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Polemic concerning the theory of ornament.


strate that the whole business conformed in every particular with the literary theory of ornament, the common ground of both parties. In vain did the former appeal to the "convenient," the “moderate," the "avoidance of affectation,” to ornament as “ condiment, not food," and all the other weapons which had sufficed in times when healthy literary production and sound ästhetic taste had automatically corrected faulty theory: the other party replied, there was no reason to be sparing in use of ornament when it lay in masses ready to hand, or to avoid an ostentatious display of wit when one had an inexhaustible supply.

The same reaction against the abuse of ornament, against “ Spanish and Italian conceits” (whose supporters had been Gracian in Spain and Tesauro in Italy), took place in France. .. Laissez à l'Italie De tous ces faux brillants l’éclatante folie; Ce que l'on conçoit bien s'énonce clairement, Et les mots, pour le dire, arrivent aisément." 2 Among the sharpest critics of conceits was the Jesuit Bouhours, already quoted, author of the Manière de bien penser dans les auvres d'esprit. The rhetorical forms were the subject of warm controversy. Orsi, on national grounds the opponent of Bouhours (1703), asserted that all the ornamental devices of wit rested on a middle term and could be reduced to a rhetorical syllogism, and that wit consists of a truth which appears false or a falsehood which appears true.3 If this controversy produced no great scientific result at the time, at least it prepared the mind for greater liberty; and, as we have remarked elsewhere, 4 it may have influenced Vico, who, in framing his new concept of poetical imagination, recognized that it necessitated a wholesale reconstruction of the theory of rhetoric and the conclusion that its figures and tropes are not “caprices of pleasure " but “necessities of the human mind.” 5

1 Croce, I trattatisti italiani del concettismo, pp. 8-22. 2 Boileau, Art poétique, i. 11. 43-44, 153-154.

3 G. G. Orsi, Considerazioni sopra la maniera di ben pensare, etc., 1703 (reprinted Modena, 1735, with all polemics relating thereto). 4 See above, pp. 230-231.

6 See above, pp. 225-226.

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We find the theory of rhetorical ornament jealously Du Marsais kept intact by Baumgarten and Meier, while in France it and metaphor. was as vigorously assailed by César Chesneau du Marsais, who published in 1730 a treatise on Tropes (the seventh part of his General Grammar)," wherein he develops, on the subject of metaphor, the observation already made by Montaigne : indeed he was perhaps inspired by Montaigne, although he does not mention his name. Du Marsais remarks that it is said that figures are modes of speech and turns of expression removed from the ordinary and common; which is an empty phrase, as good as saying “the figured differs from the non-figured and figures are figures and not non-figures.” On the other hand it is wholly untrue that figures are removed from ordinary speech, for “nothing is more natural, ordinary and common than figures : more figures of speech are used in the town square on a market-day than in many days of academical discussion "; and no speech, however short, can be composed entirely of non-figurative expressions. And Du Marsais gives instances of quite obvious and spontaneous expressions in which Rhetoric cannot refuse to recognize the figures of apostrophe, congeries, interrogation, ellipsis, prosopopæia : “ The apostles were persecuted and suffered their persecutions with patience. What can be more natural than the description given by St. Paul ? Maledicimur et benedicimus ; persecutionem patimur et sustinemus; blasphemamur et obsecramus. Yet the apostle makes use of a fine figure of antithesis ; cursing is the opposite to blessing ; persecution to endurance; blasphemy to prayer.” But further, the very language of the figure is figured, since it is a metaphor.But after such acute observations, Du Marsais ends by himself becoming confused and defines figures as “ manners of speech differing from others in a particular modification by which it is possible to reduce each one to a species apart, and give a more lively, noble or pleasing effect than

1 Des tropes ou des différens sens dans lesquels on peut prendre un même mot dans une même langue, Paris, 1730 (Cuvres de Du Marsais, Paris, 1797, vol. i.).

can be gained by a manner of speech expressing the same

content of thought without such particular modification.” 1 Psychological But the psychological interpretation of figures of interpretation. speech, the first stage towards their æsthetic criticism, was

not allowed to drop here. In his Elements of Criticism, Home says that he had long questioned whether that part of Rhetoric concerning figures might not be reduced to rational principles, and had finally discovered that figures consist in the passional element ; ? he set himself therefore to analyse prosopopeia, apostrophe and hyperbole in the light of the passional faculty. From Du Marsais and Home is derived everything of value in the Lectures on Rhetoric and belles lettres of Hugh Blair, professor at Edinburgh University from 1759 onwards ; : published in book form, these lectures had an immense vogue in all the schools of Europe including those of Italy, and replaced advantageously, by their “reason and good sense,” works of a much cruder type. Blair defined figures in general as "language suggested by imagination or passion." 4 Similar ideas were promulgated in France by Marmontel in his Elements of Literature.5 In Italy Cesarotti was contrasting the logical element or “cypher-terms ” of language with the rhetorical element or “figure-terms,” and rational eloquence with imaginative eloquence. Beccaria, though a shrewd psychological analyst, held to the view of literary style as “ accessory ideas or feelings added to the principal in any discourse"; that is, he failed to free himself from the distinction between the intellectual form intended for the expression of the principal ideas, and the literary form, modifying the first by the addition of accessory ideas.' In Germany an effort was made by Herder to interpret tropes and meta

1 Des tropes ou des différens sens dans lesquels on peut prendre un même mot dans une même langue, part i. art. 1 ; cf. art. 4.

