Part 4 out of 54
_est_ for the second person singular of verbs, nine times in ten, fall into
the sound or syllable with which the primitive word terminates. English
verbs, as they are now commonly used, run through their entire conjugation
without acquiring a single syllable from inflection, except sometimes when
the sound of _d, s_, or _st_ cannot be added to them.
5. This simplicity, so characteristic of our modern English, as well as of
the Saxon tongue, its proper parent, is attended with advantages that go
far to compensate for all that is consequently lost in euphony, or in the
liberty of transposition. Our formation of the moods and tenses, by means
of a few separate auxiliaries, all monosyllabic, and mostly without
inflection, is not only simple and easy, but beautiful, chaste, and strong.
In my opinion, our grammarians have shown far more affection for the
obsolete or obsolescent terminations _en, eth, est_, and _edst_, than they
really deserve. Till the beginning of the sixteenth century, _en_ was used
to mark the plural number of verbs, as, _they sayen_ for _they say_; after
which, it appears to have been dropped. Before the beginning of the
seventeenth century, _s_ or _es_ began to dispute with _th_ or _eth_ the
right of forming the third person singular of verbs; and, as the Bible and
other grave books used only the latter, a clear distinction obtained,
between the solemn and the familiar style, which distinction is well known
at this day. Thus we have, _He runs, walks, rides, reaches_, &c., for the
one; and, _He runneth, walketh, rideth, reacheth_, &c., for the other.
About the same time, or perhaps earlier, the use of the second person
singular began to be avoided in polite conversation, by the substitution of
the plural verb and pronoun; and, when used in poetry, it was often
contracted, so as to prevent any syllabic increase. In old books, all verbs
and participles that were intended to be contracted in pronunciation, were
contracted also, in some way, by the writer: as, "_call'd, carry'd,
sacrific'd;" "fly'st, ascrib'st, cryd'st;" "tost, curst, blest, finisht_;"
and others innumerable. All these, and such as are like them, we now
pronounce in the same way, but usually write differently; as, _called,
carried, sacrificed; fliest, ascribest, criettst; tossed, cursed, blessed,
finished_. Most of these topics will be further noticed in the Grammar.
I. ENGLISH OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
6. _Queen Victoria's Answer to an Address.--Example written in 1837_.
"I thank you for your condolence upon the death of his late Majesty, for
the justice which you render to his character, and to the measures of his
reign, and for your warm congratulations upon my accession to the throne. I
join in your prayers for the prosperity of my reign, the best security for
which is to be found in reverence for our holy religion, and in the
observance of its duties."--VICTORIA, _to the Friends' Society_.
7. _From President Adams's Eulogy on Lafayette.--Written in 1834_.
"Pronounce him one of the first men of his age, and you have yet not done
him justice. Try him by that test to which he sought in vain to stimulate
the vulgar and selfish spirit of Napoleon; class him among the men who, to
compare and seat themselves, must take in the compass of all ages; turn
back your eyes upon the records of time; summon from the creation of the
world to this day the mighty dead of every age and every clime; and where,
among the race of merely mortal men, shall one be found, who, as the
benefactor of his kind, shall claim to take precedence of Lafayette?"--JOHN
8. _From President Jackson's Proclamation against Nullification.--1832_.
"No, we have not erred! The Constitution is still the object of our
reverence, the bond of our Union, our defence in danger, the source of our
prosperity in peace. It shall descend, as we have received it, uncorrupted
by sophistical construction, to our posterity: and the sacrifices of local
interest, of State prejudices, of personal animosities, that were made to
bring it into existence, will again be patriotically offered for its
9. _From a Note on one of Robert Hall's Sermons.--Written about 1831_.
"After he had written down the striking apostrophe which occurs at about
page 76 of most of the editions--'Eternal God! on what are thine enemies
intent! what are those enterprises of guilt and horror, that, for the
safety of their performers, require to be enveloped in a darkness which the
eye of Heaven must not _penetrate_!'--he asked, 'Did I say _penetrate_,
sir, when I preached, it?' 'Yes.' 'Do you think, sir, I may venture to
alter it? for no man who considered the force of the English language,
would use a word of three syllables there, but from absolute necessity.'
'You are doubtless at liberty to alter it, if you think well.' 'Then be so
good, sir, as to take your pencil, and for _penetrate_ put _pierce_;
_pierce_ is the word, sir, and the only word to be used there.'"--OLINTHUS
10. _King William's Answer to an Address.--Example written in 1830_.
"I thank you sincerely for your condolence with me, on account of the loss
which I have sustained, in common with my people, by the death of my
lamented brother, his late Majesty. The assurances which you have conveyed
to me, of loyalty and affectionate attachment to my person, are very
gratifying to my feelings. You may rely upon my favour and protection, and
upon my anxious endeavours to promote morality and true piety among all
classes of my subjects."--WILLIAM IV, _to the Friends_.
11. _Reign of George IV, 1830 back to 1820.--Example written in 1827_.
"That morning, thou, that slumbered not before,
Nor slept, great Ocean I laid thy waves to rest,
And hushed thy mighty minstrelsy. No breath
Thy deep composure stirred, no fin, no oar;
Like beauty newly dead, so calm, so still,
So lovely, thou, beneath the light that fell
From angel-chariots sentinelled on high,
Reposed, and listened, and saw thy living change,
Thy dead arise. Charybdis listened, and Scylla;
And savage Euxine on the Thracian beach
Lay motionless: and every battle ship
Stood still; and every ship of merchandise,
And all that sailed, of every name, stood still."
ROBERT POLLOK: _Course of Time_, Book VII, line 634-647.
II. ENGLISH OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.
12. _Reign of George III, 1820 back to 1760.--Example written in 1800_.
"There is, it will be confessed, a delicate sensibility to character, a
sober desire of reputation, a wish to possess the esteem of the wise and
good, felt by the purest minds, which is at the farthest remove from
arrogance or vanity. The humility of a noble mind scarcely dares approve of
itself, until it has secured the approbation of others. Very different is
that restless desire of distinction, that passion for theatrical display,
which inflames the heart and occupies the whole attention of vain men. * *
* The truly good man is jealous over himself, lest the notoriety of his
best actions, by blending itself with their motive, should diminish their
value; the vain man performs the same actions for the sake of that
notoriety. The good man quietly discharges his duty, and shuns ostentation;
the vain man considers every good deed lost that is not publickly
displayed. The one is intent upon realities, the other upon semblances: the
one aims to _be_ virtuous, the other to _appear_ so."--ROBERT HALL: _Sermon
on Modern Infidelity_.
13. _From Washington's Farewell Address.--Example written in 1796_.
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity,
Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man
claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great
pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and
citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect
and cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with
private and publick felicity. Let it simply be asked, where is the security
for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious
obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in
courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that
morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to
the influence of refined education on minds of a peculiar structure; reason
and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail
in exclusion of religious principle."--GEORGE WASHINGTON.
14. _From Dr. Johnson's Life of Addison.--Example written about 1780_.
"That he always wrote as he would think it necessary to write now, cannot
be affirmed; his instructions were such as the character of his readers
made proper. That general knowledge which now circulates in common talk,
was in his time rarely to be found. Men not professing learning, were not
ashamed of ignorance; and in the female world, any acquaintance with books
was distinguished only to be censured. His purpose was to infuse literary
curiosity, by gentle and unsuspected conveyance, into the gay, the idle,
and the wealthy; he therefore presented knowledge in the most alluring
form, not lofty and austere, but accessible and familiar. When he shewed
them their defects, he shewed them likewise that they might easily be
supplied. His attempt succeeded; inquiry was awakened, and comprehension
expanded. An emulation of intellectual elegance was excited, and from this
time to our own, life has been gradually exalted, and conversation purified
and enlarged."--SAMUEL JOHNSON: _Lives_, p. 321.
15. _Reign of George II, 1760 back to 1727.--Example written in 1751_.
"We Britons in our time have been remarkable borrowers, as our _multiform_
Language may sufficiently shew. Our Terms in _polite Literature_ prove,
that this came from _Greece_; our terms in _Music_ and _Painting_, that
these came from Italy; our Phrases in _Cookery_ and _War_, that we learnt
these from the French; and our phrases in _Navigation_, that we were taught
by the _Flemings_ and _Low Dutch_. These many and very different Sources of
our Language may be the cause, why it is so deficient in _Regularity_ and
_Analogy_. Yet we have this advantage to compensate the defect, that what
we want in _Elegance_, we gain in _Copiousness_, in which last respect few
Languages will be found superior to our own."--JAMES HARRIS: _Hermes_, Book
iii, Ch. v, p. 408.
16. _Reign of George I, 1727 back to 1714.--Example written about 1718_.
"There is a certain coldness and indifference in the phrases of our
European languages, when they are compared with the Oriental forms of
speech: and it happens very luckily, that the Hebrew idioms ran into the
English tongue, with a particular grace and beauty. Our language has
received innumerable elegancies and improvements from that infusion of
Hebraisms, which are derived to it out of the poetical passages in holy
writ. They give a force and energy to our expressions, warm and animate our
language, and convey our thoughts in more ardent and intense phrases, than
any that are to be met with in our tongue."--JOSEPH ADDISON: _Evidences_,
17. _Reign of Queen Anne, 1714 to 1702.--Example written in 1708_.
"Some by old words to Fame have made pretence,
Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their sense;
Such labour'd nothings, in so strange a style,
Amaze th' unlearn'd, and make the learned smile."
"In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold;
Alike fantastick, if too new or old:
Be not the first by whom the new are try'd,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside."
ALEXANDER POPE: _Essay on Criticism_, l. 324-336.
III. ENGLISH OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.
18. _Reign of William III, 1702 to 1689.--Example published in 1700_.
"And when we see a Man of _Milton's_ Wit _Chime_ in with such a _Herd_, and
Help on the _Cry_ against _Hirelings_! We find How Easie it is for _Folly_
and _Knavery_ to Meet, and that they are Near of Kin, tho they bear
Different Aspects. Therefor since _Milton_ has put himself upon a _Level_
with the _Quakers_ in this, I will let them go together. And take as little
Notice of his _Buffoonry_, as of their _Dulness_ against _Tythes_. Ther is
nothing worth _Quoting_ in his _Lampoon_ against the _Hirelings_. But what
ther is of _Argument_ in it, is fully Consider'd in what follows."--CHARLES
LESLIE: _Divine Right of Tithes, Pref._, p. xi.
19. _Reign of James II, 1689 back to 1685.--Example written in 1685._
"His conversation, wit, and parts,
His knowledge in the noblest useful arts,
Were such, dead authors could not give;
But habitudes of those who live;
Who, lighting him, did greater lights receive:
He drain'd from all, and all they knew;
His apprehension quick, his judgment true:
That the most learn'd with shame confess
His knowledge more, his reading only less."
JOHN DRYDEN: _Ode to the Memory of Charles II; Poems_, p. 84.
20. _Reign of Charles II, 1685 to 1660.--Example from a Letter to the Earl
of Sunderland, dated, "Philadelphia, 28th 5th mo. July, 1683."_
"And I will venture to say, that by the help of God, and such noble
Friends, I will show a Province in seven years, equal to her neighbours of
forty years planting. I have lay'd out the Province into Countys. Six are
begun to be seated; they lye on the great river, and are planted about six
miles back. The town platt is a mile long, and two deep,--has a navigable
river on each side, the least as broad as the Thames at Woolwych, from
three to eight fathom water. There is built about eighty houses, and I have
settled at least three hundred farmes contiguous to it."--WILLIAM PENN.
_The Friend_, Vol. vii, p. 179.
21. _From an Address or Dedication to Charles II.--Written in 1675_.
