is proper, but there is no dignity in
this action. Revenge fairly taken, if against law, is improper, but it
is not mean. But every action of dignity is also proper, and every mean
action is also improper.

This sense of the dignity of human nature, reaches even our pleasures
and amusements. If they enlarge the mind by raising grand or elevated
emotions, or if they humanize the mind by exercising our sympathy, they
are approved as suited to our nature: if they contract the mind by
fixing it on trivial objects, they are contemned as low and mean. Hence
in general, every occupation, whether of use or amusement, that
corresponds to the dignity of man, obtains the epithet of _manly_; and
every occupation below his nature, obtains the epithet of _childish_.

To those who study human nature, there is a point which has always
appeared intricate. How comes it that generosity and courage are more
valued and bestow more dignity, than good-nature, or even justice,
though the latter contribute more than the former, to private as well as
to public happiness? This question bluntly proposed, might puzzle a
cunning philosopher; but by means of the foregoing observations will
easily be solved. Human virtues, like other objects, obtain a rank in
our estimation, not from their utility, which is a subject of
reflection, but from the direct impression they make on us. Justice and
good-nature are a sort of negative virtues, that make no figure unless
when they are transgressed. Courage and generosity producing elevated
emotions, enliven greatly the sense of a man’s dignity, both in himself
and in others; and for that reason, courage and generosity are in higher
regard than the other virtues mentioned. We describe them as grand and
elevated, as of greater dignity, and more praise-worthy.

This leads us to examine more directly emotions and passions with
respect to the present subject. And it will not be difficult to form a
scale of them, beginning at the meanest, and ascending gradually to
those of the highest rank and dignity. Pleasure felt as at the organ of
sense, named _corporeal pleasure_, is perceived to be low; and when
indulged to excess, beyond what nature demands, is perceived also to be
mean. Persons therefore of any delicacy, dissemble the pleasure they
have in eating and drinking. The pleasures of the eye and ear, which
have no organic feeling[7], are free from any sense of meanness; and for
that reason are indulged without any shame. They even arise to a certain
degree of dignity, when their objects are grand or elevated. The same is
the case of the sympathetic passions. They raise the character
considerably, when their objects are of importance. A virtuous person
behaving with fortitude and dignity under the most cruel misfortunes,
makes a capital figure; and the sympathising spectator feels in himself
the same dignity. Sympathetic distress at the same time never is mean:
on the contrary, it is agreeable to the nature of a social being, and
has the general approbation. The rank that love possesses in this scale,
depends in a great measure on its object. It possesses a low place when
founded on external properties merely; and is mean when bestowed upon a
person of a rank much inferior without any extraordinary qualification.
But when founded on the more elevated internal properties, it assumes a
considerable degree of dignity. The same is the case of friendship. When
gratitude is warm, it animates the mind; but it scarce rises to dignity.
Joy bestows dignity when it proceeds from an elevated cause.

So far as I can gather from induction, dignity is not a property of any
disagreeable passion. One is slight another severe, one depresses the
mind another rouses and animates it; but there is no elevation, far less
dignity, in any of them. Revenge, in particular, though it inflame and
swell the mind, is not accompanied with dignity, not even with
elevation. It is not however felt as mean or groveling, unless when it
takes indirect measures for its gratification. Shame and remorse, though
they sink the spirits, are not mean. Pride, a disagreeable passion,
bestows no dignity in the eye of a spectator. Vanity always appears
mean; and extremely so where founded, as commonly happens, on trivial

I proceed to the pleasures of the understanding, which possess a high
rank in point of dignity. Of this every one will be sensible, when he
considers the important truths that have been laid open by science; such
as general theorems, and the general laws that govern the material and
moral worlds. The pleasures of the understanding are suited to man as a
rational and contemplative being; and they tend not a little to ennoble
his nature. Even to the Deity he stretches his contemplations, which, in
the discovery of infinite power wisdom and benevolence, afford delight
of the most exalted kind. Hence it appears, that the fine arts studied
as a rational science, afford entertainment of great dignity; superior
far to what they afford as a subject of taste merely.

But contemplation, though in itself valuable, is chiefly respected as
subservient to action; for man is intended to be more an active than a
contemplative being. He accordingly shows more dignity in action than in
contemplation. Generosity, magnanimity, heroism, raise his character to
the highest pitch. These best express the dignity of his nature, and
advance him nearer to divinity than any other of his attributes.

By every production that shows art and contrivance, our curiosity is
excited upon two points; first how it was made, and next to what end. Of
the two, the latter is the more important inquiry, because the means are
ever subordinate to the end; and in fact our curiosity is always more
inflamed by the final than by the efficient cause. This preference is no
where more visible, than in contemplating the works of nature. If in the
efficient cause, wisdom and power be displayed, wisdom is not less
conspicuous in the final cause; and from it only can we infer
benevolence, which of all the divine attributes is to man the most
important. Having endeavoured to assign the efficient cause of dignity
and meanness, and to unfold the principle on which they are founded, we
proceed to explain the final cause of the dignity or meanness bestowed
upon the several particulars above mentioned, beginning with corporeal
pleasures. These, so far as useful, are like justice fenced with
sufficient sanctions to prevent their being neglected. Hunger and thirst
are painful sensations; and we are incited to animal love by a vigorous
propensity. Were they dignified over and above with a place in a high
class, they would infallibly overturn the balance of the mind, by
outweighing the social affections. This is a satisfactory final cause
for refusing to corporeal pleasures any degree of dignity. And the final
cause is not less evident of their meanness, when they are indulged to
excess. The more refined pleasures of external sense, conveyed by the
eye and the ear from natural objects and from the fine arts, deserve a
high place in our esteem, because of their singular and extensive
utility. In some cases they arise to a considerable dignity. The very
lowest pleasures of the kind, are never esteemed mean or groveling. The
pleasure arising from wit, humour, ridicule, or from what is simply
ludicrous, is useful, by relaxing the mind after the fatigue of more
manly occupation. But the mind, when it surrenders itself to pleasure of
this kind, loses its vigor, and sinks gradually into sloth. The place
this pleasure occupies in point of dignity, is adjusted to these views.
To make it useful as a relaxation, it is not branded with meanness. To
prevent its usurpation, it is removed from this place but a single
degree. No man values himself upon this pleasure, even during the
gratification; and if more time have been given to it than is requisite
for relaxation, a man looks back with some degree of shame.

In point of dignity, the social passions rise above the selfish, and
much above the pleasures of the eye and ear. Man is by his nature a
social being; and to qualify him for society, it is wisely contrived,
that he should value himself more for being social than selfish.

The excellency of man is chiefly discernible in the great improvements
he is susceptible of in society. These, by perseverance, may be carried
on progressively to higher and higher degrees of perfection, above any
assignable limits; and, even abstracting from revelation, there is great
probability, that the progress begun in this life will be completed in
some future state. Now, as all valuable improvements proceed from the
exercise of our rational faculties, the author of our nature, in order
to excite us to a due use of these faculties, hath assigned a high rank
to the pleasures of the understanding. Their utility, with respect to
this life as well as a future, intitles them to this rank.

But as action is the end of all our improvements, virtuous actions
justly possess the highest of all the ranks. These, I find, are by
nature distributed into different classes, and the first in point of
dignity assigned to actions which appear not the first in point of use.
Generosity, for example, in the sense of mankind, is more respected than
justice, though the latter is undoubtedly more essential to society. And
magnanimity, heroism, undaunted courage, rise still higher in our
esteem. One would readily think, that the moral virtues should be
esteemed according to their importance. Nature has here deviated from
her ordinary path, and great wisdom is shown in the deviation. The
efficient cause is explained above; and the final cause is explained in
the Essays of morality and natural religion[8].



This subject has puzzled and vexed all the critics. Aristotle gives a
definition of ridicule, obscure and imperfect[9]. Cicero handles it at
great length[10]; but without giving any satisfaction. He wanders in the
dark, and misses the distinction betwixt risible and ridiculous.
Quintilian is sensible of this distinction[11]; but has not attempted to
explain it. Luckily this subject lies no longer in obscurity. A risible
object produceth an emotion of laughter merely[12]. A ridiculous object
is improper as well as risible; and produceth a mixt emotion, which is
vented by a laugh of derision or scorn[13].

Having therefore happily unravelled the abstruse and knotty part, I
proceed to what may be thought further necessary upon this subject.

Burlesque is one great engine of ridicule. But it is not confined to
that subject; for it is clearly distinguishable into burlesque that
excites laughter merely, and burlesque that provokes derision or
ridicule. A grave subject in which there is no impropriety, may be
brought down by a certain colouring so as to be risible. This is the
case of _Virgil Travestie_[14]. And it is the case of the _Secchia
Rapita_[15]. The authors laugh first at every turn, in order to make
their readers laugh. The _Lutrin_ is a burlesque poem of the other sort.
The author Boileau, lays hold of a low and trifling incident to expose
the luxury, indolence, and contentious spirit of a set of monks. He
turns the subject into ridicule by dressing it in the heroic style, and
affecting to consider it as of the utmost dignity and importance; and
though ridicule is the poet’s aim, he himself carries all along a grave
face, and never once bewrays a smile. The opposition betwixt the subject
and the manner of handling it, is what produces the ridicule. In a
composition of this kind, no image professedly ludicrous ought to have
quarter; because such images destroy the contrast.

Though the burlesque that aims at ridicule, produces its effect by
elevating the style far above the subject, yet it has limits beyond
which the elevation ought not to be carried. The poet, consulting the
imagination of his readers, ought to confine himself to such images as
are lively and readily apprehended. A strained elevation, soaring above
an ordinary reach of fancy, makes not a pleasant impression. The mind
fatigued with being always upon the stretch, is soon disgusted; and if
it perseveres, becomes thoughtless and indifferent. Further, a fiction
gives no pleasure, unless where painted in so lively colours as to
produce some perception of reality; which never can be done effectually
where the images are formed with labour or difficulty. For these
reasons, I cannot avoid condemning the _Batrachomuomachia_ said to be
the composition of Homer. It is beyond the power of imagination, to form
a clear and lively image of frogs and mice acting with the dignity of
the highest of our species: nor can we form a conception of the reality
of such an action, in any manner so distinct as to interest our
affections even in the slightest degree.

The _Rape of the Lock_ is of a character clearly distinguishable from
those now mentioned. It is not properly a burlesque performance, but
what may rather be termed _an heroi-comical poem_. It treats a gay and
familiar subject, with pleasantry and with a moderate degree of dignity.
The author puts not on a mask like Boileau, nor professes to make us
laugh like Tassoni. The _Rape of the Lock_ is a genteel and gay species
of writing, less strained than the others mentioned; and is pleasant or
ludicrous without having ridicule for its chief aim; giving way however
to ridicule where it arises naturally from a particular character, such
as that of Sir Plume. Addison’s _Spectator_ upon the exercise of the
fan[16] is extremely gay and ludicrous, resembling in its subject the
_Rape of the Lock_.

Humour belongs to the present chapter, because it is undoubtedly
connected with ridicule. Congreve defines humour to be “a singular and
unavoidable manner of doing or saying any thing, peculiar and natural to
one man only, by which his speech and actions are distinguished from
those of other men.” Were this definition just, a majestic and
commanding air, which is a singular property, is humour; as also that
natural flow of eloquence and correct elocution which is a rare talent.
Nothing just or proper is denominated humour; nor any singularity of
character, words, or actions, that is valued or respected. When we
attend to the character of an humorist, we find that the peculiarity of
this character lessens the man in our esteem: we find that this
character arises from circumstances both risible and improper, and
therefore in some measure ridiculous.

Humour in writing is very different from humour in character. When an
author insists upon ludicrous subjects with a professed purpose to make
his readers laugh, he may be styled _a ludicrous writer_; but is scarce
intitled to be styled _a writer of humour_. This quality belongs to an
author, who, affecting to be grave and serious, paints his objects in
such colours as to provoke mirth and laughter. A writer that is really
an humorist in character, does this without design. If not, he must
affect the character in order to succeed. Swift and Fontaine were
humorists in character, and their writings are full of humour. Addison
was not an humorist in character; and yet in his prose writings a most
delicate and refined humour prevails. Arbuthnot exceeds them all in
drollery and humorous painting; which shows a great genius, because, if
I am not misinformed, he had nothing of this peculiarity in his

There remains to show, by examples, the manner of treating subjects so
as to give them a ridiculous appearance.

    Il ne dit jamais, je vous donne, mais, je vous
    prete le bon jour.

     _Orleans._ I know him to be valiant.

     _Constable._ I was told that by one that knows him better than you.

     _Orleans._ What’s he?

     _Constable._ Marry, he told me so himself; and he said, he car’d
     not who knew it.

                     _Henry_ V. _Shakespear._

    He never broke any man’s head but his own, and
    that was against a post when he was drunk.

     _Millament._ Sententious Mirabell! pr’ythee don’t look with that
     violent and inflexible wise face, like Solomon at the dividing of
     the child in an old tapestry hanging.

                     _Way of the world._

     A true critic in the perusal of a book, is like a dog at a feast,
     whose thoughts and stomach are wholly set upon what the guests
     fling away, and consequently is apt to snarl most when there are
     the fewest bones.

                     _Tale of a Tub._

In the following instances the ridicule is made to appear from the
behaviour of the persons introduced.

     _Mascarille._ Te souvient-il, vicomte, de cette demi-lune, que nous
     emportâmes sur les ennemis au siege d’Arras?

     _Jedelet._ Que veux tu dire avec ta demi-lune? c’etoit bien une
     lune toute entiere.

                     _Moliere les Precieuses Ridicules, sc. 11._

     _Slender._ I came yonder at Eaton to marry Mrs. Anne Page; and
     she’s a great lubberly boy.

     _Page._ Upon my life then you took the wrong.

     _Slender._ What need you tell me that? I think so, when I took a
     boy for a girl: if I had been marry’d to him, for all he was in
     woman’s apparel, I would not have had him.

                     _Merry Wives of Windsor._

     _Valentine._ Your blessing, Sir.

     _Sir Sampson._ You’ve had it already, Sir: I think I sent it you
     to-day in a bill for four thousand pound; a great deal of money,
     Brother Foresight.

     _Foresight._ Ay indeed, Sir Sampson, a great deal of money for a
     young man; I wonder what can he do with it.

                     _Love for Love, act 2. sc. 7._

     _Millamant._ I nauseate walking; ’tis a country-diversion; I lothe
     the country, and every thing that relates to it.

     _Sir Wilful._ Indeed! hah! look ye, look ye, you do? nay, ’tis like
     you may---- here are choice of pastimes here in town, as plays and
     the like; that must be confess’d indeed.

     _Millamant._ Ah l’etourdie! I hate the town too.

     _Sir Wilful._ Dear heart, that’s much---- hah! that you should hate
     ’em both! hah! ’tis like you may; there are some can’t relish the
     town, and others can’t away with the country---- ’tis like you may
     be one of those, Cousine.

                     _Way of the world, act 4. sc. 4._

     _Lord Froth._ I assure you, Sir Paul, I laugh at no body’s jest but
     my own, or a lady’s: I assure you, Sir Paul.

     _Brisk._ How? how, my Lord? what, affront my wit! Let me perish, do
     I never say any thing worthy to be laugh’d at?

     _Lord Froth._ O foy, don’t misapprehend me, I don’t say so, for I
     often smile at your conceptions. But there is nothing more
     unbecoming a man of quality, than to laugh; ’tis such a vulgar
     expression of the passion! every body can laugh. Then especially to
     laugh at the jest of an inferior person, or when any body else of
     the same quality does not laugh with one; ridiculous! To be pleas’d
     with what pleases the crowd! Now, when I laugh I always laugh

                     _Double Dealer, act 1. sc. 4._

So sharp-sighted is pride in blemishes, and so willing to be gratified,
that it will take up with the very slightest improprieties; such as a
blunder by a foreigner in speaking our language, especially if the
blunder can bear a sense that reflects upon the speaker:

     _Quickly._ The young man is an honest man.

     _Caius._ What shall de honest man do in my closet? dere is no
     honest man dat shall come in my closet.

                     _Merry Wives of Windsor._

Love-speeches are finely ridiculed in the following passage.

    Quoth he, My faith as adamantine,
    As chains of destiny, I’ll maintain;
    True as Apollo ever spoke,
    Or oracle from heart of oak;
    And if you’ll give my flame but vent,
    Now in close hugger-mugger pent,
    And shine upon me but benignly,
    With that one, and that other pigsneye,
    The sun and day shall sooner part,
    Than love, or you, shake off my heart;
    The sun that shall no more dispense
    His own, but your bright influence:
    I’ll carve your name on barks of trees,
    With true love knots, and flourishes;
    That shall infuse eternal spring,
    And everlasting flourishing:
    Drink ev’ry letter on’t in stum,
    And make it brisk champaign become.
    Where-e’er you tread, your foot shall set
    The primrose and the violet;
    All spices, perfumes, and sweet powders,
    Shall borrow from your breath their odours;
    Nature her charter shall renew
    And take all lives of things from you;
    The world depend upon your eye,
    And when you frown upon it, die.
    Only our loves shall still survive,
    New worlds and natures to outlive;
    And, like to herald’s moons, remain
    All crescents, without change or wane.
         _Hudibras, part 2. canto 1._

Irony turns things into ridicule in a peculiar manner. It consists in
laughing at a man under disguise, by appearing to praise or speak well
of him. Swift affords us many illustrious examples of this species of
ridicule. Take the following example. “By these methods, in a few weeks,
there starts up many a writer, capable of managing the profoundest and
most universal subjects. For what though his head be empty, provided
his commonplace book be full? And if you will bate him but the
circumstances of method, and style, and grammar, and invention; allow
him but the common privileges of transcribing from others, and
digressing from himself, as often as he shall see occasion; he will
desire no more ingredients towards fitting up a treatise that shall make
a very comely figure on a bookseller’s shelf, there to be preserved neat
and clean, for a long eternity, adorned with the heraldry of its title,
fairly inscribed on a label; never to be thumbed or greased by students,
nor bound to everlasting chains of darkness in a library; but when the
fullness of time is come, shall happily undergo the trial of purgatory,
in order to ascend the sky[17].” The following passage from Arbuthnot is
not less ironical. “If the Reverend clergy showed more concern than
others, I charitably impute it to their great charge of souls; and what
confirmed me in this opinion was, that the degrees of apprehension and
terror could be distinguished to be greater or less, according to their
ranks and degrees in the church[18].”

A parody must be distinguished from every species of ridicule. It
enlivens a gay subject by imitating some important incident that is
serious. It is ludicrous, and may be risible. But ridicule is not a
necessary ingredient. Take the following examples, the first of which
refers to an expression of Moses.

    The skilful nymph reviews her force with care:
    Let spades be trumps! she said, and trumps they were.
         _Rape of the Lock_, _canto_ iii. 45.

The next is an imitation of Achilles’s oath in Homer.

    But by this lock, this sacred lock, I swear,
    (Which never more shall join its parted hair,
    Which never more its honours shall renew,
    Clip’d from the lovely head where late it grew),
    That while my nostrils draw the vital air,
    This hand, which won it, shall for ever wear.
    He spoke, and speaking, in proud triumph spread
    The long contended honours of her head.
         _Ibid._ _canto_ iv. 133.

The following imitates the history of Agamemnon’s sceptre in Homer.

    Now meet thy fate, incens’d Belinda cry’d,
    And drew a deadly bodkin from her side,
    (The same, his ancient personage to deck,
    Her great-great-grandsire wore about his neck,
    In three seal rings; which after, melted down,
    Form’d a vast buckle for his widow’s gown:
    Her infant grandame’s whistle next it grew,
    The bells she jingled, and the whistle blew;
    Then in a bodkin grac’d her mother’s hairs,
    Which long she wore, and now Belinda wears.)
         _Ibid._ _canto_ v. 87.

Ridicule, as observed above, is no necessary ingredient in a parody. But
I did not intend to say, that there is any opposition betwixt them. A
parody, no doubt, may be successfully employed to promote ridicule;
witness the following example, in which the goddess of Dullness is
addressed upon the subject of modern education.

    Thou gav’st that ripeness, which so soon began,
    And ceas’d so soon, he ne’er was boy nor man;
    Through school and college, thy kind cloud o’ercast,
    Safe and unseen the young Æneas past[19];
    Thence bursting glorious, all at once let down,
    Stunn’d with his giddy larum half the town.
         _Dunciad_, _b._ iv. 287.

The interposition of the gods in the manner of Homer and Virgil, ought
to be confined to ludicrous subjects, which are much enlivened by such
interposition handled in the form of a parody; witness the cave of
Spleen, _Rape of the Lock_, _canto_ 4.; the goddess of Discord;
_Lutrin_, _canto_ 1.; and the goddess of Indolence, _canto_ 2.

Those who have a talent for ridicule, which is seldom united with a
taste for delicate and refined beauties, are quick-sighted in
improprieties; and these they eagerly lay hold of, in order to gratify
their favourite propensity. The persons galled have no other refuge but
to maintain, that ridicule ought not to be applied to grave subjects. It
is yielded, on the other hand, that subjects really grave and important,
are by no means fit for ridicule: but then it is urged, that ridicule is
the only proper test for discovering whether a subject be really grave,
or be made so artificially by custom and fashion. This dispute has
produced a celebrated question, Whether ridicule be or be not a test of
truth? I give this question a place here, because it tends to illustrate
the nature of ridicule.

The question stated in accurate terms is, Whether the sense of ridicule
be the proper test for distinguishing ridiculous objects from those that
are not so? To answer this question with precision, I must premise, that
ridicule is not a subject of reasoning, but of sense or taste[20]. This
being taken for granted, I proceed thus. No person doubts that our sense
of beauty is the true test of what is beautiful, and our sense of
grandeur, of what is great or sublime. Is it more doubtful whether our
sense of ridicule be the true test of what is ridiculous? It is not only
the true test, but indeed the only test. For this is a subject that
comes not, more than beauty or grandeur, under the province of reason.
If any subject, by the influence of fashion or custom, have acquired a
degree of veneration or esteem to which naturally it is not intitled,
what are the proper means for wiping off the artificial colouring, and
displaying the subject in its true light? Reasoning, as observed, cannot
be applied. And therefore the only means is to judge by taste. The test
of ridicule which separates it from its artificial connections, exposes
it naked with all its native improprieties.

But it is urged, that the gravest and most serious matters may be set in
a ridiculous light. Hardly so; for where an object is neither risible
nor improper, it lies not open in any quarter to an attack from
ridicule. But supposing the fact, I foresee not any harmful consequence.
By the same sort of reasoning, a talent for wit ought to be condemned,
because it may be employed to burlesque a great or lofty subject. Such
irregular use made of a talent for wit or ridicule, cannot long impose
upon mankind. It cannot stand the test of correct and delicate taste;
and truth will at last prevail even with the vulgar. To condemn a talent
for ridicule because it may be perverted to wrong purposes, is not a
little ridiculous. Could one forbear to smile, if a talent for reasoning
were condemned because it also may be perverted? And yet the conclusion
in the latter case, would be not less just than in the former; perhaps
more just, for no talent is so often perverted as that of reason.

We had best leave Nature to her own operations. The most valuable
talents may be abused, and so may that of ridicule. Let us bring it
under proper culture if we can, without endeavouring to pull it up by
the root. Were we destitute of this test of truth, I know not what might
be the consequences: I see not what rule would be left us to prevent
splendid trifles passing for matters of importance, show and form for
substance, and superstition or enthusiasm for pure religion.



Wit is a quality of certain thoughts and expressions. The term is never
applied to an action or a passion, and as little to an external object.

However difficult it may be in every particular instance to distinguish
a witty thought or expression from one that is not so, yet in general it
may be laid down, that the term _wit_ is appropriated to such thoughts
and expressions as are ludicrous, and also occasion some degree of
surprise by their singularity. Wit also in a figurative sense expresses
that talent which some men have of inventing ludicrous thoughts or
expressions. We say commonly, _a witty man_, or _a man of wit_.

Wit in its proper sense, as suggested above, is distinguishable into two
kinds; wit in the thought, and wit in the words or expression. Again,
wit in the thought is of two kinds; ludicrous images, and ludicrous
combinations of things that have little or no natural relation.

Ludicrous images that occasion surprise by their singularity, as having
little or no foundation in nature, are fabricated by the imagination.
And the imagination is well qualified for the office; being of all our
faculties the most active, and the least under restraint. Take the
following example.

     _Shylock._ You knew (none so well, none so well as you) of my
     daughter’s flight.

     _Salino._ That’s certain; I, for my part, knew the tailor that made
     the wings she flew withal.

                     _Merchant of Venice, act 3. sc. 1._

The image here is undoubtedly witty. It is ludicrous: and it must
occasion surprise; for having no natural foundation, it is altogether

The other branch of wit in the thought, is that only which is taken
notice of by Addison, following Locke, who defines it “to lie in the
assemblage of ideas; and putting those together with quickness and
variety, wherein can be found any resemblance or congruity, thereby to
make up pleasant pictures and agreeable visions in the fancy[21].” It
may be defined more curtly, and perhaps more accurately, “A junction of
things by distant and fanciful relations, which surprise because they
are unexpected[22].” The following is a proper example.

    We grant although he had much wit,
    H’ was very shie of using it,
    As being loth to wear it out;
    And therefore bore it not about,
    Unless on holidays, or so,
    As men their best apparel do.
         _Hudibras, canto 1._

Wit is of all the most elegant recreation. The image enters the mind
with gaiety, and gives a sudden flash which is extremely pleasant. Wit
thereby gently elevates without straining, raises mirth without
dissoluteness, and relaxes while it entertains.

Wit in the expression, commonly called _a play of words_, being a
bastard sort of wit, is reserved for the last place. I proceed to
examples of wit in the thought. And first of ludicrous images.

Falstaff, speaking of his taking Sir John Colevile of the Dale:

     Here he is, and here I yield him; and I beseech your Grace, let it
     be book’d with the rest of this day’s deeds; or, by the Lord, I
     will have it in a particular ballad else, with mine own picture on
     the top of it, Colevile kissing my foot: to the which course if I
     be inforc’d, if you do not all shew like gilt twopences to me; and
     I, in the clear sky of fame, o’er-shine you as much as the full
     moon doth the cinders of the element, which shew like pins’ heads
     to her; believe not the word of the Noble. Therefore let me have
     right, and let desert mount.

                     _Second part, Henry IV. act 4. sc. 6._

     I knew, when seven justices could not take up a quarrel, but when
     the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an
     _if_; as, if you said so, then I said so; and they shook hands, and
     swore brothers. Your _if_ is the only peacemaker; much virtue is in


     For there is not through all nature, another so callous and
     insensible a member as the world’s posteriors, whether you apply to
     it the toe or the birch.

                     _Preface to a Tale of a tub._

     The war hath introduced abundance of polysyllables, which will
     never be able to live many more campaigns. Speculations,
     operations, preliminaries, ambassadors, palisadoes, communication,
     circumvallation, battalions, as numerous as they are, if they
     attack us too frequently in our coffeehouses, we shall certainly
     put them to flight, and cut off the rear.

                     _Tatler_, Nº 230.

     Speaking of Discord, “She never went abroad, but she brought home
     such a bundle of monstrous lies, as would have amazed any mortal,
     but such as knew her; of a whale that had swallowed a fleet of
     ships; of the lions being let out of the tower to destroy the
     Protestant religion; of the Pope’s being seen in a brandy-shop at
     Wapping,” _&c._

                     _History of John Bull, part. 1. ch. 16._

The other branch of wit in the thought, _viz._ ludicrous combinations
and oppositions, may be traced through various ramifications. And,
first, fanciful causes assigned that have no natural relation to the
effects produced.

     _Lancaster._ Fare you well, Falstaff; I, in my condition, Shall
     better speak of you than you deserve. [_Exit._

     _Falstaff._ I would you had but the wit; ’twere better than your
     dukedom. Good faith, this same young sober-blooded boy doth not
     love me; nor a man cannot make him laugh; but that’s no marvel, he
     drinks no wine. There’s never any of these demure boys come to any
     proof; for thin drink doth so over-cool their blood, and making
     many fish-meals, that they fall into a kind of male green-sickness;
     and then, when they marry, they get wenches. They are generally
     fools and cowards; which some of us should be too, but for
     inflammation. A good sherris-sack hath a twofold operation in it;
     it ascends me into the brain; dries me there all the foolish, dull,
     and crudy vapours which environ it; makes it apprehensive, quick,
     forgetive, full of nimble, fiery, and delectable shapes; which
     deliver’d o’er to the voice, the tongue, which is the birth,
     becomes excellent wit. The second property of your excellent
     sherris, is, the warming of the blood; which before cold and
     settled left the liver white and pale; which is the badge of
     pusillanimity and cowardice: but the sherris warms it, and makes
     it course from the inwards, to the parts extreme; it illuminateth
     the face, which, as a beacon, gives warning to all the rest of this
     little kingdom, man, to arm; and then the vital commoners and
     inland petty spirits muster me all to their captain, the heart;
     who, great, and puff’d up with this retinue, doth any deed of
     courage: and this valour comes of sherris. So that skill in the
     weapon is nothing without sack, for that sets it a-work; and
     learning a mere hoard of gold kept by a devil, till sack commences
     it, and sets it in act and use. Hereof comes it, that Prince Harry
     is valiant; for the cold blood he did naturally inherit of his
     father, he hath, like lean, steril, and bare land, manured,
     husbanded, and till’d, with excellent endeavour of drinking good
     and good store of fertil sherris, that he is become very hot and
     valiant. If I had a thousand sons, the first human principle I
     would teach them, should be to forswear thin potations, and to
     addict themselves to sack.

                     _Second part of Henry_ IV. _act. 4. sc. 7_.

      The trenchant blade, toledo trusty,
    For want of fighting was grown rusty,
    And ate into itself, for lack
    Of some body to hew and hack.
    The peaceful scabbard where it dwelt,
    The rancor of its edge had felt:
    For of the lower end two handful,
    It had devoured, ’twas so manful;
    And so much scorn’d to lurk in case,
    As if it durst not shew its face.
         _Hudibras, canto 1._

Speaking of physicians,

     Le bon de cette profession est, qu’il y a parmi les morts une
     honnêteté, une discretion la plus grande du monde; jamais on n’en
     voit se plaindre du médicin qui l’a tué.

                     _Le medicin malgré lui._

    Admirez les bontez, admirez les tendresses,
    De ces vieux esclaves du sort.
    Ils ne sont jamais las d’aquérir des richesses,
    Pour ceux qui souhaitent leur mort.

     _Belinda._ Lard, he has so pester’d me with flames and stuff--I
     think I shan’t endure the sight of a fire this twelvemonth.

                     _Old Bachelor, act 2. sc. 8._

To account for effects by such fantastical causes, being highly
ludicrous, is quite improper in any serious composition. Therefore the
following passage from Cowley, in his poem on the death of Sir Henry
Wooton, is in a bad taste.

    He did the utmost bounds of Knowledge find,
    He found them not so large as was his mind.
    But, like the brave Pellæan youth, did moan,
    Because that Art had no more worlds than one.
    And when he saw that he through all had past,
    He dy’d, lest he should idle grow at last.

Fanciful reasoning,

     _Falstaff._ Imbowell’d!---- if thou imbowel me to-day, I’ll give
     you leave to powder me, and eat me to-morrow! ’Sblood, ’twas time
     to counterfeit, or that hot termagant Scot had paid me scot and lot
     too. Counterfeit? I lie, I am no counterfeit; to die is to be a
     counterfeit; for he is but the counterfeit of a man, who hath not
     the life of a man: but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby
     liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of
     life, indeed.

                     _First Part Henry IV. act 1. sc. 10._

     _Clown_. And the more pity that great folk should have countenance
     in this world to drown or hang themselves, more than their even

                     _Hamlet, Act 5. sc. 1._

     _Pedro._ Will you have me, Lady?

     _Beatrice._ No, my Lord, unless I might have another for working
     days. Your Grace is too costly to wear every day.

                     _Much ado about nothing, act 2. sc. 5._

     _Jessica._ I shall be saved by my husband; he hath made me a

     _Launcelot._ Truly the more to blame he; we were Christians enough
     before, e’en as many as could well live by one another: this making
     of Christians will raise the price of hogs; if we grow all to be
     pork-eaters, we shall not have a rasher on the coals for money.

                     _Merchant of Venice, act 3. sc. 6._

    In western clime there is a town,
    To those that dwell therein well known;
    Therefore there needs no more be said here,
    We unto them refer our reader:
    For brevity is very good,
    When w’ are, or are not understood.

    _Hudibras, canto 1._
    But Hudibras gave him a twitch,
    As quick as lightning, in the breech,
    Just in the place where honour’s lodg’d,
    As wise philosophers have judg’d;
    Because a kick in that part, more
    Hurts honour, than deep wounds before.
         _Ibid. canto 3._

Ludicrous junction of small things with great, as of equal importance.

    This day black omens threat the brightest fair
    That e’er deserv’d a watchful spirit’s care;
    Some dire disaster, or by force, or flight;
    But what, or where, the fates have wrapt in night:
    Whether the nymph shall break Diana’s law;
    Or some frail china jar receive a flaw;
    Or stain her honour, or her new brocade;
    Forget her pray’rs, or miss a masquerade;
    Or lose her heart, or necklace, at a ball;
    Or whether Heav’n has doom’d that Shock must fall.
         _Rape of the Lock, canto_ ii. 101.

    One speaks the glory of the British Queen,
    And one describes a charming Indian screen.

    _Ibid. canto_ iii. 13.
    Then flash’d the living lightning from her eyes,
    And screams of horror rend th’ affrighted skies.
    Not louder shrieks to pitying heav’n are cast,
    When husbands, or when lapdogs breathe their last;
    Or when rich china vessels fall’n from high,
    In glitt’ring dust, and painted fragments lie!
         _Ibid. canto_ iii. 155.

    Not youthful kings in battle seiz’d alive,
    Not scornful virgins who their charms survive,
    Not ardent lovers robb’d of all their bliss,
    Not ancient ladies when refus’d a kiss,
    Not tyrants fierce that unrepenting die,
    Not Cynthia when her manteau’s pinn’d awry,
    E’er felt such rage, resentment, and despair,
    As thou, sad virgin! for thy ravish’d hair.
         _Ibid. canto_ iv. 3.

Joining things that in appearance are opposite. As for example, where
Sir Roger de Coverley, in the Spectator, speaking of his widow, “That he
would have given her a coal-pit to have kept her in clean linen; and
that her finger should have sparkled with one hundred of his richest

Premisses that promise much and perform nothing. Cicero upon this
article says, “Sed scitis esse notissimum ridiculi genus, cum aliud
expectamus, aliud dicitur: hic nobismetipsis noster error risum

     _Beatrice._---- With a good leg and a good foot, uncle, and money
     enough in his purse, such a man would win any woman in the world,
     if he could get her good-will.

                     _Much ado about nothing, act 2. sc. 1._

     _Beatrice._ I have a good eye, uncle, I can see a church by


    Le medecin que l’on m’indique
    Sait le Latin, le Grec, l’Hebreu,
    Les belles lettres, la physique,
    La chimie et la botanique.
    Chacun lui donne son aveu:
    Il auroit aussi ma pratique;
    Mais je veux vivre encore un peu.


    Vingt fois le jour le bon Grégoire
    A soin de fermer son armoire.
    De quoi pensez vous qu’il a peur?
    Belle demande! Qu’un voleur
    Trouvant une facile proie,
    Ne lui ravisse tout son bien.
    Non; Gregoire a peur qu’on ne voie
    Que dan son armoire il n’a rien.


    L’athsmatique Damon a cru que l’air des champs
    Repareroit en lui le ravage des ans,
    Il s’est fait, a grands fraix, transporter en Bretagne.
    Or voiez ce qu’a fait l’air natal qu’il a pris!
    Damon seroit mort à Paris:
    Damon est mort à la campagne.

Having discussed wit in the thought, we proceed to what is verbal only,
commonly called _a play of words_. This sort of wit depends for the most
part upon chusing words that have different significations. By this
artifice, hocus-pocus tricks are played in language; and thoughts plain
and simple take on a very different appearance. Play is necessary for
man, in order to refresh him after labour; and accordingly man loves
play. He even relisheth a play of words; and it is happy for us, that
words can be employed, not only for useful purposes, but also for our
amusement. This amusement accordingly, though humble and low, is
relished by some at all times, and by all at some times, in order to
unbend the mind.

It is remarkable, that this low species of wit, has, at one time or
other, made a figure in most civilized nations, and has gradually gone
into disrepute. So soon as a language is formed into a system, and the
meaning of words are ascertained with tolerable accuracy, opportunity is
afforded for expressions, which, by the double meaning of some words,
give a familiar thought the appearance of being new. And the penetration
of the reader or hearer, is gratified in detecting the true sense
disguised under the double meaning. That this sort of wit was in England
deemed a reputable amusement, during the reigns of Elisabeth and James
I. is vouched by the works of Shakespear, and even by the writings of
grave divines. But it cannot have any long endurance: for as language
ripens, and the meaning of words is more and more ascertained, words
held to be synonymous diminish daily; and when those that remain have
been more than once employed, the pleasure vanisheth with the novelty.

       *       *       *       *       *

I proceed to examples, which, as in the former case, shall be
distributed into different classes.

       *       *       *       *       *

A seeming resemblance from the double meaning of a word.

    Beneath this stone my wife doth lie:
    She’s now at rest, and so am I.

A seeming contrast from the same cause, termed _a verbal antithesis_,
which hath no despicable effect in ludicrous subjects.

    Whilst Iris his cosmetic wash would try
    To make her bloom revive, and lovers die.
    Some ask for charms, and others philters chuse,
    To gain Corinna, and their quartans lose,
         _Dispensary, canto 2._

    And how frail nymphs, oft by abortion, aim
    To lose a substance, to preserve a name.
         _Ibid. canto 3._

Other seeming connections from the same cause.

    Will you employ your conqu’ring sword,
    To break a fiddle and your word.
         _Hudibras, canto 2._

    To whom the knight with comely grace
    Put off his hat to put his case.
         _Hudibras, Part 3. canto 3._

    Here Britain’s statesmen oft the fall foredoom
    Of foreign tyrants, and of nymphs at home;
    Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey,
    Does sometimes counsel take--and sometimes tea.
         _Rape of the Lock, canto 3. l. 5._

    O’er their quietus where fat judges dose,
    And lull their cough and conscience to repose.
         _Dispensary, canto 1._

     Speaking of Prince Eugene. “This General is a great taker of snuff
     as well as of towns.”

                     _Pope, Key to the Lock._

    Exul mentisque domusque.
         _Metamorphoses_, _lib._ ix. 409.

A seeming inconsistency from the same cause.

    Hic quiescit qui nunquam quievit.


    Quel âge a cette Iris, dont on fait tant de bruit?
    Me demandoit Cliton n’aguere.
    Il faut, dis-je, vous satisfaire,
    Elle a vingt ans le jour, et cinquante ans la nuit.


    So like the chances are of love and war,
    That they alone in this distinguish’d are;
    In love the victors from the vanguish’d fly,
    They fly that wound, and they pursue that die.

    What new-found witchcraft was in thee,
    With thine own cold to kindle me?
    Strange art; like him that should devise
    To make a burning-glass of ice.

Wit of this kind is unsuitable in a serious poem; witness the following
line in Pope’s Elegy to the memory of an unfortunate lady:

    Cold is that breast which warm’d the world before.

This sort of writing is finely burlesqued by Swift:

    Her hands, the softest ever felt,
    Though cold would burn, though dry would melt.
         _Strephon and Chloe._

Taking a word in a different sense from what is meant, comes under wit,
because it occasions some slight degree of surprise.

     _Beatrice._ I may sit in a corner, and cry _Heigh ho!_ for a

     _Pedro._ Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.

     _Beatrice._ I would rather have one of your father’s getting: hath
     your Grace ne’er a brother like you? Your father got excellent
     husbands, if a maid could come by them.

                     _Much ado about nothing, act 2. sc. 5._

     _Falstaff._ My honest lads, I will tell you what I am about.

     _Pistol._ Two yards and more.

     _Falstaff._ No quips now, Pistol: indeed, I am in the waste two
     yards about; but I am now about no waste; I am about thrift.

                     _Merry wives of Windsor, act 1. sc. 7._

     _Lo. Sands._---- By your leave, sweet ladies, If I chance to talk a
     little wild, forgive me: I had it from my father.

     _Anne Bullen._ Was he mad, Sir?

     _Sands._ O, very mad, exceeding mad, in love too; But he would bite

                     _K. Henry_ VIII.

An assertion that bears a double meaning, one right, one wrong; but so
connected with other matters as to direct us to the wrong meaning. This
species of bastard wit is distinguished from all others by the name
_pun_. For example,

    _Paris._---- Sweet Helen, I must woo you,
    To help unarm our Hector: his stubborn buckles,
    With these your white inchanting fingers touch’d,
    Shall more obey, than to the edge of steel,
    Or force of Greekish sinews: you shall do more
    Than all the island kings, disarm great Hector.
         _Troilus and Cressida, act 3. sc. 2._

The pun is in the close. The word _disarm_ has a double meaning. It
signifies to take off a man’s armour, and also to subdue him in fight.
We are directed to the latter sense by the context. But with regard to
Helen the word holds only true in the former sense. I go on with other

    Esse nihil dicis quicquid petis, improbe Cinna:
    Si nil, Cinna, petis, nil tibi, Cinna, nego.
         _Martial, l. 3. epigr. 61._

    Jocondus geminum imposuit tibi, Sequana, pontem;
    Hunc tu jure potes dicere pontificem.

               N. B. _Jocondus was a monk._

     _Chief Justice._ Well! the truth is, Sir John, you live in great

     _Falstaff._ He that buckles him in my belt, cannot live in less.

     _Chief Justice._ Your means are very slender, and your waste is

     _Falstaff._ I would it were otherwise: I would my means were
     greater, and my waste slenderer.

                     _Second part, Henry_ IV. _act. 1 sc. 5._

     _Celia._ I pray you bear with me, I can go no further.

     _Clown._ For my part, I had rather bear with you than bear you: yet
     I should bear no cross if I did bear you; for I think you have no
     money in your purse.

                     _As you like it, act 2. sc. 4._

    He that imposes an oath makes it,
    Not he that for convenience takes it;
    Then how can any man be said,
    To break an oath he never made?
         _Hudibras, part 2. canto 2._

The seventh satire of the first book of Horace, is purposely contrived
to introduce at the close a most execrable pun. Talking of some infamous
wretch whose name was _Rex Rupilius_.

    Persius exclamat, Per magnos, Brute, deos te
    Oro, qui reges consueris tollere, cur non
    Hunc regem jugulas? Operum hoc, mihi crede, tuorum est.

Though playing with words is a mark of a mind at ease, and disposed for
any sort of amusement, we must not thence conclude that playing with
words is always ludicrous. Words are so intimately connected with
thought, that if the subject be really grave, it will not appear
ludicrous even in this fantastic dress. I am, however, far from
recommending it in any serious performance. On the contrary, the
discordance betwixt the thought and expression must be disagreeable;
witness the following specimen.

     He hath abandoned his physicians, Madam, under whose practices he
     hath persecuted time with hope: and finds no other advantage in the
     process, but only the losing of hope by time.

                     _All’s well that ends well, act 1. sc. 1._

    _K. Henry._ O my poor kingdom, sick with civil blows!
    When that my care could not with-hold thy riots,
    What wilt thou do when riot is thy care?
         _Second part, K. Henry_ IV.

A smart repartee may be considered as a species of wit. A certain
petulant Greek, objecting to Anacharsis that he was a Scythian: True,
says Anacharsis, my country disgraces me, but you disgrace your


Custom and Habit.

Inquiring into the nature of man as a sensitive being, and finding him
affected in a high degree with novelty, would any one conjecture that he
is equally affected with custom? Yet these frequently take place, not
only in the same person, but even with relation to the same subject:
when new, it is inchanting; familiarity renders it indifferent; and
custom, after a longer familiarity, makes it again desirable. Human
nature, diversified with many and various springs of action, is
wonderfully, and, indulging the expression, intricately constructed.

Custom hath such influence upon many of our feelings, by warping and
varying them, that we must attend to its operations if we would be
acquainted with human nature. This subject, in itself obscure, has been
much neglected; and to give a complete analysis of it will be no easy
task. I pretend only to touch it cursorily; hoping, however, that what
is here laid down, will dispose more diligent inquirers to attempt
further discoveries.

_Custom_ respects the action, _habit_ the actor. By custom we mean, a
frequent reiteration of the same act; and by habit, the effect that
custom has on the mind or body. This effect may be either active,
witness the dexterity produced by custom in performing certain
exercises; or passive, as when, by custom, a peculiar connection is
formed betwixt a man and some agreeable object, which acquires thereby a
greater power to raise emotions in him than it hath naturally. Active
habits come not under the present undertaking; and therefore I confine
myself to those that are passive.

This subject is thorny and intricate. Some pleasures are fortified by
custom; and yet custom begets familiarity, and consequently
indifference[24]. In many instances, satiety and disgust are the
consequences of reiteration. Again, though custom blunts the edge of
distress and of pain; yet the want of any thing to which we have long
been accustomed, is a sort of torture. A clue to guide us through all
the intricacies of this labyrinth, would be an acceptable present.

