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have taken no pains either to improve our lan- Tooke. Were it not, I should be less solicitous guage or to extend it, none in Europe is spoken to make it better. habitually by so many. The French boast the Johnson. You make it better, sir! universality of theirs : yet the Germans, the Spa- Tooke. By reverencing the authority of the niards, and the Italians may contend with them learned, by exposing the corruptions of the ignoon this ground : for as the Dutch is a dialect of rant, and by reclaiming what never ought to have the German, so is the Portuguese of the Spanish, been obsolete. and not varying in more original words than the Johnson. Sir, the task is hopeless : little can be Milanese and Neapolitan from the Tuscan. The done now. lingua franca, which pervades the coasts of the Tooke. And because little can be done, must Mediterranean, the Ionian, and the Ægean seas, we do nothing? Because with all our efforts we are is essentially Italian. The languages of the two imperfect, may not we try to be virtuous ? Many most extensive empires in Europe are confined to of the anomalies in our language can be avoided the fewest people. There are not thirteen millions or corrected : if many shall yet remain, something who speak Turkish, nor fifteen who speak Russian, at least will have been done for elegance and though branches of the Sclavonic are scattered uniformity. far. If any respect had been had to the literary Johnson. I hate your innovations. glory of our country, whereon much of its political Tooke. I not only hate them, but would resist is and ever will be dependent, many millions and reject them, if I could. It is only such writers more would at this time be speaking in English ; as you that can influence the public by your and the Irish, the Welsh, and the Canadians, like authority and example. the Danes and Saxons, would have forgotten they Johnson. Sir, if the best writer in England were a conquered people.
dared to spell three words differently from his We should be anxious both to improve our lan- contemporaries, and as Milton spelt them, he guage and to extend it. England ought to have would look about in vain for a publisher. no colony in which it will not be soon the only Tooke. Yet Milton is most careful and exact one spoken. Nations may be united by identity in his spelling, and his ear is as correct as his of speech more easily than by identity of laws : learning. His language would be still the lanfor identity of laws only shows the conquered that guage of his country, had it not been for the they are bound to another people, while identity of Restoration. speech shows them that they are bound with it. Johnson. I have patience, sir! I have patience, There is no firm conjunction but this; none that sir! Pray go on. does not retain on it the scar and seam, and often Tooke. I will take advantage of so much affabiwith much soreness.
lity; and I hope that patience, like other virtues, Johnson. So far, I believe, I may agree with may improve by exercise. you, and remain a good subject.
On the return of Charles from the Continent, Tooke. Let us now descend from generalities to some of his followers may really have lost their particulars. Our spelling hath undergone as native idiom, or at least may have forgotten the many changes as the French, and worse.
graver and solider parts of it; for many were Johnson. And because it hath undergone many, taken over in their childhood. On their return you would make it undergo more! There is a to England, nothing gave such an air of fashion fastidiousness in the use of language that indicates as imperfection in English : it proved high-breedan atrophy of mind. We must take words as the ing, it displayed the court and loyalty. Homeworld presents them to us, without looking bred English ladies soon acquired it from their at the root. If we grubbed under this and laid it noble and brave gallants; and it became the lanbare, we should leave no room for our thoughts to guage of the Parliament, of the Church, and of the lie evenly, and every expression would be con- Stage. Between the last two places was pretty strained and cramped. We should scarcely find equally distributed all the facetiousness left a metaphor in the purest author that is not false among us. or imperfect, nor could we imagine one ourselves Johnson. Keep clear of the church, sir, and that would not be stiff and frigid. Take now for stick to language. instance a phrase in common use. You are rather Tooke. Punctually will I obey each of your late. Can anything seem plainer? Yet rather, as commands. you know, meant originally earlier, being the com- Johnson. Did South and Cowley and Waller fall parative of rathe; the “rathe primrose” of the into this slough? poet recalls it. We can not say, You are sooner Tooke. They could not keep others from it. I late: but who is so troublesome and silly as to peruse their works with pleasure : but South, the question the propriety of saying, You are ratherlate. greatest of them, is negligent and courtly in his We likewise say, bad orthography and false ortho- spelling, and sometimes, although not often, more graphy: how can there be false or bad right-spelling? gravely incorrect.
