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ornamented and pleasing in his style than the Archbishop, and of equal purity and simplicity. SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE seems, like Montagne, to have poured his whole heart into his writings, and both his sentiments and diction possess a peculiar and indescribable charm. To the composition of no English author can the French term naïveté be more appositely applied; and to this engaging feature he has added a very great degree of heauty and melody in the arrangement of his sentences.
As an instance of the vivacious manner in which the impression of character is imparted to his style, I shall quote a short passage from his Observations on Gardening :
“ For my own part, as the country life, and this part of it more particularly (namely, gardening), were the inclination of my youth itself, so they are the pleasure of my age; and I can truly say, that among many great employments that have fallen to my share, I have never asked or sought for any one of them, but often endeavoured to escape from them, into the ease and freedom of a private scene, where a man may go his own way and his own pace, in the common paths or circles of life.
“ The measure of chusing well is, Whether a man likes what he has chosen, which, I thank God, has befallen me; and though among the follies of my life, building and planting have not been the least, and have cost me more than I have the confidence to own; yet they have been fully recompensed by the sweetness and satisfaction of this retreat, where, since my resolution taken of never entering again into any public employments, I have passed five years without ever going once to town, though I am almost in sight of it, and have a house there always ready to receive me. Nor has this been any sort of af. fectation, as some have thought it, but a meer want of desire or humour to make so small a remove; for when I am in this corner, I can truly say with Horace:
Me quoties reficit gelidus Digentia rivus,
* Miscellanea, part ii. p. 137, 138, 139, 140, 8vo, edit. 1705.
It is a difficult task in a writer who cultivates simplicity, to avoid occasionally deviating into a lax and feeble manner; nor are there wanting passages in the works of Sir William Temple which betray a remission and negligence of style. These, however, are not frequent, nor would it be doing him justice to quote them as detracting considerably from the merits of his general diction. We shall therefore select the following piece of criticism, as a fair example of his usual tone of composition :
“ Homer was, without dispute, the most universal genius that has been known in the world, and Virgil the most accomplished. To the first must be allowed the most fertile invention, the richest vein, the most general knowledge, and the most lively expression : to the last, the noblest ideas, the justest institution, the wisest conduct, and the choicest elocution. To speak in the painter's terms, we find in the works of Homier, the most spirit, force, and life; in those of Virgil, the best design, the truest proportions, and the greatest grace; the colouring in both seems equal, and, indeed, is in both admirable. Homer had more fire and rapture, Virgil more light and swiftness; or, at least, the poetical fire was more raging in one, but clearer in the other, which makes the first more amazing, and the latter more agreeable. The ore was heavier in one, but in the other more refined, and better al. layed to make up excellent work. Upon the whole, I think it must be confessed, that Homer was of the two, and perhaps of all others, the vastest, the sublimest, and the most wonderful genius; and that he has been generally so esteemed, there cannot be a greater testimony given, than what has been by some observed, that not only the greatest masters have found in his works the best and truest principles of all their sciences or arts, but that the noblest nations have derived from them the original, or their several races, though it be hardly yet agreed, whether his story be true, or fiction. In short, these two immortal poets must be allowed to have so much excelled in their kinds, as to have exceeded all comparison, to have even extinguished emulation, and in a manner confined true poetry, not only to their two languages, but to their very persons. And I am apt to believe so much of the true genius of poetry in general, and of its elevation in these two particulars, that I know not, whether of all the numbers of mankind, that live within the compass of a thousand years, for one man that is born capable of making such a poet as Homer or Virgil, there may not be a thousand born capable of making as great generals of ar
mies, or ministers of state, as any the most renowned in story *.”
We now approach an author of distinguished fame. DRYDEN, in prose as in verse, has attained to great excellence. No writer, indeed, seems to have studied the genius of our language with happier success. If in elegance and grammatical precision he has since been exceeded, to none need he give way, in point of vigour, variety, richness, and spirit. There is a raciness and a mellow tinting in his composition, which, with a felicitous selection of vernacular idiom, stamp upon his style a peculiar and pleasing originality.
“ His prose,” observes Congreve, “had all the clearness imaginable, together with all the nobleness of expression ; all the graces and ornaments proper and peculiar to it, without deviating into the language or diction of poetry. I make this observation only to distinguish his style from that of many poetical writers, who, meaning to write harmoniously in prose, do in truth often write mere blank verse.
“ I have heard him frequently own with pleasure, that if he had any talent for English prose, it was owing to his having often read the writings of the great Archbishop Tillotson."
To Tillotson, however, he is, in many respects, far superior; in fact, there is little similarity be
* Miscellanea, p. 320, 321, 322,