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ated his endeavor to bring philosophy from the clouds and closets down and out to the club-rooms and counting-rooms of the world. The main reason why the “Spectator," “Freeholder," “Guardian,"
Tatler," “ Rambler” and other serials were so widely circulated and accepted is seen in the fact, that their topics were always germane to the status of English society at the time. They said little about the age of Chaucer or that of Henry VIII., but a great deal about the Augustan age ; said but little of the factions, frivolities, politics and pursuits of Elizabethan and Stuart England, but aimed their arrows, in every instance, at the targets exposed in the reign of Queen Anne.
It is quite noticeable that, intellectual in his thought and style as was Lord Bacon, he adapted himself in his essays to what he understood to be the legitimate demands of current issues. As he tells us in his Preface, he appealed directly “to men's business and bosoms," and, in the discussion of such themes as, Friendship, Studies, Empire, Ambition, Fortune and The Vicissitude of Things, kept his philosophic eye on the events transpiring in the 16th century and, thus, wrote for his contemporaries, as well as for “times succeeding.”
It may, indeed, be affirmed that periodical literature, as a distinctive type, has largely, for this reason, been, in all nations, a popular type; popular because periodical, changing its themes and purposes with the ever-varying changes of the time, and awakening, at the outset, the common interest of the common mind.
In this feature of practicality or timeliness there is nothing necessarily intellectual or literary. In fact, there is a sense in which this purely visible and tangible order of prose, this mercantile manner of choosing and discussing topics with primary reference to present ends, is quite averse to any high degree of mental and artistic excellence. Subjects more philosophic and abstract call forth the larger faculties and admit of a more thorough, comprehensive and dignified discussion.
Still, here again there need be no specific conflict. The popular style has its place and office, as others have theirs. In its proper sphere, it is desirable, as it insists that writers must, at times, discard the scientific and technical and deign to descend to the middle and even lower grades of society, and talk to men in the language in which they were born. The most gifted of authors ought to be able, occasionally, at least, to step down from their habitual altitude of high discussion to what Dr. Chalmers has significantly called “the ground floor" of human life, and, if not able to do so, to encourage by every possible way those practical and versatile authors who are willing, perchance, to surrender their personal ambitions in the line of exalted authorship in order to reach and affect those teeming millions of their fellows who live on or below the dead level of human life and need an uplifting hand. Dr. Chalmers, of Scotland, was himself a remarkable example of this self-surrendering spirit in authorship, discoursing, as he did, at one hour, to the choicest minds of the Scottish capital, and, in the next, addressing the gathered crowds, even from the slums of the city, on the most practical questions that could engage them, on health and cleanliness and common morals.
III. A further mark of the Popular Style is, its Method as Flexible and Graphic. The importance of this special feature can scarcely be overstated. Next to clearness, it is the most radical element in the popular presentation of thought. We may best express our meaning by saying—that the
— popular style does not assume to have any method that is binding on the writer. Its unique personality as a style lies in the fact, that it is unmethodical without being immethodical; follows no plan presented by others, and follows no one plan of its own in any two consecutive efforts. It rather prides itself in being unscholarly in its method. It makes a point of reducing the logical element to a minimum, if not, indeed, of eliminating it, lest the average reader may discern it and be repelled. It would not be amiss to call it, the purely extempore style of writing, as distinct from that which is studied and in which the author is supposed to follow an order of procedure more or less pre-arranged.
In this respect, the popular style is descriptive delineative and pictorial, rather than close or consecutive. Bound to no pre-established law, logical or literary, it becomes a law unto itself. Abandoning itself, therefore, to the leading impulses of the hour, it goes hither and thither only because of a happy combination of occurrences, and is as willing to go in one direction as in another, provided that there be the conspicuous absence of constraint and logical sequence. It is a style that is, out and out, discursive and desultory, leaping about from point to point in the veriest caprice of movement, not desirous of tarrying long enough at any one position to examine it minutely or endanger the interest of the reader. It makes a special study of variety, point and pertinence; discards all polysyllables and debatable issues, and dreads nothing so much as the annoyance that arises from the prosaic or the prolix in the appearance of overmuch learning. What Mr. Rees has phrased “The Pleasures of a Bookworm," or Mr. Lang, “Letters to Dead Authors," such a style fails to appreciate, as it strictly discards everything that savors of the study, the cloister and the tomb. It is the chatty, colloquial style of coffee-houses and drawing-rooms; of lobbychambers and leisurely retreats-the talk of the shop, the market, the street and the exchange reduced to writing. It hails with delight every evidence on the part of its patrons that it is as free as the air in its province; unrestricted as a school-boy in its whims and ways; absolutely under no condition of phrase or form save as the passing question of the moment may engage its attention.
We are speaking of the popular style on its better side, and must be on our guard against condemning it because of its elasticity of method. If it has no plan, it pretends to have none, and is content to justify such absence by the increasing presence of those equally desirable results which it secures by reason of its unrestraint.
Such an author as Robert L. Stevenson, at present so prominently before the American public, will happily illustrate all the characteristic features of the style in question, and, most especially, this endless diversity or liberty of method. In his various works, such as “The New Arabian Nights,” “Virginibus Puerisque,” "Memoirs and Portraits,” “Familiar Studies of Men and Books," and similar collections, though he, at times, tells us that a certain thread is visible that binds these papers together, it is, often, in vain that we look for the logical thread. A volume means, in no sense, the connected discussion of a carefully chosen topic, or even the unified presentation of related topics, but an off-hand assemblage of a dozen papers on a dozen unrelated themes.
In any one paper, taken by itself, the subject indicated at the outset, if indeed any is indicated, is glanced at rather than developed. There is no attempt at development. The writer regards the caption simply as a point at which, now and then, to aim, according to his fancy. He feels himself as much at liberty to miss it as to hit it. The paper is a series of comments, extemporized for the occasion; some of them, appropriate; some of them, irrelevant-a series of digressions from