"There is no [other] king in the world, who can so experimentally testify
of God's providence and goodness; neither is there any [other], who rules
so many free people, so many true Christians: which thing renders thy
government more honourable, thyself more considerable, than the accession
of many nations filled with slavish and superstitious souls."--ROBERT
BARCLAY: _Apology_, p. viii.
22. The following example, from the commencement of _Paradise Lost_, first
published in 1667, has been cited by several authors, to show how large a
proportion of our language is of Saxon origin. The thirteen words in
Italics are the only ones in this passage, which seem to have been derived
from any other source.
"Of man's first _disobedience_, and the _fruit_
Of that forbidden tree, whose _mortal_ taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of _Eden_; till one greater Man
_Restore_ us, and _regain_ the blissful _seat_,
Sing, heav'nly _Muse_, that on the _secret_ top
Of _Oreb_, or of _Sinai_, didst _inspire_
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning, how the Heav'ns and Earth
Rose out of _Chaos_."--MILTON: _Paradise Lost_, Book I.
23. _Examples written during Cromwell's Protectorate, 1660 to 1650_.
"The Queene was pleased to shew me the letter, the seale beinge a Roman
eagle, havinge characters about it almost like the Greeke. This day, in the
afternoone, the vice-chauncellor came to me and stayed about four hours
with me; in which tyme we conversed upon the longe debates."--WHITELOCKE.
_Bucke's Class. Gram._, p. 149.
"I am yet heere, and have the States of Holland ingaged in a more than
ordnary maner, to procure me audience of the States Generall. Whatever
happen, the effects must needes be good."--STRICKLAND: _Bucke's Classical
Gram._, p. 149.
24. _Reign of Charles I, 1648 to 1625.--Example from Ben Jonson's Grammar,
written about 1634; but the orthography is more modern_.
"The second and third person singular of the present are made of the first,
by adding _est_ and _eth_; which last is sometimes shortened into _s_. It
seemeth to have been poetical licence which first introduced this
abbreviation of the third person into use; but our best grammarians have
condemned it upon some occasions, though perhaps not to be absolutely
banished the common and familiar style."
"The persons plural keep the termination of the first person singular. In
former times, till about the reign of Henry the eighth, they were wont to
be formed by adding _en_; thus, _loven, sayen, complainen_. But now
(whatever is the cause) it hath quite grown out of use, and that other so
generally prevailed, that I dare not presume to set this afoot again:
albeit (to tell you my opinion) I am persuaded that the lack hereof well
considered, will be found a great blemish to our tongue. For seeing _time_
and _person_ be, as it were, the right and left hand of a verb, what can
the maiming bring else, but a lameness to the whole body?"--Book i, Chap.
25. _Reign of James I, 1625 to 1603.--From an Advertisement, dated 1608_.
"I svppose it altogether needlesse (Christian Reader) by commending M.
_VVilliam Perkins_, the Author of this booke, to wooe your holy affection,
which either himselfe in his life time by his Christian conversation hath
woon in you, or sithence his death, the neuer-dying memorie of his
excellent knowledge, his great humilitie, his sound religion, his feruent
zeale, his painefull labours, in the Church of God, doe most iustly
challenge at your hands: onely in one word, I dare be bold to say of him as
in times past _Nazianzen_ spake of _Athanasius_. His life was a good
definition of a true minister and preacher of the Gospell."--_The Printer
to the Reader_.
26. _Examples written about the end of Elizabeth's reign--1603_.
"Some say, That euer 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's Birth is celebrated,
The Bird of Dawning singeth all night long;
And then, say they, no Spirit dares walk abroad:
The nights are wholsom, then no Planets strike,
No Fairy takes, nor Witch hath pow'r to charm;
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time."
"The sea, with such a storme as his bare head
In hell-blacke night indur'd, would haue buoy'd up
And quench'd the stelled fires.
Yet, poore old heart, he holpe the heuens to raine.
If wolues had at thy gate howl'd that sterne time,
Thou shouldst haue said, Good porter, turne the key."
IV. ENGLISH OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.
27. _Reign of Elizabeth, 1603 back to 1558.--Example written in 1592_.
"As for the soule, it is no accidentarie qualitie, but a spirituall and
inuisible essence or nature, subsisting by it selfe. Which plainely
appeares in that the soules of men haue beeing and continuance as well
forth of the bodies of men as in the same; and are as wel subiect to
torments as the bodie is. And whereas we can and doe put in practise
sundrie actions of life, sense, motion, vnderstanding, we doe it onely by
the power and vertue of the soule. Hence ariseth the difference betweene
the soules of men, and beasts. The soules of men are substances: but the
soules of other creatures seeme not to be substances; because they haue no
beeing out of the bodies in which they are."--WILLIAM PERKINS: _Theol.
Works, folio_, p. 155.
28. _Examples written about the beginning of Elizabeth's reign.--1558_.
"Who can perswade, when treason is aboue reason; and mighte ruleth righte;
and it is had for lawfull, whatsoever is lustfull; and commotioners are
better than commissioners; and common woe is named common weale?"--SIR JOHN
CHEKE. "If a yong jentleman will venture him selfe into the companie of
ruffians, it is over great a jeopardie, lest their facions, maners,
thoughts, taulke, and dedes, will verie sone be over like."--ROGER ASCHAM.
29. _Reign of Mary the Bigot, 1558 to 1553.--Example written about 1555_.
"And after that Philosophy had spoken these wordes the said companye of the
musys poeticall beynge rebukyd and sad, caste downe their countenaunce to
the grounde, and by blussyng confessed their shamefastnes, and went out of
the dores. But I (that had my syght dull and blynd wyth wepyng, so that I
knew not what woman this was hauyng soo great aucthoritie) was amasyd or
astonyed, and lokyng downeward, towarde the ground, I began pryvyle to look
what thyng she would save ferther."--COLVILLE: _Version from Boethius:
Johnson's Hist. of E. L._, p. 29.
30. _Example referred by Dr. Johnson to the year 1553_.
"Pronunciation is an apte orderinge bothe of the voyce, countenaunce, and
all the whole bodye, accordynge to the worthinea of such woordes and mater
as by speache are declared. The vse hereof is suche for anye one that
liketh to haue prayse for tellynge his tale in open assemblie, that hauing
a good tongue, and a comelye countenaunce, he shal be thought to passe all
other that haue not the like vtteraunce: thoughe they have muche better
learning."--DR. WILSON: _Johnson's Hist. E. L._, p. 45.
31. _Reign of Edward VI, 1553 to 1547.--Example written about 1550._
"Who that will followe the graces manyfolde
Which are in vertue, shall finde auauncement:
Wherefore ye fooles that in your sinne are bolde,
Ensue ye wisdome, and leaue your lewde intent,
Wisdome is the way of men most excellent:
Therefore haue done, and shortly spede your pace,
To quaynt your self and company with grace."
ALEXANDER BARCLAY: _Johnson's Hist. E. L._, p. 44.
32. _Reign of Henry VIII, 1547 to 1509.--Example dated 1541_.
"Let hym that is angry euen at the fyrste consyder one of these thinges,
that like as he is a man, so is also the other, with whom he is angry, and
therefore it is as lefull for the other to be angry, as unto hym: and if he
so be, than shall that anger be to hym displeasant, and stere hym more to
be angrye."--SIR THOMAS ELLIOTT: _Castel of Helthe_.
33. _Example of the earliest English Blank Verse; written about 1540_.
The supposed author died in 1541, aged 38. The piece from which these lines
are taken describes the death of _Zoroas_, an Egyptian astronomer, slain in
Alexander's first battle with the Persians.
"The Persians waild such sapience to foregoe;
And very sone the Macedonians wisht
He would have lived; king Alexander selfe
Demde him a man unmete to dye at all;
Who wonne like praise for conquest of his yre,
As for stoute men in field that day subdued,
Who princes taught how to discerne a man,
That in his head so rare a jewel beares;
But over all those same Camenes, those same
Divine Camenes, whose honour he procurde,
As tender parent doth his daughters weale,
Lamented, and for thankes, all that they can,
Do cherish hym deceast, and sett hym free,
From dark oblivion of devouring death."
_Probably written by SIR THOMAS WYAT._
34. _A Letter written from prison, with a coal._ The writer, _Sir Thomas
More_, whose works, both in prose and verse, were considered models of pure
and elegant style, had been Chancellor of England, and the familiar
confidant of Henry VIII, by whose order he was beheaded in 1535.
"Myne own good doughter, our Lorde be thanked I am in good helthe of bodye,
and in good quiet of minde: and of worldly thynges I no more desyer then I
haue. I beseche hym make you all mery in the hope of heauen. And such
thynges as I somewhat longed to talke with you all, concerning the worlde
to come, our Lorde put theim into your myndes, as I truste he doth and
better to by hys holy spirite: who blesse you and preserue you all. Written
wyth a cole by your tender louing father, who in hys pore prayers
forgetteth none of you all, nor your babes, nor your nources, nor your good
husbandes, nor your good husbandes shrewde wyues, nor your fathers shrewde
wyfe neither, nor our other frendes. And thus fare ye hartely well for
lacke of paper. THOMAS MORE, knight."--_Johnson's Hist. E. Lang._, p. 42.
35. _From More's Description of Richard III.--Probably written about 1520._
"Richarde the third sonne, of whom we nowe entreate, was in witte and
courage egall with either of them, in bodye and prowesse farre vnder them
bothe, little of stature, ill fetured of limmes, croke backed, his left
shoulder much higher than his right, hard fauoured of visage, and such as
is in states called warlye, in other menne otherwise, he was malicious,
wrathfull, enuious, and from afore his birth euer frowarde. * * * Hee was
close and secrete, a deep dissimuler, lowlye of counteynaunce, arrogant of
heart--dispitious and cruell, not for euill will alway, but after for
ambicion, and either for the suretie and encrease of his estate. Frende and
foo was muche what indifferent, where his aduauntage grew, he spared no
mans deathe, whose life withstoode his purpose. He slew with his owne
handes king Henry the sixt, being prisoner in the Tower."--SIR THOMAS MORE:
_Johnson's History of the English Language_, p. 39.
36. _From his description of Fortune, written about the year 1500._
"Fortune is stately, solemne, prowde, and hye:
And rychesse geueth, to haue seruyce therefore.
The nedy begger catcheth an half peny:
Some manne a thousaude pounde, some lesse some more.
But for all that she kepeth euer in store,
From euery manne some parcell of his wyll,
That he may pray therefore and serve her styll.
Some manne hath good, but chyldren hath he none.
Some manne hath both, but he can get none health.
Some hath al thre, but vp to honours trone,
Can he not crepe, by no maner of stelth.
To some she sendeth chyldren, ryches, welthe,
Honour, woorshyp, and reuerence all hys lyfe:
But yet she pyncheth hym with a shrewde wife."
SIR THOMAS MORE.
V. ENGLISH OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.
37. _Example for the reign of Henry VII, who was crowned on Bosworth field,
1485, and who died in 1509._
"Wherefor and forasmoche as we haue sent for our derrest wif, and for our
derrest moder, to come unto us, and that we wold have your advis and
counsail also in soche matters as we haue to doo for the subduying of the
rebelles, we praie you, that, yeving your due attendaunce vppon our said
derrest wif and lady moder, ye come with thaym unto us; not failing herof
as ye purpose to doo us plaisir. Yeven undre our signett, at our Castell of
Kenelworth, the xiii daie of Maye."--HENRY VII: _Letter to the Earl of
Ormond: Bucke's Classical Gram._, p. 147.