Whatever be the cause, it is an established fact, that we are much
influenced by custom. It hath an effect upon our pleasures, upon our
actions, and even upon our thoughts and sentiments. Habit makes no
figure during the vivacity of youth; in middle age it gains ground; and
in old age it governs without control. In that period of life, generally
speaking, we eat at a certain hour, take exercise at a certain hour, go
to rest at a certain hour, all by the direction of habit. Nay a
particular seat, table, bed, comes to be essential. And a habit in any
of these, cannot be contradicted without uneasiness.

Any slight or moderate pleasure frequently reiterated for a long time,
forms a connection betwixt us and the thing that causes the pleasure.
This connection, termed _habit_, has the effect to raise our desire or
appetite for that thing when it returns not as usual. During the course
of enjoyment, the pleasure grows insensibly stronger till a habit be
established; at which time the pleasure is at its height. It continues
not however stationary. The same customary reiteration which carried it
to its height, brings it down again by insensible degrees, even lower
than it was at first. But of this circumstance afterward. What at
present we have in view, is to prove by experiments, that those things
which at first are but moderately agreeable, are the aptest to become
habitual. Spirituous liquors, at first scarce agreeable, readily produce
an habitual appetite; and custom prevails so far, as even to make us
fond of things originally disagreeable, such as coffee, assa-sœtida,
and tobacco. This is pleasantly illustrated by Congreve:

     _Fainall._ For a passionate lover, methinks you are a man somewhat
     too discerning in the failings of your mistress.

     _Mirabell._ And for a discerning man, somewhat too passionate a
     lover; for I like her with all her faults; nay like her for her
     faults. Her follies are so natural, or so artful, that they become
     her; and those affectations which in another woman would be odious,
     serve but to make her more agreeable. I’ll tell thee, Fainall, she
     once us’d me with that insolence, that in revenge I took her to
     pieces, sifted her, and separated her failings; I study’d ’em, and
     got ’em by rote. The catalogue was so large, that I was not without
     hopes, one day or other, to hate her heartily: to which end I so
     us’d myself to think of ’em, that at length, contrary to my design
     and expectation, they gave me every hour less and less disturbance;
     till in a few days it became habitual to me, to remember ’em
     without being displeased. They are now grown as familiar to me as
     my own frailties; and in all probability, in a little time longer,
     I shall like ’em as well.

                     _The way of the world, act 1. sc. 3._

A walk upon the quarterdeck, though intolerably confined, becomes
however so agreeable by custom, that a sailor in his walk on shore,
confines himself commonly within the same bounds. I knew a man who had
relinquished the sea for a country-life. In the corner of his garden he
reared an artificial mount with a level summit, resembling most
accurately a quarterdeck, not only in shape but in size; and this was
his choice walk. Play or gaming, at first barely amusing by the
occupation it affords, becomes in time extremely agreeable; and is
frequently prosecuted with avidity, as if it were the chief business of
life. The same observation is applicable to the pleasures of the
internal senses, those of knowledge and virtue in particular. Children
have scarce any sense of these pleasures; and men very little, who are
in the state of nature without culture. Our taste for virtue and
knowledge improves slowly; but is capable of growing stronger than any
other appetite in human nature.

To introduce a habit, frequency of acts is not alone sufficient: length
of time is also necessary. The quickest succession of acts in a short
time, is not sufficient; nor a slow succession in the longest time. The
effect must be produced by a moderate soft action, and a long series of
easy touches removed from each other by short intervals. Nor are these
sufficient, without regularity in the time, place, and other
circumstances of the action. The more uniform any operation is, the
sooner it becomes habitual; and this holds equally in a passive habit.
Variety in any remarkable degree, prevents the effect. Thus any
particular food will scarce ever become habitual, where the manner of
dressing is varied. The circumstances then requisite to augment any
pleasure and at the long run to form a habit, are weak uniform acts,
reiterated during a long course of time without any considerable
interruption. Every agreeable cause which operates in this manner, will
grow habitual.

_Affection_ and _aversion_, as distinguished from passion on the one
hand, and on the other from original disposition, are in reality habits
respecting particular objects, acquired in the manner above set forth.
The pleasure of social intercourse with any person, must originally be
faint, and frequently reiterated, in order to establish the habit of
affection. Affection thus generated, whether it be friendship or love,
seldom swells into any tumultuous or vigorous passion; but is however
the strongest cement that can bind together two individuals of the human
species. In like manner, a slight degree of disgust often reiterated
with any degree of regularity, grows into the habit of aversion, which
generally subsists for life.

Those objects of taste that are the most agreeable, are so far from
having a tendency to become habitual, that too great indulgence fails
not to produce satiety and disgust. No man contracts a habit of taking
sugar, honey, or sweet-meats, as he doth of tobacco:

    Dulcia non ferimus: succo renovamur amaro.
         _Ovid. art. Amand. l. 3._

    Insipido è quel dolce, che condito
    Non è di qualche amaro, e tosto satia.
         _Aminta di Tasso._

    These violent delights have violent ends,
    And in their triumph die. The sweetest honey
    Is loathsome in its own deliciousness,
    And in the taste confounds the appetite;
    Therefore love mod’rately, long love doth so:
    Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.
         _Romeo and Juliet, act 2. sc. 6._

The same holds in the causes of all violent pleasures: these causes are
not naturally susceptible of habit. Great passions suddenly raised are
incompatible with a habit of any sort. In particular they never produce
affection or aversion. A man who at first sight falls violently in love,
has a strong desire of enjoyment, but no affection for the woman[25]. A
man who is surprised with an unexpected savour, burns for an
opportunity to exert his gratitude, without having any affection for his
benefactor. Neither does desire of vengeance for an atrocious injury
involve aversion.

It is perhaps not easy to say why moderate pleasures gather strength by
custom. But two causes concur to prevent this effect in the more
intense pleasures. These, by an original law in our nature, increase
quickly to their full growth, and decay with no less precipitation[26];
and custom is too slow in its operation to overcome this law. Another
cause is not less powerful. The mind is exhausted with pleasure as well
as with pain. Exquisite pleasure is extremely fatiguing; occasioning, as
a naturalist would say, great expence of animal spirits[27]. And
therefore, of such the mind cannot bear so frequent gratification as to
superinduce a habit. If the thing which raises the pleasure return
before the mind have recovered its tone and relish, disgust ensues
instead of pleasure.

A habit never fails to admonish us of the wonted time of gratification,
by raising a pain for want of the object, and a desire to have it. The
pain of want is always first felt; the desire naturally follows; and
upon presenting the object, both vanish instantaneously. Thus a man
accustomed to tobacco, feels, at the end of the usual interval, a
confused pain of want, which in its first appearance points at nothing
in particular, though it soon settles upon its accustomed object. The
same may be observed in persons addicted to drinking, who are often in
an uneasy restless state before they think of their bottle. In pleasures
indulged regularly and at equal intervals, the appetite, remarkably
obsequious to custom, returns regularly with the usual time of
gratification; and a sight of the object in the interim, has scarce any
power to move it. This pain of want arising from habit, seems directly
opposite to that of satiety. Singular it must appear, that frequency of
gratification should produce effects so opposite as are the pains of
excess and of want.

The appetites that respect the preservation and propagation of our
species, are attended with a pain of want similar to that occasioned by
habit. Hunger and thirst are uneasy sensations of want, which always
precede the desire of eating or drinking: and a pain for want of carnal
enjoyment precedes the desire of a proper object. The pain being thus
felt independent of an object, cannot be cured but by gratification. An
ordinary passion, in which desire precedes the pain of want, is in a
different condition. It is never felt but while the object is in view;
and therefore by removing the object out of thought, it vanisheth with
its desire and pain of want[28].

These natural appetites above mentioned, differ from habit in the
following particular, They have an undetermined direction toward all
objects of gratification in general; whereas an habitual appetite is
directed upon a particular object. The attachment we have by habit to a
particular woman, differs widely from the natural passion which
comprehends the whole sex; and the habitual relish for a particular
dish, is far from being the same with a vague appetite for food.
Notwithstanding this difference, it is still remarkable, that nature
hath inforced the gratification of certain natural appetites essential
to the species, by a pain of the same sort with that which habit

The pain of habit is less under our power, than any other pain for want
of gratification. Hunger and thirst are more easily endured, especially
at first, than an unusual intermission of any habitual pleasure. We
often hear persons declaring, they would forego sleep or food, rather
than snuff or any other habitual trifle. We must not however conclude,
that the gratification of an habitual appetite affords the same delight
with the gratification of one that is natural. Far from it: the pain of
want only is greater.

The slow and reiterated acts that produce a habit, strengthen the mind
to enjoy the habitual pleasure in greater quantity and more frequency
than originally; and by this means a habit of intemperate gratification
is often formed. After unbounded acts of intemperance, the habitual
relish is soon restored, and the pain for want of enjoyment returns with
fresh vigor.

The causes of the pleasant emotions hitherto in view, are either an
individual, such as a companion, a certain dwelling-place, certain
amusements, _&c._; or a particular species, such as coffee, mutton, or
any particular food. But habit is not confined to these. A constant
train of trifling diversions, may form such a habit in the mind, as that
it cannot be easy a moment without amusement. Variety in the objects
prevents a habit as to any one in particular; but as the train is
uniform with respect to amusement in general, the habit is formed
accordingly; and this sort of habit may be denominated _a generic
habit_, in opposition to the former, which may be called _a specific
habit_. A habit of a town-life, of country-sports, of solitude, of
reading, or of business, where sufficiently varied, are instances of
generic habits. It ought to be remarked, that every specific habit hath
a mixture of the generic. The habit of one particular sort of food,
makes the taste agreeable; and we are fond of this taste where-ever
found. A man deprived of an habitual object, takes up with what most
resembles it: deprived of tobacco, any bitter herb will do, rather than
want. The habit of drinking punch, makes wine a good resource. A man
accustomed to the sweet society and comforts of matrimony, being
unhappily deprived of his beloved object, inclines the sooner to a
second choice. In general, the quality which the most affects us in an
habitual object, produceth, when we are deprived of it, a strong
appetite for that quality in any other object.

The reasons are assigned above, why the causes of intense pleasure
become not readily habitual. But now I must observe, that these reasons
conclude only against specific habits. With regard to any particular
object that is the cause of a weak pleasure, a habit is formed by
frequency and uniformity of reiteration, which in the case of an intense
pleasure cannot obtain without satiety and disgust. But it is
remarkable, that satiety and disgust have no effect, except as to that
thing which occasions them. A surfeit of honey produceth not a loathing
of sugar; and intemperance with one woman, produceth no disrelish of the
same pleasure with others. Hence it is easy to account for a generic
habit in any strong pleasure. The disgust of intemperance, is confined
to the object by which it is produced. The delight we had in the
gratification of the appetite, inflames the imagination, and makes us,
with avidity, search for the same gratification in whatever other object
it can be found. And thus frequency and uniformity in gratifying the
same passion upon different objects, produceth at the longrun a habit.
In this manner, a man acquires an habitual delight in high and poignant
sauces, rich dress, fine equipage, crowds of company, and in whatever is
commonly termed _pleasure_. There concurs at the same time to introduce
this habit, a peculiarity observed above, that reiteration of acts
enlarges the capacity of the mind, to admit a more plentiful
gratification than originally, with regard to frequency as well as

Hence it appears, that though a specific habit can only take place in
the case of a moderate pleasure, yet that a generic habit may be formed
with respect to every sort of pleasure, moderate or immoderate, that can
be gratified by a variety of objects indifferently. The only difference
is, that any particular object which causes a weak pleasure, runs
naturally into a specific habit; whereas a particular object that causes
an intense pleasure, is altogether incapable of such a habit. In a word,
it is but in singular cases that a moderate pleasure produces a generic
habit: an intense pleasure, on the other hand, cannot produce any other

The appetites that respect the preservation and propagation of the
species, are formed into habit in a peculiar manner. The time as well as
measure of their gratification, are much under the power of custom;
which, by introducing a change upon the body, occasions a proportional
change in the appetites. Thus, if the body be gradually formed to a
certain quantity of food at regular times, the appetite is regulated
accordingly; and the appetite is again changed when a different habit of
body is introduced by a different practice. Here it would seem, that the
change is not made upon the mind, which is commonly the case in passive
habits, but only upon the body.

When rich food is brought down by ingredients of a plainer taste, the
composition is susceptible of a specific habit. Thus the sweet taste of
sugar, rendered less poignant in a mixture, may, in course of time,
produce a specific habit for such mixture. As moderate pleasures, by
becoming more intense, tend to generic habits; so intense pleasures, by
becoming more moderate, tend to specific habits.

The beauty of the human figure, by a special recommendation of nature,
appears to us supreme, amid the great variety of beauteous forms
bestowed upon animals. The various degrees in which individuals enjoy
this property, render it an object sometimes of a moderate sometimes of
an intense passion. The moderate passion, admitting frequent reiteration
without diminution, and occupying the mind without exhausting it,
becomes gradually stronger till it settle in a habit. So true this is,
that instances are not wanting, of an ugly face, at first disagreeable,
afterward rendered indifferent by familiarity, and at the longrun
agreeable. On the other hand, consummate beauty, at the very first view,
fills the mind so as to admit no increase. Enjoyment in this case
lessens the pleasure[29]; and if often repeated, ends commonly in
satiety and disgust. Constant experience shows, that the emotions
created by great beauty become weaker by familiarity. The impressions
made successively by such an object, strong at first and lessening by
degrees, constitute a series opposite to that of the weak and increasing
emotions, which grow into a specific habit. But the mind, when
accustomed to beauty, contracts a relish for it in general, though often
repelled from particular objects by the pain of satiety. Thus a generic
habit is formed, of which inconstancy in love is the necessary
consequence. For a generic habit, comprehending every beautiful object,
is an invincible obstruction to a specific habit, which is confined to

But a matter which is of great importance to the youth of both sexes,
deserves more than a cursory view. Though the pleasant emotion of beauty
differs widely from the corporeal appetite, yet both may concur upon
the same object. When this is the case, they inflame the imagination;
and produce a very strong complex passion[30], which is incapable of
increase, because the mind as to pleasure is limited rather more than as
to pain. Enjoyment in this case must be exquisite, and therefore more
apt to produce satiety than in any other case whatever. This is a
never-failing effect, where consummate beauty on the one side, meets
with a warm imagination and great sensibility on the other. What I am
here explaining, is the naked truth without exaggeration. They must be
insensible upon whom this doctrine makes no impression; and it deserves
well to be pondered by the young and the amorous, who in forming a
society which is not dissolvable, are too often blindly impelled by the
animal pleasure merely, inflamed by beauty. It may indeed happen after
this pleasure is gone, and go it must with a swift pace, that a new
connection is formed upon more dignified and more lasting principles.
But this is a dangerous experiment. For even supposing good sense, good
temper, and internal merit of every sort, which is a very favourable
supposition, yet a new connection upon these qualifications is rarely
formed. It generally or rather always happens, that such qualifications,
the only solid foundation of an indissoluble connection, are rendered
altogether invisible by satiety of enjoyment creating disgust.

One effect of custom, different from any that have been explained, must
not be omitted, because it makes a great figure in human nature. Custom
augments moderate pleasures, and diminishes those that are intense. It
has a different effect with respect to pain; for it blunts the edge of
every sort of pain and distress great and small. Uninterrupted misery
therefore is attended with one good effect. If its torments be
incessant, custom hardens us to bear them.

It is extremely curious, to remark the gradual changes that are made in
forming habits. Moderate pleasures are augmented gradually by
reiteration till they become habitual; and then are at their height.
But they are not long stationary; for from that point they gradually
decay till they vanish altogether. The pain occasioned by the want of
gratification, runs a very different course. This pain increases
uniformly; and at last becomes extreme, when the pleasure of
gratification is reduced to nothing.

        ---- It so falls out
    That what we have we prize not to the worth,
    Whiles we enjoy it; but being lack’d and lost,
    Why then we rack the value; then we find
    The virtue that possession would not shew us
    Whilst it was ours.
         _Much ado about nothing, act 4. sc. 2._

The effect of custom with relation to a specific habit, is displayed
through all its varieties in the use of tobacco. The taste of this plant
is at first extremely unpleasant. Our disgust lessens gradually till it
vanish altogether; at which period the plant is neither agreeable nor
disagreeable. Continuing the use, we begin to relish it; and our relish
increases by use till it come to its utmost extent. From this state it
gradually decays, while the habit becomes stronger and stronger, and
consequently the pain of want. The result is, that when the habit has
acquired its greatest vigor, the pleasure of gratification is gone. And
hence it is, that we often smoke and take snuff habitually, without so
much as being conscious of the operation. We must except gratification
after the pain of want; because gratification in that case is at the
height when the habit is strongest. It is of the same kind with the joy
one feels upon being delivered from the rack, the cause of which is
explained above[31]. This pleasure however is but occasionally the
effect of habit; and however exquisite, is guarded against as much as
possible, by preventing want.

With regard to the pain of want, I can discover no difference betwixt a
generic and specific habit: the pain is the same in both. But these
habits differ widely with respect to the positive pleasure. I have had
occasion to observe, that the pleasure of a specific habit decays
gradually till it become imperceptible. Not so the pleasure of a
generic habit. So far as I can discover, this pleasure suffers little
or no decay after it comes to its height. The variety of gratification
preserves it entire. However it may be with other generic habits, the
observation I am certain holds with respect to the pleasures of virtue
and of knowledge. The pleasure of doing good has such an unbounded
scope, and may be so variously gratified, that it can never decay.
Science is equally unbounded; and our appetite for knowledge has an
ample range of gratification, where discoveries are recommended by
novelty, by variety, by utility, or by all of them.

Here is a large field of facts and experiments, and several phenomena
unfolded, the causes of which have been occasionally suggested. The
efficient cause of the power of custom over man, a fundamental point in
the present chapter, has unhappily evaded my keenest search; and now I
am reduced to hold it an original branch of the human constitution,
though I have no better reason for my opinion, than that I cannot
resolve it into any other principle. But with respect to the final
cause, a point of still greater importance, I promise myself more
success. It cannot indeed have escaped any thinking person, that the
power of custom is a happy contrivance for our good. Exquisite pleasure
produceth satiety: moderate pleasure becomes stronger by custom.
Business is our province, and pleasure our relaxation only. Hence,
satiety is necessary to check exquisite pleasures, which otherwise would
ingross the mind, and unqualify us for business. On the other hand,
habitual increase of moderate pleasure, and even conversion of pain into
pleasure, are admirably contrived for disappointing the malice of
Fortune, and for reconciling us to whatever course of life may be our

    How use doth breed a habit in a man!
    This shadowy desert, unfrequented woods,
    I better brook than flourishing peopled towns.
    Here I can sit alone, unseen of any,
    And to the nightingale’s complaining notes
    Tune my distresses, and record my woes.
         _Two Gentlemen of Verona, act 5. sc. 4._

The foregoing distinction betwixt intense and moderate, holds in
pleasure only, not in pain, every degree of which is softened by time
and custom. Custom is a catholicon for pain and distress of every sort;
and of this regulation the final cause is so evident as to require no

Another final cause of custom will be highly relished by every person of
humanity; and yet has in a great measure been overlooked. Custom hath a
greater influence than any other known principle, to put the rich and
poor upon a level. Weak pleasures, which fall to the share of the
latter, become fortunately stronger by custom; while voluptuous
pleasures, the lot of the former, are continually losing ground by
satiety. Men of fortune, who possess palaces, sumptuous gardens, rich
fields, enjoy them less than passengers do. The goods of Fortune are not
unequally distributed: the opulent possess what others enjoy.

And indeed, if it be the effect of habit to produce the pain of want in
a high degree while there is little pleasure in enjoyment, a voluptuous
life is of all the least to be envied. Those who are accustomed to high
feeding, easy vehicles, rich furniture, a crowd of valets, much
deference and flattery, enjoy but a small share of happiness, while they
are exposed to manifold distresses. To such a man, inslaved by ease and
luxury, even the petty inconveniencies of a rough road, bad weather, or
homely fare on a journey, are serious evils. He loses his tone of mind,
becomes peevish, and would wreak his resentment even upon the common
accidents of life. Better far to use the goods of Fortune with
moderation. A man who by temperance and activity has acquired a hardy
constitution, is, on the one hand, guarded against external accidents,
and is, on the other, provided with great variety of enjoyment ever at

I shall close this chapter with the discussion of a question more
delicate than abstruse, _viz._ What authority custom ought to have over
our taste in the fine arts? It is proper to be premised, that we
chearfully abandon to its authority every thing that nature leaves to
our choice, and where the preference we bestow has no foundation other
than whim or fancy. There appears no original difference betwixt the
right and the left hand: custom however has established a difference, so
as to make it aukward and disagreeable to use the left where the right
is commonly used. The various colours, though they affect us
differently, are all of them agreeable in their purity. But custom has
regulated this matter in another manner: a black skin upon a human
creature, is to us disagreeable; and a white skin probably not less so
to a negro. Thus things originally indifferent, become agreeable or
disagreeable by the force of custom. Nor ought this to be surprising
after the discovery made above, that the original agreeableness or
disagreeableness of an object, is, by the influence of custom, often
converted into the opposite quality.

Concerning now those matters of taste where there is naturally a
preference of one thing before another; it is certain, in the first
place, that our faint and more delicate feelings are readily susceptible
of a bias from custom; and therefore that it is no proof of a defective
taste, to find these in some measure under the government of custom.
Dress, and the modes of external behaviour, are justly regulated by
custom in every country. The deep red or vermilion with which the ladies
in France cover their cheeks, appears to them beautiful in spite of
nature; and strangers cannot altogether be justified in condemning this
practice, considering the lawful authority of custom, or of the
_fashion_, as it is called. It is told of the people who inhabit the
skirts of the Alps facing the north, that the swelling they universally
have in the neck is to them agreeable. So far has custom power to change
the nature of things, and to make an object originally disagreeable take
on an opposite appearance.

But as to the emotions of propriety and impropriety, and in general as
to all emotions involving the sense of right or wrong, custom has little
authority, and ought to have none at all. Emotions of this kind, being
qualified with the consciousness of duty, take naturally place of every
other feeling; and it argues a shameful weakness or degeneracy of mind,
to find them in any case so far subdued as to submit to custom.

These few hints may enable us to judge in some measure of foreign
manners, whether exhibited by foreign writers or our own. A comparison
betwixt the ancients and the moderns, was some time ago a favourite
subject. Those who declared for the former, thought it a sufficient
justification of ancient manners, that they were supported by the
authority of custom. Their antagonists, on the other hand, refusing
submission to custom as a standard of taste, condemned ancient manners
in several instances as irrational. In this controversy, an appeal being
made to different principles, without the slightest attempt on either
side to establish a common standard, the dispute could have no end. The
hints above given tend to establish a standard, for judging how far the
lawful authority of custom may be extended, and within what limits it
ought to be confined. For the sake of illustration, we shall apply this
standard in a few instances.

Human sacrifices, the cruellest effect of blind and groveling
superstition, wore gradually out of use by the prevalence of reason and
humanity. In the days of Sophocles and Euripides, the traces of this
savage practice were still recent; and the Athenians, through the
prevalence of custom, could without disgust suffer human sacrifices to
be represented in their theatre. The Iphigenia of Euripides is a proof
of this fact. But a human sacrifice, being altogether inconsistent with
modern manners, as producing horror instead of pity, cannot with any
propriety be introduced upon a modern stage. I must therefore condemn
the Iphigenia of Racine, which, instead of the tender and sympathetic
passions, substitutes disgust and horror. But this is not all. Another
objection occurs against every fable that deviates so remarkably from
improved notions and sentiments. If it should even command our belief,
by the authority of genuine history, its fictitious and unnatural
appearance, however, would prevent its taking such hold of the mind as
to produce a perception of reality[32]. A human sacrifice is so
unnatural, and to us so improbable, that few will be affected with the
representation of it more than with a fairy tale. The objection first
mentioned strikes also against the _Phedra_ of this author. The queen’s
passion for her stepson, being unnatural and beyond all bounds, creates
aversion and horror rather than compassion. The author in his preface
observes, that the queen’s passion, however unnatural, was the effect of
destiny and the wrath of the gods; and he puts the same excuse in her
own mouth. But what is the wrath of a heathen god to us Christians? We
acknowledge no destiny in passion; and if love be unnatural, it never
can be relished. A supposition, like what our author lays hold of, may
possibly cover slight improprieties; but it will never engage our
sympathy for what appears to us frantic or extravagant.

Neither can I relish the catastrophe of this tragedy. A man of taste may
peruse, without disgust, a Grecian performance describing a sea-monster
sent by Neptune to destroy Hippolytus. He considers, that such a story
might agree with the religious creed of Greece; and, entering into
ancient opinions, may be pleased with the story, as what probably had a
strong effect upon a Grecian audience. But he cannot have the same
indulgence for such a representation upon a modern stage; for no story
which carries a violent air of fiction, can ever move us in any
considerable degree.

In the _Coëphores_ of Eschylus[33], Orestes is made to say, that he was
commanded by Apollo to avenge his father’s murder; and yet if he obeyed,
that he was to be delivered to the furies, or be struck with some
horrible malady. The tragedy accordingly concludes with a chorus,
deploring the fate of Orestes, obliged to take vengeance against a
mother, and involved thereby in a crime against his will. It is
impossible for any man at present to accommodate his mind to opinions so
irrational and absurd, which must disgust him in perusing even a Grecian
story. Among the Greeks again, grossly superstitious, it was a common
opinion, that the report of a man’s death was a presage of his death;
and Orestes, in the first act of _Electra_, spreading a report of his
own death in order to blind his mother and her adulterer, is even in
this case affected with the presage. Such imbecility can never find
grace with a modern audience. It may indeed produce some degree of
compassion for a people afflicted to such a degree with absurd terrors,
similar to what is felt in perusing a description of the Hottentotes:
but manners of this kind will not interest our affections, nor excite
any degree of social concern.


External Signs of Emotions and Passions.

So intimately connected are the soul and body, that there is not a
single agitation in the former, but what produceth a visible effect upon
the latter. There is, at the same time, a wonderful uniformity in this
operation; each class of emotions being invariably attended with an
external appearance peculiar to itself[34]. These external appearances
or signs, may not improperly be considered as a natural language,
expressing to all beholders the several emotions and passions as they
arise in the heart. We perceive display’d externally, hope, fear, joy,
grief: we can read the character of a man in his face; and beauty,
which makes so strong an impression, is known to result, not so much
from regular features and a fine complexion, as from good nature, good
sense, sprightliness, sweetness, or other mental quality, expressed some
way upon the countenance. Though perfect skill in this language be rare,
yet so much knowledge of it is diffused through mankind, as to be
sufficient for the ordinary events of life. But by what means we come to
understand this language, is a point of some intricacy. It cannot be by
sight merely; for upon the most attentive inspection of the human
visage, all that can be discerned are figure, colour, and motion; and
yet these, singly or combined, never can represent a passion or a
sentiment. The external sign is indeed visible. But to understand its
meaning, we must be able to connect it with the passion that causes it;
an operation far beyond the reach of eye-sight. Where then is the
instructor to be found, that can unvail this secret connection? If we
apply to experience, it is yielded, that from long and diligent
observation, we may gather in some measure in what manner those we are
acquainted with express their passions externally. But with respect to
strangers, of whom we have no experience, we are left in the dark. And
yet we are not puzzled about the meaning of these external expressions
in a stranger, more than in a bosom-companion[35]. Further, had we no
other means but experience for understanding the external signs of
passion, we could not expect any uniformity or any degree of skill in
the bulk of individuals. But matters are ordered so differently, that
the external expressions of passion form a language understood by all,
by the young as well as the old, by the ignorant as well as the learned.
I talk of the plain and legible characters of this language; for
undoubtedly we are much indebted to experience in deciphering the dark
and more delicate expressions. Where then shall we apply for a solution
of this intricate problem, which seems to penetrate deep into human
nature? In my mind it will be convenient to suspend the inquiry, till
we be better acquainted with the nature of external signs and with their
operations. These articles therefore shall be premised.

The external signs of passion are of two kinds, voluntary and
involuntary. The voluntary signs are also of two kinds: some are
arbitrary and some natural. Words are arbitrary signs, excepting a few
simple sounds expressive of certain internal emotions; and these sounds,
being the same in all languages, must be the work of nature. But though
words are arbitrary, the manner of employing them is not altogether so;
for each passion has by nature peculiar expressions and tones suited to
it. Thus the unpremeditated tones of admiration, are the same in all
men; as also of compassion, resentment, and despair. Dramatic writers
ought to be well acquainted with this natural manner of expressing
passion. The chief talent of a fine writer, is a ready command of the
expressions that nature dictates to every man when any vivid emotion
struggles for utterance; and the chief talent of a fine reader, is a
ready command of the tones suited to these expressions.

The other kind of voluntary signs, comprehends certain attitudes and
gestures that naturally accompany certain emotions with a surprising
uniformity. Thus excessive joy is expressed by leaping, dancing, or some
elevation of the body; and excessive grief by sinking or depressing it.
Thus prostration and kneeling have been employ’d by all nations and in
all ages to signify profound veneration. Another circumstance, still
more than uniformity, demonstrates these gestures to be natural, _viz._
their remarkable conformity or resemblance to the passions that produce
them[36]. Joy, which produceth a chearful elevation of mind, is
expressed by an elevation of body. Pride, magnanimity, courage, and the
whole tribe of elevating passions, are expressed by external gestures
that are the same as to the circumstance of elevation, however
distinguishable in other respects. Hence it comes, that an erect posture
is a sign or expression of dignity:

    Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,
    Godlike erect, with native honour clad,
    In naked majesty, seem’d lords of all.
         _Paradise Lost, book 4._

Grief, on the other hand, as well as respect, which depress the mind,
cannot for that reason be expressed more significantly than by a similar
depression of the body. Hence, _to be cast down_, is a common phrase,
signifying to be grieved or dispirited.

One would not imagine, who has not given peculiar attention, that the
body is susceptible of such a variety of attitude and motion, as readily
to accompany every different emotion with a corresponding gesture.
Humility, for example, is expressed naturally by hanging the head;
arrogance, by its elevation; and langour or despondence, by reclining it
to one side. The expressions of the hands are manifold. By different
attitudes and motions, the hands express desire, hope, fear: they assist
us in promising, in inviting, in keeping one at a distance: they are
made instruments of threatening, of supplication, of praise, and of
horror: they are employ’d in approving, in refusing, in questioning; in
showing our joy, our sorrow, our doubts, our regret, our admiration.
These gestures, so obedient to passion, are extremely difficult to be
imitated in a calm state. The ancients, sensible of the advantage as
well as difficulty of having these expressions at command, bestowed much
time and care, in collecting them from observation, and in digesting
them into a practical art, which was taught in their schools as an
important branch of education.

The foregoing signs, though in a strict sense voluntary, cannot however
be restrained but with the utmost difficulty when they are prompted by
passion. Of this we scarce need a stronger proof, than the gestures of a
keen player at bowls. Observe only how he wreaths his body, in order to
restore a stray bowl to the right track. It is one article of good
breeding, to suppress, as much as possible, these external signs of
passion, that we may not in company appear too warm or too interested.
The same observation holds in speech. A passion, it is true, when in
extreme, is silent[37]; but when less violent, it must be vented in
words, which have a peculiar force, not to be equalled in a sedate
composition. The ease and trust we have in a confident, encourages us no
doubt to talk of ourselves and of our feelings. But the cause is more
general; for it operates when we are alone as well as in company.
Passion is the cause; for in many instances it is no slight
gratification to vent a passion externally by words as well as by
gestures. Some passions, when at a certain height, impel us so strongly
to vent them in words, that we speak with an audible voice even where
there is none to listen. It is this circumstance in passion, that
justifies soliloquies; and it is this circumstance that proves them to
be natural[38]. The mind sometimes favours this impulse of passion, by
bestowing a temporary sensibility upon any object at hand, in order to
make it a confident. Thus in the _Winter’s Tale_[39], Antigonus
addresses himself to an infant whom he was ordered to expose:

    Come, poor babe,
    I have heard, but not believ’d, the spirits of the dead
    May walk again: if such thing be, thy mother
    Appear’d to me last night; for ne’er was dream
    So like a waking.

The involuntary signs, which are all of them natural, are either
peculiar to one passion or common to many. Every violent passion hath an
external expression peculiar to itself, not excepting pleasant passions:
witness admiration and mirth. The pleasant emotions that are less vivid,
have one common expression; from which we may gather the strength of the
emotion, but scarce the kind: we perceive a chearful or contented look;
and we can make no more of it. Painful passions, being all of them
violent, are distinguishable from each other by their external
expressions. Thus fear, shame, anger, anxiety, dejection, despair, have
each of them peculiar expressions; which are apprehended without the
least confusion. Some of these passions produce violent effects upon the
body, such as trembling, starting, and swooning. But these effects,
depending in a good measure upon singularity of constitution, are not
uniform in all men.

The involuntary signs, such of them as are display’d upon the
countenance, are of two kinds. Some make their appearance occasionally
with the emotions that produce them, and vanish with the emotions:
others are formed gradually by some violent passion often recurring;
and, becoming permanent signs of this prevailing passion, serve to
denote the disposition or temper. The face of an infant indicates no
particular disposition, because it cannot be marked with any character
to which time is necessary. And even the temporary signs are extremely
aukward, being the first rude essays of Nature to discover internal
feelings. Thus the shrieking of a new-born infant, without tears or
sobbings, is plainly an attempt to weep. Some of the temporary signs, as
smiling and frowning, cannot be observed for some months after birth.
The permanent signs, formed in youth while the body is soft and
flexible, are preserved entire by the firmness and solidity which the
body acquires; and are never obliterated even by a change of temper.
Permanent signs are not produced after a certain age when the fibres
become rigid; some violent cases excepted, such as reiterated fits of
the gout or stone through a course of time. But these signs are not so
obstinate as what are produced in youth; for when the cause is removed,
they gradually wear away, and at last vanish.

The natural signs of emotions, voluntary and involuntary, being nearly
the same in all men, form an universal language, which no distance of
place, no difference of tribe, no diversity of tongue, can darken or
render doubtful. Education, though of mighty influence, hath not power
to vary or sophisticate, far less to destroy, their signification. This
is a wise appointment of Providence. For if these signs were, like
words, arbitrary and variable, it would be an intricate science to
decipher the actions and motives of our own species, which would prove a
great or rather invincible obstruction to the formation of societies.
But as matters are ordered, the external appearances of joy, grief,
anger, fear, shame, and of the other passions, forming an universal
language, open a direct avenue to the heart. As the arbitrary signs vary
in every country, there could be no communication of thoughts among
different nations, were it not for the natural signs in which all
agree. Words are sufficient for the communication of science, and of all
mental conceptions: but the discovering passions instantly as they
arise, being essential to our well-being and often necessary for
self-preservation, the author of our nature, attentive to our wants,
hath provided a passage to the heart, which never can be obstructed
while our external senses remain entire.

In an inquiry concerning the external signs of passion, actions ought
not altogether to be overlooked: for though singly they afford no clear
light, they are upon the whole the best interpreters of the heart[40].
By observing a man’s conduct for a course of time, we discover
unerringly the various passions that move him to action, what he loves
and what he hates. In our younger years, every single action is a mark
not at all ambiguous of the temper; for in childhood there is little or
no disguise. The subject becomes more intricate in advanced age; but
even there, dissimulation is seldom carried on for any length of time.
And thus the conduct of life is the most perfect expression of the
internal disposition. It merits not indeed the title of an universal
language; because it is not thoroughly understood but by those who
either have a penetrating genius or extensive observation. It is a
language, however, which every one can decipher in some measure; and
which, joined with the other external signs, affords sufficient means
for the direction of our conduct with regard to others. If we commit any
mistake when such light is afforded, it never can be the effect of
unavoidable ignorance, but of rashness or inadvertence.

In reflecting upon the various expressions of our emotions, voluntary
and involuntary, we must recognise the anxious care of Nature to
discover men to each other. Strong emotions, as above hinted, beget an
impatience to express them externally by speech and other voluntary
signs, which cannot be suppressed without a painful effort. Thus a
sudden fit of passion is a common excuse for indecent behaviour or harsh
words. As to the involuntary signs, these are altogether unavoidable. No
volition or effort can prevent the shaking of the limbs or a pale
visage, when one is agitated with a violent fit of terror. The blood
flies to the face upon a sudden emotion of shame, in spite of all

    Vergogna, che’n altrui stampo natura,
    Non si puo’ rinegar: che se tu’ tenti
    Di cacciarla dal cor, fugge nel volto.
         _Pastor Fido, act 2. sc. 5._

Emotions indeed properly so called, which are quiescent, produce no
remarkable signs externally; nor is it necessary that the more
deliberate passions should, because the operation of such passions is
neither sudden nor violent. These however remain not altogether in the
dark. Being more frequent than violent passion, the bulk of our actions
are directed by them. Actions therefore display, with sufficient
evidence, the more deliberate passions, and complete the admirable
system of external signs, by which we become skilful in human nature.

Next in order comes an article of great importance, which is, to examine
the effects produced upon a spectator by external signs of passion. None
of these signs are beheld with indifference: they are productive of
various emotions tending all of them to ends wise and good. This curious
article makes a capital branch of human nature. It is peculiarly useful
to writers who deal in the pathetic; and with respect to
history-painters, it is altogether indispensable.

When we enter upon this article, we gather from experience, that each
passion, or class of passions, hath its peculiar signs; and that these
invariably make certain impressions on a spectator. The external signs
of joy, for example, produce a chearful emotion, the external signs of
grief produce pity, and the external signs of rage produce a sort of
terror even in those who are not aimed at.

Secondly, it is natural to think, that pleasant passions should express
themselves externally by signs that appear agreeable, and painful
passions by signs that appear disagreeable. This conjecture, which
Nature suggests, is confirmed by experience. Pride seems to be an
exception; its external signs being disagreeable, though it be commonly
reckoned a pleasant passion. But pride is not an exception; for in
reality it is a mixed passion, partly pleasant partly painful. When a
proud man confines his thoughts to himself, and to his own dignity or
importance, the passion is pleasant, and its external signs agreeable:
but as pride chiefly consists in undervaluing or contemning others, it
is so far painful, and its external signs disagreeable.

Thirdly, it is laid down above, that an agreeable object produceth
always a pleasant emotion, and a disagreeable object one that is
painful[41]. According to this law, the external signs of a pleasant
passion, being agreeable, must produce in the spectator a pleasant
emotion; and the external signs of a painful passion, being
disagreeable, must produce in him a painful emotion.

Fourthly, in the present chapter it is observed, that pleasant passions
are, for the most part, expressed externally in one uniform manner; and
that only the painful passions are distinguishable from each other by
their external expressions. In the emotions accordingly raised by
external signs of pleasant passions, there is little variety. They are
pleasant or chearful, and we have not words to reach a more particular
description. But the external signs of painful passions produce in the
spectator emotions of different kinds: the emotions, for example, raised
by external signs of grief, of remorse, of anger, of envy, of malice,
are clearly distinguishable from each other.

Fifthly, emotions raised by the external signs of painful passions, are
some of them _attractive_, some _repulsive_. Every painful passion that
is also disagreeable[42], raises by its external signs a repulsive
emotion, repelling the spectator from the object. Thus the emotions
raised by external signs of envy and rage, are repulsive. But this is
not the case of painful passions that are agreeable. Their external
signs, it is true, are disagreeable, and raise in the spectator a
painful emotion. But this painful emotion is not repulsive. On the
contrary, it is attractive; and produceth in the spectator good-will to
the man who is moved by the passion, and a desire to relieve or comfort
him. This cannot be better exemplified than by distress painted on the
countenance, which instantaneously inspires the spectator with pity, and
impels him to afford relief. The cause of this difference among the
painful emotions raised by external signs of passion, may be readily
gathered from what is laid down chapter Emotions and passions, part 7.

It is now time to look back to the question proposed in the beginning,
How we come to understand external signs, so as readily to ascribe each
sign to its proper passion? We have seen that this branch of knowledge,
cannot be derived originally from sight, nor from experience. Is it then
implanted in us by nature? The following considerations will help us to
answer this question in the affirmative. In the first place, the
external signs of passion must be natural; for they are invariably the
same in every country, and among the different tribes of men. Pride, for
example, is always expressed by an erect posture, reverence by
prostration, and sorrow by a dejected look. Secondly, we are not even
indebted to experience for the knowledge that these expressions are
natural and universal. We are so framed as to have an innate conviction
of the fact. Let a man change his habitation to the other side of the
globe; he will, from the accustomed signs, infer the passion of fear
among his new neighbours, with as little hesitation as he did at home.
And upon second thoughts, the question may be answered without any
preliminaries. If the branch of knowledge we have been inquiring about
be not derived from sight nor from experience, there is no remaining
source from whence it can be derived but from nature.

We may then venture to pronounce, with some degree of confidence, that
man is provided by nature with a sense or faculty which lays open to him
every passion by means of its external expressions. And I imagine that
we cannot entertain any reasonable doubt of this fact, when we reflect,
that even infants are not ignorant of the meaning of external signs. An
infant is remarkably affected with the passions of its nurse expressed
on her countenance: a smile chears it, and a frown makes it afraid. Fear
thus generated in the infant, must, like every other passion, have an
object. What is the object of this passion? Surely not the frown
considered abstractly, for a child never abstracts. The nurse who frowns
is evidently the object. Fear, at the same time, cannot arise but from
apprehending danger. But what danger can a child apprehend, if it be not
sensible that the person who frowns is angry? We must therefore admit,
that a child can read anger in its nurse’s face; and it must be
sensible of this intuitively, for it has no other means of knowledge. I
have no occasion to affirm, that these particulars are clearly
apprehended by the child. To produce clear and distinct perceptions,
reflection and experience are requisite. But that even an infant, when
afraid, must have some notion of its being in danger, is extremely

That we should be conscious intuitively of a passion from its external
expressions, is conformable to the analogy of nature. The knowledge of
this language is of too great importance to be left upon experience. To
rest it upon a foundation so uncertain and precarious, would prove a
great obstacle to the formation of societies. Wisely therefore is it
ordered, and agreeably to the system of Providence, that we should have
Nature for our instructor.

Manifold and admirable are the purposes to which the external signs of
passion are made subservient by the author of our nature. What are
occasionally mentioned above, make but a part. Several final causes
remain to be unfolded; and to this task I apply myself with alacrity. In
the first place, the signs of internal agitation that are displayed
externally to every spectator, tend to fix the signification of many
terms. The only effectual means to ascertain the meaning of any doubtful
word, is an appeal to the thing it represents. Hence the ambiguity of
words expressive of things that are not objects of external sense; for
in that case an appeal is denied. Passion, strictly speaking, is not an
object of external sense: but its external signs are; and by means of
these signs, passions may be appealed to, with tolerable accuracy. Thus
the words that denote our passions, next to those that denote external
objects, have the most distinct meaning. Words signifying internal
action and the more delicate feelings, are less distinct. This defect
with respect to internal action, is what chiefly occasions the intricacy
of logic. The terms of that science are far from being sufficiently
ascertained, even after the care and labour bestowed by an eminent
writer[43]: to whom however the world is greatly indebted, for removing
a mountain of rubbish, and moulding the subject into a rational and
correct form. The same defect is remarkable in criticism, which has for
its object the more delicate feelings. The terms that denote these
feelings, are not more distinct than those of logic. To reduce this
science of criticism to any regular form, has never once been attempted.
However rich the ore may be, no critical chymist has been found to give
us a regular analysis of its constituent parts, and to distinguish each
by its own name.

In the second place, society among individuals is greatly promoted by
this universal language. The distance and reserve that strangers
naturally discover, show its utility. Looks and gestures give direct
access to the heart; and lead us to select with tolerable accuracy the
persons who may be trusted. It is surprising how quickly, and for the
most part how correctly, we judge of character from external

Thirdly, after social intercourse is commenced, these external signs
contribute above all other means to the strictest union, by diffusing
through a whole assembly the feelings of each individual. Language no
doubt is the most comprehensive vehicle for communicating emotions: but
in expedition, as well as in the power of conviction, it falls short of
the signs under consideration; the involuntary signs especially, which
are incapable of deceit. Where the countenance, the tones, the gestures,
the actions, join with the words, in communicating emotions, these
united have a force irresistible. Thus all the agreeable emotions of the
human heart, with all the social and virtuous affections, are, by means
of these external signs, not only perceived but felt. By this admirable
contrivance, social intercourse becomes that lively and animating
amusement, without which life would at best be insipid. One joyful
countenance spreads chearfulness instantaneously through a multitude of

Fourthly, dissocial passions being hurtful by prompting violence and
mischief, are noted by the most conspicuous external signs, in order to
put us upon our guard. Thus anger and revenge, especially when suddenly
provoked, display themselves on the countenance in legible
characters[44]. The external signs again of every passion that threatens
danger, raise in us the passion of fear. Nor is this passion occasioned
by consciousness of danger, though it may be inflamed by such
consciousness. It is an instinctive passion, which operating without
reason or reflection, moves us by a sudden impulse to avoid the
impending danger[45].

In the fifth place, these external signs are made subservient in a
curious manner to the cause of virtue. The external signs of a painful
passion that is virtuous or innocent, and consequently agreeable,
produce indeed a painful emotion. But this emotion is attractive, and
connects the spectator with the person who suffers. Disagreeable
passions only, are productive of repulsive emotions involving the
spectator’s aversion, and frequently his indignation. This artful
contrivance makes us cling to the virtuous and abhor the wicked.

