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ENGLISH OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY




 

1.Queen Victoria's Answer to an Address.--Example written in 1837.

"I thank you for your condolence upon the death of his late Majesty, for the justice which you render to his character, and to the measures of his reign, and for your warm congratulations upon my accession to the throne. I join in your prayers for the prosperity of my reign, the best security for which is to be found in reverence for our holy religion, and in the observance of its duties."--VICTORIA, to the Friends' Society.

2.From President Adams's Eulogy on Lafayette.--Written in 1834.

"Pronounce him one of the first men of his age, and you have yet not done him justice. Try him by that test to which he sought in vain to stimulate the vulgar and selfish spirit of Napoleon; class him among the men who, to compare and seat themselves, must take in the compass of all ages; turn back your eyes upon the records of time; summon from the creation of the world to this day the mighty dead of every age and every clime; and where, among the race of merely mortal men, shall one be found, who, as the benefactor of his kind, shall claim to take precedence of Lafayette?"--JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.

3.From President Jackson's Proclamation against Nullification.--1832.

"No, we have not erred! The Constitution is still the object of our reverence, the bond of our Union, our defence in danger, the source of our prosperity in peace. It shall descend, as we have received it, uncorrupted by sophistical construction, to our posterity: and the sacrifices of local interest, of State prejudices, of personal animosities, that were made to bring it into existence, will again be patriotically offered for its support."--ANDREW JACKSON.

4.From a Note on one of Robert Hall's Sermons.--Written about 1831.

"After he had written down the striking apostrophe which occurs at about page 76 of most of the editions--'Eternal God! on what are thine enemies intent! what are those enterprises of guilt and horror, that, for the safety of their performers, require to be enveloped in a darkness which the eye of Heaven must not penetrate!'--he asked, 'Did I say penetrate, sir, when I preached, it?' 'Yes.' 'Do you think, sir, I may venture toalter it? for no man who considered the force of the English language, would use a word of three syllables there, but from absolute necessity.' 'You are doubtless at liberty to alter it, if you think well.' 'Then be so good, sir, as to take your pencil, and for penetrate put pierce; pierce is the word, sir, and the only word to be used there.'"--OLINTHUS GREGORY.

5.King William's Answer to an Address.--Example written in 1830.

"I thank you sincerely for your condolence with me, on account of the loss which I have sustained, in common with my people, by the death of my lamented brother, his late Majesty. The assurances which you have conveyed to me, of loyalty and affectionate attachment to my person, are very gratifying to my feelings. You may rely upon my favour and protection, and upon my anxious endeavours to promote morality and true piety among all classes of my subjects."--WILLIAM IV, to the Friends.

6.Reign of George IV, 1830 back to 1820.--Example written in 1827.

"That morning, thou, that slumbered[48] not before, Nor slept, great Ocean I laid thy waves to rest, And hushed thy mighty minstrelsy. No breath Thy deep composure stirred, no fin, no oar; Like beauty newly dead, so calm, so still, So lovely, thou, beneath the light that fell From angel-chariots sentinelled on high, Reposed, and listened, and saw thy living change, Thy dead arise. Charybdis listened, and Scylla; And savage Euxine on the Thracian beach Lay motionless: and every battle ship Stood still; and every ship of merchandise, And all that sailed, of every name, stood still." ROBERT POLLOK: Course of Time, Book VII, line 634-647.

"There is, it will be confessed, a delicate sensibility to character, a sober desire of reputation, a wish to possess the esteem of the wise and good, felt by the purest minds, which is at the farthest remove from arrogance or vanity. The humility of a noble mind scarcely dares approve of itself, until it has secured the approbation of others. Very different is that restless desire of distinction, that passion for theatrical display, which inflames the heart and occupies the whole attention of vain men. * * * The truly good man is jealous over himself, lest the notoriety of his best actions, by blending itself with their motive, should diminish their value; the vain man performs the same actions for the sake of that notoriety. The good man quietly discharges his duty, and shuns ostentation; the vain man considers every good deed lost that is not publickly displayed. The one is intent upon realities, the other upon semblances: the one aims to be virtuous, the other to appear so."--ROBERT HALL: Sermon on Modern Infidelity.

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and publick felicity. Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of a peculiar structure; reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."--GEORGE WASHINGTON.

"That he always wrote as he would think it necessary to write now, cannot be affirmed; his instructions were such as the character of his readers made proper. That general knowledge which now circulates in common talk, was in his time rarely to be found. Men not professing learning, were not ashamed of ignorance; and in the female world, any acquaintance with books was distinguished only to be censured. His purpose was to infuse literary curiosity, by gentle and unsuspected conveyance, into the gay, the idle, and the wealthy; he therefore presented knowledge in the most alluring form, not lofty and austere, but accessible and familiar. When he shewed them their defects, he shewed them likewise that they might easily be supplied. His attempt succeeded; inquiry was awakened, and comprehension expanded. An emulation of intellectual elegance was excited, and from this time to our own, life has been gradually exalted, and conversation purified and enlarged."--SAMUEL JOHNSON: Lives, p. 321.

Reign of George II, 1760 back to 1727.--Example written in 1751.

"We Britons in our time have been remarkable borrowers, as our multiform Language may sufficiently shew. Our Terms in polite Literature prove, that this came from Greece; our terms in Music and Painting, that these came from Italy; our Phrases in Cookery and War, that we learnt these from the French; and our phrases in Navigation, that we were taught by the Flemings and Low Dutch. These many and very different Sources of our Language may be the cause, why it is so deficient in Regularity and Analogy. Yet we have this advantage to compensate the defect, that what we want in Elegance, we gain in Copiousness, in which last respect few Languages will be found superior to our own."--JAMES HARRIS: Hermes, Book iii, Ch. v, p. 408.

Reign of George I, 1727 back to 1714.--Example written about 1718.

"There is a certain coldness and indifference in the phrases of our European languages, when they are compared with the Oriental forms of speech: and it happens very luckily, that the Hebrew idioms ran into the English tongue, with a particular grace and beauty. Our language has received innumerable elegancies and improvements from that infusion of Hebraisms, which are derived to it out of the poetical passages in holy writ. They give a force and energy to our expressions, warm and animate our language, and convey our thoughts in more ardent and intense phrases, than any that are to be met with in our tongue."--JOSEPH

ADDISON: Evidences, p. 192.

Reign of Queen Anne, 1714 to 1702.--Example written in 1708.

"Some by old words to Fame have made pretence, Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their sense; Such labour'd nothings, in so strange a style, Amaze th' unlearn'd, and make the learned smile." "In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold; Alike fantastick, if too new or old: Be not the first by whom the new are try'd, Nor yet the last to lay the old aside." ALEXANDER POPE: Essay on Criticism, l. 324-336.

 





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