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LONDON:

R. CLAY, SONS, AND TAYLOR, TXINTERS,

BKEAD STREET HILL,

PREFACE.

Many writers on the structure and history of English, in spite of the plain evidence to the contrary, have regarded our language as one that has sprung up, comparatively speaking, within a very recent period. Some have dared to carry it as far back as Chaucer's time, because he has usually been spoken of as “the well of English undefiled.” Others again, not so bold, have deemed it quite sufficient to date the rise of the English language from the time of the greatest of Elizabethan writers. By not regarding the earlier stages of our language as English, all the necessary helps to a rational treatment of its grammatical forms and idioms have been cast aside. The Saturday Review has, very rightly, raised its voice rather loudly against the absurdity of such a view, and has properly insisted upon the right of all periods to be designated as English,--the very oldest term for our language, and one that is identified with its earliest history and with the very best writers of all its periods, from Alfred the Great down to the

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