38. _Example for the short reign of Richard III,--from 1485 to 1483._
"Right reverend fader in God, right trusty and right wel-beloved, we grete
yow wele, and wol and charge you that under oure greate seale, being in
your warde, ye do make in all haist our lettres of proclamation severally
to be directed unto the shirrefs of everie countie within this oure
royaume."--RICHARD III: _Letter to his Chancellor._
39. _Reign of Edward IV,--from 1483 to 1461.--Example written in 1463._
"Forasmoche as we by divers meanes bene credebly enformed and undarstand
for certyne, that owr greate adversary Henry, naminge hym selfe kynge of
England, by the maliceous counseyle and exitacion of Margaret his wife,
namynge hir selfe queane of England, have conspired," &c.--EDWARD IV:
_Letter of Privy Seal_.
40. _Examples for the reign of Henry VI,--from 1461 back to 1422._
"When Nembroth [i.e. _Nimrod_] by Might, for his own Glorye, made and
incorporate the first Realme, and subduyd it to hymself by Tyrannye, he
would not have it governyd by any other Rule or Lawe, but by his own Will;
by which and for th' accomplishment thereof he made it. And therefor,
though he had thus made a Realme, holy Scripture denyd to cal hym a Kyng,
_Quia Rex dicitur a Regendo_; Whych thyng he did not, but oppressyd the
People by Myght."--SIR JOHN FORTESCUE.
41. _Example from Lydgate, a poetical Monk, who died in 1440._
"Our life here short of wit the great dulnes
The heuy soule troubled with trauayle,
And of memorye the glasyng brotelnes,
Drede and vncunning haue made a strong batail
With werines my spirite to assayle,
And with their subtil creping in most queint
Hath made my spirit in makyng for to feint."
JOHN LYDGATE: _Fall of Princes_, Book III, Prol.
42. _Example for the reign of Henry V,--from 1422 back to 1413._
"I wolle that the Duc of Orliance be kept stille withyn the Castil of
Pontefret, with owte goyng to Robertis place, or to any other disport, it
is better he lak his disport then we were disceyved. Of all the remanant
dothe as ye thenketh."--_Letter of_ HENRY V.
43. _Example for the reign of Henry IV,--from 1413 back to 1400._
"Right heigh and myghty Prynce, my goode and gracious Lorde,--I recommaund
me to you as lowly as I kan or may with all my pouer hert, desiryng to hier
goode and gracious tydynges of your worshipful astate and welfare."--LORD
GREY: _Letter to the Prince of Wales: Bucke's Classical Gram._, p. 145.
VI. ENGLISH OF THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY.
44. _Reign of Richard II, 1400 back to 1377.--Example written in 1391._
"Lytel Lowys my sonne, I perceve well by certaine evidences thyne abylyte
to lerne scyences, touching nombres and proporcions, and also well consydre
I thy besye prayer in especyal to lerne the tretyse of the _astrolabye_.
Than for as moche as a philosopher saithe, he wrapeth hym in his frende,
that condiscendeth to the ryghtfull prayers of his frende: therefore I have
given the a sufficient astrolabye for oure orizont, compowned after the
latitude of Oxenforde: vpon the whiche by meditacion of this lytell
tretise, I purpose to teche the a certame nombre of conclusions,
pertainynge to this same instrument."--GEOFFREY CHAUCER: _Of the
45. _Example written about 1385--to be compared with that of 1555, on p.
"And thus this companie of muses iblamed casten wrothly the chere dounward
to the yerth, and shewing by rednesse their shame, thei passeden sorowfully
the thresholde. And I of whom the sight plounged in teres was darked, so
that I ne might not know what that woman was, of so Imperial aucthoritie, I
woxe all abashed and stonied, and cast my sight doune to the yerth, and
began still for to abide what she would doen afterward."--CHAUCER: _Version
from Boethius: Johnson's Hist. of E. L._, p. 29.
46. _Poetical Example--probably written before 1380_.
"O Socrates, thou stedfast champion;
She ne might nevir be thy turmentour,
Thou nevir dreddist her oppression,
Ne in her chere foundin thou no favour,
Thou knewe wele the disceipt of her colour,
And that her moste worship is for to lie,
I knowe her eke a false dissimulour,
For finally Fortune I doe defie."--CHAUCER.
47. _Reign of Edward III, 1377 to 1327.--Example written about 1360_.
"And eke full ofte a littell skare
Vpon a banke, er men be ware,
Let in the streme, whiche with gret peine,
If any man it shall restreine.
Where lawe failleth, errour groweth;
He is not wise, who that ne troweth."--SIR JOHN GOWER.
48. _Example from Mandeville, the English traveller--written in 1356_.
"And this sterre that is toward the Northe, that wee clepen the lode
sterre, ne apperethe not to hem. For whiche cause, men may wel perceyve,
that the lond and the see ben of rownde schapp and forme. For the partie of
the firmament schewethe in o contree, that schewethe not in another
contree. And men may well preven be experience and sotyle compassement of
wytt, that zif a man fond passages be schippes, that wolde go to serchen
the world, men mighte go be schippe all aboute the world, and aboven and
benethen. The whiche thing I prove thus, aftre that I have seyn. * * * Be
the whiche I seye zou certeynly, that men may envirowne alle the erthe of
alle the world, as wel undre as aboven, and turnen azen to his contree,
that hadde companye and schippynge and conduyt: and alle weyes he scholde
fynde men, londes, and yles, als wel as in this contree."--SIR JOHN
MANDEVILLE; _Johnson's Hist. of E. L._, p. 26.
49. _Example from Rob. Langland's "Vision of Pierce Ploughman," 1350_.
"In the somer season,
When hot was the Sun,
I shope me into shroubs,
As I a shepe were;
In habit as an harmet,
Vnholy of werkes,
Went wyde in this world
Wonders to heare."
50. _Description of a Ship--referred to the reign of Edward II: 1327-1307_.
"Such ne saw they never none,
For it was so gay begone,
Every nayle with gold ygrave,
Of pure gold was his sklave,
Her mast was of ivory,
Of samyte her sayle wytly,
Her robes all of whyte sylk,
As whyte as ever was ony mylke.
The noble ship was without
With clothes of gold spread about
And her loft and her wyndlace
All of gold depaynted was."
ANONYMOUS: _Bucke's Gram._, p. 143.
51. _From an Elegy on Edward I, who reigned till 1307 from 1272_.
"Thah mi tonge were made of stel,
Ant min herte yzote of bras,
The goodness myht y never telle,
That with kyng Edward was:
Kyng, as thou art cleped conquerour,
In uch battaille thou hadest prys;
God bringe thi soule to the honour,
That ever wes ant ever ys.
Now is Edward of Carnavan
Kyng of Engelond al aplyght;
God lete him never be worse man
Then his fader, ne lasse myht,
To holden his pore men to ryht,
Ant understonde good counsail,
Al Engelond for to wysse and dyht;
Of gode knyhtes darh him nout fail."
ANON.: _Percy's Reliques_, Vol. ii, p. 10.
VII. ENGLISH OF THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY.
52. _Reign of Henry III, 1272 to 1216.--Example from an old ballad entitled
Richard of Almaigne_; which Percy says was "made by one of the adherents of
Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, soon after the battle of Lewes, which
was fought, May 14, 1264."--_Percy's Reliques_, Vol. ii.
"Sitteth alle stille, and herkneth to me;
The kyng of Almaigne, bi mi leaute,
Thritti thousent pound askede he
For te make the pees in the countre,
Ant so he dude more.
Richard, thah thou be ever trichard,
Trichten shalt thou never more."
53. In the following examples, I substitute Roman letters for the Saxon. At
this period, we find the characters mixed. The style here is that which
Johnson calls "a kind of intermediate diction, neither Saxon nor English."
Of these historical rhymes, by _Robert of Gloucester_, the Doctor gives us
more than two hundred lines; but he dates them no further than to say,
that the author "is placed by the criticks in the thirteenth
century."--_Hist. of Eng. Lang._, p. 24.
"Alfred thys noble man, as in the ger of grace he nom
Eygte hondred and syxty and tuelue the kyndom.
Arst he adde at Rome ybe, and, vor ys grete wysdom,
The pope Leo hym blessede, tho he thuder com,
And the kynges croune of hys lond, that in this lond gut ys:
And he led hym to be kyng, ar he kyng were y wys.
An he was kyng of Engelond, of alle that ther come,
That vorst thus ylad was of the pope of Rome,
An suththe other after hym of the erchebyssopes echon."
"Clere he was god ynou, and gut, as me telleth me,
He was more than ten ger old, ar he couthe ys abece.
Ac ys gode moder ofte smale gyftes hym tok,
Vor to byleue other pie, and loky on ys boke.
So that by por clergye ys rygt lawes he wonde,
That neuere er nere y mad to gouerny ys lond."
ROBERT OF GLOUCESTER: _Johnson's Hist. of E. L._, p. 25.
54. _Reign of John_, 1216 _back to_ 1199.--_Subject of Christ's
"I syke when y singe for sorewe that y se
When y with wypinge bihold upon the tre,
Ant se Jhesu the suete ys hert blod for-lete
For the love of me;
Ys woundes waxen wete, thei wepen, still and mete,
Marie reweth me."
ANON.: _Bucke's Gram._, p. 142.
VIII. ENGLISH, OR ANGLO-SAXON, OF THE TWELFTH CENTURY.
55. _Reign of Richard I, 1199 back to 1189.--Owl and Nightingale_.
"Ich was in one sumere dale,
In one snive digele pale,
I herde ich hold grete tale,
An hule and one nightingale.
That plait was stif I stare and strong,
Sum wile softe I lud among.
An other again other sval
I let that wole mod ut al.
I either seide of otheres custe,
That alere worste that hi wuste
I hure and I hure of others songe
Hi hold plaidung futhe stronge."
ANON.: _Bucke's Gram._, p. 142.
56. _Reign of Henry II, 1189 back to 1154.--Example dated 1180_.
"And of alle than folke
The wuneden ther on folde,
Wes thisses landes folke
Leodene hendest itald;
And alswa the wimmen
Wunliche on heowen."
GODRIC: _Bucke's Gram._, p. 141.
57. _Example from the Saxon Chronicle, written about 1160_.
"Micel hadde Henri king gadered gold & syluer, and na god ne dide me for
his saule thar of. Tha the king Stephne to Engla-land com, tha macod he his
gadering aet Oxene-ford, & thar he nam the biscop Roger of Seres-beri, and
Alexander biscop of Lincoln, & te Canceler Roger hife neues, & dide aelle in
prisun, til hi jafen up here castles. Tha the suikes undergaeton that he
milde man was & softe & god, & na justise ne dide; tha diden hi alle
wunder." See _Johnson's Hist. of the Eng. Language_, p. 22.
58. _Reign of Stephen, 1154 to 1135.--Example written about this time_.
"Fur in see bi west Spaygne.
Is a lond ihone Cokaygne.
There nis lond under heuenriche.
Of wel of godnis hit iliche.
Thoy paradis be miri and briyt.
Cokaygne is of fairer siyt.
What is ther in paradis.
Bot grasse and flure and greneris.
Thoy ther be ioi and gret dute.
Ther nis met bot aenlic frute.
Ther nis halle bure no bench.
Bot watir manis thurst to quench."
ANON.: _Johnson's Hist. Eng. Lang._, p. 23.
59. _Reign of Henry I, 1135 to 1100.--Part of an Anglo-Saxon Hymn_.
"Heuene & erthe & all that is,
Biloken is on his honde.
He deth al that his wille is,
On sea and ec on londe.
He is orde albuten orde.
And ende albuten ende.
He one is eure on eche stede,
Wende wer thu wende.
He is buuen us and binethen,
Biuoren and ec bihind.
Se man that Godes wille deth,
He mai hine aihwar uinde.
Eche rune he iherth,
And wot eche dede.
He durh sighth eches ithanc,
Wai hwat sel us to rede.
Se man neure nele don god,
Ne neure god lif leden,
Er deth & dom come to his dure,
He mai him sore adreden.
Hunger & thurst, hete & chele,
Ecthe and all unhelthe,
Durh deth com on this midelard,
And other uniselthe.
