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style chiefly by public speaking; and it thought and style ; but no one has ever is in them also that the kindred faults attended to the subject analytically withof synonyms strung together and of re- out becoming aware that the distinction dundant expletives are most commonly is not ultimate that what is called

Perhaps, indeed, the choicest style resolves itself, after all, into manspecimens of continuous slip-shod in the ner of thinking; nay, perhaps (though language are furnished by the writings to show this would take some time) into of celebrated orators. How dilute the the successive particles of the matter tincture, what bagginess of phraseology thought. If a writer is said to be fond round what slender shanks of meaning, of epithets, it is because he has a habit what absence of trained muscle, how of always thinking a quality very proseldom the nail is hit on the head! It minently along with an object; if his is not every day that a Burke presents style is said to be figurative, it is because himself, whose every sentence is charged he thinks by means of comparisons; if with an exact thought proportioned to his syntax abounds in inversions, it is it, whether he stands on the floor and because he thinks the cart before he speaks, or takes his pen in hand. And thinks the horse. And so, by extension, then, not only in the writings of men all the forms of slip-shod in expression rendered diffuse by much speaking are, in reality, forms of slip-shod in after a low standard, but in the tide of thought. If the syntax halts, it is becurrent writing besides, who shall take cause the thread of the thought has account of the daily abundance of that snapped, or become entangled. If the more startling form of slip-shod which phraseology of a writer is diffuse ; if his rhetoricians call Confusion of Metaphor? language does not lie close round his Lord Castlereagh's famous “I will not real meaning, but widens out in flat now enter upon the fundamental feature expanses, with here and there a tremor upon which this question hinges," is as as the meaning rises to take breath ; if nothing compared with much that passes in every sentence we recognise shreds daily under our eyes in the pages of and tags of common social verbiage—in popular books and periodicalstissues such a case it is because the mind of the of words in which shreds from nature's writer is not doing its duty, is not confour quarters are jumbled together as in secutively active, maintains no continued heraldry; in which the writer begins hold of its object, hardly knows its own with a lion, but finds it in the next drift. In like manner, mixed or incoclause to be a waterspout; in which ice- herent metaphor arises from incoherent bergs swim in seas of lava, comets col- conception, inability to see vividly what lect taxes, pigs sing, peacocks wear is professedly looked at. All forms of silks, and teapots climb trees.

slip-shod, in short, are to be referred to Pshaw! technicalities all! the mere deficiency of precision in the conduct of minutiæ of the grammarian and the thought. Of every writer it ought to be critic of expression! Nothing of the required at least that he pass every jot kind, good reader ! Words are made and tittle of what he sets down through up of letters, sentences of words, all that his mind, to receive the guarantee of is written or spoken of sentences suc- having been really there, and that he ceeding each other or interflowing; and arrange and connect his thoughts in a at no time, from Homer's till this, has workmanlike manner. Anything short anything passed as good literature which of this is—allowance being made for cirhas not satisfied men as tolerably tight cumstances which may prevent a conand close-grained in these particulars, scientious man from always doing his or become classic and permanent best-an insult to the public. Accordwhich has not, in respect of them, ingly, in all good literature, not exstood the test of the microscope. cepting the subtlest and most exuberant We distinguish, indeed, usefully enough, poetry, one perceives a strict logic linkbetween matter and expression, between ing thought with thought. The velocity

with which the mind can perform this about slip-shod, we should see any other service of giving adequate arrangement such massive figure heaving in among to its thoughts, differs much in different us in his slippers, who is there that cases.

