Then I fell in with the Germania and Agricola of Tacitus, and was very much taken by his style. Its peculiarities were much easier to understand, and to copy, than Cicero's; 'decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile;' and thus, without any advance whatever in understanding the genius of the language, or the construction of a Latin sentence, I added to my fine words and cut-and-dried idioms, phrases smacking of Tacitus. The Dialogues of Erasmus, which I studied, carried me in the same direction; for dialogues, from the nature of the case, consist of words and clauses, and smart, pregnant, or colloquial expressions, rather than of sentences with an adequate structure.
Mr. Black takes breath, and then continues:
The labour, then, of years came to nothing, and when I was twenty I knew no more of Latin composition than I had known at fifteen. It was then that circumstances turned my attention to a volume of Latin Lectures, which had been published by the accomplished scholar of whose critique in the Quarterly Review I have already spoken. The Lectures in question had been delivered terminally while he held the Professorship of Poetry, and were afterwards collected into a volume; and various circumstances combined to give them a peculiar character. Delivered one by one at intervals, to a large, cultivated, and critical audience, they both demanded and admitted of special elaboration of the style. As coming from a person of his high reputation for Latinity, they were displays of art; and, as addressed to persons who had to follow ex tempore the course of a discussion delivered in a foreign tongue, they needed a style as neat, pointed, lucid, and perspicuous as it was ornamental. Moreover, as expressing modern ideas in an ancient language, they involved a new development and application of its powers. The result of these united conditions was a style less simple, less natural and fresh, than Cicero's; more studied, more ambitious, more sparkling; heaping together in a page the flowers which Cicero scatters over a treatise; but still on that very account more fitted for the purpose of inflicting upon the inquiring student what Latinity was. Any how, such was its effect upon me; it was like the 'Open Sesam' of the tale; and I quickly found that I had a new sense, as regards composition, that I understood beyond mistake what a Latin sentence should be, and saw how an English sentence must be fused and remoulded in order to make it Latin. Henceforth Cicero, as an artist, had a meaning, when I read him, which he never had had to me before; the bad dream of seeking and never finding was over; and, whether I ever wrote Latin or not, at least I knew what good Latin was.