Tooke. I suspect there are more of these inad- Johnson. And pray now what language do you vertencies in our language than in any other. like?
Johnson. Sir, our language is a very good Tooke. The best in all countries is that language.
which is spoken by intelligent women, of too
high rank for petty affectation, and of too much Tooke. Bearing all your reproofs and reproaches request in society for deep study. Cicero praises with equanimity and submission, I converse with more than one such among the Romans; you on this subject because you have given up the number was greater among the Greeks. much time to it: with another I should decline We have no writer in our language so pure as the discussion. I am hopeful of gaining some Madame de Sévigné. Indeed we must acknow- information and of suggesting some subject for ledge that the French far excel us in purity inquiry. Illiterate, inconsiderate, irreverent, and of style. When have we seen, or when can we overweening men, will be always disregarded by expect, such a writer as Le Sage? In our days me. Like children and clowns, if they see a there is scarcely an instance of a learned or throne or a judgment-seat, they must forsooth sit unlearned man who has written gracefully, except- down in it. Such people set themselves above me, ing your friend Goldsmith and (if your modesty and enjoy the same feelings as those in the onewill admit my approaches) yourself. In your shilling gallery who look down on Garrick. He is Lires of the Poets, you have laid aside the sceptre only on the stage, no higher than the footlights, of Jupiter for the wand of Mercury, and have and plays only for others; whereas they have really called up with it some miserable ghosts placed themselves at the summit, and applaud and from the dead.
condemn to please their fancies. It is equitable Johnson. Sir, I desire no compliments.
that coarse impudence should be met with calm Tooke. Before, I offered not my compliment but contempt, and that Wisdom should sit down and my tribute; I dreaded a repulse; but I little lower his eyes, when Impudence trips over the expected to see, as I do, the finger of Aurora on way to discountenance her, or Ignorance starts up
to teach her Johnson. If the warmth of the room is enough Johnson. Coxcombs and blockheads always have to kindle your poetry, well may it possess a slight been, and always will be, innovators; some in influence on my cheek. The learned men, I pre- dress, some in polity, some in language. sume, are superseded by your public orators. Tooke. I wonder whether they invented the
Tooke. Our parliamentary speakers of, most choice appellations you have just repeated. eminence are superficial in scholarship, as we Johnson. No, sir ! Indignant wise men invented understand the word, and by no means danger- them. ously laden with any species of knowledge. Burke Tooke. Long ago then. Indignant wise men is the most eloquent and philosophical of them; lived in the time of the Centaurs : such combinaFox the readiest at reply, the stoutest debater, tions have never existed since. Your remark the acutest disputant.
however on the introducers of new words into our Johnson. Rebels! but what you say of their language, is, I apprehend, well-founded : but you knowledge is the truth. I have said it of one spoke generally and absolutely, and in this (I think) party, and I know it of the other, else I would incorrectly. Julius Cæsar, whom you ought to trounce you for your asseveration.
love and reverence for giving the last blow to 3 Tooke. You yourself induced me to make the republic, was likewise an innovator in spelling ; greater part of my remarks; more important, so was Virgil; and to such a degree, that, Aulus as being on things more important, than transi- Gellius tells us, he spelled the same word differtory men ; such is language.
ently in different places, to gratify his ear. Milton Johnson. How, sir, did I !
