« ZurückWeiter »
and capitals are properly disposed, is the part of the English master. The boys should be put on writing letters to each other on any common occurrences, and on various subjects, imaginary business, &c. containing little stories, accounts of their late reading, what parts of authors please them, and why; letters of congratulation, of compliment, of request, of thanks, of recommendation, of admonition, of consolation, of expostulation, excuse, &c. In these they hould be taught to express themselves clearly, concisely, and naturally, without affected words or highflown phrases. All their letters to pass through their master's hand, who is to point out the faults, advise the corrections, and commend what he finds right. Some of the best letters published in their own language, as Sir William Temple's, those of Pope and his friends, and some others, might be set before the youth as models, their beauties pointed out and explained by the master, the letters themselves transscribed by the scholar.
Dr. Johnson's Ethices Elementa, or First Principles of Morality, may now be read by the scholars, and explained by the master, to lay a solid foundation of virtue and piety in their minds. And as this class continues the reading of history, let them now, at proper hours, receive some farther instruction in chronology and in that part of geography (from the mathematical master) which is necessary to understand the maps and globes. They should also be acquainted with the modern names of the places they find mentioned in ancient writers. The exercises of good reading, and proper speaking, still continued at suitable times.
To improve the youth in composition, they may now, besides continuing to write letters, begin to write little essays in prose, and sometimes in verse; not to make them poets, but for this reason, that nothing acquaints a lad so speedily with a variety of expression, as the necessity of finding such words nd phrases, as will suit the measure, sound, and
rhyme of verse, and at the same time well express the sentiment. These essays should all pass under the master's eye, who will point out their faults, and put the writer on correcting them. Where the judgment is not ripe enough for forming new essays, let the sentiments of a Spectator be given, and required to be clothed in the scholars own words; or the cir cumstances of some good story: the scholar to find expression. Let them be put sometimes on abridg ing a paragraph of a diffuse author: sometimes on dilating or amplifying what is wrote more closely And now let Dr. Johnson's Noetica, or First Princi ples of Human Knowledge, containing a logic, or art of reasoning, &c. be read by the youth, and the difficulties that may occur to them be explained by the master. The reading of history, and the exer cises of good reading and just speaking, still continued.
In this class, besides continuing the studies of the preceding in history, rhetoric, logic, moral and natural philosophy, the best English authors may be read and explained; as Tillotson, Milton, Locke, Addison, Pope, Swift, the higher papers in the Spectator and Guardian, the best translations of Homer, Virgil and Horace, of Telemachus, Travels of Cy rus, &c.
Once a-year, let there be public exercises in the hall; the trustees and citizens present. Then let fine gilt books be given as prizes to such boys as distinguish themselves, and excel the others in any branch of learning, making three degrees of comparison; giving the best prize to him that performs best, a less valuable one to him that comes up next to the best; and another to the third. Commendations, encouragement, and advice to the rest, keeping up their hopes, that, by industry, they may excel another time. The names of those that obtain the prize, to be yearly printed in a list.
The hours of each day are to be divided and dis posed in such a manner as that some classes may be with the writing master, improving their hands,
others with the mathematical master, learning arithmetic, accounts, geography, use of the globes, drawing, mechanics, &c.; while the rest are in the English school, under the English master's care.
Thus instructed, youth will come out of this school fitted for learning any business, calling, or profession, except in such wherein languages are required; and though unacquainted with any ancient or foreign tongue, they will be masters of their own, which is of more immediate and general use; and withal, will have attained many other valuable accomplishments: the time usually spent in acquiring those languages often without success, being here employed in laying such a foundation of knowledge and ability, as, properly improved, may qualify them to pass through and execute the several offices of civil life, with advantage and reputation to themselves and country.
ON MODERN INNOVATIONS IN THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE AND IN PRINTING.
TO NOAH WEBSTER, JUN. ESQ. AT HARTFORD.
Philadelphia, Dec. 26, 1789.
I RECEIVED Some time since your Dissertation on the English Language. It is an excellent work, and will be greatly useful in turning the thoughts of our countrymen to correct writing. Please to accept my thanks for it, as well as for the great honour you have done me in its dedication. I ought to have made this acknowledgement sooner, but much indisposition prevented me.
I cannot but applaud your zeal for preserving the purity of our language both in its expression and pronunciation, and in correcting the popular errors several of our states are continually falling into with respect to both. Give me leave to mention some of them, though possibly they may have already occur
red to you, I wish, however, that in some future publication of yours, you would set a discountenancing mark upon them. The first I remember is the word improved. When I left New England in the year 1723, this word had never been used among us, as far as I know, but in the sense of ameliorated, or made better, except once in a very old book of Dr. Mather's, entitled," Remarkable Providences." As that man wrote a very obscure hand, I remember that when I read that word in his book, used instead of the word employed, I conjectured that it was an error of th printer, who had mistaken a short / in the writing for an r, and a y with too short a tail for a v, whereby employed was converted into improved: but when I returned to Boston in 1733, I found this change had obtained favour, and was then become common; for I met with it often in perusing the newspapers, where it frequently made an appearance rather ridiculous. Such, for instance, as the advertisement of a country house, which had become many years improved as a tavern; and in the character of a deceased country gentleman, that he had been for more than thirty years, improved as a justice of peace. This use of the word improve is peculiar to New England, and not to be met with among any other speakers of English, either on this or the other side of the water.
During my late absence in France, I find that several other new words have been introduced into our parliamentary language. For example, I find a verb formed from the substantive notice. I should not have noticed this, were it not that the gentleman, &c. Also another verb from the substantive advocate: The gentleman who advocates, or who has advocated that motion, &c. Another from the substantive progress, the most aukward and abominable of the three: The committee having progressed, resolved to adjourn. The word opposed, though not a new word, I find used in a new manner, as, The gentlemen who are opposed to this measure, to which I have also myself always been opposed. If you should happen to be of my opinion, with respect to those innovations, you will use your authority in reprobating them.
The Latin language, long the vehicle used in dis tributing knowledge among the different nations of Europe, is daily more and more neglected; and one of the modern tongues, viz. French, seems, in point of universality, to have supplied its place. It is spoken in all the courts of Europe; and most of the literati, those even who do not speak it, have acquir ed a knowledge of it, to enable them easily to read the books that are written in it. This gives a considerable advantage to that nation. It enables its authers to inculcate and spread through other nations, such sentiments and opinions, on important points, as are most conducive to its interests, or which may contribute to its reputation, by promoting the common interests of mankind. It is, perhaps, owing to its being written in French, that Voltaire's Treatise on Toleration has had so sudden and so great an effect on the bigotry of Europe, as almost entirely to disarm it. The general use of the French language has likewise a very advantageous effect on the profits of the bookselling branch of commerce; it being well known, that the more copies can be sold that are struck off from one composition of types, the profits increase in a much greater proportion than they do in making a greater number of pieces in any other kind of manufacture. And at present there is no capital town in Europe without a French bookseller's shop corresponding with Paris. Our English bids fair to obtain the second place. The great body of excellent printed sermons in our language, and the freedom of our writing on political subjects, have induced a great number of divines, of different sects and nations, as well as gentlemen concerned in public affairs, to study it so far at least as to read it. And if we were to endeavour the facilitating its progress, the study of our tongue might become much more general. Those who have employed some part of their time in learning a new language, must have frequently observed, that while their acquaintance with it was imperfect, difficulties, small in themselves, have operated as great ones in obstructing their progress. A book, for example, ill printed, or a pronunciation in speaking not well articu