Sixthly, of all the external signs of passion, those of affliction or
distress are the most illustrious with respect to a final cause; and
deservedly merit a place of distinction. They are illustrious by the
singularity of their contrivance; and they are still more illustrious by
the sympathy they inspire, a passion to which human society is indebted
for its greatest blessing, that of securing relief in all cases of
distress. A subject so interesting, ought to be examined with leisure
and attention. The conformity of the nature of man to his external
circumstances, is in every particular wonderful. His nature makes him
prone to society; and his situation makes it necessary for him. In a
solitary state he is the most helpless of beings; destitute of support,
and in his manifold distresses destitute of relief. Mutual support, the
shining attribute of society, being essential to the well-being of man,
is not left upon reason, but is inforced even instinctively by the
passion of sympathy. Here sympathy makes a capital figure; and
contributes, more than any other means, to make life easy and
comfortable. But however essential sympathy be to comfortable existence,
one thinking of it beforehand, would find difficulty in conjecturing how
it could be raised by external signs of distress. For considering the
analogy of nature, if these signs be agreeable, they must give birth to
a pleasant emotion leading every beholder to be pleased with human
misfortunes. If they be disagreeable, as they undoubtedly are, ought not
the painful emotion they produce to repel the spectator from them, in
order to be relieved from pain? Such would be the conjecture, in
thinking of this matter beforehand; and such would be the effect, were
man purely a selfish being. But the benevolence of our nature gives a
very different direction to the painful passion of sympathy, and to the
desire involved in it. Far from flying from distress, we fly to it in
order to afford relief; and our sympathy cannot be otherwise gratified
than by giving all the succour in our power[46]. Thus external signs of
distress, though disagreeable, are attractive; and the sympathy they
inspire us with is a powerful cause, impelling us to afford relief even
to a stranger as if he were our friend or blood-relation.

This branch of human nature concerning the external signs of passion, is
so finely adjusted to answer its end, that those who understand it the
best will admire it the most. These external signs, being all of them
resolvable into colour, figure, and motion, should not naturally make
any deep impression on a spectator. And supposing them qualified for
making deep impressions, we have seen above, that the effects they
produce are not what would be expected. We cannot therefore account
otherwise for the operation of these external signs, than by ascribing
it to the original constitution of human nature. To improve the social
state, by making us instinctively rejoice with the glad of heart, weep
with the mourner, and shun those who threaten danger, is a contrivance
illustrious for its wisdom as well as benevolence. With respect to the
external signs of distress in particular, to judge of the excellency of
their contrivance, we need only reflect upon several other means
seemingly more natural, that would not have answered the end proposed. I
am attracted by this amusing speculation, and will not ask pardon for
indulging in it. We shall in the first place reverse the truth, by
putting the case that the external signs of joy were disagreeable, and
the external signs of distress agreeable. This is no whimsical
supposition; for these external signs, so far as can be gathered from
their nature, seem indifferent to the production of pleasure or pain.
Admitting then the supposition, the question is, How would our sympathy
operate? There is no occasion to deliberate for an answer. Sympathy,
upon that supposition, would be not less destructive, than according to
the real case it is beneficial. We should be incited, to cross the
happiness of others if its external signs were disagreeable to us, and
to augment their distress if its external signs were agreeable. I make a
second supposition, That the external signs of distress were indifferent
to us, and productive neither of pleasure nor pain. This would
annihilate the strongest branch of sympathy, that which is raised by
means of sight. And it is evident, that reflective sympathy, felt by
those only who have more than an ordinary share of sensibility, would be
far from being sufficient to fulfil the ends of the social state. I
shall approach nearer truth in a third supposition, That the external
signs of distress being disagreeable, were productive of a painful
repulsive emotion. Sympathy upon this supposition would not be
annihilated; but it would be rendered useless. For it would be gratified
by flying from or avoiding the object, instead of clinging to it, and
affording relief. The condition of man would in reality be worse than if
sympathy were totally eradicated; because sympathy would only serve to
plague those who feel it, without producing any good to the afflicted.

Loath to quit so interesting a subject, I add a reflection, with which I
shall conclude. The external signs of passion are a strong indication,
that man, by his very constitution, is framed to be open and sincere. A
child, in all things obedient to the impulses of nature, hides none of
its emotions: the savage and clown, who have no guide other than pure
nature, expose their hearts to view by giving way to all the natural
signs: and even when men learn to dissemble their sentiments, and when
behaviour degenerates into art, there still remain checks, which keep
dissimulation within bounds, and prevent a great part of its mischievous
effects. The total suppression of the voluntary signs during any vivid
passion, begets the utmost uneasiness, which cannot be endured for any
considerable time. This operation becomes indeed less painful by habit:
but luckily the involuntary signs, cannot by any effort be suppressed or
even dissembled. An absolute hypocrisy, by which the character is
concealed and a fictitious one assumed, is made impracticable; and
nature has thereby prevented much harm to society. We may pronounce
therefore, that nature, herself sincere and candid, intends that mankind
should preserve the same character, by cultivating simplicity and truth,
and banishing every sort of dissimulation that tends to mischief.



Every thought suggested by a passion or emotion, is termed _a

The knowledge of the sentiments peculiar to each passion considered
abstractly, will not alone enable an artist to make a just
representation of nature. He ought, over and above, to be acquainted
with the various appearances of the same passion in different persons.
Passions, it is certain, receive a tincture from every peculiarity of
character; and for that reason, it rarely happens that any two persons
vent their passions precisely in the same manner. Hence the following
rule concerning dramatic and epic compositions, That a passion be
adjusted to the character, the sentiments to the passion, and the
language to the sentiments. If nature be not faithfully copied in each
of these, a defect in execution is perceived. There may appear some
resemblance; but the picture upon the whole will be insipid, through
want of grace and delicacy. A painter, in order to represent the various
attitudes of the body, ought to be intimately acquainted with muscular
motion: not less intimately acquainted with emotions and characters
ought a writer to be, in order to represent the various attitudes of the
mind. A general notion of the passions, in their grosser differences of
strong and weak, elevated and humble, severe and gay, is far from being
sufficient. Pictures formed so superficially, have little resemblance,
and no expression. And yet it will appear by and by, that in many
instances our reputed masters are deficient even in this superficial

In handling the present subject, it would be endless to trace even the
ordinary passions through their nicer and more minute differences. Mine
shall be an humbler task; which is, to select from the best writers
instances of faulty sentiments, after paving the way by some general

To talk in the language of music, each passion hath a certain tone, to
which every sentiment proceeding from it ought to be tuned with the
greatest accuracy. This is no easy work, especially where such harmony
is to be supported during the course of a long theatrical
representation. In order to reach such delicacy of execution, it is
necessary that a writer assume the precise character and passion of the
personage represented. This requires an uncommon genius. But it is the
only difficulty; for the writer, who, forgetting himself, can thus
personate another, so as to feel truly and distinctly the various
agitations of the passion, need be in no pain about the sentiments:
these will flow without the least study, or even preconception; and will
frequently be as delightfully new to himself as afterward to his reader.
But if a lively picture even of a single emotion require an effort of
genius; how much greater must the effort be, to compose a passionate
dialogue, in which there are as many different tones of passion as there
are speakers? With what ductility of feeling ought a writer to be
endued who aims at perfection in such a work; when, to execute it
correctly, it is necessary to assume different and even opposite
characters and passions, in the quickest succession? And yet this work,
difficult as it is, yields to that of composing a dialogue in genteel
comedy devoid of passion; where the sentiments must be tuned to the
nicer and more delicate tones of different characters. That the latter
is the more difficult task, appears from considering, that a character
is greatly more complex than a passion, and that passions are more
distinguishable from each other than characters are. Many writers
accordingly who have no genius for characters, make a shift to
represent, tolerably well, an ordinary passion in its plain movements.
But of all works of this kind, what is truly the most difficult, is a
characteristical dialogue upon any philosophical subject. To interweave
characters with reasoning, by adapting to the peculiar character of each
speaker a peculiarity not only of thought but of expression, requires
the perfection of genius, taste, and judgement.

How hard dialogue-writing is, will be evident, even without reasoning,
from the imperfect compositions of this kind found without number in all
languages. The art of mimicking any singularity in voice or gesture, is
a rare talent, though directed by sight and hearing, the acutest and
most lively of our external senses: how much more rare must the talent
be of imitating characters and internal emotions, tracing all their
different tints, and representing them in a lively manner by natural
sentiments properly expressed? The truth is, such execution is too
delicate for an ordinary genius; and for that reason, the bulk of
writers, instead of expressing a passion like one who is under its
power, content themselves with describing it like a spectator. To awake
passion by an internal effort merely, without any external cause,
requires great sensibility; and yet this operation is necessary not less
to the writer than to the actor; because none but they who actually feel
a passion, can represent it to the life. The writer’s part is much more
complicated: he must join composition with action; and, in the quickest
succession, be able to adopt every different character introduced in his
work. But a very humble flight of imagination, may serve to convert a
writer into a spectator, so as to figure, in some obscure manner, an
action as passing in his sight and hearing. In this figured situation,
he is led naturally to describe as a spectator, and at second hand to
entertain his readers with his own observations, with cool description
and florid declamation; instead of making them eye-witnesses, as it
were, to a real event, and to every movement of genuine passion[48].
Thus, in the bulk of plays, a tiresome monotony prevails, a pompous
declamatory style, without entering into different characters or

This descriptive manner of expressing passion, has a very unhappy
effect. Our sympathy is not raised by description: we must be lulled
first into a dream of reality; and every thing must appear as actually
present and passing in our sight[49]. Unhappy is the player of genius
who acts a capital part in what may be termed a _descriptive tragedy_.
After he has assumed the very passion that is to be represented, how
must he be cramped in his action, when he is forced to utter, not the
sentiments of the passion he feels, but a cold description in the
language of a by-stander? It is this imperfection, I am persuaded, in
the bulk of our plays, that confines our stage almost entirely to
Shakespear, his many irregularities notwithstanding. In our latest
English tragedies, we sometimes find sentiments tolerably well adapted
to a plain passion. But it would be fruitless labour, to search in any
of them for a sentiment expressive of character; and, upon that very
account, all our modern performances of the dramatic kind, are
intolerably insipid.

Looking back upon the foregoing observation, I am uncertain whether it
will be sufficiently apprehended; for, upon this complicated subject, I
find some difficulty to express myself with perspicuity. I despair not
however to place this matter in the clearest light, by adding example to
precept. In the front shall be set one or two examples of sentiments
that appear the legitimate offspring of passion; and to them shall be
opposed a few others that are descriptive only, and illegitimate. In
making this comparison, I shall borrow my instances from Shakespear and
Corneille, who for genius in dramatic composition stand uppermost in the
rolls of fame.

       *       *       *       *       *

Shakespear shall furnish the first instance, being of sentiments
dictated by a violent and perturbed passion.

    _Lear._----Filial ingratitude!
    Is it not, as if this mouth should tear this hand
    For lifting food to’t?--But I’ll punish home;
    No, I will weep no more.---- In such a night,
    To shut me out!---- Pour on, I will endure.
    In such a night as this! O Regan, Gonerill,
    Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all--
    O, that way madness lies; let me shun that;
    No more of that.----

    _Kent._ Good, my Lord, enter here.

    _Lear._ Pr’ythee, go in thy thyself, seek thine own ease,
    This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
    On things would hurt me more--but I’ll go in;
    In, boy, go first. You houseless poverty----
    Nay, get thee in; I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep--
    Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
    That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm!
    How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
    Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you
    From seasons such as these?---- O I have ta’en
    Too little care of this! take physic, Pomp;
    Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
    That thou may’st shake the superflux to them,
    And show the heavens more just.
         _King Lear. act 3. sc 5._

To illustrate the foregoing doctrine, one other instance of the same
kind may suffice, expressing sentiments arising from remorse and

    _Othello._ Lo! I have a weapon:
    A better never did itself sustain
    Upon a soldier’s thigh. I’ve seen the day,
    That with this little arm, and this good sword,
    I’ve made my way through more impediments
    Than twenty times your stop. But, oh vain boast!
    Who can controul his fate? ’tis not so now.
    Be not afraid, though you do see me weapon’d;
    Here is my journey’s end, here is my butt,
    The very sea mark of my outmost sail.
    Do you go back dismay’d? ’tis a lost fear.
    Man but a rush against Othello’s breast,
    And he retires. Where should Othello go?
    Now---- how dost thou look now? Oh ill starr’d wench!
    Pale as thy smoke! when we shall meet at compt,
    This look of thine will hurl my soul from heav’n,
    And fiends will snatch at it. Cold, cold, my girl,
    Ev’n like thy chastity. O cursed slave!
    Whip me, ye devils,
    From the possession of this heav’nly sight;
    Blow me about in winds, roast me in sulphur,
    Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire----
    Oh, Desdemona! Desdemona! dead! dead! oh, oh!
         _Othello, act 5. sc. 9._

The sentiments here display’d flow so naturally from the passions
represented, and are such genuine expressions of these passions, that it
is not possible to conceive any imitation more perfect.

       *       *       *       *       *

With regard to the French author, truth obliges me to acknowledge, that
he describes in the style of a spectator, instead of expressing passion
like one who feels it; and also that he is thereby betray’d into the
other faults above mentioned, a tiresome monotony, and a pompous
declamatory style[50]. It is scarce necessary to produce particular
instances; for he never varies from this tone. I shall however take two
passages at a venture, in order to be confronted with those transcribed
above. In the tragedy of _Cinna_, Æmilia, after the conspiracy was
discovered, having nothing in view but racks and death to herself and
her lover, receives a pardon from Augustus, attended with the brightest
circumstances of magnanimity and tenderness. This is a happy situation
for representing the passions of surprise and gratitude in their
different stages. These passions, raised at once to the utmost pitch,
are at first too big for utterance; and Æmilia’s feelings must, for some
moments, have been expressed by violent gestures only. So soon as there
is a vent for words, the first expressions are naturally broken and
interrupted. At last we ought to expect a tide of intermingled
sentiments, occasioned by the fluctuation of the mind betwixt the two
passions. Æmilia is made to behave in a very different manner. With
extreme coolness she describes her own situation, as if she were merely
a spectator; or rather the poet takes the task off her hands.

    Et je me rens, Seigneur, à ces hautes bontés,
    Je recouvre la vûe auprés de leurs clartés,
    Je connois mon forfait qui me sembloit justice,
    Et ce que n’avoit pû la terreur du supplice,
    Je sens naitre en mon ame un repentir puissant;
    Et mon cœur en secret me dit, qu’il y consent.
    Le ciel a résolu votre grandeur suprême,
    Et pour preuve, Seigneur, je n’en veux que moi-même;
    J’ose avec vanité me donner cet éclat,
    Puisqu’il change mon cœur, qu’il veut changer l’état.
    Ma haine va mourir que j’ai crue immortelle,
    Elle est morte, et ce cœur devient sujet fidéle,
    Et prenant désormais cette haine en horreur,
    L’ardeur de vous servir succede à sa fureur.
         _Act 5. sc. 3._

In the tragedy of _Sertorius_, the Queen, surprised with the news that
her lover was assassinated, instead of venting any passion, degenerates
into a cool spectator, even so much as to instruct the by-standers how a
queen ought to behave on such an occasion.

    _Viriate._ Il m’en fait voir ensemble, et l’auteur, et la cause.
    Par cet assassinat c’est de moi qu’on dispose,
    C’est mon trône, c’est moi qu’on pretend conquerir,
    Et c’est mon juste choix qui seul l’a fait perir.
    Madame, aprés sa perte, et parmi ces alarmes,
    N’attendez point de moi de soupirs, ni de larmes;
    Ce sont amusemens que dédaigne aisement
    Le prompt et noble orgueil d’un vif ressentiment.
    Qui pleure, l’affoiblit, qui soupire, l’exhale,
    Il faut plus de fierté dans une ame royale;
    Et ma douleur soumise aux soins de le venger, _&c._
         _Act 5. sc. 3._

So much in general upon the genuine sentiments of passion. I proceed now
to particular observations. And, first, Passions are seldom uniform for
any considerable time: they generally fluctuate, swelling and subsiding
by turns, often in a quick succession[51]. This fluctuation, in the
case of a real passion, will be expressed externally by proper
sentiments; and ought to be imitated in writing and acting. Accordingly,
a climax shows never better than in expressing a swelling passion. The
following passages shall suffice for an illustration.

    _Oroonoko._---- Can you raise the dead?
    Pursue and overtake the wings of time?
    And bring about again, the hours, the days,
    The years, that made me happy?
         _Oroonoko, act 2. sc. 2._

    _Almeria_.---- How hast thou charm’d
    The wildness of the waves and rocks to this?
    That thus relenting they have giv’n thee back
    To earth, to light and life, to love and me?
         _Mourning Bride, act 1. sc. 7._

    I would not be the villain that thou think’st
    For the whole space that’s in the tyrant’s grasp,
    And the rich earth to boot.
         _Macbeth, act 4. sc. 4._

The following passage expresses finely the progress of conviction.

    Let me not stir, nor breathe, lest I dissolve
    That tender, lovely form, of painted air,
    So like Almeria. Ha! it sinks, it falls;
    I’ll catch it ere it goes, and grasp her shade.
    ’Tis life! ’tis warm! ’tis she! ’tis she herself!
    It is Almeria! ’tis, it is my wife!

    _Mourning Bride, act 2. sc. 6._

In the progress of thought, our resolutions become more vigorous as well
as our passions.

    If ever I do yield or give consent,
    By any action, word, or thought, to wed
    Another Lord; may then just Heav’n show’r down, _&c._

    _Mourning Bride, act 1. sc. 1._

And this leads to a second observation, That the different stages of a
passion, and its different directions, from its birth to its extinction,
ought to be carefully represented in the sentiments, which otherwise
will often be misplaced. Resentment, for example, when provoked by an
atrocious injury, discharges itself first upon the author. Sentiments
therefore of revenge take place of all others, and must in some measure
be exhausted before the person injured think of pitying himself, or of
grieving for his present distress. In the _Cid_ of Corneille, Don Diegue
having been affronted in a cruel manner, expresses scarce any sentiment
of revenge, but is totally occupied in contemplating the low situation
to which he was reduced by the affront.

    O rage! ô desespoir! ô vieillesse ennemie!
    N’ai je donc tant vecu que pour cette infamie?
    Et ne suis-je blanchi dans les travaux guerriers,
    Que pour voir en une jour fletrir tant de lauriers?
    Mon bras, qu’avec respect toute l’Espagne admire,
    Mon bras, qui tant de fois a sauvé cet empire,
    Tant de fois affermi le trône de son roi,
    Trahit donc ma querelle, et ne fait rien pour moi!
    O cruel souvenir de ma gloire passée!
    Oeuvre de tant de jours en un jour effacée!
    Nouvelle dignité fatale à mon bonheur!
    Precipice élevé d’ou tombe mon honneur!
    Faut-il de votre éclat voir triompher le Comte,
    Et mourir sans vengeance, ou vivre dans la honte?
    Comte, fois de mon Prince à present gouverneur,
    Ce haut rang n’admet point un homme sans honneur;
    Et ton jaloux orgueil par cet affront insigne,
    Malgré le choix du Roi, m’en a su rendre indigne.
    Et toi, de mes exploits glorieux instrument,
    Mais d’un corps tout de glace inutile ornement,
    Fer jadis tant a craindre, et qui dans cette offense
    M’as servi de parade, et non pas de defense,
    Va quitte desormais le dernier des humains,
    Passe pour me vanger en de meilleures mains.
         _Le Cid, act 1. sc. 4._

These sentiments are certainly not what occur to the mind in the first
movements of the passion. In the same manner as in resentment, the first
movements of grief are always directed upon its object. Yet with
relation to the hidden and severe distemper that seized Alexander
bathing in the river Cydnus, Quintus Curtius describes the first
emotions of the army as directed upon themselves, lamenting that they
were left without a leader far from home, and had scarce any hopes of
returning in safety. Their King’s distress, which must naturally have
been their first concern, occupies them but in the second place
according to that author. In the _Aminta_ of Tasso, Sylvia, upon a
report of her lover’s death, which she believed certain, instead of
bemoaning the loss of a beloved object, turns her thoughts upon
herself, and wonders her heart does not break.

    Ohime, ben son di sasso,
    Poi che questa novella non m’uccide.
         _Act 4. sc. 2._

In the tragedy of _Jane Shore_, Alicia, in the full purpose of
destroying her rival, has the following reflection:

    Oh Jealousy! thou bane of pleasing friendship,
    Thou worst invader of our tender bosoms;
    How does thy rancour poison all our softness,
    And turn our gentle natures into bitterness?
    See where she comes! Once my heart’s dearest blessing,
    Now my chang’d eyes are blasted with her beauty,
    Loathe that known face, and sicken to behold her.
         _Act 3. sc. 1._

These are the reflections of a cool spectator. A passion while it has
the ascendant, and is freely indulged, suggests not to the man who feels
it any sentiment to its own prejudice. Reflections like the foregoing,
occur not to him readily till the passion have spent its vigor.

A person sometimes is agitated at once by different passions. The mind
in this case vibrating like a pendulum, vents itself in sentiments which
partake of the same vibration. This I give as a third observation:

    _Queen._ ‘Would I had never trod this English earth,
    Or felt the flatteries that grow upon it!
    Ye’ve angels faces, but Heav’n knows your hearts.
    What shall become of me now! wretched lady!
    I am the most unhappy woman living.
    Alas! poor wenches, where are now your fortunes? [_To her women._
    Shipwreck’d upon a kingdom, where no pity,
    No friends, no hope! no kindred weep for me!
    Almost, no grave allow’d me.
         _Henry VIII. act 3. sc. 1._

     _Othello._ Oh devil, devil! If that the earth could teem with
     woman’s tears, Each drop she falls, would prove a crocodile. Out of
     my sight.

     _Desdemona._ I will not stay t’offend you. [_going._

     _Lodovico._ Truly, an obedient lady: I do beseech your Lordship,
     call her back.

     _Oth._ Mistress----

     _Des._ My Lord.

     _Oth._ What would you with her, Sir?

     _Lod._ Who, I, my Lord?

     _Oth._ Ay; you did wish that I would make her turn: Sir, she can
     turn and turn, and yet go on; And turn again. And she can weep,
     Sir, weep; And she’s obedient: as you say, obedient; Very
     obedient--proceed you in your tears--Concerning this, Sir,--oh
     well-painted passion!--I am commanded home--get you away, I’ll send
     for you anon--Sir, I obey the mandate, And will return to
     Venice.---- Hence, avaunt! [_Exit Desdemona._

                     _Othello, act 4. sc. 6._

     _Æmilia._ Oh! my good Lord, I would speak a word with you.

     _Othello._ Yes, ’tis Æmilia--by and by--she’s dead. ’Tis like, she
     comes to speak of Cassio’s death; The noise was high.--Ha, no more
     moving? Still as the grave. Shall she come in? were’t good? I think
     she stirs again--No--what’s the best? If she come in, she’ll, sure,
     speak to my wife; My wife! my wife! What wife? I have no wife. Oh
     insupportable! oh heavy hour!

                     _Othello, act 5. sc. 7._

A fourth observation is, that nature, which gave us passions, and made
them extremely beneficial when moderate, intended undoubtedly that they
should be subjected to the government of reason and conscience[52]. It
is therefore against the order of nature, that passion in any case
should take the lead in contradiction to reason and conscience. Such a
state of mind is a sort of anarchy, which every one is ashamed of, and
endeavours to hide or dissemble. Even love, however laudable, is
attended with a conscious shame when it becomes immoderate: it is
covered from the world, and disclosed only to the beloved object:

    Et que l’amour souvent de remors combattu
    Paroisse une foiblesse, et non une vertu.
         _Boileau, L’art poet. chant. 3. l. 101._

    O, they love least that let men know their love.
         _Two Gentlemen of Verona, act 1. sc. 3._

Hence a capital rule in the representation of strong passions, that
their genuine sentiments ought to be hid or dissembled as much as
possible. And this holds in an especial manner with respect to criminal
passions. One never counsels the commission of a crime in plain terms.
Guilt must not appear in its native colours, even in thought: the
proposal must be made by hints, and by representing the action in some
favourable light. Of the propriety of sentiment upon such an occasion,
Shakespear, in the _Tempest_, has given us a beautiful example. The
subject is a proposal made by the usurping Duke of Milan to Sebastian,
to murder his brother the King of Naples.

    _Antonio._---- What might
    Worthy Sebastian--O, what might--no more.
    And yet, methinks, I see it in thy face,
    What thou should’st be: th’occasion speaks thee, and
    My strong imagination sees a crown
    Dropping upon thy head.
         _Act 2. sc. 1._

There cannot be a finer picture of this sort, than that of King John
soliciting Hubert to murder the young Prince Arthur.

    _K. John._ Come hither, Hubert. O my gentle Hubert,
    We owe thee much; within this wall of flesh
    There is a soul counts thee her creditor,
    And with advantage means to pay thy love.
    And, my good friend, thy voluntary oath
    Lives in this bosom, dearly cherished.
    Give me thy hand, I had a thing to say----
    But I will fit it with some better time.
    By Heaven, Hubert, I’m almost asham’d
    To say what good respect I have of thee.

      _Hubert._ I am much bounden to your Majesty.

      _K. John._ Good friend, thou hast no cause to say so yet----
    But thou shalt have--and creep time ne’er so slow,
    Yet it shall come for me to do thee good.
    I had a thing to say--but, let it go:
    The sun is in the heav’n, and the proud day,
    Attended with the pleasures of the world,
    Is all too wanton, and too full of gawds,
    To give me audience. If the midnight-bell
    Did with his iron tongue and brazen mouth
    Sound one into the drowsy race of night;
    If this same were a church-yard where we stand,
    And thou possessed with a thousand wrongs;
    Or if that surly spirit Melancholy
    Had bak’d thy blood and made it heavy-thick,
    Which else runs tickling up and down the veins,
    Making that idiot Laughter keep men’s eyes,
    And strain their cheeks to idle merriment,
    (A passion hateful to my purposes);
    Or if that thou could’st see me without eyes,
    Hear me without thine ears, and make reply
    Without a tongue, using conceit alone,
    Without eyes, ears, and harmful sounds of words;
    Then, in despight of broad-ey’d watchful day,
    I would into thy bosom pour my thoughts.
    But ah, I will not--Yet I love thee well;
    And, by my troth, I think thou lov’st me well.

      _Hubert._ So well, that what you bid me undertake,
    Though that my death were adjunct to my act,
    By Heav’n, I’d do’t.

      _K. John._ Do not I know, thou would’st?
    Good Hubert, Hubert, Hubert, throw thine eye
    On yon young boy. I’ll tell thee what, my friend;
    He is a very serpent in my way.
    And, wheresoe’er this foot of mine doth tread,
    He lies before me. Dost thou understand me?
    Thou art his keeper.
         _King John, act 3. sc. 5._

As things are best illustrated by their contraries, I proceed to collect
from classical authors, sentiments that appear faulty. The first class
shall consist of sentiments that accord not with the passion; or, in
other words, sentiments that the passion represented does not naturally
suggest. In the second class, shall be ranged sentiments that may belong
to an ordinary passion, but unsuitable to it as tinctured by a singular
character. Thoughts that properly are not sentiments, but rather
descriptions, make a third. Sentiments that belong to the passion
represented, but are faulty as being introduced too early or too late,
make a fourth. Vicious sentiments exposed in their native dress, instead
of being concealed or disguised, make a fifth. And in the last class,
shall be collected sentiments suited to no character or passion, and
therefore unnatural.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first class contains faulty sentiments of various kinds, which I
shall endeavour to distinguish from each other. And first sentiments
that are faulty by being above the tone of the passion.

    _Othello._---- O my soul’s joy!
    If after every tempest come such calms,
    May the winds blow till they have waken’d death:
    And let the labouring bark climb hills of seas
    Olympus high, and duck again as low
    As hell’s from heaven!
         _Othello, act 2. sc. 6._

This sentiment is too strong to be suggested by so slight a joy as that
of meeting after a storm at sea.

    _Philaster._ Place me, some god, upon a pyramid
    Higher than hills of earth, and lend a voice
    Loud as your thunder to me, that from thence
    I may discourse to all the under-world
    The worth that dwells in him.
         _Philaster of Beaumont and Fletcher, act 4._

Secondly, Sentiments below the tone of the passion. Ptolemy, by putting
Pompey to death, having incurred the displeasure of Cæsar, was in the
utmost dread of being dethroned. In this agitating situation, Corneille
makes him utter a speech full of cool reflection, that is in no degree
expressive of the passion.

    Ah! si je t’avois crû, je n’aurois pas de maître,
    Je serois dans le trône où le Ciel m’a fait naître;
    Mais c’est une imprudence assez commune aux rois,
    D’ecouter trop d’avis, et se tromper au choix.
    Le Destin les aveugle au bord du précipice,
    Ou si quelque lumiere en leur ame se glisse,
    Cette fausse clarté dont il les eblouit,
    Le plonge dans une gouffre, et puis s’evanouit.
         _La mort de Pompée, act 4. sc. 1._

In _Les Freres ennemies_ of Racine, the second act is opened with a
love-scene. Hemon talks to his mistress of the torments of absence, of
the lustre of her eyes, that he ought to die no where but at her feet,
and that one moment of absence was a thousand years. Antigone on her
part acts the coquette, and pretends she must be gone to wait on her
mother and brother, and cannot stay to listen to his courtship. This is
odious French gallantry, below the dignity of the passion of love. It
would scarce be excusable in painting modern French manners; and is
insufferable where the ancients are brought upon the stage. The manners
painted in the _Alexandre_ of the same author are not more just. French
gallantry prevails there throughout.

       *       *       *       *       *

Third. Sentiments that agree not with the tone of the passion; as where
a pleasant sentiment is grafted upon a painful passion, or the
contrary. In the following instances the sentiments are too gay for a
serious passion.

    No happier talk these faded eyes pursue;
    To read and weep is all they now can do.
         _Eloisa to Abelard, l. 47._


    Heav’n first taught letters for some wretch’s aid,
    Some banish’d lover, or some captive maid;
    They live, they speak, they breathe what love inspires,
    Warm from the soul, and faithful to its fires;
    The virgin’s wish without her fears impart,
    Excuse the blush, and pour out all the heart;
    Speed the soft intercourse from soul to soul,
    And waft a sigh from Indus to the pole.
         _Eloisa to Abelard, l. 51._

These thoughts are pretty; they suit Pope extremely, but not Eloisa.

       *       *       *       *       *

Satan, enraged by a threatening of the angel Gabriel, answers thus:

    Then when I am thy captive talk of chains,
    Proud limitary cherub; but ere then
    Far heavier load thyself expect to feel
    From my prevailing arm, though Heaven’s King
    Ride on thy wings, and thou with thy compeers,
    Us’d to the yoke, draw’st his triumphant wheels
    In progress through the road of heav’n _star-pav’d_.
         _Paradise Lost, book 4._

The concluding epithet forms a grand and delightful image, which cannot
be the genuine offspring of rage.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fourth. Sentiments too artificial for a serious passion. I give for the
first example a speech of Piercy expiring:

    O, Harry, thou hast robb’d me of my growth:
    I better brook the loss of brittle life,
    Than those proud titles thou hast won of me;
    They wound my thoughts, worse than thy sword my flesh.
    But thought’s the slave of life, and life time’s fool;
    And time, that takes survey of all the world,
    Must have a stop.
         _First part, Henry IV. act 5. sc. 9._

Livy inserts the following passage in a plaintive oration of the
Locrenses accusing Pleminius the Roman legate of oppression.

     “In hoc legato vestro, nec hominis quicquam est, Patres Conscripti,
     præter figuram et speciem; neque Romani civis, præter habitum
     vestitumque, et sonum linguæ Latinæ. Pestis et bellua immanis,
     quales fretum, quondam, quo ab Sicilia dividimur, ad perniciem
     navigantium circumsedisse, fabulæ ferunt[53].”

Congreve shows a fine taste in the sentiments of the _Mourning Bride_.
But in the following passage the picture is too artful to be suggested
by severe grief:

    _Almeria._ O no! Time gives increase to my afflictions.
    The circling hours, that gather all the woes
    Which are diffus’d through the revolving year,
    Come heavy-laden with th’ oppressing weight
    To me; with me, successively, they leave
    The sighs, the tears, the groans, the restless cares,
    And all the damps of grief, that did retard their flight,
    They shake their downy wings, and scatter all
    The dire collected dews on my poor head;
    Then fly with joy and swiftness from me.
         _Act 1. sc. 1._

In the same play, Almeria seeing a dead body, which she took to be
Alphonso’s, expresses sentiments strained and artificial, which nature
suggests not to any person upon such an occasion:

    Had they, or hearts, or eyes, that did this deed?
    Could eyes endure to guide such cruel hands?
    Are not my eyes guilty alike with theirs,
    That thus can gaze, and yet not turn to stone?
   --I do not weep! The springs of tears are dry’d,
    And of a sudden I am calm, as if
    All things were well; and yet my husband’s murder’d!
    Yes, yes, I know to mourn! I’ll sluice this heart,
    The source of wo, and let the torrent loose.
         _Act 5. sc. 11._

     _Lady Trueman._ How could you be so cruel to defer giving me that
     joy which you knew I must receive from your presence? You have
     robb’d my life of some hours of happiness that ought to have been
     in it.

                     _Drummer, act 5._

Pope’s Elegy to the memory of an unfortunate lady, expresses delicately
the most tender concern and sorrow for the deplorable fate of a person
of worth. A poem of this kind, deeply serious and pathetic, rejects all
fiction with disdain. We therefore can give no quarter to the following
passage, which is eminently discordant with the subject. It is not the
language of the heart, but of the imagination indulging its flights at
ease. It would be a still more severe censure, if it should be ascribed
to imitation, copying indiscreetly what has been said by others.

    What though no weeping loves thy ashes grace,
    Nor polish’d marble emulate thy face?
    What though no sacred earth allow thee room,
    Nor hallow’d dirge be muttered o’er thy tomb?
    Yet shall thy grave with rising flow’rs be drest,
    And the green turf lie lightly on thy breast:
    There shall the morn her earliest tears bestow,
    There the first roses of the year shall blow;
    While angels with their silver wings o’ershade
    The ground, now sacred by thy reliques made.

Fifth. Fanciful or sinical sentiments, sentiments that degenerate into
point or conceit, however they may amuse in an idle hour, can never be
the offspring of any serious or important passion. In the _Ierusalem_
of Tasso, Tancred, after a single combat, spent with fatigue and loss of
blood, falls into a swoon. In this situation, understood to be dead, he
is discovered by Erminia, who was in love with him to distraction. A
more happy situation cannot be imagined, to raise grief in an instant to
its highest pitch; and yet, in venting her sorrow, she descends most
abominably to antithesis and conceit, even of the lowest kind.

    E in lui versò d’inessicabil vena
    Lacrime, e voce di sospiri mista.
    In che misero punto hor qui me mena
    Fortuna? a che veduta amara e trista?
    Dopo gran tempo i’ ti ritrovo à pena
    Tancredi, e ti riveggio, e non son vista,
    Vista non son da te, benche presente
    E trovando ti perdo eternamente.
         _Cant. 19. st. 105._

Armida’s lamentation respecting her lover Rinaldo[54], is in the same
vitious taste.

    _Queen._ Give me no help in lamentation,
    I am not barren to bring forth complaints:
    All springs reduce their currents to mine eyes,
    That I, being govern’d by the wat’ry moon,
    May send forth plenteous tears to drown the world.
    Ah, for my husband, for my dear Lord Edward.
         _King Richard III. act 2. sc. 2._

    _Jane Shore._ Let me be branded for the public scorn,
    Turn’d forth, and driven to wander like a vagabond,
    Be friendless and forsaken, seek my bread
    Upon the barren wild, and desolate waste,
    _Feed on my sighs, and drink my falling tears_;
    Ere I consent to teach my lips injustice,
    Or wrong the orphan who has none to save him.
         _Jane Shore, act 4._

    Give me your drops, ye soft-descending rains,
    Give me your streams, ye never-ceasing springs,
    That my sad eyes may still supply my duty,
    And feed an everlasting flood of sorrow.
         _Jane Shore, act 5._

Jane Shore utters her last breath in a witty conceit.

    Then all is well, and I shall sleep in peace----
    ’Tis very dark, and I have lost you now----
    Was there not something I would have bequeath’d you?
    But I have nothing left me to bestow,
    Nothing but one sad sigh. Oh mercy, Heav’n! [_Dies._
         _Act 5._

Gilford to Lady Jane Gray, when both were condemned to die:

    Thou stand’st unmov’d;
    Calm temper sits upon thy beauteous brow;
    Thy eyes that flow’d so fast for Edward’s loss,
    Gaze unconcern’d upon the ruin round thee,
    As if thou hadst resolv’d to brave thy fate,
    And triumph in the midst of desolation.
    Ha! see, it swells, the liquid crystal rises,
    It starts in spight of thee---- but I will catch it,
    Nor let the earth be wet with dew so rich.
         _Lady Jane Gray, act 4. near the end._

The concluding sentiment is altogether sinical, unsuitable to the
importance of the occasion, and even to the dignity of the passion of

       *       *       *       *       *

Corneille, in his _Examen of the Cid_[55], answering an objection, that
his sentiments are sometimes too much refined for persons in deep
distress, observes, that if poets did not indulge sentiments more
ingenious or refined than are prompted by passion, their performances
would often be low; and extreme grief would never suggest but
exclamations merely. This is in plain language to assert, That forced
thoughts are more relished than such as are natural, and therefore ought
to be preferred.

       *       *       *       *       *

The second class is of sentiments that may belong to an ordinary
passion, but are not perfectly concordant with it, as tinctured by a
singular character. In the last act of that excellent comedy, _The
Careless Husband_, Lady Easy, upon Sir Charles’s reformation, is made to
express more violent and turbulent sentiments of joy, than are
consistent with the mildness of her character.

     _Lady Easy._ O the soft treasure! O the dear reward of
     long-desiring love---- Thus! thus to have you mine, is something
     more than happiness, ’tis double life, and madness of abounding

If the sentiments of a passion ought to be suited to a peculiar
character, it is still more necessary that sentiments devoid of passion
be suited to the character. In the 5th act of the _Drummer_, Addison
makes his gardener act even below the character of an ignorant credulous
rustic: he gives him the behaviour of a gaping idiot.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following instances are descriptions rather than sentiments, which
compose a third class.

Of this descriptive manner of painting the passions, there is in the
_Hippolytus_ of Euripides, act 5. an illustrious instance, _viz._ the
speech of Theseus, upon hearing of his son’s dismal exit. In Racine’s
tragedy of _Esther_, the Queen hearing of the decree issued against her
people, instead of expressing sentiments suitable to the occasion, turns
her attention upon herself, and describes with accuracy her own

    Juste Ciel? Tout mon sang dans mes veines se glace.
         _Act 1. sc. 3._


    _Aman._ C’en est fait. Mon orgueil est forcé de plier,
    L’inexorable Aman est reduit a prier.
         _Esther, act 3. sc. 5._

    _Athalie._ Quel prodige nouveau me trouble et m’embarrasse?
    La douceur de sa voix, son enfance, sa grace,
    Font insensiblement à mon inimitié
    Succéder---- Je serois sensible a la pitié?
         _Athalie, act 2. sc. 7._

    _Titus._ O de ma passion fureur desesperée!
         _Brutus of Voltaire, act 3. sc. 6._

What other are the foregoing instances than describing the passion
another feels?

       *       *       *       *       *

An example is given above of remorse and despair expressed by genuine
and natural sentiments. In the fourth book of _Paradise Lost_, Satan is
made to express his remorse and despair in sentiments, which though
beautiful, are not altogether natural. They are rather the sentiments of
a spectator, than of a person who actually is tormented with these

The fourth class is of sentiments introduced too early or too late.

Some examples mentioned above belong to this class. Add the following
from _Venice preserv’d_, act 5. at the close of the scene betwixt
Belvidera and her father Priuli. The account given by Belvidera of the
danger she was in, and of her husband’s threatening to murder her, ought
naturally to have alarmed her relenting father, and to have made him
express the most perturbed sentiments. Instead of which he dissolves
into tenderness and love for his daughter, as if he had already
delivered her from danger, and as if there were a perfect tranquillity.

    Canst thou forgive me all my follies past?
    I’ll henceforth be indeed a father; never,
    Never more thus expose, but cherish thee,
    Dear as the vital warmth that feeds my life,
    Dear as these eyes that weep in fondness o’er thee:
    Peace to thy heart.

Immoral sentiments exposed in their native colours, instead of being
concealed or disguised, compose the fifth class.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Lady Macbeth projecting the death of the King, has the following

   ---- The raven himself’s not hoarse
    That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
    Under my battlements. Come all you spirits
    That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
    And fill me from the crown to th’ toe, top-full
    Of direct cruelty; make thick my blood,
    Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse
    That no compunctious visitings of nature
    Shake my fell purpose.
         _Macbeth, act 1. sc. 7._

This speech is not natural. Murder under trust was never perpetrated
even by the most hardened miscreant without compunction. And that the
lady here must have been in horrible agitation appears, from her
invoking the infernal spirits to fill her with cruelty, and to stop up
all avenues to remorse. But in this state of mind, it is a never-failing
device of self-deceit, to draw the thickest veil over the wicked action,
and to extenuate it by all circumstances that imagination can suggest.
And if the crime cannot bear disguise, the next attempt is, to thrust it
out of mind altogether, and to rush on to action without thought. This
last was the husband’s method.

    Strange things I have in head, that will to hand;
    Which must be acted, ere they must be scann’d.
         _Act 3. sc. 5._

The lady follows neither of these courses, but in a deliberate manner
endeavours to fortify her heart in the commission of an execrable crime,
without even attempting a disguise. This I think is not natural. I hope
there is no such wretch to be found, as is here represented. In the
_Pompey_ of Corneille[56], Photine counsels a wicked action in the
plainest terms without disguise.

    Seigneur, n’attirez point le tonnerre en ces lieux,
    Rangez-vous du parti des destins et des dieux,
    Et sans les accuser d’injustice, ou d’outrage,
    Puis qu’ils font les heureux, adorez leur ouvrage;
    Quels que soient leurs decrets, déclarez-vouz pour eux,
    Et pour leur obéir, perdez le malheureux.
    Pressé de toutes parts des coléres celestes,
    Il en vient dessus vous faire fondre les restes;
    Et sa tête qu’à peine il a pû dérober,
    Tout prête de choir, cherche avec qui tomber.
    Sa retraite chez vous en effet n’est qu’un crime;
    Elle marque sa haine, et non pas son estime;
    Il ne vient que vous perdre en venant prendre port,
    Et vous pouvez douter s’il est digne de mort!
    Il devoit mieux remplir nos vœux et notre attente,
    Faire voir sur ses nefs la victoire flotante;
    Il n’eût ici trouvé que joye et que festins,
    Mais puisqu’il est vaincu, qu’il s’en prenne aux destins
    J’en veux à sa disgrace et non à sa personne,
    J’exécute à regret ce que le ciel ordonne,
    Et du même poignard, pour César destiné,
    Je perce en soupirant son cœur infortuné.
    Vouz ne pouvez enfin qu’aux dépens de sa tête
    Mettre à l’abri la vôtre et parer la tempête.
    Laissez nommer sa mort un injuste attentat,
    La justice n’est pas une vertu d’etat.
    Le choix des actions, ou mauvaises, ou bonnes,
    Ne fait qu’anéantir la force des couronnes;
    Le droit des rois consiste à ne rien épargner;
    La timide équité détruit l’art de regner,
    Quand on craint d’être injuste on a toûjours à craindre,
    Et qui veut tout pouvoir doit oser tout enfraindre,
    Fuir comme un deshonneur la vertu qui le pert,
    Et voler sans scrupule au crime qui lui fert.

In the tragedy of _Esther_[57], Haman acknowledges, without disguise,
his cruelty, insolence, and pride. And there is another example of the
same kind in the _Agamemnon_ of Seneca[58]. In the tragedy of
_Athalie_[59], Mathan, in cool blood, relates to his friend many black
crimes he had been guilty of to satisfy his ambition.

       *       *       *       *       *

In Congreve’s _Double-dealer_, Maskwell, instead of disguising or
colouring his crimes, values himself upon them in a soliloquy:

     Cynthia, let thy beauty gild my crimes; and whatsoever I commit of
     treachery or deceit, shall be imputed to me as a merit.----
     Treachery! what treachery? Love cancels all the bonds of
     friendship, and sets men right upon their first foundations.

                     _Act 2. sc. 8._

In French plays, love, instead of being hid or disguised, is treated as
a serious concern, and of greater importance than fortune, family, or
dignity. I suspect the reason to be, that in the capital of France,
love, by the easiness of intercourse, has dwindled down from a real
passion to be a connection that is regulated entirely by the mode or
fashion[60]. This may in some measure excuse their writers, but will
never make their plays be relished among foreigners.

     _Maxime._ Quoi, trahir, mon ami!

     _Euphorbe._---- L’amour rend tout permis, Un véritable amant ne
     connoît point d’amis.

