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led him to compare them with those of publick speaking, and the different, and even opposite principles upon which excellence is to be attained in these two great arts, were no unusual topicks of his conversation. The difference did not, in his judgment, consist so much in language or diction, as in the arrangement of thoughts, the length and construction of sentences, and, if I may borrow a phrase familiar to publick speakers, in the mode of putting an argument. A writer, to preserve his perspicuity, must keep distinct and separate those parts of a discourse, which the orator is enabled, by modulation of voice, and with the aid of action, to bring at once into view, without confounding or perplexing his audience. Frequency of allusion, which in speaking produces the happiest effect, in writing renders the sense obscure, and interrupts the simplicity of the discourse. Even those sudden turns, those unforeseen flashes of wit which, struck out at the moment, dazzle and delight a publick assembly, appear cold and inanimate, when deliberately introduced into a written composition.
A perusal of the Letter to the Electors of Westminster, will shew how scrupulously Mr. Fox attended to these distinctions. That work was written in the heat of a Session of Parliament. It treated professedly of subjects upon which the writer was daily in the habit of speaking, with his usual force of argument and
variety of illustration. Notwithstanding these circumstances, no political tract of any note in our language, is in form or style less oratorical, or, with the exception of one passage, more free from those peculiarities, which the practice of publick speaking seems calculated to produce. Such a strict observance of these principles must have cost him great trouble and attention. He was so apprehensive that his writings. might retain some traces of that art, in the exercise of which he had employed the greater part of his life, that he frequently rejected passages, which in any other author would not have appeared liable to such an objection. He seems even to have distrusted his own judgment upon this subject; and after having taken the greatest pains, he was never sufficiently satisfied of his own success. If we except the account of the Earl of Argyle, the Introductory Chapter is unquestionably the most correct and finished part of the present publication. He did not, however, conceive it to be entirely exempt from a defect to which he apprehended that his works must be peculiarly exposed. He says to his correspondent, “ I have at last finished
my Introduction, which after all is more like a speech than it should be.”'
Simplicity, both in expression and construction, was the quality in style which he most admired, and the beauty he chiefly endeavoured to attain. He was the more scrupulously anxious to preserve this character in
his writings, because he thought that the example of some great writers had, in his own time, perverted the taste of the publick, and that their imitators had corrupted the purity of the English language. Though he frequently commended both Hume's and Blackstone's style, and always spoke of Middleton's with admiration, he once assured me, that he would admit no word into his book, for which he had not the authority of Dryden.
He was scarcely less nice about phrases and expressions. It is indeed possible, that those of his readers, who have formed their taste upon Johnson or Gibbon, or taken their notions of style from the criticism of late years, may discover, in the course of the work, some idioms which are now seldom admitted into the higher classes of composition. To speak without reserve upon a subject in which his judgment, as an author, may
be called in question, it appears to me more likely, that such phrases should have been introduced upon system, than that they should have escaped his observation, and crept in through inadvertence. The work is indeed,
incomplete and unfinished;" but it is not with reference to any phrases, which may be supposed to be too familiar, or colloquial, that such a description has been given of it. Such was the Author's abhorrence of any thing that savoured of pedantry or affectation, that if he was ever reduced to the alternative of an inflated, or homely expression, I have no doubt but he preferred the latter. This persuasion, in addition to many other considerations, has induced me religiously to preserve, in the publication of this Work, every phrase and word of the Original Manuscript. Those who are disposed to respect his authority, may have the satisfaction of knowing, that there is not one syllable in the following Chapters, which is not the genuine production of Mr. Fox. That there are several passages, (especially in the latter end of the text,) which he might, that there are some which he obviously would, have corrected, is unquestionable; but, with the knowledge of such scrupulous attention to language in an author, to have substituted any word or expression, for that which he had written, would not have been presumption only, but injustice.
The manuscript book from which this work has been printed is, for the most part, in the hand writing of Mrs. Fox. It was written out under the inspection of Mr. Fox, and is occasionally corrected by him. His habit was seldom or never to be alone, when employed in composition. He was accustomed to write on covers of letters, or scraps of paper, sentences which he, in all probability, had turned in his mind, and, in some degree formed in the course of his walks, or during his hours of leisure. These he read over to Mrs. Fox; she wrote them out in a fair hand in the book; and before he destroyed the original paper, he examined and
approved of the copy. In the course of thus dictating from his own writing, he often altered the language, and even the construction of the sentence. Though he generally tore the scraps of paper as soon as the passages were entered in the book, several have been preserved; and it is plain, from the erasures and alterations in them, that they had undergone much revision and correction before they were read to his Amanuensis.
It is necessary to observe, that I am indebted to Mr. Laing, both for advice and assistance in the division of the paragraphs, the annexing of marginal notes and references, the selection of the Appendix, and the superintendance of the press. From his judgment and experience, I have derived great benefit; and his friendship in undertaking the task has afforded me the further satisfaction of reflecting, that I have been guided throughout by that advice to which the Author himself would have wished me on such an occasion to have recourse.
The Appendix consists, with some few exceptions,* of such part of Barillon's correspondence, from the death of Charles the Second to the Prorogation of Parliament in 1685, as Sir John Dalrymple omitted to publish. As the letters of a subsequent date, however curious and interesting, have no relation to the short period of history included in the following Chapters, they have not been annexed to the present publication.
* The Dispatch, p. ix.—Extracts, pp. xviii. xxviii. xli. lvii. ciii.