Monday, July 8, 2013

A Feast for the Mind

From William Wirt, Eulogy of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, 1826

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What a feast for the mind may we not expect from the published letters of these excellent men! They were both masters in this way, though somewhat contrasted. Mr. Adams, plain, nervous, and emphatic, the thought couched in the fewest and strongest words, and striking with a kind of epigrammatic force.  Mr. Jefferson, flowing with easy and careless melody, the language at the same time pruned of every redundant word, and giving the thought with the happiest precision, the aptest words dropping unbidden and unsought into their places, as if they had fallen from the skies; and so beautiful, so felicitous, as to fill the mind with a succession of delightful surprises, while the judgement is, at the same time, made captive by the closely compacted energy of the argument.  Mr. Jefferson's style is so easy and harmonious, as to have led the superficial readers to remark, that he was deficient in strength: as if ruggedness and abruptness were essential to strength.  Mr. Jefferson's strength was inherent in the thoughts and conceptions, though hidden by the light and graceful vestments which he threw over them.