With some writers it is done would object to his company on account almost unconsciously—as if by the of them, or that would not gladly assist operation of a logical instinct so power- to fell a score of the delicates with ful that whatever teems up in their polished boot-tips in order to make minds is marshalled and made exact as room for him ? At the least, it may be it comes, and there is perfection in the said that there are many passages in the swiftest expression. So it was with the poems of Scott and Byron which fall all-fluent Shakespeare, whose inven- far short of the standard of carefulness tions, boundless and multitudinous, already fixed when they wrote. Subwere yet ruled by a logic so resistless, sequent writers, with nothing of their that they came exquisite at once to the genius, have been much more careful. pen's point, and in studying whose in. There is, however, one form of the tellectual gait we are reminded of the slip-shod in verse which, probably bedescription of the Athenians in Euripi- cause it has not been recognised as slipdes—those sons of Erectheus always shod, still holds ground among us. It "moving with graceful step through a consists in that particular relic of the "glittering violet ether, where the nine poetic diction" of the last century “Pierian muses are said to have brought which allows merely mechanical in“upyellow-haired Harmony as their com- versions of syntax for the sake of metre “mon child.” With others of our great and rhyme. For example, in a poem writers it has been notably different, recently published, understood to be rejection of first thoughts and expres- the work of a celebrated writer, and sions, the slow choice of a fit per-cent- altogether as finished a specimen of age, and the concatenation of these with metrical rhetoric and ringing epigram as labour and care.

has appeared for many a day, there Prevalent as slip-shod is, it is not so occur such passages as these :prevalent as it was.

There is more

“ Harley's gilt coach the equal pair careful writing, in proportion, now than

attends." there was thirty, seventy, or a hundred years ago. This may be seen on com

“ What earlier school this grand comeparing specimens of our present lite

dian rear'd ? rature with corresponding specimens

His first essays no crowds less courtly from the older newspapers and peri

cheer'd. odicals. The precept and the example

From learned closets came a saunof Wordsworth and those who helped

tering sage, him to initiate that era of our lite

Yawn'd, smiled, and spoke, and rature which dates from the French

took by storm the age.Revolution, have gradually introduced,

« All their lore among other things, habits of mecha

Illumes one end for which strives nical carefulness, both in prose and in

all their will ; verse. Among poets, Scott and Byron

Before their age they march in-safe in their greatness otherwise

vincible.” were the most conspicuous sinners

“ That talk which art as eloquence against the Wordsworthian ordinances

admits in this respect after they had been pro

Must be the talk of thinkers and mulgated. If one were willing to risk

of wits.” being stoned for speaking truth, one might call these two poets the last of “Let Bright responsible for Engthe great slip-shods. The great slip- land be, shods, be it observed ; and, if there were And straight in Bright a Chatham the prospect that, by keeping silence

we should see.”

“ All most brave where, from the nature of the case, In his mix d nature seem'd to life obedience to the canon would seem most to start,

difficult_his “ Tears, idle tears," or When English honour roused his “ The splendour falls," — and see if, English heart."

under all that peculiarity which makes

the effect of these pieces, if of any in our That such instances of syntax inverted language, something more than the effect to the mechanical order of the verse of prose, every word does not fall into should occur in such a quarter, proves its place, like fitted jasper, exactly in that they are still considered legitimate. the prose order. So ! and what do

you But I believe—and this notwithstand- say to Mr. Tennyson's last volume, with ing that ample precedent may be shown, its repetition of the phrase “ The Table not only from poets of the last century, Round”? Why, I say that, when difbut from all preceding poets—that they ficulty mounts to impossibility, then are not legitimate. Verse does not even the gods relent, even Rhadacancel any of the conditions of good manthus yields. Here it is as if the prose, but only superadds new and British nation had passed a special

ore exquisite conditions; and that is enactment to this effect :-" Whereas the best verse where the words follow “Mr. Tennyson has written a set of each other punctually in the most exact “ poems on the Round Table of Arthur prose order, and yet the exquisite dif- “ and his Knights, and whereas he has ference by which verse does distinguish “ represented to us that the phrase itself from prose is fully felt. As, “ The Round Table,' specifying the within prose itself, there are natural central object about which these poems inversions according as the thought “revolve, is a phrase which no force moves on from the calm and straight- “ of art can work pleasingly into Iambic forward to the complex and impassioned verse, we, the British nation, con-as what would be in one mood “sidering the peculiarity of the case, “ Diana of the Ephesians is great,” be- “and the public benefits likely to comes in another, “ Great is Diana of accrue from a steady contemplation of the Ephesians ”-80, it may be, there is “ the said object, do enact and decree a farther amount of inversion proper " that we will in this instance depart within verse such. Any such