                     _Cinna, act 3. sc. 1._

    _Cesar._ Reine, tout est paisible, et la ville calmée,
    Qu’un trouble assez leger avoit trop alarmée,
    N’a plus à redouter le divorce intestin
    Du soldat insolent, et du peuple mutin.
    Mais, ô Dieux! ce moment que je vous ai quittée,
    D’un trouble bien plus grand à mon ame agitée,
    Et ces soins importuns qui m’arrachoient de vous
    Contre ma grandeur même allumoient mon courroux.
    Je lui voulois du mal de m’être si contraire,
    De rendre ma presence ailleurs si necessaire.
    Mais je lui pardonnois au simple souvenir
    Du bonheur qu’a ma flâme elle fait obtenir.
    C’est elle dont je tiens cette haute espérance,
    Qui flate mes desirs d’une illustre apparence,
    Et fait croire à Cesar qu’il peut former de vœux,
    Qu’il n’est pas tout-à-fait indigne de vos feux,
    Et qu’il peut en pretendre une juste conquête,
    N’ayant plus que les Dieux au dessus de sa tête.
    Oui, Reine, si quelqu’un dans ce vaste univers
    Pouvoit porter plus haut la gloire de vos fers;
    S’il étoit quelque trône où vous puissiez paroître
    Plus dignement assise en captivant son maître,
    J’irois, j’irois à lui, moins pour le lui ravir,
    Que pour lui disputer le droit de vous servir;
    Et je n’aspirerois au bonheur de vous plaire,
    Qu’aprés avoir mis bas un si grand adversaire.
    C’etoit pour acquerir un droit si précieux,
    Que combatoit par tout mon bras ambitieux,
    Et dans Pharsale même il a tiré l’epée
    Plus pour le conserver, que pour vaincre Pompée.
    Je l’ai vaincu, Princesse, et le Dieu de combats
    M’y favorisoit moins que vos divins appas.
    Ils conduisoient ma main, ils enfloient mon courage,
    Cette pleine victoire est leur dernier ouvrage,
    C’est l’effet des ardeurs qu’ils daignoient m’inspirer;
    Et vos beaux yeux enfin m’ayant fait soûpirer,
    Pour faire que votre ame avec gloire y réponde,
    M’ont rendu le premier, et de Rome, et du monde;
    C’est ce glorieux titre, à présent effectif,
    Que je viens ennoblir par celui de captif;
    Heureux, si mon ésprit gagne tant sur le vôtre,
    Qu’il en estime l’un, et me permette l’autre.
         _Pompée, act 4. sc. 3._

The last class comprehends sentiments that are unnatural, as being
suited to no character nor passion. These may be subdivided into three
branches: first, sentiments unsuitable to the constitution of man and
the laws of his nature; second, inconsistent sentiments; third,
sentiments that are pure rant and extravagance.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the fable is of human affairs, every event, every incident, and
every circumstance, ought to be natural, otherwise the imitation is
imperfect. But an imperfect imitation is a venial fault, compared with
that of running cross to nature. In the _Hippolytus_ of Euripides[61],
Hippolytus, wishing for another self in his own situation, How much
(says he) should I be touched with his misfortune! as if it were natural
to grieve more for the misfortunes of another than for one’s own.

    _Osmyn._ Yet I behold her--yet--and now no more.
    Turn your lights inward, Eyes, and view my thought,
    So shall you still behold her--’twill not be.
    O impotence of sight! mechanic sense
    Which to exterior objects ow’st thy faculty,
    Not seeing of election, but necessity.
    Thus do our eyes, as do all common mirrors,
    Successively reflect succeeding images.
    Nor what they would, but must; a star or toad;
    Just as the hand of Chance administers!
         _Mourning Bride, act 2. sc. 8._

No man, in his senses, ever thought of applying his eyes to discover
what passes in his mind; far less of blaming his eyes for not seeing a
thought or idea. In Moliere’s _L’Avare_[62], Harpagon being robbed of
his money, seizes himself by the arm, mistaking it for that of the
robber. And again he expresses himself as follows:

     Je veux aller querir la justice, et faire donner la question à
     toute ma maison; à servantes, à valets, à fils, à fille, et à moi

This is so absurd as scarce to provoke a smile if it be not at the

       *       *       *       *       *

Of the second branch the following are examples.

                   ---- Now bid me run
    And I will strive with things impossible,
    Yea get the better of them.
         _Julius Cæsar, act 2. sc. 3._

    Vos mains seules ont droit de vaincre un invincible.
         _Le Cid, act 5. sc. last._

    Que son nom soit beni. Que son nom soit chanté.
    Que l’on celebre ses ouvrages
    Au de la de l’eternité.

    _Esther, act 5. sc. last._
    Me miserable! which way shall I fly
    Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
    Which way I fly is hell: myself am hell:
    And in the _lowest_ deep, a _lower_ deep
    Still threat’ning to devour me, opens wide;
    To which, the hell I suffer seems a heav’n.
         _Paradise Lost, book 4._

Of the third branch, take the following samples.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lucan, talking of Pompey’s sepulchre,

             ---- Romanum nomen, et omne
    Imperium Magno est tumuli modus. Obrue saxa
    Crimine plena deûm. Si tota est Herculis Oete,
    Et juga tota vacant Bromio Nyseia; quare
    Unus in Egypto Magno lapis? Omnia Lagi
    Rura tenere potest, si nullo cespite nomen
    Hæserit. Erremus populi, cinerumque tuorum,
    Magne, metu nullas Nili calcemus arenas.
         _L. 8. l. 798._

Thus in Rowe’s translation:

    Where there are seas, or air, or earth, or skies,
    Where-e’er Rome’s empire stretches, Pompey lies.
    Far be the vile memorial then convey’d!
    Nor let this stone the partial gods upbraid.
    Shall Hercules all Oeta’s heights demand,
    And Nysa’s hill for Bacchus only stand;
    While one poor pebble is the warrior’s doom
    That fought the cause of liberty and Rome?
    If fate decrees he must in Egypt lie,
    Let the whole fertile realm his grave supply,
    Yield the wide country to his awful shade,}
    Nor let us dare on any part to tread,}
    Fearful we violate the mighty dead.}

The following passages are pure rant. Coriolanus speaking to his mother,

    What is this?
    Your knees to me? to your corrected son?
    Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach
    Fillop the stars: then let the mutinous winds
    Strike the proud cedars ’gainst the fiery sun:
    Murd’ring impossibility, to make
    What cannot be, slight work.
         _Coriolanus, act 5. sc. 3._

    _Cæsar._---- Danger knows full well,
    That Cæsar is more dangerous than he.
    We were two lions litter’d in one day,
    And I the elder and more terrible.
         _Julius Cæsar, act 2. sc. 4._

    _Almahide._ This day----
    I gave my faith to him, he his to me.

    _Almanzor._ Good Heav’n, thy book of fate before me lay
    But to tear out the journal of this day.
    Or if the order of the world below,}
    Will not the gap of one whole day allow,}
    Give me that minute when she made that vow.}
    That minute ev’n the happy from their bliss might give,
    And those who live in grief a shorter time would live.
    So small a link if broke, th’ eternal chain
    Would like divided waters join again.
         _Conquest of Granada, act 3._

    _Almanzor._---- I’ll hold it fast
    As life; and when life’s gone, I’ll hold this last.
    And if thou tak’st it after I am slain,
    I’ll send my ghost to fetch it back again.
         _Conquest of Granada, part 2. act 3._

    _Lynairaxa._ A crown is come, and will not fate allow.
    And yet I feel something like death is near.
    My guards, my guards----
    Let not that ugly skeleton appear.
    Sure Destiny mistakes; this death’s not mine;
    She doats, and meant to cut another line.
    Tell her I am a queen---- but ’tis too late;
    Dying, I charge rebellion on my fate;
    Bow down, ye slaves----
    Bow quickly down and your submission show;
    I’m pleas’d to taste an empire ere I go. [_Dies._
         _Conquest of Granada, part 2. act. 5._

    _Ventidius._ But you, ere love misled your wand’ring eyes,
    Were, sure, the chief and best of human race,
    Fram’d in the very pride and boast of nature,
    So perfect, that the gods who form’d you wonder’d
    At their own skill, and cry’d, A lucky hit
    Has mended our design.
         _Dryden, All for Love, act 1._

Not to talk of the impiety of this sentiment, it is ludicrous instead of
being lofty.

       *       *       *       *       *

The famous Epitaph on Raphael is not less absurd than any of the
foregoing passages:

    Raphael, timuit, quo sospite, vinci
    Rerum magna parens, et moriente mori.

Imitated by Pope in his Epitaph on Sir Godfrey Kneller:

    Living, great Nature fear’d he might outvie
    Her works; and dying, fears herself may die.

Such is the force of imitation; for Pope of himself would never have
been guilty of a thought so extravagant.


Language of Passion.

Among the particulars that compose the social part of our nature, a
propensity to communicate our opinions, our emotions, and every thing
that affects us, is remarkable. Bad fortune and injustice affect every
one greatly; and of these we are so prone to complain, that if we have
no friend or acquaintance to take part in our sufferings, we sometimes
utter our complaints aloud even where there are none to listen.

But this propensity, though natural, operates not in every state of
mind. A man immoderately grieved, seeks to afflict himself; and
self-affliction is the gratification of the passion. Immoderate grief is
therefore mute; because complaining is struggling for relief:

    It is the wretch’s comfort still to have
    Some small reserve of near and inward wo,
    Some unsuspected hoard of inward grief,
    Which they unseen may wail, and weep, and mourn,
    And glutton-like alone devour.
         _Mourning Bride, act 1. sc. 1._

When grief subsides, it then and no sooner finds a tongue. We complain,
because complaining is an effort to disburden the mind of its

Surprise and terror are silent passions for a different reason: they
agitate the mind so violently, as for a time to suspend the exercise of
its faculties, and in particular that of speech.

Love and revenge, when immoderate, are not more loquacious than
immoderate grief. But when these passions become moderate, they set the
tongue free, and, like moderate grief, become loquacious. Moderate love,
when unsuccessful, is vented in complaints; when successful, is full of
joy expressed both in words and gestures.

As no passion hath any long uninterrupted existence[64] nor beats always
with an equal pulse, the language suggested by passion is also unequal
and interrupted. And even during an uninterrupted fit of passion, we
only express in words the more capital sentiments. In familiar
conversation, one who vents every single thought is justly branded with
the character of _loquacity_. Sensible persons express no thoughts but
what make some figure. In the same manner, we are only disposed to
express the strongest impulses of passion, especially when it returns
with impetuosity after some interruption.

I already have had occasion to observe[65], that the sentiments ought to
be tuned to the passion, and the language to both. Elevated sentiments
require elevated language: tender sentiments ought to be clothed in
words that are soft and flowing: when the mind is depressed with any
passion, the sentiments must be expressed in words that are humble, not
low. Words have an intimate connection with the ideas they represent;
and the representation must be imperfect, if the words correspond not
precisely to the ideas. An elevated tone of language to express a plain
or humble sentiment, has a bad effect by a discordant mixture of
feeling. There is not less discord when elevated sentiments are dressed
in low words:

    Versibus exponi tragicis res comica non vult.
    Indignatur item privatis ac prope Socco
    Dignis carminibus narrari cœna Thyestæ.
         _Horace, Ars poet. l. 89._

This however excludes not figurative expression, which, within moderate
bounds, communicates to the sentiment an agreeable elevation. We are
sensible of an effect directly opposite, where figurative expression is
indulged beyond a just measure. The opposition betwixt the expression
and the sentiment, makes the discord appear greater than it is in

At the same time, all passions admit not equally of figures. Pleasant
emotions, which elevate or swell the mind, vent themselves in strong
epithets and figurative expression. Humbling and dispiriting passions,
on the contrary, affect to speak plain:

    Et tragicus plerumque dolet sermone pedestri
    Telephus et Peleus: cum pauper et exul uterque;
    Projicit ampullas et sesquipedalia verba,
    Si curat cor spectantis tetigisse querela.
         _Horace, Ars poet. 95._

Figurative expression is the work of an enlivened imagination, and for
that reason cannot be the language of anguish or distress. A scene of
this kind is painted by Otway in colours finely adapted to the subject.
There is scarce a figure in it, except a short and natural simile with
which the speech is introduced.

Belvidera talking to her father of her husband:

    Think you saw what pass’d at our last parting;
    Think you beheld him like a raging lion,
    Pacing the earth, and tearing up his steps,
    Fate in his eyes, and roaring with the pain
    Of burning fury; think you saw his one hand
    Fix’d on my throat, while the extended other
    Grasp’d a keen threat’ning dagger; oh, ’twas thus
    We last embrac’d, when, trembling with revenge,
    He dragg’d me to the ground, and at my bosom
    Presented horrid death; cry’d out, My friends,
    Where are my friends? swore, wept, rag’d, threaten’d, lov’d;
    For he yet lov’d, and that dear love preserv’d me
    To this last trial of a father’s pity.
    I fear not death, but cannot bear a thought
    That that dear hand should do th’ unfriendly office;
    If I was ever then your care, now hear me;
    Fly to the senate, save the promis’d lives
    Of his dear friends, ere mine be made the sacrifice.
         _Venice preserv’d, act 5._

To preserve this resemblance betwixt words and their meaning, the
sentiments of active and hurrying passions ought to be dressed in words
where syllables prevail that are pronounced short or fast; for these
make an impression of hurry and precipitation. Emotions, on the other
hand, that rest upon their objects, are best expressed by words where
syllables prevail that are pronounced long or slow. A person affected
with melancholy has a languid and slow train of perceptions. The
expression best suited to this state of mind, is where words not only of
long but of many syllables abound in the composition. For that reason,
nothing can be finer than the following passage:

    In those deep solitudes, and awful cells,
    Where heav’nly-pensive Contemplation dwells,
    And ever-musing Melancholy reigns.
         _Pope, Eloisa to Abelard._

To preserve the same resemblance, another circumstance is requisite,
that the language conformable to the emotion, be rough or smooth, broken
or uniform. Calm and sweet emotions are best expressed by words that
glide softly; surprise, fear, and other turbulent passions, require an
expression both rough and broken.

It cannot have escaped any diligent inquirer into nature, that in the
hurry of passion, one generally expresses that thing first which is most
at heart. This is beautifully done in the following passage.

    Me, me; adsum qui feci: in me convertite ferrum,
    O Rutuli, mea fraus omnis.
         _Æneid ix. 427._

Passion has often the effect of redoubling words, the better to make
them express the strong conception of the mind. This is finely
represented in the following examples:

          ---- Thou sun, said I, fair light!
    And thou enlighten’d earth, so fresh and gay!
    Ye hills and dales, ye rivers, woods, and plains!
    And ye that live, and move, fair creatures! tell
    Tell, if ye saw, how came I thus, how here.--
         _Paradise Lost, b. viii. 273._

            ---- Both have sinn’d! but thou
    Against God only; I, ’gainst God and thee:
    And to the place of judgement will return.
    There with my cries importune Heav’n; that all
    The sentence, from thy head remov’d, may light
    On me, sole cause to thee of all this woe;
    Me! Me! only just object of his ire.
         _Paradise Lost, book x. 930._

Shakespear is superior to all other writers in delineating passion. It
is difficult to say in what part he most excels, whether in moulding
every passion to peculiarity of character, in discovering the sentiments
that proceed from various tones of passion, or in expressing properly
every different sentiment. He imposes not upon his reader, general
declamation and the false coin of unmeaning words, which the bulk of
writers deal in. His sentiments are adjusted, with the greatest
propriety, to the peculiar character and circumstances of the speaker;
and the propriety is not less perfect betwixt his sentiments and his
diction. That this is no exaggeration, will be evident to every one of
taste, upon comparing Shakespear with other writers, in similar
passages. If upon any occasion he fall below himself, it is in those
scenes where passion enters not. By endeavouring in this case to raise
his dialogue above the style of ordinary conversation, he sometimes
deviates into intricate thought and obscure expression[67]. Sometimes,
to throw his language out of the familiar, he employs rhyme. But may it
not in some measure excuse Shakespear, I shall not say his works, that
he had no pattern, in his own or in any living language, of dialogue
fitted for the theatre? At the same time, it ought not to escape
observation, that the stream clears in its progress, and that in his
later plays he has attained the purity and perfection of dialogue; an
observation that, with greater certainty than tradition, will direct us
to arrange his plays in the order of time. This ought to be considered
by those who magnify every blemish that is discovered in the finest
genius for the drama ever the world enjoy’d. They ought also for their
own sake to consider, that it is easier to discover his blemishes, which
lie generally at the surface, than his beauties, of which none can have
a thorough relish but those who dive deep into human nature. One thing
must be evident to the meanest capacity, that where-ever passion is to
be display’d, Nature shows itself strong in him, and is conspicuous by
the most delicate propriety of sentiment and expression[68].

I return to my subject from a digression I cannot repent of. That
perfect harmony which ought to subsist among all the constituent parts
of a dialogue, is a beauty, not less rare than conspicuous. As to
expression in particular, were I to give instances, where, in one or
other of the respects above mentioned, it corresponds not precisely to
the characters, passions, and sentiments, I might from different authors
collect volumes. Following therefore the method laid down in the chapter
of sentiments, I shall confine my citations to the grosser errors, which
every writer ought to avoid.

And, first, of passion expressed in words flowing in an equal course
without interruption.

In the chapter above cited, Corneille is censured for the impropriety of
his sentiments; and here, for the sake of truth, I am obliged to attack
him a second time. Were I to give instances from that author of the
fault under consideration, I might copy whole tragedies; for he is not
less faulty in this particular, than in passing upon us his own thoughts
as a spectator, instead of the genuine sentiments of passion. Nor would
a comparison betwixt him and Shakespear upon the present point, redound
more to his honour, than the former upon the sentiments. Racine here is
less incorrect than Corneille, though many degrees inferior to the
English author. From Racine I shall gather a few instances. The first
shall be the description of the sea-monster in his _Phædra_, given by
Theramene the companion of Hippolytus, and an eye-witness to the
disaster. Theramene is represented in terrible agitation, which appears
from the following passage, so boldly figurative as not to be excused
but by violent perturbation of mind.

    Le ciel avec horreur voit ce monstre sauvage,
    La terre s’en émeut, l’air en est infecté,
    Le flot, qui l’apporta, recule epouvanté.

Yet Theramene gives a long pompous connected description of this event,
dwelling upon every minute circumstance, as if he had been only a cool

    A peine nous sortions des portes de Trézene, _&c._
         _Act 5. sc. 6._

The last speech of Atalide, in the tragedy of _Bajazet_, of the same
author, is a continued discourse, and but a faint representation of the
violent passion which forc’d her to put an end to her own life.

    Enfin, c’en est donc fait, _&c._
         _Act 5. sc. last._

Though works, not authors, are the professed subject of this critical
undertaking, I am tempted by the present speculation, to transgress once
again the limits prescribed, and to venture a cursory reflection upon
this justly-celebrated author, That he is always sensible, generally
correct, never falls low, maintains a moderate degree of dignity without
reaching the sublime, paints delicately the tender passions, but is a
stranger to the true language of enthusiastic or fervid passion.

If in general the language of violent passion ought to be broken and
interrupted, soliloquies ought to be so in a peculiar manner. Language
is intended by nature for society; and a man when alone, though he
always clothes his thoughts in words, seldom gives his words utterance
unless when prompted by some strong emotion; and even then by starts and
intervals only[69]. Shakespear’s soliloquies may be justly established
as a model; for it is not easy to conceive any model more perfect. Of
his many incomparable soliloquies, I confine myself to the two
following, being different in their manner.

    _Hamlet._ Oh, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
    Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
    Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
    His cannon ’gainst self slaughter? O God! O God!
    How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
    Seem to me all the uses of this world!
    Fie on’t! O fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,
    That grows to seed: things rank and gross in nature
    Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
    But two months dead, nay not so much; not two--
    So excellent a king, that was, to this,
    Hyperion to a satyr: so loving to my mother,
    That he permitted not the winds of heav’n
    Visit her face too roughly. Heav’n and earth!
    Must I remember,--why, she would hang on him,
    As if increase of appetite had grown
    By what it fed on; yet, within a month----
    Let me not think----Frailty, thy name is _Woman_!
    A little month, or ere those shoes were old,
    With which she follow’d my poor father’s body,
    Like Niobe, all tears---- why she, ev’n she----
    (O Heav’n! a beast that wants discourse of reason
    Would have mourn’d longer----) married with mine uncle,
    My father’s brother; but no more like my father
    Than I to Hercules---- Within a month----
    Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
    Had left the flushing in her gauled eyes,
    She married---- Oh, most wicked speed, to post
    With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
    It is not, nor it cannot come to good.
    But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
         _Hamlet, act 1. sc. 3._

     _Ford._ Hum! ha! is this a vision? is this a dream? do I sleep? Mr
     Ford, awake; awake Mr Ford; there’s a hole made in your best coat,
     Mr Ford! this ’tis to be married! this ’tis to have linen and buck
     baskets! Well, I will proclaim myself what I am; I will now take
     the leacher; he is at my house, he cannot ’scape me; ’tis
     impossible he should; he cannot creep into a halfpenny-purse, nor
     into a pepper-box. But lest the devil that guides him should aid
     him, I will search impossible places; though what I am I cannot
     avoid, yet to be what I would not, shall not make me tame.

                     _Merry Wives of Windsor, act 3. sc. last._

These soliloquies are accurate copies of nature. In a passionate
soliloquy one begins with thinking aloud; and the strongest feelings
only, are expressed. As the speaker warms, he begins to imagine one
listening, and gradually slides into a connected discourse.

How far distant are soliloquies generally from these models? They are
indeed for the most part so unhappily executed, as to give disgust
instead of pleasure. The first scene of _Iphigenia_ in Tauris discovers
that princess, in a soliloquy, gravely reporting to herself her own
history. There is the same impropriety in the first scene of Alcestes,
and in the other introductions of Euripides, almost without exception.
Nothing can be more ridiculous. It puts one in mind of that ingenious
device in Gothic paintings, of making every figure explain itself by a
written label issuing from its mouth. The description a parasite, in the
_Eunuch_ of Terence[70], gives of himself in the form of a soliloquy, is
lively; but against all the rules of propriety; for no man, in his
ordinary state of mind, and upon a familiar subject, ever thinks of
talking aloud to himself. The same objection lies against a soliloquy in
the _Adelphi_ of the same author[71]. The soliloquy which makes the
third scene, act third, of his _Heicyra_, is insufferable; for there
Pamphilus, soberly and circumstantially, relates to himself an adventure
which had happened to him a moment before.

Corneille is not more happy in his soliloquies than in his dialogue.
Take for a specimen the first scene of _Cinna_.

Racine also is extremely faulty in the same respect. His soliloquies,
almost without exception, are regular harangues, a chain completed in
every link, without interruption or interval. That of Antiochus in
_Berenice_[72] resembles a regular pleading, where the parties _pro_ and
_con_ display their arguments at full length. The following soliloquies
are equally destitute of propriety: _Bajazet_, act 3. sc. 7.
_Mithridate_, act 3. sc. 4. & act 4. sc. 5. _Iphigenia_, act 4. sc. 8.

Soliloquies upon lively or interesting subjects, but without any
turbulence of passion, may be carried on in a continued chain of
thought. If, for example, the nature and sprightliness of the subject
prompt a man to speak his thoughts in the form of a dialogue, the
expression must be carried on without break or interruption, as in a
dialogue betwixt two persons. This justifies Falstaff’s soliloquy upon

     What need I be so forward with Death, that calls not on me? Well,
     ’tis no matter, Honour pricks me on. But how if Honour prick me
     off, when I come on? how then? Can Honour set a leg? No: or an arm?
     No: or take away the grief of a wound? No: Honour hath no skill in
     surgery then? No. What is Honour? A word.--What is that word
     _honour_? Air; a trim reckoning.---- Who hath it? He that dy’d a
     Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. Is it
     insensible then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the
     living? No: Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore, I’ll
     none of it; honour is a mere scutcheon, and so ends my catechism.

                     _First part Henry IV. act 5. sc. 2._

And even without dialogue, a continued discourse may be justified, where
the soliloquy is upon an important subject that makes a strong
impression, but without much agitation. For if it be at all excusable to
think aloud, it is necessary that the language with the reasoning be
carried on in a chain without a broken link. In this view that admirable
soliloquy in _Hamlet_ upon life and immortality, being a serene
meditation upon the most interesting of all subjects, ought to escape
censure. And the same consideration will justify the soliloquy that
introduces the 5th act of Addison’s _Cato_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next class of the grosser errors which all writers ought to avoid,
shall be of language elevated above the tone of the sentiment; of which
take the following instances.

    _Zara._ Swift as occasion, I
    Myself will fly; and earlier than the morn
    Wake thee to freedom. Now ’tis late; and yet
    Some news few minutes past arriv’d, which seem’d
    To shake the temper of the King---- Who knows
    What racking cares disease a monarch’s bed?
    Or love, that late at night still lights his lamp,
    And strikes his rays through dusk, and folded lids,
    Forbidding rest, may stretch his eyes awake,
    And force their balls abroad at this dead hour.
    I’ll try.
         _Mourning Bride, act 3. sc. 4._

The language here is undoubtedly too pompous and laboured for describing
so simple a circumstance as absence of sleep. In the following passage,
the tone of the language, warm and plaintive, is well suited to the
passion, which is recent grief. But every one will be sensible, that in
the last couplet save one, the tone is changed, and the mind suddenly
elevated to be let fall as suddenly in the last couplet.

    Il déteste à jamais sa coupable victoire,
    Il renonce à la cour, aux humains, à la gloire;
    Et se fuïant lui-même, au milieu des deserts,
    Il va cacher sa peine au bout de l’univers;
    La, soit que le soleil rendît le jour au monde,
    Soit qu’il finît sa course au vaste sein de l’onde,
    Sa voix faisoit redire aux echos attendris,
    Le nom, le triste nom, de son malheureux fils.
         _Henriade, chant. viii. 229._

Language too artificial or too figurative for the gravity, dignity, or
importance, of the occasion, may be put in a third class.

       *       *       *       *       *

Chimene demanding justice against Rodrigue who killed her father,
instead of a plain and pathetic expostulation, makes a speech stuffed
with the most artificial flowers of rhetoric:

    Sire, mon pere est mort, mes yeux ont vû son sang
    Couler à gros bouillons de son généreux flanc;
    Ce sang qui tant de fois garantit vos murailles,
    Ce sang qui tant de fois vous gagna des batailles,
    Ce sang qui, tout sorti fume encore de courroux
    De se voir répandu pour d’autres que pour vous,
    Qu’au milieu des hazards n’osoit verser la guerre,
    Rodrigue en votre cour vient d’en couvrir la terre.
    J’ai couru sur le lieu sans force, et sans couleur;
    Je l’ai trouvé sans vie. Excusez ma douleur,
    Sire; la voix me manque à ce récit funeste,
    Mes pleurs et mes soupirs vous diront mieux le reste.

And again:

    Son flanc etoit ouvert, et, pour mieux m’emouvoir,
    Son sang sur la poussiére écrivoit mon devoire;
    Ou plutôt sa valeur en cet état réduite
    Me parloit par sa plaie, et hâtoit ma pursuite,
    Et pour se faire entendre au plus juste des Rois,
    Par cette triste bouche elle empruntoit ma voix.
         _Act 2. sc. 9._

Nothing can be contrived in language more averse to the tone of the
passion than this florid speech. I should imagine it more apt to provoke
laughter than to inspire concern or pity.

       *       *       *       *       *

In a fourth class shall be given specimens of language too light or airy
for a severe passion.

       *       *       *       *       *

The agony a mother must feel upon the savage murder of two hopeful sons,
rejects all imagery and figurative expression, as discordant in the
highest degree. Therefore the following passage is undoubtedly in a bad

    _Queen._ Ah, my poor princes! ah, my tender babes,
    My unblown flow’rs, new-appearing sweets!
    If yet your gentle souls fly in the air,
    And be not fixt in doom perpetual,
    Hover about me with your airy wings,
    And hear your mother’s lamentation.
         _Richard III. act 4. sc. 4._


    _K. Philip._ You are as fond of grief as of your child.

    _Constance._ Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
    Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
    Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
    Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
    Stuffs out his vacant garment with his form;
    Then have I reason to be fond of grief.
         _King John, act 3. sc. 6._

A thought that turns upon the expression instead of the subject,
commonly called _a play of words_, being low and childish, is unworthy
of any composition, whether gay or serious, that pretends to the
smallest share of dignity. Thoughts of this kind make a fifth class.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the _Aminta_ of Tasso[73] the lover falls into a mere play of words,
demanding how he who had lost himself, could find a mistress. And for
the same reason, the following passage in Corneille has been generally

    _Chimene._ Mon pere est mort, Elvire, et la premiére épée
    Dont s’est armé Rodrigue à sa trame coupée.
    Pleurez, pleurez, mes yeux, et fondez-vous en eau,
    La moitié de ma vie a mis l’autre au tombeau,
    Et m’oblige à venger, aprés ce coup funeste,
    Celle que je n’ai plus, sur celle qui me reste.
         _Cid, act 3. sc. 3._

    To die is to be banish’d from myself:
    And Sylvia is myself; banish’d from her,
    Is self from self; a deadly banishment!
         _Two Gentlemen of Verona, act 3. sc. 3._

    _Countess._ I pray thee, Lady, have a better cheer:
    If thou ingrossest all the griefs as thine,
    Thou robb’st me of a moiety.
         _All’s well that ends well, act 3. sc. 3._

    _K. Henry._ O my poor kingdom, sick with civil blows!
    When that my care could not with-hold thy riots,
    What wilt thou do when riot is thy care?
    O, thou wilt be a wilderness again,
    Peopled with wolves, thy old inhabitants.
         _Second part, Henry IV. act 4. sc. 11._

    Cruda Amarilli, che col nome ancora
    D’amar, ahi lasso, amaramente insegni.
         _Pastor Fido, act 1. sc. 2._

Antony, speaking of Julius Cæsar:

    O world! thou wast the forest of this hart;
    And this, indeed, O world, the heart of thee.
    How like a deer, stricken by many princes,
    Dost thou here lie!
         _Julius Cæsar, act 3. sc. 3._

Playing thus with the sound of words, which is still worse than a pun,
is the meanest of all conceits. But Shakespear, when he descends to a
play of words, is not always in the wrong; for it is done sometimes to
denote a peculiar character; as is the following passage.

    _King Philip._ What say’st thou, boy? look in the lady’s face.

    _Lewis._ I do, my Lord, and in her eye I find
    A wonder, or a wond’rous miracle;
    The shadow of myself form’d in her eye;
    Which being but the shadow of your son,
    Becomes a sun, and makes your son a shadow.
    I do protest, I never lov’d myself,
    Till now infixed I beheld myself
    Drawn in the flatt’ring table of her eye.

    _Faulconbridge._ Drawn in the flatt’ring table of her eye!
    Hang’d in the frowning wrinkle of her brow!
    And quarter’d in her heart! he doth espy
    Himself Love’s traitor: this is pity now,
    That hang’d, and drawn, and quarter’d, there should be,
    In such a love so vile a lout as he.
         _King John, act. 2. sc. 5._

A jingle of words is the lowest species of this low wit; which is scarce
sufferable in any case, and least of all in an heroic poem. And yet
Milton in some instances has descended to this puerility:

    And brought into the world a world of wo.
   ---- Begirt th’ almighty throne
    Beseeching or besieging----
    Which tempted our attempt----
    At one slight bound high overleap’d all bound,
                   ---- With a shout
    Loud as from numbers without number.

One should think it unnecessary to enter a caveat against an expression
that has no meaning, or no distinct meaning; and yet somewhat of this
kind may be found even among good writers. These make a sixth class.

    _Sebastian._ I beg no pity for this mould’ring clay.
    For if you give it burial, there it takes
    Possession of your earth:
    If burnt and scatter’d in the air; the winds
    That strow my dust, diffuse my royalty,
    And spread me o’er your clime; for where one atom
    Of mine shall light, know there Sebastian reigns.
         _Dryden, Don Sebastian King of Portugal, act 1._

    _Cleopatra._ Now, what news my Charmion?
    Will he be kind? and will he not forsake me?
    Am I to live or die? nay, do I live?
    Or am I dead? for when he gave his answer,
    Fate took the word, and then I liv’d or dy’d.
         _Dryden, All for Love, act 2._

    If she be coy, and scorn my noble fire,
      If her chill heart I cannot move;
      Why, I’ll enjoy the very love,
    And make a mistress of my own desire.
         _Cowley, poem inscribed_, The Request.

His whole poem, inscribed, _My Picture_, is a jargon of the same kind:

            ---- ’Tis he, they cry, by whom
    Not men, but war itself is overcome.
         _Indian Queen._

Such empty expressions are finely ridiculed in the _Rehearsal_:

    Was’t not unjust to ravish hence her breath,
    And in life’s stead to leave us nought but death?
         _Act 4. sc 1._


Beauty of Language.

Of all the fine arts, painting only and sculpture are in their nature
imitative. A field laid out with taste, is not, properly speaking, a
copy or imitation of nature, but nature itself embellished. Architecture
deals in originals, and copies not from nature. Sound and motion may in
some measure be imitated by music; but for the most part music, like
architecture, deals in originals. Language has no archetype in nature,
more than music or architecture; unless where, like music, it is
imitative of sound or motion. In the description of particular sounds,
language sometimes happily furnisheth words, which, beside their
customary power of exciting ideas, resemble by their softness or
harshness the sound described: and there are words, which, by the
celerity or slowness of pronunciation, have some resemblance to the
motion they signify. This imitative power of words goes one step
farther. The loftiness of some words, makes them proper symbols of lofty
ideas: a rough subject is imitated by harsh-sounding words; and words of
many syllables pronounced slow and smooth, are naturally expressive of
grief and melancholy. Words have a separate effect on the mind,
abstracting from their signification and from their imitative power.
They are more or less agreeable to the ear, by the roundness, sweetness,
faintness, or roughness, of their tones.

These are beauties, but not of the first rank: They are relished by
those only, who have more delicacy of sensation than belongs to the bulk
of mankind. Language possesseth a beauty superior greatly in degree, of
which we are eminently conscious when a thought is communicated in a
strong and lively manner. This beauty of language, arising from its
power of expressing thought, is apt to be confounded with the beauty of
the thought expressed; which beauty, by a natural transition of feeling
among things intimately connected, is convey’d to the expression, and
makes it appear more beautiful[74]. But these beauties, if we wish to
think accurately, must be carefully distinguished from each other. They
are indeed so distinct, that we sometimes are conscious of the highest
pleasure language can afford, when the subject expressed is
disagreeable. A thing that is loathsome, or a scene of horror to make
one’s hair stand on end, may be described in the liveliest manner. In
this case, the disagreeableness of the subject, doth not even obscure
the agreeableness of the description. The causes of the original beauty
of language considered as significant, which is a branch of the present
subject, will be explained in their order. I shall only at present
observe, that this beauty is the beauty of means fitted to an end,
_viz._ the communication of thought. And hence it evidently appears,
that of several expressions all conveying the same thought, the most
beautiful, in the sense now mentioned, is that which in the most
perfect manner answers its end.

The several beauties of language above mentioned, being of different
kinds and distinguishable from each other, ought to be handled
separately. I shall begin with those beauties of language which arise
from sound; after which will follow the beauties of language considered
as significant. This order appears natural; for the sound of a word is
attended to, before we consider its signification. In a third section
come those singular beauties of language that are derived from a
resemblance betwixt sound and signification. The beauties of verse I
propose to handle in the last section. For though the foregoing beauties
are found in verse as well as in prose; yet verse has many peculiar
beauties, which for the sake of perspicuity must be brought under one
view. And versification, at any rate, is a subject of so great
importance, as to deserve a place by itself.


_Beauty of language with respect to sound._

I propose to handle this subject in the following order, which appears
the most natural. The sounds of the different letters come first. Next,
these sounds as united in syllables. Third, syllables united in words.
Fourth, words united in a period. And in the last place, periods united
in a discourse.

With respect to the first article, every vowel is sounded by a single
expiration of air from the wind-pipe through the cavity of the mouth;
and by varying this cavity, the different vowels are sounded. The air in
passing through cavities differing in size, produceth various sounds,
some high or sharp, some low or flat. A small cavity occasions a high
sound, a large cavity a low sound. The five vowels accordingly,
pronounced with the same extension of the wind-pipe, but with different
openings of the mouth, form a regular series of sounds, descending from
high to low, in the following order, _i_, _e_, _a_[75], _o_, _u_. Each
of these sounds is agreeable to the ear. And if it be inquired which of
them is the most agreeable, it is perhaps the safest side to hold, that
there is no universal preference of any one before the rest. Probably
those vowels which are farthest removed from the extremes, will
generally be the most relished. This is all I have to remark upon the
first article. For consonants being letters which of themselves have no
sound, have no other power but to form articulate sounds in conjunction
with vowels; and every such articulate sound being a syllable,
consonants come naturally under the second article. To which therefore
we proceed.

All consonants are pronounced with a less cavity than any of the vowels;
and consequently they contribute to form a sound still more sharp than
the sharpest vowel pronounced single. Hence it follows, that every
articulate sound into which a consonant enters, must necessarily be
double, though pronounced with one expiration of air, or with one breath
as commonly expressed. The reason is, that though two sounds readily
unite; yet where they differ in tone, both of them must be heard if
neither of them be suppressed. For the same reason, every syllable must
be composed of as many sounds as there are letters, supposing every
letter to be distinctly pronounced.

We next inquire, how far articulate sounds into which consonants enter,
are agreeable to the ear. With respect to this point, there is a noted
observation, that all sounds of difficult pronunciation are to the ear
harsh in proportion. Few tongues are so polished as entirely to have
rejected sounds that are pronounced with difficulty; and such sounds
must in some measure be disagreeable. But with respect to agreeable
sounds, it appears, that a double sound is always more agreeable than a
single sound. Every one who has an ear must be sensible, that the
diphthongs _oi_ or _ai_ are more agreeable than any of these vowels
pronounced singly. And the same holds where a consonant enters into the
double sound. The syllable _le_ has a more agreeable sound than the
vowel _e_ or than any vowel. And in support of experience, a
satisfactory argument may be drawn from the wisdom of Providence. Speech
is bestowed upon man, to qualify him for society. The provision he hath
of articulate sounds, is proportioned to the use he hath for them. But
if sounds that are agreeable singly were not also agreeable in
conjunction, the necessity of a painful selection would render language
intricate and difficult to be attained in any perfection. And this
selection, at the same time, would tend to abridge the number of useful
sounds, so as perhaps not to leave sufficient for answering the
different ends of language.

In this view, the harmony of pronunciation differs widely from that of
music properly so called. In the latter are discovered many sounds
singly agreeable, that in conjunction are extremely disagreeable; none
but what are called _concordant sounds_ having a good effect in
conjunction. In the former, all sounds singly agreeable are in
conjunction concordant; and ought to be, in order to fulfil the
purposes of language.

Having discussed syllables, we proceed to words; which make a third
article. Monosyllables belong to the former head. Polysyllables open a
different scene. In a cursory view, one will readily imagine, that the
effect a word hath upon the ear, must depend entirely upon the
agreeableness or disagreeableness of its component syllables. In part it
doth; but not entirely; for we must also take under consideration the
effect that a number of syllables composing a word have in succession.
In the first place, syllables in immediate succession, pronounced, each
of them, with the same or nearly the same aperture of the mouth, produce
a weak and imperfect sound; witness the French words _détêté_
(detested), _dit-il_ (says he), _patetique_ (pathetic). On the other
hand, a syllable of the greatest aperture succeeding one of the
smallest, or the opposite, makes a succession, which, because of its
remarkable disagreeableness, is distinguished by a proper name, _viz.
hiatus_. The most agreeable succession, is, where the cavity is
increased and diminished alternately by moderate intervals. Secondly,
words consisting wholly of syllables pronounced slow or of syllables
pronounced quick, commonly called _long_ and _short syllables_, have
little melody in them. Witness the words _petitioner_, _fruiterer_,
_dizziness_. On the other hand, the intermixture of long and short
syllables is remarkably agreeable; for example, _degree_, _repent_,
_wonderful_, _altitude_, _rapidity_, _independent_, _impetuosity_. The
cause will be explained afterward, in treating of versification.

Distinguishable from the beauties above mentioned, there is a beauty of
some words which arises from their signification. When the emotion
raised by the length or shortness, the roughness or smoothness, of the
sound, resembles in any degree what is raised by the sense, we feel a
very remarkable pleasure. But this subject belongs to the third section.

The foregoing observations afford a standard to every nation, for
estimating, pretty accurately, the comparative merit of the words that
enter into their own language. And though at first view they may be
thought equally useful for estimating the comparative merit of different
languages; yet this holds not in fact, because no person can readily be
found who is sufficiently qualified to apply the standard. What I mean
is, that different nations judge differently of the harshness or
smoothness of articulate sounds: a sound, harsh and disagreeable to an
Italian, may be abundantly smooth to a northern ear. Where are we to
find a judge to determine this controversy? and supposing a judge, upon
what principle is his decision to be founded? The case here is precisely
the same as in behaviour and manners. Plain-dealing and sincerity,
liberty in words and actions, form the character of one people.
Politeness, reserve, and a total disguise of every sentiment that can
give offence, form the character of another people. To each the manners
of the other are disagreeable. An effeminate mind cannot bear the least
of that roughness and severity, which is generally esteemed manly when
exerted upon proper occasions. Neither can an effeminate ear bear the
least harshness in words that are deemed nervous and sounding by those
accustomed to a rougher tone of language. Must we then relinquish all
thoughts of comparing languages in the point of roughness and
smoothness, as a fruitless inquiry? Not altogether so; for we may
proceed a certain length, though without hope of an ultimate decision. A
language with difficulty pronounced even by natives, must yield the
preference to a smoother language. Again, supposing two languages
pronounced with equal facility by natives, the preference, in my
judgement, ought to be in favour of the rougher language; provided it be
also stored with a competent share of more mellow sounds. This will be
evident from attending to the different effects that articulate sound
hath upon the mind. A smooth gliding sound is agreeable, by smoothing
the mind and lulling it to rest. A rough bold sound, on the contrary,
animates the mind. The effort perceived in pronouncing, is communicated
to the hearers: they feel in their own minds a similar effort, which
rouses their attention and disposes them to action. I must add another
consideration. The agreeableness of contrast in the rougher language,
for which the great variety of sounds gives ample opportunity, must,
even in an effeminate ear, prevail over the more uniform sounds of the
smoother language[76]. This appears to me all that can be safely
determined upon the present point. With respect to the other
circumstances that constitute the beauty of words, the standard above
mentioned is infallible when apply’d to foreign languages as well as to
our own. For every man, whatever be his mother-tongue, is equally
capable to judge of the length or shortness of words, of the alternate
opening and closing of the mouth in speaking, and of the relation which
the sound bears to the sense. In these particulars, the judgement is
susceptible of no prejudice from custom, at least of no invincible

That the English tongue, originally harsh, is at present much softened
by dropping in the pronunciation many redundant consonants, is
undoubtedly true. That it is not capable of being farther mellowed,
without suffering in its force and energy, will scarce be thought by any
one who possesses an ear. And yet such in Britain is the propensity for
dispatch, that overlooking the majesty of words composed of many
syllables aptly connected, the prevailing taste is, to shorten words,
even at the expence of making them disagreeable to the ear and harsh in
the pronunciation. But I have no occasion to insist upon this article,
being prevented by an excellent writer, who possessed, if any man ever
did, the true genius of the English tongue[77]. I cannot however forbear
urging one observation borrowed from that author. Several tenses of our
verbs are formed by adding the final syllable _ed_, which, being a weak
sound, has remarkably the worse effect by possessing the most
conspicuous place in the word. Upon that account, the vowel is in common
speech generally suppressed, and the consonant is added to the foregoing
syllable. Hence the following rugged sounds, _drudg’d_, _disturb’d_,
_rebuk’d_, _fledg’d_. It is still less excuseable to follow this
practice in writing; for the hurry of speaking may excuse what is
altogether improper in a composition of any value. The syllable _ed_, it
is true, makes but a poor figure at the end of a word: but we ought to
submit to that defect, rather than multiply the number of harsh words,
which, after all that has been done, bear an over-proportion in our
tongue. The author above mentioned, by showing a good example, did all
in his power to restore that syllable; and he well deserves to be
imitated. Some exceptions however I would make. A word which signifies
labour, or any thing harsh or rugged, ought not to be smooth. Therefore
_forc’d_, with an apostrophe, is better than _forced_, without it.
Another exception is, where the penult syllable ends with a vowel. In
that case the final syllable _ed_ may be apostrophized without making
the word harsh. Examples, _betray’d_, _carry’d_, _destroy’d_,

The article next in order, is to consider the music of words as united
in a period. And as the arrangement of words in succession so as to
afford the greatest pleasure to the ear, depends on principles pretty
remote from common view, it will be necessary to premise some general
observations upon the effect that a number of objects have upon the mind
when they are placed in an increasing or decreasing series. The effect
of such a series will be very different, according as resemblance or
contrast prevails. Where the members of a series vary by small
differences, resemblance prevails; which, in ascending, makes us
conceive the second object of no greater size than the first, the third
of no greater size than the second, and so of the rest. This diminisheth
in appearance the size of the whole. Again, when beginning at the
largest object, we proceed gradually to the least, resemblance makes us
imagine the second as large as the first, and the third as large as the
second; which in appearance magnifies every object of the series except
the first. On the other hand, in a series varying by great differences,
where contrast prevails, the effects are directly opposite. A large
object succeeding a small one of the same kind, appears by the
opposition larger than usual: and a small object, for the same reason,
succeeding one that is large, appears less than usual[78]. Hence a
remarkable pleasure in viewing a series ascending by large intervals;
directly opposite to what we feel when the intervals are small.
Beginning at the smallest object of a series where contrast prevails,
this object has the same effect upon the mind as if it stood single
without making a part of the series. But this is not the case of the
second object, which by means of contrast makes a much greater figure
than when viewed singly and apart; and the same effect is perceived in
ascending progressively, till we arrive at the last object. The direct
contrary effect is produced in descending; for in this direction, every
object, except the first, makes a less figure than when viewed
separately and independent of the series. We may then lay down as a
maxim, which will hold in the composition of language as well as of
other subjects, That a strong impulse succeeding a weak, makes a double
impression on the mind; and that a weak impulse succeeding a strong,
makes scarce any impression.

