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The Grammar of English Grammars by Gould Brown

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professors, prove at least that it is no system of writing grammatically;
and, whether it originated with Parkhurst or with Pestalozzi, with Sanborn
or with Smith, as it is confessedly a method but "recently adopted," and,
so far as appears, never fairly tested, so is it a method that needs only
to be _known_, to be immediately and forever exploded.

26. The best instruction is that which ultimately gives the greatest
facility and skill in practice; and grammar is best taught by that process
which brings its doctrines most directly home to the habits as well as to
the thoughts of the pupil--which the most effectually conquers inattention,
and leaves the deepest impress of shame upon blundering ignorance. In the
language of some men, there is a vividness, an energy, a power of
expression, which penetrates even the soul of dullness, and leaves an
impression both of words unknown and of sentiments unfelt before. Such men
can teach; but he who kindly or indolently accommodates himself to
ignorance, shall never be greatly instrumental in removing it. "The
colloquial barbarisms of boys," says Dr. Barrow, "should never be suffered
to pass without notice and censure. Provincial tones and accents, and all
defects in articulation, should be corrected whenever they are heard; lest
they grow into established habits, unknown, from their familiarity, to him
who is guilty of them, and adopted by others, from the imitation of his
manner, or their respect for his authority."--_Barrow's Essays on
Education_, p. 88.

27. In the whole range of school exercises, there is none of greater
importance than that of parsing; and yet perhaps there is none which is, in
general, more defectively conducted. Scarcely less useful, as a means of
instruction, is the practice of correcting false syntax orally, by regular
and logical forms of argument; nor does this appear to have been more ably
directed towards the purposes of discipline. There is so much to be done,
in order to effect what is desirable in the management of these things; and
so little prospect that education will ever be generally raised to a just
appreciation of that study which, more than all others, forms the mind to
habits of correct thinking; that, in reflecting upon the state of the
science at the present time, and upon the means of its improvement, the
author cannot but sympathize, in some degree, with the sadness of the
learned Sanctius; who tells us, that he had "always lamented, and often
with tears, that while other branches of learning were excellently taught,
grammar, which is the foundation of all others, lay so much neglected, and
that for this neglect there seemed to be no adequate remedy."--_Pref. to
Minerva_. The grammatical use of language is in sweet alliance with the
moral; and a similar regret seems to have prompted the following
exclamation of the Christian poet:

"Sacred Interpreter of human thought,
How few respect or use thee as they ought!"--COWPER.

28. No directions, either oral or written, can ever enable the heedless and
the unthinking to speak or write well. That must indeed be an admirable
book, which can attract levity to sober reflection, teach thoughtlessness
the true meaning of words, raise vulgarity from its fondness for low
examples, awaken the spirit which attains to excellency of speech, and
cause grammatical exercises to be skillfully managed, where teachers
themselves are so often lamentably deficient in them. Yet something may be
effected by means of better books, if better can be introduced. And what
withstands?--Whatever there is of ignorance or error in relation to the
premises. And is it arrogant to say there is much? Alas! in regard to this,
as well as to many a weightier matter, one may too truly affirm, _Multa non
sunt sicut multis videntur_--Many things are not as they seem to many.
Common errors are apt to conceal themselves from the common mind; and the
appeal to reason and just authority is often frustrated, because a wrong
head defies both. But, apart from this, there are difficulties:
multiplicity perplexes choice; inconvenience attends change; improvement
requires effort; conflicting theories demand examination; the principles of
the science are unprofitably disputed; the end is often divorced from the
means; and much that belies the title, has been published under the name.

29. It is certain, that the printed formularies most commonly furnished for
the important exercises of parsing and correcting, are either so awkwardly
written or so negligently followed, as to make grammar, in the mouths of
our juvenile orators, little else than a crude and faltering jargon. Murray
evidently intended that his book of exercises should be constantly used
with his grammar; but he made the examples in the former so dull and
prolix, that few learners, if any, have ever gone through the series
agreeably to his direction. The publishing of them in a separate volume,
has probably given rise to the absurd practice of endeavouring to teach his
grammar without them. The forms of parsing and correcting which this author
furnishes, are also misplaced; and when found by the learner, are of little
use. They are so verbose, awkward, irregular, and deficient, that the pupil
must be either a dull boy or utterly ignorant of grammar, if he cannot
express the facts extemporaneously in better English. They are also very
meagre as a whole, and altogether inadequate to their purpose; many things
that frequently occur in the language, not being at all exemplified in
them, or even explained in the grammar itself. When we consider how
exceedingly important it is, that the business of a school should proceed
without loss of time, and that, in the oral exercises here spoken of, each
pupil should go through his part promptly, clearly, correctly, and fully,
we cannot think it a light objection that these forms, so often to be
repeated, are so badly written. Nor does the objection lie against this
writer only: "_Ab uno disce omnes_." But the reader may demand some

30. First--from his etymological parsing: "O Virtue! how amiable thou art!"
Here his form for the word _Virtue_ is--"_Virtue_ is a _common substantive,
of_ the _neuter_ gender, _of the third_ person, _in the_ singular number,
_and the_ nominative case."--_Murray's Gram._, 8vo, Vol. ii, p. 2. It
should have been--"_Virtue_ is a common _noun_, personified _proper_, of
the _second_ person, singular number, _feminine_ gender, and nominative
case." And then the definitions of all these things should have followed in
regular numerical order. He gives the class of this noun wrong, for virtue
addressed becomes an individual; he gives the gender wrong, and in direct
contradiction to what he says of the word in his section on gender; he
gives the person wrong, as may be seen by the pronoun _thou_, which
represents it; he repeats the definite article three times unnecessarily,
and inserts two needless prepositions, making them different where the
relation is precisely the same: and all this, in a sentence of two lines,
to tell the properties of the noun _Virtue!_--But further: in etymological
parsing, the definitions explaining the properties of the parts of speech,
ought to be regularly and rapidly rehearsed by the pupil, till all of them
become perfectly familiar; and till he can discern, with the quickness of
thought, what alone will be true for the full description of any word in
any intelligible sentence. All these the author omits; and, on account of
this omission, his whole method of etymological parsing is, miserably

31. Secondly--from his syntactical parsing: "_Vice_ degrades us." Here his
form for the word _Vice_ is--"_Vice_ is a common substantive, _of_ the
third person, _in the_ singular number, _and the_ nominative
case."--_Murray's Gram._, 8vo, Vol. ii, p. 9. Now, when the learner is told
that this is the syntactical parsing of a noun, and the other the
etymological, he will of course conclude, that to advance from the
etymology to the syntax of this part of speech, is merely, _to omit the
gender_--this being the only difference between the two forms. But even
this difference had no other origin than the compiler's carelessness in
preparing his octavo book of exercises--the gender being inserted in the
duodecimo. And what then? Is the syntactical parsing of a noun to be
precisely the same as the etymological? Never. But Murray, and all who
admire and follow his work, are content to parse many words by
halves--making, or pretending to make, a necessary distinction, and yet
often omitting, in both parts of the exercise, every thing which
constitutes the difference. He should here have said--"_Vice_ is a common
noun, of the third person, singular number, neuter gender, and nominative
case: and is the subject of _degrades_; according to the rule which says,
'A noun or a pronoun which is the subject of a verb, must be in the
nominative case.' Because the meaning is--_vice degrades_." This is the
whole description of the word, with its construction; and to say less, is
to leave the matter unfinished.

32. Thirdly--from his "Mode of verbally correcting erroneous sentences:"
Take his first example: "The man is prudent which speaks little." (How far
silence is prudence, depends upon circumstances: I waive that question.)
The learner is here taught to say, "This sentence is incorrect; because
_which_ is a pronoun _of the neuter gender, and does not agree in gender_
with its antecedent _man_, which is masculine. But a pronoun should agree
with its antecedent in gender, &c. according to the fifth rule of syntax.
_Which_ should _therefore_ be _who_, a relative pronoun, agreeing with its
antecedent _man_; and the sentence should stand thus: 'The man is prudent
_who_ speaks little.'"--_Murray's Octavo Gram._, Vol. ii, p. 18;
_Exercises_, 12mo, p. xii. Again: "'After I visited Europe, I returned to
America.' This sentence," says Murray, "_is not correct_; because the verb
_visited_ is in the imperfect tense, and yet used here to express an
action, not only past, but prior to the time referred to by the verb
_returned_, to which it relates. By the thirteenth rule of syntax, when
verbs are used that, in point of time, relate to each other, the order of
time should be observed. The imperfect tense _visited_ should therefore
have been _had visited_, in the pluperfect tense, representing the action
of _visiting_, not only as past, but also as prior to the time of
_returning_. _The sentence corrected would stand thus_: 'After I _had
visited_ Europe, I returned to America.'"--_Gr._, ii, p. 19; _and Ex._
12mo, p. xii. These are the first two examples of Murray's verbal
corrections, and the only ones retained by Alger, in his _improved,
recopy-righted edition_ of Murray's Exercises. Yet, in each of them, is the
argumentation palpably false! In the former, truly, _which_ should be
_who_; but not because _which_ is "of the _neuter gender_;" but because the
application of that relative to _persons_, is now nearly obsolete. Can any
grammarian forget that, in speaking of brute animals, male or female, we
commonly use _which_, and never _who_? But if _which_ must needs be
_neuter_, the world is wrong in this.--As for the latter example, it is
right as it stands; and the correction is, in some sort, tautological. The
conjunctive adverb _after_ makes one of the actions subsequent to the
other, and gives to the _visiting_ all the priority that is signified by
the pluperfect tense. "_After_ I _visited_ Europe," is equivalent to
"_When_ I _had visited_ Europe." The whole argument is therefore void.[63]

33. These few brief illustrations, out of thousands that might be adduced
in proof of the faultiness of the common manuals, the author has
reluctantly introduced, to show that even in the most popular books, with
all the pretended improvements of revisers, the grammar of our language has
never been treated with that care and ability which its importance demands.
It is hardly to be supposed that men unused to a teacher's duties, can be
qualified to compose such books as will most facilitate his labours.
Practice is a better pilot than theory. And while, in respect to grammar,
the consciousness of failure is constantly inducing changes from one system
to another, and almost daily giving birth to new expedients as constantly
to end in the same disappointment; perhaps the practical instructions of an
experienced teacher, long and assiduously devoted to the study, may
approve themselves to many, as seasonably supplying the aid and guidance
which they require.

34. From the doctrines of grammar, novelty is rigidly excluded. They
consist of details to which taste can lend no charm, and genius no
embellishment. A writer may express them with neatness and
perspicuity--their importance alone can commend them to notice. Yet, in
drawing his illustrations from the stores of literature, the grammarian may
select some gems of thought, which will fasten on the memory a worthy
sentiment, or relieve the dullness of minute instruction. Such examples
have been taken from various authors, and interspersed through the
following pages. The moral effect of early lessons being a point of the
utmost importance, it is especially incumbent on all those who are
endeavouring to confer the benefits of intellectual culture, to guard
against the admission or the inculcation of any principle which may have an
improper tendency, and be ultimately prejudicial to those whom they
instruct. In preparing this treatise for publication, the author has been
solicitous to avoid every thing that could be offensive to the most
delicate and scrupulous reader; and of the several thousands of quotations
introduced for the illustration or application of the principles of the
science, he trusts that the greater part will be considered valuable on
account of the sentiments they contain.

35. The nature of the subject almost entirely precludes invention. The
author has, however, aimed at that kind and degree of originality which are
to be commended in works of this sort. What these are, according to his
view, he has sufficiently explained in a preceding chapter. And, though he
has taken the liberty of a grammarian, to think for himself and write in a
style of his own, he trusts it will be evident that few have excelled him
in diligence of research, or have followed more implicitly the dictates of
that authority which gives law to language. In criticising the critics and
grammatists of the schools, he has taken them upon their own
ground--showing their errors, for the most part, in contrast with the
common principles which they themselves have taught; and has hoped to
escape censure, in his turn, not by sheltering himself under the name of a
popular master, but by a diligence which should secure to his writings at
least the humble merit of self-consistency. His progress in composing this
work has been slow, and not unattended with labour and difficulty. Amidst
the contrarieties of opinion, that appear in the various treatises already
before the public, and the perplexities inseparable from so complicated a
subject, he has, after deliberate consideration, adopted those views and
explanations which appeared to him the least liable to objection, and the
most compatible with his ultimate object--the production of a work which
should show, both extensively and accurately, what is, and what is not,
good English.

36. The great art of meritorious authorship lies chiefly in the
condensation of much valuable thought into few words. Although the author
has here allowed himself ampler room than before, he has still been no less
careful to store it with such information as he trusted would prevent the
ingenious reader from wishing its compass less. He has compressed into this
volume the most essential parts of a mass of materials in comparison with
which the book is still exceedingly small. The effort to do this, has
greatly multiplied his own labour and long delayed the promised
publication; but in proportion as this object has been reached, the time
and patience of the student must have been saved. Adequate compensation for
this long toil, has never been expected. Whether from this performance any
profit shall accrue to the author or not, is a matter of little
consequence; he has neither written for bread, nor on the credit of its
proceeds built castles in the air. His ambition was, to make an acceptable
book, by which the higher class of students might be thoroughly instructed,
and in which the eyes of the critical would find little to condemn. He is
too well versed in the history of his theme, too well aware of the
precarious fortune of authors, to indulge in any confident anticipations of
extraordinary success: yet he will not deny that his hopes are large, being
conscious of having cherished them with a liberality of feeling which
cannot fear disappointment. In this temper he would invite the reader to a
thorough perusal of these pages.

