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mercial speculation; and their language consequently be. came fruitful in such terms; and, by intercourse with them, our language became supplied with the terms of navigation. Mathematicians and philosophers, engaged in loftier speculations, borrowed their terms from the Latin and k.
With the distinguished writers who benefited their language, and did honour to their country, from the reign of James to the present tine, all lovers of literature are too familiar to need even the enumeration of them; nor could the mere repetition of so vast a multitude of names subserve any important purpose; and, to dwell on each, would render this an interminable essay.
But not to mention Milton, would be as unpardonable as to have passed over Shakspeare. Many poets had taught the adaptedness of the language to the playfulness of rhyme; it remained for him to show its transcendant majesty in uncontrolled blank verse. Homer and Virgil, if the Greek and Latin languages possessed no other treasures, would have secured to those languages perpetual attention; and Milton, the rival of both, but particularly of the former, has ensured to our language a deathless fame: his subject, connecting him with heaven, gave a matchless sublimity to his strains, and elevated his style, in consistency with his theme, above his fellow-bards.
Amid the eminent authors, whose writings—although that may not have been their object-contributed to beautify the language, various have been the grammarians who have laboured to reduce it to regularity; and with various degrees of success; particularly, at no distant date, Lowth and Priestley: nor should we forget, coming home to our own times, the successful exertions of Johnson, Walker, and Murray.
Of Johnson, it perhaps may be said, that he rendered more essential service to the language than any individual since the days of Milton. He cannot be exculpated from the charge of an excessive introduction of laboured classical terms; the more so, because of his powerful censures of the practice in others : but his dictionary, with its incomparable preface, is a monument of his judgment, learning, and industry, which can never be forgotten, and whose benefits can never cease to be realized. Contemplating its effects on the language, of which it is so good a criterion, and so great a treasure, at the close of his mighty labour he modestly says, “Those who have been persuaded to think well of my design, require that it should fix our language, and put a stop to those alterations which time and chance have hitherto been suffered to make in it without opposition. With this consequence, I will confess, that I flattered myself for a while; but now begin to fear that
I have indulged expectations which neither reason nor experience can justify.” Towards that end it has greatly contributed; but, literally, to have effected so much, would have required a power to prevent or suppress the innovations of pedantry and fashion, as well as the mistakes of ignorance, and the technicalities of art; --yea, complete control over the human mind, on the operations of whose powers, and the accumulations of whose knowledge, language depends ;-a power which, while it could not be entrusted to, could not be wielded by, man ;-a power, indeed, which none but a coldhearted or malignant being could wish to possess, seeing that we anxiously expect and endeavour to accelerate the approach of a period, when the tide of knowledge shall flow more sublimely, because more widely, than the ocean; and, consequently, when the panting soul must break the narrow boundaries of existing language, introducing other terms to express its new ideas.
1. The late Mr. Walker," says his friend Murdoch,“ exerted himself more earnestly and perseveringly than perhaps any of his predecessors: he compared the different orthoëpists with indefatigable attention, weighed their reasons with critical justice, and modestly pronounced his decisions with a confidence, which a life-time's familiarity with the subject entitled him to assume.” To which testimony, it may be added, his dictionary, and the masterly principles prefixed to it, have nearly fixed the pronunciation of the English language. He has done for our pronunciation, what Johnson previously did for our orthography, and with equal ability; and, it is delightful to observe, with equal success. He has succeeded in giving, to verbal criticism, the most fascinating charms; and, merely to turn over the pages of his Pronouncing Dictionary, and read his elegant notes, is no ordinary treat to the reader of literary taste. In this dictionary, with a dread of innovation, he has servilely copied Johnson; but, in his Rhyming Dictionary, a title very inadequately expressive of so extraordinary a work, he has given us a far more complete vocabulary of our language.
To Lindley Murray we turn, as to another benefactor to our language; and, where is the juvenile English student who has not been benefited by his remarks: The grammatical labours of our philologists lay scattered in works more numerous than the authors who prepared them. It was a desideratum that they should be collected, arranged, and, as far as possible, made to harmonize, that the unlearned reader should not be confounded and discouraged on his very entrance on grammatical inquiry, by the variety and opposition of opinion on some controverted points. It required, moreover, some work on a popular plan, steering a middle course between the inapplicable technicalities of classical distinctions, and the excessive simplicity of discarding all grammatical forms; - a work that should not fatigue by its length, nor disappoint by its brevity; that should not be so diffuse as to become useless, nor so uninteresting as not to reward perusal; and which, being generally used as a national grammar, might become a work of general reference. To have promised so much, would have appeared arrogant and presumptuous; and, to have accomplished so much, may therefore well excite our gratitude and surprise. It would, however, be injustice to the pious grammarian not to add, that, while he has succeeded in smoothing many of the asperities, and saving many of the windings of the student's path, he has succeeded in strewing it with many fragrant flowers, and in ever bending its direction through the regions of virtue, piety, and peace.