Ne mai non herte hit ithenche,
Ne no tunge telle,
Hu muchele pinum and hu uele,
Bieth inne helle.
Louie God mid ure hierte,
And mid all ure mihte,
And ure emcristene swo us self,
Swo us lereth drihte."
ANON.: _Johnson's Hist. Eng. Lang._, p. 21.
IX. ANGLO-SAXON OF THE ELEVENTH CENTURY, COMPARED WITH ENGLISH.
60. _Saxon,--11th Century_.
LUCAE, CAP. I.
"5. On Herodes dagum Iudea cynincges, waes sum sacred on naman Zacharias, of
Abian tune: and his wif waes of Aarones dohtrum, and hyre nama waas
6. Sothlice hig waeron butu rihtwise beforan Gode, gangende on eallum his
bebodum and rihtwisnessum, butan wrohte.
7. And hig naefdon nan bearn, fortham the Elizabeth waes unberende; and hy on
hyra dagum butu forth-eodun.
8. Sothlice waes geworden tha Zacharias hys sacerdhades breac on his
gewrixles endebyrdnesse beforan Gode,
9. AEfter gewunan thaes sacerdhades hlotes, he eode that he his offrunge
sette, tha he on Godes tempel eode.
10. Eall werod thaes folces waes ute gebiddende on thaere offrunge timan.
11. Tha aetywde him Drihtnes engel standende on thaes weofodes swithran
12. Tha weard Zacharias gedrefed that geseonde, and him ege onhreas.
13. Tha cwaeth se engel him to, Ne ondraed thu the Zacharias; fortham thin
ben is gehyred, and thin wif Elizabeth the sunu centh, and thu nemst hys
naman Johannes."--_Saxon Gospels_.
LUK, CHAP. I.
"5. In the dayes of Eroude kyng of Judee ther was a prest Zacarye by name,
of the sort of Abia: and his wyf was of the doughtris of Aaron, and hir
name was Elizabeth.
6. And bothe weren juste bifore God, goynge in alle the maundementis and
justifyingis of the Lord, withouten playnt.
7. And thei hadden no child, for Elizabeth was bareyn; and bothe weren of
greet age in her dayes.
8. And it befel that whanne Zacarye schould do the office of presthod in
the ordir of his course to fore God,
9. Aftir the custom of the presthood, he wente forth by lot, and entride
into the temple to encensen.
10. And al the multitude of the puple was without forth and preyede in the
our of encensying.
11. And an aungel of the Lord apperide to him, and stood on the right half
of the auter of encense. 12. And Zacarye seyinge was afrayed, and drede fel
13. And the aungel sayde to him, Zacarye, drede thou not; for thy preier is
herd, and Elizabeth thi wif schal bere to thee a sone, and his name schal
be clepid Jon."
_Wickliffe's Bible_, 1380.
LUKE, CHAP. I.
"5. There was in the days of Herod the king of Judea, a certain priest
named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters
of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
6. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.
7. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren; and they both
were now well stricken in years.
8. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before
God in the order of his course,
9. According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn
incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
10. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time
11. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right
side of the altar of incense.
12. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias; for thy prayer is
heard, and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shall call
his name John."
_Common Bible_, 1610.
See Dr. Johnson's History of the English Language, in his Quarto
X. ANGLO-SAXON IN THE TIME OF KING ALFRED.
61. Alfred the Great, who was the youngest son of Ethelwolf, king of the
West Saxons, succeeded to the crown on the death of his brother Ethelred,
in the year 871, being then twenty-two years old. He had scarcely time to
attend the funeral of his brother, before he was called to the field to
defend his country against the Danes. After a reign of more than
twenty-eight years, rendered singularly glorious by great achievements
under difficult circumstances, he died universally lamented, on the 28th of
October, A. D. 900. By this prince the university of Oxford was founded,
and provided with able teachers from the continent. His own great
proficiency in learning, and his earnest efforts for its promotion, form a
striking contrast with the ignorance which prevailed before. "In the ninth
century, throughout the whole kingdom of the West Saxons, no man could be
found who was scholar enough to instruct the young king Alfred, then a
child, even in the first elements of reading: so that he was in his twelfth
year before he could name the letters of the alphabet. When that renowned
prince ascended the throne, he made it his study to draw his people out of
the sloth and stupidity in which they lay; and became, as much by his own
example as by the encouragement he gave to learned men, the great restorer
of arts in his dominions."--_Life of Bacon_.
62. The language of eulogy must often be taken with some abatement: it does
not usually present things in their due proportions. How far the foregoing
quotation is true, I will not pretend to say; but what is called "the
revival of learning," must not be supposed to have begun at so early a
period as that of Alfred. The following is a brief specimen of the language
in which that great man wrote; but, printed in Saxon characters, it would
appear still less like English.
"On thaere tide the Gotan of Siththiu maegthe with Romana rice gewin
upahofon. and mith heora cyningum. Raedgota and Eallerica waeron hatne.
Romane burig abraecon. and eall Italia rice that is betwux tham muntum and
Sicilia tham ealonde in anwald gerehton. and tha aegter tham foresprecenan
cyningum Theodric feng to tham ilcan rice se Theodric waes Amulinga. he wass
Cristen. theah he on tham Arrianiscan gedwolan durhwunode. He gehet Romanum
his freondscype. swa that hi mostan heora ealdrichta wyrthe beon."--KING
ALFRED: _Johnson's Hist. of E. L., 4to Dict._, p. 17.
OF THE GRAMMATICAL STUDY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
"Grammatica quid est? ars recte scribendi recteque loquendi; poetarum
enarrationem continens; omnium Scientiarum fons uberrimus. * * * Nostra
aetas parum perita rerum veterum, nimis brevi gyro grammaticum sepsit; at
apud antiques olim tantum auctoritatis hic ordo habuit, ut censores essent
et judices scriptorum omnium soli grammatici; quos ob id etiam Criticos
vocabant."--DESPAUTER. _Praef. ad Synt_, fol. 1.
1. Such is the peculiar power of language, that there is scarcely any
subject so trifling, that it may not thereby be plausibly magnified into
something great; nor are there many things which cannot be ingeniously
disparaged till they shall seem contemptible. Cicero goes further: "Nihil
est tam incredibile quod non dicendo fiat probabile;"--"There is nothing so
incredible that it may not by the power of language be made probable." The
study of grammar has been often overrated, and still oftener injuriously
decried. I shall neither join with those who would lessen in the public
esteem that general system of doctrines, which from time immemorial has
been taught as grammar; nor attempt, either by magnifying its practical
results, or by decking it out with my own imaginings, to invest it with any
artificial or extraneous importance.
2. I shall not follow the footsteps of _Neef_, who avers that, "Grammar and
incongruity are identical things," and who, under pretence of reaching the
same end by better means, scornfully rejects as nonsense every thing that
others have taught under that name; because I am convinced, that, of all
methods of teaching, none goes farther than his, to prove the reproachful
assertion true. Nor shall I imitate the declamation of _Cardell_; who, at
the commencement of his Essay, recommends the general study of language on
earth, from the consideration that, "The faculty of speech is the medium of
social bliss for superior intelligences in an eternal world;"  and who,
when he has exhausted censure in condemning the practical instruction of
others, thus lavishes praise, in both his grammars, upon that formless,
void, and incomprehensible theory of his own: "This application of words,"
says he, "in their endless use, by one plain rule, to all things which
nouns can name, instead of being the fit subject of blind cavil, _is the
most sublime theme presented to the intellect on earth. It is the practical
intercourse of the soul at once with its God, and with all parts of his
works!_"--_Cardell's Gram._, 12mo, p. 87; _Gram._, 18mo, p. 49.
3. Here, indeed, a wide prospect opens before us; but he who traces
science, and teaches what is practically useful, must check imagination,
and be content with sober truth.
"For apt the mind or fancy is to rove
Uncheck'd, and of her roving is no end."--MILTON.
Restricted within its proper limits, and viewed in its true light, the
practical science of grammar has an intrinsic dignity and merit sufficient
to throw back upon any man who dares openly assail it, the lasting stigma
of folly and self-conceit. It is true, the judgements of men are fallible,
and many opinions are liable to be reversed by better knowledge: but what
has been long established by the unanimous concurrence of the learned, it
can hardly be the part of a wise instructor now to dispute. The literary
reformer who, with the last named gentleman, imagines "that the persons to
whom the civilized world have looked up to for instruction in language were
all wrong alike in the main points,"  intends no middle course of
reformation, and must needs be a man either of great merit, or of little
4. The English language may now be regarded as the common inheritance of
about fifty millions of people; who are at least as highly distinguished
for virtue, intelligence, and enterprise, as any other equal portion of the
earth's population. All these are more or less interested in the purity,
permanency, and right use of that language; inasmuch as it is to be, not
only the medium of mental intercourse with others for them and their
children, but the vehicle of all they value, in the reversion of ancestral
honour, or in the transmission of their own. It is even impertinent, to
tell a man of any respectability, that the study of this his native
language is an object of great importance and interest: if he does not,
from these most obvious considerations, feel it to be so, the suggestion
will be less likely to convince him, than to give offence, as conveying an
5. Every person who has any ambition to appear respectable among people of
education, whether in conversation, in correspondence, in public speaking,
or in print, must be aware of the absolute necessity of a competent
knowledge of the language in which he attempts to express his thoughts.
Many a ludicrous anecdote is told, of persons venturing to use words of
which they did not know the proper application; many a ridiculous blunder
has been published to the lasting disgrace of the writer; and so intimately
does every man's reputation for sense depend upon his skill in the use of
language, that it is scarcely possible to acquire the one without the
other. Who can tell how much of his own good or ill success, how much of
the favour or disregard with which he himself has been treated, may have
depended upon that skill or deficiency in grammar, of which, as often as he
has either spoken or written, he must have afforded a certain and constant
6. I have before said, that to excel in grammar, is but to know better than
others wherein grammatical excellence consists; and, as this excellence,
whether in the thing itself, or in him that attains to it, is merely
comparative, there seems to be no fixed point of perfection beyond which
such learning may not be carried. In speaking or writing to different
persons, and on different subjects, it is necessary to vary one's style
with great nicety of address; and in nothing does true genius more
conspicuously appear, than in the facility with which it adopts the most
appropriate expressions, leaving the critic no fault to expose, no word to
amend. Such facility of course supposes an intimate knowledge of all words
in common use, and also of the principles on which they are to be combined.
7. With a language which we are daily in the practice of hearing, speaking,
reading, and writing, we may certainly acquire no inconsiderable
acquaintance, without the formal study of its rules. All the true
principles of grammar were presumed to be known to the learned, before they
were written for the aid of learners; nor have they acquired any
independent authority, by being recorded in a book, and denominated
grammar. The teaching of them, however, has tended in no small degree to
settle and establish the construction of the language, to improve the style
of our English writers, and to enable us to ascertain with more clearness
the true standard of grammatical purity. He who learns only by rote, may
speak the words or phrases which he has thus acquired; and he who has the
genius to discern intuitively what is regular and proper, may have further
aid from the analogies which he thus discovers; but he who would add to
such acquisitions the satisfaction of knowing what is right, must make the
principles of language his study.
8. To produce an able and elegant writer, may require something more than a
knowledge of grammar rules; yet it is argument enough in favour of those
rules, that without a knowledge of them no elegant and able writer is
produced. Who that considers the infinite number of phrases which words in
their various combinations may form, and the utter impossibility that they
should ever be recognized individually for the purposes of instruction and
criticism, but must see the absolute necessity of dividing words into
classes, and of showing, by general rules of formation and construction,
the laws to which custom commonly subjects them, or from which she allows
them in particular instances to deviate? Grammar, or the art of writing and
speaking, must continue to be learned by some persons; because it is of
indispensable use to society. And the only question is, whether children
and youth shall acquire it by a regular process of study and method of
instruction, or be left to glean it solely from their own occasional
observation of the manner in which other people speak and write.