37. A grammar should speak for itself. In a work of this nature, every word
or tittle which does not recommend the performance to the understanding and
taste of the skillful, is, so far as it goes, a certificate against it. Yet
if some small errors shall have escaped detection, let it be recollected
that it is almost impossible to compose and print, with perfect accuracy, a
work of this size, in which so many little things should be observed,
remembered, and made exactly to correspond. There is no human vigilance
which multiplicity may not sometimes baffle, and minuteness sometimes
elude. To most persons grammar seems a dry and difficult subject; but there
is a disposition of mind, to which what is arduous, is for that very reason
alluring. "Quo difficilius, hoc praeclarius," says Cicero; "The more
difficult, the more honourable." The merit of casting up a high-way in a
rugged land, is proportionate not merely to the utility of the achievement,
but to the magnitude of the obstacles to be overcome. The difficulties
encountered in boyhood from the use of a miserable epitome and the deep
impression of a few mortifying blunders made in public, first gave the
author a fondness for grammar; circumstances having since favoured this
turn of his genius, he has voluntarily pursued the study, with an assiduity
which no man will ever imitate for the sake of pecuniary recompense.



"Scientiam autem nusquam esse censebant, nisi in animi motionibus atque
rationibus: qua de causa _definitiones_ rerum probabant, et has ad omnia,
de quibus disceptabatur, adhibebant."--CICERONIS _Academica_, Lib. i, 9.

1. "The first and highest philosophy," says Puffendorf, "is that which
delivers the most accurate and comprehensive _definitions_ of things." Had
all the writers on English grammar been adepts in this philosophy, there
would have been much less complaint of the difficulty and uncertainty of
the study. "It is easy," says Murray, "to advance plausible objections
against almost every definition, rule, and arrangement of
grammar."--_Gram._, 8vo, p. 59. But, if this is true, as regards his, or
any other work, the reason, I am persuaded, is far less inherent in the
nature of the subject than many have supposed.[64] Objectionable
definitions and rules are but evidences of the ignorance and incapacity of
him who frames them. And if the science of grammar has been so unskillfully
treated that almost all its positions may be plausibly impugned, it is time
for some attempt at a reformation of the code. The language is before us,
and he who knows most about it, can best prescribe the rules which we ought
to observe in the use of it. But how can we expect children to deduce from
a few particulars an accurate notion of general principles and their
exceptions, where learned doctors have so often faltered? Let the abettors
of grammatical "_induction_" answer.

2. Nor let it be supposed a light
matter to prescribe with certainty the principles of grammar. For, what is
requisite to the performance? To know certainly, in the first place, what
is the _best usage_. Nor is this all. Sense and memory must be keen, and
tempered to retain their edge and hold, in spite of any difficulties which
the subject may present. To understand things exactly as they are; to
discern the differences by which they may be distinguished, and the
resemblances by which they ought to be classified; to know, through the
proper evidences of truth, that our ideas, or conceptions, are rightly
conformable to the nature, properties, and relations, of the objects of
which we think; to see how that which is complex may be resolved into its
elements, and that which is simple may enter into combination; to observe
how that which is consequent may be traced to its cause, and that which is
regular be taught by rule; to learn from the custom of speech the proper
connexion between words and ideas, so as to give to the former a just
application, to the latter an adequate expression, and to things a just
description; to have that penetration which discerns what terms, ideas, or
things, are definable, and therefore capable of being taught, and what must
be left to the teaching of nature: these are the essential qualifications
for him who would form good definitions; these are the elements of that
accuracy and comprehensiveness of thought, to which allusion has been made,
and which are characteristic of "the first and highest philosophy."

3. Again, with reference to the cultivation of the mind, I would add: To
observe accurately the appearances of things, and the significations of
words; to learn first principles first, and proceed onward in such a manner
that every new truth may help to enlighten and strengthen the
understanding; and thus to comprehend gradually, according to our capacity,
whatsoever may be brought within the scope of human intellect:--to do these
things, I say, is, to ascend by sure steps, so far as we may, from the
simplest elements of science--which, in fact, are our own, original,
undefinable notices of things--towards the very topmost height of human
wisdom and knowledge. The ancient saying, that truth lies hid, or in the
bottom of a well, must not be taken without qualification; for "the first
and highest philosophy" has many principles which even a child may
understand. These several suggestions, the first of which the Baron de
Puffendorf thought not unworthy to introduce his great work on the Law of
Nature and of Nations, the reader, if he please, may bear in mind, as he
peruses the following digest of the laws and usages of speech.

4. "Definitions," says Duncan, in his Elements of Logic, "are intended to
make known the meaning of words standing for _complex ideas_;[65] and were
we always careful to form those ideas exactly in our minds, and copy our
definitions from that appearance, much of the confusion and obscurity
complained of in languages might be prevented."--P. 70. Again he says: "The
writings of the mathematicians are a clear proof, how much the advancement
of human knowledge depends upon a right use of definitions."--P. 72.
Mathematical science has been supposed to be, in its own nature, that which
is best calculated to develop and strengthen the reasoning faculty; but, as
speech is emphatically _the discourse of reason_, I am persuaded, that had
the grammarians been equally clear and logical in their instructions, their
science would never have been accounted inferior in this respect. Grammar
is perhaps the most comprehensive of all studies; but it is chiefly owing
to the unskillfulness of instructors, and to the errors and defects of the
systems in use, that it is commonly regarded as the most dry and difficult.

5. "Poor Scaliger (who well knew what a definition should be) from his own
melancholy experience exclaimed--'_Nihil infelicius grammatico
definitore!_' Nothing is more unhappy than the grammatical
definer."--_Tooke's Diversions_, Vol. i, p. 238. Nor do our later teachers
appear to have been more fortunate in this matter. A majority of all the
definitions and rules contained in the great multitude of English grammars
which I have examined, are, in some respect or other, erroneous. The nature
of their multitudinous faults, I must in general leave to the discernment
of the reader, except the passages be such as may be suitably selected for
examples of false syntax. Enough, however, will be exhibited, in the course
of this volume, to make the foregoing allegation credible; and of the rest
a more accurate judgement may perhaps be formed, when they shall have been
compared with what this work will present as substitutes. The importance of
giving correct definitions to philological terms, and of stating with
perfect accuracy whatsoever is to be learned as doctrine, has never been
duly appreciated. The grand source of the disheartening difficulties
encountered by boys in the study of grammar, lies in their ignorance of the
meaning of words. This cause of embarrassment is not to be shunned and left
untouched; but, as far as possible, it ought to be removed. In teaching
grammar, or indeed any other science, we cannot avoid the use of many terms
to which young learners may have attached no ideas. Being little inclined
or accustomed to reflection, they often hear, read, or even rehearse from
memory, the plainest language that can be uttered, and yet have no very
distinct apprehension of what it means. What marvel then, that in a study
abounding with terms taken in a peculiar or technical sense, many of which,
in the common manuals, are either left undefined, or are explained but
loosely or erroneously, they should often be greatly puzzled, and sometimes
totally discouraged?

6. _Simple ideas_ are derived, not from teaching, but from sensation or
consciousness; but _complex ideas_, or the notions which we have of such
things as consist of various parts, or such as stand in any known
relations, are definable. A person can have no better definition of _heat_,
or of _motion_, than what he will naturally get by _moving_ towards a
_fire_. Not so of our complex or general ideas, which constitute science.
The proper objects of scientific instruction consist in those genuine
perceptions of pure mind, which form the true meaning of generic names, or
common nouns; and he who is properly qualified to teach, can for the most
part readily tell what should be understood by such words. But are not many
teachers too careless here? For instance: a boy commencing the process of
calculation, is first told, that, "Arithmetic is the art of computing by
numbers," which sentence he partly understands; but should he ask his
teacher, "What is a _number_, in arithmetic?" what answer will he get? Were
Goold Brown so asked, he would simply say, "_A number, in arithmetic, is an
expression that tells how many_;" for every expression that tells how many,
is a number in arithmetic, and nothing else is. But as no such definition
is contained in _the books_,[66] there are ten chances to one, that, simple
as the matter is, the readiest master you shall find, will give an
erroneous answer. Suppose the teacher should say, "That is a question which
I have not thought of; turn to your dictionary." The boy reads from Dr.
Webster: "NUMBER--the designation of a unit in reference to other units, or
in reckoning, counting, enumerating."--"Yes," replies the master, "that is
it; Dr. Webster is unrivalled in giving definitions." Now, has the boy been
instructed, or only puzzled? Can he conceive how the number _five_ can be a
_unit_? or how the word _five_, the figure 5, or the numeral letter V, is
"the designation of a _unit_?" He knows that each of these is a number, and
that the oral monosyllable _five_ is the same number, in an other form; but
is still as much at a loss for a proper answer to his question, as if he
had never seen either schoolmaster or dictionary. So is it with a vast
number of the simplest things in grammar.

7. Since what we denominate scientific terms, are seldom, if ever, such as
stand for ideas simple and undefinable; and since many of those which
represent general ideas, or classes of objects, may be made to stand for
more or fewer things, according to the author's notion of classification;
it is sufficiently manifest that the only process by which instruction can
effectually reach the understanding of the pupil and remove the
difficulties spoken of, is that of delivering accurate definitions. These
are requisite for the information and direction of the learner; and these
must be thoroughly impressed upon his mind, as the only means by which he
can know exactly how much and what he is to understand by our words. The
power which we possess, of making known all our complex or general ideas of
things by means of definitions, is a faculty wisely contrived in the nature
of language, for the increase and spread of science; and, in the hands of
the skillful, it is of vast avail to these ends. It is "the first and
highest philosophy," instructing mankind, to think clearly and speak
accurately; as well as to know definitely, in the unity and permanence of a
general nature, those things which never could be known or spoken of as the
individuals of an infinite and fleeting multitude.

8. And, without contradiction, the shortest and most successful way of
teaching the young mind to distinguish things according to their proper
differences, and to name or describe them aright, is, to tell in direct
terms what they severally are. Cicero intimates that all instruction
appealing to reason ought to proceed in this manner: "Omnis enim quse a
ratione suscipitur de re aliqua institutio, debet a _definitione_
proficisci, ut intelligatur quid sit id, de quo disputetur."--_Off_. Lib.
i, p. 4. Literally thus: "For all instruction which from reason is
undertaken concerning any thing, ought to proceed from a _definition_, that
it may be understood what the thing is, about which the speaker is
arguing." Little advantage, however, will be derived from any definition,
which is not, as Quintilian would have it, "Lucida et succincta rei
descriptio,"--"a clear and brief description of the thing."

9. Let it here be observed that scientific definitions are of _things_, and
not merely of _words_; or if equally of words _and_ things, they are rather
of nouns than of the other parts of speech. For a definition, in the proper
sense of the term, consists not in a mere change or explanation of the
verbal sign, but in a direct and true answer to the question, What is such
or such a thing? In respect to its extent, it must with equal exactness
include every thing which comes under the name, and exclude every thing
which does not come under the name: then will it perfectly serve the
purpose for which it is intended. To furnish such definitions, (as I have
suggested,) is work for those who are capable of great accuracy both of
thought and expression. Those who would qualify themselves for teaching any
particular branch of knowledge, should make it their first concern to
acquire clear and accurate ideas of all things that ought to be embraced in
their instructions. These ideas are to be gained, either by contemplation
upon the things themselves as they are presented naturally, or by the study
of those books in which they are rationally and clearly explained. Nor will
such study ever be irksome to him whose generous desire after knowledge, is
thus deservedly gratified.

10. But it must be understood, that although scientific definitions are
said to be _of things_, they are not copied immediately from the real
essence of the things, but are formed from the conceptions of the author's
mind concerning that essence. Hence, as Duncan justly remarks, "A mistaken
idea never fails to occasion a mistake also in the definition." Hence, too,
the common distinction of the logicians, between definitions of the _name_
and definitions of the _thing_, seems to have little or no foundation. The
former term they applied to those definitions which describe the objects of
pure intellection, such as triangles, and other geometrical figures; the
latter, to those which define objects actually existing in external nature.
The mathematical definitions, so noted for their certainty and
completeness, have been supposed to have some peculiar preeminence, as
belonging to the former class. But, in fact the idea of a triangle exists
as substantively in the mind, as that of a tree, if not indeed more so; and
if I define these two objects, my description will, in either case, be
equally a definition both of the name and of the thing; but in neither, is
it copied from any thing else than that notion which I have conceived, of
the common properties of all triangles or of all trees.

11. Infinitives, and some other terms not called nouns, may be taken
abstractly or substantively, so as to admit of what may be considered a
regular definition; thus the question, "What is it _to read?_" is nearly
the same as, "What is _reading?_" "What is it _to be wise?_" is little
different from, "What is _wisdom?_" and a true answer might be, in either
case, a true definition. Nor are those mere translations or explanations of
words, with which our dictionaries and vocabularies abound, to be dispensed
with in teaching: they prepare the student to read various authors with
facility, and furnish him with a better choice of terms, when he attempts
to write. And in making such choice, let him remember, that as affectation
of _hard_ words makes composition ridiculous, so the affectation of _easy_
and _common_ ones may make it unmanly. But not to digress. With respect to
grammar, we must sometimes content ourselves with such explications of its
customary terms, as cannot claim to be perfect definitions; for the most
common and familiar things are not always those which it is the most easy
to define. When Dr. Johnson was asked, "What is _poetry_?" he replied,
"Why, sir, it is easier to tell what it is not. We all know what _light_
is: but it is not easy _to tell what it is_."--_Boswell's Life of Johnson_,
Vol. iii, p. 402. This was thought by the biographer to have been well and
ingeniously said.

12. But whenever we encounter difficulties of this sort, it may be worth
while to seek for their _cause_. If we find it, the understanding is no
longer puzzled. Dr. Johnson seemed to his biographer, to show, by this
ready answer, the acuteness of his wit and discernment. But did not the wit
consist in adroitly excusing himself, by an illusory comparison? What
analogy is there between the things which he compares? Of the difficulty of
defining _poetry_, and the difficulty of defining _light_, the reasons are
as different as are the two things themselves, _poetry_ and _light_. The
former is something so various and complex that it is hard to distinguish
its essence from its accidents; the latter presents an idea so perfectly
simple and unique that all men conceive of it exactly in the same way,
while none can show wherein it essentially consists. But is it true, that,
"We all know _what light is_?" Is it not rather true, that we know nothing
at all about it, but what it is just as easy to tell as to think? We know
it is that reflexible medium which enables us to see; and this is
definition enough for all but the natively blind, to whom no definition
perhaps can ever convey an adequate notion of its use in respect to sight.

