previous next

[109] masters: the playful charm of Addison, the trenchancy of Swift, the concreteness of Defoe, the urbanity of Shaftesbury, the homely directness of Bunyan's dialogue, the unadorned vigour of Tillotson, and the epigrammatic force of Pope. His mature manner, however, is imitative of nothing but the thoroughly disciplined movement of a versatile mind which has never known a moment of languor or a moment of uncontrollable excitement. Next to his omnipresent vitality, his most notable characteristic is the clearness which results from a complete preliminary vision of what is to be said, and which in a young hand demands deliberate preconsideration. To Franklin, the ordering of his matter must have become eventually a light task as, with incessant passing to and fro in his experience and with the daily habit of epistolary communication, he grew as familiar with his intellectual terrain as an old field marshal with the map of Europe. For the writing of his later years is marked not merely by clearness and force but also by the sovereign ease of a man who has long understood the interrelations of his ideas and has ceased to make revolutionary discoveries in any portion of his own nature. His occasional wrath does not fluster him but rather intensifies his lucidity, clarifies his logic, and brightens the ironical smile which accompanies the thrust of his wit. The “decent plainness and manly freedom” of his ordinary tone-notes which he admired in the writings of his maternal grandfather Peter Folger-rise in parts of his official correspondence to a severity of decorum; for there is a trace of the senatorial in the man, the dignity of antique Rome. He is seldom too hurried, even in a private letter, to gratify the ear by the turning and cadence of sentence and phrase; and one feels that the harmony of his periods is the right and predestined vesture of his essential blandness and suavity of temper. His stylistic drapery, however, is never so smoothed and adjusted as to obscure the sinewy vigour of his thought. His manner is steadily in the service of his matter. He is adequate, not copious; for his moral “frugality and industry” prompt him to eschew surplusage and to make his texture firm. His regard for purity of diction is classical; he avoids vulgarity; he despises the jargon of scientific pedants; but like Montaigne he loves frank and masculine speech, and he likes to enrich the language

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Europe (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Tillotson (1)
Swift (1)
Shaftesbury (1)
Alexander Pope (1)
Montaigne (1)
B. Franklin (1)
Defoe (1)
John Bunyan (1)
Addison (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: