She returned to her sisters in the conservatory, and meeting Mr. Barren at the door, made the incident a topic. “You know how greatly our Emilia rejoices us when she shows sentiment, and our thirst is to direct her to appreciate Nature in its humility as well as its grandeur.”
“One expects her to have all poetical feelings,” said Mr. Barrett, while they walked forth to the lawn sloping to the tufted park grass.
Cornelia said: “You have read Mr. Runningbrook’s story?”
But the man had not brought it back, and her name was in it, written with her own hand.
“Are you of my opinion in the matter?”
“In the matter of the style? I am and I am not. Your condemnation may be correct in itself; but you say, ‘He coins words’; and he certainly forces the phrase here and there, I must admit. The point to be considered is, whether friction demands a perfectly smooth surface. Undoubtedly a scientific work does, and a philosophical treatise should. When we ask for facts simply, we feel the intrusion of a style. Of fiction it is part. In the one case the classical robe, in the other any mediaeval phantasy of clothing.”
“Yes; true;” said Cornelia, hesitating over her argument. “Well, I must conclude that I am not imaginative.”
“On the contrary, permit me to say that you are. But your imagination is unpractised, and asks to be fed with a spoon. We English are more imaginative than most nations.”
“Then, why is it not manifested?”
“We are still fighting against the Puritan element, in literature as elsewhere.”
“Your old bugbear, Mr. Barrett!”
“And more than this: our language is not rich in subtleties for prose. A writer who is not servile and has insight, must coin from his own mint. In poetry we are rich enough; but in prose also we owe everything to the licence our poets have taken in the teeth of critics. Shall I give you examples? It is not necessary. Our simplest prose style is nearer to poetry with us, for this reason, that the poets have made it. Read French poetry. With the first couplet the sails are full, and you have left the shores of prose far behind. Mr. Runningbrook coins words and risks expressions because an imaginative Englishman, pen in hand, is the cadet and vagabond of the family—an exploring adventurer; whereas to a Frenchman it all comes inherited like a well filled purse. The audacity of the French mind, and the French habit of quick social intercourse, have made them nationally far richer in language. Let me add, individually as much poorer. Read their stereotyped descriptions. They all say the same things. They have one big Gallic trumpet. Wonderfully eloquent: we feel that: but the person does not speak. And now, you will be surprised to learn that, notwithstanding what I have said, I should still side with Mr. Runningbrook’s fair critic, rather than with him. The reason