« ElőzőTovább »
cular words, and have adjusted their practice to their own ideas of propriety. Dr. Lardner was desirous of reviving the old mode of spelling in some instances, as in goodnesle, forgivenejle, historie, extraordinarie, &c. Benson, a commentator on St. Paul's Epistles, wrote præface, præfix, prævail, procede, persue, and explane, like Lardner. Dr. Middleton, a more elegant writer, made similar attempts; and Upton, the learned commentator on Shakespeare, tires his readers by the repetitions of the word tast for the substantive taste. Mr. Mitford, the Historian of ancient Greece, has introduced fome novelties of this kind, such as iland, ingage, injoyment, unsteddy, soverein, and picturesk. He has made a more laudable attempt to restore correct spelling in proper names derived from Greek, as in Areiopagus, Epameinondas, Peififtratus, Peifander, Iphigeneia, &c. The moft useful reform of this kind would be to fpell all proper names, whether ancient or modern, exactly as they occur in their respective languages. The French would then change their ridiculous diminutives, such as Tite Live, and Quint Çurce, for the genuine appellations of Titus Livius, and Quintus Curtius; and we should no longer degrade Marcus Antonius, and Tullius, into Marc Antony and Tully.
Our Orthography remained in a fluctuating ftate, till at length what was the general with, what many had attempted in vain, and seemed to require the united efforts of numbers, was . 12
accomplished by the diligence and the acuteness of one, whom we are happy to mention repeatedly, for his eminent services to the literature of his country. - 14. Dr. Johnson published his Dictionary; and as the weight of truth and reason is irrefiftible, its authority has nearly fixed the external form of our language, and from its decisions few appeals have yet been made. Indeed fo convenient is it to have one acknowledged standard to recur tofo much preferable, in matters of this nature, is a trifling degree of irregularity to a continual change, and fruitless pursuit of unattainable perfection; that it is earnestly to be hoped, that no author will henceforth on flight grounds be tempted to innovate. Dr. Johnson is every where the declared enemy of unnecefsary innovation. The principles on which he founds his improvements, are the ftable ones of etymology and analogy : the former science will not foon be more completely understood than it was by him ; and if in the latter, a few steps may have been made beyond the limits of his observation, they have been gained only by the pursuit of minute researches, inconsistent with the greatness of his undertaking?"
: It is the opinion of this learned Lexicographer, that as we received many of our words originally of Lasin derivation, through the medium of the French, we ought to follow the latter mode of spelling in preference to the former. Good as this
? Nares's Orthoepy, p. 269.
general rule may be thought, there are fome exceptions, which in compliance with prevailing custom he readily admits himself. “ The rule required hiin to write enquire from the French enquerir, not inquire. The termination in our is one of those which has created much dispute. At present the practice seems to favour the rejeétion of u in all words of more than two syllables. Johnson spells author without a' final u, but always writes honour and favour,
It may be laid down as a general rule, that the most judicious attention that can be paid to orthography, muft necessarily consist in diftinguishing those irregularities which are inherent in the language itself, from those introduced by the capricious, the fashionable, and the ignorant.
The preceding observations have chiefly related to words considered by themselves. It may be proper, in the next place, to make some remarks upon our composition, or the arrangement and connexion of words, as they constitute sentences. In this respect all modern languages fall short of the ancient, which are diftinguished by a peculiar roundness, harmony, and compass of period. The Greeks and Romans, by having different genders and terminations of their verbs and nouns, gave a precision to their meaning, which enabled them to diversify the order of construction, in an infinite
variety of modes, without any injury to the sense. Of this advantage our language is in a great degree incapable. Our words in general are placed in the natural order of construction; and to this standard we endeavour to reduce both our literal and free tranflations of Greek and Latin authors: in the works of our writers we seek in vain for those closely connected parts of a sentence, and that judicious position of the principal word in the most advantageous place, which have so striking an effect in the composition of the classics. .
III. Sir Thomas Brown - Dr. Johnson
The cultivation of the learned languages, since the reign of Henry VIII. has introduced many words of Latin origin into the conversation and the writings of the English. The attention paid to Italian literature, particularly in the reign of Elizabeth, contributed to increase their number. In the works of Shakespeare we find inany such words; and those, which his imperfect knowledge of Latin and Greek did not afford him the opportunity of taking immediately from the classics, he probably borrowed from the same translations, which furnished many of his plots, speeches, and characters. Yet he seems to have considered the too free admission of this strange phraseology as an ob.
For a very curious List of these Translations, fee Dr. Farmer's Effay on the learning of Shakespeare.
ject of occasional censure, and has therefore ex.. posed it to ridicule with great effect in the ludicrous characters of Holofernes and Pistol. The dra-, matic productions of Ben Jonson his contemporary are much more strongly marked by these. exotic conceits. But of all our writers of those times no one, seems to have been fo ambitious of the stiff and pompous decorations of a latinised, style, as Sir Thomas Brown, the author of a work on Vulgar Errors. His sentences are so replete with words, which differ only from Latin in their ter-. minations, that he is entitled to the firtt place in the school of pedantry. It is very extraordinary, that the force of his own observation, which was levelled against those who indulged in this practice, recoils upon himself.” “ If elegancie still precedeth, and English pens maintain that stream we have of late observed to flow from many, we shall within few years be fain to learne Latine to understand English, and a work will prove of equal facility in either."
The affected structure of his style is apparent even from the first fentence of the above mentioned work. ::“ Would truth dispense, we could be content with Plato, that knowledge were but remembrance, that intellectual acquisition were but reminifcential evocation, &c.” That many of his words may be translated into Latin with little more than a change in their terminations; the following.