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up at once, and either embalmed as a proverb, or frequently employed as a new idiom. The power of originating forcible or beautiful expressions is a rare gift, and he who exercises it well is a public benefactor. Such writers as Walter Savage Landor and Ralph Waldo Emerson have thus enlarged the verbal machinery of a people. "Murder will out" is a modern proverb. "The sum of all villainies" was origi nated by John Wesley. What may be termed modern idioms are many of them metaphors drawn from occupations, customs, or modes of action common in these times, and, in proportion to their character and use, may be regarded as degraded or honorable. A few instances will illustrate our meaning.
So critical a writer as Thomas de Quincey, in an article on "Homer and the Homerida," writes: "As if it were possible that a coarse, clumsy hulk like the ship Argo, at which no possible Newcastle collier but would have sneezed, could obtain an everlasting mem ory in the starry heavens!"
So the Rev. F. D. Maurice, an accurate and vigorous writer, uses such expressions as, "He has not a right to say that he has found a man that will run in the same team with Sir William Hamilton;" "You and I are not school-men, we are roughing it in the world." 54. How much should these Idioms and Proverbs be employed?-The taste must not be cultivated to such a squeamishness as to sacrifice all strength of thought. Jefferson maintained that grammatical accuracy might be surrendered for independence and vigor. It can not be denied that some modern grammarians would
refine all vigor out of speech. We can not afford to ostracize all the idioms and proverbs and nervous expressions of our mother-tongue, and we should not be shocked at new ones.
An anecdote illustrating this subject is related by Jefferson, describing the criticisms that were made on his original draft of the Declaration of Independence by the Congress of 1776, which debated three days before adopting the paper.
“I was,” says Mr. Jefferson, “sitting by Dr. Franklin, who perIceived that I was not insensible to the mutilations. 'I have made it a rule,' said Dr. Franklin, whenever in my power, to avoid becoming the draftsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body. I took my lesson from an incident which I will relate to you. When I was a journeyman printer, one of my companions, an apprentice hatter, having served out his time, was about to open shop for himself. His first concern was to have a handsome sign-board, with a proper inscription. He composed it in these words: "John Thompson, hatter, makes and sells hats for ready money," with a figure of a hat subjoined. But he thought he would submit it to his friends for their amendments. The first he showed it to thought the word hatter tautologous, because followed by the words makes hats, which showed he was a hatter. It was struck out. The next observed that the word makes might as well be omitted, because his customers would not care who made the hats; if good, and to their mind, they would buy. He struck it out. A third said he thought the words for ready money were useless, as it was not the custom of the place to sell on credit. They were parted with. The sign now stood: "John Thompson sells hats." "Sells hats!" says his next friend; "why nobody will expect you to give them away; what then is the use of that word ?" It was stricken out, and then "hats" followed, as there was one painted on the board. So his inscription was reduced ultimately to "John Thompson," with the figure of a hat subjoined."
55. Good Taste should be our Guide.-Good taste and sound judgment will be required to teach when to use, if ever, the vigorous expressions originating among the people which for a long time wear the garb of
vulgarity, such as to "flash in the pan," to "pull up stakes," to "fizzle out," to "cotton." The changes which gradually take place in language usually originate among those who are least trammelled by law and precedent.
56. The indefinable idiomatic Character of every Language.-Every language has not only a peculiar stock of idioms, but also its own peculiar way of expressing thought; wherefore to translate a forcible and idiomatic production into another language is very difficult. It is seldom that one man obtains an extensive command over the idioms of more than one language.
57. Changes in Language.—As we have shown, in our examination of words, languages are constantly changing. A writer in the Westminster Review well remarks: "Dictionaries contain only selections from the language; the number of words in them by no means rendering them worthy to be considered collections of the language. The English of grammars and schools is but a chosen portion of an existing whole. In fact, the English language, as learned by foreigners, is by no means the language of England."
That is true; and still more forcibly may we say, that the English language, as learned out of a few elementary books, is not the language of the United States of America. The people of America would be no better than dead men if they did not change the language which they use. Whatever is alive grows, and throws off effete matter. A living language grows in idioms and figures, as well as in words, and discards what is useless. And yet no sooner does a vig
orous original writer in America appear, than some foreign critics, and their American imitators, charge him with using "Americanisms," as though it were an offense. He does use Americanisms, or he belongs to the class of imitators-always a feeble and contemptible class. The English writer should use Anglicisms, and the American writer Americanisms, and every man should speak out what is in him in a free and independent manner; thus showing that the climax of power is not yet reached, and that those who now live are not mere echo repeaters of the past, or of each other. As has been well said by Buffon:
"To write well is at once to think well, to feel rightly, and render properly; it is to have, at the same time, mind, soul, taste. Style supposes the reunion and the exercise of all the intellectual faculties. The style is the man."
Such are the last words of Buffon's "Maxims." Southey speaks of the same subject in the following passage, from one of his familiar letters:
"A man with a clear head, a good heart, and an honest understanding, will always write well. It is owing either to a muddy head, an evil heart, or a sophisticated intellect that men write badly, and sin either against reason, or goodness, or sincerity. There may be secrets in painting, but there are none in style. When I have been asked the foolish question, what a young man should do who wishes to acquire a good style, my answer has been, that he should never think about it, but say what he has to say as perspicuously as he can, and as briefly as he can, and then the style will take care of itself."
The last direction is a little too sweeping for a student. Still it is true that a man can not write vigorously unless he forgets the rules of style in the fever or strong passion of composition. The time to remember the rules is when forming habits of style, and when criticising and amending productions after they are written.
EFFORTS TO COMMAND A GOOD STYLE. 237
HOW TO ACQUIRE A GOOD STYLE.
58. General Principle.-IF a youth of ordinary intelligence were asked how in his opinion he might make himself an accomplished mechanic, or machinist, or painter, or sculptor, he would promptly answer: "By studying the science, by receiving instruction from expert practitioners, by thoroughly examining the best specimens of workmanship, and by continual careful practice." This is felt to be true, and it is only by such a process that any one can become a good speaker or writer.
Some persons have a natural fluency and ease in communicating their thoughts, both by speech and by writing. The poets Pope and Watts, and many others, wrote verses while they were yet, according to common law, to be regarded as infants. Others, who have become equally eminent afterward, wrote at first with great difficulty, and not till they had reached maturer years. The best writers and ablest speakers have devoted great labor (consciously or unconsciously) to the improvement of their style.
59. Efforts of Gibbon to command a good Style.— That ripe scholar and profound historian, Gibbon, the author of the "Decline and Fall of the Roman Em