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CHARACTERIZATION BY DE QUINCEY.' 1. Without attempting any elaborate analysis of Lamb's merits, which would be no easy task, one word or two may be said generally about the position he is entitled to hold in our litera
ture, and, comparatively, in European literature. In the literature of every nation, we are naturally disposed to place in the highest rank those who have produced some great and colossal work-a Paradise Lost, a Hamlet, a Novum Organum—which presupposes an effort of intellect, a comprehensive grasp, and a sustaining power, for its original conception, corresponding in grandeur to that effort, different in kind, which must preside in its execution.
2. But after this highest class, in which the power to conceive and the power to execute are upon the same scale of grandeur, there comes a second, in which brilliant powers of execution, applied to conceptions of a very inferior range, are allowed to establish a classical rank. Every literature possesses, besides its great national gallery, a cabinet of minor pieces, not less perfect in their polish, possibly more so. In reality, the characteristic of this class is elaborate perfection: the point of inferiority is not in the finishing, but in the compass and power of the original creation, which (however exquisite in its class), moves within a smaller sphere. To this class belong, for example, The Rape of the Lock, that finished jewel of English literature ; The Dunciad (a still more exquisite gem); The Vicar of Wakejicid (in its earliest part); in German, the Luise of Voss; in French-what? Above all others, the fables of La Fontaine. He is the pet and darling, as it were, of the French literature.
3. Now, I affirm that Charles Lamb occupies a corresponding station in his own literature. I am not speaking it will be observed) of kinds, but of degrees, in literary merit; and Lamb I hold to be, as with respect to English literature, that which La Fontaine is with respect to French. For though there may be little resemblance otherwise, in this they agree, that both were wayward and eccentric humorists; both confined their efforts to short flights ; and both, according to the standards of their sey. eral countries, were occasionally, and in a lower key, poets.
DISSERTATION ON ROAST PIG. [INTRODUCTION.—The subjoined piece is one of the Essays of Elia, under which pseudonym Lamb contributed to the London Magazine this charming series of papers. Says Sir T. N. Talfourd: “They are carefully elaborated ; yet never were works written in a higher defiance to the conventional pomp of style. A sly hit, a happy pun, a humorous combination, lets the light into the intricacies of the subject, and supplies the place of ponderous sentences.'']
1. Mankind, says a Chinese manuscript, which my friend M. was obliging enough to read and explain to me, for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw, clawing or biting it from the living animal, just as they do in Abyssinia to this day. This period is not obscurely hinted at by their great Confucius in the s second chapter of his Mundane Mutations, where he designates a kind of golden age by the term Cho-fang, literally the cooks' holiday. The manuscript goes on to say that the art of roasting, or rather broiling (which I take to be the elder brother), was accidentally discovered in the manner following.
2. The swine-herd Ho-ti, having gone out into the woods one morning, as his manner was, to collect mast* for his hogs, left his cottage in the care of his eldest son, Bo-bo, a great lubberly boy, who, being fond of playing with fire, as younkers * of his age commonly are, let some sparks escape into a bundle of straw, 15 which kindling quickly, spread the conflagration over every part of their poor mansion, till it was reduced to ashes. Together with the cottage (a sorry antediluvian makeshift of a building, you may think it), what was of much more importance, a fine litter of new-farrowed pigs, no less than nine in number, perished. ac
LITERARY ANALYSIS.—To what class of compositions does this piece belong? Ans. To the Essay.- What are the chief characteristics of the piece? Ans. They are raciness and humor,
1-10. Mankind ... following. By what means does Lamb give an appearance of truthfulness to the narrative?
2, 3. seventy thousand ages. The claims of the Chinese to a vast antiquity give point to this remarkable number.
9. the elder brother. What is the figure of speech? (See Def. 20.)
11-17. The swine-herd... ashes. What kind of sentence, grammatically and rhetorically?
14. younkers. Etymology?
China pigs have been esteemed a luxury all over the East from the remotest periods that we read of. Bo-bo was in the utmost consternation, as you may think, not so much for the sake of the tenement,* which his father and he could easily build up again with a few dry branches and the labor of an hour or two, at any 25 time, as for the loss of the pigs.
3. While he was thinking what he should say to his father, and wringing his hands over the smoking remnants of one of those untimely sufferers, an odor assailed his nostrils unlike any scent which he had before experienced. What could it proceed from ? 30 Not from the burned cottage—he had smelled that smell before ; indeed, this was by no means the first accident of the kind which had occurred through the negligence of this unlucky young firebrand. Much less did it resemble that of any known herb, weed, or flower. A premonitory moistening at the same time 35 overflowed his nether lip. He knew not what to think. He next stooped down to feel the pig, if there were any signs of life in it. He burned his fingers, and to cool them he applied them, in his booby fashion, to his mouth. Some of the crumbs of the scorched skin had come away with his fingers, and for the first time 40 in his life in the world's life indeed, for before him no man had known it) he tasted-crackling! Again he felt and fumbled at the pig. It did not burn him so much now; still he licked his fingers from a sort of habit. The truth at length broke into his slow understanding that it was the pig that 45 smelled so, and the pig that tasted so delicious ; and, surrendering himself up to the new-born pleasure, he fell to tearing up whole handfuls of the scorched skin with the flesh next it,
LITERARY ANALYSIS. — 29, 30. an odor ... experienced. Express in other worde.
36. He knew not what to think. What kind of sentence grammatically?
36, 37. He next... it. Is this mode of statement better than “He next stooped down to feel if there were any signs of life in the pig ?”-it. Is this the proper conjunction?
39. booby. Etymology? 41. in the world's life. What effect does Lamb gain by making the discovery of crackling an epoch in the “world's life?" 42. he tasted-crackling! What is gained by the use of the dash here? 46. delicious. Grammatical construction ?
and was cramming it down his throat in his beastly fashion, when his sire entered amid the smoking rafters, armed with re- 50 tributory cudgel, and, finding how affairs stood, began to rain blows upon the young rogue's shoulders as thick as hailstones, which Bo-bo heeded not any more than if they had been flies. The tickling pleasure which he experienced in his lower regions had rendered him quite callous to any inconveniences he might 55 feel in those remote quarters. His father might lay on, but he could not beat him from his pig till he had fairly made an end of it, when, becoming a little more sensible of his situation, something like the following dialogue ensued:
“ You graceless whelp, what have you got there devouring ? 60 Is it not enough that you have burned me down three houses with your dog's tricks, and be hanged to you ! but you must be eating fire, and I know not what? What have you got there, I say?"
“O father, the pig, the pig ! Do come and taste how nice 6 the burnt pig eats !"
4. The ears of Ho-ti tingled with horror. He cursed his son, and he cursed himself that ever he should beget a son that should eat burnt pig. Bo-bo, whose scent was wonderfully sharpened since morning, soon raked out another pig, and, fair- 70 ly rending it asunder, thrust the lesser half by main force into the fists of Ho-ti, still shouting out, “ Eat, eat, eat the burnt pig, father ! only taste !-0 Lord !”—with such-like barbarous ejaculations, cramming all the while as if he would choke.
5. Ho-ti trembled in every joint while he grasped the abomina- 75 ble* thing, wavering whether he should not put his son to death for an unnatural young monster, when the crackling scorching his fingers, as it had done his son's, and applying the same rem
LITERARY ANALYSIS. -- 53. which Bo-bo... flies. Transfer this clause to the next sentence, making necessary verbal alterations : the unity of each sentence will thus be better preserved.
60. devouring. Grammatical construction?
75, 76. abominable thing. Why this expression ?-Give the derivation of "abominable.”
77. for. What is the force of the preposition here?