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that this manner of speaking is not accurate. Neia ther discourse in general, nor poetry in particular, can be called altogether imitative arts. We must distinguish betwixt imitation and description, which are ideas that should not be confounded. Imitation is performed by means of somewhat that has a natural likeness and resemblance to the thing imitated, and of consequence is understood by all ; such are statues and pictures. Description, again, is the raising in the mind the conception of an object by means of some arbitrarv or instituted fymbols, understood only by those wlio agree in the institution of them ; such are words and writing. Words have no natural refemblance to the ideas or objects which they are employed to signify; but a statue or a picture has a natural likeness to the original. And therefore imitation and description differ considerably in their nature from each other.
As far, indeed, as a poet introduces into his work persons actually speaking-and, by the words which he puts into their mouths, represents the discourse which they might be fuppofed to hold ; so far his art may more accurately be called imis tative : and this is the case in all dramatic composition. But in narrative or descriptive works, it can with no propriety be called fo. Who, for instance, would call Virgil's defcription of a tempeft, in the first Eneid, an imitation of a storm? If we heard of the imitation of a battle, we might naturally think of some mock fight, or representation of a battle on the stage; but would never apprehend, that it meant one of Homer's defcriptions in the Iliad. I admit, at the same time, that imitation and description agree in their principal effect, of recailing by external signs, the ideas of things which we do not see. But though in this they coincide, yet it flould not be forgotten, that the terms themselves are
not synonymous ; that they import different means of etiecting the same end ; and of course make different impresions on the mind*,
Whether we consider poetry in particular, and discourse in general, as imitative or descriptive ; it is evident, that their whole power in recalling the impressions of real objects, is derived from the fignificancy of words. As their excellency flows altogether from this source, we must, in order to make way for further enquiries, begin at this fountain head. I shall, therefore, in the next lecture, enter upon the consideration of language : of the origin, the progress, and construction of which, I purpose to treat at some length.
* Though, in the execution of particular parts, poetry is certainly descriptive, rather than imitative, yet there is a qualified sense, in which poetry, in the general, may be termed : an imitative art. The subject of the poet (as dr. Gerard has shown in the appendix to his essay on taste) is intended to be an imitation, not of things really existing, but of the course of nature ; that is, a feigned representation of such events, or fuch scenes, as, though they never had a being, yet might have existed ; and which, therefore, by their probability, bear a resemblance to nature. It was probably, in this sense, that Aristotle termed poetry a mimetic art. How far either the imitation or the description which poetry employs, is superior to the imitative powers of painting and music, is well Ihown by mr. Harris, in his treatise on inufic, painting, and poetry. The chief advantage which poetry, or discourse in general, enjoys, is that whereas, by the nature of his art, the painter is confined to the representation of a single moment, writing and discourse can trace a transaction through its whole progrefs. That moment, indeed, which the painter pitches upon for the subject of his picture, he may be laid to exhibit with more advantage than the poet or the orator ; inasmuch as he fets before us, in one view, all the minute concurrent circumstances of the event wliich happen in one individual point of time, as they appear in nature ; while discourse is obliged to exhibit them in succession, and by means of a detail, which is in danger of becoming tedious, in order to be clear ; or if not tedious, is in danger of being obscure. But to that point of time which he has chosen, the painter being entirely confined, he cannot exhibit various stages of the same action or event; and he is subject to this farther defect, that he can only exhibit objects as they appear to the eye, and can very imperfectly delineate characters and sentiinents, which are the noblest subjects of imitation or defcription. The power of representing there with full advantage, gives a high fuperiority to discourse and writing above all other imitative arts.
L E C T U R E
RISE AND PROGRESS OF LANGUAGE.
AVING finished my observations on the plea
fures of , troductory to the principal subject of these lectures, I now begin to treat of language ; which is the foundation of the whole power of eloquence. This will lead to a considerable discussion; and there are few subjects belonging to polite literature, which more merit fuch a discussion. I shall first give a history of the rise and progress of language in several particulars, from its early to its more advanced periods; which shall be followed by a fimilar history of the rise and progress of writing. I shall next give some account of the construction of language, or the principles of universal grammar ; and shall, lastly, apply these observations more particularly to the English tongue*
Language, in general, signifies the expression of
* See dr. Adam Smith's dissertation on the formation of languages. Treatise of the origin and progress of language, in z vols.-Harris's Hermes, or a Philosophical Enquiry concerning language and Universal Grammar.-Eflai sur l'Origine des Connoiffances Humaines, par l'Abbe Condillac.--Principes our ideas by certain articulate sounds, which are used as the signs of those ideas. By articulate founds, are meant those modulations of simple voice, or of sound emitted from the thorax, which are formed by means of the mouth and its several organs, the teeth, the tongue, the lips, and the palate. How far there is any natural connexion between the ideas of the mind and the sounds eniitted, will appear from what I am afterwards to of fer. But as the natural connexion can, upon any. system, affect only a small part of the fabric of language ; the connexion between words and ideas may, in general, be considered as arbitrary and conventional, owing to the agreement of men among themselves ; the clear proof of which is, that different nations have different languages, or a different set of articulate sounds, which they have chosen for communicating their ideas.
This artificial inethod of communicating thought, we now behold carried to the highest perfection. Language is become a vehicle by which the most delicate and refined emotions of one mind can be tranfmitted, or, if we may fo fpeak, transfused into another. Not only are names given to all objects around us, by which means an easy and speedy intercourse is carried on for providing the necessaries of life, but all the relations and differences among these objects are minutely marked, the invisible sentiments of the mind are described, the moft abstract notions and conceptions are rendered intelligible; and all the ideas which science
de Grammaire, par Marsais. Grammaire Generale et Raisonnee. -Traite de la Formation mechanique des langues, par le pre. fident de Brosses.—Discours sur l'inegalite parmi les hommes, par Rouleau.-Grammaire generale, par Beauzee.-- Principes de la Traduction, par Batteux.-Warburton's Divine Legation of Moses, vol. iii.--Sanctii Minerva, cum notis Perizonii.-Lex vrais principes de la langue Francoise, par l'abbe Girard.