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pare with him in the Weight and Solemnity
A short fpecimen may convince any fober
“ Thus Fell the greatest Subject in power, and little inferior to any in Fortune, that was at that time in any of the three Kingdoms; Who could well remember the time, when he led those People, who then pursued him to his Grave. He was a man of great Parts, and extraordinary Endowments of Nature; not unadorn’d with some addition of Art and Learning, though that again was more improved and illuftrated by the other; for he had a readiness of Conception, and sharpness of Expression, which made his Learning thought more than in truth it was. His first inclinations and addresses to
lents, and the ripeft years, could not surpass it. The English language, as well as the English annals, is indebted to the labours of Clarendon.
Aĝe of Charles the Second.
WE now come, strictly speaking, to the age of king Charles the second. Milton and Clarendon, though for their celebrity and merits they could not be omitted, seem rather to belong to an intermediate period.
Whoever will impartially compare the prose writers of king Charles's reign with any of their predecessors, will be struck with the clear and rapid improvement. For this they were certainly indebted to the exile of the royal family. Many of them resided during this period on the continent: they found the French much superior to us in facility and grace of composition; and, had it been otherwise, comparison, the long and close comparison to which they were incited, of one language with another, will always be found among the most fruitful sources of improvement.
It is now first that we are presented with the facility and graces of composition. The cele
brated authors of this period write like men who lived in the world. Their style has much of the charm that characterises polished conversation. They lay aside the stiff and pedantic airs of their ancestors, and condescend to express themfelves with perfpicuity and a considerable portion of fimplicity. This is a clear advance that they effected.
It is however a stage of improvement, and by no means the perfection of style. The force of which the English language was capable, was wholly unknown ; and, if it were at that time in any instance exhibited, the cause that produced it was occasional strength of feeling, or vigour of genius, in the writer ; it was not the result of analysis, science and system. The writers of king Charles's reign are perfpicuous, but their style is feeble and relaxed. They caught the exterior and surface of the French character; and affected to compose, as the phrase was, “like gentlemen, who wrote at their ease." The consequence was artificial graces,
elaborate negligence, feebleness in the choice of words, and idleness and inattention in their arrangement. They trusted all to the native powers of genius; and had but a very night conception, that a finished style is only to be obtained by afsiduous and unwearied cultivation.
The writers most celebrated for the
of composition in the reign of king Charles the second, were fir William Temple and archbishop Tillotson ; nor have any authors in the annals of literature experienced a more copious commendation. Novelty is one of the powers that has greatest influence over the imagination; and Englishmen then saw, with astonishment and delight, a degree of beauty and appropriate art communicated to the structure of their language.
Sir William Temple is undoubtedly an agreeable writer. His thoughts frequently carry the stamp of reflection and good sense; and their impression is by no means counteracted, in the degree in which we find it in the preceding periods of our literature, by the alloy of a perplexed or unnatural phraseology .
# It is with infinite diffidence, not to say reluctance, that I ám prevailed upon to annex marks of asterisks to a few of the phrases I conceive to be most glaringly offensive in the writers from this period. It is to a certain degree subversive of my design, which was to leave the whole case to the unprejudiced verdict of the reader.
We must however confefs that it is the duty of an author to render himlelf intelligible to as many different classes of readers as poffible. The person who is already master of the subject, it is hoped, will forgive this neceffary accommodation to readers of another description.