Page images

as,' he farther observes, nothing is pages of a lexicon. - The liberty better attested in history, than that therefore complained ofis only the the branch of Teutonick, which liberty of retaining what former constitutes the basis of our present writers of dictionaries had intro. language, was introduced by the duced. Belgick tribes, which occupied the The next objection brought asouthern part of the island at the gainst Johnson, is, iis injudicious time, and evidently before Cæsar selection of authorities.' invaded the country.' We grant · Among the autors cited in Mr. W. all that he can gain from support of his definitions,' says this imbecile attack. The tribes the writer, there are indeed the that he mentions did indeed pose names of Tillotson, Newton, sess themselves of the coasts of Locke, Milton, Dryden, Addison, Britain, and drive the natives into Swift, and Pope ; but no small the interior ; perhaps mixed with portion of words in his vocabulary them, and had some influence on are selected from writers of the their language : but what speci- seventeenth century, who, though mens has Mr. W. seen of their well versed in the learned lanlanguage ? Dr. Johnson asserts, guages,had neither taste, nor a corand the assertion is supported by rect knowledge of English.Of these historians, that the Saxons entered writers Sir Thomas Brown seems Britain in the middle of the fifth to have been a favourite ; yet the century. The first specimens of style of sir T. is not English; writing which are called Anglo- and it is astonishing that a man atSaxon are much posterior to that tempting to give the world a standtime ; and it is to similar writings ard of the English language, should that our author repairs for his ety. have ever mentioned his name, mologies,

but with a reprobation of his style The first fault which Mr. W, and use of words.' has noticed in Johnson's Diction- We are not particularly anxious ary, is, 'the insertion of a multi- to vindicate the style of sir T1:0tude of words that do not belong mas, though we have some respect to our language. The number of for his labours. But why, Mr. this class," he thinks, 'probably w., this falling out with writers of rises to two thousand or more.' It the seventeenth century ? In what seems however, as well from his period of the world did Tillotson, own acknowledgment, as the au. Locke, Milton, and Dryden live thorities produced by the lexico- and write? Milton published some grapher, that they were noted in, of his smaller poems, and several: dictionaries' before the time of tracts in prose, before Brown's vul.. Johnson. Their preservation has gar errors saw the light. But Tilbeen altogether harmless, except lotson, Locke, and Dryden, having by adding a few leaves to a ponder. fortunately written a few years af ous work; for we are not acquainta ter the unlucky sir Thomas, fell ed with any writers who search into the Augustan age of English their "dictionaries to find out un literature. common words : and the voca, Mr Whas indeed prodụced bulary preserved by memory, and several passages from Brown, quofused from recollection, is acquired by Johnson for authorities in ed by reading and conversation, the use of words, which sufficiently instead of being drawn from the betray, the affectation of the writer...

Vol. IV. No. 12.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

He is also confident that the num. voleted low word vulgar ber of words inserted, which are sense vulgar and unauthorised, &c. hot authorized by any English wri. · Mr. W. will not contend that ter, and those which are found on- Shakspeare and B. Jonson should ly in a singlé pedantick author like in no case be quoted as authorities. Brown, and which are really no One great end of a dictionary is part of the language, amount to to enable us, in reading as well pofour or five thousand, at least a pular as learned writers, to ascerTenth fiart of the whole 'number' tain the meaning of words which He infers therefore, that Johnson's are not familiar; for without this dictionary furnishes no standard of means of interpreting them, whole correct English ; 'but in its pre- passages might to the bulk of reasent form tends very much to per. ders forever remain unintelligible. vert and corrupt the language. What thanks should we owe to the Let experience decide how far the authors of our Latin dictionaries, work has this corrupting tendency. if they had confined themselves to

The writer concedes, under the the elegant latinity of the age of next head of objections, that it is Augustus ? And if we may, with questionable how far vulgar and Addison, suppose in prospects cant words are to be admitted into state of change and refinement,

dictionary : but, if any portion when the papers of him and his of such be inadmissible, Johnson coadjutors shall pass for quaint, has trangressed the rules of lexi. vulgar, or obsolete language, a fine tography* beyond any other com- 'may be drawn, which shall exclude piler.'

