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cries, "Who goes there?" but ideas cannot go about naked. When long settled in a foreign country they sometimes adopt its fashions of speech, but on the whole they are tenacious of their national costume, which is certainly the one that best becomes them. Generally, therefore, they carry with them, wherever they go, the whole of their apparel; for ideas are privileged travellers whose equipage pays no toll at any custom-house, and in their service many a contraband word has safely crossed the most vigilantly guarded frontiers. Thus, the dissolute German Lansquenet has for centuries been a naturalized Frenchman, and the French Caporal a trusty German soldier. Even when the two nations quarrelled with each other, their hostile camps gave reciprocal hospitality to emigrants of this sort. Throughout the last Franco-German war, Teutonic havresacs were carried upon Gallic backs; the French Veguemestre occasionally shot his German cousin, the Wachmeister; the French word marche set German regiments in movement, and the German word halte was obeyed by French troops who received it as a command from the lips of their own officers.
Έπεα πτερόεντα ! What wonder that words have been called winged? For they fit from land to land, and build their nests now here, now there, yet everywhere make themselves at home in spite of their foreign feathers. The swallow is not an English bird; there is no English bird that resembles him; and yet not one of our English birds is more at home in England. We do not treat him as an alien, not even as a distinguished guest, but as a countryman of our own who happens to be fond of travel. In the same way we treat, without reference to its national origin, any foreign word that has long frequented our language. But with the individual origin of universal sayings the case is rather different, because it is mainly to their individual character that such say ings Owe their universal currency. What we relish in them is not so much their veracity, which is general, as their expression of a certain personal quality which is particular; a quality which renders their veracity more startling, or more persuasive, than it would other
wise be, and without which many of these sayings would probably be platitudes. The, world, therefore, is interested in the authenticity of any saying that embodies a common truth in an uncommon form; for truth itself stands in need of attestation. We only receive a truth without mistrust when it is offered us by some one whose character already commands our confidence; and were a multitude of rogues to assure us that it is more blessed to give than to receive, we should not believe it on their testimony. Such a saying as l'état c'est moi derives its chief significance from our knowledge that it is the saying of Louis Quatorze, who, when he said it, was exceptionally well qualified to know what he was saying. And so was Buffon when he said le style c'est l'homme; a saying invested with a special personal authority by the personal dignity which specially characterizes the style of its author. Its original form, therefore, should not be lost sight of, although it is not precisely in that form that it has become proverbial.
Buffon was not only a great naturalist, he was also a great writer; and this celebrated sentence belongs to the address which, in both capacities, he delivered to the French Academy on the occasion of its reception of him. He was speaking about books, and his argument was that those which are well written are the only ones it is worth while to preserve in the interest of posterity. For there is a common care of common property, and all communicable knowledge becomes common property as soon as it has been communicated; so that, if the matter of a book be useful to the world, its preservation is insured by the world's use of it, even though the book itself may perish; but there can be no such common property in the manner of a book, which belongs only to its author. "Facts and inventions," said Buffon," can be appropriated and utilized by others, but style is the man himself, Le style c'est l'homme même."
Regarded as a definition, the saying is not quite accurate. What definition is ? "All transitory things are similes,' sings the Chorus Mysticus in Faust, and all phenomena, saith Philosophy, are forms." To us transitory beings,
who live in a world of phenomena, absolute truth is so inaccessible that even absolute authority must make shift to do without it. But this is at least one of those happy sayings which, instead of rudely flinging in our faces the little particle of truth that gives them impetus, touch us therewith caressingly at a nicely calculated tangent; as one billiard. ball adroitly struck by a skilful play er touches another so as to make the second ball unresistingly co-operate with the player's intention as it follows the inclination imparted to it by the first.
What a man's physiognomy is to the man, an author's style is to the author. It is that part of him which regulates his intercourse with others, and whereby he is best known to those he addresses. But the whole man it can hardly be. For in his style, and by means of his style, an author decently conceals what it does not suit him to display. We do not say, The dress-coat is the man," although we know that the cut of the coat is determined by the figure of its wearer, and from his way of wearing it we draw conclusions. Such conclusions, moreover, are particularly just when they apply to an intellectual individuality whose literary clothing is a gift of nature which inay perhaps be improved, but cannot be produced, by
There is, however, an important dis tinction to be observed between the style of a writer, which is always in dividual, and the manner of writing, which is sometimes common to a school, a system, or a literary association. Literature nowadays produces many groups of good writers who co-operate, in a common circle of ideas, round a common literary centre; as in the case of reviews or journals devoted to the propagation of particular opinions or the promotion of particular intellectual tendencies. Such periodicals have a curious collective individuality of their own, which imparts to the productions of their several writers a certain manner more or less common to the whole group. These writers do not lose their own individuality, which we often detect without difficulty under the anonymous veil that impartially covers them all; but they acquire, in addition to it, the
manner of the school that unites them, and write as members of the same family talk-not all exactly alike, but all with a more or less noticeable family likeness. Bertin the elder (of the Journal des Débats) and Beloz (of the Revue des Deux Mondes) were remarkable instances of men who have in their way exercised a powerful influence upon literature and opinion without being writers themselves; for though neither of them, I believe, ever contributed a line to his own organ, each of them not only grouped around him some of the ablest writers in France, but also guided the pens of those writers with an undisputed and unerring dictatorship. In literary organizations of this kind we generally find a certain uniform neasure of expression, which a clever editor adjusts with great nicety from careful study, or instinctive knowledge, of the particular public whose wants and humors keep his oracle in request.
