« PreviousContinue »
I.- On Grace in Writing.-FITZOSBORNE'S LETTENS,
I will not undertake to mark out, with any sort of precision, that idea which I would express by the word Grace ; and perhaps it can no more be clearly described, than justly defined. To give you, however, a general intimation of what I mean, when I apply that term to compositions of genius, I would resemble it to that easy air, which so remarkably distinguishes certain persons of a genteel and liberal cast. It consists not only in the particular beauty of single parts, but arises from the general symmetry and construction of the whole.An author may be just in his sentiments, lively in his figures, and clear in his expression ; yet may have no claim to be admitied into the rank of finished writers. The several members must be so agreeably united, as mutually to reflecibeauty upon each other; their arrangeincnt must be so happy disposed, as not to admit of ihe lcast transposition without manifes: prejudice to the eniLire piece. The thoughts, the metaphors, the allusions and the diction, should appear easy and natural, and seem to arise like so many spontaneous productions, rather than as the effects of art or labor.
Whatever, therefore, is forced or affected in the seniments ;-- whatever is pompous or pedantic in the expression, is the very reverse of Grace. Her inein is neither that of a prude nor a coquette ; she is regular with out formality, and sprightly without being fantastical. Grace, in short, is to good writing, what a proper light is to a fine picture : It not only shows all the figures in their several proportions and relations, but shows them in the most advantageous manner.
As gentility (to resume my former illustration) appears in the minutest action, and improves the most in. considerablc gesture; so grace is discovered in the plac
ing even a single word, or the turn of a mere expletive. Neither is this inexpressible quality confined to one species of composition only, but extends to all the various kinds ;--to the humble pastoral, as well as to the lofty epic ;--from the slightest letter, to the most solemn discourse.
I know not whether Sir William Temple may not be considered as the first of our prose authors, who introduced a graceful manner into our language. At least that quality does not seem to have appeared early, or spread far amongst us. But wheresoever we may look for its origin, it is certainly to be found in its highest perfection, in the essays of a gentleman, whose writings will be distinguished so long as politeness and good sense have any admirers. That becoming air, which Tully esteemed the criterion of fine composition, and which every reader, he says, imagines so easy to be imitated, yet will find so difficult to attain, is the prevailing characteristic of all that excellent author's most elegant
performances. In a word, one nay justly apply to him e what Plato, in his allegorical language, says of Aristo.
phanes, that the graces, having searched all the world round for a temple, wherein they might forever dwell, settled at last in the breast of Mr. Addison.
II.--On the Structure of Animals.--SPECTATOR,
THOSE who were skilful in anatomy among the ancients, concluded from the outward and inward make of a human body, that it was the work of a being transcendantly wise and powerful. As the world grew more enlightened in this art, their discoveries gave them fresh opportunities of admiring the conduct of Provi. dence, in the formation of a human body. Galen was converted by his dissections, and could not but own a Supreme Being upon a survey of his handy work. There were, indeed, many parts of which the old anatomists did not know the certain use ; but as they saw,that most of those which they examined, were adapled with admirable art, to their several functions, they did not ques. tion but those, whose uses they could not determine, were contrived with the same wisdom, for respective ends and purposes. Since the circulation of the blood has been found out, and many other great discoveries have been made by our modern anatomists, we see new wonders in the human frame, and discern several important uses for those parts, which uses the ancientsknew nothing of. In short, the body of man is such a subject,as stands the utmost test of examination. Though it appears formed with the picest wisdom, upon the most superficial survey of it, it still mends upon the search,and producesour surprise and amazement,in proportion as we pry into it. What I have here said of a hu. man body, may be applied to the body of every animal which has been the subject of anatomical observations.