them from the catalogue of pure It is well known that; of this English authors. ' If therefore description of words, some are Mr. W. will allow us to suggests adopted on the authority of Ben principle to qualify his own, it Jonson, and a large proportion on shall be this ; that new words howe that of Shakspeare. Shakspeare never formed should be received is an author whom the English, with caution; that old words should and all who speak the same tongue, be rarely rejected; while, at the reverence and admire:' an author same time, in many cases, they who will last as long, as the lan- should be attended with such marks guage in which he wrote. He has of censure, as Johnson has very been niore read and more com- judiciously adopted! mented upon, than any other writ- Another charge brought against er of his nation ; and hence cer- Johnson's dictionary is, 'a want of tainly he is entitled to an explana- just discrimination in his defini. tion of those words, which, though tions. The examples selected to not current in the eighteenth cen-' prove this are in point, and they tury, and used, many of them, as might be multiplied. It would be low, cant termis in his own age, are next to miraculous, if the definiyet a part of written fanguage. tions in such an ini mense vocabuBut what sort of reception has lary were not sometimes imperfect Johnson given to these words ? Mr. and sometimes " false. There is

W. has examined his work too much difficulty in explaining words -faithfully to be ignorant of the cau. Nearly 2 synonimous, especially

tous manner in which he has in-" words of a moral import. Simple "troduced them. They are follow-words also, which cannot be made *d by such warnings as these tobe "primer, wilt suffer from a peri

• A word made for tho sentence.


phrastic definition; and ambiguous .who will never bewilder Os; whose words, whose etymology as well as clue, however subtile, will never meaning is doubtful, must be set. brcak in the labyrinth of etymolotled by usage, instead of conjectu- gy; who despises the beaten al derivation.

track, and thinks it not th # With Mr. Wo's verbal criticism eligible, because it has always been of several passages from different pursued. authors we find no fault : and the Another particular,' says Mr. utility of verbal criticism, however w., which is supposed to add amuch the practice of it may be greatly to the value of Johnson's despised, cannot be questioned by dictionary,is the illustration of the those, who will condescend to be. various senses of words by passa. come the criticks, or be patient un- ges from English authors of repuder their discipline. But with tation. Yet, in fact, this will be what sort of writers must we sup- found on .careful examination to pose Mr. W. to have been conver- be one of the most exceptionable Sant, when he tells us that, in the parts of his performance ; for two s.course of thirty years reading, he reasons : first, that no small share has not found a single author who of his examples are [is] taken from appears to have been accurately authors who did not write the lanacquainted with the true import guage with purity; and second, and force of terms in his own lan- that a still larger portion of them

guage.'. The best of our writers, throw not the least light on his probably for want of sufficiently definitions." analysing their words, have some. He allows that the examples s times used them in a vague or im- taken from those authors, who did

proper manner. Let us not revolt not use language with purity, have gjat the boldness of the accusation, not had a very extensive effect in » when they are charged with igno corrupting the style of writing : brance of the import of words. No while many of them therefore in

doubt Swift, and Temple, and Ad- our view, are useful, the remaindison, and Johnson are children in der of them are little worse than language, and are to be deprecat- trilling, in the opinion of our au> cd as dangerous models, and avoid thor. The few examples which

ed as men, who not only preserved be has cited, as throwing no light abuses already existing when they on the definitions, are sufficiently. 3-wrote, bui contributed to increase to his purpose. There is indeed 1 the corruption of the English tongue - no necessity of explaining what - We, do not pretend to question every one understands ; and that

Mu. W's superiority to these gen- Johnson has multiplied authorities T tlemen as a writer; though from under some words, without inour perverted taste, and long ac- creasing the value of bis work, as quaintance with them, we do feel a dictionary for the explaining of some reluctance in giving up such terms, every one will admit

. But companions. However, perfec- „we cannot join with Mr. W. in his

tion is very desirables and if our assertion, that ONE HALF of John. • prejudices arennt tooinveterate,and son's dictionary is composed of

we are not too restless and turbu. quotations equally as useless' as lent when our friends are roughly those he has selected. We are 9 used, we have the assurance of a little anxious however to obtain syide thro the mazes of language, the precise proportion, that the sun

SIN 2016 A

[ocr errors]

perfluous Bears to the useful ; 'and amusing' to 'some minds, and is not are free to declare our satisfaction an employment wholly useless and with the plan of citing passages unsatisfactory. But if this sort of from reputable authors, and leave learning should be employed to ing the reader to judge, whether unsettle orthography, and, in all the 'word to be explained conform cases, to restore words, whose sense in the author quoted to the defini. is established, to the meaning of tion of the lexicographer. Noth- their etymons, however arbitrarily My can be more fair in the writer the meaning may have been de of a dictionary: and instances ex- parted from, we hesitate not to say hibited from various standard vri. That the etymologist may be much *ters to prove the meaning of a worse than idle. Under the pre

word, a meaning which has gener- tence of purifying what is corrept, aliy obtained, would satisfy us in and establishing that which is unSopposition to all doubtful, or even 'settled, he may form a glossary for indisputable etymologies. ! ! a language of his own ; but not a

