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worms; and this will fall heaviest upon the poor, who live upon roots, and the weak and sickly, who live upon barley and rice-gruel, &c. For which we are ready to produce to your Honours the opinions of eminent physicians, that the taste and property of the victuals is much altered to the worse by the said solar cookery, fricassées being deprived of the haut goût they acquired by being dressed over charcoal.
Lastly, Should it happen, by an eclipse of an extraordinary length, that this city should be deprived of the sun-beams for several months; how will his Majesty's subjects subsist in the interim, when common cookery, with the arts depending upon it, is totally lost? In consideration of these, and many other inconveniences,
your petitioners humbly pray, that your Honours would either totally prohibit the confining and manufacturing the sun-beams for any of the useful purposes of life, or, in the ensuing parliament, procure a tax to be laid upon them, which may answer both the duty and price of coals, and which we humbly conceive cannot be less than thirty shillings per yard square; reserving the sole right and privilege of the catoptrical cookery to the royal society, and to the commanders and crews of the bomb-vessels under the direction of Mr. Whiston for finding out the longitude, who, by reason of the remoteness of their stations, may be reduced to straits for want of firing
3. ENGLISH STYLE.
(From A Letter to a Young Clergyman.) I could likewise have been glad, if you had applied yourself a little more to the study of the English language than I fear you have done; the neglect whereof is one of the most general defects among the scholars of this kingdom, who seem not to have the least conception of a style, but run on in a flat kind of phraseology, often mingled with barbarous terms and expressions peculiar to the nation; neither, do I perceive that any person either finds or acknowledges his wants upon this head, or in the least desires to have them supplied. Proper words in proper places make the true definition of a style. But this would require too ample a disquisition to be now dwelt on. However, I shall venture to name one or two faults, which are easy to be remedied with a very small portion of abilities.
The first is the frequent use of obscure terms, which by the women are called hard words, and by the better sort of vulgar, fine language; than which I do not know a more universal, inexcusable, and unnecessary mistake, among the clergy of all distinctions, but especially the younger practitioners. I have been curious enough to take a list of several hundred words in a sermon of a new beginner, which not one of his hearers amongst a hundred could possibly understand: Neither can I easily call to mind any clergyman of my own acquaintance who is wholly exempt from this error, although many of them agree with me in the dislike of the thing. But I am apt to put myself in the place of the vulgar, and think many words difficult or obscure, which the preacher will not allow to be so, because those words are obvious to scholars. I believe the method observed by the famous Lord Falkland, in some of his writings, would not be an ill one for young divines: I was assured by an old person of quality, who knew him well, that when he doubted whether a word were perfectly intelligible or not, he used to consult one of his lady's chambermaids, not the waitingwoman, because it was possible she might be conversant in romances), and by her judgment was guided whether to receive or reject it. And if that great person thought such a caution necessary, in treatises offered to the learned world, it will be sure at least as proper in sermons, where the meanest hearer is supposed to be concerned, and where very often a lady's chambermaid may be allowed to equal half the congregation, both as to quality and understanding. But I know not how it comes to pass, that professors in most arts and sciences are generally the worst qualified to explain their meanings to those who are not of their tribe. A common farmer shall make you understand, in three words, that his foot is out of joint or his collar-bone broken; wherein a surgeon, after a hundred terms of art, if you are not a scholar, shall leave you to seek. It is frequently the same case in law, physic, and even many of the meaner arts.
It would be endless to run over the several defects of style among us: I shall therefore say nothing of the mean and the paltry, (which are usually attended by the fustian,) much less of the slovenly or indecent. Two things I will just warn you against the first is, the frequency of flat unnecessary epithets; and the other is, the folly of using old thread-bare phrases, which will often make you go out of your way to find and apply them, are nauseous to rational
hearers, and will seldom express your meaning as well as your own natural words.
Although, as I have already observed, our English tongue is too little cultivated in this, kingdom, yet the faults are nine in ten owing to affectation, and not to the want of understanding. When a man's thoughts are clear, the properest words will generally offer themselves first; and his own judgment will direct him in what order to place them, so as they may be best understood. Where men err against this method, it is usually on purpose, and to show their learning, their oratory, their politeness, or their knowledge of the world. In short, that simplicity, without which no human performance can arrive to any great perfection, is no where more eminently useful than in this.
I cannot forbear warning you, in the most earnest manner, against endeavouring at wit in your sermons; because, by the strictest computation, it is very near a million to one that you have none; and because too many of your calling have consequently made themselves everlastingly ridiculous by attempting it. I remember several young men in this town, who could never leave the pulpit under half-a-dozen conceits; and this faculty adhered to those gentlemen a longer or shorter time, exactly in proportion to their several degrees of dulness: Accordingly, I am told that some of them retain it to this day. I heartily wish the brood were at an end.
4. ON THE DEATH OF DR. SWIFT.
Written in November, 1731.
Occasioned by reading the following MAXIM in ROCHEFOUCAULT: »Dans l'adversité de nos meilleurs amis nous trouvons toujours quelque chose qui ne nous déplait pas«. „In the adversity of our best friends we always find something that does not displease us.
The time is not remote when I
Will never leave him till he's dead.
»For poetry, he's past his prime;
And then their tenderness appears
In such a case they talk in tropes, And by their fears express their hopes. Some great misfortune to portend, No enemy can match a friend. With all the kindness they profess, The merit of a lucky guess — When daily how-d'ye's come of course, And servants answer, » Worse and worsels Would please them better than to tell, That, »God be praised! the dean is wella. Then he, who prophesied the best, Approves his foresight to the rest:
» You know I always feared the worst,
My good companions, never fear;
Suppose me dead; and then suppose A club assembled at the Rose, Where, from discourse of this and that, I grow the subject of their chat:
> The dean, if we believe report,
all one to him.«