9. The practical solution of this question belongs chiefly to parents and
guardians. The opinions of teachers, to whose discretion the decision will
sometimes be left, must have a certain degree of influence upon the public
mind; and the popular notions of the age, in respect to the relative value
of different studies, will doubtless bias many to the adoption or the
rejection of this. A consideration of the point seems to be appropriate
here, and I cannot forbear to commend the study to the favour of my
readers; leaving every one, of course, to choose how much he will be
influenced by my advice, example, or arguments. If past experience and the
history of education be taken for guides, the study of English grammar will
not be neglected; and the method of its inculcation will become an object
of particular inquiry and solicitude. The English language ought to be
learned at school or in colleges, as other languages usually are; by the
study of its grammar, accompanied with regular exercises of parsing,
correcting, pointing, and scanning; and by the perusal of some of its most
accurate writers, accompanied with stated exercises in composition and
elocution. In books of criticism, our language is already more abundant
than any other. Some of the best of these the student should peruse, as
soon as he can understand and relish them. Such a course, pursued with
regularity and diligence, will be found the most direct way of acquiring an
English style at once pure, correct, and elegant.
10. If any intelligent man will represent English grammar otherwise than as
one of the most useful branches of study, he may well be suspected of
having formed his conceptions of the science, not from what it really is in
itself, but from some of those miserable treatises which only caricature
the subject, and of which it is rather an advantage to be ignorant. But who
is so destitute of good sense as to deny, that a graceful and easy
conversation in the private circle, a fluent and agreeable delivery in
public speaking, a ready and natural utterance in reading, a pure and
elegant style in composition, are accomplishments of a very high order? And
yet of all these, the proper study of English grammar is the true
foundation. This would never be denied or doubted, if young people did not
find, under some other name, better models and more efficient instruction,
than what was practised on them for grammar in the school-room. No disciple
of an able grammarian can ever speak ill of grammar, unless he belong to
that class of knaves who vilify what they despair to reach.
11. By taking
proper advantage of the ductility of childhood, intelligent parents and
judicious teachers may exercise over the studies, opinions, and habits of
youth a strong and salutary control; and it will seldom be found in
experience, that those who have been early taught to consider grammatical
learning as worthy and manly, will change their opinion in after life. But
the study of grammar is not so enticing that it may be disparaged in the
hearing of the young, without injury. What would be the natural effect of
the following sentence, which I quote from a late well-written religious
homily? "The pedagogue and his dunce may exercise their wits correctly
enough, in the way of grammatical analysis, on some splendid argument, or
burst of eloquence, or thrilling descant, or poetic rapture, to the strain
and soul of which not a fibre in their nature would yield a
vibration."--_New-York Observer_, Vol. ix, p. 73.
12. Would not the bright boy who heard this from the lips of his reverend
minister, be apt the next day to grow weary of the parsing lesson required
by his schoolmaster? And yet what truth is there in the passage? One can no
more judge of the fitness of language, without regard to the meaning
conveyed by it, than of the fitness of a suit of clothes, without knowing
for whom they were intended. The grand clew to the proper application of
all syntactical rules, is _the sense_; and as any composition is faulty
which does not rightly deliver the author's meaning, so every solution of a
word or sentence is necessarily erroneous, in which that meaning is not
carefully noticed and literally preserved. To parse rightly and fully, is
nothing else than to understand rightly and explain fully; and whatsoever
is well expressed, it is a shame either to misunderstand or to
13. This study, when properly conducted and liberally pursued, has an
obvious tendency to dignify the whole character. How can he be a man of
refined literary taste, who cannot speak and write his native language
grammatically? And who will deny that every degree of improvement in
literary taste tends to brighten and embellish the whole intellectual
nature? The several powers of the mind are not so many distinct and
separable agents, which are usually brought into exercise one by one; and
even if they were, there might be found, in a judicious prosecution of this
study, a healthful employment for them all. The _imagination_, indeed, has
nothing to do with the elements of grammar; but in the exercise of
composition, young fancy may spread her wings as soon as they are fledged;
and for this exercise the previous course of discipline will have furnished
both language and taste, as well as sentiment.
14. The regular grammatical study of our language is a thing of recent
origin. Fifty or sixty years ago, such an exercise was scarcely attempted
in any of the schools, either in this country or in England. Of this
fact we have abundant evidence both from books, and from the testimony of
our venerable fathers yet living. How often have these presented this as an
apology for their own deficiencies, and endeavoured to excite us to greater
diligence, by contrasting our opportunities with theirs! Is there not
truth, is there not power, in the appeal? And are we not bound to avail
ourselves of the privileges which they have provided, to build upon the
foundations which their wisdom has laid, and to carry forward the work of
improvement? Institutions can do nothing for us, unless the love of
learning preside over and prevail in them. The discipline of our schools
can never approach perfection, till those who conduct, and those who
frequent them, are strongly actuated by that disposition of mind, which
generously aspires to all attainable excellence.
15. To rouse this laudable spirit in the minds of our youth, and to satisfy
its demands whenever it appears, ought to be the leading objects with those
to whom is committed the important business of instruction. A dull teacher,
wasting time in a school-room with a parcel of stupid or indolent boys,
knows nothing of the satisfaction either of doing his own duty, or of
exciting others to the performance of theirs. He settles down in a regular
routine of humdrum exercises, dreading as an inconvenience even such change
as proficiency in his pupils must bring on; and is well content to do
little good for little money, in a profession which he honours with his
services merely to escape starvation. He has, however, one merit: he
pleases his patrons, and is perhaps the only man that can; for they must
needs be of that class to whom moral restraint is tyranny, disobedience to
teachers, as often right as wrong; and who, dreading the expense, even of a
school-book, always judge those things to be cheapest, which cost the least
and last the longest. What such a man, or such a neighbourhood, may think
of English grammar, I shall not stop to ask.
16. To the following opinion from a writer of great merit, I am inclined to
afford room here, because it deserves refutation, and, I am persuaded, is
not so well founded as the generality of the doctrines with which it is
presented to the public. "Since human knowledge is so much more extensive
than the opportunity of individuals for acquiring it, it becomes of the
greatest importance so to economize the opportunity as to make it
subservient to the acquisition of as large and as valuable a portion as we
can. It is not enough to show that a given branch of education is useful:
you must show that it is the most useful that can be selected. Remembering
this, I think it would be expedient to dispense with the formal study of
English grammar,--a proposition which I doubt not many a teacher will hear
with wonder and disapprobation. We learn the grammar in order that we may
learn English; and we learn English whether we study grammars or not.
Especially we _shall_ acquire a competent knowledge of our own language, if
other departments of our education were improved."
17. "A boy learns more English grammar by joining in an hour's conversation
with educated people, than in poring for an hour over Murray or Horne
Tooke. If he is accustomed to such society and to the perusal of
well-written books, he will learn English grammar, though he never sees a
word about syntax; and if he is not accustomed to such society and such
reading, the 'grammar books' at a boarding-school will not teach it. Men
learn their own language by habit, and not by rules: and this is just what
we might expect; for the grammar of a language is itself formed from the
prevalent habits of speech and writing. A compiler of grammar first
observes these habits, and then makes his rules: but if a person is himself
familiar with the habits, why study the rules? I say nothing of grammar as
a general science; because, although the philosophy of language be a
valuable branch of human knowledge, it were idle to expect that school-boys
should understand it. The objection is, to the system of attempting to
teach children formally that which they will learn practically without
teaching."--JONATHAN DYMOND: _Essays on Morality_, p. 195.
18. This opinion, proceeding from a man who has written upon human affairs
with so much ability and practical good sense, is perhaps entitled to as
much respect as any that has ever been urged against the study in question.
And so far as the objection bears upon those defective methods of
instruction which experience has shown to be inefficient, or of little use,
I am in no wise concerned to remove it. The reader of this treatise will
find their faults not only admitted, but to a great extent purposely
exposed; while an attempt is here made, as well as in my earlier grammars,
to introduce a method which it is hoped will better reach the end proposed.
But it may easily be perceived that this author's proposition to dispense
with the formal study of English grammar is founded upon an untenable
assumption. Whatever may be the advantages of those purer habits of speech,
which the young naturally acquire from conversation with educated people,
it is not true, that, without instruction directed to this end, they will
of themselves become so well educated as to speak and write grammatically.
Their language may indeed be comparatively accurate and genteel, because
it is learned of those who have paid some attention to the study; but, as
they cannot always be preserved from hearing vulgar and improper
phraseology, or from seeing it in books, they cannot otherwise be guarded
from improprieties of diction, than by a knowledge of the rules of grammar.
One might easily back this position by the citation of some scores of
faulty sentences from the pen of this very able writer himself.
19. I imagine there can be no mistake in the opinion, that in exact
proportion as the rules of grammar are unknown or neglected in any country,
will corruptions and improprieties of language be there multiplied. The
"general science" of grammar, or "the philosophy of language," the author
seems to exempt, and in some sort to commend; and at the same time his
proposition of exclusion is applied not merely to the school-grammars, but
_a fortiori_ to this science, under the notion that it is unintelligible to
school-boys. But why should any principle of grammar be the less
intelligible on account of the extent of its application? Will a boy
pretend that he cannot understand a rule of English grammar, because he is
told that it holds good in all languages? Ancient etymologies, and other
facts in literary history, must be taken by the young upon the credit of
him who states them; but the doctrines of general grammar are to the
learner the easiest and the most important principles of the science. And I
know of nothing in the true philosophy of language, which, by proper
definitions and examples, may not be made as intelligible to a boy, as are
the principles of most other sciences. The difficulty of instructing youth
in any thing that pertains to language, lies not so much in the fact that
its philosophy is above their comprehension, as in our own ignorance of
certain parts of so vast an inquiry;--in the great multiplicity of verbal
signs; the frequent contrariety of practice; the inadequacy of memory; the
inveteracy of ill habits; and the little interest that is felt when we
speak merely of words.
20. The grammatical study of our language was early and strongly
recommended by Locke, and other writers on education, whose character
gave additional weight to an opinion which they enforced by the clearest
arguments. But either for want of a good grammar, or for lack of teachers
skilled in the subject and sensible of its importance, the general neglect
so long complained of as a grievous imperfection in our methods of
education, has been but recently and partially obviated. "The attainment of
a correct and elegant style," says Dr. Blair, "is an object which demands
application and labour. If any imagine they can catch it merely by the ear,
or acquire it by the slight perusal of some of our good authors, they will
find themselves much disappointed. The many errors, even in point of
grammar, the many offences against purity of language, which are committed
by writers who are far from being contemptible, demonstrate, that a
_careful study_ of the language is previously requisite, in all who aim at
writing it properly."--_Blair's Rhetoric_, Lect. ix, p. 91.
21. "To think justly, to write well, to speak agreeably, are the three
great ends of academic instruction. The Universities will excuse me, if I
observe, that both are, in one respect or other, defective in these three
capital points of education. While in Cambridge the general application is
turned altogether on speculative knowledge, with little regard to polite
letters, taste, or style; in Oxford the whole attention is directed towards
classical correctness, without any sound foundation laid in severe
reasoning and philosophy. In Cambridge and in Oxford, the art of speaking
agreeably is so far from being taught, that it is hardly talked or thought
of. _These defects_ naturally produce dry unaffecting compositions in the
one; superficial taste and puerile elegance in the other; ungracious or
affected speech in both."--DR. BROWN, 1757: _Estimate_, Vol. ii, p. 44.
