« ZurückWeiter »
A NEW EDITION, CORRECTED.
laude ponendum ; sed non tam fua fponte, quam
and T. CADELL, in The Strand.
THE 'HE English Language hath heen much cultiva
ted during the last two hundred years. It hath been considerably polished and refined; its bounds have been greatly enlarged; its energy, variety, richness, and elegance, have been abundantly proved, by numberless trials, in verse and in prose, upon all subjects, and in every kind of Nyle.: but, whatever other improvements it may have received, it hath made no advances in Grammatical Accuracy. Hooker is one of the earliest writers, of considerable note, within the period above-mentioned : let his writins be compared with the best of those of more mo teraz date; and, I believe, it will be found, that in in realness, propriety, and purity of English styles to hath hardly been furpassed, or even equalled, by my of his succesors.
It is now about fifty years, since Doctor made a public remonstrance, addrefed to t" of Oxford, then Lord Treasurer, concor
imperfect state of our Language ; alleging in particular, " that in many instances it offended against
every part of Grammar." Swift must be allowed to have been a good judge of this matter ; to which he was himself very attentive, both in his own writings, and in his remarks upon those of his friends : he is one of the best and most correct of our prose writers. Indeed the jusiness of this complaint, as far as I can find, hath never been questioned ; and yet no effectual method hath bitherto been taken to redress the grievance which was the object of it.
But let us consider, how, and in what extent, we are to understand this charge brought agains the English Language ; for the author seems not to have -explained himself with sufficient clearness and precifion on this head. Does it mean, that the English Language, as it is spoken by the politest part of the nation, and as it stands in the writings of our most approved authors, often offends against every part of Grammar? Thus far, I am afraid, the charge is true. Or does it further imply, that our Language is in its nature irregular and capricious ; not hitherto subject, nor easily reducible, to a System of rules? In this respect, I am persuaded, the charge is wholly without foundation.
The Englifh Language is perhaps of all the present European Languages by much the most simple in its form and construction. Of all the ancient Lan
guages extant That is the most fimple, which is undoubtedly the most antient; but even that Language itself does not equal the English in fimplicity.
The words of the English Language are perhaps subject to fewer variations from their original form, than those of any other. Its Substantives have but one variation of Case ; nor have they any distinction of Gender, besidé that which nature hath made. Its Adjectives admit of no change at all, except that which expresses the degrees of comparison. All the possible variations of the original form of the Verb.are not above fix or seven; whereas in many Languages they amount to some hundreds : and almost the whole business of Modes, Times, and Voices, is managed with great ease by the asistance of eight or nine commodious little Verbs, called from their use Auxiliaries. The Construction of this Language is so easy and obvious, that our Grammarians have thought it hardly worth while to give us any thing like a regular and systematical Syntax, The English Grammar, which hath been last prefented to the public, and by the Person best qualified to have given us a perfect one, comprises the whole Syntax in ten lines : for this reason ; “ becaufe our “ Language has so little inflection, that its construc" tion neither requires nor admits many rules." In truth, the easier any subjeEt is in its own nature, the harder it is to make it more easy by explanation; and nothing is more unnecessary, and at