Mr. w. observes, contemptú. Standard for interpreting those "ously enough,' that whether this writers, who use words in their mode of constructing the work was generally received signification. intended for the benefit of the com- We do not value Johnson particupiier, or wirether it was a specula- Jarly for his etymologies, nor detion of the booksellers, as Mr. precate Mr. Wr's intentions to Tooke has suggested, is hardly render etymology perfect'; but we worth an inquiry. But an inquiry claim, in anticipation, the right to would satisfy Mr. W. that neither smile at what is fanciful, while we the benefit of the compiler, nor give to that which is plausible the the speculation of the booksellers, praise of ingenuity, and commend dictated the precise form of the what is probable, and adopt for Doctor's work. He originally "truth that which admits not of formed it on a plan still larger doubt.'

* 15, e... 1 than that wiich was executed; and After selecting several examples - intended that the examples quoted from Johnson to "shew whar ety.

to'illustrate his definitions, should mology is,' and producing a few of jserye the double purpose of ex- his own to shew what he intends pluining the meaning of words, it shall be in his proposed work," and of amusing those who should Mr. W. proceeds to the peroration. examine his dictionary. He'was '? In this part of his performance obliged to reduce his quotations, if he ascribes some general merit te not in number, at least in quanti- Johnson, and speaks of the modein Sey and thus to mutilate the ex- European improvements in phi

tructs, which he had been at 'so lology: He has litde hope of aid much pains in collecting.' b from his fellow citizens, especially Por The last defect in Johnson's from those in the large towns: dictionary," that Mr. W. notices, while, to heighten theit ingrati

is the inaccuracy of the etymolo-tude, he thinks his labours disingies.

{terested, and sof far less conseThe tracing of words through a quence to himself than to his counTong line of ancestry, and giving try." He condemns our servile

the direct and collateral branches dependence upon European autheir respective places in the gene thorities and opinions, and recomvalogical tred, is 'undoubtedly very mends it to pur citizens to láy aside


[ocr errors]

their modern English books. This plete. I shall pursue it with zeal, recommendation probably extends and undoubtedly with success.' to all those writings that are called What then have we to fear ? English classicks,which were doubt. All the intricacies of language are less included in Mr. W.'s thirty to be unravelled. Why should we years reading, whose authors we care how? It will be sufficient for are told á were not accurately ac- us to enjoy the advantages that quainted with the true import and will result. It has indeed been reforce of terms in their own lan- marked, that empyricks are always guage.

the most confident of curing disWe have extended our review ease, while they are ignorant of the of this pamphlet beyond our como constitutions of their patient, and mon limits for the same number the qualities of their prescriptions: of pages ; because it embraces but let not a parallel thence be several principles of the lexico- forced for an ungenerous surmise grapher, some of which are novel, against our author, He has a right and may prove dangerous in their to express his confidence at the operation.

beginning of the race ; and if he We are not among the number should not gain the prize for which of those, who contend that Johnson he started, it will be the time after is faultless. His errours and de- his failure, for those who are disefects are numerous ; but the gen-posed to worry a jaded author, to

eral plan of his dictionary is judi- assail him with the weapons of ecious, and the execution displays a ridicule and malice. wonderful extent of research into English writers, and as much accuracy and discrimination in the definitions, as could be expected in

ART. 70. the time employed, and with the An Essay on the rights and duties means that could be procured. It

of nations, relative to fugitives is certainly to be wished, that it

from justice, considered with re. • were much nearer perfection than

ference to the affair of the Chesait actually is. We are not so big


peake. By an American. oted to the work, as to discourage

ton, D. Carlisle, 5, Court-street. all attempts to improve it, or to

produce a better: and we feel per- If foreigners should ever read - fectly willing to indulge Mr. W. our ephemeral and local essays, e in his labours, even if they promise and should from the character of

Jess in our opinion, than in his own. these form an opinion of our naNot disposed to hazard our repu- tion, and of the talents of its litetation as prophets, we forbear to rary men, we should have no reaforetel the merit of his intended son to complain of the contemptuproduction, %.!!!

. qus opinion, which every literary Mr. W. repeats the remark of man in Europe entertains of the Darwin, that the discoveries of state of literature in our country. Mr. Tooke unfold at a single flash It is a source of no little satisfac

the true theory of language, which , tion to us, that the work, of which , had lain for ages buried beneath

We now propose to take some the learned lumber of the schools. small notice, can never do any A That author however, he adds, ,,very extensive injury to the repu. it has left: the investigation incom- tation of our country, for we much


« PreviousContinue »