22. "A grammatical study of our own language makes no part of the ordinary
method of instruction, which we pass through in our childhood; and it is
very seldom we apply ourselves to it afterward. Yet the want of it will not
be effectually supplied by any other advantages whatsoever. Much practice
in the polite world, and a general acquaintance with the best authors, are
good helps; but alone [they] will hardly be sufficient: We have writers,
who have enjoyed these advantages in their full extent, and yet cannot be
recommended as models of an accurate style. Much less then will, what is
commonly called learning, serve the purpose; that is, a critical knowledge
of ancient languages, and much reading of ancient authors: The greatest
critic and most able grammarian of the last age, when he came to apply his
learning and criticism to an English author, was frequently at a loss in
matters of ordinary use and common construction in his own vernacular
idiom."--DR. LOWTH, 1763: _Pref. to Gram._, p. vi.
23. "To the pupils of our public schools the acquisition of their own
language, whenever it is undertaken, is an easy task. For he who is
acquainted with several grammars already, finds no difficulty in adding one
more to the number. And this, no doubt, is one of the reasons why English
engages so small a proportion of their time and attention. It is not
frequently read, and is still less frequently written. Its supposed
facility, however, or some other cause, seems to have drawn upon it such a
degree of neglect as certainly cannot be praised. The students in those
schools are often distinguished by their compositions in the learned
languages, before they can speak or write their own with correctness,
elegance, or fluency. A classical scholar too often has his English style
to form, when he should communicate his acquisitions to the world. In some
instances it is never formed with success; and the defects of his
expression either deter him from appearing before the public at all, or at
least counteract in a great degree the influence of his work, and bring
ridicule upon the author. Surely these evils might easily be prevented or
diminished."--DR. BARROW: _Essays on Education_, London, 1804; Philad.,
1825, p. 87.
24. "It is also said that those who know Latin and Greek generally express
themselves with more clearness than those who do not receive a liberal
education. It is indeed natural that those who cultivate their mental
powers, write with more clearness than the uncultivated individual. The
mental cultivation, however, may take place in the mother tongue as well as
in Latin or Greek. Yet the spirit of the ancient languages, further is
declared to be superior to that of the modern. I allow this to be the case;
but I do not find that the English style is improved by learning Greek. It
is known that literal translations are miserably bad, and yet young
scholars are taught to translate, word for word, faithful to their
dictionaries. Hence those who do not make a peculiar study of their own
language, will not improve in it by learning, in this manner, Greek and
Latin. Is it not a pity to hear, what I have been told by the managers of
one of the first institutions of Ireland, that it was easier to find ten
teachers for Latin and Greek, than one for the English language, though
they proposed double the salary to the latter? Who can assure us that the
Greek orators acquired their superiority by their acquaintance with foreign
languages; or, is it not obvious, on the other hand, that they learned
ideas and expressed them in their mother tongue?"--DR. SPURZHEIM: _Treatise
on Education_, 1832, p. 107.
25. "Dictionaries were compiled, which comprised all the words, together
with their several definitions, or the sense each one expresses and conveys
to the mind. These words were analyzed and classed according to their
essence, attributes, and functions. Grammar was made a rudiment leading to
the principles of all thoughts, and teaching by simple examples, the
general classification of words and their subdivisions in expressing the
various conceptions of the mind. Grammar is then the key to the perfect
understanding of languages; without which we are left to wander all our
lives in an intricate labyrinth, without being able to trace back again any
part of our way."--_Chazotte's Essay on the Teaching of Languages_, p. 45.
Again: "Had it not been for his dictionary and his grammar, which taught
him the essence of all languages, and the natural subdivision of their
component parts, he might have spent a life as long as Methuselah's, in
learning words, without being able to attain to a degree of perfection in
any of the languages."--_Ib._, p. 50. "Indeed, it is not easy to say, to
what degree, and in how many different ways, both memory and judgement may
be improved by an intimate acquaintance with grammar; which is therefore,
with good reason, made the first and fundamental part of literary
education. The greatest orators, the most elegant scholars, and the most
accomplished men of business, that have appeared in the world, of whom I
need only mention Caesar and Cicero, were not only studious of grammar, but
most learned grammarians."--DR. BEATTIE: _Moral Science_, Vol. i, p. 107.
26. Here, as in many other parts of my work, I have chosen to be liberal of
quotations; not to show my reading, or to save the labour of composition,
but to give the reader the satisfaction of some other authority than my
own. In commending the study of English grammar, I do not mean to
discountenance that degree of attention which in this country is paid to
other languages; but merely to use my feeble influence to carry forward a
work of improvement, which, in my opinion, has been wisely begun, but not
sufficiently sustained. In consequence of this improvement, the study of
grammar, which was once prosecuted chiefly through the medium of the dead
languages, and was regarded as the proper business of those only who were
to be instructed in Latin and Greek, is now thought to be an appropriate
exercise for children in elementary schools. And the sentiment is now
generally admitted, that even those who are afterwards to learn other
languages, may best acquire a knowledge of the common principles of speech
from the grammar of their vernacular tongue. This opinion appears to be
confirmed by that experience which is at once the most satisfactory proof
of what is feasible, and the only proper test of what is useful.
27. It must, however, be confessed, that an acquaintance with ancient and
foreign literature is absolutely necessary for him who would become a
thorough philologist or an accomplished scholar; and that the Latin
language, the source of several of the modern tongues of Europe, being
remarkably regular in its inflections and systematic in its construction,
is in itself the most complete exemplar of the structure of speech, and the
best foundation for the study of grammar in general. But, as the general
principles of grammar are common to all languages, and as the only
successful method of learning them, is, to commit to memory the definitions
and rules which embrace them, it is reasonable to suppose that the language
most intelligible to the learner, is the most suitable for the commencement
of his grammatical studies. A competent knowledge of English grammar is
also in itself a valuable attainment, which is within the easy reach of
many young persons whose situation in life debars them from the pursuit of
28. The attention which has lately been given to the culture of the English
language, by some who, in the character of critics or lexicographers, have
laboured purposely to improve it, and by many others who, in various
branches of knowledge, have tastefully adorned it with the works of their
genius, has in a great measure redeemed it from that contempt in which it
was formerly held in the halls of learning. But, as I have before
suggested, it does not yet appear to be sufficiently attended to in the
course of what is called a _liberal education_. Compared with, other
languages, the English exhibits both excellences and defects; but its
flexibility, or power of accommodation to the tastes of different writers,
is great; and when it is used with that mastership which belongs to
learning and genius, it must be acknowledged there are few, if any, to
which it ought on the whole to be considered inferior. But above all, it is
_our own_; and, whatever we may know or think of other tongues, it can
never be either patriotic or wise, for the learned men of the United States
or of England to pride themselves chiefly upon them.
29. Our language is worthy to be assiduously studied by all who reside
where it is spoken, and who have the means and the opportunity to become
critically acquainted with it. To every such student it is vastly more
important to be able to speak and write well in English, than to be
distinguished for proficiency in the learned languages and yet ignorant of
his own. It is certain that many from whom better things might be expected,
are found miserably deficient in this respect. And their neglect of so
desirable an accomplishment is the more remarkable and the more censurable
on account of the facility with which those who are acquainted with the
ancient languages may attain to excellence in their English style.
"Whatever the advantages or defects of the English language be, as it is
our own language, it deserves a high degree of our study and attention. * *
* Whatever knowledge may be acquired by the study of other languages, it
can never be communicated with advantage, unless by such as can write and
speak their own language well."--DR. BLAIR: _Rhetoric_, Lect. ix, p. 91.
30. I am not of opinion that it is expedient to press this study to much
extent, if at all, on those whom poverty or incapacity may have destined to
situations in which they will never hear or think of it afterwards. The
course of nature cannot be controlled; and fortune does not permit us to
prescribe the same course of discipline for all. To speak the language
which they have learned without study, and to read and write for the most
common purposes of life, may be education enough for those who can be
raised no higher. But it must be the desire of every benevolent and
intelligent man, to see the advantages of literary, as well as of moral
culture, extended as far as possible among the people. And it is manifest,
that in proportion as the precepts of the divine Redeemer are obeyed by the
nations that profess his name, will all distinctions arising merely from
the inequality of fortune be lessened or done away, and better
opportunities be offered for the children of indigence to adorn themselves
with the treasures of knowledge.
31. We may not be able to effect all that is desirable; but, favoured as
our country is, with great facilities for carrying forward the work of
improvement, in every thing which can contribute to national glory and
prosperity, I would, in conclusion of this topic, submit--that a critical
knowledge of our common language is a subject worthy of the particular
attention of all who have the genius and the opportunity to attain
it;--that on the purity and propriety with which American authors write
this language, the reputation of our national literature greatly
depends;--that in the preservation of it from all changes which ignorance
may admit or affectation invent, we ought to unite as having one common
interest;--that a fixed and settled orthography is of great importance, as
a means of preserving the etymology, history, and identity of words;--that
a grammar freed from errors and defects, and embracing a complete code of
definitions and illustrations, rules and exercises, is of primary
importance to every student and a great aid to teachers;--that as the vices
of speech as well as of manners are contagious, it becomes those who have
the care of youth, to be masters of the language in its purity and
elegance, and to avoid as much as possible every thing that is
reprehensible either in thought or expression.
OF THE BEST METHOD OF TEACHING GRAMMAR.
"Quomodo differunt grammaticus et grammatista? Grammaticus est qui
diligenter, acute, scienterque possit aut dicere aut scribere, et poetas
enarrare: idem literatus dicitur. Grammatista est qui barbaris literis
obstrepit, cui abusus pro usu est; Graecis Latinam dat etymologiam, et totus
in nugis est: Latine dicitur literator."--DESPAUTER. _Synt._, fol. 1.
1. It is hardly to be supposed that any person can have a very clear
conviction of the best method of doing a thing, who shall not at first have
acquired a pretty correct and adequate notion of the thing to be done. Arts
must be taught by artists; sciences, by learned men; and, if Grammar is the
science of words, the art of writing and speaking well, the best speakers
and writers will be the best teachers of it, if they choose to direct their
attention to so humble an employment. For, without disparagement of the
many worthy men whom choice or necessity has made schoolmasters, it may be
admitted that the low estimation in which school-keeping is commonly held,
does mostly exclude from it the first order of talents, and the highest
acquirements of scholarship. It is one strong proof of this, that we have
heretofore been content to receive our digests of English grammar, either
from men who had had no practical experience in the labours of a
school-room, or from miserable modifiers and abridgers, destitute alike of
learning and of industry, of judgement and of skill.
2. But, to have a correct and adequate notion of English grammar, and of
the best method of learning or teaching it, is no light attainment. The
critical knowledge of this subject lies in no narrow circle of observation;
nor are there any precise limits to possible improvement. The simple
definition in which the general idea of the art is embraced, "Grammar is
the art of writing and speaking correctly," however useful in order to fix
the learner's conception, can scarcely give him a better knowledge of the
thing itself, than he would have of the art of painting, when he had
learned from Dr. Webster, that it is "the art of representing to the eye,
by means of figures and colors, any object of sight, and sometimes emotions
of the mind." The first would no more enable him to write a sonnet, than
the second, to take his master's likeness. The force of this remark extends
to all the technical divisions, definitions, rules, and arrangements of
grammar; the learner may commit them all to memory, and know but very
little about the art.
3. This fact, too frequently illustrated in
practice, has been made the basis of the strongest argument ever raised
against the study of grammar; and has been particularly urged against the
ordinary technical method of teaching it, as if the whole of that laborious
process were useless. It has led some men, even of the highest talents, to
doubt the expediency of that method, under any circumstances, and either to
discountenance the whole matter, or invent other schemes by which they
hoped to be more successful. The utter futility of the old accidence has
been inferred from it, and urged, even in some well-written books, with all
the plausibility of a fair and legitimate deduction. The hardships of
children, compelled to learn what they did not understand, have been
bewailed in prefaces and reviews; incredible things boasted by literary
jugglers, have been believed by men of sense; and the sympathies of nature,
with accumulated prejudices, have been excited against that method of
teaching grammar, which after all will be found in experience to be at once
the easiest, the shortest, and the best. I mean, essentially, the ancient
positive method, which aims directly at the inculcation of principles.
