With hopes like these [detailed in the previous paragraph], he sallies jocund into life; to little purpose is he told,
that the condition of humanity admits no pure and unmingled happiness;
that the exuberant gaiety of youth ends in poverty or disease;
that uncommon qualifications and contrarieties of excellence, produce envy equally with applause;
that whatever admiration and fondness may promise him, he must marry a wife like the wives of others, with some virtues and some faults, and be as often disgusted by her vices, as delighted by her elegance;
that if he adventures into the circle of action, he must expect to encounter men as (a) artful, as (b) daring, as (c) resolute as himself; [triple]
that of his children, (a) some may be deformed, and (b) others vicious; (a) some may disgrace him by their follies, (b) some offend him by their insolence, and (c) some exhaust him by their profusion. [triple]
[conclusion] He hears all this with obstinate incredulity, and wonders by what malignity old age is influenced, that it cannot forbear to fill his ears with predictions of misery.
Questions and observations
- Noun-of-noun constructions: "the condition of humanity," "the exuberant gaiety of youth," "the circle of action."
- Note how the function of all the clauses that follow "that" resemble similarly structured ones in Swift's "Modest Proposal."
- Why is Johnson's punctuation rhetorical rather than grammatical.
- Note how many times he uses alliteration to reinforce parallels and clarify clausal structure.
- When does he use triple, as opposed to double, repetition? What is its effect?
11 February 2002