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*' Men would be angels, angels would be Gods." Essay on Man, Ep.i. jfru6..
Without all question from Sir Fulk Grevil,
Works, Land. 1633. P-73.
XIV. The seeming quaintness and obscurity of an expression frequently indicates imitation. As when in Fletcher's Pilgrim we read,
"Humming* of higher nature vex his brains.
Had the idea been original, the poet had expressed it more plainly. In leaving it thus, he pays his reader the complement to suppose, that he will readily call to mind,
aliena negotia centum
Per caput, et circa saliunt latus.
which sufficiently explains it: As we may fee from Mr. Cowley's application of the fame passage. '* Aliena negotia centum per caput et circa saliunt latus. A hundred businesses of other men fly continually about his head and ears, and strike him in the face like Dorres." Disc, of Liberty." And still more clearly, from Mr. Pope's,
A hundred other men's affairs,
E 4 Learned
Learned writers of quick parts abound in these delicate aHusions. It makes a principal part of modern elegancy to glance in this oblique manner at well known paslages in the classics.
XV. I will trouble you with but one more note of imitated exprejjion, and it shall be the very reverse of the last. When the passages glanced at are not familiar, the expression is frequently minute and circumstantial, corresponding to the original in the order, turp, and almost number of the words. The reasons are, that the imitated passage not being known, the imitator may give it, as he finds it, with sasety, or at least without offence; and that, besides, the force and beauty of it would escape us in a brief and genera} allusion. The following are instances.
I. ** Man never is, but always to be blest.
Essay on man, Ep. 1.69.
Victuros agimus semper, nee vivimus unquam.
2. "Hope never comes,
That comes to all"—
Milton P. L. 1. f. 66.
from Euripides in the Troad. f. 676.
'ift 0 Tsolgi Xcnrtlxi CeofoiV,
3. But 3. But above "31, that in Johnson's Cataline
He fliall die:
Shall was too slowly said: He's dying: That
from Seneca's Hercules furem, A. m.
Lycus Creonti debitas pœnas dabit, Lentumest,dabit: dat: hoc quoque est lentum,<&<#/.
You have now, Sir, before you a specimen of those rules, which I have fancied might be fairly applied to the discovery of imitations, both in regard to the Sense and Expression of great writers. I would not pretend that the fame stress is to be laid on ally but there may be something, at least, worth attending to in every one of them. It were easy, perhaps, to enumerate still more, and to illustrate these I have given with more agreeable citations. Yet I have spared you the disgust of considering those vulgar passages, which every body recollects and sets down for acknowledged imitations. And these I have used are taken from the most celebrated of the ancient and modern writers. You may observe indeed that I have chiefly drawn from our own poets; which I did, not merely because I know you despise the pedantry of confining one's self to learned quotations, but because I think we are better able to discern those circumstances, which betray an imitation, in our own language than in any other. Amongst Other reasons, an identity of words and phrases, upon which so much
depends, especially in the article of expression, is only to be had in the same language. And you are not to be told with how much more certainty we determine of the degree of evidence, which such identity affords for this purpose, in a language we speak, than in one which we only lisp or spell.
But You will best understand of what importance this affair of expression is to the discovery of imitations, by considering how seldom we are able to fix an imitation on Shakespear. The reason is, not, that there are not numberless passages in him very like to others in approved authors, or that he had not read enough to give us a fair hold of him; but that his expression is so totally his own, that he almost al way, sets us at defiance.
You will ask me, perhaps, now I am on this subject, how it happened that Shakespear's language is everywhere so much his own as to secure his imitations, if they were such, from discovery; when I pronounce with such assurance of those of our other poets. The answer is given for me in the Preface to Mr. Theobald's Shakespear; though the observation, I think, is too good to come from that critic. It is, that, though his words, agreeably to the state of the English tongue at that time, be generally Latin, his phraseology is perfectly English: An advantage, he owed to his slender acquaintance with the Latin idiom. Whereas the other writers of his age, and such others of an older date as were likely to fall into his hands, had not only the most familiar acquaintance
tance with the Latin idiom, but affected on all accasions to make use of it. Hence it comes to pass, that, though he might draw sometimes from the Latin (Ben Johnson, you know, tells us, He had less Qreek) and the learned English writers, he takes nothing but the sentiment; the expression comes of itself, and is 'purely English.
I might indulge in other reflections, and detain you still further with examples taken from his works. But we have lain, as the Poet speaks, on these primrose beds, too long. It is time that you now rise to your own nobler inventions ; and that I return myself to those, less pleasing, perhaps, but more useful studies from which your friendly sollicitations have called me. Such as these amusements are, however, I cannot repent me of them, since they have been innocent at least, and even ingenuous; and, what I am fondest to recollect, have helped to enliven those many years of friendship we have pass'd together in this place. I fee indeed, with regret, the approach of that time, which threatens to take me both from it, and you. But however fortune may dispose of me, she cannot throw me to a distance, to which your affection and good wishes, at least, will not follow me.
And for the rest,
"Be no unpleafing melancholly mine.