Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Arthur Pollard, English Sermons

Arthur Pollard, English Sermons, Published for The British Council and the National Book League by Longmans, Green, & Co. London, 1963.

Others less eminent but of more recent date, men like Sir Edmund Gosse and the historian of preaching, Dargan, have made claims perhaps more temperate but none the less diminished. … If Donne’s manner may be compared to a mountain stream of massive force and impressive volume, and Andrewes’s to a river erratic in course and pace but always interesting to behold and yielding unexpected beauties, the waters of Taylor’s oratory may be said to flow broad, smooth and assured through rich pastures. Sometimes indeed one feels that there is more polish in the expression than there is power in the arguments. Stylistically, the polish is occasionally to bright. His faults are the defects of his virtues. The richness overflows into uncontrolled exuberance, the images and references luxuriate in flamboyant disorder. At its best, however, Taylor’s resonant Ciceronian prose sends forth its deep harmonies; the mind is engaged by a succession of, at times, incredibly apt references to men and events, and the imagination is stimulated by an abundance of fertile imagery. / Pearsall Smith has referred to Taylor’s elaborate periods as examples of ‘that long-breathed eloquence, that great Atlantic roll of English prose’. They display a double mastery, in Taylor’s firm manipulation of complex syntactical arrangements and in his demonstration of strong and fluent rhythms. (17)

His reading, as Coleridge remarked, ‘had been oceanic’ [Notes on English Divines, (1853), Vol. I, p. 209). Sometimes he gives us a whole list of instances… at others a single reference suffices to impress a lesson… These references often by little details remind us of Taylor’s rich fancy, but this quality is more magnificently demonstrated by his imager. … Images proliferate, often adding nothing to the meaning, yet exquisitely beautiful in themselves. This, his ‘one gift, and only one, of the highest quality’ (Pearsall Smith), led Coleridge to assert Taylor’s near rivalry with Shakespeare. (18)


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