Графични страници
PDF файл

tions employed for dispatch, and are the signs of other words, and that these are the artificial wings of Mercury, by means of which the Argus eyes of philosophy have been cheated."

H. It is my meaning.”

B. Well. We can only judge of your opinion after we have heard how you maintain it. Proceed, and strip him of his wings. They seem easy enough to be taken off; for it Atrikes me now after what you have said, that they are indeed put on in a peculiar manner, and do not, like those of other winged deities, make a part of his body. You have only to loose the frings from his feet and take off his cap. Come let us see what sort of figure he will make without them.”

" H. The first aim at language was to communicate our thoughts: the second to do it with dispatch. (I mean entirely to disregard whatever additions or alterations have been made for the sake of beauty or ornament, ease, gracefulness, or pleasure.) The difficulties and disputes concerning language have arisen almost entirely from neglecting the consideration of the latter purpose of speech : which, though subordinate to the former, is almost as neceffary in the commerce of mankind, and has a much greater share in accounting for the different forts of words. Words have been called winged; and they well deserve that name, when their abbreviations are compared with the progress which speech could make without these ine wentions, but compared with the rapidity of thought they have not the smallest claim to that title. Philofophers have calculated the difference of velocity between sound and light: but who will attempt to calculate the difference between speech and thought! What wonder then that the invention of all ages should have been upon the itretch to add such wings to their conversation as might enable it, if possible, to keep pace in fume measure with their minds. Hence chiefly the variety of words.

Abbreviations are employed in language in three ways :

1. In terms. 2. In sorts of words. 3. In construction.Mr. Locke's Essay is the best guide to the first and numbere less are the authors who have given particular explanations of the last. The second only I take for my province at prefent, becaule I believe it has hitherto escaped the proper notice of all.” Сс 2


To those who are conversant with grammatical learning, it is well known that various systems of grammar have obtained. The most popular for fome years palt, at least in this country, was the system adopted in a work entitled Hermes, written by James Harris, Esq. usually termed the Philofopher of Salisbury, the father of the present Lord Malmsbury. It must be remembered, that we are here speaking not of the grammar of any particular language, but of the general principles of grammar common to all languages. Mr. Harris, therefore, treating on this subject, distributes words into four classes, substantives, attributives, definitives, and connectives. He then proceeds to discuss each part with great ingenuity. So pleased was Dr. Lowth with this performance, that he pronounces it to be “the most beautiful and perfect example of analysis that has been exhibited since the days of Aristotle.

This system, however ingenious, and however admired by the learned, is combated by Mr. Tooke with great acuteness, and with a proportionable degree of severity. Our Author contends that all words may be resolved into two classes, either nouns or verbs. Hence considerable ingenuity is displayed in tracing the origin of words and shewing the manner by which they are connected with the two constituent classes. Here Mr. Tooke exhibits a knowledge of the Saxon language, from which, it is confessed, that we have derived many of our terms. Indeed an undertaking like the present required an intimate acquaintance with ancient tongues, and of such an acquaintance our Author seems to be poffeffed.

The leading principle of the whole work is, that particles or undeclinable words, such as conjunctions, prepositions, and adverbs, are the signs of other words, or merely abbreviations contrived for the dispatch of language. Mr. Tooke therefore endeavours to establish this position, that in English, and in all languages, there are only two forts of words which are necessary for the


communication of our thoughts, 1. NOUN, and 2.

The conjun&tions are supposed to come from Saxon roots, being verbs used either as participles, or in the imperative mood. We give our Readers the following specimen :

If, the imperative of a Saxon word, to give,
An, ditto

to grant,

to dismiss, Elfe,

to dismiss, Though,

to allow. Of the prepositions Mr. Tooke remarks, that of different languages the least corrupt will have the fewest prepositions, and in the same language the best etymologifts will acknowledge the fewet.

His derivation of the prepositions is often very ingenious and satisfactory. Thus the preposition FROM, means merely BEGINNING, and is simply the AngloSaxon and Gothic noun, signifying origin, source, author. When we say,

Figs came from Turkey,
Lamp falls FROM ceiling,

Lamp hangs FROM ceiling,
the prepofition bears precisely the same meaning.