has done the same. Tooke. By having recommended in some few Johnson. And sometimes injudiciously: for in. instances a correcter mode of spelling. Bentley stance, in writing Hee emphatically; He less so. and Hall and Dryden, though sound writers, are He also writes subtile, as a scholar should do; and deficient in authority with me; when, for example, suttle, as the word is pronounced by the most they write incompatible for incompetible: we want vulgar. both words, but we must be careful not to confound Tooke. Cicero, not contented with new spellings, and misapply them. Dryden and Roscommon created new words. Now the three Romans have formed a design of purifying and fixing the lan- immemorially been considered the most elegant guage: neither of them knew its origin or prin- and careful writers in their language : and we ciples, or was intimately or indeed moderately confer on our countryman but a small portion of versed in our earlier authors, of whom Chaucer the praises due to him, in asserting that both in was probably the only one they had perused. It poetry and prose his mastery is above them all. is pretended that they abandoned the design Milton is no factitious or accrete man; no pleader, from the unquietness of the times: as if the no rhetorician. Truth in him is the parent of times disturbed them in their studies, leaving Energy, and Energy the supporter of Truth. If we them peace enough for poetry, but not enough rise to the Greek language, the most eloquent for philology
man on record, Pericles, introduced the double T Johnson. And are you, sir, more acute, more instead of the double S: and it was enamelled learned, or more profound? What! because at on that golden language to adorn the eloquence of one time our English books were scanty, you would Aspasia, and to shine among the graces of Alcioppose the scanty to the many, with all the biades. Socrates bent his thoughtful head over rashness and inconsistency of a republican. lit, and it was observed in the majestic march of Plato. At the same time Thucydides and the trage- Hurd is less so in his use of the word counterfeit, dians, together with Aristophanes, contributed to which we are accustomed to take in an unfavourform, or united to countenance, the Middle Attic. able sense. Alexander suffered none but an One would expect that Elegance and Atticism her- A pelles and a Lysippus to counterfeit the form and self might have rested and been contented. No: features of his person.” The sentence is moreover Xenophon, Plato, Æschines, Demosthenes, were lax. I am glad, however, to find that he writes promoters of the New Attic, altering and softening subtile instead of subtle. He has the merit too of many words in the spelling. With such men using hath instead of has, in many places, but is before me, I think it to be deeply regretted that so negligent as to omit it sometimes before a coxcombs and blockheads should be our only word beginning with s, or ce and ci. This is less teachers, where we have much to learn, much to bad than before th. Like Middleton, he writes obliterate, and much to mend.
chast. Johnson. Follow your betters, sir !
Johnson. Improperly. Nobody writes wast for Tooke. Such is my intention : and it is also my waste. In all such words the vowel is pronounced intention that others shall follow theirs.
long, which his spelling would contract. Dr. Hurd Johnson. Obey the majority, according to your writes plainly, and yet not ignobly. His criticisms own principles. You reformers will let nothing are always sensible, never acute; his language be great, nothing be stabile. The orators you clear, but never harmonious. mention were deluders of the populace.
Tooke. We cease to look for Eloquence; she Tooke. And so were the poets, no doubt : but vanished at the grave of Milton. let us hope that the philosophers and moralists Johnson. Enough of Milton. Praise the French, were not, nor indeed the writers of comedy. Me- sir! A republican is never so much at his ease nander was among the reformers: so was Plautus as among slaves. at Rome : the most highly estimated for his rich Tooke. We must lead happy lives then. But Latinity by Cicero and all the learned. Our own you were pleased to designate us as enemies to language had, under the translators of the Bible greatness and stability. What is it I admire in and of the Liturgy, reached the same pitch as the Milton but the greatness of his soul and the staLatin had in the time of Plautus; and the sancti-bility of his glory? Transitory is everything else tude of Milton's genius gave it support, until the on earth. The minutest of worms corrodes the worst of French invasions overthrew it. Cowley, throne; a slimier consumes what sat upon it Sprat, Dryden, imported a trimmer and succincter yesterday. I know not the intentions and designs dress, stripping the ampler of its pearls and bul- of others : I know not whether I myself am so lion. Arbuthnot and Steele and Swift and Addison virtuous that I should be called a republican, or added no weight or precision to the language, nor so intelligent that I should be called a reformer. were they choice in the application of words. In regard to stability, I do however think I could None of them came up to their French contem- demonstrate to you, that what has a broad basis poraries in purity and correctness; and their is more stabile than what has a narrow one, and successors, who are more grammatical, are weak that nothing is gained to solidity by top-heaviness. competitors with the rival nation for those in regard to greatness, I doubt my ability to concompaet and beautiful possessions. De Foe vince you. Much in this is comparative. Compared has a greater variety of powers than they, and with the plain, the mountains are indeed high : he far outstrips in vigour and vivacity all the compared with what is above them in the universe other pedestrians who started with him. He of space, they are atoms and invisibilities. Such spells some words commendably, others not. too are mortals. I do not say the creatures of the Of the former are onely, admitt, referr, supplie, cannon-foundry and the cutlery; I do not say Télie, searcht, wisht; of the latter, perticulars, those of the jeweller and toyman, from whom we perusall, speciall, tallues. Hurd, very minute and exclude light as from infants in a fever, and to fastidious, in like manner writes often reprehen- whom we speak as to drunken men to make them sibly, though oftener well. Do you tolerate his quiet; but the most intellectual we ever have 56 catched."
