A review of one classic author by another classic author
| ADDISON AS A MODEL
As a describer of life and manners, Mr. Addison must be allowed to stand perhaps the first in the first rank. His humor is peculiar to himself; and is so happily diffused,as to give the grace of novelty to domestic scenes and daily occurrences. He never o’ersteps the modesty of nature, or raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth.
His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can be hardly said to invent; yet his exhibitions have an air of so much original, that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination.
As a teacher of wisdom he may be confidently followed. His religion has nothing in it enthusiastic or superstitious; he appears neither weakly credulous, nor wantonly skeptical ; his morality is neither dangerously lax nor implacably rigid. All the enhancements of fancy, and all the cogency of arguments, are employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the care of pleasing the author of his being. Truth is shown sometimes as the fantom of a vision, sometimes appears half veiled in a allergy, sometimes attracts regards in the robes of fancy, and sometimes steps in the confidence of reason. She wears a thousand dresses, and all in all is pleasing.
His prose is the model of the middle style; on grave subjects, on formal, on light occasions not groveling; pure without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration; always equable, and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected splendor. It seems to have been his principal endeavor to avoid all harshness and severity of diction; he is therefore sometimes verbose in his transitions and connections, and sometimes descends too much to the language of conversation; yet, if his language had been less idiomatical, it might have lost somewhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he attempted he performed; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetic; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates. His sentences have neither studied amplitude nor affected brevity; his periods, tho not deligently rounded, are voluble and easy. Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.
Joseph Addison (1672 - 1719)
Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784)