Never say die," croaked Grip, the raven of Barnaby Rudge, in the churchyard; as if he thought it indelicate to speak of dying in presence of the dead. And from the same point of view, I suppose," Il ne faut jamais dire haissable," said M. Beloz to a friend of mine, who had used that objectionably sincere expression in his first contribution to the Revue des Deux Mondes. The great editor was right. ful' is a word which cannot be too carefully avoided by those who venture to address the public; for every public is a despot, and every despotism is hateful. One should not speak of hemp in the hangman's presence. On ne peut guère parler aux tyrans qu'en paraboles," says Voltaire, and he characteristically adds, encore ce détour est-il dangéreux." Truth, like dynamite and other explosive and destructive forces, is not to be employed without special precautions. precautions. An old French poet has sung
"Verité est la massue
Qui tout le monde occit et tue."
EST MODUS IN REBUS.
Once, in a state of old renown
But "Hold!" exclaim'd in wise alarm
66 Truth," he said. The friend that stopp'd him shook his head ; "Rash boy, beware of Truth, whose course, Like that of an unmaster'd horse, Distresses every soul it meets Along the panic-stricken streets.
Unloose her, and each frighten'd slave
66 What," cried the brave young citizen,
His friend replied, a better way
That traitor, with admiring gaze
The august incumbent of the throne
The object of these strange caresses,
They still elicit from the throng;
Nay, even the hatred whose mask'd batteries
After all, we are not bound to give any reason (which is fortunate, since we are not always able to give any reason) why we like one man and dislike another. So that, if style be the man himself, merits of style must to some extent be matters of taste, about which we say there is no disputing; not at all because they are indisputable, but merely because in such matters every one is sui generis, and an Esquimau is under no obligation to relish oranges better than cod-liver oil. Here is the tangent at which we feel the touch of truth in Buffon's saying. For style is not an artificial garment which thought can put on and off at pleasure. And if Buffon's definition of it goes a little too far, at least it does not fall short of the truth, like so many other definitions.
Lady Blessington who passed her life in appreciative intercourse with eminent writers, has observed in the “ Desultory Thoughts and Reflections'' with which that intercourse inspired her, that to set an author's style above his thoughts is like praising a woman's dress more than her beauty; style being, like dress, a secondary matter which should not divert attention from what it is only meant to adorn. But to this observation of Lady Blessington's another, and more gifted authoress objects. For attention," writes the poetess Delphine Gay (Madame de Girardin) in one of her letters from Paris, is not diverted from the beauty of a work by that which enhances its beauty. And in support of her opinion she describes a conversa-i tion between herself and Victor Hugo on the subject of style. The poet had taken from her toilet-table an ornamental pin surmounted by a jewel, which he continued to examine while they were talking. The jewel represented a fly, set in gold, and, Here," he said, you see what style is. In itself this fly is but an insect, in its setting it is a jewel." Fascinated by the sparkle of
this simile, Madame de Girardin exclaims: How true! and surely it cannot be wrong to replace an insect by a diamond."
If style were a sort of dress, ladies ought to be the best judges of it; yet, as we see, even in matters of dress de gustibus non disputandum: which seems to be a polite way of saying that de gustibus semper disputatum est. I have noticed the conflicting opinions of these two literary ladies only because they happen to occur to my recollection. It would be easy to collect from more cele brated writers a multitude of equally conflicting opinions about style, but we should probably find them all more or less concentrated upon some point not quite at the centre of the matter. Buffon's remains the best, and well deserves its popularity in spite of some cases which seem to contradict it. My own acquaintance with M. Villemain, though slight, was quite enough to convince me that in his case there was no ground whatever for Heine's spitefully clever remark that Buffon's definition of style must needs be wrong because Villemain's style is refined and graceful. But take the case of Rousseau. Every one admits that he has a beautiful style, but who can assert that he had a beautiful individuality? A man of graceful mind and manners is not always a graceful writer, and the vigor of a writer's style is sometimes out of all proportion to the strength of his character. If the style be the man himself, how are we to explain these seeming contrasts between them? The explanation lies, I think, in the fact that men are not simple but compound beings. A writer's style is that expression of his individuality which is best known to us, and which is always the same. But, if our knowledge of the man's whole nature were equal to our knowledge of his style, we should probably find, in those cases where the man seems to be at variance with his style, that he is also at variance with himself.
This sounds paradoxical. But the fact is, style has a twofold nature which it is difficult to understand and very difficult to describe. Subject to rules, and yet free; transcending the conditions on which nevertheless it depends; style is an art, as language is a science:
and, in a certain sense, both are one, though they are not the same. Thought is exacting. From the latter it requires accuracy, and from the former beauty.