“ from our usual practice of thinking amount of inversion, however, must be “ the species first and then the genus, able to plead itself natural—that is, “ and will, in accordance with the belonging inevitably to what is new in “ practice of other times and nations, the movement of the thought under the say

· The Table Round' instead of law of verse; which plea would not « « The Round Table' as heretofore." extend to cases like those specified, where But this is altogether a special enactversifiers, that they may keep their ment. metre or hit a rhyme, tug words arbi- 2. There is the vice of the Trite. trarily out of their prose connexion. If Here, at length, we get out of the it should be asked how, under so hard region of mere verbal forms, and gaze a restriction, a poet could write verse at abroad over the wide field of our literaall, the answer is, “That is his difficulty.” ture, with a view everywhere to its But that this canon of taste in verse is component substance. We are overrun not so oppressive as it looks, and that with the Trite. There is Trite to the it will more and more come to be re- right hand, and Trite to the left ; Trito cognised and obeyed, seems augured in before and Trite behind ; the view is of the fact that the greatest British poet vast leagues of the Trite, inclosing little of our time has himself intuitively oases of true literature, as far as the eye attended to it, and furnished an almost

can reach. And what is the Trite? It continuous example of it in his poetry. is a minor variety of what is known as Repeat any even of Tennyson's lyrics, Cant. By Cant is meant the repetition,




without real belief, of sentiments which Translated into positive language, the it is thought creditable to profess. As protest against the Trite might take the the name implies, there is a certain form of a principle, formally avowed, we solemnity, as of upturned eyes and a believe, by more than one writer, and touch of song in the voice, required certainly implied in the practice of all for true Cant. Since Johnson's time the chiefs of our literature—to wit, that there has been no lack of denunciation no man ought to consider himself enof this vice. But the Trite, as less titled to write upon a subject by the immoral, or as not immoral at all, has mere intention to write carefully, unless with the exception, as far as we recollect

, he has also something new to advance. of one onslaught by Swift-escaped We are aware, of course, of the objection equal denunciation. For by the Trite against such a principle arising from the is meant only matter which may be true fact that the society of every country is enough, but which has been so fami- divided, in respect of intelligence and liarised already that it can benefit neither culture, into strata, widening as they

beast to hear or read it descend from the limited number of any more. “Man is a microcosm,” may highly-educated spirits at the top who have been a very respectable bit of catch the first rays of all new thought, speech once; and, if there is yet any poor down to the multitude nearest the creature on the earth to whom it would ground, to whom even Newton's apple be news, by all means let it be brought would be new, and among whom the to his door. But does such a creature aphorism “ Things find their level" exist among those who are addressed by would create a sensation. It is admitted anything calling itself literature ? And at once that there must, in every comso with a thousand other such sayings munity, be literary provision for this and references—“Extremes meet, sir ;" state of things—a popular literature, or “You mustn't argue against the use of rather a descending series of literatures, a thing from the abuse of it ;" “The consisting of solutions more exception proves the rule ;” Talleyrand's 'strong of old knowledge and of common remark about the use of speech; Newton sentiments, in order that these may gathering pebbles on the sea-shore ; and, percolate the whole social mass. Everyworst of all

