Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

bited a carelessness in his language which suggested anything but pedantry or an attempt at “fine talking.” In short, the brave old man was as delightful as he was commanding in conversation. While the guest was deeply enjoying this interview, an aged and stately female entered the apartment, and he was introduced to Mrs. Adams. A cap of exquisite lace surrounded features still exhibiting intellect and energy, though they did not wear the appearance of ever having been beautiful. Her dress was snowy white, and there was that immaculate neatness in her appearance which gives to age almost the sweetness of youth. With less warmth of manner and sociableness than Mr. Adams, she was sufficiently gracious, and her occasional remarks betrayed intellectual vigor and strong sense. The guest went away, feeling that he never again should behold such living specimens of the “great of old.”

Mr. Jefferson's style as a writer has attracted so much notice, that his account of the manner in which it was formed, and his opinions on one or two important questions in respect to our language, will be matters of curiosity to a class of readers. On receiving from John Waldo a copy of his “Rudiments of English Grammar,” Mr. Jefferson wrote to him, August 16th, 1813 :

“I am entirely unqualified to give that critical opinion of it which you do me the favor to ask. Mine has been a life of business, of that kind which appeals to a man's conscience, as well as his industry, not to let it suffer, and the few moments allowed me from labor have been devoted to more attractive studies, that of grammar having never been a favorite with me. The scanty foundation, laid in at school, has carried me through a life of much hasty writing, more indebted for style to reading and memory, than to rules of grammar. I have been pleased to see that in all cases you appeal to usage, as the arbiter of language; and justly consider that as giving law to grammar, and not grammar to usage. I concur entirely with you in opposition to Purists, who would destroy all strength and beauty of style, by subjecting it to a rigorous compliance with their rules. Fill up all the ellipses and syllepses of Tacitus, Sallust, Livy, etc., and the elegance and force of their sententious brevity are extinguished.”

After citing several illustrations in the Latin, he says:

“Wire-draw these expressions by filling up the whole syntax and sense, and they become dull paraphrases on rich sentiments. . - - - - - I am no friend, therefore, to what is called Purism, but a zealous one to the Neology , which has introduced these two words without the authority of any dictionary. l. consider the one as destroying the nerve and beauty of language, while the other . improves both, and adds to its copiousness. I have been not a little disappointed, and made suspicious of my own judgment, on seeing the Edinburgh Reviews, the ablest critics of the age, set their faces against the introduction of new words into the English language; they are particularly apprehensive that the writers of the United States will adulterate it. Certainly so great a growing population, spread over such an extent of country, with such a variety of climates, of productions, of arts, must enlarge their language to make it answer its purpose of expressing all ideas, the new as well as the old. The new circumstances under which we are placed, call for new words, new phrases, and for the transfer of old words to new objects. An American dialect will therefore be formed; so will a West-Indian and Asiatic, as a Scotch and an Irish are already formed. But whether will these adulterate or enrich the English language? Has the beautiful poetry of Burns, or his Scottish dialect, disfigured it? Did the Athenians consider the Doric, the Ionian, the AEolic, and other dialects, as disfiguring or as beautifying their language * Did they fastidiously disavow Herodotus, Pindar, Theocritus, Sappho, Alcaeus, or Grecian writers? On the contrary, they were sensible that the variety of dialects, still infinitely varied by poetical license, constituted the riches of their language, and made the Grecian Homer the first of poets, as he must ever remain, until a language equally ductile and copious shall again be spoken.

“Every language has a set of terminations, which make a part of its peculiar idiom. Every root among the Greeks was permitted to vary its termination, so as to express its radical idea in the form of any one of the parts of speech; to wit, as a noun, an adjective, a verb, participle, or adverb; and each of these parts of speech again, by still varying the termination, could vary the shade of idea existing in the mind.”

Having exhibited the convenience that would result from adopting the last-named system in the English language, Mr. Jef. ferson presents and illustrates by numerous examples two other available sources of copiousness: first, the joining in one word the root and every other member of its family with prepositions and other words; and, second, the joining in one word one family of roots with another. He then adds:

“If we wish to be assured from experiment of the effect of a judicious spirit of Neology, look at the French language. Even before the revolution, it was deemed much more copious than the English; at a time, too, when they had an academy which endeavored to arrest the progress of their language, by fixing it to a Dictionary, out of which no word was ever to be sought, used, or tolerated. The institution of parliamentary assemblies in 1789, for which their language had no apposite terms or phrases, as having never before needed them, first obliged them to adopt the Parliamentary vocabulary of England; and other new circumstances called for corresponding new words; until by the number of these adopted, and by the analogies for adoption which they have legitimated, I think we may say with truth, that a Dictionnaire Néologique of these would be half as large as the dictionary of the academy; and that at this time it is the language in which every shade of idea, dis. tinctly perceived by the mind, may be more exactly expressed, than in any language at this day spoken by man. Yet I have no hesitation in saying that the English language is founded on a broader base, native and adopted, and capable, with the like freedom of employing its materials, of becoming superior to that in copiousness and euphony. Not indeed by holding fast to Johnson's Dictionary; not by raising a hue and cry against every word he has not licensed; but by encouraging and welcoming new compositions of its elements. Learn from Lye and Benson what the language would now have been if restrained to their vocabularies. Its enlargement must be the consequence, to a certain degree, of its transplantation from the latitude of London into every climate of the globe; and the greater the degree the more precious will it become as the organ of the development of the human mind.”

The same views are several times expressed in other parts of Mr. Jefferson's correspondence, and he often urged them in conversation. A familiar illustration employed by him to exhibit the benefit of sacrificing strict accuracy to attain force, was the motto on one of his seals, written, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God,” instead of “Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.”