In conclusion of an essay already tedious, it is feared, from its length, we arrive at the present state of our language. The Secretary of this Institution has recently said, that our “ language is not so well adapted as the French, to the purposes of animated and lively conversation; it is not so exclamatory; it is not so interjectional; it does not possess so many little elegancies;” but, in that very book, “ The Outlines of Character,” he has shown, in his own perspicuous, elegant, and forcible style, that it possesses qualities far more important. Suffice it to say, that, in common with languages in general, it is characteristic of the people who speak it. Bold and energetic, yet not incapable of describing the softest passions, and expressing the gentlest emotions of the soul: distinguished by the utmost simplicity in its construction, yet remarkable for copiousness, and variety of expression: though somewhat abrupt, and occasionally harsh and hissing in its sounds, yet the vehicle of the sweetest harmony of poetic numbers. The medium of communication of the freest people under the sun, it soars above the fine-wrought fetters of hya percriticism.
In proof of these remarks, we have referred to the immortal works of Shakspeare and Milton, and to the dignified prose of the sacred volume; and we must point to the melodious descriptions of Thomson, the plaintive strains of Hammond, the soothing melancholy of Gray, the tender lines of Shenstone, the artless numbers of Goldsmith, and the vigorous verses of Cowper.
In further confirmation of our subject, we must refer the reader to the admirable prose of our great and unrivalled essayists; whether we contemplate the ease and elegance, the
perfect English style, of Addison; the grandeur and majesty of Johnson; or the bold originality of Foster: or, turning our at-, tention to a kindred, but somewhat higher, class of prosewriters,—whose grand business it is to place present and future things before us, according to their relative importance; to display to us the perfections of the Great Creator, and to woo us to his love; to depict to us the bliss of penitence, and the woes of rebellion,-we might show that our language is equal to all these important purposes. We might advert to the sweet and simple accents of Watts; whether he descends to teach the child to lisp his Maker's praise, or soothes and delights his bereaved and accomplished friends with a description of the probable employments of the heavenly world. We might farther point to the literary labours of the manly Chillingworth, the intellectual Cudworth, and the lively Fuller; to the forcible and finished lines of South, the clear and familiar style of Richard Baxter, and the fascinating brilliancy of Jeremy Taylor; or, coming home at once to our own times, to the enchanting and masterly pages of Robert Hall.
While such views of language cannot but be interesting to the philosophical student, the patriot will glow with ennobling satisfaction at reviewing the geographical progress of his favourite tongue; whether he visits transatlantic climes, the plains of British India, or the modern settlements of Africa.
A writer in a Medical Journal, who has discussed the subject of Phrenology, brings forward ten objections against the system.
1. He dissents from its claims to accuracy—“Because all the organs or faculties are placed on the surface or external part of the brain, and none of them in the interior; and he demands, therefore, to know the use of the inner parts of the brain."
we have to observe, in the first place, that this objection is very inaccurately stated. The organs, it is true, terminate on the surface, but they are not confined to it; they have their rise in the interior, and their action is displayed on the surface: and, supposing even that the whole mass of the brain should not thus be employed, it may surely, without much difficulty, be conceived, that the remainder may have its uses :
perhaps, it is destined to receive the impressions of heat and cold, or of other sensations derived through the medium of the senses of taste and smell.
But, independently of this, we are not aware that it is any objection to a theory, which explains a part of the system of nature, that it does not explain the whole. This would be to say, “ If you cannot master the universe of knowledge, you shall learn nothing.”
It may happen, that the inner and lower parts of the brain are beyond the scrutiny of man; yet surely we ought not to reject knowledge so far as it can be acquired. It is possible that future investigation may extend farther. In the meantime, let us make use of what we already possess. What should we say to an adversary, who, in declaiming against the discoveries of the geologist, should observe, that, although he had penetrated beyond the exterior crust, or cranium, of the earth, and subjected many of its strata to a strict analysis
, yet his knowledge was fallacious, and his researches useless, because he could not shew the nature and properties of the centre of the globe!
2. The next objection is, that there are no inequalities, such as the system describes, on the surface of any brain, when dissected, and the inequalities are uniformly confined to the cranium.'
In the first place, we deny the accuracy of the allegationwe join issue on the fact — inequalities on the brain are obvious on the slightest inspection.
Another answer to this objection is, that the brain, after death, is expected to retain the same appearance that it did in life. Of course, “when dissected,
when dissected,” the subject is defunct : the living principle, which animated this seat of existence, has fled to the regions of vitality; the inert mass sinks under the cold and contracting grasp of death. Is it unreasonable to suppose, that it will present a different aspect, when under the knife of the anatomist, to that state in which it glowed in health, and vibrated in energy? Surely not! The inequalities of the cranium remain fixed, in durable impressions, upon its bony surface; whilst the soft and tender structure of the flexible brain undergoes a change perfectly consistent with its particular elements, and its general nature. The living action having ceased, the mass retires into some appearance of uniformity and comparative level; and may be illustrated by analogy to the principle of heat, which, acting upon a liquid body, imparts, whilst in operation, an agitated appearance, that subsides with the cause that produced it: so, I take it, does the principle of life act upon the brain, which is the seat of thought and of sensation.