, Newton's apple. The next thing must be learnt some time; and writer or lecturer that brings forward our infants are not to be defrauded in Newton's apple, unless with very par

their nurseries, nor our boys and girls ticular accompaniments, ought to be in their school-time, of the legends and made to swallow it, pips and all, that little facts with which they must begin there may be an end of it. Let the as we did, and which have been the reader think how much of our current outfit of the British mind from time writing is but a repeated solution of immemorial. But, even as respects such phrases and allusions, and let him popular and juvenile literature, the rule extend his view from such short speci- still holds that, to justify increase, there mens of the Trite, to facts, doctrines, must be novelty-novelty in relation to modes of thought, and tissues of fiction, the constituencies addressed ; novelty, characterised by the same quality, and if not of matter, at least of method. yet occupying reams of our literature Else why not keep to the old popular year after year, and he will understand and elementary books—which, indeed, the nature of the grievance. What we might often be good policy? If one aver is that there are numberless writers could positively decide which, out of who are not at all slip-shod, who are competing hundreds, was the best existcorrect and careful, who may even being Latin school-grammar, what a gain said to write well, but respecting whom, to the national Latinity it would be, if, if we consider the substance of what they without infraction of our supreme prinwrite, the report must be that they are ciple of liberty, as applied even to gramdrowning us with a deluge of the Trite. mars, we could get back to the old

or less

English plan, have Latin taught from account of in true literature; and the that one grammar in all the schools of peculiarity of the case is that the rate of the land, and concentrate all future the growth, the amount of fresh sprouttalent taking a grammatical direction on age that shall appear, depends largely on its gradual improvement? Returning, the intensity of resolution exerted. But, however, to current literature, more ex- should the associations with the word pressly so-called—to the works of his- “novelty” be incurably bad, the exprestory, the treatises, the poems, the novels, sion of the principle may be varied. It the pamphlets, the essays, &c. that cir- may be asserted, for example, that, uniculate from our better libraries, and lie versally, the proper material for current on the tables of the educated—we might literature, the proper element in which show reason for our rule even here. the writer must work, is the material or Allowing for the necessity even here of element of the hitherto uncommunicated. iteration, of dilution, of varied and long- Adapting this universal expression to continued administration, ere new truths literature as broken down into its main or modes of thought can be fairly worked departments, we may say that the proper into the minds of those who read, new element for all new writing of the hisfacts rightly apprehended, or new fancies torical order is the hitherto unobserved made effective, should we not have to or unrecollected, for all new writing of report a huge over-proportion of the the scientific or didactic order the merest wish-wash? What a reform hitherto unexplained, for all new poetry here, if there were some perception of the hitherto unimagined, for all new the principle that correct writing is not writing for purposes of moral and social enough, unless one has something fresh stimulation the hitherto unadvised. to impart. What ! a premium on the There

be mixture of the love of paradox ; a licence to the passion ingredients. for effect; more of straining after no- Among the forms of the Trite with velty ? Alas! the kind of novelty of which we are at present troubled is the which we speak is not reached by the repetition everywhere of certain obserkind of straining that is meant, but by vations and bits of expression, admirable a process very different—not by talking in themselves, but now hackneyed till right and left, and writhing one's neck the pith is out of them. By way of like a pelican, on the chance of hitting example, take that kind of imagined something odd ahead; but by accuracy visual effect which consists in seeing an of silent watch, by passive quietude to object defined against the sky. How many impressions, by search where this trick of the picturesque has of late others have left off fatigued, by open-air been run upon in poems and novels rumination and hour-long nightly re- trees “against the blue sky,” mountains verie, by the repression again and again “ against the blue sky," everything of paying platitudes as they rise to the whatever “ against the blue sky," till lips, in order that, by rolling within the the very chimney-pots are ashamed of mind, they may unite into something the background, and beg you wouldn't better, and that, where now all is a dif- mention it! And so we have young fused cloud of vapoury conceit, there la lies seated pensively at their windows may come at last the clearing flash and “ looking out into the Infinite," or the tinkle of the golden drop. Think, “out into the Night.” Similarly there think, think—is the advice required at are expressions of speculative import present by scores of hopeful writers about man's destiny and work in the injuring themselves by luxury in com- world, so strong in real meaning that monplace. The freshly-evolved thought those who promulgated them did the of the world, the wealth of new bud and world good service, but parroted now blossom which the mind of humanity is till persons who feel their import most ever putting forth—this, and not the hear them with disgust. For the very dead wood, is what ought to be taken test that a truth has fallen upon a mind


of course,

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