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WE come now to the last period of our investigation; the

age of king George the second.

Some of the most illustrious writers of the present reign, began their literary carreer in the preceding reign, and were born as early in the eighteenth century, as certain authors who most properly belong to king George the second. It seems most natural however to confine our retrospect, to those writers whose works were either wholly published under the former monarch, or who, at least, are acknowledged to have then attained to the full display of their genius, and possession of their fame,

We may select as specimens of this period, Middleton, Sherlock, Fielding and Smollet. My business is, to produce such passages from these authors, as shall be calculated to prove that, in point of style, they fall below the ordinary standard of elegant composition at the present day.


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No production of that age has been more extolled as a model of fine writing, than Middleton's Life of Cicero. History had been written among us, before that book made its appearance; but it will probably be found that this is the earlieft performance in our language, that in any adequate degree seems worthy of the genius of history, if we regard her, in the light in which the ancients were accustomed to regard her, as one of the muses.

But, though this work is to be esteemed upon the whole an able, excellent and elegant production, it has many peculiarities now deservedly antiquated. Middleton is an eloquent writer, but his verbosity is glaring, and his construction perplexing and tedious. His phraseology is often pedantic, and often unnecessarily loaded with particles, Precision of speech, that conveys its meaning in the most direct and unincumbered manner, is no part of his praise. The vigour of his genius seems to pant and labour under the burthen of his language,

The following passages may serye to illustrate this description.

Speaking of the period, in which it was cuftomary for the young men of Rome to affume the manly gown, the author proceeds: “They were introduced at the same time into the Forum,

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or the great square of the City, where the Assemblies of the people were held, and the Magistrates used to harangue * to them from the Roftra, and where all the public pleadings and judicial procedings were usually transacted : this therefore was the grand School of business and eloquence; the scene, on which all the affairs of the Empire were determined, and where the foundation of their hopes and fortunes * were to be * laid : * fo that they were introduced into it with much folemnity, attended by all the friends and dependents of the family, and after divine rites performed in the Capitol, were committed to the * special protection of some eminent Senator, diftinguished for his eloquence or knowledge of the laws, to be instructed by bis advice in the management of civil affairs, and to form themselves by his example for useful members and Magistrates of the Republic.” Sect. I.

After enumerating the studies of Cicero, Dr. Middleton concludes: “ All which accomplishments were but * ministerial and subservient to that, on which his hopes and ambition were singly placed, the reputation of an Orator.” do.

“ This practice (the vote, ut viderent consules, ne quid refpublica detrimenti capiat], tho' * in use from the earliest times, had always been complained * of by the Tribuns, as an infringe-,

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ment of the constitution, by giving to the Senate an arbitrary power over the lives of Citizens, which could not legally be taken away without a hearing and judgment of the whole people. But the chief * grudge to *it was, * from its being a perpetual check to the defigns of the ambitious and popular, who aspired to any power not allowed by the laws : it was not difficult for them to delude the multitude ; but the Senate was not so easily* managed, who by that single vote of committing the Republic to the Consuls, could frustrate at once all the effects of their popularity, when carried to a * point which was dangerous to the State: for since by * virtue of it, the Tribins themselves, whose persons were held sacred might be * taken off. without sentence or trial, when engaged in any traiterous practices, * all attempts of that kind must necessarily be hazardous and desperate." Sect. III.

The following is a part of our author's character of Sylla.

“His family was noble and Patrician, which yet, through the indolency of his Ancestors, had * made no figure in the Republic for many generations, and was almost sunk into obscurity, till he * produced it again into light, by aspiring to the honors of the State. He was a lover and patron of polite letters, having been carefully,

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* instituted himself in all the learning of Greece and Rome ; but from a peculiar gaiety of temper, and fondness for the company of Mimics and Players, * was drawn, when young, into a life of luxury and pleasure ; * so that when he was sent Quæstor to Marius in the Jugurthine war, Marius complained, that in so rough and desperate a service chance had given him so soft and delicate a Quæstor.Sect. II.

I have been more particular in my extracts from Middleton, as this author perhaps affords the most adequate specimen of the style of the period in which he wrote. The majority of writers at that time, who fought the praise of eloquence, appear to have affected this plenitude of diction, the art of overlaying their meaning with the endlessness of their phrases. At first sight therefore we should be apt to imagine that they had degenerated from the model of the days of queen Anne. But, upon a nearer inspection, we shall find that they excelled their predecessors in propriety of construction, though they certainly did not excel them in choice of words or neatness of diction.

It would be idle however to load these pages with examples after the Middletonian mode. Our business is with authors who fought to outa îtrip the practice of their contemporaries.

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