Today I found this wonderful example to illustrate Strunk & White’s Rule 22, which I will teach tomorrow:
In the midst of the grove was a fine lawn, sloping down towards the house, near the summit of which rose a plentiful spring, gushing out of a rock covered with firs, and forming a constant cascade of about thirty feet, not carried down a regular flight of steps, but tumbling in a natural fall over the broken and mossy stones till it came to the bottom of the rock, then running off in a pebly channel, that with many lesser falls winded along, till it fell into a lake at the foot of the hill, about a quarter of a mile below the house on the south side, and which was seen from every room in the front. Out of this lake, which filled the center of a beautiful plain, embellished with groups of beechs and elms, and fed with sheep, issued a river, that for several miles was seen to meander through an amazing variety of meadows and woods till it emptied itself into the sea, with a large arm of which, and an island beyond it, the prospect was closed.
–Henry Fielding, Tom Jones (1749)
(no this is not a scene from Downton Abbey)
I had a few observations on how this paragraph depicts, like a landscape painting, the scene it represents, presenting to the eyes no less with the sound, arrangement and composition of its words themselves than by their significations, the experience itself, so that it becomes, nearly, like a sacramentum, both a symbol and the reality it represents, like art that is true, in fact; but if this is true then anything I say about it is an unimportant parergon.
Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for learning to enjoy the good Cognac.