13. If a person cannot tell what a thing is, it is commonly considered to
be a fair inference, that he does not know. Will any grammarian say, "I
know well enough what the thing is, but I cannot tell?" Yet, taken upon
this common principle, the authors of our English grammars, (if in framing
their definitions they have not been grossly wanting to themselves in the
exercise of their own art,) may be charged, I think, with great ignorance,
or great indistinctness of apprehension; and that, too, in relation to many
things among the very simplest elements of their science. For example: Is
it not a disgrace to a man of letters, to be unable to tell accurately what
a letter is? Yet to say, with Lowth, Murray, Churchill, and a hundred
others of inferior name, that, "_A letter_ is _the first principle_ or
_least part_ of a word," is to utter what is neither good English nor true
doctrine. The two articles _a_ and _the_ are here inconsistent with each
other. "_A_ letter" is _one_ letter, _any_ letter; but "_the first
principle_ of a word" is, surely, not one or any principle taken
_indefinitely_. Equivocal as the phrase is, it must mean either _some
particular principle_, or some particular _first_ principle, of a word;
and, taken either way, the assertion is false. For it is manifest, that in
_no sense_ can we affirm of _each_ of the letters of a word, that it is
"_the first principle_" of that word. Take, for instance, the word _man_.
Is _m_ the first principle of this word? You may answer, "Yes; for it is
the first _letter_." Is _a_ the first principle? "No; it is the _second_."
But _n_ too is a letter; and is _n_ the first principle? "No; it is the
_last_!" This grammatical error might have been avoided by saying,
"_Letters_ are the first principles, or least parts, of words." But still
the definition would not be true, nor would it answer the question, What is
a letter? The true answer to which is: "A letter is an alphabetic
_character_, which commonly represents some elementary sound of human
articulation, or speech."

14. This true definition sufficiently
distinguishes letters from the marks used in punctuation, because the
latter are not alphabetic, and they represent silence, rather than sound;
and also from the Arabic figures used for numbers, because these are no
part of any alphabet, and they represent certain entire words, no one of
which consists only of one letter, or of a single element of articulation.
The same may be said of all the characters used for abbreviation; as, & for
_and_, $ for _dollars_, or the marks peculiar to mathematicians, to
astronomers, to druggists, &c. None of these are alphabetic, and they
represent significant words, and not single elementary sounds: it would be
great dullness, to assume that a word and an elementary sound are one and
the same thing. But the reader will observe that this definition embraces
_no idea_ contained in the faulty one to which I am objecting; neither
indeed could it, without a blunder. So wide from the mark is that notion of
a letter, which the popularity of Dr. Lowth and his copyists has made a
hundred-fold more common than any other![67] According to an other
erroneous definition given by these same gentlemen, "_Words_ are articulate
_sounds_, used by common consent, as signs of our ideas."--_Murray's
Gram._, p. 22; _Kirkham's_, 20; _Ingersoll's_, 7; _Alger's_, 12;
_Russell's_, 7; _Merchant's_, 9; _Fisk's_, 11; _Greenleaf's_, 20; and many
others. See _Lowth's Gram._, p. 6; from which almost all authors have taken
the notion, that words consist of "_sounds_" only. But letters are no
principles or parts of _sounds_ at all; unless you will either have visible
marks to be sounds, or the sign to be a principle or part of the thing
signified. Nor are they always principles or parts of _words_: we sometimes
write what is _not a word_; as when, by letters, we denote pronunciation
alone, or imitate brute voices. If words were formed of articulate sounds
only, they could not exist in books, or be in any wise known to the deaf
and dumb. These two primary definitions, then, are both false; and, taken
together, they involve the absurdity of dividing things acknowledged to be
indivisible. In utterance, we cannot divide consonants from their vowels;
on paper, we can. Hence letters are the least parts of written language
only; but the least parts of spoken words are syllables, and not letters.
Every definition of a consonant implies this.

15. They who cannot define a letter or a word, may be expected to err in
explaining other grammatical terms. In my opinion, nothing is well written,
that can possibly be misunderstood; and if any definition be likely to
_suggest_ a wrong idea, this alone is enough to condemn it: nor does it
justify the phraseology, to say, that a more reasonable construction can be
put upon it. By Murray and others, the young learner is told, that, "A
_vowel_ is an articulate _sound_, that can be perfectly _uttered by
itself_;" as if a vowel were nothing but a sound, and that a sort of echo,
which can _utter itself_; and next, that, "A _consonant_ is an articulate
_sound_, which cannot be perfectly uttered _without the help of_ a vowel."
Now, by their own showing, every letter is either a vowel or a consonant;
hence, according to these definitions, all the letters are articulate
_sounds_. And, if so, what is a "silent letter?" It is a _silent articulate
sound!_ Again: ask a boy, "What is a _triphthong?_" He answers in the words
of Murray, Weld, Pond, Smith, Adams, Kirkham, Merchant, Ingersoll, Bacon,
Alger, Worcester, and others: "A triphthong is the union of three vowels,
_pronounced in like manner_: as _eau_ in beau, _iew_ in view." He
accurately cites an entire paragraph from his grammar, but does he well
conceive how the three vowels in _beau_ or _view_ are "pronounced _in like
manner?_" Again: "A _syllable_ is a _sound_, either simple or _compound_,
pronounced by a single impulse of the voice."--_Murray's Gram._, 8vo, p.
22. This definition resolves syllables into _sounds_; whereas their true
elements are _letters_. It also mistakes the participle _compounded_ for
the adjective _compound_; whereas the latter only is the true reverse of
_simple_. A _compound sound_ is a sound composed of others which may be
separated; a _sound compounded_ is properly that which is made an
ingredient with others, but which may itself be simple.

16. It is observable, that in their attempts to explain these prime
elements of grammar, Murray, and many others who have copied him, overlook
all _written_ language; whereas their very science itself took its origin,
name, and nature, from the invention of writing; and has consequently no
bearing upon any dialect which has not been written. Their definitions
absurdly resolve letters, vowels, consonants, syllables, and words, all
into _sounds_; as if none of these things had any existence on paper, or
any significance to those who read in silence. Hence, their explanations
of all these elements, as well as of many other things equally essential to
the study, are palpably erroneous. I attribute this to the carelessness
with which men have compiled or made up books of grammar; and that
carelessness to those various circumstances, already described, which have
left diligence in a grammarian no hope of praise or reward. Without
alluding here to my own books, no one being obliged to accuse himself, I
doubt whether we have any school grammar that is much less objectionable in
this respect, than Murray's; and yet I am greatly mistaken, if nine tenths
of all the definitions in Murray's system are not faulty. "It was this sort
of definitions, which made _Scaliger_ say, _'Nihil infelicius definitore
grammatico_.'"--See _Johnson's Gram. Com._, p. 351; also _Paragraph_ 5th,

17. Nor can this objection be neutralized by saying, it is a mere matter of
opinion--a mere prejudice originating in rivalry. For, though we have ample
choice of terms, and may frequently assign to particular words a meaning
and an explanation which are in some degree arbitrary; yet whenever we
attempt to define things under the name which custom has positively fixed
upon them, we are no longer left to arbitrary explications; but are bound
to think and to say that only which shall commend itself to the
understanding of others, as being altogether true to nature. When a word is
well understood to denote a particular object or class of objects, the
definition of it ought to be in strict conformity to what is known of the
real being and properties of the thing or things contemplated. A definition
of this kind is a proposition susceptible of proof and illustration; and
therefore whatsoever is erroneously assumed to be the proper meaning of
such a term, may be refuted. But those persons who take every thing upon
trust, and choose both to learn and to teach mechanically, often become so
slavishly habituated to the peculiar phraseology of their text-books, that,
be the absurdity of a particular expression what it may, they can neither
discover nor suspect any inaccuracy in it. It is also very natural even for
minds more independent and acute, to regard with some reverence whatsoever
was gravely impressed upon them in childhood. Hence the necessity that all
school-books should proceed from skillful hands. Instruction should tell
things as they are, and never falter through negligence.

18. I have admitted that definitions are not the only means by which a
general knowledge of the import of language may be acquired; nor are they
the only means by which the acquisition of such knowledge may be aided. To
exhibit or point out _things_ and tell their names, constitutes a large
part of that instruction by which the meaning of words is conveyed to the
young mind; and, in many cases, a mere change or apposition of terms may
sufficiently explain our idea. But when we would guard against the
possibility of misapprehension, and show precisely what is meant by a word,
we must fairly define it. There are, however, in every language, many words
which do not admit of a formal definition. The import of all definitive and
connecting particles must be learned from usage, translation, or
derivation; and nature reserves to herself the power of explaining the
objects of our simple original perceptions. "All words standing for complex
ideas are definable; but those by which we denote simple ideas, are not.
For the perceptions of this latter class, having no other entrance into the
mind, than by sensation or reflection, can be acquired only by
experience."--_Duncan's Logic_, p. 63. "And thus we see, that as our simple
ideas are the materials and foundation of knowledge, so the names of simple
ideas may be considered as the elementary parts of language, beyond which
we cannot trace the meaning and signification of words. When we come to
them, we suppose the ideas for which they stand to be already known; or, if
they are not, experience alone must be consulted, and not definitions or
explications."--_Ibid._, p. 69.

19. But this is no apology for the defectiveness of any definition which
might be made correct, or for the effectiveness of our English grammars, in
the frequent omission of all explanation, and the more frequent adoption of
some indirect form of expression. It is often much easier to make some
loose observation upon what is meant by a given word or term in science,
than to frame a faultless definition of the thing; because it is easier to
refer to some of the relations, qualities, offices, or attributes of
things, than to discern wherein their essence consists, so as to be able to
tell directly and clearly what they are. The improvement of our grammatical
code in this respect, was one of the principal objects which I thought it
needful to attempt, when I first took up the pen as a grammarian. I cannot
pretend to have seen, of course, every definition and rule which has been
published on this subject; but, if I do not misjudge a service too humble
for boasting, I have myself framed a greater number of new or improved
ones, than all other English grammarians together. And not a few of them
have, since their first publication in 1823, been complimented to a place
in other grammars than my own. This is in good keeping with the authorship
which has been spoken of in an other chapter; but I am constrained to say,
it affords no proof that they were well written. If it did, the definitions
and rules in Murray's grammar must undoubtedly be thought the most correct
that ever have been given: they have been more frequently copied than any

20. But I have ventured to suggest, that nine tenths of this author's
definitions are bad, or at least susceptible of some amendment. If this can
be shown to the satisfaction of the reader, will he hope to find an other
English grammar in which the eye of criticism may not detect errors and
deficiencies with the same ease? My object is, to enforce attention to the
proprieties of speech; and this is the very purpose of all grammar. To
exhibit here all Murray's definitions, with criticisms upon them, would
detain us too long. We must therefore be content to take a part of them as
a sample. And, not to be accused of fixing only upon the worst, we will
take a _series_. Let us then consider in their order his definitions of the
nine parts of speech;--for, calling the participle a verb, he reduces the
sorts of words to that number. And though not one of his nine definitions
now stands exactly as it did in his early editions, I think it may be said,
that not one of them is now, if it ever has been, expressed grammatically.

21. FIRST DEFINITION:--"An Article is a word _prefixed_ to substantives,
_to point them out_, and to show how far their[68] signification
extends."--_Murray, and others, from, Lowth's Gram._, p. 10. This is
obscure. In what manner, or in what respect, does an article point out
substantives? To point them out _as such_, or to show which words are
substantives, seems at first view to be the meaning intended; but it is
said soon after, "_A_ or _an_ is used in a vague sense, to _point out_ one
single _thing_ of the kind, in other respects _indeterminate_; as, 'Give me
_a_ book;' 'Bring me _an_ apple.'"--_Lowth_, p. 11; _Murray_, p. 31. And
again: "It is _of the nature_ of both the articles to determine or limit
_the thing_ spoken of."--_Murray's Gram._, 8vo, p. 170. Now to point out
_nouns_ among the parts of speech, and to point out _things_ as individuals
of their class, are very different matters; and which of these is the
purpose for which articles are used, according to Lowth and Murray? Their
definition says the former, their explanations imply the latter; and I am
unable to determine which they really meant. The term _placed before_ would
have been better than "_prefixed_;" because the latter commonly implies
junction, as well as location. The word "_indeterminate_" is not a very
easy one for a boy; and, when he has found out what it means, he may
possibly not know to which of the four preceding nouns it ought to be
referred:--"in a vague _sense_, to point out one single _thing_ of the
_kind_, in other _respects_ indeterminate." What is this "vague sense?" and
what is it, that is "indeterminate?"

22. SECOND DEFINITION:--"A Substantive or Noun is the name of any thing
_that_ exists, or of _which_ we have any notion."--_Murray, and others_.
According to his own syntax, this sentence of Murray's is wrong; for he
himself suggests, that when two or more relative clauses refer to the same
antecedent, the same pronoun should be used in each. Of clauses connected
like these, this is true. He should therefore have said, "A Substantive, or
Noun, is the name of any thing _which_ exists, or of _which_ we have any
notion." His rule, however, though good against a text like this, is
utterly wrong in regard to many others, and not very accurate in taking
_two_ for a "_series_" thus: "Whatever relative is used, in one of a
_series_ of clauses relating to the same antecedent, the same relative
ought, generally to be used in _them all_. In the following sentence, _this
rule is violated_: 'It is remarkable, that Holland, against _which_ the war
was undertaken, and _that_, in the very beginning, was reduced to the
brink of destruction, lost nothing.' The clause ought to have been, 'and
_which_ in the very beginning.'"--_Murray's Gram._, 8vo, p. 155. But both
the rule and the example, badly as they correspond, were borrowed from
Priestley's Grammar, p. 102, where the text stands thus: "Whatever relative
_be_ used, in one of a _series_ of clauses, relating to the same
antecedent, the same ought to be used in _them all_. 'It is remarkable,
that Holland,'" &c.