Mr. Tooke remarks that came is a complex term for one species of motion, falls for another species of motion, and hangs is a complex term for a species of attachment. For if we have occasion to mention the COMMENCE. MENT OR BEGINNING of these motions, and of this attachment and the PLACE where these motions and this attachment commence or begin, it is impossible to have complex terms for each occasion of this fort. What more simple than to add the signs of those ideas, viz. the word BEGINNING, which will remain always the same, and the name of the place which ever varies? Thus,

Figs came--BEGINNING Turkey.
Lamp falls-BEGINNING ceiling.
Lamp hangs--BEGINNING ceiling.
Сс 3


That is,

Turkey, the place of BeGINNING to come.
Ceiling, the place of BEGINNING to fall.

Ceiling, the place of BEGINNING to hang. From therefore relates to beginning, and refers to time as well as motion.

One great difference between the systems of Mr. Harris and Mr.Tooke, is their definition of these particles. The former hath defined them to be of them. selves without any signification, the latter afferts, that even by themselves they have a distinct meaning. Mr. Tooke, therefore, has some curious disquisitions on the subject, with which the scholar, who has a taste for gramınatical researches, will be much pleased. When the whole work is completed we shall give an ampler fpecimen of it to our readers. At present no full judgment could be formed. It will be best, therefore, to defer hazarding an opinion concerning it till all its parts can be contemplated. We may then discern more thoroughly the connection which subsists between these parts, and the utility of the whole. In the mean time, we must just remark, that from what we have seen of it, it appears to be entitled to the praise of a very ingenious fimplicity. Two parts of speech are certainly less cumbersome than four or eight, or any greater number. Whatever reduces the subjects of knowledge to an easier comprehension, aids the pupil in his literary acquirements, and extends the boundaries of science.

A portion of this volume is taken up in answering fume objections which were made to the work by Mr. Windham, Secretary at War, and others concerned with him in the animadversions. Mr. Tooke is very fevere upon them, and in his own opinion, we doubt not, flatters himself with an entire vi y. It must be acknowledged that he wields the arms of controversy with a skilful hand, and is determined that his antagonists shall feel his blows. In this contest, we are apprehensive that literary opposition is heightened by political animosity.



We are forry to find that Mr. Tooke condemns the di&ionary of the great lexicographer JOHNSON in such unqualified terms of severity. That it is defective, we own, for all human productions are imperfect. But that its merit is nevertheless very great, every candid man will acknowledge. Hear, however, Mr. Tooke on the subjcct :

“ Johnson's merit ought not to be denied him, but his Dictionary is the most imperfe&t and faulty, and the leatt valuable of any of his productions; and that thare of merie which it porteffes makes it by so much the more huitful. I rejoice, however, that though the leali valuable, he found it the most profitable, for I could never read his preface without a

And yet it must be confessed that his Grammar and Hiftory, and Dictionary of what he calls the English Language, are in all respects (except the bulk of the latter) most truly contemptible performances; and a reproach to the learning and industry of a nation which couid receive them with the fightest approbation.”

“ Nearly one third of this Dictionary is as much the language of the Hottentots, as of the English ; and it would be no difficult matter fo to translate any one of the plainest and most popular numbers of the Spectator into the language of that Dictionary that no mere Englishman, though well read in his own language, would be able to comprehend one sentence of it.

“ It appears to be a work of labour, and yet it is, in truth, one of the niott idle performances ever offered to the public ; compiled by an author who possessed not one fingle requisite for the undertaking, and (heing a publication of a set of books sellers) owing its success to that very circumstance which alone must make it impossible that it should deserve success.”

Every one who is acquainted cither with the cha. racter of Johnson, or with the contents of his Dictio. nary, will read the above passage with aftanishment !! Yet such are Mr. Tooke's centorial powers. Whenever he ascends the tribunal of judgment, the destruction of the culprit is determined.

This volume is dedicated, or rather inscribed, to the University of Cambridge, where, it seems, Mr. Tooke


« ПредишнаНапред »