After establishing this maxim, we can be at no loss about its
application to the subject in hand. The following rule is laid down by
Diomedes[79]. “In verbis observandum est, ne a majoribus ad minora
descendat oratio; melius enim dicitur, _Vir est optimus_, quam, _Vir
optimus est_.” This rule is applicable not only to single words, but
equally to entire members of a period, which, according to our author’s
expression, ought not more than single words to proceed from the greater
to the less, but from the less to the greater. In arranging the members
of a period, no writer equals Cicero. The beauty of the following
examples out of many, will not suffer me to slur them over by a

    Quicum quæstor fueram,
    Quicum me sors consuetudoque majorum,
    Quicum me Deorum hominumque judicium conjunxerat.


    Habet honorem quem petimus,
    Habet spem quam præpositam nobis habemus,
    Habet existimationem, multo sudore, labore, vigiliisque, collectam.


    Eripite nos ex miseriis,
    Eripite nos ex faucibus eorum,
    Quorum crudelitas, nostro sanguine non potest expleri.
         _De oratore, l. 1. § 52._

This order of words or members gradually increasing in length, may, so
far as concerns the pleasure of sound singly, be denominated _a climax
in sound_.

The last article is the music of periods as united in a discourse; which
shall be dispatched in a very few words. By no other human means is it
possible to present to the mind, such a number of objects and in so
swift a succession, as by speaking or writing. And for that reason,
variety ought more to be studied in these, than in any other sort of
composition. Hence a rule regarding the arrangement of the members of
different periods with relation to each other, That to avoid a tedious
uniformity of sound and cadence, the arrangement, the cadence, and the
length of these members, ought to be diversified as much as possible.
And if the members of different periods be sufficiently diversified, the
periods themselves will be equally so.


_Beauty of language with respect to signification._

It is well said by a noted writer[80], “That by means of speech we can
divert our sorrows, mingle our mirth, impart our secrets, communicate
our counsels, and make mutual compacts and agreements to supply and
assist each other.” Considering speech as contributing thus to so many
good purposes, it follows, that the chusing words which have an accurate
meaning, and tend to convey clear and distinct ideas, must be one of its
capital beauties. This cause of beauty, is too extensive to be handled
as a branch of any other subject. To ascertain with accuracy even the
proper meaning of words, not to talk of their figurative power, would
require a large volume; an useful work indeed; but not to be attempted
without a large stock of time, study, and reflection. This branch
therefore of the subject I must humbly decline. Nor do I propose to
exhaust all the other beauties of language with respect to
signification. The reader, in a work like the present, cannot fairly
expect more than a slight sketch of those that make the greatest figure.
This is a task which I attempt the more willingly, as it appears to be
connected with some principles in human nature; and the rules I shall
have occasion to lay down, will, if I judge aright, be agreeable
illustrations of these principles. Every subject must be of importance
that tends in any measure to unfold the human heart; for what other
science is more worthy of human beings?

The present subject is so extensive, that, to prevent confusion, it must
be divided into parts; and what follows suggests a division into two
parts. In every period, two things are to be regarded, equally capital;
first, the words of which the period is composed; next, the arrangement
of these words. The former resemble the stones that compose a building;
and the latter resembles the order in which these stones are placed.
Hence the beauty of language with respect to its meaning, may not
improperly be distinguished into two kinds. The first consists in a
right choice of words or materials for constructing the period; and the
other consists in a due arrangement of these words or materials. I shall
begin with rules that direct us to a right choice of words, and then
proceed to rules that concern their arrangement.

And with respect to the former, communication of thought being the
principal end of language, it is a rule, That perspicuity ought not to
be sacrificed to any other beauty whatever. If it should be doubted
whether perspicuity be a positive beauty, it cannot be doubted, that the
want of it is the greatest defect. Nothing therefore in the structure of
language ought more to be studied, than to prevent all obscurity in the
expression; for to have no meaning, is but one degree worse than to
express it so as not to be understood. Want of perspicuity from a wrong
arrangement, belongs to the next branch. I shall give a few examples
where the obscurity arises from a wrong choice of words; and as this
defect is so common in ordinary writers as to make examples from them
unnecessary, I confine myself to the most celebrated authors.

       *       *       *       *       *

Livy, speaking of a rout after a battle,

    Multique in ruina majore quam fuga oppressi obtruncatique.
         _L. 4. § 46._

    Unde tibi reditum _certo subtemine_ Parcæ
         _Horace, epod. xiii. 22._.

    Qui persæpe cava testudine flevit amorem,
    _Non elaboratum ad pedem_.
         _Horace, epod. xiv. 11._

    Me fabulosæ Vulture in Appulo,
    Altricis extra limen Apuliæ,
      Ludo, fatigatumque _somno_,
        Fronde nova puerum palumbes
         _Horace, Carm. l. 3. ode 4._

    Puræ rivus aquæ, silvaque jugerum
    Paucorum, et segetis certa fides meæ,
    Fulgentem imperio fertilis Africæ
      Fallit sorte beatior.
         _Horace, Carm. l. 3. ode 16._

    Cum fas atque nefas exiguo _fine_ libidinum
    Discernunt avidi.
         _Horace, Carm. l. 1. ode 18._

    Ac spem fronte serenat.
         _Æneid iv. 477._

There is want of neatness even in an ambiguity so slight as that is
which arises from the construction merely; as where the period commences
with a member which is conceived to be in the nominative case, and which
afterward is found to be in the accusative. Example: “Some emotions more
peculiarly connected with the fine arts, I propose to handle in separate
chapters[81].” Better thus: “Some emotions more peculiarly connected
with the fine arts, are proposed to be handled in separate chapters.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The rule next in order, because next in importance, is, That the
language ought to correspond to the subject. Grand or heroic actions or
sentiments require elevated language: tender sentiments ought to be
expressed in words soft and flowing; and plain language devoid of
ornament, is adapted to subjects grave and didactic. Language may be
considered as the dress of thought; and where the one is not suited to
the other, we are sensible of incongruity, in the same manner as where a
judge is dressed like a fop, or a peasant like a man of quality. The
intimate connection that words have with their meaning, requires that
both be in the same tone. Or, to express the thing more plainly, the
impression made by the words ought as nearly as possible to resemble the
impression made by the thought. The similar emotions mix sweetly in the
mind, and augment the pleasure[82]. On the other hand, where the
impressions made by the thought and the words are dissimilar, they are
forc’d into a sort of unnatural union, which is disagreeable[83].

In the preceding chapter, concerning the language of passion, I had
occasion to give many examples of deviations from this rule with regard
to the manner of expressing passions and their sentiments. But as the
rule concerns the manner of expressing thoughts and ideas of all kinds,
it has an extensive influence in directing us to the choice of proper
materials. In that view it must be branched out into several
particulars. And I must observe, in the first place, that to write with
elegance, it is not sufficient to express barely the conjunction or
disjunction of the members of the thought. It is a beauty to find a
similar conjunction or disjunction in the words. This may be illustrated
by a familiar example. When we have occasion to mention the intimate
connection that the soul has with the body, the expression ought to be
_the soul and body_; because the particle _the_, relative to both, makes
a connection in the expression, which resembles in some degree the
connection in the thought. But when the soul is distinguished from the
body, it is better to say _the soul and the body_, because the
disjunction in the words resembles the disjunction in the thought. In
the following examples the connection in the thought is happily
imitated in the expression.

     Constituit agmen; et expedire tela animosque, equitibus jussis,

                     _Livy, l. 38. § 25._


     Quum ex paucis quotidie aliqui corum caderent aut vulnerarentur, et
     qui superarent, fessi et corporibus et animis essent, _&c._

                     _Livy, l. 38. § 29._

    Post acer Mnestheus adducto constitit arcu,
    Alta petens, pariterque oculos telumque tetendit.
         _Æneid, l. v. 507._

The following passage of Tacitus appears to me not so happy. It
approaches to wit by connecting in the foregoing manner things but
slightly related, which is not altogether suitable to the dignity or
gravity of history.

     Germania omnis a Galliis, Rhætiisque, et Pannoniis, Rheno et
     Danubio fluminibus; a Sarmatis Dacisque, mutuo metu aut montibus

                     _De moribus Germanorum._

I am more doubtful about this other instance:

            ---- The fiend look’d up, and knew
    His mounted scale aloft; nor more, but fled
    Murm’ring, and with him fled the shades of night.
         _Paradise Lost, B. 4. at the end._

I shall add some other examples where the opposition in the thought is
imitated in the words; an imitation that is distinguished by the name of

       *       *       *       *       *

Speaking of Coriolanus soliciting the people to be made consul:

    With a proud heart he wore his humble weeds.

     Had you rather Cæsar were living, and die all slaves; than that
     Cæsar were dead, to live all free men?

                     _Julius Cæsar._

     He hath cool’d my friends and heated mine enemies.


    Why, if two gods should play some _heav’nly_ match,
    And on the wager lay two _earthly_ women,
    And Portia one, there must be something else
    Pawn’d with the other; for the poor rude world
    Hath not her fellow.
         _Merchant of Venice, act 3. sc. 6._

This rule may be extended to govern the construction of sentences or
periods. A sentence or period in language ought to express one entire
thought or mental proposition; and different thoughts ought to be
separated in the expression by placing them in different sentences or
periods. It is therefore offending against neatness, to crowd into one
period entire thoughts which require more than one; for this is
conjoining in language things that are separated in reality; and
consequently rejecting that uniformity which ought to be preserved
betwixt thought and expression. Of errors against this rule take the
following examples.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cæsar, describing the Suevi:

     Atque in eam se consuetudinem adduxerunt, ut locis frigidissimis,
     neque vestitus, præter pelles, habeant quidquam, quarum, propter
     exiguitatem, magna est corporis pars operta, et laventur in

                     _Commentaria, l. 4. prin._

Burnet, in the history of his own times, giving Lord Sunderland’s
character, says,

     His own notions were always good; but he was a man of great

     I have seen a woman’s face break out in heats, as she has been
     talking against a great lord, whom she had never seen in her life;
     and indeed never knew a party-woman that kept her beauty for a

                     _Spectator_, Nº 57.

Lord Bolingbroke, speaking of Strada:

     I single him out among the moderns, because he had the foolish
     presumption to censure Tacitus, and to write history himself: and
     your Lordship will forgive this short excursion in honour of a
     favourite author.

                     _Letters on history, vol. 1. let. 5._

     It seems to me, that in order to maintain the moral system of the
     world at a certain point, far below that of ideal perfection, (for
     we are made capable of conceiving what we are incapable of
     attaining), but however sufficient upon the whole to constitute a
     state easy and happy, or at the worst tolerable: I say, it seems to
     me, that the author of nature has thought fit to mingle from time
     to time, among the societies of men, a few, and but a few, of those
     on whom he is graciously pleased to bestow a larger proportion of
     the ethereal spirit than is given in the ordinary course of his
     providence to the sons of men.

                     _Bolingbroke, on the spirit of patriotism, let. 1._

To crowd into a single member of a period, different subjects, is still
worse than to crowd them into one period.

              ---- Trojam, genitore Adamasto
    Paupere (mansissetque utinam fortuna) profectus.
         _Æneid. iii. 614._

Where two things are so connected as to require but a copulative, it is
pleasant to find a resemblance in the members of the period, were it
even so slight as where both begin with the same letter:

     The peacock, in all his pride, does not display half the colour
     that appears in the garments of a British lady, when she is either
     dressed for a ball or a birth-day.

                     _Spectator_, Nº 265.

     Had not my dog of a steward run away as he did, without making up
     his accounts, I had still been immersed in sin and sea-coal.

                     _Ibid._ Nº. 530.

    My life’s companion, and my bosom-friend,
    One faith, one fame, one fate shall both attend.
         _Dryden, Translation of Æneid._

There is obviously a sensible defect in neatness when uniformity is in
this case totally neglected[84]; witness the following example, where
the construction of two members connected by a copulative is
unnecessarily varied.

     For it is confidently reported, that two young gentlemen of real
     hopes, bright wit, and profound judgment, who upon a thorough
     examination of causes and effects, and by the mere force of natural
     abilities, without the least tincture of learning, have made a
     discovery that there was no God, and _generously communicating_
     their thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, by
     an unparallelled severity, and upon I know not what obsolete law,
     broke for blasphemy[85]. [Better thus]: Having made a discovery
     that there was no God, and having generously communicated their
     thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, _&c._

     He had been guilty of a fault, for which his master would have put
     him to death, had he not found an opportunity to escape out of his
     hands, and _fled_ into the deserts of Numidia.

                     _Guardian_, Nº 139.

     If all the ends of the revolution are already obtained, it is not
     only impertinent to argue for obtaining any of them, but _factious
     designs might be imputed_, and the name of incendiary be applied
     with some colour, perhaps, to any one who should persist in
     pressing this point.

                     _Dissertation upon parties, Dedication._

It is even unpleasant to find a negative and affirmative proposition
connected by a copulative.

    Nec excitatur classico miles truci,
      Nec horret iratum mare;
    Forumque vitat, et superba civium
      Potentiorum limina.
         _Horace, Epod. 2. l. 5._

    If it appear not plain, and prove untrue,
    Deadly divorce step between me and you.

An artificial connection among the words, is undoubtedly a beauty when
it represents any peculiar connection among the constituent parts of the
thought; but where there is no such connection, it is a positive
deformity, because it makes a discordance betwixt the thought and
expression. For the same reason, we ought also to avoid every artificial
opposition of words where there is none in the thought. This last,
termed _verbal antithesis_, is studied by writers of no taste; and is
relished by readers of the same stamp, because of a certain degree of
liveliness in it. They do not consider how incongruous it is, in a grave
composition, to cheat the reader, and to make him expect a contrast in
the thought, which upon examination is not found there.

    A light wife doth make a heavy husband.
         _Merchant of Venice._

Here is a studied opposition in the words, not only without any
opposition in the sense, but even where there is a very intimate
connection, that of cause and effect; for it is the levity of the wife
that vexes the husband.

                   ---- Will maintain
    Upon his bad life to make all this good.
         _King Richard II. act. 1. sc. 2._

     _Lucetta._ What, shall these papers lie like tell-tales here?

     _Julia._ If thou respect them, best to take them up.

     _Lucetta._ Nay, I was taken up for laying them down.

                     _Two Gentlemen of Verona, act 1. sc. 3._

To conjoin by a copulative, members that signify things opposed in the
thought, is an error too gross to be commonly practised. And yet
writers are guilty of this fault in some degree, when they conjoin by a
copulative things transacted at different periods of time. Hence a want
of neatness in the following expression.

     The nobility too, whom the King had no means of retaining by
     suitable offices and preferments, had been seized with the general
     discontent, and unwarily threw themselves into the scale, which
     began already too much to preponderate.

                     _History of G. Britain, vol. 1. p. 250._

In periods of this kind, it appears more neat to express the past time
by the participle passive, thus:

     The nobility having been seized with the general discontent,
     unwarily threw themselves, _&c._ [or], The nobility who had been
     seized, _&c._ unwarily threw themselves, _&c._

So much upon conjunction and disjunction in general. I proceed to apply
the rule to comparisons in particular. Where a resemblance betwixt two
objects is described, the writer ought to study a resemblance betwixt
the two members that express these objects. For it makes the
resemblance the more entire to find it extended even to the words. To
illustrate this rule, I shall give various examples of deviations from
it. I begin with the words that express the resemblance.

     I have observed of late, the style of some great _ministers_ very
     much to exceed that of any other _productions_.

                     _Letter to the Lord High Treasurer. Swift._

This, instead of studying the resemblance of words in a period that
expresses a comparison, is going out of one’s road to avoid it. Instead
of _productions_ which resemble not ministers great or small, the proper
word is _writers_ or _authors_.

     If men of eminence are exposed to censure on the one hand, they are
     as much liable to flattery on the other. If they receive reproaches
     which are not due to them, they likewise receive praises which they
     do not deserve.


Here the subject plainly demands uniformity in expression instead of
variety; and therefore it is submitted whether the period would not do
better in the following manner:

     If men of eminence be exposed to censure on the one hand, they are
     as much exposed to flattery on the other. If they receive
     reproaches which are not due, they likewise receive praises which
     are not due.

     I cannot but fancy, however, that this imitation, which passes so
     currently with _other judgements_, must at some time or other have
     stuck a little with your _Lordship_[86]. [Better thus:] I cannot
     but fancy, however, that this imitation, which passes so currently
     with others, must at some time or other have stuck a little with
     your Lordship.

            *       *       *       *       *

     A glutton or mere sensualist is as ridiculous as the other two

                     _Shaftesbury, vol. 1. p. 129._

     They wisely prefer _the generous efforts of good-will and
     affection_, to the reluctant compliances _of such as_ obey by

          _Remarks on the history of England. Letter 5. Bolingbroke._

Titus Livius, concerning the people of Enna demanding the keys from the
Roman garrison, makes the governor say,

     Quas simul tradiderimus, Carthaginiensium extemplo Enna erit,
     fœdiusque hic trucidabimir, quam Murgantiæ præsidium interfectum

                     _L. 24. § 38._

Quintus Curtius, speaking of Porus mounted on an elephant, and leading
his army to battle:

     Magnitudini Pori adjicere videbatur bellua qua vehebatur, tantum
     inter cæteras eminens, quanto aliis ipse præstabat.

                     _L. 8. cap. 14._

It is a still greater deviation from congruity, to affect not only
variety in the words, but also in the construction. Describing
Thermopylæ, Titus Livius says,

     Id jugum, sicut Apennini dorso Italia dividitur, ita mediam Græciam

                     _L. 36. § 15._

Speaking of Shakespear:

     There may remain a suspicion that we over-rate the greatness of his
     genius; in the same manner as bodies appear more gigantic on
     account of their being disproportioned and mishapen.

                     _History of G. Britain, vol. 1. p. 138._

This is studying variety in a period where the beauty lies in
uniformity. Better thus:

     There may remain a suspicion that we over-rate the greatness of his
     genius, in the same manner as we over-rate the greatness of bodies
     which are disproportioned and mishapen.

Next as to the length of the members that signify the resembling
objects. To produce a resemblance betwixt such members, they ought not
only to be constructed in the same manner, but as nearly as possible be
equal in length. By neglecting this circumstance, the following example
is defective in neatness.

     As the performance of all other religious duties will not avail in
     the sight of God, _without charity_, so neither will the discharge
     of all other ministerial duties avail in the sight of men _without
     a faithful discharge of this principal duty_.

                     _Dissertation upon parties, dedication._

In the following passage all the errors are accumulated that a period
expressing a resemblance can well admit:

     Ministers are answerable for every thing done to the prejudice of
     the constitution, in the same proportion as the preservation of the
     constitution in its purity and vigour, or the perverting and
     weakening it, are of greater consequence to the nation, than any
     other instances of good or bad government.

                     _Dissertation upon parties, dedication._

The same rule obtains in a comparison where things are opposed to each
other. Objects contrasted, not less than what are similar, require a
resemblance in the members of the period that express them. The reason
is, that contrast has no effect upon the mind, except where the things
compared have a resemblance in their capital parts[87]. Therefore, in
opposing two circumstances to each other, it remarkably heightens the
contrast, to make as entire as possible the resemblance betwixt the
other parts, and in particular betwixt the members expressing the two
circumstances contrasted. As things are often best illustrated by their
contraries, I shall also give examples of deviations from the rule in
this case.

       *       *       *       *       *

Addison says,

     A friend exaggerates a man’s virtues, an enemy inflames his crimes.

                     _Spectator_, Nº 399.

Would it not be neater to study uniformity instead of variety? as thus:

     A friend exaggerates a man’s virtues, an enemy his crimes.

For here the contrast is only betwixt a friend and an enemy; and betwixt
all the other circumstances, including the members of the period, the
resemblance ought to be preserved as entire as possible.

       *       *       *       *       *

Speaking of a lady’s head-dress:

     About ten years ago it shot up to a very great height, insomuch
     that the female part of our species were much taller than the men.

                     _Spectator_, Nº 98.

It should be,

     Than the male part.

     The wise man is happy when he gains his own approbation; the fool
     when he recommends himself to the applause of those about him.

                     _Ibid._ Nº 73.


     The wise man is happy when he gains his own approbation; the fool
     when he gains that of others.

     Sicut in frugibus pecudibusque, non tantum semina ad servandum
     indolem valent, quantum terræ proprietas cœlique, sub quo aluntur,

                     _Livy, l. 38. § 17._

Sallust, in his history of Catiline’s conspiracy:

     Per illa tempora quicumque rempublicam agitavere, honestis
     nominibus, alii, sicuti populi jura defenderent, pars, quo senati
     auctoritas maxuma foret, bonum publicum simulantes, pro sua
     quisque potentia certabant.

                     _Cap. 38._

We proceed to a rule of a different kind. During the course of a period,
the same scene ought to be continued without variation. The changing
from person to person, from subject to subject, or from person to
subject, within the bounds of a single period, distracts the mind, and
affords no time for a solid impression. I illustrate this rule by giving
examples of deviations from it.

     _Honos_ alit artes, _omnesque_ incenduntur ad studia gloriâ;
     jacentque _ea_ semper quæ apud quosque improbantur.

                     _Cicero, Tuscul. quæst. l. 1._

Speaking of the distemper contracted by Alexander bathing in the river
Cydnus and of the cure offered by Philip the physician:

     Inter hæc à Parmenione fidissimo purpuratorum, literas _accipit_,
     quibus ei _denunciabat_, ne salutem suam Philippo committeret.

                     _Quintus Curtius, l. 3. cap. 6._

Hook, in his Roman history, speaking of Eumenes, who had been beat down
to the ground with a stone, says,

     After a short time _he_ came to himself; and the next day, _they_
     put him on board his ship, _which_ conveyed him first to Corinth,
     and thence to the island of Ægina.

I give another example of a period which is unpleasant, even by a very
slight deviation from the rule.

     That sort of instruction which is acquired by inculcating an
     important moral truth, _&c._

This expression includes two persons, one acquiring, and one
inculcating; and the scene is changed without necessity. To avoid this
blemish, the thought may be expressed thus:

     That sort of instruction which is afforded by inculcating, _&c._

The bad effect of this change of person is remarkable in the following

     The _Britains_, daily harassed by cruel inroads from the Picts,
     were forced to call in the Saxons for their defence, _who_
     consequently reduced the greatest part of the island to their own
     power, drove the Britains into the most remote and mountainous
     parts, and _the rest of the country_, in customs, religion, and
     language, became wholly Saxons.

                     _Letter to the Lord High Treasurer. Swift._

The following example is a change from subject to persons.

     _This prostitution of praise_ is not only a deceit upon the gross
     of mankind, who take their notion of characters from the learned;
     but also _the better sort_ must by this means lose some part at
     least of that desire of fame which is the incentive to generous
     actions, when they find it promiscuously bestowed on the
     meritorious and undeserving.

                     _Guardian_, Nº 4.

Even so slight a change as to vary the construction in the same period,
is unpleasant:

     Annibal luce prima, Balearibus levique alia armatura præmissa,
     transgressus flumen, ut quosque traduxerat, ita in acie locabat;
     Gallos Hispanosque equites prope ripam lævo in cornu adversus
     Romanum equitatum; dextrum cornu Numidis equitibus datum.

                     _Tit. Liv. l. 22. § 46._

Speaking of Hannibal’s elephants drove back by the enemy upon his own

     Eo magis ruere in suos belluæ, tantoque majorem stragem edere quam
     inter hostes ediderant, quanto acrius pavor consternatam agit, quam
     insidentis magistri imperio regitur.

                     _Liv. l. 27. § 14._

This passage is also faulty in a different respect, that there is no
resemblance betwixt the members of the expression, though they import a

The present head, which relates to the choice of materials, shall be
closed with a rule concerning the use of copulatives. Longinus observes,
that it animates a period to drop the copulatives; and he gives the
following example from Xenophon.

     Closing their shields together, they were push’d, they fought, they
     slew, they were slain.

                     _Treatise of the Sublime, cap. 16._

The reason I take to be what follows. A continued sound, if not strong,
tends to lay us asleep. An interrupted sound rouses and animates by its
repeated impulses. Hence it is, that syllables collected into feet,
being pronounced with a sensible interval betwixt each, make more lively
impressions than can be made by a continued sound. A period, the members
of which are connected by copulatives, produceth an effect upon the mind
approaching to that of a continued sound: and therefore to suppress the
copulatives must animate a description. To suppress the copulatives hath
another good effect. The members of a period connected by the proper
copulatives, glide smoothly and gently along; and are a proof of
sedateness and leisure in the speaker. On the other hand, a man in the
hurry of passion, neglecting copulatives and other particles, expresses
the principal image only. Hence it is, that hurry or quick action is
best expressed without copulatives:

    Veni, vidi, vici.

                        ---- Ite:
    Ferte cite flammas, date vela, impellite remos.
         _Æneid._ iv. 593.

    Quis globus, O Cives, caligine volvitur atra?
    Ferte cite ferrum, date tela, scandite muros.
    Hostis adest, eja.
         _Æneid._ ix. 36.

In this view Longinus[88] justly compares copulatives in a period to
strait tying, which in a race obstructs the freedom of motion.

It follows from the same premisses, that to multiply copulatives in the
same period ought to be avoided. For if the laying aside copulatives
give force and liveliness, a redundancy of them must render the period
languid. I appeal to the following instance, though there are not more
than two copulatives.

     Upon looking over the letters of my female correspondents, I find
     several from women complaining of jealous husbands; and at the same
     time protesting their own innocence, and desiring my advice upon
     this occasion.

                     _Spectator_, Nº 170.

I except the case where the words are intended to express the coldness
of the speaker; for there the redundancy of copulatives is a beauty.

     Dining one day at an alderman’s in the city, Peter observed him
     expatiating after the manner of his brethren, in the praises of his
     sirloin of beef. “Beef,” said the sage magistrate, “is the king of
     meat: Beef comprehends in it the quintescence of partridge, and
     quail, and venison, and pheasant, and plum-pudding, and custard.”

                     _Tale of Tub_, § 4.

And the author shows great taste in varying the expression in the mouth
of Peter, who is represented more animated.

     “Bread,” says he, “dear brothers, is the staff of life, in which
     bread is contained, _inclusivè_, the quintescence of beef, mutton,
     veal, venison, partridge, plum-pudding, and custard.”

We proceed to the second kind of beauty, which consists in a due
arrangement of the words or materials. This branch of the subject is not
less nice than extensive; and I despair to put it in a clear light,
until a sketch be given of the general principles that govern the
structure or composition of language.

Every thought, generally speaking, contains one capital object
considered as acting or as suffering. This object is expressed by a
substantive noun. Its action is expressed by an active verb; and the
thing affected by the action is expressed by another substantive noun.
Its suffering or passive state is expressed by a passive verb, and the
thing which acts upon it, by a substantive noun. Beside these, which are
the capital parts of a sentence or period, there are generally
under-parts. Each of the substantives as well as the verb, may be
qualified. Time, place, purpose, motive, means, instrument, and a
thousand other circumstances, may be necessary to complete the thought.
And in what manner these several parts are connected together in the
expression, will appear from what follows.

In a complete thought or mental proposition, all the members and parts
are mutually related, some slightly, some more intimately. In
communicating such a thought, it is not sufficient that the component
ideas be clearly expressed: it is also necessary, that all the relations
contained in the thought be expressed according to their different
degrees of intimacy. To annex a certain meaning to a certain sound or
word, requires no art. The great nicety in all languages is, to express
the various relations that connect together the parts of the thought.
Could we suppose this branch of language to be still a secret, it would
puzzle, I am apt to think, the greatest grammarian ever existed, to
invent an expeditious method. And yet, by the guidance merely of nature,
the rude and illiterate have been led to a method so perfect, that it
appears not susceptible of any improvement. Without a clear conception
of the manner of expressing relations, one at every turn must be at a
loss about the beauties of language; and upon that subject therefore I
find it necessary to say a few words.

Words that import a relation, must be distinguished from those that do
not. Substantives commonly imply no relation, such as _animal_, _man_,
_tree_, _river_. Adjectives, verbs, and adverbs, imply a relation. The
adjective _good_ must be connected with some substantive, some being
possessed of that quality. The verb _write_ must be applied to some
person who writes; and the adverbs _moderately_, _diligently_, have
plainly a reference to some action which they modify. When in language a
relative term is introduced, all that is necessary to complete the
expression, is, to ascertain that thing to which the term relates. For
answering this purpose, I observe in Greek and Latin two different
methods. Adjectives are declined as well as substantives; and declension
serves to ascertain the connection that is betwixt them. If the word
that expresses the subject be, for example, in the nominative case, so
also must the word be that expresses its quality. Example, _vir bonus_.
Again, verbs are related, on the one hand, to the agent; and, on the
other, to the subject upon which the action is exerted. A contrivance
similar to that now mentioned, serves to express this double relation.
The nominative case is appropriated to the agent, the accusative to the
passive subject; and the verb is put in the first second or third
person, to correspond the more intimately with both. Examples: _Ego amo
Tulliam_; _tu amas Semproniam_; _Brutus amat Portiam_. The other method
is by juxtaposition, which is necessary with respect to words only that
are not declined, adverbs for example, articles, prepositions, and
conjunctions. In the English language there are few declensions; and
therefore juxtaposition is our chief resource. Adjectives accompany
their substantives[89]; an adverb accompanies the word it qualifies; and
the verb occupies the middle place betwixt the active and passive
subjects to which it relates.

It must be obvious, that those terms which have nothing relative in
their signification, cannot be connected in so easy a manner. When two
substantives happen to be connected, as cause and effect, as principal
and accessory, or in any other manner, such connection cannot be
expressed by contiguity solely; for words must often in a period be
placed together which are not thus related. The relation betwixt
substantives, therefore, cannot otherwise be expressed than by particles
denoting the relation. Latin indeed and Greek, by their declensions, go
a certain length to express such relations, without the aid of
particles. The relation of property, for example, betwixt Cæsar and his
horse is, expressed by putting the latter in the nominative case, the
former in the genitive; _equus Cæsaris_. The like in English, _Cæsar’s
horse_. But in other instances, declensions not being used in the
English language, relations of this kind are commonly expressed by

This form of connecting by prepositions, is not confined to
substantives. Qualities, attributes, manner of existing or acting, and
all other circumstances, may in the same manner be connected with the
substantives to which they relate. This is done artificially by
converting the circumstance into a substantive, in which condition it is
qualified to be connected with the principal subject by a preposition,
in the manner above described. For example, the adjective _wise_ being
converted into the substantive _wisdom_, gives opportunity for the
expression “a man _of_ wisdom,” instead of the more simple expression,
_a wise man_. This variety in the expression, enriches language. I
observe beside, that the using a preposition in this case, is not always
a matter of choice. It is indispensable with respect to every
circumstance that cannot be expressed by a single adjective or adverb.

To pave the way for the rules of arrangement, one other preliminary must
be discussed, which is, to explain the difference betwixt a natural
style, and that where transposition or inversion prevails. There are, it
is true, no precise boundaries betwixt these two; for they run into each
other, like the shades of different colours. No person however is at a
loss to distinguish them in their extremes: and it is necessary to make
the distinction; because though some of the rules I shall have occasion
to mention are common to both, yet each has rules peculiar to itself. In
a natural style, relative words are by juxtaposition connected with
those to which they relate, going before or after, according to the
peculiar genius of the language. Again, a circumstance connected by a
preposition, follows naturally the word with which it is connected. But
this arrangement may be varied, when a different order is more
beautiful. A circumstance may be placed before the word with which it is
connected by a preposition; and may be interjected even betwixt a
relative word and that to which it relates. When such liberties are
frequently taken, the style becomes inverted or transposed.

But as the liberty of inversion is a capital point in handling the
present subject, it will be necessary to examine it more narrowly, and
in particular to trace the several degrees in which an inverted style
recedes more and more from that which is natural. And first, as to the
placing a circumstance before the word with which it is connected, I
observe, that it is the easiest of all inversion, even so easy as to be
consistent with a style that is properly termed natural. Witness the
following examples.

     In the sincerity of my heart, I profess, _&c._

     By our own ill management, we are brought to so low an ebb of
     wealth and credit, that, _&c._

     On Thursday morning there was little or nothing transacted in

     At St Bride’s church in Fleetstreet, Mr Woolston, (who writ against
     the miracles of our Saviour), in the utmost terrors of conscience
     made a public recantation.

The interjecting a circumstance betwixt a relative word and that to
which it relates, is more properly termed inversion; because, by a
violent disjunction of words intimately connected, it recedes farther
from a natural style. But this liberty has also degrees; for the
disjunction is more violent in some cases than in others. This I must
also explain: and to give a just notion of the difference, I must crave
liberty of my reader to enter a little more into an abstract subject,
than would otherwise be my choice.

In nature, though a substance cannot exist without its qualities, nor a
quality without a substance; yet in our conception of these, a material
difference may be remarked. I cannot conceive a quality but as belonging
to some subject: it makes indeed a part of the idea which is formed of
the subject. But the opposite holds not. Though I cannot form a
conception of a subject devoid of all qualities, a partial conception
may however be formed of it, laying aside or abstracting from any
particular quality. I can, for example, form the idea of a fine Arabian
horse without regard to his colour, or of a white horse without regard
to his size. Such partial conception of a subject, is still more easy
with respect to action or motion; which is an occasional attribute only,
and has not the same permanency with colour or figure. I cannot form an
idea of motion independent of a body; but there is nothing more easy
than to form an idea of a body at rest. Hence it appears, that the
degree of inversion depends greatly on the order in which the related
words are placed. When a substantive occupies the first place, we cannot
foresee what is to be said of it. The idea therefore which this word
suggests, must subsist in the mind at least for a moment, independent of
the relative words afterward introduced; and if it can so subsist, that
moment may without difficulty be prolonged by interjecting a
circumstance betwixt the substantive and its connections. Examples
therefore of this kind, will scarce alone be sufficient to denominate a
style inverted. The case is very different, where the word that occupies
the first place, denotes a quality or an action; for as these cannot be
conceived without a subject, they cannot without greater violence be
separated from the subject that follows. And for that reason, every such
separation by means of an interjected circumstance belongs to an
inverted style.

To illustrate this doctrine examples being necessary, I shall begin with
those where the word first introduced does not imply a relation.

                ---- Nor Eve to iterate
    Her former trespass fear’d.

        ---- Hunger and thirst at once,
    Powerful persuaders, quicken’d at the scent
    Of that alluring fruit, urg’d me so keen.

    Moon, that now meet’st the orient sun, now fli’st
    With the fix’d stars, fix’d in their orb that flies,
    And ye five other wand’ring fires that move
    In mystic dance not without song, resound
    His praise.

In the following examples, where the word first introduced imports a
relation, the disjunction will be found more violent.

      Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
    Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
    Brought death into the world, and all our wo,
    With loss of Eden, till one greater man
    Restore us, and regain the blessful seat,
    Sing heav’nly muse.

           ---- Upon the firm opacous globe
    Of this round world, whose first convex divides
    The luminous inferior orbs, inclos’d
    From chaos and th’ inroad of darkness old
    Satan alighted walks.

         ---- On a sudden open fly,
    With impetuous recoil and jarring sound,
    Th’ infernal doors.

                ---- Wherein remain’d,
    For what could else? to our almighty foe
    Clear victory, to our part loss and rout.

          ----Forth rush’d with whirlwind sound
    The chariot of paternal Deity.

Language would have no great power, were it confined to the natural
order of ideas. A thousand beauties may be compassed by inversion, that
must be relinquished in a natural arrangement. I shall soon have an
opportunity to make this evident. In the mean time, it ought not to
escape observation, that the mind of man is happily so constituted as to
relish inversion, though in one respect unnatural; and to relish it so
much, as in many cases to admit a violent disjunction of words that by
the sense are intimately connected. I scarce can say that inversion has
any limits; though I may venture to pronounce, that the disjunction of
articles, conjunctions, or prepositions, from the words to which they
belong, never has a good effect. The following example with relation to
a preposition, is perhaps as tolerable as any of the kind.

     He would neither separate _from_, nor act against them.

I give notice to the reader, that I am now ready to enter upon the rules
of arrangement; beginning with a natural style, and proceeding gradually
to what is the most inverted. And in the arrangement of a period, as
well as in a right choice of words, the first and great object being
perspicuity, it is above laid down as a rule, That perspicuity ought not
to be sacrificed to any other beauty whatever. Ambiguities occasioned by
a wrong arrangement are of two sorts; one where the arrangement leads to
a wrong sense, and one where the sense is left doubtful. The first being
the more culpable, shall take the lead, beginning with examples of words
put in a wrong place.

     How much the imagination of such a presence must exalt a genius, we
     may observe _merely_ from the influence which an ordinary presence
     has over men.

                     _Characteristics, vol. 1. p. 7._

This arrangement leads to a wrong sense: The adverb _merely_ seems by
its position to affect the preceding word; whereas it is intended to
affect the following words _an ordinary presence_; and therefore the
arrangement ought to be thus.

     How much the imagination of such a presence must exalt a genius, we
     may observe from the influence which an ordinary presence merely
     has over men.

     The time of the election of a poet-laureat being now at hand, it
     may be proper to give some account of the rites and ceremonies
     anciently used at that solemnity, and only discontinued through the
     neglect and degeneracy of later times.


The term _only_ is intended to qualify the noun _degeneracy_, and not
the participle _discontinued_; and therefore the arrangement ought to be
as follows.

          ---- and discontinued through the neglect
    and degeneracy only, of later times.

     Sixtus the Fourth was, if I mistake not, a great collector of books
     at least.

                     _Letters on history, vol. 1. let. 6._ _Bolingbroke._

The expression here leads evidently to a wrong sense. The adverb _at
least_, ought not to be connected with the substantive _books_, but with
_collector_, thus:

     Sixtus the Fourth was a great collector at least, of books.

Speaking of Lewis XIV.

     If he was not the greatest king, he was the best actor of majesty
     at least, that ever filled a throne.

                     _Ibid. letter 7._

Better thus:

     If he was not the greatest king, he was at least the best actor of
     majesty, _&c._

This arrangement removes the wrong sense occasioned by the juxtaposition
of _majesty_ and _at least_.

The following examples are of the wrong arrangement of members.

     I have confined myself to those methods for the advancement of
     piety, which are in the power of a prince limited like ours by a
     strict execution of the laws.

                     _A project for the advancement of religion._ _Swift._

The structure of this period leads to a meaning which is not the
author’s, _viz._ power limited by a strict execution of the laws. This
wrong sense is removed by the following arrangement.

     I have confined myself to those methods for the advancement of
     piety, which, by a strict execution of the laws, are in the power
     of a prince limited like ours.

     This morning when one of Lady Lizard’s daughters was looking over
     some hoods and ribands brought by her tirewoman, with great care
     and diligence, I employed no less in examining the box which
     contained them.

                     _Guardian_, Nº 4.

The wrong sense occasioned by this arrangement, may be easily prevented
by varying it thus:

     This morning when, with great care and diligence, one of Lady
     Lizard’s daughters was looking over some hoods and ribands, _&c._

     A great stone that I happened to find after a long search by the
     sea-shore, served me for an anchor.

                     _Gulliver’s Travels, part 1. chap. 8._

One would think that the search was confined to the sea-shore; but as
the meaning is, that the great stone was found by the sea-shore, the
period ought to be arranged thus:

     A great stone, that, after a long search, I happened to find by the
     sea-shore, served me for anchor.

Next of a wrong arrangement where the sense is left doubtful; beginning,
as in the former sort, with examples of the wrong arrangement of words
in a member.

     These forms of conversation _by degrees_ multiplied and grew

                     _Spectator_, Nº 119.

Here it is left doubtful whether the modification _by degrees_ relate to
the preceding member or to what follows. It should be,

     These forms of conversation multiplied by degrees.

     Nor does this false modesty expose us _only_ to such actions as are
     indiscreet, but very often to such as are highly criminal.

                     _Spectator_, Nº 458.

The ambiguity is removed by the following arrangement.

     Nor does this false modesty expose us to such actions only as are
     indiscreet, _&c._

     The empire of Blefuscu is an island situated to the north-east side
     of Lilliput, from whence it is parted _only_ by a channel of 800
     yards wide.

                     _Gulliver’s Travels, part 1. chap. 5._

The ambiguity may be removed thus:

      ---- from whence it is parted by a channel
    of 800 yards wide only.

In the following examples the sense is left doubtful by a wrong
arrangement of members.

     The minister who grows less by his elevation, _like a little statue
     placed on a mighty pedestal_, will always have his jealousy strong
     about him.

     _Dissertation upon parties, dedication._ _Bolingbroke._

Here, so far as can be gathered from the arrangement, it is doubtful,
whether the object introduced by way of simile, relate to what goes
before or to what follows. The ambiguity is removed by the following

     The minister who, like a little statue placed on a mighty pedestal,
     grows less by his elevation, will always, _&c._

     Since this is too much to ask of freemen, nay of slaves, _if his
     expectation be not answered_, shall he form a lasting division upon
     such transient motives?


Better thus:

     Since this is too much to ask of freemen, nay of slaves, shall he,
     if his expectation be not answered, form, _&c._

Speaking of the superstitious practice of locking up the room where a
person of distinction dies:

     The knight, seeing his habitation reduced to so small a compass,
     and himself in a manner shut out of his own house, _upon the death
     of his mother_ ordered all the apartments to be flung open, and
     exorcised by his chaplain.

                     _Spectator_, Nº 110.

Better thus:

     The knight, seeing his habitation reduced to so small a compass,
     and himself in a manner shut out of his own house, ordered, upon
     the death of his mother, all the apartments to be flung open.

Speaking of some indecencies in conversation:

     As it is impossible for such an irrational way of conversation to
     last long among a people that make any profession of religion, or
     show of modesty, _if the country-gentlemen get into it_, they will
     certainly be left in the lurch.

                     _Spectator_, Nº. 119.

The ambiguity vanishes in the following arrangement.

    ---- the country-gentlemen, if they get into it, will certainly be
     left in the lurch.

Speaking of a discovery in natural philosophy, that colour is not a
quality of matter:

     As this is a truth which has been proved incontestably by many
     modern philosophers, and is indeed one of the finest speculations
     in that science, _if the English reader would see the notion
     explained at large_, he may find it in the eighth chapter of the
     second book of Mr Locke’s essay on human understanding.

                     _Spectator_, Nº 413.

Better thus:

     As this is a truth, _&c._ the English reader, if he would see the
     notion explained at large, may find it, _&c._

     A woman seldom asks advice before she has bought her
     wedding-cloaths. When she has made her own choice, _for form’s
     sake_ she sends a _conge d’elire_ to her friends.

                     _Ibid._ Nº 475.

Better thus:

    ---- she sends for form’s sake a _conge d’elire_ to her friends.

     And since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual
     intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, _where
     fraud is permitted or connived at, or hath no law to punish it_,
     the honest dealer is always undone, and the knave gets the

                     _Gulliver’s Travels, part 1. chap. 6._

Better thus:

     And since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual
     intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, the
     honest dealer, where fraud is permitted or connived at, or hath no
     law to punish it, is always undone, and the knave gets the

From these examples, the following observation will readily occur, that
a circumstance ought never to be placed betwixt two capital members of a
period; for by such situation it must always be doubtful, so far as we
gather from the arrangement, to which of the two members it belongs.
Where it is interjected, as it ought to be, betwixt parts of the member
to which it belongs, the ambiguity is removed, and the capital members
are kept distinct, which is a great beauty in composition. In general,
to preserve members distinct which signify things distinguished in the
thought, the sure method is, to place first in the consequent member
some word that cannot connect with what precedes it.

If by any one it shall be thought, that the objections here are too
scrupulous, and that the defect of perspicuity is easily supplied by
accurate punctuation; the answer is, That punctuation may remove an
ambiguity, but will never produce that peculiar beauty which is felt
when the sense comes out clearly and distinctly by means of a happy
arrangement. Such influence has this beauty, that by a natural
transition of feeling, it is communicated to the very sound of the
words, so as in appearance to improve the music of the period. But as
this curious subject comes in more properly afterward, it is sufficient
at present to appeal to experience, that a period so arranged as to
bring out the sense clear, seems always more musical than where the
sense is left in any degree doubtful.

A rule deservedly occupying the second place, is, That words expressing
things connected in the thought, ought to be placed as near together as
possible. This rule is derived immediately from human nature, in which
there is discovered a remarkable propensity to place together things
that are in any manner connected[90]. Where things are arranged
according to their connections, we have a sense of order: otherwise we
have a sense of disorder, as of things placed by chance. And we
naturally place words in the same order in which we would place the
things they signify. The bad effect of a violent separation of words or
members thus intimately connected, will appear from the following

     For the English are naturally fanciful, and very often disposed, by
     that gloominess and melancholy of temper which is so frequent in
     our nation, to many wild notions and visions, to which others are
     not so liable.

                     _Spectator_, Nº 419.

