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not perfectly acquainted with our language, in conversation with me on the subject of our authors, attributed the greater obscurity he found in our modern books, compared with those of the period above-mentioned, to change of style for the worse in our writers; of which mistake I convinced him by marking for him each substantive with a capital in a paragraph, which he then easily understood, though before he could not comprehend it. This shows the inconvenience of that pretended improvement. From the same fondness for an even and uniform appearance of characters in the line, the printers have of late banished also the italic types, in which words of importance to be attended to in the sense of the sentence, and words on which an emphasis should be put in reading, used to be printed. Aud lately another fancy has induced some printers to use the short round s instead of the long one, which formerly served well to distinguish a word readily by its varied appearance. Certainly the omitting this prominent letter makes the Jine appear more even; but renders it less immediately legible, as the paring all men's noses might smooth and level their face, but would render their physiognomies less distinguishable. Add to all these improvements backwards, another moderu fancy that grey printing is more beautiful than black; hence the iinglish new books are printed in so dim a character as to be read with difficulty by old eyes, unless in a very strong light and with good glasses. Whoever compares a volume of the Gentleman's Magazine, printed between the years 1731 and 1740, with one of those printed in the last ten years, will be convinced of the much greater degree of perspicuity given by black ink than by grey. Lord Chesterfield pleasantly remarked this difference to Faulkener, the printer of the Dublin Journal, who was vainly making encomiums on his own paper, as the most complete of any in the world,— "but, Mr. Faulkener," said my Lord, "don't you think it might be still further improved by using paper and ink not quite so near of a color?" For all these reasons, 1 cannot but wish that our American printers would in their editions avoid these fancied improvements, and thereby render their works more agreeable to foreigners in Europe, to the great advantage of our bookselling commerce.
Further, to be more sensible of the advantage of clear and distinct printing, let us consider the assistance it affords - in reading well aloud to an auditory. In so doing the eye generally slides forward three or four words before the voice. If the sight clearly distinguishes what the coming words are, it gives time to order the modulation of the voice to express them properly. But if they are obscurely printed or disguised, by omitting the capitals and long s's or otherwise, the reader is apt to modulate wrong; and finding he has done so, is obliged to go back and begin the sentence again, which lessens the pleasure of the hearers. This leads me to mention an old error in our mode of printing. We are sensible, that w hen a question is met with in reading, there is a proper variation to be used in the management of the voice. We have therefore a point ealled an interrogation, affixed to the question, in order to distinguish it. But this is absurdlyplaced at its end; so that the reader does not discover it till he finds he has wrongly modulated his voice, and is therefore obliged to begin again the sentence. To prevent this the Spanish printers, more sensibly, place an interrogation at the beginning as well as at the end of a question. We have another error of the same kind in printing plays, where something often occurs that is marked as spoken aside. But the word aside is placed at the end of the speech, when it ought to precede it, as a direction to the reader, that he may govern his voice accordingly. The practice of our ladies in meeting five or six together to form a little busy party, where each is employed in some useful work while one .reads to them, is so commendable iu itself, that it deserves the attention of authors and printers to make it as pleasing as possible, both to the reader and hearers.
After these general observations, permit me to make one that I imagine may regard your interest. It is that your spelling-book is miserably printed here, so as in many places to be scarcely legible, and on wretched paper. If this is not attended to, and the new one lately advertised as coming out should be preferable in these respects, it may hurt the future sale of yours.
I congratulate you on your marriage, of which the newspapers inform me. My best wishes attend you; being with sincere esteem, sir, your most obedient and most humble servant, B. Franklin.
To Dr. Franklin.
Sir, Hartford, April 15, 1790.
Your polite and flattering letter of the 26th of December, 1789, came by the way of Boston, and did not reach me till yesterday. Accept my respectful acknowledgments, sir, for the honor of the communication, as well as for the very useful and important remarks it contains, upon what are called improvements in our language. If - you have no objection, sir, I could wish to publish the letter for the benefit of my countrymen; and, agreeable to your request I will, as time and opportunity shall offer, make additional remarks on this subject.
Your observations on the use of the words improve, notice, advocate, progress, have occurred to me often. Improve, in the sense of employ, use, occupy, has found its way into the statutes of Connecticut, and is constantly used by our inaccurate speakers and writers. Notice and advocate, as verbs, are modern; but they are formed from the nouns, agreeable to the idiom and principles of the language. To fear, to love, to scorn, to head, and half the verbs in our language, are formed in the same manner from the substantives. See the beginning of my fourth dissertation. Where the construction of such words is consonant to established principles, and is not disagreeable to the ear, I doubt how far the alterations are to be discountenanced. But with respect .to progress, there appears to be no room for doubt; for, to form it into a verb, it is necessary to change the accent of the word; and I agree with you, sir, in pronouncing it" awkward and abominable."
If I understand your remarks on the word oppose, your objection is, that the word is used in a passive sense, instead of an active; the gentlemen who are opposed to the measure, instead of, the gentlemen who oppose it. This is certainly inaccurate.
In your remarks on printing I heartily concur. I could wish to see utility always preferred to imaginary and whimsical ornaments, especially in an art of so much consequence as that of printing. That my spelling-book is badly printed in Philadelphia, I lament, and shall try to remedy the evil some time in the course of this year, when I expect to be in Philadelphia. But I see the Irish interest will be in favor of Mr. Barry's; and in this preference, some unreasonable personal prejudices against me, contracted while I was in Philadelphia in 1787, will perhaps have some influence. With a great number of very good men, my opposition to Sheridan's pronunciation will be a sufficient ground of opposition to mine. Still I hope to do some good by my publications on language, although I expect it will be small. I have now taken up my profession, which I laid aside for seven or eight years, and must endeavor to repair that loss of time by double assiduity.
I thank you, sir, moat sincerely for your kind congratulations on my marriage. Mrs. Webster, who was once at your house in 1787, desires her respects to you and to Mrs. Bache. I regret your indisposition and infirmities for your own sake, as well as on account of my country, which feels grateful for your services, and wishes still to reap the ripened fruit of your experience, observations, and talents.
I am, sir, with gratitude and respect, your obliged and obedient humble servant, Noah Wenster, Jun.
Letter From Dr. Stiles, President or Yale College, &c To Dr. Franklin. Requesting his portrait for Yale College, and wishing to be made acquainted with his religious sentiments.
Sir, Yale College, Jan. 28, 1790.
We have lately received Governor Yale's portrait from his family in London, and deposited it in the college library, where is also deposited one of Governor Saltonstall's. I have long wished that we might be likewise honored with that of Dr. Franklin. In the course of your long life you may probably have become possessed of several portraits of yourself. Shall I take too great a liberty in humbly asking a donation of one of them to Yale College? You obliged me with a mezzotinto picture of yourself many years ago, which [ often view with pleasure. But the canvass is more permanent. We wish to be possessed of the durable resemblance of the American patriot and philosopher. You have merited and received all the honors of the republic of letters; and are going to a world where all sublunary glories will be lost in the glories of immortality. Should you shine throughout the intellectual and stellary universe, with the eminence and distinguished lustre with which you have appeared in this little detached part of the creation, you would be what I most fer,vently wish to you, sir, whatever may be my fate in eternity. The grand climacteric in which I now am, reminds me of the interesting scenes of futurity. You know, sir, that I am a Christian, and would to heaven all others were such as I am, except my imperfections and deficiencies of moral character! As much as I know of Dr. Franklin, 1 have not an idea of his religious sentiments, I