Page images
PDF
EPUB

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

umstances of some good story: the scholar to fin expression. Let them be put sometimes on abridg ng a paragraph of a diffuse author: sometimes 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 exercises of good reading and just speaking, still continued.

SIXTH CLASS.

rus, &c.

In this class, besides continuing the studies of the preceding in iistory, rhetoric, logic, moral and naiural philosophy, the hest English authors may be read and explained ; 7. Tillotson, Milton, Locke, Addison, Pope, Swift, the higher papers in the Spectator and Guardian, the best translations of Homer, Virgil and Horace, of Telenachus, Travels of Cy

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 dis tinguish themselves, and excel the others in any, branch of learning, making three degrees of comel ·arison; giving the best prizo to him that perform est, a less valuable one to him that comes up nex o the best; and another to the third. Commenda. tions, encouragement, and advice to the rest, keeping up their hopes, that, by industry, they may ex. cel 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 arith metic, acco'mts, geography, use of the globes, draw. ing, mechanics, &c. ; while the rest are in the En. glish 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 ac complishments. the time usually spent in acquiring those languages often without success, being here employed in laying such a foundation of knowledge

ard ability, as, properly improved, may qualify them I 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, JUX, ESQ. AT HARTFORD.

Philadelphia, Dec. 26, 1769. DEAR SIR, I RECF.IVF.D 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 in disposition 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 espect to both. Give me leave to mention some of them, tiough possibly they may have already occur

red to you, I wish, however, that in some fiiture publication of yours, you would set a discounteno rining mark upon thein. The first I remember in the word improved. When I left New England in the yeas 1723, this word had never been used among us, as far as I know, but in the sense of ameliorated, or made bet. ter, 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 bead that word in his book, used instead of the wor employed, I conjectured tha: it was an error of th printer, who had mistaken a shortl in the writing for an r, and a y with too short a tail for a t whereby employed was converted into improved: but when I returned in Boston' in 1733, I found this change had obtained favour, and was then becume conimon; for I met with it often in perusmg the newspapers, where it frequently inarle 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 inprove is peculiar to New England, and not to he met with anong 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. í should not have noticed this, were it not that the gentleman, &c. Also another verb from the substantivo advocate: The gentleman who advocates, or who has ad. Focated that motion, S.C. Another from the substan tive progress, the most aukward and abominable d 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 gentle. men 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 inno. vations, 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 líterati, 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 consi derable advantage to that nation. It enables its au thers 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 I 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 inuch 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 excel : lent printed serions in our language, and the freedom of our writing on political subjects, have induced a great number of divines, of different sects and na. tions, as well as gentlemen concerned in public affairs, to study it so far at least as to read it. And 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 cbserved, that while their acquaintance with it was imperfect, difficulties, sinall in them selves, have operated as great ones in obstructing their progress. A book, for example, ill printed, a. a pronunciation in speaking not well artion

lated, would render a sentence unintelligible, which from a clear print or a distinct speaker would have been immediate! y comprehended. If, therefore, we would have the benefit of seeing our language more generally known among mankind, we should endea. vour to remove all the difficulties, however small, that discourage the learning of it.

But I am sorry to observe that of late years, those difficulties, in. stead of being diininished, have been augmented.

In examining the English books that were printed between the Restoration and the accession of George the Second, we may observe that all substantives were begun with a capital, in which we imitated our mother-tongue, the German. This was more particularly useful to those who were not well acquainted with the English, there being such a prodigious number of our words that are both verbs and substantives, and spelt in the same manner, though often accented differently in pronounciation. This method has, by the fancy of printers of late years, been entirely laid aside; from an idea, that suppressing the capitals shows the character to greater advantage; those letters, prominent above the line, disturbing its even, regular appearance. The cffect of this change .s so considerable, that a lcarned man of France, who used to read our books, though 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 a change of style for the worse in our writers: ol which mistake I cravinced him, by marking for hins each substantive with a capital, in a paragraph, which he then easily understond, though before he could not comprehend it. This shows the inconve. nience of that pretended improvement.

From the saine fondness for an uniform and even appearance of characters in a 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. And lately another fancy has induced other printers to use the round

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »