The style of Caesar, Livy and Cicero as models of English prose

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The style of Caesar, Livy and Cicero as models of English prose

Post by Cristoferuritius15 »

Gibbon, Hume, Johnson and Swift are seen as models of English prose, leaning on the neoclassical side, as opposed to the unconscious linguistic nativism of someone like Bunyan. Though Swift’s style is perhaps the most distinct of those three and also the most related to contemporary colloquial speech, he is nonetheless acknowledged as neoclassical by someone like the Austrian literary critic Otto Karpfen.

What strikes me in English literature, until the XIX century, is the dependence on the classical Latin models in what relates to stylistic features ( such as syntax and vocabulary). I have for one heard Gibbon being compared to Livy and Cicero, and perceived as an imitator of their style, if not of their subject matter. I have also been overwhelmed by the number of classical allusions in authors so distinct from the literary figures of Early Modern Britain as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

I ask you, you who are more acquainted both with English and Latin prose more than I shall ever be: Do you believe there is any ancient author who influenced English prose more than any other? Is there preferred model among the Golden Latin authors? Who do you believe transposed the key elements of say Cicero into English, while composing an original work of literature?

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Constantinus Philo
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Re: The style of Caesar, Livy and Cicero as models of English prose

Post by Constantinus Philo »

the treatment of indirect speech was borrowed from Latin by British novelists as early as the 18th c. Woodcock gives an example from Jane Austin I think.
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