The critical examiner of Mr. Jefferson's writings will observe that his practice corresponded with his theory in the latter particular, not only in familiar writing, but in some of his most elaborate productions. His ideas of style will be perfectly understood after reading the following extracts from a letter he wrote to his grandson, Francis Eppes (January 19th, 1821). Speaking of Thomas Paine and Lord Bolingbroke, he said:

“These two persons differed remarkably in the style of their writing, each leaving a model of what is most perfect in both extremes of the simple and the sublime. No writer has exceeded Paine in ease and familiarity of style, in perspicuity of expression, happiness of elucidation, and in simple and unassuming language. In this he may be compared with Dr. Franklin; and indeed his Common Sense was, for awhile, believed to have been written by Dr. Franklin, and published under the borrowed name of Paine, who had come over with him from England. Lord Bolingbroke's, on the other hand, is a style of the highest order. The lofty, rhythmical, full-flowing eloquence of Cicero. Periods of just measure, their members proportioned, their close full and round. His conceptions, too, are bold and strong, his diction copious, polished and commanding as his subject. His writings are certainly the finest samples in the English language, of the eloquence proper for the Senate.”

The copiousness and splendor of Lord Bolingbroke's diction, his habitual vigor and frequent felicity of expression, the liveliness and ease with which his sonorous sentences are thrown together, the boldness and ardor of his manner, are conceded by critics. But his construction of sentences is often defective, judged by nice rules of rhetoric. Sometimes his defects rise to positive errors. He goes sweeping on like a large and rapid stream which cannot wait, so to speak, to find a smooth way round all the impediments it encounters, but occasionally rushes over them broken into roughness and foam. No stickler for frigid accuracy would, without any reservations, have assigned him the literary rank Mr. Jefferson does; and certainly no such person would have introduced the above unqualified comparison between him and Cicero. Jefferson was as familiar with the writings of Lord Shaftesbury as those of Bolingbroke. His description of the style of the latter will be generally thought to apply even better to that of the former. Shaftesbury has more sustained grandeur, and is vastly more accurate. But in attaining accuracy, he often sacrifices nerve, and always lacks nature and spontaneity. The careful word-artist is always before us —never the freely-moving, warm-blooded man. Jefferson always, therefore, expressed a decided preference for the style of Bolingbroke.’ * He agreed with Quinctilian in the following particulars: “In universum, si sit necesse, durain potius atque asperam compositionem malim esse, quam effeminatam ac enervem, qualis apud multos. Ideoque, vincta quardam de industria sunt solvenda, ne

laborata videantur; neque ullum idoneum aut aptum verbum praetermittamus, gratia lenitatis."

[ocr errors]

The Military Campaign of 1814–American and British Soldiership—Chippewa, Bridgewater, Plattsburgh and New Orleans—The Treaty of Peace—Jefferson Pronounces it an Armistice—Results and Lessons of the War—Jefferson's Miscellaneous Correspond. ence in 1814–His Delineation of Washington–Aid to Bible Society—On States adding to Qualifications of Members of Congress—The “Two Hooks" on which Republican Government hangs—Letter to Granger—Blackstone and Hume–On Banks and Currency—Literary and Scientific Correspondence—On the Spanish Constitution—To a person who had a Revelation to attempt his Religious Conversion—Continued Views on Negro Slavery—The Head of the Old French Party attacking Napoleon, and the Head of the Old English Party attacking “John Bull”—Situation of Virginia Agriculturists in 1814–Jefferson's Diplomas and Honorary Memberships of Societies—Offers his Library to Congress—Report of Joint Committee thereon–Action in the two Houses—The Purchase—Valuation of the Books—Proceedings of the Opposition in Massachusetts—Legislature Determines to raise a State Army, and calls the Hartford Convention—Proceedings in other New England States—Disunion Advocated by Press and Pulpit—Federal Action out of New England—Meeting of Hartford Convention— Report of the Delegates to their Legislatures—Proposed Amendments of the Constitution—Massachusetts and Rhode Island appoint Commissioners to proceed to Washington—Attempts to annoy, and thwart the Measures of the General Government —The Commissioners proceed to Washington—The Bubble burst—Public Derision— The Speculations on the Secret Proceedings of Hartford Convention—Discrepancy in the Explanation of its Members, etc.—Wherein the Explanations agree—Character of the Members—John Holmes's Solution—Jefferson's several References to the Convention—His Contempt for its Menaces—His Erroneous Views in respect to some of its Members—Sources of the Odium which rests on the Measure—The Sequel—Action of the States on the Constitutional Amendments proposed by the Convention–Domestic matters at Monticello in 1815–Agricultural Statistics, etc.—Correspondence—On the Right to preach Politics from the Pulpit—How Jefferson would be treated in History —His Occupations in the Summer of 1815–Correspondence in 1816–His Health and Habits—Letter to Adams on Living this Life over again—On Uses of Grief—To Col. Yancey on the Bank Mania—Jefferson's continued Hostility to United States Bank— To Austin on encouraging Domestic Manufactures—How far he went in this Direction —Virginia Improvements, etc.—Jefferson to Kercheval on amending the Constitution of Virginia–Tucker's and Grigsby's Statements—A Singular Tribute to Jefferson's Influence—Jefferson accuses King of having suppressed his Friendly Overture to England—Family Letters—A Hint concerning Pecuniary Matters.

THE naval campaign of 1814, resulted less successfully than the preceding ones, though several large vessels were put into

the water during the year. Our navy lost nothing in honor,

« ZurückWeiter »