Here the verb or assertion is, by a pretty long circumstance, violently
separated from the subject to which it refers. This makes a harsh
arrangement; the less excusable that the fault is easily prevented by
placing the circumstance before the verb or assertion, after the
following manner:

     For the English are naturally fanciful, and, by that gloominess and
     melancholy of temper which is so frequent in our nation, are often
     disposed to many wild notions, _&c._

     For as no mortal author, in the ordinary fate and vicissitude of
     things, knows to what use his works may, some time or other, be
     applied, _&c._

                     _Spectator_, Nº 85.

Better thus:

     For as, in the ordinary fate and vicissitude of things, no mortal
     author knows to what use, some time or other, his works may be

     From whence we may date likewise the rivalship of the house of
     France, for we may reckon that of the Valois and that of Bourbon as
     one upon this occasion, and the house of Austria, that continues at
     this day, and has oft cost so much blood and so much treasure in
     the course of it.

                     _Letters on history, vol. 1. letter 6. Bolingbroke._

     It cannot be impertinent or ridiculous therefore in such a country,
     whatever it might be in the Abbot of St Real’s, which was Savoy I
     think; or in Peru, under the Incas, where Garcilasso de la Vega
     says it was lawful for none but the nobility to study--for men of
     all degrees to instruct themselves in those affairs wherein they
     may be actors, or judges of those that act, or controllers of those
     that judge.

                     _Letters on history, vol. 1. letter 5. Bolingbroke._

     If Scipio, who was naturally given to women, for which anecdote we
     have, if I mistake not, the authority of Polybius, as well as some
     verses of Nevius preserved by Aulus Gellius, had been educated by
     Olympias at the court of Philip, it is improbable that he would
     have restored the beautiful Spaniard.

                     _Ibid. letter 3._

If any one have a curiosity for more specimens of this kind, they will
be found without number in the works of the same author.

A pronoun, which saves the naming a person or thing a second time, ought
to be placed as near as possible to the name of that person or thing.
This is a branch of the foregoing rule; and with the reason there
given, another concurs, _viz._ That if other ideas intervene, it is
difficult to recal the person or thing by reference.

     If I had leave to print the Latin letters transmitted to me from
     foreign parts, they would fill a volume, and be a full defence
     against all that Mr. Partridge, or his accomplices of the Portugal
     inquisition, will be ever able to object; _who_, by the way, are
     the only enemies my predictions have ever met with at home or

Better thus:

    ---- and be a full defence against all that can be objected by Mr.
     Partridge, or his accomplices of the Portugal inquisition; who, by
     the way, are, _&c._

     There being a round million of creatures in human figure,
     throughout this kingdom, _whose_ whole subsistence, _&c._

                     _A modest proposal_, &c. _Swift._


     There being, throughout this kingdom, a round million of creatures
     in human figure, whose whole subsistence, _&c._

     Tom is a lively impudent clown, and has wit enough to have made him
     a pleasant companion, had _it_ been polished and rectified by good

                     _Guardian_, Nº 162.

     It is the custom of the Mahometans, if they see any printed or
     written paper upon the ground, to take it up, and lay it aside
     carefully, as not knowing but it may contain some piece of their

                     _Spectator_, Nº 85.

The arrangement here leads to a wrong sense, as if the ground were taken
up, not the paper. Better thus:

     It is the custom of the Mahometans, if they see upon the ground any
     printed or written paper, to take it up, _&c._

The following rule depends on the communication of emotions or feelings
to related objects, a principle in human nature we have had more than
one occasion to mention. We find this operation, even where the objects
are not otherwise related than by the juxtaposition of the words that
express them. Hence to elevate or depress an object, one method is, to
join it in the arrangement to another that is naturally high or low.
Witness the following speech of Eumenes to the Roman senate.

     Causam veniendi sibi Romam fuisse, præter cupiditatem visendi _deos
     hominesque_, quorum beneficio in ea fortuna esset, supra quam ne
     optare quidem auderet, etiam ut coram moneret senatum ut Persei
     conatus obviam iret.

                     _Livy, l. 42. cap. 11._

To join the Romans with the gods in the same enunciation, is an artful
stroke of flattery, because it tacitly puts them on a level. On the
other hand, when the purpose is to degrade or vilify an object, this is
done successfully by ranking it with one that is really low:

     I hope to have this entertainment in a readiness for the next
     winter; and doubt not but it will please more than the opera or

                     _Spectator_, Nº 28.

     Manifold have been the judgments which Heaven from time to time,
     for the chastisement of a sinful people, has inflicted upon whole
     nations. For when the degeneracy becomes common, ’tis but just the
     punishment should be general. Of this kind, in our own unfortunate
     country, was that destructive pestilence, whose mortality was so
     fatal as to sweep away, if Sir William Petty may be believed, five
     millions of Christian souls, besides women and Jews.

                     _God’s revenge against punning. Arbuthnot._

     Such also was that dreadful conflagration ensuing in this famous
     metropolis of London, which consumed, according to the computation
     of Sir Samuel Morland, 100,000 houses, not to mention churches and


     But on condition it might pass into a law, I would gladly exempt
     both lawyers of all ages, subaltern and field officers, young
     heirs, dancing-masters, pickpockets, and players.

              _An infallible scheme to pay the public debts. Swift._

Circumstances in a period resemble small stones in a building employ’d
to fill up vacancies among those of a larger size. In the arrangement of
a period, such under-parts crowded together make a poor figure; and
never are graceful but when interspersed among the capital parts. I
shall illustrate this rule by the following example.

     It is likewise urged, that there are, by computation, in this
     kingdom, above 10,000 parsons, whose revenues, added to those of my
     Lords the bishops, would suffice to maintain, _&c._

                     _Argument against abolishing Christianity. Swift._

Here two circumstances, _viz. by computation_ and _in this kingdom_, are
crowded together unnecessarily. They make a better appearance separated
in the following manner.

     It is likewise urged, that in this kingdom there are, by
     computation, above 10,000 parsons, _&c._

If there be room for a choice, the sooner a circumstance be introduced,
the better. Circumstances are proper for that coolness of mind, with
which a period as well as a work is commenced. In the progress, the mind
warms, and has a greater relish for matters of importance. When a
circumstance is placed at the beginning or near the beginning of the
period, the transition from it to the principal subject is agreeable: it
is like ascending or mounting upward. On the other hand, to place it
late in the period has a bad effect; for after being engaged in the
principal subject, one is with reluctance brought down to give attention
to a circumstance. Hence evidently the preference of the following

     Whether in any country a choice altogether unexceptionable has been
     made, seems doubtful,

before this other,

     Whether a choice altogether unexceptionable has in any country been
     made, _&c._

For this reason the following period is exceptionable in point of

     I have considered formerly, with a good deal of attention, the
     subject upon which you command me to communicate my thoughts to

                     _Bolingbroke of the study of history, letter 1._

which, with a slight alteration, may be improved thus:

     I have formerly, with a good deal of attention, considered the
     subject, _&c._

The bad effect of placing a circumstance last or late in a period, will
appear from the following examples.

     Let us endeavour to establish to ourselves an interest in him who
     holds the reins of the whole creation in his hand.

                     _Spectator_, Nº 12.

Better thus:

     Let us endeavour to establish to ourselves an interest in him, who,
     in his hand, holds the reins of the whole creation.

     Virgil, who has cast the whole system of Platonic philosophy, so
     far as it relates to the soul of man, into beautiful allegories,
     _in the sixth book of his Æneid_, gives us the punishment, _&c._

                     _Spectator_, Nº 90.

Better thus:

     Virgil, who in the sixth book of his Æneid has cast, _&c._

     And Philip the Fourth was obliged at last to conclude a peace, on
     terms repugnant to his inclination, to that of his people, to the
     interest of Spain, and to that of all Europe, in the Pyrenean

                     _Letters on history, vol. 1. letter 6. Bolingbroke._

Better thus:

     And at last, in the Pyrenean treaty, Philip the Fourth was obliged
     to conclude a peace, _&c._

In arranging a period, it is of importance to determine in what part of
it a word makes the greatest figure, whether in the beginning, during
the currency, or at the close. The breaking silence rouses the attention
to what is said; and therefore deeper impression is made at the
beginning than during the currency. The beginning, however, must yield
to the close; which being succeeded by a pause, affords time for a word
to make its deepest impression. Hence the following rule, That to give
the utmost force to a period, it ought if possible to be closed with
that word which makes the greatest figure. The opportunity of a pause
should not be thrown away upon accessories, but reserved for the
principal object, in order that it may make a full impression. This is
an additional reason against closing a period with a circumstance. There
are however periods that admit not this structure; and in that case,
the capital word ought if possible to be placed in the front, which next
to the close is the most advantageous for making an impression. Hence,
in directing our discourse to any man, we ought to begin with his name;
and one will be sensible of a degradation, when this rule is neglected,
as it frequently is for the sake of verse. I give the following

      Integer vitæ, scelerisque purus,
    Non eget Mauris jaculi, neque arcu,
    Nec venenatis gravidâ sagittis,
        Fusce, pharetrâ.
         _Horat. Carm. l. 1. ode 22._

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

In these examples the name of the person addressed to makes a mean
figure, being like a circumstance slipt into a corner. That this
criticism is well founded, we need no other proof than Addison’s
translation of the last example.

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

                     _Guardian_, Nº 117.

    O father, what intends thy hand, she cry’d,
    Against thy only son? What fury, O son,
    Possesses thee to bend that mortal dart
    Against thy father’s head?
         _Paradise Lost, book 2. l. 727._

Every one must be sensible of a dignity in the invocation at the
beginning, which that in the middle is far from reaching. I mean not
however to censure this expression. On the contrary it appears
beautiful, by distinguishing the respect due to a father and to a son.

       *       *       *       *       *

The substance of what is said in this and the foregoing section, upon
the method of arranging the words of a period so as to make the
strongest impression with respect to sound as well as signification, is
comprehended in the following observation. That order of the words in a
period will always be the most agreeable, where, without obscuring the
sense, the most important images, the most sonorous words, and the
longest members, bring up the rear.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hitherto of arranging single words, single members, and single
circumstances. But the enumeration of many particulars in the same
period is often necessary; 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 rules. But luckily reflecting upon
what is said in the first chapter about order, we find rules laid down
to our hand, so as to leave us no harder task than their application to
the present question. And, first, with respect to the enumerating a
number of particulars of equal rank, it is laid down in the place cited,
that as there is no foundation 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 same kind, differing only in size, are to be ranged along a
straight line, the most agreeable order to the eye is that of an
increasing series. In surveying a number of such objects, beginning at
the least and proceeding to greater and greater, the mind swells
gradually with the successive objects, and in its progress has a very
sensible pleasure. Precisely for the same reason, the words expressive
of such objects ought to be placed in the same order. The beauty of this
figure, which may be termed _a climax in sense_, has escaped Lord
Bolingbroke in the first member of the following period.

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

The following arrangement has sensibly a better effect.

     Let but one brave, great, active, disinterested man arise, _&c._

Whether the same rule ought to be followed in enumerating men of
different ranks, seems doubtful. On the one hand, a procession of a
number of persons, presenting the lowest class first, and rising upon
the eye in succession till it terminate upon the highest, is undoubtedly
the most agreeable order. On the other hand, in every list of names, it
is customary to set the person of the greatest dignity at the top, and
to 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 chuse the former order. 3dly, As the sense of order directs the eye
to descend from the principal to its greatest accessory, and from the
whole to its greatest part, and in the same order through all the parts
and accessories till we arrive at the minutest; the same order ought to
be followed in the enumeration of such particulars. I shall give one
familiar example. Talking of the parts of a column, _viz._ the base, the
shaft, the capital, these are capable of six different arrangements, and
the question is, Which is the best? When one has in view the erection of
a column, he will naturally be led to express the parts in the order
above mentioned; which at the same time is agreeable by mounting upward.
But considering the column as it stands without reference to its
erection, the sense of order, as observed above, requires the chief part
to be named first. 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 him
to his descendents. But in describing a lofty oak, we begin with the
trunk, and ascend to the branches.

When force and liveliness of expression are aimed at, the rule is, to
suspend the thought as much as possible, and to bring it out full and
entire at the close. This cannot be done but by inverting the natural
arrangement, and by introducing a word or member before its time. By
such inversion our curiosity is raised about what is to follow; and it
is agreeable to have our curiosity gratified at the close of the period.
Such arrangement produceth on the mind an effect similar to a stroke
exerted upon the 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 close, and what follows appears languid or superfluous. His
disappointment contributes also to this appearance, when he finds, that,
contrary to his expectation, 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 is frequently the case, it ought at any
rate to be put 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 essential circumstance in epic poetry, I doubt
     whether a single instance could be given of this species of
     composition, in any language.

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

     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 90.

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 sense, _&c._

     She soon 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 history, vol. 1. let. 7. Bolingbroke._


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

None of the rules for the composition of periods are more liable to be
abused, than those last mentioned: witness many Latin writers, among the
moderns especially, whose style, by inversions too violent, is rendered
harsh and obscure. Suspension of the thought till the close of the
period, ought never to be preferred before perspicuity. Neither ought
such suspension to be attempted in a long period; because in that case
the mind is bewildered among a profusion of words. A traveller, while he
is puzzled about the road, relishes not the finest prospects.

     All the rich presents which Astyages had given him at parting,
     keeping only some Median horses, in order to propagate the breed of
     them in Persia, he distributed among his friends whom he left at
     the court of Ecbatana.

                     _Travels of Cyrus, book 1._

The foregoing rules concern the arrangement of a single period. I shall
add one rule more concerning the distribution of a discourse into
different periods. A short period is lively and familiar. A long
period, requiring more attention, makes an impression grave and solemn.
In general, a writer ought to study a mixture of long and short periods,
which prevents an irksome uniformity, and entertains the mind with
variety of impressions. In particular, long periods ought to be avoided
till the reader’s attention be thoroughly engaged; and therefore a
discourse, especially of the familiar kind, ought never to be introduced
with a long period. For that reason, the commencement of a letter to a
very young lady on her marriage is faulty.

     Madam, The hurry and impertinence of receiving and paying visits on
     account of your marriage, being now over, you are beginning to
     enter into a course of life, where you will want much advice to
     divert you from falling into many errors, fopperies, and follies,
     to which your sex is subject.


See a stronger example in the commencement of Cicero’s oration, _Pro
Archia poeta_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before we proceed farther, it may be proper to take a review of the
rules laid down in this and the preceding section, in order to make
some general observations. The natural order of the words and members of
a period, is undoubtedly the same with the natural order of the ideas
that compose the thought. The tendency of many of the foregoing rules,
is to substitute an artificial arrangement, in order to reach some
beauty either of sound or meaning that cannot be reached in the natural
order. But seldom it happens, that in the same period there is place for
a plurality of these rules. If one beauty can be catched, another must
be relinquished. The only question is, Which ought to be preferred? This
is a question that cannot be resolved by any general rule. But practice,
supported by a good taste, will in most instances make the choice easy.
The component words and members of a period, are ascertained by the
subject. If the natural order be not relished, a few trials will
discover that artificial order which has the best effect. All that can
be said in general is, that in making a choice, sound ought to yield to

The transposing words and members out of their natural order, so
remarkable in the learned languages, has been the subject of much
speculation. It is agreed on all hands, that such transposition or
inversion bestows upon a period a very sensible degree of force and
elevation; and yet writers seem to be at a loss in what manner to
account for this effect. Cerçeau[91] ascribes so much power to
inversion, as to make it the characteristic of French verse, and the
single circumstance which in that language distinguishes verse from
prose. And yet he pretends not to say, that it hath any other power but
to raise surprise; he must mean curiosity; which is done by suspending
the thought during the period, and bringing it out entire at the close.
This indeed is one power of inversion; but neither its sole power, nor
even that which is the most remarkable, as is made plain above. But
waving censure, which is not an agreeable task, I enter into the matter.
And I begin with observing, that if a conformity betwixt words and
their meaning be agreeable, it must of course be agreeable to find the
same order or arrangement in both. Hence the beauty of a plain or
natural style, where the order of the words corresponds precisely to the
order of the ideas. Nor is this the single beauty of a natural style: it
is also agreeable upon account of its simplicity and perspicuity. This
observation throws light upon the subject. For if a natural style be in
itself agreeable, a transposed style cannot be so. And therefore, it
cannot otherwise be agreeable, but as contributing to some positive
beauty which is excluded in a natural style. To be confirmed in this
opinion, we need but reflect upon some of the foregoing rules, which
make it evident, that language, by means of inversion, is susceptible of
many beauties that are totally excluded in a natural arrangement of
words. From these premisses it clearly follows, that inversion ought not
to be indulged, unless in order to reach some beauty superior to that of
a natural style. It may with great certainty be pronounced, that every
inversion which is not governed by this rule, will appear harsh and
strained, and be disrelished by every one of taste. Hence the beauty of
inversion when happily conducted; the beauty, not of an end, but of
means, as furnishing opportunity for numberless ornaments that find no
place in a natural style. Hence the force, the elevation, the harmony,
the cadence, of some compositions. Hence the manifold beauties of the
Greek and Roman tongues, of which living languages afford but faint


_Beauty of language from a resemblance betwixt sound and signification._

The resemblance betwixt the sound and signification of certain words, is
a beauty, which has escaped no critical writer, and yet is not handled
with accuracy by any of them. They have probably been erroneously of
opinion, that a beauty so obvious in the feeling, requires no
explanation in the understanding. In order to supply this defect, I
shall give examples of the various resemblances betwixt sound and
signification; and at the same time shall endeavour to explain why such
resemblances are beautiful. I begin with examples where the resemblance
betwixt the sound and signification is the most entire; proceeding to
others, where the resemblance is less and less so.

There being frequently a strong resemblance betwixt different sounds, it
will not be surprising to find a natural sound imitated by one that is
articulate. Thus the sound of a bow-string is imitated by the words that
express it.

              ---- The string let fly,
    _Twang’d short and sharp_, like the shrill swallow’s cry.
         _Odyssey_ xxi. 449.

The sound of felling trees in a wood:

    Loud sounds the ax, redoubling strokes on strokes;
    On all sides round the forest hurls her oaks
    Headlong. Deep-echoing groan the thickets brown,
    Then _rustling_, _crackling_, _crashing_, thunder down.
         _Iliad_, xxiii. 144.

    But when loud surges lash the sounding shore
    The hoarse rough verse should like the torrent roar!

    _Pope’s Essay on Criticism, 369._

No person can be at a loss about the cause of this beauty. It is
obviously that of imitation.

That there is any other natural resemblance betwixt sound and
signification, must not be taken for granted. There is evidently no
resemblance betwixt sound and motion, nor betwixt sound and sentiment.
In this matter, we are apt to be deceived by artful reading or
pronouncing. The same passage may be pronounced in many different tones,
elevated or humble, sweet or harsh, brisk or melancholy, so as to accord
with the thought or sentiment. Such concord, depending on artful
pronunciation, must be distinguished from that concord betwixt sound and
sense, which is perceived in some expressions independent of artful
pronunciation. The latter is the poet’s work: the former must be
attributed to the reader. Another thing contributes still more to the
deceit. In language, sound and sense are so intimately connected, as
that the properties of the one are readily communicated to the other. An
emotion of grandeur, of sweetness, of melancholy, or of compassion,
though occasioned by the thought solely, is transferred upon the words,
which by that means resemble in appearance the thought that is expressed
by them[92]. I have great reason to recommend these observations to my
reader, considering how inaccurately the present subject is handled by
critics. Not one of them distinguishes the natural resemblance of sound
and signification, from the artificial resemblance now described.
Witness Vida in particular, who in a very long passage has given very
few examples, but what are of the latter kind[93].

That there may be a resemblance betwixt natural and artificial sounds,
is self-evident; and that in fact there exist such resemblances
successfully employ’d by writers of genius, is clear from the foregoing
examples, and many others that might be given. But we may safely
pronounce, that this natural resemblance can be carried no farther. The
objects of the several senses, differ so widely from each other as to
exclude any resemblance. Sound in particular, whether articulate or
inarticulate, resembles not in any degree taste, smell, or motion; and
as little can it resemble any internal sentiment, feeling, or emotion.
But must we then agree, that nothing but natural sound can be imitated
by that which is articulate? Taking imitation in its proper sense, as
involving a resemblance betwixt two objects, the proposition must be
admitted. And yet in many passages that are not descriptive of natural
sound, every one must be sensible of a peculiar concord betwixt the
sound of the words and their meaning. As there can be no doubt of the
fact, what remains is, to inquire into its cause.

Resembling causes may produce effects that have no resemblance; and
causes that have no resemblance may produce resembling effects. A
magnificent building, for example, resembles not in any degree an heroic
action; and yet the emotions they produce, being concordant, bear a
resemblance to each other. We are still more sensible of this
resemblance, in a song where the music is properly adjusted to the
sentiment. There is no resemblance betwixt thought and sound; but there
is the strongest resemblance betwixt the emotion raised by music tender
and pathetic, and that raised by the complaint of an unsuccessful lover.
To apply these examples to the present subject, I observe, that the
sound even of a single word makes, in some instances, an impression
resembling that which is made by the thing it signifies; witness the
word _running_, composed of two short syllables; and more remarkably the
words _rapidity_, _impetuosity_, _precipitation_. Brutal manners produce
in the spectator, an emotion not unlike what is produced by a harsh and
rough sound. Hence the figurative expression, _rugged_ manners; an
expression peculiarly agreeable by the relation of the sound to the
sense. Again, the word _little_, being pronounced with a very small
aperture of the mouth, has a weak and faint sound, which makes an
impression resembling that made by any diminutive object. This
resemblance of effects, is still more remarkable where a number of words
are connected together in a period. Words pronounced in succession make
often a strong impression; and when this impression happens to accord
with that made by the sense, a peculiar pleasure arises. The thought or
sentiment produces one pleasant emotion: the melody or tone of the words
produces another. But the chief pleasure proceeds from having these two
concordant emotions combined in perfect harmony, and carried on in the
mind to a full close[94]. Except in the single case where sound is
described, all the examples given by critics of sense being imitated in
sound, resolve into a resemblance of effects. Emotions raised by sound
and signification may have a resemblance; but sound itself cannot have a
resemblance to any thing but sound.

Proceeding now to particulars, and beginning with those cases where the
emotions have the strongest resemblance, I observe, first, That in
pronouncing a number of syllables in succession, an emotion is sometimes
raised extremely similar to that raised by successive motion. This may
be made evident even to those who are defective in taste, by the
following fact, that the term _movement_ in all languages is equally
apply’d to both. In this manner, successive motion, such as walking,
running, galloping, can be imitated by a succession of long or short
syllables, or by a due mixture of both. For example, slow motion may be
aptly imitated in a verse where long syllables prevail; especially when
aided by a slow pronunciation:

    Illi inter sese magnâ vi brachia tollunt.
         _Georg._ iv. 174.

On the other hand, swift motion is imitated by a succession of short

    Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum.


    Radit iter liquidum, celeres neque commovet alas.

Thirdly, a line composed of monosyllables, makes an impression, by the
frequency of its pauses, similar to what is made by laborious
interrupted motion:

    With many a weary step, and many a groan,
    Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone.
         _Odyssey_, xi. 736.

    First march the heavy mules, securely slow;
    O’er hills, o’er dales, o’er craggs, o’er rocks, they go.
         _Iliad_, xxiii. 138.

Fourthly, the impression made by rough sounds in succession, resembles
that made by rough or tumultuous motion. On the other hand, the
impression of smooth sounds resembles that of gentle motion. The
following is an example of both.

    Two craggy rocks projecting to the main,
    The roaring wind’s tempestuous rage restrain;
    Within, the waves in softer murmurs glide,
    And ships secure without their haulsers ride.
         _Odyssey_, iii. 118.

Another example of the latter:

    Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
    And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows.
         _Essay on Crit. 366._

Fifthly, prolonged motion is expressed in an Alexandrine line. The first
example shall be of slow motion prolonged:

    A needless Alexandrine ends the song;
    That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
         _Essay on Crit. 356._

The next example is of forcible motion prolonged:

    The waves behind impel the waves before,
    Wide-rolling, foaming high, and tumbling to the shore.
         _Iliad_, xiii. 1004.

The last shall be of rapid motion prolonged:

    Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
    Flies o’er th’ unbending corn, and skims along the main.
         _Essay on Crit. 373._

Again, speaking of a rock torn from the brow of a mountain,

    Still gath’ring force, it smokes, and, urg’d amain,
    Whirls, leaps, and thunders down, impetuous to the plain.
         _Iliad_, xiii. 197.

Sixthly, a period consisting mostly of long syllables, that is, of
syllables pronounced slow, produceth an emotion resembling faintly that
which is produced by gravity and solemnity. Hence the beauty of the
following verse.

    Olli sedato respondit corde Latinus.

Seventhly, a slow succession of ideas is a circumstance that belongs
equally to settled melancholy, and to a period composed of polysyllables
pronounced slow. Hence, by similarity of emotions, the latter is
imitative of the former:

    In those deep solitudes and awful cells,
    Where heav’nly-pensive Contemplation dwells,
    And ever-musing Melancholy reigns.
         _Pope. Eloisa to Abelard._

Eighthly, a long syllable made short, or a short syllable made long,
raises, by the difficulty of pronouncing contrary to custom, a feeling
similar to that of hard labour:

    When Ajax strives some rock’s _vast_ weight to throw,
    The line too labours, and the words move slow.
         _Essay on Crit. 370._

Ninthly, harsh or rough words pronounced with difficulty, excite a
feeling resembling that which proceeds from the labour of thought to a
dull writer:

    Just writes to make his barrenness appear,
    And strains from hard-bound brains eight lines a-year.
         _Pope’s epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, l. 181._

I shall close with one other example, which of all makes the finest
figure. In the first section mention is made of a climax in sound, and
in the second of a climax in sense. It belongs to the present subject
to observe, that when these coincide in the same passage, the
concordance of sound and sense is delightful. The reader is conscious
not only of pleasure from the two climaxes separately, but of an
additional pleasure from their concordance, and from finding the sense
so justly imitated by the sound. In this respect, no periods are more
perfect than those borrowed from Cicero in the first section.

The concord betwixt sense and sound is not less agreeable in what may be
termed an _anticlimax_, where the progress is from great to little; for
this has the effect to make diminutive objects appear still more
diminutive. Horace affords a striking example:

    Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.

The arrangement here is singularly artful. The first place is occupied
by the verb, which is the capital word by its sense as well as sound.
The close is reserved for the word that is the meanest in sense as well
as in sound. And it must not be overlooked, that the resembling sounds
of the two last syllables give a ludicrous air to the whole.

Reviewing the foregoing examples, it appears to me, contrary to
expectation, that in passing from the strongest resemblances to those
that are fainter, the pleasure rises gradually in proportion. Can this
be accounted for? or shall I renounce my taste as capricious? When I
renew the experiment again and again, I feel no wavering, but the
greatest pleasure constantly from the faintest resemblances. And yet how
can this be? for if the pleasure lie in imitation, must not the
strongest resemblance afford the greatest pleasure? From this vexing
dilemma, I am happily relieved, by reflecting on a doctrine established
in the chapter of resemblance and contrast, that the pleasure of
resemblance is the greatest, where it is least expected, and where the
objects compared are in their capital circumstances widely different.
Nor will this appear surprising, when we descend to familiar examples.
It raiseth not wonder in the smallest degree, to find the most perfect
resemblance betwixt two eggs of the same animal. It is more rare to
find such resemblance betwixt two human faces; and upon that account
such an appearance raises some degree of wonder. But this emotion rises
to a still greater height, when we find in a pebble, an aggat, or any
natural production, a perfect resemblance to a tree or other organised
body. We cannot hesitate a moment, in applying these observations to the
present subject. What occasion of wonder can it be to find one sound
resembling another, where both are of the same kind? It is not so common
to find a resemblance betwixt an articulate sound and one not
articulate; and accordingly the imitation here affords some slight
pleasure. But the pleasure swells greatly, when we employ sound to
imitate things it resembles not otherwise than by the effects produced
in the mind.

I have had occasion to observe, that to complete the resemblance betwixt
sound and sense, artful pronunciation contributes not a little.
Pronunciation therefore may be considered as a branch of the present
subject; and with some observations upon it I shall conclude the

In order to give a just idea of pronunciation, it must be distinguished
from singing. The latter is carried on by notes, requiring each of them
a different aperture of the windpipe. The notes properly belonging to
the former, are expressed by different apertures of the mouth, without
varying the aperture of the windpipe. This however doth not hinder
pronunciation to borrow from singing, as a man sometimes is naturally
led to do, in expressing a vehement passion.

In reading, as in singing, there is a key-note. Above this note the
voice is frequently elevated, to make the sound correspond to the
elevation of the subject. But the mind in an elevated state, is disposed
to action. Therefore in order to a rest, it must be brought down to the
key-note. Hence the term _cadence_.

The only general rule that can be given for directing the pronunciation,
is, To sound the words in such a manner as to imitate the things they
represent, or of which they are the symbols. The ideas which make the
greatest figure, ought to be expressed with a peculiar emphasis. In
expressing an elevated subject, the voice ought to be raised above its
ordinary pitch; and words signifying dejection of mind, ought to be
pronounced in a low note. A succession of sounds gradually ascending
from low to high notes, represents an ascending series of objects. An
opposite succession of sounds, is fitted for objects or sentiments that
descend gradually. In Dryden’s ode of _Alexander’s feast_, the line,
_Faln, faln, faln, faln_, ought to be pronounced with a falling voice;
and is pronounced in that manner, by every one of taste, without
instruction. Another circumstance contributes to the resemblance betwixt
sense and sound, which is slow or quick pronunciation. For though the
length or shortness of the syllables with relation to each other, be in
prose ascertained in some measure, and in verse always; yet taking a
whole line or period together, it is arbitrary to pronounce it slow or
fast. Hence it is, that a period expressing what is solemn or
deliberate, ought to be pronounced slow; and ought to be pronounced
quick, when it expresses any thing brisk, lively, or impetuous.

The art of pronouncing with propriety and grace, being calculated to
make the sound an echo to the sense, scarce admits of any other general
rule than that above mentioned. This rule may indeed be branched out
into many particular rules and observations: but these belong not
properly to the present undertaking, because they cannot be explained in
words. We have not words to signify the different degrees of high and
low, loud and soft, fast and slow; and before these differences can be
made the subject of regular instruction, notes must be invented
resembling those employ’d in music. We have reason to believe, that in
Greece every tragedy was accompanied with such notes, in order to
ascertain the pronunciation. But the moderns hitherto have not thought
of this refinement. Cicero indeed[95], without the help of notes,
pretends to give rules for ascertaining the several tones of voice that
are proper in expressing the several passions; and it must be
acknowledged, that in this attempt he has exhausted the whole power of
language. At the same time, every person of judgement must see, that
these rules avail little in point of instruction. The very words he
employs, are scarce intelligible, except to those who beforehand are
acquainted with the subject.

To vary the scene a little, I propose to close with a slight comparison
betwixt singing and pronouncing. In this comparison the five following
circumstances relative to articulate sound, must be kept in view. 1st,
It is harsh or smooth. 2d, A sound or syllable, is long or short. 3d, It
is pronounced high or low. 4th, It is pronounced loud or soft. And,
lastly, a number of words in succession constituting a period or member
of a period, are pronounced slow or quick. Of these five, the first
depending on the component letters, and the second being ascertained by
custom, admit not any variety in pronouncing. The three last are
arbitrary, depending on the will of the person who pronounces; and it
is chiefly in the artful management of these, that just pronunciation
consists. With respect to the first circumstance, music has evidently
the advantage; for all its notes are agreeable to the ear, which is not
always the case of articulate sound. With respect to the second, long
and short syllables variously combined, produce a great variety of feet;
yet far inferior to the variety which is found in the multiplied
combinations of musical notes. With respect to high and low notes,
pronunciation is still more inferior to singing. For it is observed by
Dionysius of Halicarnassus[96], that in pronouncing, _i.e._ without
altering the aperture of the windpipe, the voice is confined within
three notes and a half. Singing has a much greater compass. With respect
to the two last circumstances, pronunciation equals singing.

       *       *       *       *       *

In this discourse, I have mentioned none of the beauties of language,
but what arise from words taken in their proper sense. Those beauties
that depend on the metaphorical and figurative power of words, are
reserved to be treated in chap. 20.



The music of verse, though handled by every grammarian, merits more
attention than has been given it. The subject is intimately connected
with human nature; and to explain it thoroughly, several nice and
delicate feelings must be employ’d. Entering upon this subject, it
occurs as a preliminary point, By what mark is verse distinguished from
prose? The discussion of this point is necessary, were it for no other
purpose but to ascertain the nature and limits of our subject. To
produce this distinguishing mark, is a task not perhaps so easy as may
at first be apprehended. Verse of every sort, has, it is true, rules
for its construction. It is composed of feet, the number and variety of
which are ascertained. Prose, though also composed of feet, is more
loose and scarce subjected to any rules. But many are ignorant of these
rules: Are such left without means to make the distinction? And even
with respect to the learned, must they apply the rule before they can
with certainty pronounce whether the composition be prose or verse? This
will hardly be maintained; and therefore, instead of rules, the ear must
be appealed to as the proper judge. But what gain we by being thus
referred to another standard? It still recurs, by what mark does the ear
distinguish verse from prose? The proper and satisfactory answer is,
That these make different impressions, which are readily distinguishable
by every one who hath an ear. This advances us one step in our inquiry.

Taking it then for granted, that verse makes upon the ear a different
impression from that of prose; nothing remains but to explain this
difference, and to assign its cause. To these ends, I must call to my
aid an observation made above in treating of the sound of words, that
they are more agreeable to the ear when composed of long and short
syllables than when all the syllables are of the same sort. A continued
sound in the same tone, makes an impression that comes not up to any
idea we have of music. The same note successively renewed by intervals,
is more agreeable; but still makes not a musical impression. To produce
this impression, variety is necessary as well as number. The successive
sounds or syllables, must be some of them long, some of them short; and
if also high and low, the music is the more perfect. Now if this
impression can be made by single words, much more by a plurality in an
orderly succession. The musical impression made by a period consisting
of long and short syllables arranged in a certain order, is what the
Greeks call _rhythmus_, the Latins, _numerus_, and we _modulation_ or
_measure_. Cicero justly observes, that in one continued sound there is
no modulation: “Numerus in continuatione nullus est.” But in what
follows he is wide of the truth, if by _numerus_ he means modulation or
musical measure. “Distinctio, et æqualium et sæpe variorum intervallorum
percussio, numerum conficit; quem in cadentibus guttis, quod intervallis
distinguuntur, notare possumus.” Falling drops, whether with equal or
unequal intervals, are certainly not musical. We begin then only to be
sensible of a musical expression, when the notes are varied. And this
also was probably the opinion of the author cited, though his expression
be a little unguarded[97].

It will probably occur, that modulation, so far as connected with long
and short syllables combined in a sentence, may be found in prose as
well as in verse; considering especially, that in both, particular words
are accented or pronounced in a higher tone than ordinary; and
therefore that the difference betwixt them cannot consist in modulation
merely. The observation is just; and it follows, that the distinction
betwixt prose and verse, since it depends not on modulation merely, must
arise from the difference of the modulation. This is precisely the case,
though the difference cannot with any accuracy be explained in words.
Verse is more musical than prose; and of the former, the modulation is
more perfect than of the latter. The difference betwixt verse and prose,
resembles the difference in music properly so called betwixt the song
and the recitative. And the resemblance is not the less complete, that
these differences, like the shades of colours, approximate sometimes so
nearly as scarce to be discernible. A recitative in its movement
approaches sometimes to the liveliness of a song; which on the other
hand degenerates sometimes toward a plain recitative. Nothing is more
distinguishable from prose, than the bulk of Virgil’s hexameters. Many
of those composed by Horace, are very little removed from prose.
Sapphic verse has a very sensible modulation. That on the other hand of
an Iambic, is extremely faint[98].

This more perfect modulation of articulate sounds, is what
distinguisheth verse from prose. Verse is subjected to certain
inflexible laws. The number and variety of the component syllables are
ascertained, and in some measure the order of succession. Such restraint
makes it a matter of difficulty to compose in verse; a difficulty that
is not to be surmounted but by a singular genius. Useful lessons of
every sort convey’d to us in verse, are agreeable by the union of music
with instruction. But are we for that reason to reject knowledge offered
in a plainer dress? This would be ridiculous; for knowledge may be
acquired without music, and music is entertaining independent of
knowledge. Many there are, not less willing than capable to instruct
us, who have no genius for verse. Hence the use of prose, which, for the
reason now given, is not confined to precise rules. There belongs to it,
a certain modulation of an inferior kind, which, being extremely
ornamental, ought to be the aim of every writer. But to succeed in it,
practice is necessary more than genius. Nor are we rigid on this
article. Provided the work answer its chief end of instruction, we are
the less solicitous about its dress.

Having ascertained the nature and limits of our subject, I proceed to
the laws by which it is regulated. These would be endless, were verse of
all different kinds to be taken under consideration. I propose therefore
to confine the inquiry, to Latin or Greek hexameter, and to French and
English heroic verse; which perhaps will carry me farther than the
reader may chuse to follow. The observations I shall have occasion to
make, will at any rate be sufficient for a specimen; and these with
proper variations may easily be transferred to the composition of other
sorts of verse.

Before I enter upon particulars, it must be premised in general, that
to verse of every kind, five things are of importance. 1st, The number
of syllables that compose a verse. 2d, The different lengths of
syllables, _i.e._ the difference of time taken in pronouncing. 3d, The
arrangement of these syllables combined in words. 4th, The pauses or
stops in pronouncing. 5th, Pronouncing syllables in a high or low tone.
The three first mentioned are obviously essential to verse. If any of
them be wanting, there cannot be that higher degree of modulation which
distinguisheth verse from prose. To give a just notion of the fourth, it
must be observed, that pauses are necessary for three different
purposes. One is, to separate periods and members of the same period
according to the sense: another is, to improve the modulation of verse:
and the last is, to afford opportunity for drawing breath in reading. A
pause of the first kind is variable, being long or short, frequent or
less frequent, as the sense requires. A pause of the second kind, is in
no degree arbitrary; its place being determined by the modulation. The
last sort again is in a measure arbitrary, depending on the reader’s
command of breath. This sort ought always to coincide with the first or
second; for one cannot read with grace, unless, for drawing breath,
opportunity be taken of a pause in the sense or in the melody; and for
that reason this pause may be neglected. With respect then to the pauses
of sense and of melody, it may be affirmed without hesitation, that
their coincidence in verse is a capital beauty. But as it cannot be
expected, in a long work especially, that every line should be so
perfect; we shall afterward have occasion to see, that the pause
necessary for sense must often, in some degree, be sacrificed to the
verse-pause; and the latter sometimes to the former.

The pronouncing syllables in a high or low tone, contributes also to
melody. In reading, whether verse or prose, a certain tone is assumed,
which may be called _the key-note_; and in this tone the bulk of the
words are sounded. Sometimes to humour the sense and sometimes the
melody, a particular syllable is sounded in a higher tone; and this is
termed _accenting a syllable_, or gracing it with an accent. Opposed to
the accent, is the cadence, which I have not mentioned as one of the
requisites of verse, because it is entirely regulated by the sense, and
hath no peculiar relation to verse. The cadence is a falling of the
voice below the key-note at the close of every period; and so little is
it essential to verse, that in correct reading the final syllable of
every line is accented, that syllable only excepted which closes the
period, where the sense requires a cadence. The reader may be satisfied
of this by experiments; and for that purpose I recommend to him the
_Rape of the Lock_, which, in point of versification, is the most
complete performance in the English language. Let him consult in
particular a period canto 2. beginning at line 47. and closed line 52.
with the word _gay_, which only of the whole final syllables is
pronounced with a cadence. He may also examine another period in the 5th
canto, which runs from line 45. to line 52.

Though the five requisites above mentioned, enter the composition of
every species of verse, they are however governed by different rules,
peculiar to each species. Upon quantity only, one general observation
may be premised, because it is applicable to every species of verse.
Syllables, with respect to the time taken in pronouncing, are
distinguished into long and short; two short syllables, with respect to
time, being precisely equal to one long. These two lengths are essential
to verse of all kinds; and to no verse, so far as I know, is a greater
variety of time necessary in pronouncing syllables. The voice indeed is
frequently made to rest longer than commonly, upon a word that bears an
important signification. But this is done to humour the sense, and is
not necessary for the modulation. A thing not more necessary occurs with
respect to accenting, similar to that now mentioned. A word signifying
any thing humble, low, or dejected, is naturally, in prose as well as in
verse, pronounced in a tone below the key-note.

We are now sufficiently prepared for entering upon particulars; and
Latin or Greek Hexameter, which are the same, coming first in order, I
shall exhaust what I have to say upon this species of verse, under the
four following heads; of number, arrangement, pause, and accent; for as
to quantity, so far as concerns the present point, what is observed
above may suffice.

Hexameter lines are, with respect to time, all of the same length. A
line may consist of seventeen syllables; and when regular and not
Spondaic, it never has fewer than thirteen. Hence it is plain, that
where the syllables are many, the plurality must be short; where few,
the plurality must be long. And upon the whole, the number of syllables
in every line with respect to the time taken in pronouncing, are
equivalent to twelve long syllables, or twenty-four short.

With regard to arrangement, this line is susceptible of much variety.
The succession of long and short syllables, may be greatly varied
without injuring the melody. It is subjected however to laws, that
confine its variety within certain limits. For trying the arrangement,
and for determining whether it be perfect or faulty, grammarians have
invented a rule by Dactyles and Spondees, which they denominate _feet_.
One at first view is led to think, that these feet are also intended to
regulate the pronunciation. But this is far from being the case. It will
appear by and by, that the rules of pronunciation are very different.
And indeed were one to pronounce according to these feet, the melody of
a Hexameter line would be destroy’d, or at best be much inferior to what
it is when properly pronounced[99]. These feet then must be confined to
their sole province of regulating the arrangement, for they serve no
other purpose. They are withal so artificial and complex, that,
neglecting them altogether, I am tempted to substitute in their room,
other rules, more simple and of more easy application; for example, the
following. 1st, The line must always commence with a long syllable, and
close with two long preceded by two short. 2d, More than two short can
never be found in any part of the line, nor fewer than two if any. And,
3d, Two long syllables which have been preceded by two short, cannot
also be followed by two short. These few rules fulfil all the conditions
of a Hexameter line, with relation to order or arrangement. To these
again a single rule may be substituted, for which I have a still greater
relish, as it regulates more affirmatively the construction of every
part. That I may put this rule into words with the greater facility, I
take a hint from the twelve long syllables that compose an Hexameter
line, to divide it into twelve equal parts or portions, being each of
them one long syllable or two short. This preliminary being established,
the rule is shortly what follows. The 1st, 3d, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, and
12th portions, must each of them be one long syllable; the 10th must
always be two short syllables; the 2d, 4th, 6th, and 8th, may
indifferently be one long or two short. Or to express the thing still
more curtly, The 2d, 4th, 6th, and 8th portions may be one long syllable
or two short; the 10th must be two short syllables; all the rest must
consist of one long syllable. This fulfils all the conditions of an
Hexameter line, and comprehends all the combinations of Dactyles and
Spondees that this line admits.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next in order comes the pause. At the end of every Hexameter line, no
ear but must be sensible of a complete close or full pause. This effect
is produced by the following means. Every line invariably is finished
with two long syllables preceded by two short; a fine preparation for a
full close. Syllables pronounced slow, resemble a slow and languid
motion tending to rest. The mind put in the same tone by the
pronunciation, is naturally disposed to a pause. And to this disposition
the two preceding short syllables contribute; for these, by contrast,
make the slow pronunciation of the final syllables the more conspicuous.
Beside this complete close or full pause at the end, others are also
requisite for the sake of melody. I discover two clearly, and perhaps
there may be more. The longest and most remarkable, succeeds the 5th
portion, according to the foregoing measure. The other, which being more
faint, may be called _the semipause_, succeeds the 8th portion. So
striking is the pause first mentioned, as to be distinguished even by
the rudest ear. The monkish rhymes are evidently built upon it. In
these, it is an invariable rule, to make the final word chime with that
which immediately precedes the pause:

    De planctu endo || mitrum cum carmine nudo
    Mingere cum bumbis || res est soluberrima lumbis.

The difference of time in the pause and semipause, occasions another
difference not less remarkable. The pause ought regularly to be at the
end of a word; but it is lawful to divide a word by a semipause. The bad
effect of dividing a word by the pause, is sensibly felt in the
following examples.

    Effusus labor, at||que inmitis rupta Tyranni


    Observans nido im||plumes detraxit; at illa


    Loricam quam De||moleo detraxerat ipse

The dividing a word by a semipause has not the same bad effect:

    Jamque pedem referens || casus e|vaserat omnes.


    Qualis populea || mœrens Philo|mela sub umbra


    Ludere quæ vellem || calamo per|misit agresti.

Lines, however, where words are left entire to be pronounced as they
ought to be, without being divided even by a semipause, run by that
means much the more sweetly.

    Nec gemere aërea || cessabit | turtur ab ulmo.


    Quadrupedante putrem || sonitu quatit | ungula campum.


    Eurydicen toto || referebant | flumine ripæ.

The reason of these observations, will be evident upon the slightest
reflection. Betwixt things so intimately connected as sense and sound in
pronunciation, to find discordance is unpleasant to the ear; and for
that reason, it is a matter of importance, to make the musical pauses
coincide as much as possible with those of the sense. This is requisite,
more especially, with respect to the pause. A deviation from the rule
is less remarkable in a semipause, which makes but a slight impression.
Considering the matter as to modulation solely, it is indifferent
whether the pauses be at the end of words or in the middle. But when we
carry the sense along, nothing is more disagreeable than to find a word
split into two parts, neither of which separately have any meaning. This
bad effect, though it regard the sense only, is by an easy transition of
ideas transferred to the sound, with which the sense is intimately
connected; and by this means, we conceive a line to be harsh and grating
to the ear, which in reality is only so to the understanding[100].

