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women who have the most leisure and it is remarkable that the same orders the most interest in a correspondence cling to the ancient purity of diction by the post-that class who combine amongst ourselves who did so in more of intelligence, cultivation, and pagan Rome- viz., women, for the of thoughtfulness, than any other in reasons just noticed, and people of Europe—the class of unmarried wo. rank. So much has this been the men above twenty-five-an increasing tendency in England, that we know class ;* women who, from mere dig a person of great powers, but who has nity of ebaracter, have renounced all in all things a one-sided taste, and is prospects of conjugal and parental so much a lover of idiomatic English life, rather than descend into habits as to endure none else, who professes unsuitable to their birth. Women to read no writer since Lord Chescapable of such sacrifices, and marked terfield. It is certain that this acby such strength of mind, may be complished nobleman, who has been expected to think with deep feeling, most unjustly treated from his unforand to express themselves (unless tunate collision with a national favourwhere they have been too much bias- ite, and in part also from the laxity ed by bookish connexions) with natu- of his moral principles, where, howral grace. Not impossibly these same ever, he spoke worse than he thought, women, if required to come forward in wrote with the ease and careless grace some public character, might write ill of a high-bred gentleman. But his and affectedly. They would then style is not peculiar : it has always have their free natural movement of been the style of his order. After thought distorted into some accommo. making the proper allowance for the dation to artificial standards, amongst continual new infusions into our which they might happen to select a peerage from the bookish class of bad one for imitation. But in their lawyers, and for some modifications letters they write under the benefit of derived from the learned class of spitheir natural advantages ; not warped, ritual peers, the tone of Lord Cheson the one hand, into that constraint terfield has always been the tone of or awkwardness which is the inevi. our old aristocracy ; a tone of eletable effect of conscious exposure to gance and propriety, above all things public gaze; yet, on the other, not free from the stiffness of pedantry or left to vacancy or the chills of apathy, academic rigour, and obeying Cæsar's but sustained by some deep sympathy rule of shunning tanquam scopulum between themselves and their corre. any insolens verbum. It is, indeed, spondents.
through this channel that the solici. So far as concerns idiomatic Eng. tudes of our British nobility have lish, we are satisfied, from the many always flowed : other qualities might beautiful female letters which we have come and go according to the tempeheard upon chance occasions from rament of the individual ; but what every quarter of the empire, that they, in all generations constituted an object the educated women of Great Britain of horror for that class, was bookish above all, the interesting class of women precision and professional peculiarity. unmarried upon scruples of sexual From the free popular form of our honour-and also (as in Constanti- great public schools, to which nine nople of old) the nurseries of Great out of ten amongst our old nobility Britain, are the true and best deposi- resorted, it happened unavoidably that taries of the old mother idiom. But they were not equally clear of popular we must not forget, that though this vulgarities; indeed, from another is another term for what is good in cause, that could not have been English, when we are talking of a avoided for it is remarkable that a human and a popular interest, there connexion, as close as through an umis a separate use of the language, as bilical cord, has always been mainin the higher forms of history or tained between the very highest orders philosophy, wbich ought not to be of our aristocracy and the lowest of idiomatic. As respects that which is, our democracy, by means of nurses.
An increasing class ; but not in France.—It is a most remarkable moral phenomenon in the social condition of that nation, and one which speaks a volume as to the lower tone of female dignity, that unmarried women, at the age which amongst us obtains the insulting name of old maids, are almost unknown. Wbat shocking sacrifices of sexual bonour does this one fact argue ?
