Reference > Cambridge History > The Period of the French Revolution > The Prosody of the Eighteenth Century > John Mason
  Shenstone; Gray; Johnson Mitford  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XI. The Prosody of the Eighteenth Century.

§ 11. John Mason.


Although it would be rather dangerous to say what book of his own time Johnson had not read, there is not, to the knowledge of the present writer, any sign in his Works or in his Life of his having come across the speculations on prose, verse and elocution of John Mason, which were published in three little tracts shortly before The Rambler appeared. The author was a nonconformist minister (which would not have pleased Johnson), and a careful and intelligent student of the classics (which, to some extent, might have reconciled him). He certainly, however, would have been inclined to regard Mason as a most pestilent nonconformist in prosody. Mason is somewhat inclined to musical views, but very slightly; and he adopts what some think the illegitimate, others the sensible, plan of evading the accent v. quantity logomachy by laying it down that “that which principally determines English quantity is the accent and emphasis.” But his great claim to notice, and, in the opinion of at least the present writer, to approval, is that he absolutely refuses the strict decasyllabic limitation and regular accentual distribution, with their consequences or corollaries of elision, forced caesura towards the centre, and so forth. He calls attention to the positively superior “sweetness” of lines of even twelve or fourteen syllables; and, to accommodate this excess, he not only admits feet, but feet of more than two syllables, as well as a freely movable caesura and other easements.   18

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Shenstone; Gray; Johnson Mitford  
 
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