To the rule which places the pause after the 5th portion, there is one
exception, and no more. If the syllable succeeding the 5th portion be
short, the pause is sometimes postponed to it:

    Pupillis quos dura || premit custodia matrum


    In terris oppressa || gravi sub religione


    Et quorum pars magna || fui; quis talia fando

This contributes to diversify the melody; and where the words are smooth
and liquid, is not ungraceful; as in the following examples.

    Formosam resonare || doces Amaryllida sylvas


    Agricolas, quibus ipsa || procul discordibus armis

If this pause, postponed as aforesaid to the short syllable, happen also
to divide a word, the melody by these circumstances is totally
annihilated: witness the following line of Ennius, which is plain prose.

    Romæ mœnia terru||it impiger | Hannibal armis

Hitherto the arrangement of the long and short syllables of an Hexameter
line and its different pauses, have been considered with respect to
melody. But to have a just notion of Hexameter verse, these particulars
must also be considered with respect to sense. There is not perhaps in
any other sort of verse, such a latitude in the long and short
syllables. This circumstance contributes greatly to that richness of
modulation which is remarkable in Hexameter verse; and which makes
Aristotle pronounce, that an epic poem in any other sort would not
succeed[101]. One defect however must not be dissembled. The same means
that contribute to the richness of the melody, render it less fit than
several other sorts for a narrative poem. With regard to the melody, as
above observed, there cannot be a more artful contrivance than to close
an Hexameter line with two long syllables preceded by two short. But
unhappily this construction proves a great imbarrassment to the sense;
as will be evident from what follows. As in general there ought to be a
strict concordance betwixt every thought and the words in which it is
dressed, so in particular, every close in the sense, complete and
incomplete, ought to be accompanied with a similar close in the sound.
In the composition of prose, there is sufficient latitude for applying
this rule in the strictest manner. But the same strictness in verse,
would occasion insuperable difficulties. Some share of the concordance
betwixt thought and expression, may be justly sacrificed to the melody
of verse; and therefore during the course of a line, we freely excuse
the want of coincidence of the musical pause with that of the sense. But
the close of an Hexameter line is too conspicuous to admit a total
neglect of this coincidence. And hence it follows, that there ought to
be always some pause in the sense at the end of every Hexameter line,
were it but such a pause as is marked with a comma. It follows also, for
the same reason, that there ought never to be a full close in the sense
but at the end of a line, because there the modulation is closed. An
Hexameter line, to preserve its melody, cannot well permit any greater
relaxation; and yet in a narrative poem, it is extremely difficult to
keep up to the rule even with these indulgences. Virgil, the greatest
poet for versification that ever existed, is forc’d often to end a line
without any close in the sense, and as often to close the sense during
the running of a line: though a close in the melody during the movement
of the thought, or a close in the thought during the movement of the
melody, cannot fail to be disagreeable.

       *       *       *       *       *

The accent, to which we proceed, is not less essential than the other
circumstances above handled. By a good ear it will be discerned, that in
every line there is one syllable distinguishable from the rest by a
strong accent. This syllable making the 7th portion, is invariably long;
and in point of time occupies a place nearly at an equal distance from
the pause which succeeds the 5th portion, and the semipause, which
succeeds the 8th:

    Nec bene promeritis || capitûr nec | tangitur ira


    Non sibi sed toto || genitûm se | credere mundo


    Qualis spelunca || subitô com|mota columba

In these examples, the accent is laid upon the last syllable of a word.
And that this is a favourable circumstance for the melody, will appear
from the following consideration. In reading, there must be some pause
after every word, to separate it from what follows; and this pause,
however short, supports the accent. Hence it is, that a line thus
accented, has a more spirited air, than where the accent is placed on
any other syllable. Compare the foregoing lines with the following.

    Alba neque Assyrio || fucâtur | lana veneno


    Panditur interea || domus ômnipo|tentis Olympi


    Olli sedato || respôndit | corde Latinus

In lines where the pause comes after the short syllable succeeding the
5th portion, the accent is displaced and rendered less sensible. It
seems to be split into two, and to be laid partly on the 5th portion,
and partly on the 7th, its usual place; as in

    Nuda genu, nodôque || sinûs col|lecta fluentes


    Formosam resonâre || docês Amar|yllida sylvas

Beside this capital accent, slighter accents are laid upon other
portions; particularly upon the 4th, unless where it consists of two
short syllables; upon the 9th, which is always a long syllable; and upon
the 11th, where the line concludes with a monosyllable. Such conclusion,
by the by, lessens the melody, and for that reason is not to be indulged
unless where it is expressive of the sense. The following lines are
marked with all the accents.

    Ludere quæ vêllem calamô permîsit agresti


    Et duræ quêrcus sudâbunt rôscida mella


    Parturiunt môntes, nascêtur rîdiculûs mus

Inquiring into the melody of Hexameter verse, we soon discover, that
order or arrangement doth not constitute the whole of it. Comparing
different lines, equally regular as to the succession of long and short
syllables, the melody is found in very different degrees of perfection.
Nor does the difference arise from any particular combination of
Dactyles and Spondees, or of long and short syllables. On the contrary,
we find lines where Dactyles prevail and lines where Spondees prevail,
equally melodious. Of the former take the following instance:

    Æneadum genetrix hominum divumque voluptas.

Of the latter:

    Molli paulatim flavescet campus arista.

What can be more different as to melody than the two following lines,
which, however, as to the succession of long and short syllables, are
constructed precisely in the same manner?

    Spond. Dact. Spond. Spond. Dact. Spond.
    Ad talos stola dimissa et circumdata palla. _Hor._

    Spond. Dact. Spond. Spond. Dact. Spond.
    Placatumque nitet diffuso lumine cœlum. _Lucret._

In the former, the pause falls in the middle of a word, which is a great
blemish, and the accent is disturbed by a harsh elision of the vowel _a_
upon the particle _et_. In the latter the pauses and the accent are all
of them distinct and full: there is no elision: and the words are more
liquid and sounding. In these particulars consists the beauty of an
Hexameter line with respect to melody; and by neglecting these, many
lines in the Satires and Epistles of Horace are less agreeable than
plain prose; for they are neither the one nor the other in perfection.
To make these lines sound, they must be pronounced without relation to
the sense. It must not be regarded, that words are divided by pauses,
nor that harsh elisions are multiplied. To add to the account, prosaic
low sounding words are introduced; and which is still worse, accents are
laid on them. Of such faulty lines take the following instances.

    Candida rectaque sit, munda hactenus sit neque longa.
    Jupiter exclamat simul atque audirit; at in se
    Custodes, lectica, ciniflones, parasitæ
    Optimus est modulator, ut Alfenus Vafer omni
    Nunc illud tantum quæram, meritone tibi sit.

Next in order comes English heroic verse, which shall be examined under
the whole five heads, of number, quantity, arrangement, pause, and
accent. This verse sometimes employs rhymes and sometimes not, which
distinguishes it into two kinds; one named _metre_, and one _blank
verse_. In the former, the lines are connected two and two by similarity
of sound in the final syllables; and such connected lines are termed
_couplets_. Similarity of sound being avoided in the latter, banishes
couplets. These two sorts must be handled separately, because there are
many peculiarities in each. The first article with respect to rhyme or
metre, shall be discussed in a few words. Every line consists of ten
syllables, five short and five long. There are but two exceptions, both
of them rare. A couplet can bear to be drawn out, by adding a short
syllable at the end of each of the two lines:

    There hero’s wits are kept in pond’rous vases,
    And beau’s in snuff-boxes and tweezer-cases.

    The piece, you think, is incorrect? Why, take it;
    I’m all submission; what you’d have it, make it.

This licence is sufferable in a single couplet; but if frequent would
soon become disgustful.

The other exception concerns the second line of a couplet, which is
sometimes stretched out to twelve syllables, termed an _Alexandrine

    A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
    That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.

It doth extremely well when employ’d to close a period with a certain
pomp and solemnity suitable to the subject.

With regard to the second article, it is unnecessary to mention a second
time, that the quantities employ’d in verse are but two, the one double
of the other; that every syllable is reducible to one or other of these
standards; and that a syllable of the larger quantity is termed _long_,
and of the lesser quantity _short_. It belongs more to the present
article, to examine what peculiarities there may be in the English
language as to long and short syllables. In every language, there are
syllables that may be pronounced long or short at pleasure; but the
English above all abounds in syllables of that kind. In words of three
or more syllables, the quantity for the most part is invariable. The
exceptions are more frequent in dissyllables; but as to monosyllables,
they may without many exceptions be pronounced either long or short. Nor
is the ear hurt by this liberty; being accustomed to the variation of
quantity in the same word. This shows that the melody of English verse
must depend less upon quantity, than upon other circumstances. In that
particular it differs widely from Latin verse. There, every syllable
having but one sound, strikes the ear constantly with its accustomed
impression; and a reader must be delighted to find a number of such
syllables, disposed so artfully as to raise a lively sense of melody.
Syllables variable in quantity cannot possess this power. Custom may
render familiar, both a long and short pronunciation of the same word;
but the mind constantly wavering betwixt the two sounds, cannot be so
much affected with a syllable of this kind as with one which bears
always the same sound. What I have further to say upon quantity, will
come in more properly under the following head, of arrangement.

And with respect to arrangement, which may be brought within a narrow
compass, the English heroic line is commonly Iambic, the first syllable
short, the second long, and so on alternately through the whole line.
One exception there is, pretty frequent. Many lines commence with a
Trochæus, _viz._ a long and a short syllable. But this affects not the
order of the following syllables. These go on alternately as usual, one
short and one long. The following couplet affords an example of each

    Sōme ĭn thĕ fīelds ŏf pūrĕst ǣthĕr plāy,
    Ănd bāsk ănd whītĕn īn thĕ blāze ŏf dāy.

It is unhappy in the construction of English verse, that it excludes the
bulk of polysyllables, though the most sounding words in our language;
for upon examination it will be found, that very few of them are
composed of such alternation of long and short syllables as to
correspond to either of the arrangements mentioned. English verse
accordingly is almost totally reduced to dissyllables and monosyllables.
_Magnanimity_ is a sounding word totally excluded. _Impetuosity_ is
still a finer word by the resemblance of the sound and sense; and yet a
negative is put upon it, as well as upon numberless words of the same
kind. Polysyllables composed of syllables long and short alternately,
make a good figure in verse; for example, _observance_, _opponent_,
_ostensive_, _pindaric_, _productive_, _prolific_, and such others of
three syllables. _Imitation_, _imperfection_, _misdemeanour_,
_mitigation_, _moderation_, _observator_, _ornamental_, _regulator_, and
others similar of four syllables, beginning with two short syllables,
the third long, and the fourth short, may find a place in a line
commencing with a Trochæus. I know not if there be any of five
syllables. One I know of six, _viz._ _misinterpretation_. But words so
composed are not frequent in our language.

One would not imagine without trial, how uncouth false quantity appears
in verse; not less than a provincial tone or idiom. The article _the_ is
one of the few monosyllables that is invariably short. See how harsh it
makes a line where it must be pronounced long:

    Thĭs nȳmph, tŏ thē dĕstrūctiŏn ōf mănkīnd,


    Th’ ădvēnt’rŏus bārŏn thē brĭght lōcks ădmīr’d.

Let the article be pronounced short, and it reduces the melody almost to
nothing. Better so however than a false quantity. In the following
examples we perceive the same defect.

    And old impertinence || expel by new.

    With varying vanities || from ev’ry part.

    Love in these labyrinths || his slaves detains.

    New stratagems || the radiant lock to gain.

    Her eyes half-languishing || half-drown’d in tears.

    Roar’d for the handkerchief || that caus’d his pain.

    Passions like elements || though born to fight.

The great variety of modulation conspicuous in English verse, will be
found upon trial to arise chiefly from the pauses and accents; and
therefore these circumstances are of greater importance than is commonly
thought. There is a degree of intricacy in this branch of our subject,
and it will require some pains to give a distinct view of it. But we
must not be discouraged by difficulties. The pause, which paves the way
to the accent, offers itself first to our examination. From a very short
trial, the following facts will be verified. 1st, A line admits but one
capital pause. 2d, In different lines, we find this pause after the
fourth syllable, after the fifth, after the sixth, and after the
seventh. These particulars lay a solid foundation for dividing English
heroic lines into four sorts, distinguished by the different places of
the pause. Nor is this an idle distinction. On the contrary, unless it
be kept in view, we cannot have any just notion of the richness and
variety of English versification. Each sort or order hath a melody
peculiar to itself, readily distinguishable by a good ear; and, in the
sequel, I am not without hopes to make the cause of this peculiarity
sufficiently evident. It must be observed, at the same time, that the
pause cannot be made indifferently at any of the places mentioned. It is
the sense that regulates the pause, as will be seen more fully
afterward; and consequently, it is the sense that determines of what
order every line must be. There can be but one capital musical pause in
a line; and this pause ought to coincide, if possible, with a pause in
the sense; in order that the sound may accord with the sense.

What is said must be illustrated by examples of each sort or order. And
first of the pause after the fourth syllable:

    Back through the paths || of pleasing sense I ran


    Profuse of bliss || and pregnant with delight

After the 5th:

    So when an angel || by divine command,
    With rising tempests || shakes a guilty land,

After the 6th:

    Speed the soft intercourse || from soul to soul


    Then from his closing eyes || thy form shall part

After the 7th:

    And taught the doubtful battle || where to rage


    And in the smooth description || murmur still

Beside the capital pause now mentioned, other inferior or semipauses
will be discovered by a nice ear. Of these there are commonly two in
each line; one before the capital pause, and one after it. The former is
invariably placed after the first long syllable, whether the line begin
with a long syllable or a short. The other in its variety imitates the
capital pause. In some lines it follows the 6th syllable, in some the
7th, and in some the 8th. Of these semipauses take the following

       *       *       *       *       *

1st and 8th:

    Led | through a sad || variety | of wo.

1st and 7th:

    Still | on that breast || enamour’d | let me lie

2d and 8th:

    From storms | a shelter || and from heat | a shade

2d and 6th:

    Let wealth | let honour || wait | the wedded dame

2d and 7th:

    Above | all pain || all passion | and all pride

Even from these few examples, it appears, that the place of the last
semipause, like that of the full pause, is directed in a good measure by
the sense. Its proper place with respect to the melody is after the
eighth syllable, so as to finish the line with an Iambus distinctly
pronounced, which, by a long syllable after a short, is a preparation
for rest. If this hold, the placing this semipause after the 6th or
after the 7th syllable, must be directed by the sense, in order to avoid
a pause in the middle of a word, or betwixt two words intimately
connected; and so far melody is justly sacrificed to sense.

In discoursing of the full pause in a Hexameter line, it is laid down as
a rule, That it ought never to divide a word. Such licence deviates too
far from the connection that ought to be betwixt the pauses of sense
and of melody. And in an English line, it is for the same reason equally
wrong to divide a word by a full pause. Let us justify this reason by

    A noble super||fluity it craves

    Abhor, a perpe||tuity should stand

Are these lines distinguishable from prose? Scarcely, I think.

The same rule is not applicable to a semipause, which being short and
faint, is not sensibly disagreeable when it divides a word.

    Relent|less walls || whose darksome round | contains

    For her | white virgins || hyme|neals sing

    In these | deep solitudes || and aw|ful cells

It must however be acknowledged, that the melody here suffers in some
degree. A word ought to be pronounced without any rest betwixt its
component syllables. The semipause must bend to this rule, and thereby
vanisheth almost altogether.

With regard to the capital pause, it is so essential to the melody, that
a poet cannot be too nice in the choice of its place, in order to have
it full, clear, and distinct. It cannot be placed more happily than with
a pause in the sense; and if the sense require but a comma after the
fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh syllable, there can be no difficulty
about this musical pause. But to make such coincidence essential, would
cramp versification too much; and we have experience for our authority,
that there may be a pause in the melody where the sense requires none.
We must not however imagine, that a musical pause may be placed at the
end of any word indifferently. Some words, like syllables of the same
word, are so intimately connected as not to bear a separation even by a
pause. No good poet ever attempted to separate a substantive from its
article: the dividing such intimate companions, would be harsh and
unpleasant. The following line, for example, cannot be pronounced with
a pause as marked.

    If Delia smile, the || flow’rs begin to spring

But ought to be pronounced in the following manner.

    If Delia smile, || the flow’rs begin to spring.

If then it be not a matter of indifferency where to make the pause,
there ought to be rules for determining what words may be separated by a
pause and what are incapable of such separation. I shall endeavour to
unfold these rules; not chiefly for their utility, but in order to
exemplify some latent principles that tend to regulate our taste even
where we are scarce sensible of them. And to that end, it seems the
eligible method to run over the verbal relations, beginning with the
most intimate. The first that presents itself, is that of adjective and
substantive, being the relation of substance and quality, the most
intimate of all. A quality cannot exist independent of a substance, nor
is it separable from it even in imagination, because they make parts of
the same idea; and for that reason, it must, with regard to melody, be
disagreeable, to bestow upon the adjective a sort of independent
existence, by interjecting a pause betwixt it and its substantive. I
cannot therefore approve the following lines, nor any of the sort; for
to my taste they are harsh and unpleasant.

    Of thousand bright || inhabitants of air

    The sprites of fiery || termagants inflame

    The rest, his many-colour’d || robe conceal’d

    The same, his ancient || personage to deck

    Ev’n here, where frozen || Chastity retires

    I sit, with sad || civility, I read

    Back to my native || moderation slide

    Or shall we ev’ry || decency confound

    Time was, a sober || Englishman wou’d knock

    And place, on good || security, his gold

    Taste, that eternal || wanderer, which flies

    But ere the tenth || revolving day was run

    First let the just || equivalent be paid

    Go, threat thy earth-born || Myrmidons; but here

    Haste to the fierce || Achilles’ tent (he cries)

    All but the ever-wakeful || eyes of Jove

    Your own resistless || eloquence employ

I have upon this article multiplied examples, that in a case where I
have the misfortune to dislike what passes current in practice, every
man upon the spot may judge by his own taste. The foregoing reasoning,
it is true, appears to me just: it is however too subtile, to afford
conviction in opposition to taste.

Considering this matter in a superficial view, one might be apt to
imagine, that it must be the same, whether the adjective go first, which
is the natural order, or the substantive, which is indulged by the laws
of inversion. But we soon discover this to be a mistake. Colour cannot
be conceived independent of the surface coloured; but a tree may be
conceived, as growing in a certain spot, as of a certain kind, and as
spreading its extended branches all around, without ever thinking of the
colour. In a word, qualities, though related all to one subject, may be
considered separately, and the subject may be considered with some of
its qualities independent of others; though we cannot form an image of
any single quality independent of the subject. Thus then, though an
adjective named first be inseparable from the substantive, the
proposition does not reciprocate. An image can be formed of the
substantive independent of the adjective; and for this reason, they may
be separated by a pause, when the former is introduced before the

    For thee, the fates || severely kind ordain

    And curs’d with hearts || unknowing how to yield.

The verb and adverb are precisely in the same condition with the
substantive and adjective. An adverb, which expresses a certain
modification of the action expressed by the verb, is not separable from
it even in imagination. And therefore I must also give up the following

    And which it much || becomes you to forget

    ’Tis one thing madly || to disperse my store

But an action may be conceived leaving out a particular modification,
precisely as a subject may be conceived leaving out a particular
quality; and therefore when by inversion the verb is first introduced,
it has no bad effect to interject a pause betwixt it and the adverb
which follows. This may be done at the close of a line, where the pause
is at least as full as that is which divides the line:

    While yet he spoke, the Prince advancing drew
    Nigh to the lodge, _&c._

The agent and its action come next, expressed in grammar by the active
substantive and its verb. Betwixt these, placed in their natural order,
there is no difficulty of interjecting a pause. An active being is not
always in motion, and therefore it is easily separable in idea from its
action. When in a sentence the substantive takes the lead, we know not
that action is to follow; and as rest must precede the commencement of
motion, this interval is a proper opportunity for a pause.

On the other hand, when by inversion the verb is placed first, is it
lawful to separate it by a pause from the active substantive? I answer
not, because an action is not in idea separable from the agent, more
than a quality from the substance to which it belongs. Two lines of the
first rate for beauty have always appeared to me exceptionable, upon
account of the pause thus interjected betwixt the verb and the
consequent substantive; and I have now discovered a reason to support my

    In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
    Where heav’nly-pensive || Contemplation dwells,
    And ever-musing || Melancholy reigns.

The point of the greatest delicacy regards the active verb and the
passive substantive placed in their natural order. On the one side it
will be observed, that these words signify things which are not
separable in idea. Killing cannot be conceived without some being that
is put to death, nor painting without a surface upon which the colours
are spread. On the other side, an action and the thing on which it is
exerted, are not, like substance and quality, united in one individual
subject. The active subject is perfectly distinct from that which is
passive; and they are connected by one circumstance only, that the
action exerted by the former, is exerted upon the latter. This makes it
possible to take the action to pieces, and to consider it first with
relation to the agent, and next with relation to the patient. But after
all, so intimately connected are the parts of the thought, that it
requires an effort to make a separation even for a moment. The
subtilising to such a degree is not agreeable, especially in works of
imagination. The best poets however, taking advantage of this subtilty,
scruple not to separate by a pause an active verb from its passive
subject. Such pauses in a long work may be indulged; but taken singly,
they certainly are not agreeable. I appeal to the following examples.

    The peer now spreads || the glitt’ring forfex wide

    As ever sully’d || the fair face of light

    Repair’d to search || the gloomy cave of Spleen

    Nothing, to make || philosophy thy friend

    Shou’d chance to make || the well-dress’d rabble stare

    Or cross, to plunder || provinces, the main

    These madmen never hurt || the church or state

    How shall we fill || a library with wit

    What better teach || a foreigner the tongue?

    Sure, if I spare || the minister, no rules
    Of honour bind me, not to maul his tools.

On the other hand, when the passive subject by inversion is first named,
there is no difficulty of interjecting a pause betwixt it and the verb,
more than when the active subject is first named. The same reason holds
in both, that though a verb cannot be separated in idea from the
substantive which governs it, and scarcely from the substantive it
governs; yet a substantive may always be conceived independent of the
verb. When the passive subject is introduced before the verb, we know
not that an action is to be exerted upon it; therefore we may rest till
the action commences. For the sake of illustration take the following

    Shrines! where their vigils || pale-ey’d virgins keep

    Soon as thy letters || trembling I unclose

    No happier task || these faded eyes pursue

What is said about placing the pause, leads to a general observation,
which I shall have occasion for afterwards. The natural order of placing
the active substantive and its verb, is more friendly to a pause than
the inverted order. But in all the other connections, inversion affords
by far a better opportunity for a pause. Upon this depends one of the
great advantages that blank verse hath over rhyme. The privilege of
inversion, in which it far excels rhyme, gives it a much greater choice
of pauses, than can be had in the natural order of arrangement.

We now proceed to the slighter connections, which shall be discussed in
one general article. Words connected by conjunctions and prepositions
freely admit a pause betwixt them, which will be clear from the
following instances.

    Assume what sexes || and what shape they please

    The light militia || of the lower sky

Connecting particles were invented to unite in a period two substantives
signifying things occasionally united in the thought, but which have no
natural union. And betwixt two things not only separable in idea, but
really distinct, the mind, for the sake of melody, chearfully admits by
a pause a momentary disjunction of their occasional union.

       *       *       *       *       *

One capital branch of the subject is still upon hand, to which I am
directed by what is just now said. It concerns those parts of speech
which singly represent no idea, and which become not significant till
they be joined to other words. I mean conjunctions, prepositions,
articles, and such like accessories, passing under the name of
_particles_. Upon these the question occurs, Whether they can be
separated by a pause from the words that make them significant? Whether,
for example, in the following lines, the separation of the accessory
preposition from the principal substantive, be according to rule?

    The goddess with || a discontented air

    And heighten’d by || the diamond’s circling rays

    When victims at || yon altar’s foot we lay

    So take it in || the very words of Creech

    An ensign of || the delegates of Jove

    Two ages o’er || his native realm he reign’d

    While angels, with || their silver wings o’ershade

Or separating the conjunction from the word it connects with what goes

    Talthybius and || Eurybates the good

It will be obvious at the first glance, that the foregoing reasoning
upon objects naturally connected, are not applicable to words which of
themselves are mere ciphers. We must therefore have recourse to some
other principle for solving the present question. These particles out of
their place are totally insignificant. To give them a meaning, they must
be joined to certain words. The necessity of this junction, together
with custom, forms an artificial connection, which has a strong
influence upon the mind. It cannot bear even a momentary separation,
which destroys the sense, and is at the same time contradictory to
practice. Another circumstance tends still more to make this separation
disagreeable. The long syllable immediately preceding the full pause,
must be accented; for this is required by the melody, as will afterward
appear. But it is ridiculous to accent or put an emphasis upon a low
word that raises no idea, and is confined to the humble province of
connecting words that raise ideas. And for that reason, a line must be
disagreeable where a particle immediately precedes the full pause; for
such construction of a line makes the melody discord with the sense.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hitherto we have discoursed upon that pause only which divides the line.
Are the same rules applicable to the concluding pause? This must be
answered by making a distinction. In the first line of a couplet, the
concluding pause differs little, if at all, from the pause which divides
the line; and for that reason, the rules are applicable to both equally.
The concluding pause of the couplet, is in a different condition: it
resembles greatly the concluding pause in a Hexameter line. Both of them
indeed are so remarkable, that they never can be graceful, unless when
they accompany a pause in the sense. Hence it follows, that a couplet
ought always to be finished with some close in the sense; if not a
point, at least a comma. The truth is, that this rule is seldom
transgressed. In Pope’s works, upon a cursory search indeed, I found but
the following deviations from the rule.

    Nothing is foreign: parts relate to whole;
    One all extending, all-preserving soul
    Connects each being----


    To draw fresh colours from the vernal flow’rs,
    To steal from rainbows ere they drop in show’rs
    A brighter wash----

But now, supposing the connection to be so slender as to admit a pause,
it follows not that a pause may always be put. There is one rule to
which every other ought to bend, That the sense must never be wounded or
obscured by the music; and upon that account, I condemn the following

    Ulysses, first || in public cares, she found.


    Who rising, high || th’ imperial sceptre rais’d.

With respect to inversion, it appears both from reason and experiments,
that many words which cannot bear a separation in their natural order,
admit a pause when inverted. And it may be added, that when two words,
or two members of a sentence, in their natural order, can be separated
by a pause, such separation can never be amiss in an inverted order. An
inverted period, which runs cross to the natural train of ideas,
requires to be marked in some measure even by pauses in the sense, that
the parts may be distinctly known. Take the following examples.

    As with cold lips || I kiss’d the sacred veil.

    With other beauties || charm my partial eyes.

    Full in my view || set all the bright abode.

    With words like these || the troops Ulysses rul’d.

    Back to th’ assembly roll || the thronging train.

    Not for their grief || the Grecian host I blame.

The same where the separation is made at the close of the first line of
the couplet:

    For spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease
    Assume what sexes and what shapes they please.

The pause is tolerable even at the close of the couplet, for the reason
just now suggested, that inverted members require some slight pause in
the sense:

    ’Twas where the plane-tree spread its shades around:
    The altars heav’d; and from the crumbling ground
    A mighty dragon shot.

Thus a train of reasoning hath insensibly led us to conclusions with
regard to the musical pause, very different from those in the first
section, concerning the separating by an interjected circumstance words
intimately connected. One would conjecture, that where-ever words are
separable by interjecting a circumstance, they should be equally
separable by interjecting a pause. But, upon a more narrow inspection,
the appearance of analogy vanisheth. To make this evident, I need only
premise, that a pause in the sense distinguishes the different members
of a period from each other; that two words of the same member may be
separated by a circumstance, all the three making still but one member;
and therefore that a pause in the sense has no connection with the
separation of words by interjected circumstances. This sets the matter
in a clear light. It is observed above, that the musical pause is
intimately connected with the pause in the sense; so intimately indeed,
that regularly they ought to coincide. As this would be too great a
restraint, a licence is indulged, to place pauses for the sake of the
music where they are not necessary for the sense. But this licence must
be kept within bounds. And a musical pause ought never to be placed
where a pause is excluded by the sense; as, for example, betwixt the
adjective and following substantive which make parts of the same idea,
and still less betwixt a particle and the word which makes it

Abstracting at present from the peculiarity of modulation arising from
the different pauses, it cannot fail to be observed in general, that
they introduce into our verse no slight degree of variety. Nothing more
fatigues the ear, than a number of uniform lines having all the same
pause, which is extremely remarkable in the French versification. This
imperfection will be discerned by a fine ear even in the shortest
succession, and becomes intolerable in a long poem. Pope excels all the
world in the variety of his modulation, which indeed is not less perfect
of its kind than that of Virgil.

From what is now said, there ought to be one exception. Uniformity in
the members of a thought, demands equal uniformity in the members of the
period which expresses that thought. When therefore resembling objects
or things are expressed in a plurality of verse-lines, these lines in
their structure ought to be as uniform as possible, and the pauses in
particular ought all of them to have the same place. Take the following

    By foreign hands || thy dying eyes were clos’d,
    By foreign hands || thy decent limbs compos’d,
    By foreign hands || thy humble grave adorn’d.


    Bright as the sun, || her eyes the gazers strike,
    And, like the sun, || they shine on all alike.

Speaking of Nature, or the God of Nature:

    Warms in the sun || refreshes in the breeze,
    Glows in the stars || and blossoms in the trees,
    Lives through all life || extends through all extent,
    Spreads undivided || operates unspent.

Pauses are like to dwell longer upon hand than I imagined; for the
subject is not yet exhausted. It is laid down above, that English heroic
verse, considering melody only, admits no more than four capital pauses;
and that the capital pause of every line is determined by the sense to
be after the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, or seventh syllable. And that
this doctrine holds true so far as melody alone is concerned, every good
ear will bear testimony. At the same time, examples are not unfrequent,
in Milton especially, of the capital pause being after the first, the
second, or the third syllable. And that this licence may be taken, even
gracefully, when it adds vigour to the expression, I readily admit. So
far the sound may be justly sacrificed to the sense or expression. That
this licence may be successfully taken, will be clear from the
following example. Pope, in his translation of Homer, describes a rock
broke off from a mountain, and hurling to the plain, in the following

    From steep to steep the rolling ruin bounds;
    At every shock the crackling wood resounds;
    Still gath’ring force, it smokes; and urg’d amain,
    Whirls, leaps, and thunders down, impetuous to the plain:
    There stops || So Hector. Their whole force he prov’d,
    Resistless when he rag’d; and when he stopt, unmov’d.

In the penult line the proper place of the musical pause is at the end
of the fifth syllable; but it enlivens the expression by its coincidence
with that of the sense at the end of the second syllable. The stopping
short before the usual pause in the melody, aids the impression that is
made by the description of the stone’s stopping short. And what is lost
to the melody by this artifice, is more than compensated by the force
that is added to the description. Milton makes a happy use of this
licence; witness the following examples from his _Paradise Lost_.

                ---- Thus with the year
    Seasons return, but not to me returns
    Day || or the sweet approach of even or morn.

    Celestial voices to the midnight-air
    Sole || or responsive each to others note.

    And over them triumphant Death his dart
    Shook || but delay’d to strike.

               ---- And wild uproar
    Stood rul’d || stood vast infinitude confin’d.

          ---- And hard’ning in his strength
    Glories || for never since created man
    Met such embodied force.

    From his slack hand the garland wreath’d for Eve
    Down drop’d || and all the faded roses shed.

    Of unessential night, receives him next,
    Wide gaping || and with utter loss of being
    Threatens him, _&c._

             ----For now the thought
    Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
    Torments him || round he throws his baleful eyes, _&c._

If we consider the foregoing passages with respect to melody singly, the
pauses are undoubtedly out of their proper place. But being united with
those of the sense, they inforce the expression and enliven it greatly.
And the beauty of expression is communicated to the sound, which, by a
natural deception, makes even the melody appear more perfect than if the
musical pauses were regular.

       *       *       *       *       *

To explain the rules of accenting, two general observations must be
premised. The first is, That accents have a double effect. They
contribute to the melody, by giving it air and spirit: they contribute
not less to the sense, by distinguishing important words from others.
These two effects ought never to be separated. If a musical accent be
put where the sense rejects it, we feel a discordance betwixt the
thought and the melody. An accent, for example, placed on a word that
makes no figure, has the effect to burlesk it, by giving it an unnatural
elevation. The injury thus done to the sense, is communicated to the
melody by the intimacy of connection, and both seem to be wounded. This
rule is applicable in a peculiar manner to particles. It is indeed
ridiculous to put an emphasis on a word which of itself has no meaning,
and like cement serves only to unite words significant. The other
general observation is, That a word of whatever number of syllables, is
not accented upon more than one of them. Nor is this an arbitrary
practice. The object represented by the word, is set in its best light
by a single accent: reiterated accents on different syllables in
succession, make not the emphasis stronger; but have an air, as if the
sound only of the accented syllables were regarded, and not the sense of
the word.

Keeping in view the foregoing observations, the doctrine of accenting
English heroic verse, is extremely simple. In the first place, accenting
is confined to the long syllables; for the melody admits not an accent
upon any short syllable. In the next place, as the melody is inriched in
proportion to the number of accents, every word that has a long syllable
ought to be accented, unless where the accent is rejected by the sense:
a word, as observed, that makes no figure by its signification, cannot
bear an accent. According to this rule, a line may admit five accents; a
case by no means rare.

But supposing every long syllable to be accented, there is constantly,
in every line, one accent which makes a greater figure than the rest.
This capital accent is that which precedes the capital pause. Hence it
is distinguishable into two kinds; one that is immediately succeeded by
the pause, and one that is divided from the pause by a short syllable.
The former belongs to lines of the first and third order: the latter to
those of the second and fourth. Examples of the first kind.

    Smooth flow the wâves || the zephyrs gently play,
    Belinda smîl’d || and all the world was gay.

    He rais’d his azure wând || and thus begun

Examples of the second.

    There lay three gârters || half a pair of gloves;
    And all the trôphies || of his former loves.

    Our humble prôvince || is to tend the fair,
    Not a less plêasing || though less glorious care.

    And hew triumphal ârches || to the ground

These accents make different impressions on the mind, which will be the
subject of a following speculation. In the mean time, it may be safely
pronounced a capital defect in the composition of verse, to put a low
word, incapable of an accent, in the place where this accent should be.
This bars the accent altogether; and I know no other fault more
subversive of the melody, if it be not that of barring a pause
altogether. I may add affirmatively, that it is a capital beauty in the
composition of verse, to have the most important word of the sentence,
so placed as that this capital accent may be laid upon it. No single
circumstance contributes more to the energy of verse, than to have this
accent on a word, that, by the importance of its meaning, is intitled to
a peculiar emphasis. To show the bad effect of excluding the capital
accent, I refer the reader to some instances given above, p. ooo, where
particles are separated by a pause from the capital words that make them
significant, and which particles ought, for the sake of the melody, to
be accented, were they capable of an accent. Add to these the following
instances from the Essay on Criticism.

    Oft, leaving what || is natural and fit,
              _line 448._

    Not yet purg’d off, || of spleen and sour disdain
              _l. 528._

    No pardon vile || obscenity should find
              _l. 531._

    When love was all || an easy monarch’s care
              _l. 537._

    For ’tis but half || a judge’s talk, to know
              _l. 562._

    ’Tis not enough, || taste, judgement, learning, join
              _l. 563._

    That only makes || superior sense belov’d
              _l. 578._

    Whose right it is, || uncensur’d, to be dull
              _l. 590._

    ’Tis best sometimes || your censure to restrain
              _l. 597._

When this fault is at the end of the line that closes a couplet, it
leaves not the least trace of melody:

    But of this frame the bearings, and the ties,
    The strong connections, nice dependencies

In a line expressive of what is humble or dejected, it improves the
resemblance betwixt the sound and sense, to exclude the capital accent.
This, to my taste, is a beauty in the following lines.

    In thêse deep sôlitudes || and aŵful cells

    The pôor inhâbitant || behôlds in vain

To conclude this article, the accents are not, like the syllables,
confined to a certain number. Some lines have no fewer than five, and
there are lines that admit not above one. This variety, as we have seen,
depends entirely on the different powers of the component words.
Particles, even where they are long by position, cannot be accented; and
polysyllables, whatever space they occupy, admit but one accent.
Polysyllables have another defect, that they generally exclude the full
pause. I have shown above, that few polysyllables can find place in the
construction of English verse. Here are reasons for excluding them,
could they find place.

       *       *       *       *       *

I am now prepared to fulfil a promise concerning the four sorts of lines
that enter into English heroic verse. That these have, each of them, a
peculiar melody distinguishable by a good ear, I ventured to suggest,
and promised to account for: and though this subject is extremely
delicate, I am not without hopes of making good my engagement. First,
however, like a wary general, I take all advantages the ground will
permit. I do not aver, that this peculiarity of modulation is in every
instance perceptible. Far from it. The impression made by a period,
whether it be verse or prose, is occasioned chiefly by the thought, and
in an inferior degree by the words; and these articles are so intimately
united with the melody, that they have each of them a strong influence
upon the others. With respect to the melody in particular, instances are
without number, of melody, in itself poor and weak, passing for rich and
spirited where it is supported by the thought and expression. I am
therefore intitled to insist, that this experiment be tried upon lines
of equal rank. And to avoid the perplexity of various cases, I must also
insist, that the lines chosen for a trial be regularly accented before
the pause: for upon a matter abundantly refined in itself, I would not
willingly be imbarrassed with faulty and irregular lines. These
preliminaries being adjusted, I begin with some general observations,
that will save repeating the same thing over and over upon each
particular case. And, first, an accent succeeded by a pause, makes
sensibly a deeper impression than where the voice goes on without a
stop: to make an impression requires time; and there is no time where
there is no pause. The fact is so certain, that in running over a few
lines, there is scarce an ear so dull as not readily to distinguish from
others, that particular accent which immediately precedes the full
pause. In the next place, the elevation of an accenting tone, produceth
in the mind a similar elevation, which is continued during the pause.
Every circumstance is different where the pause is separated from the
accent by a short syllable. The impression made by the accent is more
slight when there is no stop; and the elevation of the accent is gone in
a moment by the falling of the voice in pronouncing the short syllable
that follows. The pause also is sensibly affected by the position of the
accent. In lines of the first and third order, the close conjunction of
the accent and pause, occasions a sudden stop without preparation, which
rouses the mind, and bestows on the melody a spirited air. When, on the
other hand, the pause is separated from the accent by a short syllable,
which always happens in lines of the second and fourth order, the pause
is soft and gentle. This short unaccented syllable succeeding one that
is accented, must of course be pronounced with a falling voice, which
naturally prepares for a pause. The mind falls gently from the accented
syllable, and slides into rest as it were insensibly. Further, the lines
themselves, derive different powers from the position of the pause. A
pause after the fourth syllable divides the line into two unequal
portions, of which the largest comes last. This circumstance resolving
the line into an ascending series, makes an impression in pronouncing
like that of mounting upward. And to this impression contributes the
redoubled effort in pronouncing the largest portion, which is last in
order. The mind has a different feeling when the pause succeeds the
fifth syllable. The line being divided into two equal parts by this
pause, these parts, pronounced with equal effort, are agreeable by their
uniformity. A line divided by a pause after the sixth syllable, makes an
impression opposite to that first mentioned. Being divided into two
unequal portions, of which the shortest is last in order, it appears
like a slow descending series; and the second portion being pronounced
with less effort than the first, the diminished effort prepares the mind
for rest. And this preparation for rest is still more sensibly felt
where the pause is after the seventh syllable, as in lines of the fourth

No person can be at a loss in applying these observations. A line of the
first order is of all the most spirited and lively. To produce this
effect, several of the circumstances above mentioned concur. The accent,
being followed instantly by a pause, makes an illustrious figure: the
elevated tone of the accent elevates the mind: the mind is supported in
its elevation by the sudden unprepared pause which rouses and animates:
and the line itself, representing by its unequal division an ascending
series, carries the mind still higher, making an impression similar to
that of mounting upward. The second order has a modulation sensibly
sweet, soft, and flowing. The accent is not so sprightly as in the
former, because a short syllable intervenes betwixt it and the pause:
its elevation, by the same means, vanisheth instantaneously: the mind,
by a falling voice, is gently prepared for a stop: and the pleasure of
uniformity from the division of the line into two equal parts, is calm
and sweet. The third order has a modulation not so easily expressed in
words. It in part resembles the first order, by the liveliness of an
accent succeeded instantly by a full pause. But then the elevation
occasioned by this circumstance, is balanced in some degree by the
remitted effort in pronouncing the second portion, which remitted effort
has a tendency to rest. Another circumstance distinguisheth it
remarkably. Its capital accent comes late, being placed on the sixth
syllable; and this circumstance bestows on it an air of gravity and
solemnity. The last order resembles the second in the mildness of its
accent and softness of its pause. It is still more solemn than the
third, by the lateness of its capital accent. It also possesses in a
higher degree than the third, the tendency to rest; and by that
circumstance is of all the best qualified for closing a period in the
completest manner.

But these are not all the distinguishing characters of the different
orders. Each order also, by means of its final accent and pause, makes a
peculiar impression; so peculiar as to produce a melody clearly
distinguishable from that of the others. This peculiarity is occasioned
by the division which the capital pause makes in a line. By an unequal
division in the first order, the mind has an impression of ascending;
and is left at the close in the highest elevation, which is display’d on
the concluding syllable. By this means, a strong emphasis is naturally
laid upon the concluding syllable, whether by raising the voice to a
sharper tone, or by expressing the word in a fuller tone. This order
accordingly is of all the least proper for concluding a period, where a
cadence is proper, and not an accent. In the second order, the final
accent makes not so capital a figure. There is nothing singular in its
being marked by a pause, for this is common to all the orders; and this
order, being destitute of the impression of ascent, cannot rival the
first order in the elevation of its accent, nor consequently in the
dignity of its pause; for these always have a mutual influence. This
order, however, with respect to its close, maintains a superiority over
the third and fourth orders. In these the close is more humble, being
brought down by the impression of descent, and by the remitted effort in
pronouncing; considerably in the third order, and still more
considerably in the last. According to this description, the concluding
accents and pauses of the four orders being reduced to a scale, will
form a descending series probably in an arithmetical progression.

After what is said, will it be thought refining too much to suggest,
that the different orders are qualified for different purposes, and that
a poet of genius will be naturally led to make a choice accordingly? I
cannot think this altogether chimerical. It appears to me, that the
first order is proper for a sentiment that is bold, lively, or
impetuous; that the third order is proper for subjects grave, solemn, or
lofty; the second for what is tender, delicate, or melancholy, and in
general for all the sympathetic emotions; and the last for subjects of
the same kind, when tempered with any degree of solemnity. I do not
contend, that any one order is fitted for no other talk, than that
assigned it. At that rate, no sort of modulation would be left for
accompanying ordinary thoughts, that have nothing peculiar in them. I
only venture to suggest, and I do it with diffidence, that one order is
peculiarly adapted to certain subjects, and better qualified than the
others for expressing such subjects. The best way to judge is by
experiment; and to avoid the imputation of a partial search, I shall
confine my instances to a single poem, beginning with the first order.

    On her white breast, a sparkling cross she wore,
    Which Jews might kiss, and Infidels adore.
    Her lively looks, a sprightly mind disclose,
    Quick as her eyes, and as unfix’d as those:
    Favours to none, to all she smiles extends;
    Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
    Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike,
    And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.
    Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride,
    Might hide her faults, if belles had faults to hide:
    If to her share some female errors fall,
    Look on her face, and you’ll forget ’em all.
         _Rape of the Lock._

In accounting for the remarkable liveliness of this passage, it will be
acknowledged by every one who has an ear, that the modulation must come
in for a share. The lines, all of them, are of the first order; a very
unusual circumstance in the author of this poem, so eminent for variety
in his versification. Who can doubt, that, in this passage, he has been
led by delicacy of taste to employ the first order preferably to the

Second order.

    Our humbler province is to tend the fair,
    Not a less pleasing, though less glorious care;
    To save the powder from too rude a gale,
    Nor let th’ imprison’d essences exhale;
    To draw fresh colours from the vernal flow’rs;
    To steal from rainbows ere they drop their show’rs, _&c._


    Oh, thoughtless mortals! ever blind to fate,
    Too soon dejected, and too soon elate.
    Sudden, these honours shall be snatch’d away,
    And curs’d for ever this victorious day.

Third order.

    To fifty chosen sylphs, of special note,
    We trust th’important charge, the petticoat.


    Oh say what stranger cause, yet unexplor’d,
    Could make a gentle belle reject a lord?

A plurality of lines of the fourth order, would not have a good effect
in succession; because, by a remarkable tendency to rest, its proper
office is to close a period. The reader, therefore, must be satisfied
with instances where this order is mixed with others.

    Not louder shrieks to pitying Heav’n are cast,
    When husbands, or when lapdogs, breathe their last.


    Steel could the works of mortal pride confound,
    And hew triumphal arches to the ground.


    She sees, and trembles at th’ approaching ill,
    Just in the jaws of ruin, and codille.