The body of an animal is an object adequate to our senses. It is a particular system of Providence, that lies in a narrow compass. The eye is able to command it ; and, by successive inquiries, can search into all its parts. Could the body of the whole earth, or indeed the whole úniverse, be thus submitted to the examination of our senses, were it not too big and disproportioned for our inquiries, too unwieldy for the management of the eye and hand, there is no question but it would appear to us, as curious and well contrived a frame as that of a human body. We should see the same concatenation and sube serviercy, the same necessity and usefulness, the same beauty and harmony, in all and every of its parts, as what we discover in the body of every single animal.
The more extended our reason is, and the more able to grapple with immense objects, the greater still are those, discoveries which it makes of wisdom and prov. idence, in the works of creation. A Sir Isaac Newton, who stands up as the miracle of the present age, can look through a whole planetary system ; consider it in its weight, number and measure ; and draw from it as many demonstrations of infinite power and wisdom, asa more confined understanding is able to deduce from the system of a human body.
But to return to our speculations on anatomy, I shall here consider the fabric and texture of the bodies of an. imals in one particular view, which, in my opinion, shows the hand of a thinking and all wise Being in their
formation, with the evidence of a thousand demonstrations. I think we may lay this down as an incontested principle, thatchance never acts in a perpetual uniformity and consistence with itself
. If one should always fling the same number with ten thousand dice, or see every throw just five times less, or five times more, in number, than the throw which immediately preceded it, who would not imagine there was some invisible power which directed the cast ? This is the proceeding which we find in the operations of nalure. Every kind of an. imal is diversified by different magnitudes,each of which gives rise to different species. Let a man trace the dog or lion kind, and he will observe how many of the works of nature are published, if I may use the expres. sion, in a variety of editions. If we look into the reptile world, or into those different kinds of animals that fill the element of water, we meet with the same repe. Litions among several species, that differ very little from one another, but in size and bulk. You find the same creature that is drawn at large, copied out in several proportions, and ending in miniature. It would be te. dious to produce instances of this regular conduct in Providence, as it would be superfluous to those who are versed in the natural history of animals. The magnifi. cent harmony of the universe is such, that we may observe innumerable divisions running upon the same ground. I might also extend this speculation to the dead parts of nature, which we may find mailer disposed into many simular systems,as well in our survey of stars and plannets, as of stones, vegetables, and other sublunary parts of the creation. In a word, Providence has shown the richness of its goodness and wisdom, not only in the production of many original species, but in the multiplicity of descants which it has made on every original species in particular,
But to pursue this thought still farther. Every live ing creature, considered in itself, has many very complicated parts, that are exact copies of some nther parts which it possesses, which are complicated in the same manner. One eye would have been sufficient for the subsistence and preservation of an animal ; but in order 10
better his condition, we see another placed, with a mathematical exactness,in the same most advantageous situation, and in every particular, of the same size and tex. ture. It is impossible for chance to be thus delicate and uniform in her operations, Should a million of dice turn up twice together in the same number,the wonder would be nothing in comparison with this. But when we see this similitude and resemblance in the arm, the hand, the fingers ; when we see one half of the body entirely correspond with the other, in all those minute strokes, without which a man might have very well sub. sisted ; nay, when we often see a single part repeated an hundred times in the same body,notwithstanding it consists of the most intricate weaving of numberless fibres, and these parts differing still in magnitude, as the convenience of their particular situation requires ; sure a man must have a strange cast of understanding, who does not discover the finger of God, in so wonderful work. These duplicates, in those parts of the body, without which a man might have very well subsisted, though not so well as with them, are a plain demonstration of an all wise Contriver; as those more numerous copyings, which are found among the vessels of the same body, are evident demonstrations that they could not be the work of chance. This argument receives additional strength if we apply it to every animal and insect within our knowledge, as well as to those numberless living creatures, that are objects too minute for a human eye : And if we consider how the several species in this whole world of life resemble one another, in very many par. ticulars,so far as is convenient for their respective states of existence, it is much more probable that an hundred million of dice should be casually thrown an hundred million of times in the same number, than that the body of any single animal should be produced by the fortui. tous concourse of matter. And that the like chance should arise in innumerable instances, requires a degree of credulity that is not under the direction of common sense.