Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/470

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
455
PROSECUTION—PROSELYTE

a graceful sobriety, lucidity and exactitude of expression, could be secured to every practised French writer. He was not accepted as an infallible lawgiver, even in his own age; he was immediately exposed to the searching criticism of La Mothe le Vayer, who, however, was radically at one with him regarding the basis of his definition. The great demerit of the early academicians was that they knew little and cared less about the forms of medieval French. They thrust everything aside which they regarded as barbarous, and the work of the 19th century was to recover from a past behind Rabelais elements of great value which the 17th had arbitrarily rejected as “ incorrect.” In the succeeding centuries there has been a vast extension of the practice of French prose into every conceivable department of experience and observation, but in spite of all neologisms, and in spite of the waves of preciosity which have periodically swept over the French language in the three hundred years which divide the age of Somaize from that of Mallarmé, the treatise of Vaugelas remains the final code in which the laws that govern French prose are preserved.

Italy.—The case of prose in the Italian language has this unique feature that, instead of gathering form obscurely and slowly, it came into sudden existence at the will of one of the greatest of writers. Latin had almost universally been used in Italy until the close of the 13th century, when Dante created a vernacular prose in the non-metrical part of his famous Vita Nuova, written about 1293. For a long time the prose of Dante stood practically alone, and Petrarch actually affected to despise the works which his great predecessor had written in the vulgar tongue. But about 1348 Boccaccio started the composition of his Decameron, which gave classic form to the prose romance of Italy. There had been stories in the vernacular before, and Boccaccio himself had written the Filocopo and the Amato, but the Decameron marked the lines upon which easy and graceful Italian prose was to move for the future. It should have been greatly to the advantage of Italy over the other countries of Europe, that in the hands of Dante and Boccaccio prose was born full-grown, and had not to pass through the tedious periods of uncertain development which awaited it in England, France and Spain. After this brilliant beginning, however, there was a. decline in the 15th century, the writers of the next age lacking the courage to be independent of antiquity. There was a return to Latin phraseology which made many works almost macaroni in character; the famous Hypnerotornachia of Colonna is an instance of this. Something of the purity of Italian prose as Boccaccio had left it was recovered by Sannazaro in his Arcadia (1489) a pseudo-classical pastoral romance, the form of which was widely imitated throughout Europe; even Sannazaro, however, did not see how needful it was to cast off Latin constructions. At length a pair of historians, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, succeeded in releasing prose from the yoke of Rome, and in writing undiluted Tuscan. In the 16th century the prose writers of Italy became extremely prolific, with Pietro Bembo at their head. The novelists were now prominent, but, although they take a foremost place in the history of Italian literature, there was little art in their employment of language. Many of them were born out of Tuscany, and, like Bandello, never learned the exact rules of pure Italian prose. Since the 16th century Italian would seem to have undergone no radical changes as a language, and its prose has been stationary in form. At the close of the 19th century a new school of writers, with Gabriele d'Annunzio at its head, created a demand for a new prose, but it is significant that the remedy suggested by these innovators was neither more nor less than a return to the procedure of Boccaccio and Machiavelli, who remain the types of ease and dignity in Italian prose.

German.—The earliest coherent attempts at the creation of German prose belong to the age of Charlemagne, and the first example usually quoted is the Strassburger Eidschwüre of 842. For all literary purposes, however, metrical language was used exclusively during the mittelhochdeutsch period, which lasted until the end of the 13th century. What little prose there was, was limited to jurisprudence and theology. David of Augsburg, who died in 1272, is named as the earliest preacher in the vernacular, but only one of his sermons has come down to us. More important was Berthold “ the Sweet ” (1220–1272), whose sermons were discovered by Neander and published in 1824. Historical prose began with the Saxon Chronicle of 1248. There was little to record in the next two centuries, until prose was revived by Geiler von Kaisersburg (1445–1510) in his sermons. About the same time translations were made of the Decameron and of other Italian collections of novels. The development of prose in Germany is, however, negligible until we reach the Reformation, and it is Luther's Bible (New Testament, 1522), on which all classic German prose is based. This movement is due to Luther alone, since the other protagonists of reform wrote mainly in Latin. Johann Fischart composed important secular books in the vernacular, in particular the Bienenkorb (1579) and an imitation of Gargantua (1575), which is the earliest German novel. But nearly a century passes before we reach another prose work of real importance in the German vernacular, this being the curious picaresque romance of Simplicissimus (1669) of Grimmelshausen. But the neglect of prose by the German nation was still general, and is exemplified in the way by which men of the stamp of Leibnitz wrote in Latin and even in French, rather than in their own “ barbarous ” tongue. What Luther had done at the beginning of the 16th century was, however, completed and confirmed in the middle of the 18th by Lessing, who must be considered as the creator of modern German prose. The critical period in this revival was 1764 to 1768, which saw the production of Laocoon and the Hamburgische Drarnaturgie. We pass, on presently to Jean Paul Richter, and so to Goethe, in whose majestic hands German prose became the organ of thought and eloquence which it has been ever since.

Authorities.—John Earle, English Prose (London, 1890); C. Favre de Vaugelas, Remarques sur la langue française (Paris, 1647), Nouvelles remarques (Paris, 1690); T. Mundt, Kunst der deutschen Prosa (Berlin, 1837); J. W. Mackail, Latin Literature (London, 1895); James Fitzmaurice-Kelly, History of Spanish Literature (London, 1898); G. Vigfusson, various Prolegomena.  (E. G.) 


PROSECUTION, the procedure by which the law is put in motion to bring an accused person to trial (see CRIMINAL LAW; INDICTMENT; SUMMARY IURISDICTION, and TR1A1.). In theory in the United Kingdom the king is in all criminal offences the prosecutor, because such offences are said to be against his peace, his crown and dignity, but in practice such prosecutions are ordinarily undertaken by the individuals who have suffered from the crime. This is a different procedure from that prevailing in Scotland, European continental countries and the United States, in all of which a public department or officer undertakes the prosecution of oftences. A step towards public prosecution was taken in England by the Prosecution of Ofiences Act (1879), under which an oiicer called the “Director of Public Prosecutions ” was appointed; in 1884 the Prosecution of Offences Act of that year revoked the appointment made under the act of 1879, and constituted the solicitor to the Treasury Director of Public Prosecutions. The Prosecution of Offences Act (1908) separated the two offices again, making the public prosecutor independent of the treasury, but putting him under the control of the Home Office. The duty of the public prosecutor is to institute, undertake or carry on criminal proceedings in any court and to give advice and assistance to persons concerned in such proceedings. The appointment of such an officer, according to the act of 1908, does not preclude any person from instituting or carrying on criminal procee dings, but the public prosecutor may at any stage undertake the conduct of these proceedings if he thinks fit (s. 2, par. 3).

A person to be qualified for the post of public prosecutor must be a barrister or solicitor of not less than ten years' standing, and an assistant public prosecutor, who may be appointed under the act of 1908 and who is empowered to do any act or thing which the public prosecutor is required or authorized to do, must be a barrister or solicitor of not less than seven years' standing. See also Lord Advocate.


PROSELYTE (Gr. προσήλυτος), strictly one that has arrived (=Lat. advena), a stranger or sojourner, a term now practically restricted to converts from one religion to another. It