    With earnest eyes, and round unthinking face,
    He first the snuff-box open’d, then the case.

And this suggests another experiment, which is, to set the different
orders more directly in opposition, by giving examples where they are
mixed in the same passage.

First and second orders.

    Sol through white curtains shot a tim’rous ray,
    And ope’d those eyes that must eclipse the day.


    Not youthful kings in battle seiz’d alive,
    Not scornful virgins who their charms survive,
    Not ardent lovers robb’d of all their bliss,
    Not ancient ladies when refus’d a kiss,
    Not tyrants fierce that unrepenting die,
    Not Cynthia when her manteau’s pinn’d awry,
    E’er felt such rage, resentment, and despair,
    As thou, sad virgin! for thy ravish’d hair.

First and third.

    Think what an equipage thou hast in air,
    And view with scorn two pages and a chair.


    What guards the purity of melting maids,
    In courtly balls, and midnight-masquerades,
    Safe from the treach’rous friend, the daring spark,
    The glance by day, the whisper in the dark?


    With tender billet-doux he lights the pyre,
    And breathes three am’rous sighs to raise the fire;
    Then prostrate falls, and begs, with ardent eyes,
    Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize.


    Jove’s thunder roars, heav’n trembles all around,
    Blue Neptune storms, the bellowing deeps resound,
    Earth shakes her nodding tow’rs, the ground gives way,
    And the pale ghosts start at the flash of day!

Second and third.

    Sunk in Thalestris’ arms, the nymph he found,
    Her eyes dejected, and her hair unbound.


    On her heav’d bosom hung her drooping head,
    Which with a sigh she rais’d; and thus she said.

Musing on the foregoing subject, I begin to doubt whether I have not
been all this while in a reverie. Here unexpectedly a sort of
fairy-scene opens, where every object is new and singular. Is there any
truth in the appearance, or is it merely a work of imagination? The
scene seems to be a reality; and if it can bear examination, it must
exalt greatly the melody of English heroic verse. If uniformity prevail,
in the arrangement, in the equality of the lines, and in the resemblance
of the final sounds; variety is still more conspicuous in the pauses and
accents, which are diversified in a surprising manner. The beauty that
results from combined objects, is justly observed to consist in a due
mixture of uniformity and variety[102]. Of this beauty many instances
have already occurred, but none more illustrious than English
versification. However rude it may be by the simplicity of arrangement,
it is highly melodious by its pauses and accents, so as already to rival
the most perfect species known in Greece or Rome. And it is no
disagreeable prospect to find it susceptible of still greater

       *       *       *       *       *

We proceed to blank verse, which hath so many circumstances in common
with rhyme, that what is necessary to be said upon it may be brought
within a narrow compass. With respect to form, it differs not from rhyme
farther than in rejecting the jingle of similar sounds. But let us not
think this difference a trifle, or that we gain nothing by it but the
purifying our verse from a pleasure so childish. In truth, our verse is
extremely cramped by rhyme; and the great advantage of blank verse is,
that, being free from the fetters of rhyme, it is at liberty to attend
the imagination in its boldest flights. Rhyme necessarily divides verse
into couplets: each couplet makes a complete musical period; the parts
of which are divided by pauses, and the whole summed up by a full close
at the end: the modulation begins anew with the next couplet: and in
this manner a composition in rhyme proceeds couplet after couplet. I
have more than once had occasion to observe the influence that sound and
sense have upon each other by their intimate union. If a couplet be a
complete period with regard to the melody, it ought regularly to be so
also with regard to the sense. This, it is true, proves too great a
cramp upon composition; and licences are indulged, as explained above.
These however must be used with discretion, so as to preserve some
degree of uniformity betwixt the sense and the music. There ought never
to be a full close in the sense but at the end of a couplet; and there
ought always to be some pause in the sense at the end of every couplet.
The same period as to sense may be extended through several couplets;
but in this case each couplet ought to contain a distinct member,
distinguished by a pause in the sense as well as in the sound; and the
whole ought to be closed with a complete cadence. Rules such as these,
must confine rhyme within very narrow bounds. A thought of any extent,
cannot be reduced within its compass. The sense must be curtailed and
broken into pieces, to make it square with the curtness of melody: and
it is obvious, that short periods afford no latitude for inversion. I
have examined this point with the greater accuracy, in order to give a
just notion of blank verse; and to show that a slight difference in form
may produce a very great difference in substance. Blank verse has the
same pauses and accents with rhyme; and a pause at the end of every
line, like what concludes the first line of a couplet. In a word, the
rules of melody in blank verse, are the same that obtain with respect
to the first line of a couplet. But luckily, being disengaged from
rhyme, or, in other words, from couplets, there is access to make every
line run into another, precisely as the first line of a couplet may run
into the second. There must be a musical pause at the end of every line;
but it is not necessary that it be accompanied with a pause in the
sense. The sense may be carried on through different lines; till a
period of the utmost extent be completed, by a full close both in the
sense and the sound. There is no restraint, other than that this full
close be at the end of a line. This restraint is necessary in order to
preserve a coincidence betwixt sense and sound; which ought to be aimed
at in general, and is indispensable in the case of a full close, because
it has a striking effect. Hence the aptitude of blank verse for
inversion; and consequently the lustre of its pauses and accents; for
which, as observed above, there is greater scope in inversion, than when
words run in their natural order.

In the second section of this chapter it is shown, that nothing
contributes more than inversion to the force and elevation of language.
The couplets of rhyme confine inversion within narrow limits. Nor would
the elevation of inversion, were there access for it in rhyme, be
extremely concordant with the humbler tone of that sort of verse. It is
universally agreed, that the loftiness of Milton’s style supports
admirably the sublimity of his subject; and it is not less certain, that
the loftiness of his style arises chiefly from inversion. Shakespear
deals little in inversion. But his blank verse, being a sort of measured
prose, is perfectly well adapted to the stage. Laboured inversion is
there extremely improper, because in dialogue it never can appear

Hitherto I have considered the advantage of laying aside rhyme, with
respect to that superior power of expression which verse acquires
thereby. But this is not the only advantage of blank verse. It has
another not less signal of its kind; and that is, of a more extensive
and more complete melody. Its music is not, like that of rhyme,
confined to a single couplet; but takes in a great compass, so as in
some measure to rival music properly so called. The intervals betwixt
its cadences may be long or short at pleasure; and, by this means, its
modulation, with respect both to richness and variety, is superior far
to that of rhyme; and superior even to that of the Greek and Latin
Hexameter. Of this observation no person can doubt who is acquainted
with the _Paradise Lost_. In that work there are indeed many careless
lines; but at every turn it shines out in the richest melody as well as
in the sublimest sentiments. Take the following specimen.

    Now Morn her rosy steps in th’ eastern clime
    Advancing, sow’d the earth with orient pearl,
    When Adam wak’d, so custom’d, for his sleep
    Was aëry light from pure digestion bred,
    And temp’rate vapours bland, which th’ only sound
    Of leaves and fuming rills, Aurora’s fan,
    Lightly dispers’d, and the shrill matin song
    Of birds on every bough; so much the more
    His wonder was to find unwaken’d Eve
    With tresses discompos’d, and glowing cheek,
    As through unquiet rest: he on his side
    Leaning half-rais’d, with looks of cordial love
    Hung over her enamour’d, and beheld
    Beauty, which, whether waking or asleep,
    Shot forth peculiar graces; then with voice
    Mild, as when Zephyrus on Flora breathes,
    Her hand soft touching, whisper’d thus. Awake
    My fairest, my espous’d, my latest found,
    Heav’n’s last best gift, my ever new delight,
    Awake; the morning shines, and the fresh field
    Calls us; we lose the prime, to mark how spring
    Our tended plants, how blows the citron grove,
    What drops the myrrh, and what the balmy reed,
    How Nature paints her colours, how the bee
    Sits on the bloom extracting liquid sweet.
         _Book 1. l. 1_.

Comparing the Latin Hexameter and English heroic rhyme, the former has
obviously the advantage in the following particulars. It is greatly
preferable as to arrangement, by the latitude it admits in placing the
long and short syllables. Secondly, the length of an Hexameter line hath
a majestic air: ours, by its shortness, is indeed more brisk and lively,
but much less fitted for the sublime. And, thirdly, the long
high-sounding words that Hexameter admits, add greatly to its majesty.
To compensate these advantages, English rhyme possesses a greater number
and greater variety both of pauses and of accents. These two sorts of
verse stand indeed pretty much in opposition: in the Hexameter, great
variety of arrangement, none in the pauses or accents: in the English
rhyme, great variety in the pauses and accents, very little in the

In blank verse are united, in a good measure, the several properties of
Latin Hexameter and English rhyme; and it possesses beside many signal
properties of its own. If is not confined, like a Hexameter, by a full
close at the end of every line; nor, like rhyme, by a full close at the
end of every couplet. This form of construction, which admits the lines
to run into each other, gives it a still greater majesty than arises
from the length of a Hexameter line. By the same means, it admits
inversion even beyond the Latin or Greek Hexameter, which suffer some
confinement by the regular closes at the end of every line. In its
music it is illustrious above all. The melody of Hexameter verse, is
circumscribed to a line; and of English rhyme, to a couplet. The melody
of blank verse is under no confinement, but enjoys the utmost privilege
of which the melody of verse is susceptible, and that is to run hand in
hand with the sense. In a word, blank verse is superior to the Hexameter
in many articles; and inferior to it in none, save in the latitude of
arrangement, and in the use of long words.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the French heroic verse, there are found, on the contrary, all the
defects of the Latin Hexameter and English rhyme, without the beauties
of either. Subjected to the bondage of rhyme, and to the full close at
the end of each couplet, it is further peculiarly disgustful by the
uniformity of its pauses and accents. The line invariably is divided by
the pause into two equal parts, and the accent is invariably placed
before the pause.

    Jeune et vaillant herôs || dont la haute sagesse
    Ne’st point la fruit tardîf || d’une lente vieillesse.

Here every circumstance contributes to a most tedious uniformity. A
constant return of the same pause and of the same accent, as well as an
equal division of every line; by which the latter part always answers to
the former, and fatigues the ear without intermission or change. I
cannot set this matter in a better light, than by presenting to the
reader a French translation of the following passage of Milton.

    Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,
    Godlike erect, with native honour clad
    In naked majesty seem’d lords of all;
    And worthy seem’d, for in their looks divine
    The image of their glorious Maker shon,
    Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure,
    Severe, but in true filial freedom plac’d;
    Whence true authority in men: though both
    Not equal, as their sex not equal seem’d;
    For contemplation he and valour form’d,
    For softness she and sweet attractive grace,
    He for God only, she for God in him.

Were the pauses of the sense and sound in this passage, but a little
better assorted, nothing in verse could be more melodious. In general,
the great defect of Milton’s versification, in other respects admirable,
is the want of coincidence betwixt the pauses of the sense and sound.

The translation is in the following words.

    Ce lieu délicieux, ce paradis charmant,
    Reçoit deux objets son plus bel ornement;
    Leur port majestueux, et leur démarche altiere,
    Semble leur meriter sur la nature entiere
    Ce droit de commander que Dieu leur a donné.
    Sur leur auguste front de gloire couronné,
    Du souverain du ciel drille la resemblance:
    Dans leur simples regards éclatte l’innocence,
    L’adorable candeur, l’aimable vérité,
    La raison, la sagesse, et la sévérité
    Qu’adoucit la prudence, et cet air de droiture
    Du visage des rois respectable parure.
    Ces deux objets divins n’ont pas les mêmes traits,
    Ils paroissent formés, quoique tous deux parfaits;
    L’un pour la majesté, la force, et la noblesse;
    L’autre pour la douceur, la grace, et la tendresse:
    Celui-ci pour Dieu seul, l’autre pour l’homme encor.

Here the sense is fairly translated, the words are of equal power, and
yet how inferior the melody!

I take the liberty to add here a speculation, which, though collateral
only, arises naturally from the subject, and shall be discussed in a few
words. Many attempts have been made to introduce Hexameter verse into
the living languages, but without success. The English language, I am
inclined to believe, is not susceptible of this melody; and my reasons
are these. First, the polysyllables in Latin and Greek are finely
diversified by long and short syllables, a circumstance that qualifies
them for the melody of Hexameter verse. Ours are extremely ill qualified
for this service, because they superabound in short syllables. Secondly,
the bulk of our monosyllables are arbitrary with regard to length, which
is an unlucky circumstance in Hexameter. Custom, as observed above, may
render familiar a long or short pronunciation of the same word: but the
mind wavering betwixt the two sounds, cannot be so much arrested with
either, as with a word that hath always the same sound; and for that
reason, arbitrary sounds are ill fitted for a melody which is chiefly
supported by quantity. In Latin and Greek Hexameter, invariable sounds
direct and ascertain the melody: English Hexameter would be destitute of
melody, unless by artful pronunciation; because of necessity the bulk of
its sounds must be arbitrary. The pronunciation is easy in a simple
movement of alternate short and long syllables; but would be perplexing
and unpleasant in the diversified movement of Hexameter verse.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rhyme makes so great a figure in modern poetry, as to deserve a solemn
trial. I have for that reason reserved it to be examined with some
deliberation; in order to discover, if possible, its peculiar beauties,
and the degree of merit it is intitled to. The first view of this
subject leads naturally to the following reflection, “That rhyme having
no relation to sentiment, nor any effect upon the ear other than a mere
jingle, ought to be banished all compositions of any dignity, as
affording but a trifling and childish pleasure.” It will also be
observed, “That a jingle of words hath in some measure a ludicrous
effect; witness the celebrated poem of _Hudibras_, the double rhymes of
which contribute no small share to its drollery; that this effect would
be equally remarkable in a serious work, were it not obscured by the
nature of the subject; that having however a constant tendency to give a
ludicrous air to the composition, it requires more than ordinary fire to
support the dignity of the sentiments against such an undermining

These arguments are specious, and have undoubtedly some weight. Yet, on
the other hand, it ought to be considered, that rhyme, in later times,
has become universal among men as well as children; and that to give it
a currency, it must have some foundation in human nature. In fact, it
has been successfully employ’d by poets of genius, in their serious and
grave compositions, as well as in those which are more light and airy.
Here, in weighing authority against argument, the balance seems to hang
pretty even; and therefore, to come at any thing decisive, we must
pierce a little deeper.

Music has great power over the soul; and may be successfully employ’d to
inflame or sooth our passions, if not actually to raise them. A single
sound, however sweet, is not music; but a single sound repeated after
proper intervals, may have an effect upon the mind, by rousing the
attention and keeping the hearer awake. A variety of similar sounds,
succeeding each other after regular intervals, must have a still
stronger effect. This is applicable to rhyme, which consists in the
connection that two verse-lines have by closing with two words similar
in sound. And considering deliberately the effect that this may have; we
find, that it rouses the attention, and produceth an emotion moderately
gay without dignity or elevation. Like the murmurings of a brook gliding
through pebbles, it calms the mind when perturbed, and gently raises it
when sunk. These effects are scarce perceived when the whole poem is in
rhyme; but are extremely remarkable by contrast, in the couplets which
close the several acts of our later tragedies. The tone of the mind is
sensibly varied by them, from anguish, distress, or melancholy, to some
degree of ease and alacrity. For the truth of this observation, I appeal
to the speech of Jane Shore in the fourth act, when her doom was
pronounced by Glo’ster; to the speech of Lady Jane Gray at the end of
the first act; and to that of Calista, in the _Fair Penitent_, when she
leaves the stage, about the middle of the third act. The speech of
Alicia, at the close of the fourth act of _Jane Shore_, puts the matter
beyond doubt. In a scene of deep distress, the rhymes which finish the
act, produce a certain gaiety and chearfulness, far from according with
the tone of the passion.

    _Alicia_. For ever? Oh! For ever!
    Oh! who can bear to be a wretch for ever!
    My rival too! his last thoughts hung on her:
    And, as he parted, left a blessing for her.
    Shall she be bless’d, and I be curs’d, for ever!
    No; since her fatal beauty was the cause
    Of all my suff’rings, let her share my pains;
    Let her, like me, of ev’ry joy forlorn,
    Devote the hour when such a wretch was born:
    Like me to deserts and to darkness run,
    Abhor the day and curse the golden sun;
    Cast ev’ry good and ev’ry hope behind;
    Detest the works of nature, loathe mankind:
    Like me with cries distracted fill the air,}
    Tear her poor bosom, and her frantic hair,}
    And prove the torments of the last despair.}

Having described, the best way I can, the impression that rhyme makes on
the mind; I proceed to examine whether rhyme be proper for any subject,
and to what subjects in particular it is best suited. Great and elevated
subjects, which have a powerful influence, claim justly the precedence
in this inquiry. In the chapter of grandeur and sublimity, it is
established, that a grand or sublime object, inspires a warm
enthusiastic emotion disdaining strict regularity and order.
This observation is applicable to the present point. The
moderately-enlivening music of rhyme, gives a tone to the mind very
different from that of grandeur and sublimity. Supposing then an
elevated subject to be expressed in rhyme, what must be the effect? The
intimate union of the music with the subject, produces an intimate union
of their emotions; one inspired by the subject, which tends to elevate
and expand the mind; and one inspired by the music, which, confining the
mind within the narrow limits of regular cadency and similar sound,
tends to prevent all elevation above its own pitch. Emotions so little
concordant, cannot in union have a happy effect.

But it is scarce necessary to reason upon a case, that never did, and
probably never will happen, _viz._ an important subject clothed in
rhyme, and yet supported in its utmost elevation. A happy thought or
warm expression, may at times give a sudden bound upward; but it
requires a genius greater than has hitherto existed, to support a poem
of any length in a tone much more elevated than that of the melody.
Tasso and Ariosto ought not to be made exceptions, and still less
Voltaire. And after all, where the poet has the dead weight of rhyme
constantly to struggle with, how can we expect an uniform elevation in
a high pitch; when such elevation, with all the support it can receive
from language, requires the utmost effort of the human genius?

But now, admitting rhyme to be an unfit dress for grand and lofty
images; it has one advantage however, which is, to raise a low subject
to its own degree of elevation. Addison[104] observes, “That rhyme,
without any other assistance, throws the language off from prose, and
very often makes an indifferent phrase pass unregarded; but where the
verse is not built upon rhymes, there, pomp of sound and energy of
expression are indispensably necessary, to support the style and keep it
from falling into the flatness of prose.” This effect of rhyme is
remarkable in the French verse, which, being simple and natural and in a
good measure unqualified for inversion, readily sinks down to prose
where it is not artificially supported. Rhyme, by rousing the mind,
raises it somewhat above the tone of ordinary language: rhyme therefore
is indispensable in the French tragedy; and may be proper even for their
comedy. Voltaire[105] assigns this very reason for adhering to rhyme in
these compositions. He indeed candidly owns, that even with the support
of rhyme, the tragedies of his country are little better than
conversation-pieces. This shows, that the French language is weak, and
an improper dress for any grand subject. Voltaire was sensible of this
imperfection; and yet Voltaire attempted an epic poem in that language.

The chearing and enlivening power of rhyme, is still more remarkable in
poems of short lines, where the rhymes return upon the ear in a quick
succession. And for that reason, rhyme is perfectly well adapted to gay,
light, and airy subjects. Witness the following.

    O the pleasing, pleasing anguish.
    When we love, and when we languish!
        Wishes rising,
        Thoughts surprising,
        Pleasure courting,
        Charms transporting,
        Fancy viewing,
        Joys ensuing,
    O the pleasing, pleasing anguish.
         _Rosamond, act 1. sc. 2._

For this reason, such frequent rhymes are very improper for any severe
or serious passion: the dissonance betwixt the subject and the
modulation, is very sensibly felt. Witness the following.

    Ardito ti renda,
      Di sdegno
      D’un figlio
      Il periglio
      D’un regno
      L’ amor
    E’ dolce ad un’ alma
      Che aspetta
    Il perder la calma
    Fra l’ire del cor.
         _Metastasio. Artaserse, act 3. sc 3._

Rhyme is not less unfit for deep distress, than for subjects elevated
and lofty; and for that reason has been long disused in the English and
Italian tragedy. In a work, where the subject is serious though not
elevated, it has not a good effect; because the airiness of the
modulation agrees not with the gravity of the subject. The _Essay on
Man_, which treats a subject great and important, would show much better
in blank verse. Sportive love, mirth, gaiety, humour, and ridicule, are
the province of rhyme. The boundaries assigned it by nature, were
extended in barbarous and illiterate ages, and in its usurpations it has
long been protected by custom. But taste in the fine arts, as well as in
morals, improves daily; and makes a progress, slowly indeed, but
uniformly, towards perfection: and there is no reason to doubt, that
rhyme in Britain will in time be forc’d to abandon its unjust conquests,
and to confine itself within its natural limits.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having thrown out what occurred upon rhyme, I close the section with a
general observation. The melody of articulate sound so powerfully
inchants the mind, as to draw a vail over very gross faults and
imperfections. Of this power a stronger example cannot be given, than
the episode of Aristæus, which closes the fourth book of the _Georgics_.
To renew a stock of bees when the former is lost, Virgil asserts, that
they will be produced in the intrails of a bullock, slain and managed in
a certain manner. This leads him to say, how this strange receipt was
invented; which is as follows. Aristæus having lost his bees by disease
and famine, never dreams of employing the ordinary means for obtaining a
new stock; but, like a froward child, complains heavily of his
misfortune to his mother Cyrene, a water-nymph. She advises him to
consult Proteus, a sea-god, not how he was to obtain a new stock, but
only by what fatality he had lost his former stock; adding, that
violence was necessary, because Proteus would say nothing voluntarily.
Aristæus, satisfied with this advice, though it gave him no prospect of
repairing his loss, proceeds to execution. Proteus is catched sleeping,
bound with cords, and compelled to speak. He declares, that Aristæus was
punished with the loss of his bees, for attempting the chastity of
Euridice, the wife of Orpheus; she having got her death by the sting of
a serpent in flying his embraces. Proteus, whose sullenness ought to
have been converted into wrath by the rough treatment he met with,
becomes on a sudden courteous and communicative. He gives the whole
history of Orpheus’s expedition to hell in order to recover his spouse;
a very entertaining story indeed, but without the least relation to the
affair on hand. Aristæus returning to his mother, is advised to
deprecate by sacrifices the wrath of Orpheus, who was now dead. A
bullock is sacrificed, and out of the intrails spring miraculously a
swarm of bees. How should this have led any mortal to think, that,
without a miracle, the same might be obtained naturally, as is supposed
in the receipt?

_A list of the different FEET, and of their NAMES._

     1. PYRRHICHIUS, consists of two short syllables. Examples: _Deus_,
     _given_, _cannot_, _hillock_, _running_.

     2. SPONDEUS, consists of two long syllables. Ex. _omnes_,
     _possess_, _forewarn_, _mankind_, _sometime_.

     3. IAMBUS, composed of a short and a long. Ex. _pios_, _intent_,
     _degree_, _appear_, _consent_, _repent_, _demand_, _report_,
     _suspect_, _affront_, _event_.

     4. TROCHÆUS, or CHOREUS, a long and a short. Ex. _fervat_,
     _whereby_, _after_, _legal_, _measure_, _burden_, _holy_, _lofty_.

     5. TRIBRACHYS, three short. Ex. _melius_, _property_.

     6. MOLOSSUS, three long. Ex. _delectant_.

     7. ANAPÆSTUS, two short and a long. Ex. _animos_, _condescend_,
     _apprehend_, _overheard_, _acquiesce_, _immature_, _overcharge_,
     _serenade_, _opportune_.

     8. DACTYLUS, a long and two short. Ex. _carmina_, _evident_,
     _excellence_, _estimate_, _wonderful_, _altitude_, _burdened_,
     _minister_, _tenement_.

     9. BACCHIUS, a short and two long. Ex. _dolores_.

     10. HYPPOBACCHIUS, or ANTIBACCHIUS, two long and a short. Ex.

     11. CRETICUS, or AMPHIMACER, a short syllable betwixt two long. Ex.
     _infito_, _afternoon_.

     12. AMPHIBRACHYS, a long syllable betwixt two short. Ex. _honore_,
     _consider_, _imprudent_, _procedure_, _attended_, _proposed_,
     _respondent_, _concurrence_, _apprentice_, _respective_,

     13. PROCELEUSMATICUS, four short syllables. Ex. _hominibus_,

     14. DISPONDEUS, four long syllables. Ex. _infinitis_.

     15. DIIAMBUS, composed of two Iambi. Ex. _severitas_.

     16. DITROCHÆUS, of two Trochæi. Ex. _permanere_, _procurator_.

     17. IONICUS, two short syllables and two long. Ex. _properabant_.

     18. Another foot passes under the same name, composed of two long
     syllables and two short. Ex. _calcaribus_, _possessory_.

     19. CHORIAMBUS, two short syllables betwixt two long. Ex.

     20. ANTISPASTUS, two long syllables betwixt two short. Ex.

     21. PÆON 1st, one long syllable and three short. Ex. _temporibus_,
     _ordinary_, _inventory_, _temperament_.

     22. PÆON 2d, the second syllable long, and the other three short.
     Ex. _potentia_, _rapidity_, _solemnity_, _minority_, _considered_,
     _imprudently_, _extravagant_, _respectfully_, _accordingly_.

     23. PÆON 3d, the third syllable long and the other three short. Ex.
     _animatus_, _independent_, _condescendence_, _sacerdotal_,
     _reimbursement_, _manufacture_.

     24. PÆON 4th, the last syllable long and the other three short. Ex.

     25. EPITRITUS 1st, the first syllable short and the other three
     long. Ex. _voluptates_.

     26. EPITRITUS 2d, the second syllable short and the other three
     long. Ex. _pænitentes_.

     27. EPITRITUS 3d, the third syllable short and the other three
     long. Ex. _discordias_.

     28. EPITRITUS 4th, the last syllable short and the other three
     long. Ex. _fortunatus_.

     29. A word of five syllables composed of a Pyrrhichius and
     Dactylus. Ex. _ministerial_.

     30. A word of five syllables composed of a Trochæus and Dactylus.
     Ex. _singularity_.

     31. A word of five syllables composed of a Dactylus and Trochæus.
     Ex. _precipitation_, _examination_.

     32. A word of five syllables, the second only long. Ex.
     _necessitated_, _significancy_.

     33. A word of six syllables composed of two Dactyles. Ex.

     34. A word of six syllables composed of a Tribrachys and Dactyle.
     Ex. _pusillanimity_.

_N. B._ Every word may be considered as a prose foot, because every word
is distinguished by a pause; and every foot in verse may be considered
as a verse word, composed of syllables pronounced at once without a



[1] Nec vero illa parva vis naturæ est rationisque, quod unum hoc
animal sentit quid sit ordo, quid sit quod deceat in factis dictisque,
qui modus. Itaque eorum ipsorum, quæ aspectu sentiuntur, nullum aliud
animal, pulchritudinem, venustatem, convenientiam partium, sentit.
Quam similitudinem natura ratioque ab oculis ad animum transferens,
multo etiam magis pulchritudinem, constantiam, ordinem, in consiliis
factisque conservandum putat, cavetque ne quid indecorè effeminatève
faciat; tum in omnibus et opinionibus et factis ne quid libidinosè aut
faciat aut cogitet. Quibus ex rebus conflatur et efficitur id, quod
quærimus, honestum. _Cicero de officiis, l._ 1.

[2] From many things that pass current in the world without being
generally condemned, one at first view would imagine, that the sense
of congruity or propriety hath scarce any foundation in nature; and
that it is rather an artificial refinement of those who affect to
distinguish themselves by a certain delicacy of taste and behaviour.
The fulsome panegyrics bestowed upon the great and opulent, in epistles
dedicatory and other such compositions, lead naturally to that thought.
Did there prevail in the world, it will be said, or did nature suggest,
a taste of what is suitable, decent, or proper, would any good writer
deal in such compositions, or any man of sense receive them without
disgust? Can it be supposed, that Lewis XIV. of France was endued by
nature with any sense of propriety, when, in a dramatic performance
purposely composed for his entertainment, he suffered himself, publicly
and in his presence, to be styled the greatest king ever the earth
produced? These it is true are strong facts; but luckily they do not
prove the sense of propriety to be artificial. They only prove, that
the sense of propriety is at times overpowered by pride and vanity;
which is no singular case, for this sometimes is the fate even of the
sense of justice.

[3] Contrary to this rule, the introduction to the third volume of
the _Characteristics_, is a continued chain of metaphors. These in
such profusion are too florid for the subject; and have beside the bad
effect of removing our attention from the principal subject, to fix it
upon splendid trifles.

[4] See act 1. sc. 2.

[5] See chap. 7.

[6] See chap. 3.

[7] See the Introduction.

[8] Part I. essay 2. chap. 4.

[9] Poet. cap. 5.

[10] L. 2. De oratore.

[11] Ideoque anceps ejus rei ratio est, quod a derisu non procul abest
risus. _Lib._ 6. _cap._ 3. § 1.

[12] See chap. 7.

[13] See chap. 10.

[14] Scarron.

[15] Tassoni.

[16] Nº 102.

[17] Tale of a Tub, sect. 7.

[18] A true and faithful narrative of what passed in London during the
general consternation of all ranks and degrees of mankind.

[19] Æn. l. 1. _At Venus obscuro_, &c.

[20] See chap. 10. compared with chap. 7.

[21] B. 2. ch. 11. § 2.

[22] See chap. 1.

[23] De oratore, l. 2. cap. 63.


    If all the year were playing holidays,
    To sport would be as tedious as to work:
    But when they seldom come, they wish’d-for come,
    And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
         _First part, Henry_ IV. _act 1. sc. 3._

[25] Violent love without affection is finely exemplified in the
following story. When Constantinople was taken by the Turks, Irene, a
young Greek of an illustrious family, fell into the hands of Mahomet
II. who was at that time in the prime of youth and glory. Irene’s
charms conquered the savage heart of Mahomet. He abandoned himself to
his new mistress; and shut himself up with her, denying access even to
his ministers. His passion seemed to increase with time. In the most
important expeditions, frequently would he abandon the army, and fly to
his Irene. War was at a stand, for victory was no longer the monarch’s
favourite passion. The soldiers, accustomed to booty, began to murmur,
and the infection spread even among the commanders. The Basha Mustapha,
consulting the fidelity he owed his master, was the first who durst
acquaint him of the discourses held publicly to the prejudice of his

The Sultan, after a gloomy silence, formed his resolution. He ordered
Mustapha to assemble the troops next morning; and then retired with
precipitation to Irene’s apartment. Never before did that princess
appear so charming: never before did the prince bestow so many tender
caresses. To give a new lustre to her beauty, he exhorted her women
next morning to bestow all their art and care on her dress. He took her
by the hand, led her into the middle of the army, and pulling off her
vail, demanded at the Bashas with a fierce look, whether they had ever
beheld so accomplished a beauty? After an awful pause, Mahomet with one
hand laying hold of the young Greek by her beautiful locks, and with
the other pulling out his simitar, severed the head from the body at
one stroke. Then turning to his grandees, with eyes wild and furious,
“This sword,” says he, “when it is my will, knows to cut the bands of

[26] See chap. 2. part 3.

[27] Lady Easy, upon her husband’s reformation, expresses to her friend
the following sentiment. “Be satisfy’d; Sir Charles has made me happy,
even to a pain of joy.”

[28] See chap. 2. part 3.

[29] See chap. 2. part 3.

[30] See chap. 2. part 4.

[31] Chap. 2. part 1. sect. 2.

[32] See chap. 2. part 1. sect. 6.

[33] Act 2.

[34] Omnis enim motus animi, suum quemdam a natura habet vultum et
sonum et gestum. _Cicero, l. 3. De oratore._

[35] See this explained, Essays on morality and natural religion, part
2. essay 5.

[36] See chap. 2. part 6.

[37] See chap. 17.

[38] Though a soliloquy in the perturbation of passion is undoubtedly
natural, and indeed not unfrequent in real life; yet Congreve, who
himself has penned several good soliloquies, yields, with more candor
than knowledge, that they are unnatural; and he only pretends to
justify them from necessity. This he does in his dedication of the
_Double Dealer_, in the following words. “When a man in soliloquy
reasons with himself, and _pro’s_ and _con’s_, and weighs all his
designs; we ought not to imagine, that this man either talks to us,
or to himself; he is only thinking, and thinking (frequently) such
matter as were inexcuseable folly in him to speak. But because we are
concealed spectators of the plot in agitation, and the poet finds it
necessary to let us know the whole mystery of his contrivance, he is
willing to inform us of this person’s thoughts; and to that end is
forced to make use of the expedient of speech, no other better way
being yet invented for the communication of thought.”

[39] Act 3. sc. 6.

: The actions here chiefly in view, are what a passion
suggests in order to its gratification. Beside these, actions are
occasionally exerted to give some vent to a passion, without proposing
an ultimate gratification. Such occasional action is characteristical of
the passion in a high degree; and for that reason, when happily
invented, has a wonderful good effect in poetry:

      _Hamlet._ Oh most pernicious woman!
    Oh villain, villain, smiling damned villain!
    My tables---- meet it is I set it down,
    That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
    At least I’m sure it may be so in Denmark.  [_Writing._
    So, uncle, there you are.
               _Hamlet, act 1. sc. 8._

[41] See chap. 2. part 7.

[42] See passions explained as agreeable or disagreeable, chap. 2. part

[43] Locke.

[44] Rough and blunt manners, are allied to anger by an internal
feeling, as well as by external expressions resembling in a faint
degree those of anger. Therefore such manners are easily heightened
into anger; and savages for that reason are prone to anger. Thus rough
and blunt manners are unhappy in two respects. They are first readily
converted into anger: and next, the change being imperceptible, because
of the similitude of external signs, the person against whom the
anger is directed is not put upon his guard. It is for these reasons
a great object in society, to correct such manners, and to bring on
a habit of sweetness and calmness. This temper has two opposite good
effects. First it is not easily provoked to wrath. Next the interval
being great betwixt it and real anger, a person of this temper who
receives an affront, has many changes to go through before his anger
be inflamed. These changes have each of them their external sign, and
the offending party is put upon his guard, to retire, or to endeavour a

[45] See chap. 2. part 1. sect. 5.

[46] See chap. 2. part 7.

[47] See Appendix.

[48] In the _Æneid_, the hero is made to describe himself in the
following words: _Sum pius Æneas, fama super æthera notus._ Virgil
could never have been guilty of an impropriety so gross, had he assumed
the personage of his hero, instead of uttering the sentiments of a
spectator. Nor would Xenophon have made the following speech for Cyrus
the younger, to his Grecian auxiliaries, whom he was leading against
his brother Artaxerxes. “I have chosen you, O Greeks! my auxiliaries,
not to enlarge my army, for I have _Barbarians_ without number; but
because you surpass all the _Barbarians_ in valour and military
discipline.” This sentiment is Xenophon’s; for surely Cyrus did not
reckon his countrymen Barbarians.

[49] See chap. 2. part 1. sect 6.

[50] This criticism reaches the French dramatic writers in general,
with very few exceptions. Their tragedies are mostly, if not totally,
descriptive. Corneille led the way; and later writers following his
track, have accustomed the French ear to a style, formal, pompous,
declamatory, which suits not with any passion. Hence it becomes an
easy task to burlesk a French tragedy: it is not more difficult than
to burlesk a stiff solemn fop. The facility of the operation has in
Paris introduced a singular amusement, which is, to burlesk the more
successful tragedies in a sort of farce, called _a parody_. La Motte,
who himself appears to have been sorely galled by some of these burlesk
compositions, acknowledges, that no more is necessary to give them a
run, than barely to vary the _dramatis personæ_, and in place of kings
and heroes, queens and princesses, to substitute tinkers and tailors,
milkmaids and seamstresses. The declamatory style, so different from
the genuine expression of passion, passes in some measure unobserved,
when great personages are the speakers. But in the mouths of the
vulgar, the impropriety, with regard to the speaker as well as to
the passion represented, is so remarkable as to become ridiculous. A
tragedy, where every passion is made to speak in its natural tone,
is not liable to be thus burlesked. The same passion is by all men
expressed nearly in the same manner: and therefore the genuine
expressions of passion cannot be ridiculous in the mouth of any man,
provided only he be of such a character as to be susceptible of the

It is a well-known fact, that to an English ear the French actors
appear to pronounce with too great rapidity; a complaint much insisted
on by Cibber in particular, who had frequently heard the famous Baron
upon the French stage. This may in some measure be attributed to our
want of facility in the French language; as foreigners generally
imagine, that every language is pronounced too quick by natives.
But that it is not the sole cause, will be probable from a fact
directly opposite, that the French are not a little disgusted with
the languidness, as they term it, of the English pronunciation. I
conjecture this difference of taste may be derived from what is
observed above. The pronunciation of the genuine language of passion is
necessarily directed by the nature of the passion, and by the slowness
or celerity of its progress. In particular, plaintive passions, which
are the most frequent in tragedy, having a slow motion, dictate a slow
pronunciation. In declamation again, which is not the genuine language
of any passion, the speaker warms gradually; and as he warms, he
naturally accelerates his pronunciation. But as the French have formed
their tone of pronunciation upon Corneille’s declamatory tragedies, and
the English upon the more natural language of Shakespear, it is not
surprising that custom should produce such difference of taste in the
two nations.

[51] See chap. 2. part 3.

[52] See chap. 2. part 7.

[53] Titus Livius, l. 29. §17.

[54] Canto 20. stan. 124. 125. & 126.

[55] Page 316.

[56] Act 1. sc. 1.

[57] Act 2. sc. 1.

[58] Beginning of act 2.

[59] Act 3. sc. 3. at the close.

[60] A certain author says humourously, “Les mots mêmes d’amour et
d’amant sont bannis de l’intime société des deux sexes, et relegués
avec ceux de _chaine_ et de _flame_ dans les Romans qu’on ne lit plus.”
And where nature is once banished, a fair field is open to every
fantastic imitation, even the most extravagant.

[61] Act 4. sc. 5.

[62] Act 4. sc. 7.

[63] This observation is finely illustrated by a story which Herodotus
records, _book 3_. Cambyses when he conquered Egypt, took Psammenitus
the King prisoner: and to try his constancy, ordered his daughter to be
dressed in the habit of a slave, and to be employ’d in bringing water
from the river. His son also was led to execution with a halter about
his neck. The Egyptians vented their sorrow in tears and lamentations.
Psammenitus only, with a down-cast eye, remained silent. Afterward
meeting one of his companions, a man advanced in years, who being
plundered of all, was begging alms, he wept bitterly, calling him by
his name. Cambyses was struck with wonder, and sent a messenger with
the following question, “Psammenitus, thy master Cambyses is desirous
to know, why, after thou hadst seen thy daughter so ignominiously
treated, and thy son led to execution, without exclamation or weeping,
thou shouldst be so highly concerned for a poor man no way related to
thee?” Psammenitus returned the following answer: “Son of Cyrus, the
calamities of my family are too great to leave me the power of weeping:
but the misfortunes of a companion, reduced in his old age to want of
bread, is a fit subject for lamentation.”

[64] See chap. 2. part 3.

[65] Chap. 16.

[66] See this explained more particularly in chap. 8.

[67] Of this take the following specimen:

    They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
    Soil our addition; and, indeed, it takes
    From our atchievements, though perform’d at height,
    The pith and marrow of our attribute.
    So, oft it chances in particular men,
    That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
    As, in their birth, (wherein they are not guilty,
    Since Nature cannot chuse his origin),
    By the o’ergrowth of some complexion
    Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason;
    Or by some habit, that too much o’er-leavens
    The form of plausive manners; that these men
    Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
    (Being Nature’s livery, or Fortune’s scar),
    Their virtues else, be they as pure as grace,
    As infinite as man may undergo,
    Shall in the general censure take corruption
    From that particular fault.
         _Hamlet, act 1. sc. 7._

[68] The critics seem not perfectly to comprehend the genius of
Shakespear. His plays are defective in the mechanical part, which
is less the work of genius than of experience; and is not otherwise
brought to perfection than by diligently observing the errors of
former compositions. Shakespear excels all the ancients and moderns,
in knowledge of human nature, and in unfolding even the most obscure
and refined emotions. This is a rare faculty, and of the greatest
importance in a dramatic author; and it is this faculty which makes him
surpass all other writers in the comic as well as tragic vein.

[69] Soliloquies accounted for chap. 15.

[70] Act 2. sc. 2.

[71] Act 1. sc. 1.

[72] Act 1. sc. 2.

[73] Act 1. sc. 2.

[74] See chap. 2. part 1. sect. 4.

[75] Here the German _a_ is understood.

[76] That the Italian tongue is rather too smooth, seems to appear from
considering, that in versification vowels are frequently suppressed in
order to produce a rougher and bolder tone.

[77] See Swift’s proposal for correcting the English tongue, in a
letter to the Earl of Oxford.

[78] See the reason, chap. 8.

[79] De structura perfectæ orationis, l. 2.

[80] Scot’s Christian life.

[81] Elements of criticism, vol. 1. p. 43.

[82] Chap. 2. part 4.

[83] Ibid.

[84] See Gerard’s French grammar, discourse 12.

[85] An argument against abolishing Christianity, Swift.

[86] Letter concerning enthusiasm. Shaftesbury.

[87] See chap. 8.

[88] Treatise of the sublime, cap. 16.

[89] Taking advantage of a declension to separate an adjective from its
substantive, as is commonly practised in Latin, though it detract not
from perspicuity, is certainly less neat than the English method of
juxtaposition. Contiguity is more expressive of an intimate relation,
than resemblance merely of the final syllables. Latin indeed has
evidently the advantage when the adjective and substantive happen to
be connected by contiguity as well as by the resemblance of the final

[90] See chap. 1.

[91] Reflections sur la poesie Françoise.

[92] See chap. 2. part 1. sect. 4.

[93] Poet. L. 3. l. 365.-454.

[94] See chap. 2. part 4.

[95] De oratore, l. 3. cap. 58.

[96] De structura orationis, sect. 2.

[97] From this passage, however, we discover the etymology of the
Latin term for musical expression. Every one being sensible that there
is no music in a continued sound; the first inquiries were probably
carried no farther, than that to produce a musical expression, a number
of sounds is necessary; and musical expression obtained the name of
_numerus_, before it was clearly ascertained, that variety is necessary
as well as number.

[98] Music, properly so called, is analysed into melody and harmony.
A succession of sounds so as to be agreeable to the ear, constitutes
melody. Harmony is the pleasure that arises from co-existing sounds.
Verse therefore can only reach melody, and not harmony.

[99] After some attention given to this subject, and weighing
deliberately every circumstance, I have been forc’d to rest upon the
foregoing conclusion, That the Dactyle and Spondee are no other than
artificial measures invented for trying the accuracy of composition.
Repeated experiments convince me, that though the sense should be
altogether neglected, an Hexameter line read by Dactyles and Spondees,
will not be melodious. And the composition of an Hexameter line
demonstrates this to be true, without necessity of an experiment. It
will appear afterward, that in an Hexameter line, there must always
be a capital pause at the end of the fifth long syllable, reckoning,
as above, two short for one long. And when we measure this line by
Dactyles and Spondees, the pause now mentioned divides always a Dactyle
or a Spondee: it never falls in at the end of either of these feet.
Hence it is evident, that if a line be pronounced, as it is scanned,
by Dactyles and Spondees, the pause must be utterly neglected; which
consequently must destroy the melody, because a pause is essential to
the melody of an Hexameter verse. If, on the other hand, the melody
be preserved by making this pause, the pronouncing by Dactyles and
Spondees must be abandoned.

What has led grammarians into the use of Dactyles and Spondees, seems
not beyond the reach of conjecture. To produce melody, the latter
part of a Hexameter line consisting of a Dactyle and a Spondee,
must be read according to these feet: in this part of the line, the
Dactyle and Spondee are distinctly expressed in the pronunciation.
This discovery, joined with another, that the foregoing part of the
verse could be measured by the same feet, has led grammarians to adopt
these artificial measures, and perhaps rashly to conclude, that the
pronunciation is directed by these feet as well as the composition.
The Dactyle and Spondee at the close, serve indeed the double purpose
of regulating the pronunciation as well as the composition: but in the
foregoing part of the line, they regulate the composition only, not the

If we must have feet in verse to regulate the pronunciation, and
consequently the melody, these feet must be determined by the pauses.
The whole syllables interjected betwixt two pauses ought to be deemed
one musical foot; because, to preserve the melody, they must all be
pronounced together, without any stop. And therefore, whatever number
there are of pauses in a Hexameter line, the parts into which it is
divided by these pauses, make just so many musical feet.

Connection obliges me here to anticipate, by observing, that the
same doctrine is applicable to English heroic verse. Considering its
composition merely, it is of two kinds. One is composed of five Iambi;
and one of a Trochæus followed by four Iambi. But these feet afford no
rule for pronouncing. The musical feet are obviously those parts of the
line that are interjected betwixt two pauses. To bring out the melody,
these feet must be expressed in the pronunciation; or, which comes to
the same, the pronunciation must be directed by the pauses, without
regard to the Iambus or Trochæus.

[100] See chap. 2. part 1. sect. 4.

[101] Poet. cap. 25.

[102] See chap. 9.

[103] Vossius, _de poematum cantu_, p. 26. says, “Nihil æque gravitati
orationis officit, quam in sono ludere syllabarum.”

[104] Spectator, Nº 285.

[105] Preface to his _Œdipus_, and in his discourse upon tragedy,
prefixed to the tragedy of _Brutus_.

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