4. It has been already admitted, that definitions and rules committed to
memory and not reduced to practice, will never enable any one to speak and
write correctly. But it does not follow, that to study grammar by learning
its principles, or to teach it technically by formal lessons, is of no real
utility. Surely not. For the same admission must be made with respect to
the definitions and rules of every practical science in the world; and the
technology of grammar is even more essential to a true knowledge of the
subject, than that of almost any other art. "To proceed upon principles at
first," says Dr. Barrow, "is the most compendious method of attaining every
branch of knowledge; and the truths impressed upon the mind in the years of
childhood, are ever afterwards the most firmly remembered, and the most
readily applied."--_Essays_, p. 84. Reading, as I have said, is a part of
grammar; and it is a part which must of course precede what is commonly
called in the schools the study of grammar. Any person who can read, can
learn from a book such simple facts as are within his comprehension; and we
have it on the authority of Dr. Adam, that, "The principles of grammar are
the first abstract truths which a young mind can comprehend."--_Pref. to
Lat. Gram._, p. 4.
5. It is manifest, that, with respect to this branch of knowledge, the
duties of the teacher will vary considerably, according to the age and
attainments of his pupils, or according to each student's ability or
inclination to profit by his printed guide. The business lies partly
between the master and his scholar, and partly between the boy and his
book. Among these it may be partitioned variously, and of course unwisely;
for no general rule can precisely determine for all occasions what may be
expected from each. The deficiencies of any one of the three must either be
supplied by the extraordinary readiness of an other, or the attainment of
the purpose be proportionably imperfect. What one fails to do, must either
be done by an other, or left undone. After much observation, it seems to
me, that the most proper mode of treating this science in schools, is, to
throw the labour of its acquisition almost entirely upon the students; to
require from them very accurate rehearsals as the only condition on which
they shall be listened to; and to refer them to their books for the
information which they need, and in general for the solution of all their
doubts. But then the teacher must see that he does not set them to grope
their way through a wilderness of absurdities. He must know that they have
a book, which not only contains the requisite information, but arranges it
so that every item of it may be readily found. That knowledge may
reasonably be required at their recitations, which culpable negligence
alone could have prevented them from obtaining.
6. Most grammars, and especially those which are designed for the senior
class of students, to whom a well-written book is a sufficient instructor,
contain a large proportion of matter which is merely to be read by the
learner. This is commonly distinguished in type from those more important
doctrines which constitute the frame of the edifice. It is expected that
the latter will receive a greater degree of attention. The only successful
method of teaching grammar, is, to cause the principal definitions and
rules to be committed thoroughly to memory, that they may ever afterwards
be readily applied. Oral instruction may smoothe the way, and facilitate
the labour of the learner; but the notion of communicating a competent
knowledge of grammar without imposing this task, is disproved by universal
experience. Nor will it avail any thing for the student to rehearse
definitions and rules of which he makes no practical application. In
etymology and syntax, he should be alternately exercised in learning small
portions of his book, and then applying them in parsing, till the whole is
rendered familiar. To a good reader, the achievement will be neither great
nor difficult; and the exercise is well calculated to improve the memory
and strengthen all the faculties of the mind.
7. The objection drawn from the alleged inefficiency of this method, lies
solely against the practice of those teachers who disjoin the principles
and the exercises of the art; and who, either through ignorance or
negligence, impose only such tasks as leave the pupil to suppose, that the
committing to memory of definitions and rules, constitutes the whole
business of grammar. Such a method is no less absurd in itself, than
contrary to the practice of the best teachers from the very origin of the
study. The epistle prefixed to King Henry's Grammar almost three centuries
ago, and the very sensible preface to the old British Grammar, an octavo
reprinted at Boston in 1784, give evidence enough that a better method of
teaching has long been known. Nay, in my opinion, the very best method
cannot be essentially different from that which has been longest in use,
and is probably most known. But there is everywhere ample room for
improvement. Perfection was never attained by the most learned of our
ancestors, nor is it found in any of our schemes. English grammar can be
better taught than it is now, or ever has been. Better scholarship would
naturally produce this improvement, and it is easy to suppose a race of
teachers more erudite and more zealous, than either we or they.
8. Where invention and discovery are precluded, there is little room for
novelty. I have not laboured to introduce a system of grammar essentially
new, but to improve the old and free it from abuses. The mode of
instruction here recommended is the result of long and successful
experience. There is nothing in it, which any person of common abilities
will find it difficult to understand or adopt. It is the plain didactic
method of definition and example, rule and praxis; which no man who means
to teach grammar well, will ever desert, with the hope of finding an other
more rational or more easy. This book itself will make any one a
grammarian, who will take the trouble to observe and practise what it
teaches; and even if some instructors should not adopt the readiest means
of making their pupils familiar with its contents, they will not fail to
instruct by it as effectually as they can by any other. A hope is also
indulged, that this work will be particularly useful to many who have
passed the ordinary period allotted to education. Whoever is acquainted
with the grammar of our language, so as to have some tolerable skill in
teaching it, will here find almost every thing that is true in his own
instructions, clearly embraced under its proper head, so as to be easy of
reference. And perhaps there are few, however learned, who, on a perusal of
the volume, would not be furnished with some important rules and facts
which had not before occurred to their own observation.
9. The greatest peculiarity of the method is, that it requires the pupil to
speak or write a great deal, and the teacher very little. But both should
constantly remember that grammar is the art of speaking and writing well;
an art which can no more be acquired without practice, than that of dancing
or swimming. And each should ever be careful to perform his part
handsomely--without drawling, omitting, stopping, hesitating, faltering,
miscalling, reiterating, stuttering, hurrying, slurring, mouthing,
misquoting, mispronouncing, or any of the thousand faults which render
utterance disagreeable and inelegant. It is the learner's diction that is
to be improved; and the system will be found well calculated to effect
that object; because it demands of him, not only to answer questions on
grammar, but also to make a prompt and practical application of what he has
just learned. If the class be tolerable readers, and have learned the art
of attention, it will not be necessary for the teacher to say much; and in
general he ought not to take up the time by so doing. He should, however,
carefully superintend their rehearsals; give the word to the next when any
one errs; and order the exercise in such a manner that either his own
voice, or the example of his best scholars, may gradually correct the ill
habits of the awkward, till all learn to recite with clearness,
understanding well what they say, and making it intelligible to others.
10. Without oral instruction and oral exercises, a correct habit of
speaking our language can never be acquired; but written rules, and
exercises in writing, are perhaps quite as necessary, for the formation of
a good style. All these should therefore be combined in our course of
English grammar. And, in order to accomplish two objects at once, the
written doctrines, or the definitions and rules of grammar, should statedly
be made the subject of a critical exercise in utterance; so that the boy
who is parsing a word, or correcting a sentence, in the hearing of others,
may impressively realize, that he is then and there exhibiting his own
skill or deficiency in oral discourse. Perfect forms of parsing and
correcting should be given him as models, with the understanding that the
text before him is his only guide to their right application. It should be
shown, that in parsing any particular word, or part of speech, there are
just so many things to be said of it, and no more, and that these are to be
said in the best manner: so that whoever tells fewer, omits something
requisite; whoever says more, inserts something irrelevant; and whoever
proceeds otherwise, either blunders in point of fact, or impairs the beauty
of the expression. I rely not upon what are called "_Parsing Tables_" but
upon the precise forms of expression which are given in the book for the
parsing of the several sorts of words. Because the questions, or abstract
directions, which constitute the common parsing tables, are less
intelligible to the learner than a practical example; and more time must
needs be consumed on them, in order to impress upon his memory the number
and the sequence of the facts to be stated.
11. If a pupil happen to be naturally timid, there should certainly be no
austerity of manner to embarrass his diffidence; for no one can speak well,
who feels afraid. But a far more common impediment to the true use of
speech, is carelessness. He who speaks before a school, in an exercise of
this kind, should be made to feel that he is bound by every consideration
of respect for himself, or for those who hear him, to proceed with his
explanation or rehearsal, in a ready, clear, and intelligible manner. It
should be strongly impressed upon him, that the grand object of the whole
business, is his own practical improvement; that a habit of speaking
clearly and agreeably, is itself one half of the great art of grammar; that
to be slow and awkward in parsing, is unpardonable negligence, and a
culpable waste of time; that to commit blunders in rehearsing grammar, is
to speak badly about the art of speaking well; that his recitations must be
limited to such things as he perfectly knows; that he must apply himself to
his book, till he can proceed without mistake; finally, that he must watch
and imitate the utterance of those who speak well, ever taking that for the
best manner, in which there are the fewest things that could be
12. The exercise of parsing should be commenced immediately after the first
lesson of etymology--the lesson in which are contained the definitions of
the ten parts of speech; and should be carried on progressively, till it
embraces all the doctrines which are applicable to it. If it be performed
according to the order prescribed in the following work, it will soon make
the student perfectly familiar with all the primary definitions and rules
of grammar. It asks no aid from a dictionary, if the performer knows the
meaning of the words he is parsing; and very little from the teacher, if
the forms in the grammar have received any tolerable share of attention. It
requires just enough of thought to keep the mind attentive to what the
lips are uttering; while it advances by such easy gradations and constant
repetitions as leave the pupil utterly without excuse, if he does not know
what to say. Being neither wholly extemporaneous nor wholly rehearsed by
rote, it has more dignity than a school-boy's conversation, and more ease
than a formal recitation, or declamation; and is therefore an exercise well
calculated to induce a habit of uniting correctness with fluency in
ordinary speech--a species of elocution as valuable as any other.
13. Thus would I unite the practice with the theory of grammar;
endeavouring to express its principles with all possible perspicuity,
purity, and propriety of diction; retaining, as necessary parts of the
subject, those technicalities which the pupil must needs learn in order to
understand the disquisitions of grammarians in general; adopting every
important feature of that system of doctrines which appears to have been
longest and most generally taught; rejecting the multitudinous errors and
inconsistencies with which unskillful hands have disgraced the science and
perplexed the schools; remodelling every ancient definition and rule which
it is possible to amend, in respect to style, or grammatical correctness;
supplying the numerous and great deficiencies with which the most
comprehensive treatises published by earlier writers, are chargeable;
adapting the code of instruction to the present state of English
literature, without giving countenance to any innovation not sanctioned by
reputable use; labouring at once to extend and to facilitate the study,
without forgetting the proper limits of the science, or debasing its style
14. These general views, it is hoped, will be found to have been steadily
adhered to throughout the following work. The author has not deviated much
from the principles adopted in the most approved grammars already in use;
nor has he acted the part of a servile copyist. It was not his design to
introduce novelties, but to form a practical digest of established rules.
He has not laboured to subvert the general system of grammar, received from
time immemorial; but to improve upon it, in its present application to our
tongue. That which is excellent, may not be perfect; and amendment may be
desirable, where subversion would be ruinous. Believing that no theory can
better explain the principles of our language, and no contrivance afford
greater facilities to the student, the writer has in general adopted those
doctrines which are already best known; and has contented himself with
attempting little more than to supply the deficiencies of the system, and
to free it from the reproach of being itself ungrammatical. This indeed was
task enough; for, to him, all the performances of his predecessors seemed
meagre and greatly deficient, compared with what he thought needful to be
done. The scope of his labours has been, to define, dispose, and exemplify
those doctrines anew; and, with a scrupulous regard to the best usage, to
offer, on that authority, some further contributions to the stock of
15. Having devoted many years to studies of this nature, and being
conversant with most of the grammatical treatises already published, the
author conceived that the objects above referred to, might be better
effected than they had been in any work within his knowledge. And he
persuades himself, that, however this work may yet fall short of possible
completeness, the improvements here offered are neither few nor
inconsiderable. He does not mean to conceal in any degree his obligations
to others, or to indulge in censure without discrimination. He has no
disposition to depreciate the labours, or to detract from the merits, of
those who have written ably upon this topic. He has studiously endeavoured
to avail himself of all the light they have thrown upon the subject. With a
view to further improvements in the science, he has also resorted to the
original sources of grammatical knowledge, and has not only critically
considered what he has seen or heard of our vernacular tongue, but has
sought with some diligence the analogies of speech in the structure of
several other languages. If, therefore, the work now furnished be thought
worthy of preference, as exhibiting the best method of teaching grammar; he
trusts it will be because it deviates least from sound doctrine, while, by
fair criticism upon others, it best supplies the means of choosing
16. Of all methods of teaching grammar, that which has come nearest to what
is recommended above, has doubtless been the most successful; and whatever
objections may have been raised against it, it will probably be found on
examination to be the most analogous to nature. It is analytic in respect
to the doctrines of grammar, synthetic in respect to the practice, and
logical in respect to both. It assumes the language as an object which the
learner is capable of conceiving to be one whole; begins with the
classification of all its words, according to certain grand differences
which make the several parts of speech; then proceeds to divide further,
according to specific differences and qualities, till all the classes,
properties, and relations, of the words in any intelligible sentence,
become obvious and determinate: and he to whom these things are known, so
that he can see at a glance what is the construction of each word, and
whether it is right or not, is a good grammarian. The disposition of the
human mind to generalize the objects of thought, and to follow broad
analogies in the use of words, discovers itself early, and seems to be an
inherent principle of our nature. Hence, in the language of children and
illiterate people, many words are regularly inflected even in opposition to
the most common usage.
17. It has unfortunately become fashionable to inveigh against the
necessary labour of learning by heart the essential principles of grammar,
as a useless and intolerable drudgery. And this notion, with the vain hope
of effecting the same purpose in an easier way, is giving countenance to
modes of teaching well calculated to make superficial scholars. When those
principles are properly defined, disposed, and exemplified, the labour of
learning them is far less than has been represented; and the habits of
application induced by such a method of studying grammar, are of the utmost
importance to the learner. Experience shows, that the task may be achieved
during the years of childhood; and that, by an early habit of study, the
memory is so improved, as to render those exercises easy and familiar,
which, at a later period, would be found very difficult and irksome. Upon
this plan, and perhaps upon every other, some words will be learned before
the ideas represented by them are fully comprehended, or the things spoken
of are fully understood. But this seems necessarily to arise from the order
of nature in the development of the mental faculties; and an acquisition
cannot be lightly esteemed, which has signally augmented and improved that
faculty on which the pupil's future progress in knowledge depends.
18. The memory, indeed, should never be cultivated at the expense of the
understanding; as is the case, when the former is tasked with ill-devised
lessons by which the latter is misled and bewildered. But truth, whether
fully comprehended or not, has no perplexing inconsistencies. And it is
manifest that that which does not in some respect surpass the
understanding, can never enlighten it--can never awaken the spirit of
inquiry or satisfy research. How often have men of observation profited by
the remembrance of words which, at the time they heard them, they did not
"_perfectly understand!_" We never study any thing of which we imagine our
knowledge to be perfect. To learn, and, to understand, are, with respect to
any science or art, one and the same thing. With respect to difficult or
unintelligible phraseology alone, are they different. He who by study has
once stored his memory with the sound and appropriate language of any
important doctrine, can never, without some folly or conceit akin to
madness, repent of the acquisition. Milton, in his academy, professed to
teach things rather than words; and many others have made plausible
profession of the same thing since. But it does not appear, that even in
the hands of Milton, the attempt was crowned with any remarkable success.
See _Dr. Barrow's Essays_, p. 85.
19. The vain pretensions of several
modern simplifiers, contrivers of machines, charts, tables, diagrams,
vincula, pictures, dialogues, familiar lectures, ocular analyses, tabular
compendiums, inductive exercises, productive systems, intellectual methods,
and various new theories, for the purpose of teaching grammar, may serve to
deceive the ignorant, to amuse the visionary, and to excite the admiration
of the credulous; but none of these things has any favourable relation to
that improvement which may justly be boasted as having taken place within
the memory of the present generation. The definitions and rules which
constitute the doctrines of grammar, may be variously expressed, arranged,
illustrated, and applied; and in the expression, arrangement, illustration,
and application of them, there may be room for some amendment; but no
contrivance can ever relieve the pupil from the necessity of committing
them thoroughly to memory. The experience of all antiquity is added to our
own, in confirmation of this; and the judicious teacher, though he will not
shut his eyes to a real improvement, will be cautious of renouncing the
practical lessons of hoary experience, for the futile notions of a vain
20. Some have been beguiled with the idea, that great proficiency in
grammar was to be made by means of a certain fanciful method of
_induction._ But if the scheme does not communicate to those who are
instructed by it, a better knowledge of grammar than the contrivers
themselves seem to have possessed, it will be found of little use. By
the happy method of Bacon, to lead philosophy into the common walks of
life, into the ordinary business and language of men, is to improve the
condition of humanity; but, in teaching grammar, to desert the plain
didactic method of definition and example, rule and praxis, and pretend to
lead children by philosophic induction into a knowledge of words, is to
throw down the ladder of learning, that boys may imagine themselves to
ascend it, while they are merely stilting over the low level upon which its
fragments are cast.
21. The chief argument of these inductive grammarians is founded on the
principle, that children cannot be instructed by means of any words which
they do not perfectly understand. If this principle were strictly true,
children could never be instructed by words at all. For no child ever fully
understands a word the first time he hears or sees it; and it is rather by
frequent repetition and use, than by any other process, that the meaning of
words is commonly learned. Hence most people make use of many terms which
they cannot very accurately explain, just as they do of many _things_, the
real nature of which they do not comprehend. The first perception we have
of any word, or other thing, when presented to the ear or the eye, gives us
some knowledge of it. So, to the signs of thought, as older persons use
them, we soon attach some notion of what is meant; and the difference
between this knowledge, and that which we call an understanding of the word
or thing, is, for the most part, only in degree. Definitions and
explanations are doubtless highly useful, but induction is not definition,
and an understanding of words may be acquired without either; else no man
could ever have made a dictionary. But, granting the principle to be true,
it makes nothing for this puerile method of induction; because the regular
process by definitions and examples is both shorter and easier, as well as
more effectual. In a word, this whole scheme of inductive grammar is
nothing else than a series of _leading_ questions and _manufactured_
answers; the former being generally as unfair as the latter are silly. It
is a remarkable tissue of ill-laid premises and of forced illogical
22. Of a similar character is a certain work, entitled, "English Grammar on
the _Productive System_: a method of instruction recently adopted in
Germany and Switzerland." It is a work which certainly will be
"_productive_" of no good to any body but the author and his publishers.
The book is as destitute of taste, as of method; of authority, as of
originality. It commences with "the _inductive_ process," and after forty
pages of such matter as is described above, becomes a "_productive_
system," by means of a misnamed "RECAPITULATION;" which jumbles together
the etymology and the syntax of the language, through seventy-six pages
more. It is then made still more "_productive_" by the appropriation of a
like space to a reprint of Murray's Syntax and Exercises, under the
inappropriate title, "GENERAL OBSERVATIONS." To Prosody, including
punctuation and the use of capitals, there are allotted six pages, at the
end; and to Orthography, four lines, in the middle of the volume! (See p.
41.) It is but just, to regard the _title_ of this book, as being at once a
libel and a lie; a libel upon the learning and good sense of
Woodbridge; and a practical lie, as conveying a false notion of the
origin of what the volume contains.
23. What there is in Germany or Switzerland, that bears _any resemblance_
to this misnamed system of English Grammar, remains to be shown. It would
be prodigal of the reader's time, and inconsistent with the studied brevity
of this work, to expose the fallacy of what is pretended in regard to the
origin of this new method. Suffice it to say, that the anonymous and
questionable account of the "Productive System of Instruction," which the
author has borrowed from a "valuable periodical," to save himself the
trouble of writing a preface, and, as he says, to "_assist_ [the reader] in
forming an opinion of the comparative merits of _the system_" is not only
destitute of all authority, but is totally irrelevant, except to the
whimsical _name_ of his book. If every word of it be true, it is
insufficient to give us even the slightest reason to suppose, that any
thing analogous to his production ever had existence in either of those
countries; and yet it is set forth on purpose to convey the idea that such
a system "_now predominates_" in the schools of both. (See _Pref._, p. 5.)
The infidel _Neef_, whose new method of education has been tried in our
country, and with its promulgator forgot, was an accredited disciple of
this boasted "productive school;" a zealous coadjutor with Pestalozzi
himself, from whose halls he emanated to "teach the offspring of a free
people"--to teach them the nature of things sensible, and a contempt for
all the wisdom of _books_. And what similarity is there between his method
of teaching and that of _Roswell C. Smith_, except their pretence to a
common parentage, and that both are worthless?
24. The success of Smith's Inductive and Productive Grammars, and the fame
perhaps of a certain "Grammar in Familiar Lectures," produced in 1836 a
rival work from the hands of a gentleman in New Hampshire, entitled, "An
Analytical Grammar of the English Language, embracing the _Inductive and
Productive Methods of Teaching_, with _Familiar Explanations in the Lecture
Style_" &c. This is a fair-looking duodecimo volume of three hundred pages,
the character and pretensions of which, if they could be clearly stated,
would throw further light upon the two fallacious schemes of teaching
mentioned above. For the writer says, "This grammar professes _to combine_
both the _Inductive_ and _Productive_ methods of imparting instruction, of
which much has been said within a few years _past_"--_Preface_, p. iv. And
again: "The inductive and productive methods of instruction contain the
essence of modern improvements."--_Gram._, p. 139. In what these modern
improvements consist, he does not inform us; but, it will be seen, that he
himself claims the _copyright_ of _all_ the improvements which he allows to
_English grammar_ since the appearance of Murray in 1795. More than two
hundred pretenders to such improvements, appear however within the time;
nor is the grammarian of Holdgate the least positive of the claimants. This
new purveyor for the public taste, dislikes the catering of his
predecessor, who poached in the fields of Murray; and, with a tacit censure
upon _his productions_, has _honestly bought_ the rareties which he has
served up. In this he has the advantage. He is a better writer too than
some who make grammars; though no adept at composition, and a total
stranger to method. To call his work a "_system_" is a palpable misnomer;
to tell what it is, an impossibility. It is a grammatical chaos, bearing
such a resemblance to Smith's or Kirkham's as one mass of confusion
naturally bears to an other, yet differing from both in almost every thing
that looks like order in any of the three.
25. The claimant of the combination says, "this new system of English
grammar now offered to the public, embraces _the principles_ of a
'Systematic Introduction to English Grammar,' by John L. Parkhurst; and the
_present author_ is indebted to Mr. Parkhurst for a knowledge of _the
manner_ of applying the principles involved in _his peculiar method_ of
teaching grammatical science. He is also under obligations to Mr.
Parkhurst for many useful hints received several years since while under
his instruction.--The _copy right_ of Parkhurst's Grammar has been
purchased by the writer of this, who alone is responsible for the present
application of _its definitions._ Parkhurst's Systematic Introduction to
English Grammar has passed through two editions, and is _the first improved
system_ of English grammar that has appeared before the public _since the
first introduction_ of Lindley Murray's English Grammar."--_Sanborn's
Gram., Preface_, p. iii. What, then, is "THE PRODUCTIVE SYSTEM?" and with
whom did it originate? The thousands of gross blunders committed by its