The notice of the autobiography of Jerome Cardan
, in the ‘Retrospective Review,’ specially interested him. Some of the extracts from these authors reappear in his subsequent writings and speeches.
One from Beaumont
, copied March 16, 1830, was applied to the Mt. Auburn Cemetery
, in his tribute to Judge Story
One from Marston
O, a faire cause stands firme and will abide.
Legions of angels fight upon her side!—
was introduced, Aug. 22, 1848, in his speech in Faneuil Hall.2
On March 8, 1830, he wrote thus of the ‘Old English Writers:’—
I admire the old English authors.
In them is to be found the pure well of English undefiled.
There is a richness of expression with them to which we moderns are strangers; but, above all, there is a force and directness which constitute their chief merit.
They are copious without being diffuse, and concise without being obscure.
They had not then learned—or, if they had learned, they had not practised—the art of wire-drawing a sentence into a page, and a page into a book.
Learning was then confined to fewer than at present, and consequently there must have been fewer authors.
There were then no would-be authors, who sprung up like mushrooms, and died as soon.
Few attempted to play the part who were not competent to its performance.
They did not write till the spirit within forced them to; and when they did, they wrote with all that energy and expansion of thought which sincerity and earnestness could not fail to give.
Their illustrations and figures are most striking; there is a simplicity, a grandeur, and, withal, a pertinency, about them which we look for in vain amongst the “ exquisites ” of our “degenerate days.”
Their works are not scattered over with flowers, which only serve to deck and adorn them without adding to their strength or clearness.
Their figures rather resemble pillars, which are at once ornaments and supports of the fabric to which they are attached.
Witness the beauty and strength of Shakspeare's allusions, and also those of Jeremy Taylor and Bacon.
The latter of these comes among the last of those who can be numbered in that iron phalanx which we denominate the “old English writers.”
How can we account for this great superiority that they possessed over us in point of real strength and beauty?
It was because they depended more upon their own resources; because they thought.
Yet many of their works are most curious examples of pedantry, which none of the dullest dogs of our dull days could hope to equal even in this particular.
Who has ever produced a work more pedantic and yet more pregnant with sound thought and beautiful allusion than Burton?
His “ Anatomy of Melancholy” is a perfect