To follow thought, and to follow it faithfully in all its expeditions, is the function of language. And thought is bold explorer, a rapid and adventurous traveller, whose ways are. as wild as the wind and as wanton as a will-o'-thewisp. Often the path of thought is, rough-hewn through the solid rock, often it quakes and shivers across a quicksand, and sometimes there is no path at all. From precipice to precipice, over cloudy summits. into bottomless abysses, along boundless deserts, or through impenetrable jungles, climbing, leaping, plodding, scrambling, wherever thought leads language must follow. And as new ideas spring up by the way, and insist upon joining the adventure, for each idea, even in statu nascenti, language must be ready with a word : just the word that is wanted, and no other. Yet when language has done what it can (unfortunately it sometimes does more), when it has extricated incipient ideas from their misty mental environment, and constructed sentences wherein thought can recognize accurate reflections of its own image-still the restless Thinking Power is unsatisfied. The body of thought is there, complete in all its limbs, and provided with organs suitable to all its functions. But the faultless frame remains frigid and rigid: form without soul, a body still lacking the breath of life. Those eyes were not only made to see, they were also meant to look. But where are the glances which should accentuate what the lips have to say? Nor are the lips for speech only, but for sighs also, and smiles, more expressive than speech.
One thought differs from another. But, be it cheerful or morose, grand or graceful, stern or tender, tragic or comic, each thought is, in its relation to language, just the same as any other; for all have a common right to require from language their adequate expression. Grammar is not cheerful (every schoolboy knows that), nor is it grand or graceful. It is only accurate-and dull. What language cannot do for thought must be done for it by style; and yet without language style can do nothing.
A grammar perfectly correct, and vocabulary perfectly pure, do not suffice to constitute a beautiful style; but, for all that, there can be no beauty of style without accuracy of language. For style is not an instrument outwardly applied to language for its embellishment. It is the inner spirit of all written and spoken matter; the individualizing life that transforms mechanism into organism, breathes out of it at every pore, and diffuses throughout all its movements a pervading personal quality. The nature of this personal quality is, however, indefinable, because it is indefinite. The sources of it do not lie upon the surface. They are not to be found in the choice of words or the structure of sentences. The effects are atmospheric. Perhaps we should not be far wrong if we called it sentiment. Where there is an absence of style there is an absence of charm; and if a writer has no style, it is not as a writer that he specially concerns us, though what he writes may be of great value. But neither are grace, dignity, and beauty essential to the nature of style. They are only the attributes of a good style; and when we say of a writer that he has a bad style, we do not mean that he has no style at all. There is only one quality essential to the nature of style, and that is individuality. The presence of this quality sometimes makes ruggedness pleasing, and the absence of it always leaves symmetry insipid.
An original writer cannot alter the language he employs; for it does not belong to him alone. He must use it as it is and it is for him what it is for others -a property belonging no less to the ear that hears than to the mouth that speaks. Between these joint proprietors of language grammar has established a modus vivendi by bringing the requirements of each into subjection to a common rule. But where does grammar end and style begin? How is the author or the orator to find out the precise limits within which his own individuality is legitimately free? Impossible to say! For there can be no boundaries where there is no separation. He must feel himself free even while he knows that he is under restriction, and in the exercise of his freedom he must still observe the laws that distinguish
liberty from license. These are the inexorable conditions of all art. They leave the artist free in his relation to his own nature, but restrict him in his relation to the nature of his materials. They are also the conditions of style.
Language and style are like two streams which not only follow the same course, but flow between the same banks; and our perceptions are so constituted that we can nevertheless distinguish, without dividing, them by the different impressions we obtain from each. But there our means of investigation stop short. Several currents of color flow together in a single ray of white light. Thus united, they are un-. distinguishable: but, dissevered by the interposition of a prism, each continues its journey along a separate path, and at a different pace, to the common goal where they all find places of their own in the sevenfold circle of the rainbow. We have a science of language which is purely metaphysical; but I have sometimes amused myself by imagining the possibility of a physical science of language, a science as experimental as Optics, and pursued by the same methods. If we possessed such science, its prismatic analysis of speech would perhaps enable us to examine much closer into the innermost workshop of thought; and many things might then be clear to our knowledge which now only stimulate our wonder by the mystery that intervenes between the cause and the effect of them. As, for instance, in the composition of light there are substances which by their effects we recognize as chemical, and distinguish as such from others that produce heat or color, so perhaps we might then be able to detect, in the analyzed textureof any written or spoken matter, the spiritual source of those peculiar vibrations that so powerfully affect us in certain words, of which we say that they thrill from heart to heart. Perhaps, too, we should then be better able to explain what we mean when we speak of genius; and only fancy the rapture of the first discoverer whose chance it might be to find in the speech-spectrum appearances corresponding to Frauenofer lines that indicate upon the color spectrum the elements of matter in the light-springs of the sun-appear