The Passage

But, though it should happen that an author is capable of excelling, yet his merit may pass without notice, huddled in the variety of things, and thrown into the general miscellany of life. He that endeavours after fame by writing, solicits the regard of a multitude fluctuating in pleasures, or immersed in business, without time for intellectual amusements; he appeals to judges prepossessed by passions, or corrupted by prejudices, which preclude their approbation of any new performance. Some are too indolent to read any thing, till its reputation is established; others too envious to promote that fame, which gives them pain by its increase. What is new is opposed, because most are unwilling to be taught; and what is known is rejected, because it is not sufficiently considered, that men more frequently require to be reminded than informed. The learned are afraid to declare their opinion, lest they should put their reputation in hazard; the ignorant always imagine themselves giving some proof of delicacy, when they refuse to be pleased: and he that finds a way to reputation, through all these obstructions, must acknowledge that he is indebted to other causes besides his industry, his learning, or his wit. — Samuel Johnson, Rambler number 2.

A Beginning Analysis

1. But, though it should happen that an author is capable of excelling, yet his merit may pass without notice, huddled in the variety of things, and thrown into the general miscellany of life.

2. He that [a1]endeavours after fame by writing, [a2]solicits the regard of a multitude [b1]fluctuating in pleasures, or [b2]immersed in business, without time for intellectual amusements; he appeals to judges [c1] prepossessed by passions, or [c2] corrupted by prejudices, which preclude their approbation of any new performance.

3. Some are too indolent to read any thing, till its reputation is established; others too envious to promote that fame, which gives them pain by its increase. [note varied parallel in "till" and "which" constructions.]

4. What is new is opposed, because most are unwilling to be taught; and what is known is rejected, because it is not sufficiently considered, that men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.

5. The learned are afraid to declare their opinion, lest they should put their reputation in hazard; the ignorant always imagine themselves giving some proof of delicacy, when they refuse to be pleased: and

6. he that [compare with the beginning of 2] finds a way to reputation, through all these obstructions, must acknowledge that he is indebted to other causes besides his industry, his learning, or his wit.

Questions


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11 February 2002