23. THIRD DEFINITION:--"An Adjective is a word added to a substantive, to
express _its_ quality."--_Lowth, Murray, Bullions, Pond, and others_. Here
we have the choice of two meanings; but neither of them is according to
truth. It seems doubtful whether "_its_ quality" is the _adjective's_
quality, or the _substantive's_; but in either sense, the phrase is false;
for an adjective is added to a noun, not to express any quality either of
the adjective or of the noun, but to express some quality of the _thing
signified_ by the noun. But the definition is too much restricted; for
adjectives may be added to pronouns as well as to nouns, nor do they always
express _quality_.

24. FOURTH DEFINITION:--"A Pronoun is a word used instead of a noun, to
_avoid the too frequent_ repetition of _the same word_."--_Dr. Ash's
Gram._, p. 25; _Murray's_, 28 and 50; _Felton's_, 18; _Alger's_, 13;
_Bacon's_, 10; _and others_. The latter part of this sentence is needless,
and also contains several errors. 1. The verb _avoid_ is certainly very
ill-chosen; because it implies intelligent agency, and not that which is
merely instrumental. 2. The article _the_ is misemployed for _a_; for,
"_the_ too frequent repetition," should mean _some particular_ too frequent
repetition--an idea not intended here, and in itself not far from
absurdity. 3. The phrase, "_the same word_" may apply to the pronoun itself
as well as to the noun: in saying, "_I_ came, _I_ saw, _I_ conquered,"
there is as frequent a repetition of _the same word_, as in saying,
"_Caesar_ came, _Caesar_ saw, _Caesar_ conquered." If, therefore, the latter
part of this definition must be retained, the whole should be written thus:
"A Pronoun is a word used _in stead_ of a noun, to _prevent_ too frequent
_a_ repetition of _it_."

25. FIFTH DEFINITION:--"A Verb is a word which signifies _to be, to do_, or
_to suffer_"--_Lowth, Murray, and others_. NOTE:--"A verb may generally be
distinguished by _its making sense_ with any of the personal pronouns, or
the word _to_ before it."--_Murray, and others_. It is confessedly
difficult to give a perfect definition of a _verb_; and if, with Murray, we
will have the participles to be verbs, there must be no small difficulty in
forming one that shall be tolerable. Against the foregoing old explanation,
it may be objected, that the phrase _to suffer_, being now understood in a
more limited sense than formerly, does not well express the nature or
import of a passive verb. I have said, "A Verb is a word that signifies _to
be, to act_, or _to be acted upon_." Children cannot readily understand,
how every thing that is in any way _acted upon_, may be said _to suffer_.
The participle, I think, should be taken as a distinct part of speech, and
have its own definition. The note added by Murray to his definition of a
verb, would prove the participle not to be included in this part of speech,
and thus practically contradict his scheme. It is also objectionable in
respect to construction. The phrase "_by its making sense_" is at least
very questionable English; for "_its making_" supposes _making_ to be a
noun, and "_making sense_" supposes it to be an active participle. But
Lowth says, "Let it be either the one or the other, and abide by its own
construction." Nay, the author himself, though he therein contradicts an
other note of his own, virtually condemns the phrase, by his caution to the
learner against treating words in _ing_, "as if they were of an _amphibious
species_, partly nouns and partly verbs."--_Murray's Gram._, 8vo, p. 193.

26. SIXTH DEFINITION:--"_An_ Adverb is _a part of speech joined_ to a verb,
an adjective, _and sometimes to_ another adverb, to express some _quality_
or _circumstance_ respecting _it_."--_Murray's Gram._, pp. 28 and 114. See
_Dr. Ash's Gram._, p. 47. This definition contains many errors; some of
which are gross blunders. 1. The first word, "_An_," is erroneously put for
_The: an_ adverb is _one_ adverb, not the whole class; and, if, "_An_
adverb is a part of speech," any and every adverb is a _part of speech_;
then, how many parts of speech are there? 2. The word "_joined_" is not
well chosen; for, with the exception of _not_ in _cannot_, the adverb is
very rarely _joined_ to the word to which it relates. 3. The want of a
comma before _joined_, perverts the construction; for the phrase, "_speech
joined_ to a verb," is nonsense; and to suppose _joined_ to relate to the
noun _part_, is not much better. 4. The word "_and_" should be _or_;
because no adverb is ever added to three or four different terms at once.
5. The word "_sometimes_" should be omitted; because it is needless, and
because it is inconsistent with the only conjunction which will make the
definition true. 6. The preposition "_to_" should either be inserted before
"_an adjective_," or suppressed before the term which follows; for when
several words occur in the same construction, uniformity of expression is
desirable. 7. For the same reason, (if custom may be thus far conformed to
analogy,) the article "_an_" ought, in cases like this, if not always, to
be separated from the word _other_; thus, "An adverb is a word added to _a_
verb, _a_ participle, _an_ adjective, or _an_ other adverb." Were the eye
not familiar with it, _another_ would be thought as irregular as
_theother_. 8. The word "_quality_" is wrong; for no adverb ever expresses
any _quality_, as such; qualities are expressed by _adjectives_, and never,
in any direct manner, by adverbs. 9. The "_circumstances_" which we express
by adverbs never belong to the _words_, as this definition avers that they
do, but always to the _actions_ or _qualities_ which the words signify. 10.
The pronoun _it_, according to Murray's second rule of syntax, ought to be
_them_, and so it stands in his own early editions; but if _and_ be changed
to _or_, as I have said it should be, the pronoun _it_ will be right.

27. SEVENTH DEFINITION:--"Prepositions serve to connect words with _one
another_, and to show the relation _between them_."--_Lowth, Murray, and
others_. This is only an observation, not a definition, as it ought to have
been; nor does it at all distinguish the preposition from the conjunction.
It does not reach the thing in question. Besides, it contains an actual
solecism in the expression. The word "_between_" implies but _two_ things;
and the phrase "_one another_" is not applicable where there are but two.
It should be, "to connect words with _each other_, and to show the
_relation between_ them;"--or else, "to connect words with _one an other_,
and to show the _relations among_ them." But the latter mode of expression
would not apply to prepositions considered severally, but only to the whole

28. EIGHTH DEFINITION:--"A Conjunction is _a part of speech_ that is
_chiefly_ used to connect sentences; so as, out of two _or more_ sentences,
to make but one: it sometimes connects only words."--_Murray, and others_.
Here are more than thirty words, awkwardly and loosely strung together; and
all that is said in them, might be much better expressed in half the
number. For example: "A Conjunction is a word which connects other terms,
and commonly of two sentences makes but one." But verbosity and want of
unity are not the worst faults of this definition. We have three others to
point out. 1. "A conjunction is" not "_a part of speech_;" because _a_
conjunction is _one_ conjunction, and a part of speech is a whole class, or
sort, of words. A similar error was noticed in Murray's definition of an
adverb; and so common has this blunder become, that by a comparison of the
definitions which different authors have given of the parts of speech,
probably it will be found, that, by some hand or other, every one of the
ten has been commenced in this way. 2. The words "_or more_" are erroneous,
and ought to be omitted; for no one conjunction can connect more than two
terms, in that consecutive order which the sense requires. Three or more
simple sentences may indeed form a compound sentence; but, as they cannot
be joined in a _cluster_, they must have two or more connectives. 3. The
last clause erroneously suggests, that any or every conjunction "_sometimes
connects only words_;" but the conjunctions which may connect only words,
are not more than five, whereas those which connect only sentences are four
times as many.

29. NINTH DEFINITION:--"Interjections are words _thrown in between the
parts of a sentence_, to express the passions or emotions of the _speaker_;
as, 'O Virtue! how amiable thou art!'"--_Murray, and many others_. This
definition, which has been copied from grammar to grammar, and committed to
memory millions of times, is obviously erroneous, and directly contradicted
by the example. Interjections, though often enough thrown in between the
parts of a _discourse_, are very rarely "thrown in between the parts of a
_sentence_." They more frequently occur at the beginning of a sentence than
any where else; and, in such cases, they do not come under this narrow
definition. The author, at the head of his chapter on interjections,
appends to this definition two other examples; both of which contradict it
in like manner: "_Oh_! I have alienated my friend."--"_Alas_! I fear for
life." Again: Interjections are used occasionally, in _written_, as well as
in _oral_ discourse; nor are they less indicative of the emotions of the
_writer_, than of those "of the _speaker_."

30. I have thus exhibited, with all intentional fairness of criticism, the
entire series of these nine primary definitions; and the reader may judge
whether they sustain the praises which have been bestowed on the book,[69]
or confirm the allegations which I have made against it. He will understand
that my design is, here, as well as in the body of this work, to teach
grammar practically, by _rectifying_, so far as I may, all sorts of
mistakes either in it or respecting it; to compose a book which, by a
condensed exposition of such errors as are commonly found in other
grammars, will at once show the need we have of a better, and be itself a
fit substitute for the principal treatises which it censures. Grammatical
errors are universally considered to be small game for critics. They must
therefore be very closely grouped together, to be worth their room in this
work. Of the tens of thousands who have learned for grammar a multitude of
ungrammatical definitions and rules, comparatively few will ever know what
I have to say of their acquisitions. But this I cannot help. To the readers
of the present volume it is due, that its averments should be clearly
illustrated by particular examples; and it is reasonable that these should
be taken from the most accredited sources, whether they do honour to their
framers or not. My argument is only made so much the stronger, as the works
which furnish its proofs, are the more esteemed, the more praised, or the
more overrated.

31. Murray tells us, "There is no necessary connexion between words and
ideas."--_Octavo Gram._, Vol. i, p. 139. Though this, as I before observed,
is not altogether true, he doubtless had very good reason to distinguish,
in his teaching, "between _the sign_ and _the thing signified_." Yet, in
his own definitions and explanations, he frequently _confounds_ these very
things which he declares to be so widely different as not even to have a
"necessary connexion." Errors of this kind are very common in all our
English grammars. Two instances occur in the following sentence; which also
contains an error in doctrine, and is moreover obscure, or rather, in its
literal sense, palpably absurd: "To substantives belong gender, number, and
case; and _they_ are _all of_ the third person _when spoken of_, and of the
second person _when spoken to_."--_Murray's Gram._, p. 38; _Alger's
Murray_, 16; _Merchant's_, 23; _Bacon's_, 12; _Maltby's_, 12; _Lyon's_, 7;
_Guy's_, 4; _Ingersoll's_, 26; _S. Putnam's_, 13; _T. H. Miller's_, 17;
_Rev. T. Smith's_, 13. Who, but a child taught by language like this, would
ever think of _speaking to a noun_? or, that a noun of the second person
_could not be spoken of_? or, that a noun cannot be put in the _first
person_, so as to agree with _I_ or _we_? Murray himself once taught, that,
"Pronouns _must always agree_ with their antecedents, _and_ the nouns for
which they stand, in gender, number, and _person_;" and he departed from a
true and important principle of syntax, when he altered his rule to its
present form. But I have said that the sentence above is obscure, or its
meaning absurd. What does the pronoun "_they_" represent? "_Substantives_,"
according to the author's intent; but "_gender, number_, and _case_,"
according to the obvious construction of the words. Let us try a parallel:"
To scriveners belong pen, ink, and paper; and _they_ are all of primary
importance when there is occasion to use them, and of none at all when they
are not needed." Now, if this sentence is _obscure_, the other is not less
so; but, if this is perfectly _clear_, so that what is said is obviously
and only what is intended, then it is equally clear, that what is said in
the former, is gross absurdity, and that the words cannot reasonably be
construed into the sense which the writer, and his copyists, designed.

32. All Murray's grammars, not excepting the two volumes octavo, are as
_incomplete_ as they are _inaccurate_; being deficient in many things which
are of so great importance that they should not be excluded from the very
smallest epitome. For example: On the subject of the _numbers_, he
attempted but one definition, and that is a fourfold solecism. Ho speaks of
the _persons_, but gives neither definitions nor explanations. In treating
of the _genders_, he gives but one formal definition. His section on the
_cases_ contains no regular definition. On the _comparison_ of adjectives,
and on the _moods_ and _tenses_ of verbs, he is also satisfied with a very
loose mode of teaching. The work as a whole exhibits more industry than
literary taste, more benevolence of heart than distinctness of
apprehension; and, like all its kindred and progeny, fails to give to the
principles of grammar that degree of clearness of which they are easily
susceptible. The student does not know this, but he feels the effects of
it, in the obscurity of his own views on the subject, and in the conscious
uncertainty with which he applies those principles. In grammar, the terms
_person, number, gender, case, mood, tense_, and many others, are used in a
technical and peculiar sense; and, in all scientific works, the sense of
technical terms should be clearly and precisely defined. Nothing can be
gained by substituting other names of modern invention; for these also
would need definitions as much as the old. We want to know the things
themselves, and what they are most appropriately called. We want a book
which will tell us, in proper order, and in the plainest manner, what all
the elements of the science are.

33. What does he know of grammar, who cannot directly and properly answer
such questions as these?--"What are numbers, in grammar? What is the
singular number? What is the plural number? What are persons, in grammar?
What is the first person? What is the second person? What is the third
person? What are genders, in grammar? What is the masculine gender? What is
the feminine gender? What is the neuter gender? What are cases, in grammar?
What is the nominative case? What is the possessive case? What is the
objective case?"--And yet the most complete acquaintance with every
sentence or word of Murray's tedious compilation, may leave the student at
a loss for a proper answer, not only to each of these questions, but also
to many others equally simple and elementary! A boy may learn by heart all
that Murray ever published on the subject of grammar, and still be left to
confound the numbers in grammar with numbers in arithmetic, or the persons
in grammar with persons in civil life! Nay, there are among the professed
_improvers_ of this system of grammar, _men_ who have actually confounded
these things, which are so totally different in their natures! In "Smith's
New Grammar on the Productive System," a work in which Murray is largely
copied and strangely metamorphosed, there is an abundance of such
confusion. For instance: "What is the meaning of the word _number_? Number
means _a sum that may be counted_."--_R. C. Smith's New Gram._, p. 7. From
this, by a tissue of half a dozen similar absurdities, called _inductions_,
the novice is brought to the conclusion that the numbers are _two_--as if
there were in nature but two sums that might be counted! There is no end to
the sickening detail of such blunders. How many grammars tell us, that,
"The first person is the _person who speaks_;" that, "The second person is
the _person spoken to_;" and that, "the third person is the _person spoken
of_!" As if the three persons of a verb, or other part of speech, were so
many _intelligent beings_! As if, by exhibiting a word in the three
persons, (as _go, goest, goes_,) we put it first _into the speaker_, then
_into the hearer_, and then _into somebody else_! Nothing can be more
abhorrent to grammar, or to sense, than such confusion. The things which
are identified in each of these three definitions, are as unlike as
Socrates and moonshine! The one is a thinking being; the other, a mere form
peculiar to certain words. But Chandler, of Philadelphia, ("the Grammar
King," forsooth!) without mistaking the grammatical persons for rational
souls, has contrived to crowd into his definition of _person_ more errors
of conception and of language,--more insult to common sense,--than one
could have believed it possible to put together in such space. And this
ridiculous old twaddle, after six and twenty years, he has deliberately
re-written and lately republished as something "adapted to the schools of
America." It stands thus: "_Person is a distinction which is made in a noun
between its representation of its object, either as spoken to, or spoken
of_."--Chandler's E. Grammar; Edition of 1821, p. 16; Ed. 1847, p. 21.

34. Grammarians have often failed in their definitions, because it is
impossible to define certain terms in the way in which the description has
been commonly attempted. He who undertakes what is impossible must
necessarily fail; and fail too, to the discredit of his ingenuity. It is
manifest that whenever a generic name in the singular number is to be
defined, the definition must be founded upon some property or properties
common to all the particular things included under the term. Thus, if I
would define a _globe_, a _wheel_, or a _pyramid_, my description must be
taken, not from what is peculiar to one or an other of these things, but
from those properties only which are common to all globes, all wheels, or
all pyramids. But what property has _unity_ in common with _plurality_, on
which a definition of _number_ may be founded? What common property have
the _three cases_, by which we can clearly define _case_? What have the
_three persons_ in common, which, in a definition of _person_, could be
made evident to a child? Thus all the great classes of grammatical
modifications, namely, _persons, numbers, genders, cases, moods_, and
_tenses_, though they admit of easy, accurate, and obvious definitions in
the plural, can scarcely be defined at all in the singular. I do not say,
that the terms _person, number, gender, case, mood_, and _tense_, ia their
technical application to grammar, are all of them equally and absolutely
undefinable in the singular; but I say, that no definition, just in sense
and suitable for a child, can ever be framed for any one of them. Among the
thousand varied attempts of grammarians to explain them so, there are a
hundred gross solecisms for every tolerable definition. For this, as I have
shown, there is a very simple reason in the nature of the things.

35. But this reason, as well as many other truths equally important and
equally clear, our common grammarians, have, so far as I know, every man of
them, overlooked. Consequently, even when they were aiming at the right
thing, they frequently fell into gross errors of expression; and, what is
still more surprising, such errors have been entailed upon the very art of
grammar, and the art of authorship itself, by the prevalence of an absurd
notion, that modern writers on this subject can be meritorious authors
without originality. Hence many a school-boy is daily rehearsing from his
grammar-book what he might well be ashamed to have written. For example,
the following definition from Murray's grammar, is found in perhaps a dozen
other compends, all professing to teach the art of speaking and writing
with propriety: "_Number_ is the _consideration of an object_, as _one_ or
_more_." [70] Yet this short sentence, as I have before suggested, is a
fourfold solecism. _First_, the word "_number_" is wrong; because those
modifications of language, which distinguish unity and plurality, cannot be
jointly signified by it. _Secondly_, the word "_consideration_" is wrong;
because _number_ is not _consideration_, in any sense which can be put upon
the terms: _condition, constitution, configuration_, or any other word
beginning with _con_, would have done just as well. _Thirdly_, "the
consideration of _an_ object as _one_," is but idle waste of thought; for,
that one thing is one,--that _an_ object is _one_ object,--every child
knows by _intuition_, and not by "_consideration_." _Lastly_, to consider
"_an_ object as _more_" than one, is impossible; unless this admirable
definition lead us into a misconception in so plain a case! So much for the
art of "the grammatical definer."

36. Many other examples, equally faulty and equally common, might, be
quoted and criticised for the further proof and illustration of what I have
alleged. But the reader will perhaps judge the foregoing to be sufficient.
I have wished to be brief, and yet to give my arguments, and the neglected
facts upon which they rest, their proper force upon the mind. Against such
prejudices as may possibly arise from the authorship of rival publications,
or from any interest in the success of one book rather than of an other,
let both my judges and me be on our guard. I have intended to be fair; for
captiousness is not criticism. If the reader perceives in these strictures
any improper bias, he has a sort of discernment which it is my misfortune
to lack. Against the compilers of grammars, I urge no conclusions at which
any man can hesitate, who accedes to my preliminary remarks upon them; and
these may be summed up in the following couplet of the poet Churchill:

"To copy beauties, forfeits all pretence
To fame;--to copy faults, is want of sense."



"Sed ut perveniri ad summa nisi ex principiis non potest: ita, procedente
jam opere, minima incipiunt esse quae prima sunt."--QUINTILIAN. _De Inst.
Orat._, Lib. x, Cap. 1, p. 560.

1. The _history_ of grammar, in the proper sense of the term, has
heretofore been made no part of the study. I have imagined that many of its
details might be profitable, not only to teachers, but to that class of
learners for whose use this work is designed. Accordingly, in the preceding
pages, there have been stated numerous facts properly historical, relating
either to particular grammars, or to the changes and progress of this
branch of instruction. These various details it is hoped will be more
entertaining, and perhaps for that reason not less useful, than those
explanations which belong merely to the construction and resolution of
sentences. The attentive reader must have gathered from the foregoing
chapters some idea of what the science owes to many individuals whose names
are connected with it. But it seems proper to devote to this subject a few
pages more, in order to give some further account of the origin and
character of certain books.

2. The manuals by which grammar was first
taught in English, were not properly English Grammars. They were
translations of the Latin Accidence; and were designed to aid British youth
in acquiring a knowledge of the Latin language, rather than accuracy in the
use of their own. The two languages were often combined in one book, for
the purpose of teaching sometimes both together, and sometimes one through
the medium of the other. The study of such works doubtless had a tendency
to modify, and perhaps at that time to improve, the English style of those
who used them. For not only must variety of knowledge have led to
copiousness of expression, but the most cultivated minds would naturally be
most apt to observe what was orderly in the use of speech. A language,
indeed, after its proper form is well fixed by letters, must resist all
introduction of foreign idioms, or become corrupted. Hence it is, that Dr.
Johnson avers, "The great pest of speech is frequency of translation. No
book was ever turned from one language into another, without imparting
something of its native idiom; this is the most mischievous and
comprehensive innovation."--_Preface to Joh. Dict._, 4to, p. 14. Without
expressly controverting this opinion, or offering any justification of mere
metaphrases, or literal translations, we may well assert, that the practice
of comparing different languages, and seeking the most appropriate terms
for a free version of what is ably written, is an exercise admirably
calculated to familiarize and extend grammatical knowledge.

3. Of the class of books here referrred [sic--KTH] to, that which I have
mentioned in an other chapter, as Lily's or King Henry's Grammar, has been
by far the most celebrated and the most influential. Concerning this
treatise, it is stated, that its parts were not put together in the present
form, until eighteen or twenty years after Lily's death. "The time when
this work was completed," says the preface of 1793, "has been differently
related by writers. Thomas Hayne places it in the year 1543, and Anthony
Wood, in 1545. But neither of these accounts can be right; for I have seen
a beautiful copy, printed upon vellum, and illuminated, anno 1542, in
quarto. And it may be doubted whether this was the first edition."--_John
Ward, Pref._, p. vii. In an Introductory Lecture, read before the
University of London in 1828, by Thomas Dale, professor of English
literature, I find the following statement: "In this reign,"--the reign of
Henry VIII,--"the study of grammar was reduced to a system, by the
promulgation of many grammatical treatises; one of which was esteemed of
sufficient importance to be honoured with a royal name. It was called, 'The
Grammar of King Henry the Eighth;' and to this, 'with other works, the
young Shakspeare was probably indebted for some learning and much loyalty.'
But the honour of producing the first English grammar is claimed by William
Bullokar, who published, in the year 1586, 'A Bref Grammar for English,'
being, to use his own words, 'the first Grammar for English that ever waz,
except my Grammar at large.'"

4. Ward's preface to Lily commences thus: "If we look back to the origin of
our common _Latin Grammar_, we shall find it was no hasty performance, nor
the work of a single person; but composed at different times by several
eminent and learned men, till the whole was at length finished, and by the
order of _King Henry_ VIII.[,] brought into that form in which it has ever
since continued. The _English introduction_ was written by the reverend and
learned Dr. _John Colet_, Dean of St. _Paul's_, for the use of the school
he had lately founded there; and was dedicated by him to _William Lily_,
the first high master of that school, in the year 1510; for which reason it
has usually gone by the name of _Paul's Accidence_. The substance of it
remains the same, as at first; though it has been much altered in the
manner of expression, and sometimes the order, with other improvements. The
_English syntax_ was the work of _Lily_, as appears by the title in the
most ancient editions, which runs thus: _Gulielmi Lilii Angli Rudimenta_.
But it has been greatly improved since his time, both with, regard to the
method, and an enlargement of double the quantity."

5. Paul's Accidence is
therefore probably the oldest grammar that can now be found in our
language. It is not, however, an English grammar; because, though written
in antique English, and embracing many things which are as true of our
language as of any other, it was particularly designed for the teaching of
_Latin_. It begins thus: "In speech be these eight parts following: Noun,
Pronoun, Verb, Participle, declined; Adverb, Conjunction, Preposition,
Interjection, undeclined." This is the old platform of the Latin
grammarians; which differs from that of the Greek grammars, only in having
no Article, and in separating the Interjection from the class of Adverbs.
Some Greek grammarians, however, separate the Adjective from the Noun, and
include the Participle with the Verb: thus, "There are in Greek eight
species of words, called Parts of Speech; viz. Article, Noun, Adjective,
Pronoun, Verb, Adverb, Preposition, and Conjunction."--_Anthon's Valpy_, p.
18. With respect to our language, the plan of the Latin Accidence is
manifestly inaccurate; nor can it be applied, without some variation, to
the Greek. In both, as well as in all other languages that have _Articles_,
the best amendment of it, and the nearest adherence to it, is, to make the
Parts of Speech _ten_; namely, the Article, the Noun, the Adjective, the
Pronoun, the Verb, the Participle, the Adverb, the Conjunction, the
Preposition, and the Interjection.

6. The best Latin grammarians admit that the Adjective ought not to be
called a Noun; and the best Greek grammarians, that the Interjections ought
not to be included among Adverbs. With respect to Participles, a vast
majority of grammarians in general, make them a distinct species, or part
of speech; but, on this point, the English grammarians are about equally
divided: nearly one half include them with the verbs, and a few call them
adjectives. In grammar, it is wrong to deviate from the old groundwork,
except for the sake of truth and improvement; and, in this case, to vary
the series of parts, by suppressing one and substituting an other, is in
fact a greater innovation, than to make the terms ten, by adding one and
dividing an other. But our men of nine parts of speech innovated yet more:
they added the Article, as did the Greeks; divided the Noun into
Substantive and Adjective; and, without good reason, suppressed the
Participle. And, of latter time, not a few have thrown the whole into
confusion, to show the world "the order of [their] understanding." What was
grammar fifty years ago, some of these have not thought it worth their
while to inquire! And the reader has seen, that, after all this, they can
complacently talk of "the censure so frequently and so justly awarded to
_unfortunate innovators_."--KIRKHAM'S _Gram._, p. 10.

7. The old scheme of the Latin grammarians has seldom, if ever, been
_literally_ followed in English; because its distribution of the parts of
speech, as declined and undeclined, would not be true with respect to the
English participle. With the omission of this unimportant distinction, it
was, however, scrupulously retained by Dilworth, by the author of the
British Grammar, by William Ward, by Buchanan, and by some others now
little known, who chose to include both the article and the adjective with
the noun, rather than to increase the number of the parts of speech beyond
eight. Dr. Priestley says, "I shall adopt the _usual distribution_ of words
into eight classes; viz. Nouns, Adjectives, Pronouns, Verbs, Adverbs,
Prepositions, Conjunctions, and Interjections.[71] I do this in compliance
with the practice of most Grammarians; and because, _if any number, in a
thing so arbitrary, must be fixed upon_, this seems to be as comprehensive
and distinct as any. All the innovation I have made hath been to throw out
the _Participle_, and substitute the _Adjective_, as more evidently a
distinct part of speech."--_Rudiments of English Gram._, p. 3. All this
comports well enough with Dr. Priestley's haste and carelessness; but it is
not true, that he either adopted, "the usual distribution of words," or
made an other "as comprehensive and distinct as any." His "_innovation_,"
too, which has since been countenanced by many other writers, I have
already shown to be greater, than if, by a promotion of the article and the
adjective, he had made the parts of speech ten. Dr. Beattie, who was
Priestley's coeval, and a much better scholar, adopted this number without
hesitation, and called every one of them by what is still its right name:
"In English there are _ten_ sorts of words, which are all found in the
following short sentence; 'I now see the good man coming; but, alas! he
walks with difficulty.' _I_ and _he_ are pronouns; _now_ is an adverb;
_see_ and _walks_ are verbs; _the_ is an article; _good_, an adjective;
_man_ and _difficulty_ are nouns, the former substantive, the latter
abstract; _coming_ is a participle; _but_, a conjunction; _alas!_ an
interjection; _with_, a preposition. That no other sorts of words are
necessary in language, will appear, when we have seen in what respects
these are necessary."--_Beattie's Moral Science_, Vol. i, p. 30. This
distribution is precisely that which the best _French_ grammarians have
_usually_ adopted.

8. Dr. Johnson professes to adopt the division, the order, and the terms,
"of the common grammarians, without inquiring whether a fitter distribution
might not be found."--_Gram. before 4to Dict._, p. 1. But, in the Etymology
of his Grammar, he makes no enumeration of the parts of speech, and treats
only of articles, nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and verbs; to which if we
add the others, according to the common grammarians, or according to his
own Dictionary, the number will be _ten_. And this distribution, which was
adopted by Dr. Ash about 1765, by Murray the schoolmaster about 1790, by
Caleb Alexander in 1795, and approved by Dr. Adam in 1793, has since been
very extensively followed; as may be seen in Dr. Crombie's treatise, in the
Rev. Matt. Harrison's, in Dr. Mandeville's reading-books, and in the
grammars of Harrison, Staniford, Alden, Coar, John Peirce, E. Devis, C.
Adams, D. Adams, Chandler, Comly, Jaudon, Ingersoll, Hull, Fuller,
Greenleaf, Kirkham, Ferd. H. Miller, Merchant, Mack, Nutting, Bucke, Beck,
Barrett, Barnard, Maunder, Webber, Emmons, Hazen, Bingham, Sanders, and
many others. Dr. Lowth's distribution is the same, except that he placed
the adjective after the pronoun, the conjunction after the preposition,
and, like Priestley, called the participle a verb, thus making the parts of
speech _nine_. He also has been followed by many; among whom are Bicknell,
Burn, Lennie, Mennye, Lindley Murray, W. Allen, Guy, Churchill, Wilson,
Cobbett, Davis, David Blair, Davenport, Mendenhall, Wilcox, Picket, Pond,
Russell, Bacon, Bullions, Brace, Hart, Lyon, Tob. H. Miller, Alger, A.
Flint, Folker, S. Putnam, Cooper, Frost, Goldsbury, Hamlin, T. Smith, R. C.
Smith, and Woodworth. But a third part of these, and as many more in the
preceding list, are confessedly mere modifiers of Murray's compilation; and
perhaps, in such a case, those have done best who have deviated least from
the track of him whom they professed to follow.[72]

9. Some seem to have supposed, that by reducing the number of the parts of
speech, and of the rules for their construction, the study of grammar would
be rendered more easy and more profitable to the learner. But this, as
would appear from the history of the science, is a mere retrogression
towards the rudeness of its earlier stages. It is hardly worth while to
dispute, whether there shall be nine parts of speech or ten; and perhaps
enough has already been stated, to establish the expediency of assuming the
latter number. Every word in the language must be included in some class,
and nothing is gained by making the classes larger and less numerous. In
all the artificial arrangements of science, distinctions are to be made
according to the differences in things; and the simple question here is,
what differences among words shall be at first regarded. To overlook, in
our primary division, the difference between a verb and a participle, is
merely to reserve for a subdivision, or subsequent explanation, a species
of words which most grammarians have recognized as a distinct sort in their
original classification.

10. It should be observed that the early period of grammatical science was
far remote from the days in which _English_ grammar originated. Many things
which we now teach and defend as grammar, were taught and defended two
thousand years ago, by the philosophers of Greece and Rome. Of the parts of
speech, Quintilian, who lived in the first century of our era, gives the
following account: "For the ancients, among whom were Aristotle[73] and
Theodectes, treated only of verbs, nouns, and conjunctions: as the verb is
what we say, and the noun, that of which we say it, they judged the power
of discourse to be in _verbs_, and the matter in _nouns_, but the connexion
in _conjunctions_. Little by little, the philosophers, and especially the
Stoics, increased the number: first, to the conjunctions were added
_articles_; afterwards, _prepositions_; to nouns, was added the
_appellation_; then the _pronoun_; afterwards, as belonging to each verb,
the _participle_; and, to verbs in common, _adverbs_. Our language [i. e.,
the _Latin_] does not require articles, wherefore they are scattered among
the other parts of speech; but there is added to the foregoing the
_interjection_. But some, on the authority of good authors, make the parts
only eight; as Aristarchus, and, in our day, Palaemon; who have included the
vocable, or appellation, with the noun, as a species of it. But they who
make the noun one and the vocable an other, reckon nine. But there are also
some who divide the vocable from the appellation; making the former to
signify any thing manifest to sight or touch, as _house, bed_; and the
latter, any thing to which either or both are wanting, as _wind, heaven,
god, virtue_. They have also added the _asseveration_ and the
_attrectation_, which I do not approve. Whether the vocable or appellation
should be included with the noun or not, as it is a matter of little
consequence, I leave to the decision of others."--See QUINTIL. _de Inst.
Orat._, Lib. i, Cap. 4, Sec.24.

11. Several writers on English grammar,
indulging a strange unsettlement of plan, seem not to have determined in
their own minds, how many parts of speech there are, or ought to be. Among
these are Horne Tooke, Webster, Dalton, Cardell, Green, and Cobb; and
perhaps, from what he says above, we may add the name of Priestley. The
present disputation about the sorts of words, has been chiefly owing to the
writings of Horne Tooke, who explains the minor parts of speech as mere
abbreviations, and rejects, with needless acrimony, the common
classification. But many have mistaken the nature of his instructions, no
less than that of the common grammarians. This author, in his third
chapter, supposes his auditor to say, "But you have not all this while
informed me _how many parts of speech_ you mean to lay down." To whom he
replies, "That shall be as you please. Either _two_, or _twenty_, or
_more_." Such looseness comported well enough with his particular purpose;
because he meant to teach the derivation of words, and not to meddle at all
with their construction. But who does not see that it is impossible to lay
down rules for the _construction_ of words, without first dividing them
into the classes to which such rules apply? For example: if a man means to
teach, that, "A verb must agree with its subject, or nominative, in person
and number," must he not first show the learner _what words are verbs?_ and
ought he not to see in this rule a reason for not calling the participle a
verb? Let the careless followers of Lowth and Priestley answer. Tooke did
not care to preserve any parts of speech at all. His work is not a system
of grammar; nor can it be made the basis of any regular scheme of
grammatical instruction. He who will not grant that the same words may
possibly be used as different parts of speech, must make his parts of
speech either very few or very many. This author says, "I do not allow that
_any_ words change their nature in this manner, so as to belong sometimes
to one part of speech, and sometimes to another, from the different ways of
using them. I never could perceive any such fluctuation in any word
whatever."--_Diversions of Purley_, Vol. i, p. 68.

12. From his own positive language, I imagine this ingenious author never
well considered what constitutes the sameness of words, or wherein lies the
difference of the parts of speech; and, without understanding these things,
a grammarian cannot but fall into errors, unless he will follow somebody
that knows them. But Tooke confessedly contradicts, and outfaces "_all
other Grammarians_" in the passage just cited. Yet it is plain, that the
whole science of grammar--or at least the whole of etymology and syntax,
which are its two principal parts--is based upon a division of words into
the parts of speech; a division which necessarily refers, in many
instances, the same words to different sections according to the manner in
which they are used. "Certains mots repondent, ainsi au meme temps, a
diverses parties d'oraison selon que la grammaire les emploie
diversement."--_Buffier_, Art. 150. "Some words, from the different ways in
which they are used, belong sometimes to one part of speech, sometimes to
another."--_M'Culloch's Gram._, p. 37. "And so say all other
Grammarians."--_Tooke, as above_.

13. The history of _Dr. Webster_, as a grammarian, is singular. He is
remarkable for his changeableness, yet always positive; for his
inconsistency, yet very learned; for his zeal "to correct popular errors,"
yet often himself erroneous; for his fertility in resources, yet sometimes
meagre; for his success as an author, yet never satisfied; for his boldness
of innovation, yet fond of appealing to antiquity. His grammars are the
least judicious, and at present the least popular, of his works. They
consist of four or five different treatises, which for their mutual credit
should never be compared: it is impossible to place any firm reliance upon
the authority of a man who contradicts himself so much. Those who imagine
that the last opinions of so learned a man must needs be right, will do
well to wait, and see what will be his last: they cannot otherwise know to
what his instructions will finally lead: Experience has already taught him
the folly of many of his pretended improvements, and it is probable his
last opinions of English grammar will be most conformable to that just
authority with which he has ever been tampering. I do not say that he has
not exhibited ingenuity as well as learning, or that he is always wrong
when he contradicts a majority of the English grammarians; but I may
venture to say, he was wrong when he undertook to disturb the common scheme
of the parts of speech, as well as when he resolved to spell all words
exactly as they are pronounced.

14. It is not commonly known with how rash a hand this celebrated author
has sometimes touched the most settled usages of our language. In 1790,
which was seven years after the appearance of his first grammar, he
published an octavo volume of more than four hundred pages, consisting of
Essays, moral, historical, political, and literary, which might have done
him credit, had he not spoiled his book by a grammatical whim about the
reformation of orthography. Not perceiving that English literature,
multiplied as it had been within two or three centuries, had acquired a
stability in some degree corresponding to its growth, he foolishly imagined
it was still as susceptible of change and improvement as in the days of its
infancy. Let the reader pardon the length of this digression, if for the
sake of any future schemer who may chance to adopt a similar conceit, I
cite from the preface to this volume a specimen of the author's practice
and reasoning. The ingenious attorney had the good sense quickly to abandon
this project, and content himself with less glaring innovations; else he
had never stood as he now does, in the estimation of the public. But there
is the more need to record the example, because in one of the southern
states the experiment has recently been tried again. A still abler member
of the same profession, has renewed it but lately; and it is said there are
yet remaining some converts to this notion of improvement. I copy
literally, leaving all my readers and his to guess for themselves why he
spelled "_writers_" with a _w_ and "_riting_" without.

15. "During the course of ten or twelv yeers, I hav been laboring to
correct popular errors, and to assist my yung brethren in the road to truth
and virtue; my publications for theze purposes hav been numerous; much time
haz been spent, which I do not regret, and much censure incurred, which my
hart tells me I do not dezerv." * * * "The reeder wil observ that the
_orthography_ of the volum iz not uniform. The reezon iz, that many of the
essays hav been published before, in the common orthography, and it would
hav been a laborious task to copy the whole, for the sake of changing the
spelling. In the essays, ritten within the last yeer, a considerable change
of spelling iz introduced by way of experiment. This liberty waz taken by
the writers before the age of queen Elizabeth, and to this we are indeted
for the preference of modern spelling over that of Gower and Chaucer. The
man who admits that the change of _hoasbonde, mynde, ygone, moneth_ into
_husband, mind, gone, month_, iz an improovment, must acknowlege also the
riting of _helth, breth, rong, tung, munth_, to be an improovment. There iz
no alternativ. Every possible reezon that could ever be offered for
altering the spelling of wurds, stil exists in full force; and if a gradual
reform should not be made in our language, it wil proov that we are less
under the influence of reezon than our ancestors."--_Noah Webster's Essays,
Preface_, p. xi.

16. But let us return, with our author, to the question of the parts of
speech. I have shown that if we do not mean to adopt some less convenient
scheme, we must count them _ten_, and preserve their ancient order as well
as their ancient names.[74] And, after all his vacillation in consequence
of reading Horne Tooke, it would not be strange if Dr. Webster should come
at last to the same conclusion. He was not very far from it in 1828, as may
be shown by his own testimony, which he then took occasion to record. I
will give his own words on the point: "There is great difficulty in
devising a correct classification of the several sorts of words; and
probably no classification that shall be simple and at the same time
philosophically correct, can be invented. There are some words that do not
strictly fall under any description of any class yet devised. Many attempts
have been made and are still making to remedy this evil; but such schemes
as I have seen, do not, in my apprehension, correct the defects of the old
schemes, nor simplify the subject. On the other hand, all that I have seen,
serve only to obscure and embarrass the subject, by substituting new
arrangements and new terms which are as incorrect as the old ones, and less
intelligible. I have attentively viewed these subjects, in all the lights
which my opportunities have afforded, and am convinced that the
distribution of words, most generally received, _is the best that can be
formed_, with some slight alterations adapted to the particular
construction of the English language."

17. This passage is taken from the advertisement, or preface, to the
Grammar which accompanies the author's edition of his great quarto
Dictionary. Now the several schemes which bear his own name, were doubtless
all of them among those which he had that he had "_seen_;" so that he here
condemns them all collectively, as he had previously condemned some of them
at each reformation. Nor is the last exempted. For although he here plainly
gives his vote for that common scheme which he first condemned, he does not
adopt it without "some slight alterations;" and in contriving these
alterations he is inconsistent with his own professions. He makes the parts
of speech _eight_, thus: "1. The name or noun; 2. The pronoun or
substitute; 3. The adjective, attribute, or attributive; 4. The verb; 5.
The adverb; 6. The preposition; 7. The connective or conjunction; 8. The
exclamation or interjection." In his Rudiments of English Grammar,
published in 1811, "to unfold the _true principles_ of the language," his
parts of speech were _seven_; "viz. 1. Names or nouns; 2. Substitutes or
pronouns; 3. Attributes or adjectives; 4. Verbs, with their participles; 5.
Modifiers or adverbs; 6. Prepositions; 7. Connectives or conjunctions." In
his Philosophical and Practical Grammar, published in 1807, a book which
professes to teach "the _only legitimate principles_, and established
usages," of the language, a twofold division of words is adopted; first,
into two general classes, primary and secondary; then into "_seven species_
or parts of speech," the first two belonging to the former class, the other
five to the latter; thus: "1. Names or nouns; 2. Verbs; 3. Substitutes; 4.
Attributes; 5. Modifiers; 6. Prepositions; 7. Connectives." In his
"Improved Grammar of the English Language," published in 1831, the same
scheme is retained, but the usual names are preferred.

18. How many different schemes of classification this author invented, I
know not; but he might well have saved himself the trouble of inventing
any; for, so far as appears, none of his last three grammars ever came to a
second edition. In the sixth edition of his "Plain and Comprehensive
Grammar, grounded on the _true principles_ and idioms of the language," a
work which his last grammatical preface affirms to have been originally
fashioned "on the model of Lowth's," the parts of speech are reckoned
"_six_; nouns, articles, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, and abbreviations or
particles." This work, which he says "was extensively used in the schools
of this country," and continued to be in demand, he voluntarily suppressed;
because, after a profitable experiment of four and twenty years, he found
it so far from being grounded on "true principles," that the whole scheme
then appeared to him incorrigibly bad. And, judging from this sixth
edition, printed in 1800, the only one which I have seen, I cannot but
concur with him in the opinion. More than one half of the volume is a loose
_Appendix_ composed chiefly of notes taken from Lowth and Priestley; and
there is a great want of method in what was meant for the body of the work.
I imagine his several editions must have been different grammars with the
same title; for such things are of no uncommon occurrence, and I cannot
otherwise account for the assertion that this book was compiled "on _the
model of Lowth's_, and on the same principles as [those on which] Murray
has constructed his."--_Advertisement in Webster's Quarto Dict., 1st Ed._

19. In a treatise on grammar, a bad scheme is necessarily attended with
inconveniences for which no merit in the execution can possibly compensate.
The first thing, therefore, which a skillful teacher will notice in a work
of this kind, is the arrangement. If he find any difficulty in discovering,
at sight, what it is, he will be sure it is bad; for a lucid order is what
he has a right to expect from him who pretends to improve upon all the
English grammarians. Dr. Webster is not the only reader of the EPEA
PTEROENTA, who has been thereby prompted to meddle with the common scheme
of grammar; nor is he the only one who has attempted to simplify the
subject by reducing the parts of speech to _six_. John Dalton of
Manchester, in 1801, in a small grammar which he dedicated to Horne Tooke,
made them six, but not the same six. He would have them to be, nouns,
pronouns, verbs, adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions. This writer, like
Brightland, Tooke, Fisher, and some others, insists on it that the articles
are _adjectives_. Priestley, too, throwing them out of his classification,
and leaving the learner to go almost through his book in ignorance of their
rank, at length assigns them to the same class, in one of his notes. And so
has Dr. Webster fixed them in his late valuable, but not faultless,
dictionaries. But David Booth, an etymologist perhaps equally learned, in
his "Introduction to an Analytical Dictionary of the English Language,"
declares them to be of the same species as the _pronouns_; from which he
thinks it strange that they were ever separated! See _Booth's Introd._, p.

20. Now, what can be more idle, than for teachers to reject the common
classification of words, and puzzle the heads of school-boys with
speculations like these? It is easy to admit all that etymology can show to
be true, and still justify the old arrangement of the elements of grammar.
And if we depart from the common scheme, where shall we stop? Some have
taught that the parts of speech are only _five_; as did the latter stoics,
whose classes, according to Priscian and Harris, were these: articles,
nouns appellative, nouns proper, verbs, and conjunctions. Others have made
them _four_; as did Aristotle and the elder stoics, and, more recently,
Milnes, Brightland, Harris, Ware, Fisher, and the author of a work on
Universal Grammar, entitled Enclytica. Yet, in naming the four, each of
these contrives to differ from _all the rest!_ With Aristotle, they are,
"nouns, verbs, articles, and conjunctions;" with Milnes, "nouns, adnouns,
verbs, and particles;" with Brightland, "names, qualities, affirmations,
and particles;" with Harris, "substantives, attributives, definitives, and
connectives;" with Ware, "the name, the word, the assistant, the
connective;" with Fisher, "names, qualities, verbs, and particles;" with
the author of Enclytica, "names, verbs, modes, and connectives." But why
make the classes so numerous as four? Many of the ancients, Greeks,
Hebrews, and Arabians, according to Quintilian, made them _three_; and
these three, according to Vossius, were nouns, verbs, and particles.
"Veteres Arabes, Hebraei, et Graeci, tres, non amplius, classes faciebant; l.
Nomen, 2. Verbum, 3. Particula seu Dictio."--_Voss. de Anal._, Lib. i, Cap.

21. Nor is this number, _three_, quite destitute of modern supporters;
though most of these come at it in an other way. D. St. Quentin, in his
Rudiments of General Grammar, published in 1812, divides words into the
"three general classes" last mentioned; viz., "1. Nouns, 2. Verbs, 3.
Particles."--P. 5. Booth, who published the second edition of his
etymological work in 1814, examining severally the ten parts of speech, and
finding what he supposed to be the true origin of all the words in some of
the classes, was led to throw one into an other, till he had destroyed
seven of them. Then, resolving that each word ought to be classed according
to the meaning which its etymology fixes upon it, he refers the number of
classes to _nature_, thus: "If, then, each [word] has a _meaning_, and is
capable of raising an idea in the mind, that idea must have its prototype
in nature. It must either denote an _exertion_, and is therefore a _verb_;
or a _quality_, and is, in that case, an _adjective_; or it must express an
_assemblage_ of qualities, such as is observed to belong to some individual
object, and is, on this supposition, the _name_ of such object, or a
_noun_. * * * We have thus given an account of the different divisions of
words, and have found that the whole may be classed under the three heads
of Names, Qualities, and Actions; or Nouns, Adjectives, and
Verbs."--_Introd. to Analyt. Dict._, p. 22.

22. This notion of the parts of speech, as the reader will presently see,
found an advocate also in the author of the popular little story of Jack
Halyard. It appears in his Philosophic Grammar published in Philadelphia in
1827. Whether the writer borrowed it from Booth, or was led into it by the
light of "nature," I am unable to say: he does not appear to have derived
it from the ancients. Now, if either he or the lexicographer has discovered
in "nature" a prototype for this scheme of grammar, the discovery is only
to be proved, and the schemes of all other grammarians, ancient or modern,
must give place to it. For the reader will observe that this triad of parts
is not that which is mentioned by Vossius and Quintilian. But authority may
be found for reducing the number of the parts of speech yet lower. Plato,
according to Harris, and the first inquirers into language, according to
Horne Tooke, made them _two_; nouns and verbs, which Crombie, Dalton,
M'Culloch, and some others, say, are the only parts essentially necessary
for the communication of our thoughts. Those who know nothing about
grammar, regard all words as of _one_ class. To them, a word is simply a
word; and under what other name it may come, is no concern of theirs.

23. Towards this point, tends every attempt to simplify grammar by
suppressing any of the _ten_ parts of speech. Nothing is gained by it; and
it is a departure from the best authority. We see by what steps this kind
of reasoning may descend; and we have an admirable illustration of it in
the several grammatical works of William S. Cardell. I shall mention them
in the order in which they appeared; and the reader may judge whether the
author does not ultimately arrive at the conclusion to which the foregoing
series is conducted. This writer, in his Essay on Language, reckons seven
parts of speech; in his New-York Grammar, six; in his Hartford Grammar,
three principal, with three others subordinate; in his Philadelphia
Grammar, three only--nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Here he alleges, "The
unerring plan of _nature_ has established three classes of perceptions, and
consequently three parts of speech."--P. 171. He says this, as if he meant
to abide by it. But, on his twenty-third page, we are told, "Every
adjective is either a noun or a participle." Now, by his own showing, there
are no participles: he makes them all adjectives, in each of his schemes.
It follows, therefore, that all his adjectives, including what others call
participles, are nouns. And this reduces his three parts of speech to two,
in spite of "the unerring plan of _nature!_" But even this number is more
than he well believed in; for, on the twenty-first page of the book, he
affirms, that, "All other terms are but derivative forms and new
applications of _nouns_." So simple a thing is this method of grammar! But
Neef, in his zeal for reformation, carries the anticlimax fairly off the
brink; and declares, "In the grammar which shall be the work of my pupils,
there shall be found no nouns, no pronouns, no articles, no participles, no
verbs, no prepositions, no conjunctions, no adverbs, no interjections, no
gerunds, not even one single supine. Unmercifully shall they be banished
from it."--_Neef's Method of Education_, p. 60.

24. When Cardell's system appeared, several respectable men, convinced by
"his powerful demonstrations," admitted that he had made "many things in
the _established doctrines_ of the expounders of language appear
sufficiently ridiculous;" [75] and willingly lent him the influence of
their names, trusting that his admirable scheme of English grammar, in
which their ignorance saw nothing but new truth, would be speedily
"perfected and generally embraced." [76] Being invited by the author to a
discussion of his principles, I opposed them _in his presence_, both
privately and publicly; defending against him, not unsuccessfully, those
doctrines which time and custom have sanctioned. And, what is remarkable,
that candid opposition which Cardell himself had treated with respect, and
parried in vain, was afterwards, by some of his converts, impeached of all
unfairness, and even accused of wanting common sense. "No one," says
Niebuhr, "ever overthrew a literary idol, without provoking the anger of
its worshipers."--_Philological Museum_, Vol. i, p. 489. The certificates
given in commendation of this "set of opinions," though they had no
extensive effect on the public, showed full well that the signers knew
little of the history of grammar; and it is the continual repetition of
such things, that induces me now to dwell upon its history, for the
information of those who are so liable to be deceived by exploded errors
republished as novelties. A eulogist says of Cardell, "He had adopted a set
of opinions, which, to most of his readers, appeared _entirely new."_ A
reviewer proved, that all his pretended novelties are to be found in
certain grammars now forgotten, or seldom read. The former replies, Then he
[Cardell,] is right--and the man is no less stupid than abusive, who finds
fault; for here is proof that the former "had highly respectable authority
for almost every thing he has advanced!"--See _The Friend_, Vol. ii, pp.
105 and 116, from which all the quotations in this paragraph, except one,
are taken.

25. The reader may now be curious to know what these doctrines
were. They were summed up by the reviewer, thus: "Our author pretends to
have drawn principally from his own resources, in making up his books; and
many may have supposed there is more _novelty_ in them than there really
is. For instance: 1. He classes the _articles_ with _adjectives_; and so
did Brightland, Tooke, Fisher, Dalton, and Webster. 2. He calls the
_participles, adjectives_; and so did Brightland and Tooke. 3. He make the
_pronouns_, either _nouns_ or _adjectives_; and so did Adam, Dalton, and
others. 4. He distributes the _conjunctions_ among the other parts of
speech; and so did Tooke. 5. He rejects the _interjections_; and so did
Valla, Sanctius, and Tooke. 6. He makes the _possessive case_ an
_adjective_; and so did Brightland. 7. He says our language has _no cases_;
and so did Harris. 8. He calls _case, position_; and so did James Brown. 9.
He reduces the adjectives to two classes, _defining_ and _describing_; and
so did Dalton. 10. He declares all _verbs_ to be _active_; and so did
Harris, (in his Hermes, Book i, Chap. ix,) though he admitted the
_expediency_ of the common division, and left to our author the absurdity
of contending about it. Fisher also rejected the class of _neuter verbs_,
and called them all _active_. 11. He reduces the _moods_ to _three_, and
the _tenses_ to _three_; and so did Dalton, in the very same words. Fisher
also made the _tenses three_, but said there _are no moods_ in English. 12.
He makes the _imperative mood_ always _future_; and so did Harris, in 1751.
Nor did the doctrine originate with him; for Brightland, a hundred years
ago, [about 1706,] ascribed it to some of his predecessors. 13. He reduces
the whole of our _syntax_ to about _thirty lines_; and two thirds of these
are useless; for Dr. Johnson expressed it quite as fully in _ten_. But
their explanations are both good for nothing; and Wallis, more wisely,
omitted it altogether."--_The Friend_, Vol. ii, p. 59.

26. Dr. Webster says, in a marginal note to the preface of his
Philosophical Grammar, "Since the days of _Wallis_, who published a Grammar
of the English Language, in Latin, in the reign of Charles II.[,] from
which Johnson and Lowth borrowed most of their rules, _little improvement_
has been made in English grammar. Lowth supplied some valuable criticisms,
most of which however respect obsolete phrases; but many of his criticisms
are extremely erroneous, and they have had an ill effect, in perverting the
true idioms of our language. Priestley furnished a number of new and useful
observations on the peculiar phrases of the English language. To which may
be added some good remarks of Blair and Campbell, interspersed with many
errors. Murray, not having mounted to the original sources of information,
and professing only to select and arrange the rules and criticisms of
preceding writers, has furnished little or nothing new. Of the numerous
compilations of inferior character, it may be affirmed, that they have
added nothing to the stock of grammatical knowledge." And the concluding
sentence of this work, as well as of his Improved Grammar, published in
1831, extends the censure as follows: "It is not the English language only
whose history and principles are yet to be illustrated; but the grammars
and dictionaries of _all other_ languages, with which I have any
acquaintance, must be revised and corrected, before their elements and true
construction can be fully understood." In an advertisement to the grammar
prefixed to his quarto American Dictionary, the Doctor is yet more severe
upon books of this sort. "I close," says he, "with the single remark, that
from all the observations I have been able to make, I am convinced the
dictionaries and grammars which have been used in our seminaries of
learning for the last forty or fifty years, are _so incorrect and
imperfect_ that they have introduced or sanctioned more errors than they
have amended; in other words, had the people of England and of these States
been left to learn the pronunciation and construction of their vernacular
language solely by tradition, and the reading of good authors, the language
would have been spoken and written with more purity than it has been and
now is, by those who have learned to adjust their language by the rules
which dictionaries prescribe."

27. Little and much are but relative terms; yet when we look back to the
period in which English grammar was taught only in Latin, it seems
extravagant to say, that "little improvement has been made" in it since. I
have elsewhere expressed a more qualified sentiment. "That the grammar of
our language has made considerable progress since the days of Swift, who
wrote a petty treatise on the subject, is sufficiently evident; but whoever
considers what remains to be done, cannot but perceive how ridiculous are
many of the boasts and felicitations which we have heard on that topic."
[77] Some further notice will now be taken of that progress, and of the
writers who have been commonly considered the chief promoters of it, but
especially of such as have not been previously mentioned in a like
connexion. Among these may be noticed _William Walker_, the preceptor of
Sir Isaac Newton, a teacher and grammarian of extraordinary learning, who
died in 1684. He has left us sundry monuments of his taste and critical
skill: one is his "Treatise of English Particles,"--a work of great labour
and merit, but useless to most people now-a-days, because it explains the
English in Latin; an other, his "Art of Teaching Improv'd,"--which is also
an able treatise, and apparently well adapted to its object, "the Grounding
of a Young Scholar in the Latin Tongue." In the latter, are mentioned other
works of his, on "_Rhetorick_, and _Logick_" which I have not seen.

28. In 1706, _Richard Johnson_ published an octavo volume of more than four
hundred pages, entitled, "Grammatical Commentaries; being an Apparatus to a
New National Grammar: by way of animadversion upon the falsities,
obscurities, redundancies and defects of Lily's System now in use." This is
a work of great acuteness, labour, and learning; and might be of signal use
to any one who should undertake to prepare a new or improved Latin grammar:
of which, in my opinion, we have yet urgent need. The English grammarian
may also peruse it with advantage, if he has a good knowledge of Latin--and
without such knowledge he must be ill prepared for his task. This work is
spoken of and quoted by some of the early English grammarians; but the
hopes of the writer do not appear to have been realized. His book was not
calculated to supply the place of the common one; for the author thought it
impracticable to make a new grammar, suitable for boys, and at the same
time to embrace in it proofs sufficient to remove the prejudices of
teachers in favour of the old. King Henry's edict in support of Lily, was
yet in force, backed by all the partiality which long habit creates; and
Johnson's learning, and labour, and zeal, were admired, and praised, and
soon forgot.

29. Near the beginning of the last century, some of the generous wits of
the reign of Queen Anne, seeing the need there was of greater attention to
their vernacular language, and of a grammar more properly English than any
then in use, produced a book with which the later writers on the same
subjects, would have done well to have made themselves better acquainted.
It is entitled "A Grammar of the English Tongue; with the Arts of Logick,
Rhetorick, Poetry, &c. Illustrated with useful Notes; giving the Grounds
and Reasons of Grammar in General. The Whole making a Compleat System of an
English Education. _Published by_ JOHN BRIGHTLAND, for the Use of the
Schools of Great Britain and Ireland." It is ingeniously recommended in a
certificate by Sir Richard Steele, or the Tattler, under the fictitious
name of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq., and in a poem of forty-three lines, by
Nahum Tate, poet laureate to her Majesty. It is a duodecimo volume of three
hundred pages; a work of no inconsiderable merit and originality; and
written in a style which, though not faultless, has scarcely been surpassed
by any English grammarian since. I quote it as Brightland's:[78] who were
the real authors, does not appear. It seems to be the work of more than
one, and perhaps the writers of the Tattler were the men. My copy is of the
seventh edition, London, printed for Henry Lintot, 1746. It is evidently
the work of very skillful hands; yet is it not in all respects well planned
or well executed. It unwisely reduces the parts of speech to four; gives
them new names; and rejects more of the old system than the schools could
be made willing to give up. Hence it does not appear to have been very
extensively adopted.

30. It is now about a hundred and thirty years, since _Dr. Swift_, in a
public remonstrance addressed to the Earl of Oxford, complained of the
imperfect state of our language, and alleged in particular, that "in many
instances it offended against every part of grammar." [79] Fifty years
afterward, _Dr. Lowth_ seconded this complaint, and pressed it home upon
the polite and the learned. "Does he mean," says the latter, "that the
English language, as it is spoken by the politest part of the nation, and
as it stands in the writings of the most approved authors, often offends
against every part of grammar? _Thus far, I am afraid the charge is
true_."--_Lowth's Grammar, Preface_, p. iv. Yet the learned Doctor, to whom
much praise has been justly ascribed for the encouragement which he gave to
this neglected study, attempted nothing more than "A Short Introduction to
English Grammar;" which, he says, "was calculated for the learner _even of
the lowest class_:" and those who would enter more deeply into the subject,
he referred to _Harris_; whose work is not an English grammar, but "A
Philosophical Inquiry concerning Universal Grammar." Lowth's Grammar was
first published in 1758. At the commencement of his preface, the reverend
author, after acknowledging the enlargement, polish, and refinement, which
the language had received during the preceding two hundred years, ventures
to add, "but, whatever other improvements it may have received, it hath
made _no advances_ in grammatical accuracy." I do not quote this assertion
to affirm it literally true, in all its apparent breadth; but there is less
reason to boast of the correctness even now attained, than to believe that
the writers on grammar are not the authors who have in general come nearest
to it in practice. Nor have the ablest authors always produced the best
compends for the literary instruction of youth.

31. The treatises of the learned doctors Harris, Lowth, Johnson, Ash,
Priestley, Horne Tooke, Crombie, Coote, and Webster, owe their celebrity
not so much to their intrinsic fitness for school instruction, as to the
literary reputation of the writers. Of _Harris's Hermes_, (which, in
comparison with our common grammars, is indeed a work of much ingenuity and
learning, full of interesting speculations, and written with great elegance
both of style and method,) _Dr. Lowth_ says, it is "the most beautiful and
perfect example of analysis, that has been exhibited since the days of
Aristotle."--_Preface to Gram._, p. x. But these two authors, if their
works be taken together, as the latter intended they should be, supply no
sufficient course of English grammar. The instructions of the one are too
limited, and those of the other are not specially directed to the subject.

32. _Dr. Johnson_, who was practically one of the greatest grammarians that
ever lived, and who was very nearly coetaneous with both Harris and Lowth,
speaks of the state of English grammar in the following terms: "I found our
speech copious without order, and energetick _without rules_: wherever I
turned my view, there was perplexity to be disentangled, and confusion to
be regulated."--_Preface to Dict._, p. 1. Again: "Having therefore _no
assistance but from general grammar_, I applied myself to the perusal of
our writers; and noting whatever might be of use to ascertain or illustrate
any word or phrase, accumulated in time the materials of a
dictionary."--_Ibid._ But it is not given to any one man to do every thing;
else, Johnson had done it. His object was, to compile a dictionary, rather
than to compose a grammar, of our language. To lexicography, grammar is
necessary, as a preparation; but, as a purpose, it is merely incidental.
Dr. Priestley speaks of Johnson thus: "I must not conclude this preface,
without making my acknowledgements to Mr. _Johnson_, whose admirable
dictionary has been of the greatest use to me in the study of our language.
It is pity he had not formed as just, and as extensive an idea of English
grammar. Perhaps this very useful work may still be reserved for his
distinguished abilities in this way."--_Priestley's Grammar, Preface_, p.
xxiii. Dr. Johnson's English Grammar is all comprised in fourteen pages,
and of course it is very deficient. The syntax he seems inclined entirely
to omit, as (he says) Wallis did, and Ben Jonson had better done; but, for
form's sake, he condescends to bestow upon it ten short lines.

33. My point here is, that the best grammarians have left much to be done
by him who may choose to labour for the further improvement of English
grammar; and that a man may well deserve comparative praise, who has not
reached perfection in a science like this. Johnson himself committed many
errors, some of which I shall hereafter expose; yet I cannot conceive that
the following judgement of his works was penned without some bias of
prejudice: "Johnson's merit ought not to be denied to him; but his
dictionary is the most imperfect and faulty, and the least valuable _of
any_[80] of his productions; and that share of merit which it possesses,
makes it by so much the more hurtful. I rejoice, however, that though the
least valuable, he found it the most profitable: for I could never read his
preface without shedding a tear. And yet it must be confessed, that his
_grammar_ and _history_ and _dictionary_ of what _he calls_ the English
language, are in all respects (except the bulk of the _latter_[81]) most
truly contemptible performances; and a reproach to the learning and
industry of a nation which could receive them with the slightest
approbation. Nearly one third of this dictionary is as much the language of
the Hottentots as of the English; and it would be no difficult matter so to
translate any one of the plainest and most popular numbers of the
_Spectator_ into the language of this dictionary, that no mere Englishman,
though well read in his own language, would he able to comprehend one
sentence of it. It appears to be a work of labour, and yet is in truth one
of the most idle performances ever offered to the public; compiled by an
author who possessed not one single requisite for the undertaking, and
(being a publication of a set of booksellers) owing its success to that
very circumstance which alone must make it impossible that it should
deserve success."--_Tooke's Diversions of Purley_, Vol. i, p. 182.

34. _Dr. Ash's_ "Grammatical Institutes, or Easy Introduction to Dr.
Lowth's English Grammar," is a meagre performance, the ease of which
consists in nothing but its brevity. _Dr. Priestley_, who in the preface to
his third edition acknowledges his obligations to Johnson, and also to
Lowth, thought it premature to attempt an English grammar; and contented
himself with publishing a few brief "Rudiments," with a loose appendix
consisting of "Notes and Observations, for the use of those who have made
some proficiency in the language." He says, "With respect to our own
language, there seems to be a kind of claim upon all who make use of it, to
do something for its improvement; and the best thing we can do for this
purpose at present, is, to exhibit its actual structure, and the varieties
with which it is used. When these are once distinctly pointed out, and
generally attended to, the best forms of speech, and those which are most
agreeable to the analogy of the language, will soon recommend themselves,
and come into general use; and when, by this means, the language shall be
written with sufficient uniformity, we may hope to see a complete grammar
of it. At present, _it is by no means ripe for such a work_;[82] but we may
approximate to it very fast, if all persons who are qualified to make
remarks upon it, will give a little attention to the subject. In such a
case, a few years might be sufficient to complete it."--_Priestley's
Grammar, Preface_, p. xv. In point of time, both Ash and Priestley
expressly claim priority to Lowth, for their first editions; but the former
having allowed his work to be afterwards entitled an Introduction to
Lowth's, and the latter having acknowledged some improvements in his from
the same source, they have both been regarded as later authors.

35. The great work of the learned etymologist _John Horne Tooke_, consists
of two octavo volumes, entitled, "EPEA PTEROENTA, or the Diversions of
Purley." This work explains, with admirable sagacity, the origin and
primitive import of many of the most common yet most obscure English words;
and is, for that reason, a valuable performance. But as it contains nothing
respecting the construction of the language, and embraces no proper system
of grammatical doctrines, it is a great error to suppose that the common
principles of practical grammar ought to give place to such instructions,
or even be modelled according to what the author proves to be true in
respect to the origin of particular words. The common grammarians were less
confuted by him, than many of his readers have imagined; and it ought not
to be forgotten that his purpose was as different from theirs, as are their
schemes of Grammar from the plan of his critical "Diversions." In this
connexion may be mentioned an other work of similar size and purpose, but
more comprehensive in design; the "History of European Languages," by that
astonishing linguist the late _Dr. Alexander Murray_. This work was left
unfinished by its lamented author; but it will remain a monument of
erudition never surpassed, acquired in spite of wants and difficulties as
great as diligence ever surmounted. Like Tooke's volumes, it is however of
little use to the mere English scholar. It can be read to advantage only by
those who are acquainted with several other languages. The works of
_Crombie_ and _Coote_ are more properly essays or dissertations, than
elementary systems of grammar.

36. The number of English grammars has now become so very great, that not
even a general idea of the comparative merits or defects of each can here
be given. I have examined with some diligence all that I have had
opportunity to obtain; but have heard of several which I have never yet
seen. Whoever is curious to examine at large what has been published on
this subject, and thus to qualify himself to judge the better of any new
grammar, may easily make a collection of one or two hundred bearing
different names. There are also many works not called grammars, from which
our copyists have taken large portions of their compilations. Thus Murray
confessedly copied from ten authors; five of whom are Beattie, Sheridan,
Walker, Blair, and Campbell. Dr. Beattie, who acquired great celebrity as a
teacher, poet, philosopher, and logician, was well skilled in grammar; but
he treated the subject only in critical disquisitions, and not in any
distinct elementary work adapted to general use. Sheridan and Walker, being
lexicographers, confined themselves chiefly to orthography and
pronunciation. Murray derived sundry principles from the writings of each;
but the English Grammar prepared by the latter, was written, I think,
several years later than Murray's. The learned doctors Blair and Campbell
wrote on rhetoric, and not on the elementary parts of grammar. Of the two,
the latter is by far the more accurate writer. Blair is fluent and easy,
but he furnishes not a little false syntax; Campbell's Philosophy of
Rhetoric is a very valuable treatise. To these, and five or six other
authors whom I have noticed, was Lindley Murray "principally indebted for
his materials." Thus far of the famous contributors to English grammar. The
Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory, delivered at Harvard University by John
Quincy Adams, and published in two octavo volumes in 1810, are such as do
credit even to that great man; but they descend less to verbal criticism,
and enter less into the peculiar province of the grammarian, than do most
other works of a similar title.

37. Some of the most respectable authors or compilers of more general
systems of English grammar for the use of schools, are the writer of the
British Grammar, Bicknell, Buchanan, William Ward, Alexander Murray the
schoolmaster, Mennye, Fisher, Lindley Murray, Penning, W. Allen, Grant,
David Blair, Lennie, Guy, Churchill. To attempt any thing like a review or
comparative estimate of these, would protract this introduction beyond all
reasonable bounds; and still others would be excluded, which are perhaps
better entitled to notice. Of mere modifiers and abridgers, the number is
so great, and the merit or fame so little, that I will not trespass upon
the reader's patience by any further mention of them or their works.
Whoever takes an accurate and comprehensive view of the history and present
state of this branch of learning, though he may not conclude, with Dr.
Priestley, that it is premature to attempt a complete grammar of the
language, can scarcely forbear to coincide with Dr. Barrow, in the opinion

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