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'Full of wise saws and modern instances; '
which (horrendum dictu!) has been explained, and, I verily believe, is generally understood to mean, full of wise sayings and modern illustrations. The true meaning is full of proverbial maxims of conduct and of trivial arguments; i. e. of petty distinctions, or verbal disputes, such as never touch the point at issue. The word, modern, I have already deduced; the word, instances, is equally Latin, and equally used by Shakspeare in its Latin sense. It is originally the word, instantia, which, by the monkish and scholastic writers, is uniformly used in the sense of an argument, and originally of an argument urged in objection to some previous argument.*
I affirm, therefore, that Lord Brougham's counsel to the Glasgow students is not only bad counsel and bad
* I cannot for a moment believe that the original and most eloquent critic in Blackwood is himself the dupe of an argument, which he has alleged against this passage, under too open a hatred of Shakspeare, as though it involved a contradiction to common sense, by representing all human beings of such an age as schoolboys, all of such another age as soldiers, of such another as magistrates, &c. Evidently the logic of the famous passage is this—that whereas every age has its peculiar and appropriate temper, that profession or employment is selected for the exemplification which seems best fitted, in each case, to embody the characteristic or predominating quality. Thus, because impetuosity, self-esteem, and animal or irreflective courage, are qualities most intense in youth, next it is considered in what profession those qualities find their most unlimited range; and, because that is obviously the military profession, therefore it is that the soldier is selected as the representative of young men. For the same reason, as best embodying the peculiar temper of garrulous old age, the magistrate comes forward as supporting the part of that age. Not that old men are not also soldiers: but that the military profession, so far from strengthening, moderates and tempers the characteristic temper of old age.
counsel for the result, as well as for the grounds, which are either capricious or nugatory - but also that, in the exact proportion in which the range of thought expands, it is an impossible counsel, an impracticable counsel counsel having for its purpose to embarrass and lay the mind in fetters, where even its utmost freedom, and its largest resources will be found all too little for the growing necessities of the intellect. Long-tail'd words in osity and ation!' what does that describe? Exactly the Latin part of our language. Now, those very terminations speak for themselves: All high abstractions end in ation, that is, they are Latin; and, just in proportion as the abstracting power extends and widens, do the circles of thought widen, and the horizon or boundary (contradicting its own Grecian name) melts into the infinite. On this account it was that Coleridge (Biographia Literaria) remarks on Wordsworth's philosophic poetry, that, in proportion as it goes into the profound of passion and of thought, do the words increase which are vulgarly called 'dictionary words.' Now these words, these dictionary' words, what are they? Simply words of Latin or Greek origin no other words, no Saxon words, are ever called by illiterate persons dictionary words. And these dictionary words are indispensable to a writer, not only in the proportion by which he transcends other writers as to extent and as to subtility of thinking, but also as to elevation and sublimity. Milton was not an extensive or discursive thinker, as Shakspeare was; for the motions of his mind were slow, solemn, sequacious, like those of the planets; not agile and assimilative; not attracting all things within its own sphere; not multiform: repulsion was the law of his intellect he moved in solitary gran
deur. Yet, merely from this quality of grandeur - unapproachable grandeur- his intellect demanded a larger
For the same reason
infusion of Latinity into his diction. (and, without such aids, he would have had no proper element in which to move his wings) he enriched his diction with Hellenisms and with Hebraisms;* but never,
*The diction of Milton is a case absolutely unique in literature: of many writers it has been said, but of him only with truth, that he created a peculiar language. The value must be tried by the result, not by inferences from à priori principles: such inferences might lead us to anticipate an unfortunate result: whereas, in fact, the diction of Milton is such that no other could have supported his majestic style of thinking. The final result is a transcendent answer to all adverse criticism; but still it is to be lamented that no man, properly qualified, has undertaken the examination of the Miltonic diction as a separate problem. Listen to a popular author of this day, (Mr. Bulwer.) He, speaking on this subject, asserts, (England and the English, p. 329,) that 'There is scarcely an English idiom which Milton has not violated, or a foreign one which he has not borrowed.' Now, in answer to this extravagant assertion, I will venture to say that the two following are the sole cases of