The nurses and immediate personal in newspapers that we must look for attendants of all classes come from the the main reading of this generation ; same sources, most commonly from and in newspapers, therefore, we must the peasantry of the land ; they im- seek for the causes operating upon the port into all families alike, into the style of the age. Seventy years ago highest and the lowest, the coarsest this tendency in political journals to expressions from the vernacular lan. usurp upon the practice of books, and guage of angerandcontempt. Whence, to mould the style of writers, was nofor example, it was, that about five or ticed by a most acute observer, himself six years ago, when a new novel circu- one of the most brilliant writers in the lated in London, with a private under. class of satiric sketchers and personal standing that it was a juvenile effort historians that any nation has profrom two very young ladies of the duced. Already, before 1770, the late very highest rank, nobody who re- Lord Orford was in the habit of say. flected at all could feel much surprise ing to any man who consulted him on that one of the characters should ex- the cultivation of style" Style is it press her self-esteem by the popular that you want ? Oh, go and look phrase that she did not think small into the newspapers for a style.” This beer of herself.”. Equally in its faults. was said half contemptuously and half and its merits, the language of high seriously. But the evil has now become life has always tended to simplicity overwhelming. One single number and the vernacular ideal, recoiling from of a London morning paper, which in every mode of bookishness. And in half a century has expanded from the this, as in so many other instances, it size of a dinner napkin to that of a is singular to note the close resem. breakfast tablecloth, from that to a blance between polished England and carpet, and will soon be forced, by the polished Rome. Augustus Cæsar was expansions of public business, into so little able to enter into any artificial something resembling the mainsail of forms or tortuous obscurities of ambi. a frigate, already is equal in printed tious rhetoric, that he could not so much matter to a very large octavo volume. as understand them. Even the old Every old woman in the nation now antique forms of language, where it reads daily a vast miscellany in one happened that they had become ob- vol. royal octavo. The evil of this, solete, were to him disgusting. And as regards the quality of knowledge probably the main bond of connexion communicated, admits of no remedy. between himself and Horace was their Public business, in its whole unwieldy common and excessive hatred of ob. compass, must always form the subject scurity; from which quality, indeed, of these daily chronicles. Nor is there the very intellectual defects of both, much room to expect any change in equally with their good taste, alienated the style. The evil effect of this upon them to intensity:
the style of the age may be reduced to The pure racy idiom of colloquial or two forms. Formerly the natural household English, we have insisted, impulse of every man was, spontamust be looked for in the circles of neously to use the language of life ; well-educated women not too closely the language of books was a secondary connected with books. It is certain attainment not made without effort. that books, in any language, will tend Now, on the contrary, the daily comto encourage a diction too remote from posers of newspapers have so long dealt the style of spoken idiom ; whilst the in the professional idiom of books, as to greater solemnity, and the more cere- have brought it home to every reader monial costume of regular literature in the nation who does not violently must often demand such a non-idioma. resist it by some domestic advantages. ticdiction, upon mere principles of good Time was, within our own rememtaste. But why is it that in our day brance, that if you should have heard, literature has taken so determinate a in passing along the street, from any swing towards this professional lan- old apple-woman such a phrase as “ I guage of books, as to justify some will avail myself of your kindness,” fears that the other extreme of the forthwith you would have shied like free colloquial idiom will perish as a a skittish horse-you would have run living dialect? The apparent cause away in as much terror as any old Ro. lies in a phenomenon of modern life, man upon those occasions when Bos which, on other accounts also, is en loquebatur. At present youswallow such titled to anxious consideration. It is marvels as matters of course. The
onal in newspapers that we must look for
the the main reading of this generation ; rom and in newspapers, therefore, we must im seek for the causes operating upon the
the style of the age. Seventy years ago sest this tendency in political journals to lan. usurp upon the practice of books, and nce, to mould the style of writers, was no. e or ticed by a most acute observer, himself
one of the most brilliant writers in the der. class of satiric sketchers and personal fort historians that any nation has prothe duced. Already, before 1770, the late
re Lord Orford was in the habit of say. rise ing to any man who consulted him on
the cultivation of style" Style is it ular that you want? Oh, go and look mall into the newspapers for a style." This ults. was said half contemptuously and half high seriously. But the evil has now become city overwhelming. One single number rom of a London morning paper, which in
