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built with the finest materials, in the taste of the ancients; and (to speak his own language) on truly classic ground : and though they are the delight of the present age, yet I am persuaded that they will receive more justice from posterity. I never read him, but I am struck with such a disheartening idea of perfection, that I drop my pen. And, indeed, far superior writers should forget his compositions, if they would be greatly pleased with their own *.”
The opinion of DR. BLAIR is equally favourable, and, at the same time, more determinate and clear.
“ Of the highest, most correct, and ornamented degree of the simple manner," he observes, "Mr. Addison is, beyond doubt, in the English language, the most perfect example : and, therefore, though not without some faults, he is, on the whole, the safest model for imitation, and the freest from considerable defects, which the language affords. Perspicuous and pure he is in the highest degree; his precision, indeed, not very great; yet nearly as great as the subjects which he treats of require: the construction of his sentences easy, agreeable, and commonly very musical; carrying a character of smooth
* Vide Observations on Original Composition; published in 1759.
ness, more than of strength. In figurative language, he is rich : particularly in similies and metaphors; which are so employed as to render his style splendid without being gaudy. There is not the least affectation in his manner; we see no marks of labour; nothing forced or constrained ; but great elegance joined with great ease and simplicity *.”
DR. Knox, likewise, a very learned and competent judge, has, in many parts of his elegant and interesting Essays, very happily characterised the numerous beauties which so remarkably distinguish the style of the chief author of the Spectator.
“ Though the French," says he, "are disposed to deny the English the praise of taste, we have writers who can rival them in their pretensions to every excellence which can adorn composition. Our Addison, like some of the most celebrated ancients, possesses that sweetness, that delicacy, and that grace, which is formed to please the human mind, under all the revolutions of time, of fashion, and of capricious taste. It is not only the excellent matter which produces the effect of gently composing our passions while we are reading Addison; but it is also that
* Lectures on Belles Lettres, vol, ii. p. 37, first delivered in the year 1761.
sweet style, which cannot be read and tasted without communicating to the mind something of its own equability. The great charm of his diction, which has delighted readers of every class, appears to me to be a certain natural sweetness, ease, and delicacy, which no affectation can attain. Truths of all kinds, the sublime and the familiar, the serious and the comic, are taught in that peculiar style, which raises in the mind a placid and equable flow of emotions; that placidness and equability, which are in a particular manner adapted to give permanency to pleasurable sensation. A work, which warms our passions, and hurries us on with the rapid vehemence of its style, may be read once or twice with pleasure; but it is the more tranquil style which is most frequently in unison with our minds, and which therefore, on the tenth repetition, as Horace says, will afford fresh plea
Lastly DR. JOHNSON, in his usual nervous and pointed diction, has thus judiciously discriminated the peculiarities and excellencies of our author's composition.
is the model of the middle style; on grave subjects not formal, on light occa
* Vide Essays Moral and Literary, first published, ano. nymously, I believe, in 1777, No 28, and 106, 14th edition.
sions not grovelling: pure without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration ; always equable, and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences. Addison never deviates from his track to snatch a grace; he seeks no ambitious ornaments, and tries no hazardous innovations. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected splendour.
“It was apparently his principal endeavour to avoid all harshness and severity of diction; he is therefore sometimes verbose in his transitions and connections, and sometimes descends too much to the language of conversation ; yet if his language had been less idiomatical, it might have lost somewhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he attempted, he performed; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetic; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates. His sentences have neither studied amplitude, nor affected brevity; his periods, though not diligently rounded, are voluble and easy. Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison *.”
The public has in a great measure sanctioned the opinions of these truly learned and discerning critics; and the style of Addison is to this
* Lives of the Poets, vol. ii. p. 140.
day justly held forth to the candidates for literary fame as a model of elegant simplicity. It has, however, been more admired than imitated ; and very few since the publication of the Spectator have been able to imbue their composition with any considerable portion of Addisonian sweetness and
grace. The taste of the literary world, indeed, has lately, through the seductive influence of some powerful writers, been thrown into a very different channel. The splendid and elaborated diction of Johnson, Burke, and Gibbon, though exhibiting great strength and richness, and therefore admirably adapted to sustain the tone of very lofty subjects, has been indiscriminately, and therefore generally very improperly, assumed as the garb for almost every theme which life and literature afford; whilst the clear, the unaffected yet graceful language of Addison, calculated to clothe with exquisite propriety by far the greater part of moral and literary topics, has been seldom adopted even in the very departments where it ought more especially to have been employed. Of those who have cultivated a diction emulating the chaste beauties which distinguish the style of Addison, I can enumerate but three or four. Hume and Goldsmith have in their Essays made the nearest approach to this