2 Elem. of Criticism, iii. ch. 20. 3 Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and belles lettres (London, 1823). 4 Lect. on Rhet, and belles lettres, lecture 14. 5 Marmontel, Éléments de littérat. (in Euvres, Paris, 1819), iv. P. 559. o Cesarotti, Saggio sulla filos. del linguaggio, part ii. ? Ricerche intorno alla natura dello stile (Turin, 1853), ch. 1.

phors as Vico had done, that is to say as essential to primitive language and poetry. Romanticism was the ruin of the theory of ornament, Romanticism

and Rhetoric. and caused it practically to be thrown on the scrap-heap ; Present day. but it cannot be said to have gone under for good or to have been superseded by a new and accurately stated theory. The chief philosophers of Æsthetic (not only Kant, who as we know remained in bondage to the mechanical and ornamental theory; not only Herder, whose knowledge of art seems to have been confined to a little music and a great deal of rhetoric; but such romantic philosophers as Schelling, Solger and Hegel) still retained the sections devoted to metaphor, trope and allegory for tradition's sake, without severe scrutiny. Italian Romanticism with Manzoni at its head destroyed the belief in beautiful and elegant words, and dealt a blow at Rhetoric : but was it killed by the stroke ? Apparently not, judging by the concessions unconsciously made by the scholastic treatise-writer Ruggero Bonghi, whose Critical Letters assert the existence of two styles or forms, which at bottom are nothing else than the plain and the ornate. German schools of philology have pretty generally accepted the stylistic theory of Gröber, who divides style into logical (objective) and affective (subjective) : 2 an ancient error masked by terminology borrowed from the psychological philosophy in fashion at modern universities. In the same spirit a recent writer rechristens the rhetorical doctrine of tropes and figures by the title “Doctrine of the Forms of Æsthetic Apperception,” and divides them into the four categories (the ancient wealth of categories reduced to a paltry four !) of personification, metaphor, antithesis, and symbol.3

1 R. Bonghi, Lettere critiche, 1856 (4th ed., Naples, 1884), pp. 37, 65-67, 90, 103.

2 Gustav Gröber, Grundiss d. romanischen Philologie, vol. i. pp. 209-250 ; K. Vossler, B. Cellinis Stil in seiner Vita, Versuch einer psychol. Stilbetrachtung, Halle a. S., 1899; cf. the self-criticism of Vossler, Positivismus u. Idealismus in der Sprachwissenschaft, Heidelberg, 1904 (It. trans., Bari, Laterza, 1908).

3 Ernst Elsteb, Principien d. Literaturwissenschaft, Halle a. S., 1897, vol. i. Pp. 359-413.

Biese has devoted an entire book to metaphor ; but one searches it in vain for a serious æsthetic analysis of this category.

The best scientific criticism of the theory of ornament is found scattered throughout the writings of De Sanctis, who when lecturing on rhetoric preached what he called anti-rhetoric. But even here the criticism is not conducted from a strictly systematic point of view. It seems to us that the true criticism should be deduced negatively from the very nature of æsthetic activity, which does not lend itself to partition; there is no such thing as activity of type a or type b, nor can the same concept be expressed now in one way, now in another. Such is the only way of abolishing the double monster of bare form which is, no one knows how, deprived of imagination, and ornate form which contains, no one knows how, an addition on the side of imagination.



The kinds in antiquity. Aristotle.

The theory of artistic and literary kinds and of the laws or rules proper to each separate kind has almost always followed the fortunes of the rhetorical theory.

Traces of the threefold division into epic, lyric and dramatic are found in Plato; and Aristophanes gives an example of criticism according to the canon of the kinds, particularly that of tragedy. But the most conspicuous theoretical treatment of the kinds bequeathed us by antiquity is precisely the doctrine of Tragedy which forms a large part of the Aristotelian fragment known as the Poetics. Aristotle defines such a composition as an imitation of a serious and complete action, having size,

1 Biese, Philos. des Metaphorischen, Hamburg-Leipzig, 1893. 2 La Giovinezza di Fr. de S. chs. 23, 25; Scritti vari, ii. pp. 272-274. 3 See above, pp. 67-73.

Republic, iii. 394 ; see also E. Muller, Gesch. d. Th. d. Kunst, i. Pp. 134-206; ii. pp. 238-239, note.

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