in half a century has expanded from the s, it size of a dinner papkin to that of a em. breakfast tablecloth, from that to a and carpet, and will soon be forced, by the was expansions of public business, into cial something resembling the mainsail of mbim a frigate, already is equal in printed uch matter to a very large octavo volume. old Every old woman in the nation now e it reads daily a vast miscellany in one ob. vol. royal octavo. The evil of this, And as regards the quality of knowledge kion communicated, admits of no remedy. heir Public business, in its whole unwieldy
ob- compass, must always form the subject zed, of these daily chronicles. Nor is there oth, much room to expect any change in ated the style. The evil effect of this upon
the style of the age may be reduced to
two forms. Formerly the natural ted, impulse of every man was, sponta
of neously to use the language of life ; sely the language of books was a secondary Lain attainment not made without effort. end Now, on the contrary, the daily com
posers of newspapers have so long dealt the in the professional idiom of books, as to
have brought it home to every reader in the nation who does not violently
resist it by some domestic advantages. pod Time was, within our own rememday brance, that if you should have heard,
in passing along the street, from any an- old apple-woman such a phrase as “ Í
will avail myself of your kindness," che forthwith you would have shied like
a skittish horse-you would have run
whole artificial dialect of books bas Some eight years ago, we h
our instincts, round we
away in as much terror as any old Ro. fe,
man upon those occasions when Bos De loquebatur. At present youswallow such is marvels as matters of course. The
such a word was this : From the stair- tematic counteraction applied to the case window we saw a large shed in mischief. But the great evil in such the rear of the house : apprehending cases is this—that we cannot see the some nuisance of “ manufacturing extent of the changes wrought or bea industry" in our neighbourhood, ing wrought, from having ourselves --" What's that?” we demanded. partaken in them. Tempora mutan. Mark the answer: “ A shed ; and tur; and naturally, if we could review anteriorly to the existing shed there them with the neutral eye of a stranger, was ";" what there was, posterity it would be impossible for us not to must consent to have wrapt up in see the extent of those changes. But darkness, for there came on our ner- our eye is not neutral: we also have vous seizure, which intercepted fur- partaken in the changes ; et nos mu. ther communication. But observe, tamur in illis. And this fact disturbs as a point which took away any gleam the power of appreciating those of consolation from the case, the total changes. Every one of us would absence of all malaprop picturesque- have felt, sixty years ago, that the ness, that might have defeated its general tone and colouring of a style deadly action upon the nervous sys- was stiff, bookish, pedantic, which, tem. No: it is due to the integrity from the habituation of our organs, we of her disease, and to the complete. now feel to be natural and within the ness of our suffering, that we should privilege of learned art. Direct obattest the unimpeachable correctness jective qualities it is always by comof her words and of the syntax by parison easy to measure ; but the difwhich she connected them.
ficulty commences when we have to Now, if we could suppose the case combine with this outer measurement that the old household' idiom of the of the object another corresponding land were generally so extinguished measurement of the subjective orinner amongst us as it was in this particular qualities by which we apply the meainstance—if we could imagine, as a sure ; that is, when besides the ob universal result of journalism, that a jects projected to a distance from the coarse unlettered woman, having oc- spectator, we have to allow for varia'casion to say, “ this or that stood in tions or disturbances in the very eye such a place before the present shed,” which surveys them. The eye cannot should take as a natural or current see itself; we cannot project from ourformula, “ anteriorly to the existing selves, and contemplate as an object shed there stood, &c.”—what would our own contemplating faculty, or apbe the final effect upon our literature ? preciate our own appreciating power. Pedantry, though it were unconscious Biases, therefore, or gradual warppedantry, once steadily diffused ings, that have occurred in our critical through a nation as to the very faculty as applied to style, we cannot moulds of its thinking, and the general allow for; and these biases will untendencies of its expression, could not consciously mask, to our perceptions, but stiffen the natural graces of com. an amount of change in the quality of position, and weave fetters about the popular style such as we could not free movement of human thought. easily credit. This would interfere as effectually Separately from this change for the with our power of enjoying much that worse in the drooping idiomatic freshis excellent in our past literature, as ness of our diction, which is a change it would with our future powers of that has been going on for a century, producing. And such an agency has the other characteristic defect of this been too long at work amongst us, age lies in the tumid and tumultuary not to have already accomplished some structure of our sentences. The one part of these separate evils. Amongst change has partly grown out of the women of education, as we have ar- other. Ever since a more bookish gued above, standing aloof from liter air was impressed upon composition ature, and less uniformly drawing without much effort by the Latinized their intellectual sustenance from and artificial phraseology, by forms of newspapers, the deadening effects have expression consecrated to books, and been partially counteracted. Here by “long-tailed words in osity and and there, amongst individuals, alive ation," either because writers felt that to the particular evils of the age, and already, in this one act of preference watching the very set of the current, shown to the artificial vocabulary, they there may have been even a more sys- had done enough to establish a differential character of regular composi- of style which in English books is all tion, and on that consideration thought but universal, absolutely has not an themselves entitled to neglect the com.. existence in the French. Speaking bination of their words into sentences rigorously and to the very letter of the and periods ; or because there is a case, we, upon a large experience in real natural sympathy between the French literature, affirm, that it would Latin phraseology and a Latin struc- be nearly impossible (perhaps strictly ture of sentence; certain it is and re- so) to cite an instance of that cumbrous markable, that our popular style, in and unwieldy style which disfigures the common limited sense of arrange- English composition so extensively. ment applied to words, or the syn. Enough could not be adduced to satisfy taxes of sentences, has laboured with the purpose of illustration. And to two faults that might have been make a Frenchman sensible of the fault thought incompatible : it has been ar- as a possibility, you must appeal to tificial, by artifices peculiarly adapted some translated model. to the powers of the Latin language, But why? The cause of this naand yet at the very same time careless tional immunity from a fault so comand disordinate. There is a strong mon every where else, and so natural, idea expressed by the Latin word in. when we look into the producing occonditus, disorganized, or rather unor casions, is as much entitled to our noganized. Now, in spite of its artifi. tice as the immunity itself. The fault cial bias, that is the very epithet which is inevitable, as one might fancy, to will best characterise our newspaper two conditions of mind-hurry in the style. To be viewed as susceptible first place, want of art in the second. of organization, such periods must al. The French must be liable to these ready be elaborate and artificial; to disadvantages as much as their neighbe viewed as not having received it, bours: by what magic is it that they such periods must be careless.
evade them or neutralize them in the But perhaps the very best illustra- result? The secret lies here ; beyond tion of all this will be found in putting all nations, by constitutional vivacity, the case of English style into close the French are a nation of talkers : and juxtaposition with the style of the the model of their sentences is moulded French and Germans-our only very by that fact. Conversation, which is important neighbours. As leaders of a luxury for other nations, is for them civilisation, as powers in an intellec- a necessity : by the very law of their tual sense, there are but three na- peculiar intellect and of its social tions in Europe-England, Germany, training, they are colloquial. Hence France. As to Spain and Italy, out- it happens, that there are no such lying extremities, they are not moving people endured or ever heard of in bodies; they rest upon the past. France as alloquial wits ; people who Russia and North America are the talk to but not with a circle ; the very two bulwarks of Christendom-East finest of their beaux esprits must sub. and west. But the three powers at mit to the equities of conversation, and the centre are in all senses the motive would be crushed summarily as monforces of civilisation. In all things sters, if they were to seek a selfish they have the initiation; and they pre mode of display, or a privilege of lecside.
turing any audience of a salon who By this comparison we shall have the had met for purposes of social pleasure. advantage of doing what the French “De monologue," as Madame de Staël, express by s'orienter--the Germans by in her broken English, described this sich orientiren. Learning one of our mode of display when speaking of bearings on the compass, we shall be Coleridge, is so far from being tolerated able to deduce the rest; and we shall in France as an accomplishment, that be able to conjecture our valuation as it is not even understood as a disease. respects the art, by finding our place This kind of what may be called irreamongst the artists.
sponsible talk, when a man runs on With respect to French style, we perpetuo tenore, not accountable for can imagine the astonishment of an any opinion to his auditors, open to no English anthor, practised in composi- contradiction, has sometimes procured tion, and with no previous knowledge for a man in England the affix of of French literature, who should first River to his name: Labitur et labetur find himself ranging freely amongst a in omne volubilis ævum. But that has French library. That particular fault been in cases where the talking im,