as a species of the latter, and defines a figure to be a manner of speaking distinguished by a particular modification, which reduces it to a certain class ; and which renders it more lively, more noble, and more agreeable, than a manner of speaking which expresses the same thought without this particular modification of it.

This he illustrates by a passage from Bruyére, where he says, “There are certain subjects, in which mediocrity is intolerable ; poetry, music, painting, and public speaking.” “Here," says Du Marsais, “there is no figure, that is to say, the whole phrase merely expresses the thought of Bruyére, without any turn which particularly characterises it;" but when he adds, "What punishment is it to hear a frigid composition pompously delivered, or poor verses pronounced with emphasis !” “This,” says our author, “is the same thought, but there is added to it the expression of surprise and admiration; and this expression makes it a figure.” Or, in other words, a trope or figure is where a word or sentence is to be understood in a sense different from its most common and ordinary usage ; and it is this peculiar sense or form of the thought which constitutes the figure of the expression. This cannot be better illustrated than by the use of the word taste. When we say a person has a fine taste in wines, the word is used in its most common and ordinary sense; but when we say he has a fine taste for painting, poetry, or music, we use the word figuratively: in the latter use of the word, therefore, there is a figure, and in the former none.

Having thus given a general idea of the nature of rhetorical figures, I shall proceed to give a particular account of them; and first of the metaphor.

Métaphor. A metaphor is an expression, where a word or phrase departs from its more common and ordinary sense to another, which it resembles in some respects, and differs from in others; or, in fewer words, it may be defined to be a simile, or comparison, without the sign of comparison. Thus, when we say Demosthenes was the bulwark of Athens, the word bulwark is a metaphor; because, as a bulwark guards a place from its enemies, so Demosthenes, by his eloquence, guarded the Athenian state. But if we say Demosthenes was a bulwark to Athens, then it becomes a simile or comparison ; so that a metaphor is a stricter or closer comparison, and a comparison a looser and less compact metaphor.

“Metaphors,” says an ingenious and judicious author,* 66 abound in all writings : from scripture they might be produced in vast variety. Thus our blessed Lord is called a vine, a lamb, a lion, &c. Thus men, according to their different dispositions, are styled wolves, sheep, dogs, serpents, &c. And indeed metaphors not only abound in the sacred writings, but they overspread all language ; and the more carefully we examine authors, not only poets but philosophers, the more shall we discover their free and large use of metaphors, taken from the arts and sciences, the customs of mankind, and the unlimited fields of nature."

Allegory. An allegory is a continuation of several metaphors, so connected in sense as to form a kind of parable or

Gibbon's Rhetoric, p. 24.

fable. It differs from a single metaphor, says the above-mentioned author, in the same manner as a cluster on the vine does from a single grape. This we may illustrate by a very happy example of his own, where, speaking of the metaphor, he says, “Of all the flowers that embellish the regions of eloquence, there is none that rises to such an eminence, that bears so rich and beautiful a blossom, that diffuses such a copious and exquisite fragrance, or that so amply rewards the care and culture of the poet or the orator.”+

Quintilian observes, that the most beautiful species of composition is that where there is a mixture of the comparison, the allegory, and the trope ; an instance of which he gives us in the following passage from Cicero :

“What estuary, what part of the sea, can you imagine so much vexed with the tossing and agitation of the waves ? How violent the perturbations and fury of our popular assemblies, for the election of magistrates! The space of only one day or night often throws all things into confusion, and sometimes only a small breath of rumour shall quite change the opinion of the whole people.”

Quintil. lib. vii. cap. 6.


A Vetonymy is a figure, where one name is put for another, for which it may be allowed to stand, on account of some relation or coherence between them. Thus, a humane prince is called a Titus, a cruel one a Nero, and a great conqueror an Alexander. Cicero, speaking of the study of eloquence, says,

To omit Greece, which always claimed the preeminence for eloquence: and Athens, the inventress of all sciences, where the art of speaking was invented and perfected; in this city of ours, no studies have prevailed more than that of eloquence. Where the words Greece and Athens stand to denote

* Gibbon's Rhetoric, p. 27.

the inhabitants of those places; and it is this usage of the city or country for the inhabitants that forms the metonymy.

Synécdoche. A Synecdoche puts the whole for a part, or a part for the whole, as,

Thy growing virtues justified my cares,

And promis'd comfort to my silver hairs. Pope's Homer. That is, my old age.

Achilles' wide-destroying wrath, that pour'd
Ten thousand woes on Greece, 0 goddess, sing!

Homer's Niad, b. i. v. I. Gibbon's Rhel. p. 74. Where we may observe, that putting a certain number for an uncertain one, that is, ten thousand woes for the great number of woes brought on Greece by the wrath of Achilles, forms a species of the figure of Synecdoche.


An Hyperbole is a figure that goes beyond the bounds of strict truth, and represents things as greater or smaller, better or worse, then they really are.

Milton's strong pinions now at Heav'n can bound,

Now serpent like in prose he sweeps the ground. Pope.
Virgil, describing the swiftness of Camilla, says:

Outstripp'd the winds in speed upon the plain,
Flew o'er the fields, nor hurt the bearded grain :
She swept the seas, and, as she skimm'd along,
Her flying foot unbath'd in billows hung.

Dryden, Æn. vii.

The Catachresis, or abuse, borrows the name of one thing to express another, which either has no proper name of its own, or, if it has, the borrowed name is more surprising and agreeable, on account of its novelty and boldness : thus the word drink, in the following passage, is so bold a figure as to be properly styled a Catachresis :

Phemius! let acts of gods and heroes old,
What ancient bards in hall and bow'r have told
Attemper'd to the lyre, your voice employ,
Such the pleas'd ear will drink with silent joy.

Pope's Homer's Odyssey. The figures which follow, and which, for the sake of distinction, may be styled oratorical figures, are such as derive much of their beauty from a proper

delivery: this delivery we shall endeavour to describe; and if the description conveys but a faint idea of the proper manner of pronouncing them, it must be remembered that a faint idea of this pronunciation is better than none at all.

Irony. Irony is a figure, in which one extreme is signified by its opposite extreme; or where we speak of one thing and design another, in order to give the greater force and poignancy to our meaning. Thus Cicero sometimes applies it in the way of jest and banter, where he says,

We have much reason to believe the modest man would not ask him for his debt, where he pursues his life.

Pro Quint. c. 11.

At other times, by way of insult and derision. Thus, when he would represent the forces of Catiline as mean and contemptible, he says,

O terrible war! in which this band of profligates are to march under Catiline. Draw out all your garrisons against this formidable body!

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