conversed with. What are they in comparison Johnson. Sir, I was teached better.
with a Shakspeare or a Bacon or a Newton ? Tooke. He also writes “under these circum- You however seemed to refer to power only. I stances."
have not meditated on this subject so much as you Johnson. Circumstances are things round about; have, and my impression from it is weaker: we are in them, not under them.
nevertheless I do presume to be as hearty and as Touke. We find “those who had rather trust to firm a supporter of it, removing (as I would do) the equity” for “would rather.” I believe he is the the incumbrances from about it, and giving it last writer who uses the word wit for understanding, ventilation. although we continue to say " he is out of his Johnson. Ventilation ! yes forsooth! from the tits.” He very properly says encomiums, to avoid bellows of Brontes and Steropes and Pyracmon. a Grecism. We never say “rhododendra," but Tooke. Come, Doctor, let us throw a little more “ rhododendrons.” In our honest old English, all's dust on our furnace, which blazes fiercelier than well that ends well : and encomiums, phenomenons, our work requires. The word firy comes appomemorandums, sound thoroughly and fully English. I sitely: why do we write it fiery, when wire gives viry? The word rushes into my mind out of without a p, and benedetto without a c: we never Shakspeare,
shudder at the danger they incur of losing the “And the delighted spirit
traces of derivation. The most beautiful and easy To bathe in fiery floods."
of languages assumes no appearance of strength Truly this would be a very odd species of delight. by the display of harshness, nor would owe its But Shakspeare never wrote such nonsense: he preservation to rust. Let us always be analogical wrote belighted (whence our blighted), struck by when we can be so without offence to pronuncialightning : a fit preparation for such bathing. Why tion. There are some few words in which we are do we write lieutenant, when we write, “I would retentive of the Norman laws. We write island as lief.” Would there be any impropriety or in- with an s, as if we feared to be thought ignorant of convenience in writing endevor and demeanor as its derivation. If we must be reverential to custom, we write tenor, omitting the u ?
let it rather be in the presence of the puisne judge. Johnson. Then you would imitate cards of invi- There are only the words puisne, isle, island, detation, where we find facor and honor.
mesne, viscount, and the family name Grosrenor, in Tooke. We find author and editor and intentor in which an s is unsounded. I would omit it in the works of Doctor Johnson, who certainly bears these. The French have set us an example here, no resemblance to a card of invitation. Why can rejecting the useless letter. They also write dette, not we place all these words on the same bench? which we write “debt.” I know not why we Most people will give us credit for knowing that should often use the letter b where we do. We they are derived from the Latin; but the wisest have no need of it in crumb and coomb; the original will think us fools for ending them like hour, sour, words being without it. and flour, pronounced so differently. I look upon Johnson. King Charles I. writes dout. In the it as a piece of impudence to think we can cor- same sentence he writes therefor. * But to such rect the orthography of such writers as Selden authority such men as you refuse allegiance even and Milton. They wrote not only honor, favor, in language. Your coomb is sterile, and your crumb labor, but likewise brest, lookt, unlookt-for, kinde, is dry; as such minutenesses must always be. minde. To spell these differently is a gross ab- Tooke. So are nuts; but we crack and eat them. surdity.