questionable idiom throughout Milton:- 1st,' Yet virgin of Proserpine from Jove ;' and, in this case, the same thing might be urged in apology which Aristotle urges in another argument, viz., that arovvμov Tо Talos, the case is unprovided with any suitable expression. How would it be possible to convey in good English the circumstances here indicted viz., that Ceres was yet in those days of maiden innocence, when she had borne no daughter to Jove? 2d, I will cite a case which, so far as I remember, has been noticed by no commentator; and, probably, because they have failed to understand it. The case occurs in the 'Paradise Regained;' but where I do not at this moment remember. Will they transact with God?' This is the passage; and a most flagrant instance it offers of pure Latinism. Transigere, in the language of the civil law, means to make a compromise; and the word transact is here used in that sense a sense utterly unknown to the English language. This is the worst case in Milton; and I do not know that it has been ever noticed. Yet even here it may be doubted whether Milton is not defensible; asking if they proposed to terminate their difference with God after the fashion in use amongst courts of law, he points properly enough to these worldly settlements by the technical term which designated them. Thus, might a divine say - Will he arrest the judgments of God by a demurrer? Thus, again, Hamlet apostrophizes the lawyer's skull by the technical terms used in actions for assault, &c. Besides, what proper term is there in English for express
as could be easy to show, without a full justification in the result. Two things may be asserted of all his exotic idioms - 1st, That they express what could not have been expressed by any native idiom; 2d, That they harmonize with the English language, and give a coloring of the antique, but not any sense of strangeness to the diction. Thus, in the double negative-Nor did they not perceive,' &c., which is classed as a Hebraism—if any man fancy that it expresses no more than the simple affirmative, he shows that he does not understand its force; and, at the same time, it is a form of thought so natural and universal, that I have heard English people, under corresponding circumstances, spontaneously fall into it. In short, whether a man differ from others by greater profundity or by greater sublimity, and whether he write as a poet or as a philosopher, in any case, he feels, in due proportion to the necessities of his intellect, an increasing dependence upon the Latin section of the English language; and the true reason why Lord Brougham failed to perceive this, or found the Saxon equal to his wants, is one which I shall not scruple to assign, inasmuch as it does not reflect personally on Lord Brougham, or, at least, on him exclusively, but on the whole body to which he belongs. That thing which he and they call by the pompous name of statesmanship, but which is, in fact, statescraft the art of political intrigue - deals (like the opera) with ideas so few in number and so little adapted to associate themselves with other ideas, that, possibly, in the one case equally as in the other, six hundred words are sufficient to meet all their demands.
ing a compromise? Edmund Burke, and other much older authors, express the idea by the word temperament; but that word, though a good one, was at one time considered an exotic term equally a Galheism and a Latinism.
I have used my privilege of discursiveness to step aside from Demosthenes to another subject, no otherwise connected with the attic orator than, first, by the common reference of both subjects to rhetoric; but, secondly, by the accident of having been jointly discussed by Lord Brougham, in a paper, which (though now forgotten) obtained, at the moment, most undue celebrity. For it is one of the infirmities of the public mind with us — that whatever is said or done by a public man, any opinion given by a member of Parliament, however much out of his own proper jurisdiction and range of inquiry, commands an attention not conceded even to those who speak under the known privilege of professional knowledge. Thus, Cowper was not discovered to be a poet worthy of any general notice, until Charles Fox slender critic had vouchsafed to quote a few lines, and that, not so much with a view to the poetry, as to its party application. But now, returning to Demosthenes, I affirm that his case is the case of nearly all the classical writers, at least of all the prose writers. It is, I admit, an extreme that is, it is the general case in a more intense degree. Raised almost to divine honors, never mentioned but with affected rapture, the classics of Greece and Rome are seldom read most of them never; are they, indeed, the closet companions of any man? Surely it is time that these follies were at an end; that our practice were made to square a little better with our professions; and that our pleasures were sincerely drawn from those sources in which we pretend that they lie.
The Greek language, mastered in any eminent degree, is the very rarest of all acomplishments, and precisely because it is unspeakably the most difficult. Let not the reader dupe himself by popular cant. To be an accomplished Grecian, demands a very peculiar quality of