Johnson on Language: An Introduction by A. D. Horgan (auth.)

By A. D. Horgan (auth.)

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94, was, no doubt, a necessary corrective to some of the extravagant views which had been voiced since the publication of Pope's Essay on Criticism. 'There is nothing in the art ofversifying', he says,28 so much exposed to the power of imagination as the accommodation of the sound to the sense, or the representation of particular images, by the flow of the verse in which they are expressed. Every student has innumerable passages, in which he, and perhaps he alone, discovers such resemblances. He is profoundly sceptical about the many passages produced by Dionysius of Halicarnassus to illustrate correspondence between sound and sense in the works of Homer, and drily remarks: Many other examples Dionysius produces, but these will sufficiently shew that either he was fanciful, or we have lost the genuine pronunciation; for I know not whether in any one of these instances such similitude can be discovered.

I he observes: I will not give the reasons why I writ not always in the proper terms of navigation, land-service, or in the cant of any profession. , but to all in general, and in particular to men and ladies of the first quality, who have been better bred than to be too nicely knowing in the terms. In such cases, it is enough for a poet to write so plainly, that he may be understood by his readers; to avoid impropriety, and not affect to he thought learned in all things. johnson on Language 25 In the light of Mrs Ingham's article, it is clear that whereas Johnson believed that in general it is 'elegant' to use terms marked by nicety, exactitude, propriety, this principle does not obtain when there is any question of a resort to technical terms of trades and professions.

The general resemblance of the sound to the sense is to be found in every lang·uage which admits of poetry, iu every author whose force of fancy enables him to impress images strongly on his own mind, and whose choice and variety of language readily supplies him with just representations. To such a writer it is natural to change his measures with his sul:~ject, even without any effort of the understanding, or intervention of the judgment. To revolve jollity and mirth necessarily tunes the voice of a poet to gay and sprightly notes, as it fires his eye with vivacity; and reflection on gloomy situations and disastrous events, will sadden his numbers, as it will cloud his countenance.

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