They are good for the full, and for those only. Johnson. By removing a single letter from the Johnson. The old writers had strange and arbiholy word Saviour, you would shock the piety of trary ways of spelling, which makes them appear millions.
more barbarous than they really are. There are Tooke. In that word there is an analogy with learned men who would be grieved to see removed others, although the class is small : paviour and from words the traces of their origin. behariour, for instance.
Tooke. There are learned men who are triflers Johnson. It now occurs to me that honor was and inconsiderate. Learning, by its own force spelt without the u in the reign of Charles I., alone, will never remove a prejudice or establish with it under his successor. Perhaps armour a truth. Of what importance is it to us that we should be armure, from the low Latin armatura. have derived these words from the Latin through
Tooke. If we must use such words as rederie, the French? We do not preserve the terminawhy not oblige them to conform with their pre- tion of either. Formerly if many unnecessary decessors, tracesty and gaiety, which should have letters were employed, some were omitted. Ea the instead of the i. When we, following Cow- and oa were unusual. In various instances the ley, write pindarique, we are laughed at; but spelling of Chaucer is more easy and graceful and nobody laughs at picturesque and antique, which elegant than the modern. He avoids the diphare equally reducible to order.
thong, or reduplication, in coat, green, keen, sheaf, Johnson. It is an awful thing to offend the goat ; writing cote, grene, kene, shefe
, gote. SackGenius of our language. We can not spell our ville, remarkable for diligence and daintiness of words as the French spell theirs. No other composition, spells “delights" delites, and“ shriek” people in the world could reduce to nothing so shreek. He also writes bemone, brest, yeeld. What stiff and stubborn a letter as x, which they do in we foolishly write work was formerly spelt verke,
as we continue to pronounce it. Formerly there Tooke. We never censure them for writing was such a word as shew : we still write it, but we carême, which they formerly wrote caresme, more pronounce it shou, and we should never spell it anciently quaresme, and other words similarly : otherwise. There is another of daily occurrence yet they have one language for writing, another which we spell amiss, although we pronounce it for speaking, and affect a semblance of grammati- rightly. Coxcomb in reality is cockscomb, and Ben cal construction by a heap of intractable letters. Jonson writes it so, adding an e.
He who first While three suffice with us (a, m, a), they use wrote it with an x certainly did not know how to eight (aimaient), of which the greater part not spell his own name. In a somewhat like manner only are unprofitable, but would, in any language we have changed our pennies into pence, and our on earth, express a sound, or sounds, totally dif- acquaintants into acquaintance. Now what have ferent from what they stand for: r, s, t, end words whose final sound is our a. We never censure the
* Letter to P. Rupert. See Forster's Life of Cromwell, Italians for writing ricetto, as they pronounce it, , in his Statesmen of the Commonwealth.
