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ON THE Love Of The Place of our BIRTH.
But who is he that yet a dearer spot
No inanimate object in creation is capable of exciting such a permanent interest in our minds, as the place of our birth. To be acquainted with a circumstance so intimately connected with the origin of life, seems to cast a gleam of light on the dark and mysterious page human existence. Hence perhaps it is, that when our time has been passed far from our native place, which may be only known to us by its name, that name is never forgotten, and its remembrance is always recurred to with satisfaction. But when the place of our birth has been the scene of our youthful days as well as of the enjoyments of our maturer years when it contains memorials of joy or of sorrow, connected with the most interesting events of our lives, and when it has been the abiding-place of our fathers, and is still the depository of their remains, then we are attached to it as well by the ties of sympathy and affection as by feelings of reverential regard.
This attachment is not only a source of individual gratification, but is also conducive to the public welfare and prosperity. By inducing us to bear with what is inconvenient or disagreeable, it secures to our fellowcitizens whatever benefit may be derived from the employment of our time and our talents among them. When Plutarch was asked why he remained in such a little obscure place as his native city? I stay here, replied
that it may not become less.
The favourites of fortune, however, have generally been the most considerable benefactors to the place of their birth; and indeed when an individual acquires opulence in his native city, it may be said to possess a claim on his liberality as well as on his regard. Many men of Bristol, from Canynges to Colston, might be named, who have munificently satisfied this claim. They not only acquired fortunes, and diffused the benefits of trade and commerce among the inhabitants, but provided for the uneducated the means of learning, and for the poor and helpless, comfort and support. To the liberality and public spirit of these men, our city is in a great degree indebted for the civilized and flourishing state to which it has attained; and while their example shall be emulated by its wealthy inhabitants, our prosperity and improvement must continue to increase. Though we may naturally expect great effects from considerable causes, yet much may be done by those who are possessed of but limited means; and the pages of this work will always be ready to receive any suggestion which has a tendency to elevate the literary, commercial, or political character of our native city.
ON THE STYLE OF DR. Johnson.
To the Editor of The Bristol Memorialist. SIR, The confession of Horace, ætas parentům pejor avis tulit nos nequiores, respected only the morals of his nation; and whether this were a mere sententious flourish of poetry, in an ode designed to flatter Augustus for his re-embellishment of the temples and his enforcement of the Julian law against adultery, or whether it were the result of his sincere convictions of the degeneracy from the old Roman severity of manners, and of the mischiefs accruing to a state from private immorality, may admit of question. That Horace possessed a moral tact; that his native sound intellect led him to perceive the fitness and utility of virtue, and the tendency of vice to undermine social and individual happiness and to contaminate the sources of national greatness and prosperity, is evident from the number of just sentiments and philosophic apothegms dispersed through his poems. But the same poems exhibit abundant testimony of the voluptuousness and immorality of his practice; and when we hear him inveighing in a lofty tone against the criminal gallantries of Rome, it is difficult not to suppose at least as much of courtly policy as of moral zeal in this disciple of perverted Epicurism. However this be, Horace is very far from admitting of a similar degeneracy with respect to the literature of his countrymen. We more easily bear with reproaches on our morals, than on our understanding. He could allow the profligacy of his times, and compliment the domestic chastity of ancient Rome; but the bare supposition of superior genius in the age preceding, fired him with indignation. He evidently undervalues the old writers, who had probably much more of the vigour of originality, in comparison with himself and his contemporaries. We have no means of ascertaining the justness of his decision; as Ennius, Nævius, Pacuvius, Lucilius, and other ancient writers, among others whom the bigoted stupidity of the Caliph Omar condemned at Alexandria to the flames of a widely devouring oblivion, have perished from the earth. There can be little doubt that the sentiment of Horace respecting the progress of taste was repeated through the successive ages of Roman literature. We may safely surmise that Seneca prided himself on excelling Cicero in philosophical reasoning and majesty of style, and that Martial was thought in his day a brighter genius than Catullus.
English criticism has, in like manner, triumphed in the supposed improvements of the moderns with regard to the lustre and emphasis of style. The pedantry of Johnson and the affectation of Gibbon poured forth a swarm of innovations in the cast of phraseology, the colouring of diction, and the disposition of sentences, which, like the successive splendid invasions of the Turks and the Tartars, carried destruction and barbaric insult into all the regions of English literature.
They, however, who censure the style of Johnson, and justly censure it, as loading the language with learned derivatives, and as impeding the natural fuency of common speech by a swollen and disproportioned phraseology and a rhetorical march of periods, have overlooked the merit which it incontestably possesses: I mean, the merit of condensation and perspicuity. The arrangement of his sentences, although artfully studied and antithetically balanced, is highly favourable to argumentation; and the strong thinking and perspicacious sagacity of Johnson, which enabled him to see at once the relative bearings of a question, and to compress in few words the essence of a subject, found a fit vehicle in the style which he had formed for himself; of which the sentences, involved one within another, yet lucid and unembarrassed, were fortunately adjusted to the balancing of objections and replies, the nicely weighing of contingencies, and the deduction of consequences.
Those papers of The Rambler which are employed in discussing ethical points or in unfolding the propensities of the human heart, are admirable for their comprehension, clearness, and weight. As a moral essayist, we should scarcely wish that Johnson should have written otherwise : we would not change what Dr. Parr empha. tically terms his pondera verborúm, and his lumina sententiarúm, for a more vernacular idiom, or a more free and flowing sweep of periods. To á didactic writer we must allow the use of a didactical style; and the rounded and regularly concatenated period of Johnson, like the rhymed couplet of our poetry, is adapted to the impresa sing of truths and the enforcing of logical inferences, as the ball of heaviest metal will sink with greatest force and depth into soft and yielding matter.
When however we turn to the same writer's efforts in general literature, the style that in the field of ethics was appropriate and emphatical, appears constrained, unsuitable, and tediously laborious. In oriental allegory, indeed, of which Johnson was fond to excess, and to the indulgence of which we may, perhaps, aseribe the faulty mixture of metaphor and personification in his common style, the grandiloquence of his phrase and the monoto. nous pomp of his period may possess a certain consis