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humanity, and chooses to reserve all its worthless stock of pity for fictitious objects, or for those who, in respect of time, or place, or eminence, are beyond its reach.
For these reasons, I am satisfied that compassion alone, especially that displayed on occasion of witnessing public spectacles, is at best but a very weak evidence of philanthropy. The only proof that is entirely unequivocal is actual beneficence, when one seeks out the real objects of commiseration, not as a matter of self-indulgence, but in order to bring relief to those who need it, to give
hope to the desponding, and comfort to the sorrowful; for the sake of which one endures the sight of wretchedness, when, instead of giving pleasure, it distresseth every feeling heart. Such, however, enjoy at length a luxury far superior to that of pity, the godlike luxury of dispelling grief, communicating happiness, and doing good.
THE FOUNDATIONS AND ESSENTIAL PROPERTIES OF ELOCU
THE NATURE AND CHARACTERS OF THE USE WHICH GIVES LAW
ELOQUENCE hath always been considered, and very justly, as having a particular connexion with language. It is the intention of eloquence to convey our sentiments into the minds of others, in order to produce a certain effect upon them. Language is the only vehicle by which this conveyance can be made. The art of speaking, then, is not less necessary to the orator than the art of thinking. Without the latter, the former could not have existed; without the former, the latter would be ineffective. Every tongue whatever is founded in use or custom,
“ Whose arbitrary sway Words and the forms of language must obey."*
FRANCIS. Language is purely a species of fashion (for this holds equally of every tongue), in which, by the general but tacit consent of the people of a particular state or country, certain sounds come to be appropriated to certain things as their signs, and certain ways of inflecting and combining those sounds come to be established as denoting the relations which subsist among the things signified.
It is not the business of grammar, as some critics seem preposterously to imagine, to give law to the fashions which regulate our speech. On the contrary, from its conformity to these, and from that alone, it derives all its authority and value. For what is the grammar of any language? It is no other than a collection of general observations methodically digested, and comprising all the modes previously and independently established, by which the significations, derivations, and combinations of words in that language are ascertained. It is of no consequence here to what causes originally these modes or fashions owe their existence - - to imitation, to reflection, to affectation, or to caprice; they no
“Usus Quem penes arbitrium est et jus et norma loquendi.”
Hor., De Arte Poet.
sooner obtain and become general than they are laws of the language, and the grammarian's only business is to note, collect, and methodize them. Nor does this truth concern only those more comprehensive analogies or rules which affect whole classes of words, such as nouns, verbs, and the other parts of speech; but it concerns every individual word, in the inflecting or the combining of which a particular mode hath prevailed. Every single anomaly, therefore, though departing from the rule assigned to the other words of the same class, and on that account called an exception, stands on the same basis on which the rules of the tongue are founded, custom having prescribed for it a separate rule.*
The truth of this position hath never, for aught I can remember, been directly controverted by anybody; yet it is certain that both critics and grammarians often argue in such a way as altogether inconsistent with it. What, for example, shall we make of that complaint of Dr. Swift, “ that our language, in many instances, offends against every part of grammar ?"| Or what could the doctor's notion of grammar be, when he expressed himself in this manner? Sone notion, possibly, he had of grammar in the abstract, a universal archetype by which the particular grammars of all different tongues ought to be regulated. If this was his meaning, I cannot say whether he is in the right or in the wrong in this accusation." I acknowledge myself to be entirely ignorant of this ideal grammar; nor can I form a conjecture where its laws are to be learned. One thing, indeed, every smatterer in philosophy will tell us, that there can be no natural connexion between the sounds of any language and the things signified, or between the modes of inflection and combination, and the relations they are intended to express. Perhaps he meant the grammar of some other language; if so, the charge was certainly true, but not to the purpose, since we can say with equal truth of every language, that it offends against the grammar of every other language whatsoever. If he meant the English grammar, I would ask, Whence has that grammar derived its laws ?. If from general use (and I cannot conceive another origin), then it must be owned that there is a general use in that language as well as in others; and it were absurd to accuse the language which is purely what is conformable to general use in speaking and writing, as offending against general use. But if he meant to say that there is no fixed, established, or general use in the language, that
* Thus, in the two verbs call and shall, the second person singular of the former is callest, agreeably to the general rule; the second person singular of the latter is shalt, agreeably to a particular rule affecting that verb. To say shallest for shalt would be as much a barbarism, though according to the general rule, as to say calt for callest, which is according to no rule. + Letter to the Lord High Treasurer, &c.
it is quite irregular, he hath been very unlucky in his manner of expressing himself. Nothing is more evident than that, where there is no law, there is no transgression. In that case, he ought to have said that it is not susceptible of grammar; which, by-the-way, would not have been true of English, or, indeed, of any the most uncultivated language on the earth.
It is easy, then, to assign the reason why the justness of the complaint, as Doctor Lowth observes,* has never yet been questioned; it is purely because, not being understood, it hath never been minded. But if, according to this ingenious gentleman, the words our language have, by a new kind of trope, been used to denote those who speak and write English, and no more hath been intended than to signify that our best speakers and most approved authors frequently offend against the rules of grammar, that is, against the general use of the language, I shall not here enter on a discussion of the question. Only let us rest in these as fixed principles, that use, or the custom of speaking, is the sole original standard of conversation as far as regards the expression, and the custom of writing is the sole standard of style; that the latter comprehends the former, and something more; that to the tribunal of use as to the supreme authority, and, consequently, in every grammatical controversy, the last resort, we are entitled to appeal from the laws and the decisions of grammarians; and that this order of subordination ought never, on any account, to be reversed.f
But if use be here a matter of such consequence, it will be necessary, before advancing any farther, to ascertain precisely what it is. We shall otherwise be in danger, though we agree about the name, of differing widely in the notion that we assign to it.
In what extent, then, must the word be understood ? It is sometimes called general use ; yet is it not manifest that the generality of people speak and write very badly? Nay, is not this a truth that will be even generally acknowledged ? It will be so; and this very acknowledgment shows that many terms and idioms may be common, which, nevertheless, have not the general sanction, no, nor even the suffrage of those that use them. The use here spoken of implies not only currency,
vogue. It is, properly, reputable custom. * Preface to his Introduction to English Grammar.
+ “Non ratione nititur analogia, sed exemplo: nec lex est loquendi, sed observatio: ut ipsam analogiam nulla res alia fecerit, quam consuetudo.”QUINT., Inst., 1. i., c. vi.
This leads to a distinction between good use and bad use in language, the former of which will be found to have the approbation of those who have not themselves attained it. The far greater part of mankind, perhaps ninety-nine of a hundred, are, by reason of poverty and other circumstances, deprived of the advantages of education, and condemned to toil for bread, almost incessantly, in some narrow occupation. They have neither the leisure nor the means of attaining any knowledge except what lies within the contracted circle of their several professions. As the ideas which occupy their minds are few, the portion of the language known to them must be very scanty. It is impossible that our knowledge of words should outstrip our knowledge of things. It may, and often doth, come short of it. Words may be remembered as sounds, but cannot be understood as signs while we remain unacquainted with the things signified.
Hence it will happen, that in the lower walks of life, from the intercourse which all ranks occasionally have with one another, the people will frequently have occasion to hear words of which they never had occasion to learn the meaning. These_they will pick up and remember, produce and misapply. But there is rarely any uniformity in such blunders, or anything determinate in the senses they give to words which are not within their sphere. Nay, they are not themselves altogether unconscious of this defect. It often ariseth from an admiration of the manner of their superiors, and from an ill-judged imitation of their way of speaking, that greatest errors of the illiterate, in respect of conversation, proceed. And were they sensible how widely different their use and application of such words is from that of those whom they affect to imitate, they would renounce their own immediately.
But it may be said, and said with truth, that in such subjects as are within their reach, many words and idioms prevail among the populace which, notwithstanding a use pretty uniform and extensive, are considered as corrupt, and, like counterfeit money, though common, not valued. This is the case particularly with those terms and phrases which critics have denominated vulgarisms. Their use is not reputable. On the contrary, we always associate with it such notions of meanness as suit those orders of men among whom chiefly the use found. Hence it is that many who have contracted a habit of employing such idioms do not approve them; and though, through negligence, they frequently fall into them in conversation, they carefully avoid them in writing, or even in a solemn speech on any important occasion. Their currency, therefore, is without authority and weight. The tattle of children hath a currency, but, however universal their manner of corrupting words may be among them