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copious, no language feems better calculated to faciiitate the intercourse of mankind, as a universal medium of communication,
· Since the Grammars of Lowth and Priettley, and the Dictionary of Johnson have been publithed, our language has been brought nearer to a fixed standard. It is now considered, more than ever, as an object of grammatical rules, and regular fyntax, Its idioms, are more accurately ascertained by a comparison of passages selected from the best authors. The derivations are traced from their original sources with greater precision; and its orthography is now more reduced to settled fules. To the labours of Johnson, as a Lexicographer, our nation is under great obligations; and if he has in fome instances failed in diligence of research, or extent of plan, we must at least be ready to allow, that he has contributed more than any of his countrymen towards the elucidation of his subject; he has given his definitions of words with great clearnefs, and confirmed them by a detail of quotations from the best authors. There is perhaps no book, professedly written upon a philological subject, that can give to foreigners as well as to natives, so juft and advantageous an idea of our language, or of the variety and the excellence of our writers: the Preface to his Dictionary is a most accurate and defervedly admired compofition. ; . . ii.
The derivation of Englifh words, as far as it
relates to Latin and Greek, has been frequently and fatisfactorily traced : but those which are of Saxon origin were a long time prevalent without sufficient investigation. The Author of the “ Di“ versions of Purley,” whose natural acuteness and turn for metaphysical research peculiarly qualified him for such a task, has directed his attention to the subject; and the ingenious theory which he has formed, respecting the origin of the indeclinable parts of speech, was remarkably confirmed by his knowledge of Saxon. He has proved very clearly, that many of our adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions, which are commonly thought to have no signification, when detached from other words, are derived from obfolete nouns or verbs, the meaning of which they refpectively retain; but which have been shortened for general convenience, and corrupted by length of time. Such a discovery is valuable, not only on account of the light it throws upon those parts of our language which have been too flightly regarded by all former grammarians; but for the affiftance it affords to the science of etymology in general.
Dr. Johnson has declaimed against translations as the bane of language: but Warton has observed, in the “ History of English Poetry,” on the contrary, that our language derived great benefits from the translations of the classics in the fixteenth century. This difference of opinion may probably be reconciled, by suppofing that these writers advert to the ftate of a language at different periods of time.. When it is in its dawn of improvement, as was the case when the translations of the Classics were first made into English, the addition of foreign terms may be requisite to keep pace with the influx of new ideas. 'In a more advanced period of arts and civilization, such an increase is not only unneceffary, but may be injurious; and the practice seems as needless, as the introduction of foreign troops for the defence of a country, when the natives alone are sufficient for its protection,
1. Beauties of the English Language.
A language, which has been so much indebted to others, both ancient and modern, must of courie be very copious and expreffive. In these respects perhaps it may be brought into competition with any now spoken in the world. No Englishman has had reason to complain, fince our tongue has reached its present degree of excellence, that his ideas could not be adequately expressed, or clothed in a suitable dress. No author has been under the necessity of writing in a foreign language, on account of its superiority to our own. Whether we open the volumes of our divines, phiJosophers, historians, or artists, we shall find that they abound with all the terms necessary to com'municate their observations and discoveries, and give to their readers the moft complete views of their respective subjects. Hence it appears, that our language is sufficient for all topics, and can give proper and adequate expression to variety
of argument, delicacy of taste, and fervour of genius. And that it has sufficient copiousness to communicate to mankind every action, event, invention, and observation, in a full, clear, and elegant manner, we can prove by an appeal to the authors, who are at present held in the greatest esteem,
ļ But its excellence is perhaps in few respects difplayed to such advantage, as in the works of our poets. Whoever reads the works of Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, Dryden, and Pope, will be senfible that they employ a kind of diction which may be said to be sacred to the Muses. It is distinguished from profe, not merely by the harmony of numbers, but by the great variety of its appropriate terms and phrases. A confiderable degree of beauty results likewise from the different measures employed in poetry. The Allegro and Penferoja of Milton, Alexander's Feast by Dryden, the Ode to the Paspons by Collins, and the Bard of Gray, are as complete examples of versification, judicicously varied, according to the nature of the subjects, as they are specimens of exquisite sentiment and original genius.
One of the most beautiful figures in poetry is the Profopopoeia, or personification, which afcribes personal qualities and actions to inanimate and fictitious beings. The genius of our language jenables the English poet to give the best effect to this figure, as the genders of nouns are not unalterably fixed, but may be varied according to
the nature of the subject. Thus the poet can make whenever he pleases the most striking distinction between verse and profe, and communicate to his descriptions that spirit and animation, which cannot fail to delight every reader of taste, in the following passages.
Milton thus personifies Wisdom;
" Wisdom's self
And Pope, in his Windsor Forest, thus describes the effects of Peace :
“ Exild by thee from eartb to deepest hell,
Warton thus defcribes the advance of Evening:
." While Évening veil'd in Thadows brown ,