Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 128.djvu/727

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of the results obtained. The fitness of English for prose composition will hardly be questioned, though it may be contended with justice that perhaps in no other language has the average merit of its prose been so far below the excellence of its most perfect specimens. But the resources which in the very beginning of the practice of original composition in fully organized English could produce the splendid and thoughtful, if quaint and cumbrous, embroideries of "Euphues" and the linked sweetness of the "Arcadia," which could give utterance to the symphonies of Browne and Milton, which could furnish and suffice for the matchless simplicity of Bunyan, the splendid strength of Swift, the transparent clearness of Middleton and Berkeley, the stately architecture of Gibbon, are assuredly equal to the demands of any genius that may arise to employ them.

It is therefore the plain duty of every critic to assist at least in impressing upon the mass of readers that they do not receive what they ought to receive from the mass of writers, and in suggesting a multiplication and tightening of the requirements which a prosaist must fulfil. There are some difficulties in the way of such impression and suggestion in the matter of style. It is not easy for the critic to escape being bidden, in the words of Nicholas Breton, "not to talk too much of it, having so little of it," or to avoid the obvious jest of Diderot on Beccaria, that he had written an "ouvrage sur le style, où il n'y a point de style." For, unluckily, fault-finding is an ungracious business, and in criticising prose as prose the criticism has to be mostly fault-finding, the pleasanter if even harder task of discriminating appreciation being as a rule withheld from the critic. But I can see no reason why this state of things should continue, and I know no Utopia which ought to be more speedily rendered topic, than that in which at least the same censure which is now incurred by a halting verse, a discordant rhyme, or a clumsy stanza, should be accorded to a faultily-arranged clause, to a sentence of inharmonious cadence, to a paragraph of irregular and ungraceful architecture.

From Blackwood's Magazine.


"Holloa! Betty is gorgeous! Isn't she? Rather!"

Rude boy!

Will the day ever dawn when brothers will be heard to speak as befits their humble station? Will sisters ever succeed in extracting from those chubby lips anything approaching to respectful language? Will Beatrix ever prevail with Tom?

We should say not.

To begin with, Bee is half-hearted about it. When there is no one else present, no spectator to see, no auditor to hear, she is ready to be Bet, Betty, Bee, anything and everything the boys choose to call her. She assists in their projects, overlooks their shortcomings, stand in the breach when the schoolroom revolts from the dining-room, and is a useful, humble, and efficient companion.

But down-stairs the scene changes.

Beatrix expects to be Beatrix.

She would, when there, fain exact from Jack, Tom, and Charlie, a degree of subservience, and likewise an amount of reticence, which the poor lads do not understand, and are not disposed to submit to. She thinks it mean of Charlie to tell aloud that she has been galloping barebacked on the pony all the afternoon, and frowns him down accordingly; whereas poor Charlie regards it as a feat worthy of mention, and wonders what his sister would be at!

Or Jack is the delinquent, he complains, in no undertones certainly, that Betty had forgotten to send his macintosh to be dried, after wearing it out in the rain. He did not mind her taking the macintosh, but she ought to have sent it to the kitchen when she came in.

Jack has a generous nature, and his complaint is just. It is therefore perfectly incomprehensible to him that Bee should crimson up to the eyes, as she gracefully lounges over her embroidery by Lady Adela's side, and that she should seize the moment when they meet alone in the gallery afterwards, to reproach him for his rudeness and stupidity.

Had he grudged her the use of his coat? Had he not gone without, himself, and got drenched, and never said a word about it? It is too bad to find fault with him for only wishing to have it dried; she knew they were going out in the boat after dinner, and that was why he cared; and if she did the same thing again, he would just hide the macintosh, and that was all about it.

Beatrix cannot make them comprehend.

She has only been emancipated from schoolroom bondage a few months ago,