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Elegance, which is commonly considered as another property of expression, as far as it is distinct from the general result of the properties already enumerated, arises chiefly from a careful exclusion of those terms and phrases, which general opinion and taste have pronounced vulgar; and from such a regulated variety in the structure of sentences and periods, as prevents every appearance of negligence. Such words or phrases as are excluded from the conversation or writing of people of good breeding and polite education, and such slovenly modes of expression as would imply a want of respect for the reader, can have no place in elegant works of taste. That kind of elegance which arises from metaphors, and other figures, though commonly considered as belonging to language, is, in fact, not so much the result of the writer's manner of expression, as of his turn of thinking.
The same remark may be applied to several other properties of good writing, such as Simplicity, Vivacity, Strength, Dignity. These and other terms, made use of to express the excellencies of Style, are, in reality, characters of good writing which depend upon the thought as well as the diction. When, on the contrary, it is said, that a writer's style is vulgar, feeble, obscure, dry, or florid, the faults, which these epithets are intended to express, arise from certain defects in the writer's powers or habits of thinking, which have an anfavourable influence upon his language. An author's style is the manner in which he writes, as a painter's style is the manner in which he paints: in both conception and expression are equally concerned. No one is able to write in a good style, who has not learned to think well, to arrange his thoughts methodically, and to express them with propriety.
These and other properties of Thought, Disposition, and Language, in writing concerning which, as well as upon the peculiar characters of the several kinds of literary composi tion, many writers have treated at large *—while they afford ample scope for the display of Genius, also furnish an extensive field for the exercise of Criticism.
* See Lord Kames's Elements of Criticism; Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric; Blair's Lectures on the Belles Lettres; and Critical Essays in the Spectator, Rambler, &c.
The clear result of the preceding remarks is, that young persons should be early introduced to an acquaintance with Polite Literature, in order to exercise their imagination, and form their taste. Selections from the best writers may at first be of use, in directing their attention to such passages, as are most likely to make a strong impression upon the fancy, and best worth being committed to memory. But it should be recollected, that such selections are intended to excite, not to satisfy, juvenile curiosity. Great care should be taken to introduce young people, before the first impression is vanished, to an intimate acquaintance with the Original Authors, and to give them a relish for the regular perusal and study of their works.
The value of a taste for this kind of reading is much greater than is commonly perceived. In solitude, the elegant entertainment which it affords is an effectual security against the intrusion of idleness and spleen. In society, it provides innumerable topics of conversation, which afford ample scope for the display of judgment and taste, and which might, without much diminution of social enjoyment, supply the place of certain fashionable amusements. By furnishing the mind with elevated conceptions, and refined sentiments, it renders it superior to gross and vulgar pleasures. In fine, while science enriches the understanding, the study of polite literature cultivates the taste, and improves the heart; and both unite, to form the Accomplished and Happy Man.
To be ever active in laudable pursuits, is the distinguishing
characteristic of a man of merit.
There is a heroic innocence, as well as a heroic courage. There is a mean in all things. Even virtue itself has it's stated limits; which not being strictly observed, it ceases to be virtue.
It is wiser to prevent a quarrel beforehand, than to revenge it afterward.
It is much better to reprove, than to be angry secretly. No revenge is more heroic, than that which torments envy, by doing good.
The discretion of a man deferreth his anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.
Money, like manure, does no good till it is spread. There is no real use of riches, except in the distribution: the rest is all conceit.
A wise man will desire no more than what he may get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully, and live upon contentedly.
A contented mind, and a good conscience, will make a man happy in all conditions. He knows not how to fear, who dares to die.
There is but one way of fortifying the soul against all gloomy presages and terrours of mind; and that is, by securing to ourselves the friendship and protection of that Being, who disposes of events, and governs futurity.
Philosophy is then only valuable, when it serves for the law of life, and not for the ostentation of science.
WITHOUT a friend the world is but a wilderness.
A man may have a thousand intimate acquaintances, and not a friend among them all. If you have one friend, think yourself happy.
When once you profess yourself a friend, endeavour to be always such. He can never have any true friends, that will be often changing them.
Prosperity gains friends, and adversity tries them. Nothing more engages the affections of men, than a handsome address, and graceful conversation.
Complaisance renders a superior amiable, an equal agreeable, and an inferior acceptable.
Excess of ceremony shows want of breeding. That civility is best, which excludes all superfluous formality.
Ingratitude is a crime so shameful, that the man was never yet found, who would acknowledge himself guilty of it.
Truth is born with us; and we must do violence to nature, to shake off our veracity.
There cannot be a greater treachery, than first to raise a confidence, and then deceive it.
By the faults of others wise men correct their own. No man has a thorough taste of prosperity, to whom adversity never happened.
When our vices leave us, we flatter ourselves that we leave them.
It is as great a point of wisdom to hide ignorance, as to discover knowledge.
Pitch upon that course of life which is the most excellent, and habit will render it the most delightful.