these gained by such exchange? Latterly we its impurity never had much weight, than what have run into more unaccountable follies ; such has lost it by the attrition of time; and they will as compel for compell, and I have seen inter for be sparing of such expressions as are better for interr. Nobody ever pronounces the last syllables curiosities than for utensils. You and I would of these words short, as the spelling would indi- never say “ by that means” instead of these ; nor cate. You would be induced to believe such an alms;" yet Addison does. He also says a writers are ignorant that their inter and our enter “dish of coffee,” yet coffee never was offered in a are of a different stock. In the reign of Charles I. dish, unless it was done by the fox to the crane parliament was usually, though not universally, after the dinner he gave her. We hear of our spelt parlement : how much more properly! What lyrical poetry, of our senate, of our manes, of our we write door and floor the learned and judicious ashes, of our bards, of our British Muse. Luckily Jonson wrote dore and fore. I find in his writings the ancients could never run into these fooleries ; cotas, profest, spred, partrich, grone, herth, theater, but their judgment was rendered by discipline forraine, diamant, phesants, mushromes, banisht, rapt, too exact for the admission of them. Only one rackt, addrest, ake, spred, stomack, plee, strein (song), valuable word has been received into our language trindore, fild (filled), moniment, beleece, yeeld, scepter, since my birth, or perhaps since yours. I have sute (from sue), mist (missed), grone, crackt, throte, lately heard appreciate for estimate. yong, harbor, harth, oke, cruze, crost, markt, minde Johnson. I am an antigallican in speech as in (which it is just as absurd to write mind, as it sentiments. What we have fairly won from the would be to write time tim), taught, banisht, cherisht, French let us keep, and avoid their new words keapt, thankt. It is wonderful that so learned a like their new fashions. Words taken from them man should be ignorant that spitals are hospitals. should be amenable, in their spelling, to English He writes: “Spittles, post-houses, hospitals.” | laws and regulations. Appreciate is a good and Had he spelt the first properly, as he has done useful one; it signifies more than estimate or calue; all the other words, he could not have made it implies to "value justly." All words are good this mistake. Fairfax writes oeu, bow (bough), which come when they are wanted; all which come milde, tinde, oke, spred, talkt, embrast. Fleming, when they are not wanted, should be dismissed. in his translation of the Georgics, ile, oke, anent ; Tooke. Let us return from new words to the old (which latter word, now a Scotticism, is used by spellings of Benjamin Jonson, which other learned Philemon Holland); gote, feeld, yeeld, spindel. men followed : deprest, speke, grete, fede, reson, Drayton, and most of our earlier writers, instead reper, sheres, relefe, lece, grene, wether, erthe, breth, of thigh, write thie. Milton in the Allegro, seke, seson, sege, meke, stepe, rome, appere, dere, Where the bee with honied thie.
throte, tothe, betuene, svete, deth, hele, chere, nere, I perceive that you yourself, in your letter to Lord frende, tretise, teche, concere, tonge, bere, speche, stere. Chesterfield, have several times written the word Altogether there are about forty words, out of til; and I am astonished that the propriety of it which the unnecessary diphthong is ejected. He is not generally acknowledged after so weighty always omits the s in island and isle; he writes an authority. Sent, for scent, is to be found in sovrane, subtil, childe, and werke. He would no old writers, following the derivation. There are
more have written sceptre than quirre. several words now obsolete which are more
Johnson. Milton too avoided the diphthong; he elegant and harmonious than those retained wrote drede and redy. Mandevile wrote dede, and instead. Gentleness and idleness are hardly so beau- grane of incense.
Tooke. You tell us that the letter c never ends a tiful as Chaucer's gentilesse and idlesse. We retain the word lessen, but we have dropped greaten. For aid formerly both in words of Saxon origin and
word according to English orthography : yet it merly good authors knew its value. I wish I were as sure that
British, as Eric, Rod-eric, Caradoc, Madoc. Wen
lock, the name of a town in Shropshire, formerly 1 Multa renascentur quæ jam cecidere,
ended in c, and Hume always writes Warwic. as I am that,
Johnson. Sir, do not quote infidels to me. Would cadentque Quæ nunc sunt in honore vocabula.
you write sic and quic ?
Tooke. I would, if we derived them from the I am unacquainted with any language in which, Greek or Latin. during the prosperity of a people, the changes Johnson. Without the authority of Ben Jonson,
have run so seldom into improvement, so perpe-on whom you so rely? ¡ tually into impropriety. Within another gene- Tooke. There is in Jonson strong sense, and wit
ration, ours must have become so corrupt, that too strong; it wants airiness, ease, and volatility. writers, if they hope for life, will find it necessary I do not admire his cast-iron ornaments, reto mount up nearer to its sources.
taining but little (and that rugged and coarseJohnson. And what will they do when they grained) of the ancient models, and nothing of get there? The leather from the stiff old jerkin the workmanship. But I admire his judgment will look queerly in its patches on the frayed in the spelling of many words, and I wish we satin.
could return to it. In others we are afraid of Tooke. Good writers will suppress the violence being as English as we might be and as we ought of contrast. They will rather lay aside what by I to be. Some appear to have been vulgarisms