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so, when a thing is mentioned, than which a greater cannot be conceived, beyond doubt that which is heard can be conceived and understood, although it may not be possible fully to conceive and understand the thing itself. For although any one should be so foolish as to assert, that there is nothing than which a greater cannot be conceived, yet he will not have the hardihood to say that he neither understands nor conceives what he asserts; or should any such an one be found, not only is his statement to be rejected, but he himself is to be despised. Whoever, therefore, denies that there is anything, than which a greater cannot be conceived, undoubtedly conceives and understands the negation which he makes; and this negation he cannot understand and conceive without its parts; but one of its parts includes a conception of that being than which a greater cannot be conceived. Whoever, therefore, denies this, conceives and understands a being than which a greater cannot be conceived. It is, also, obvious that what is not able not to exist, can, in like manner, be conceived and understood; but he who conceives this, conceives something greater than he who conceives what is able not to exist. Therefore, when this greatest conceivable being is conceived, if it is supposed to be something which is able not to be, then it is not conceived as the greatest conceivable; but the same thing cannot be conceived and not conceived at the same time. Wherefore, he who conceives the greatest being conceivable, conceives not what is able, but what is not able, not to exist. Hence, what he conceives, necessarily exists; because, what is able not to exist, is not what he conceives.

CHAPTER X. Force of the preceding reasoning. Conclusion.

I think I have now made it evident, that in the Proslogion I have proved that there exists in reality something than which a greater cannot be conceived; and that, too, not by a weak, but by a necessary argument, which no objection is sufficient to invalidate. The great force of this proof lies in the peculiar nature of the demonstration employed, as the being in question is proved to have a real and necessary existence, from the very fact that it is conceived and understood; and that this being is whatever it is proper for us to believe concerning the Divine substance to be. For, we predicate of the Divine Nature, whatever can be absolutely conceived as better to be than not to be. For example, it is better to be eternal than not eternal; good, than not good; nay, goodness itself than not goodness itself.

1 Non modo sermo ejus est respuendus, sed et ipse conspuendus.


Harrison's English Language.


But anything of this kind cannot but be that than which a greater cannot be conceived. This greatest conceivable being is therefore necessarily whatever it is proper for us to believe concerning the Divine Nature. I tender to you my thanks for the kindness with which you have both censured and approved my little work. For the high commendation which you have bestowed upon those things which appeared to you worthy of reception, are a sufficient proof that in reprehending what you regarded as the weaker points of my argument, you were actuated by no malevolent design.



By Daniel R. Goodwin, Professor in Bowdoin College.

MR. HARRISON seems to have been in the habit of noting down the grammatical errors he encountered in his English reading until he had accumulated such a store, that, arranging them, with desultory remarks, under the several Parts of Speech, and prefixing some "historical" and "philological" dissertations, he ventured to publish a book, with the imposing title of "The Rise, Progress, and Present Structure of the English Language." Such a genesis does not augur all the depth, breadth, thoroughness, and systematic completeness which we might desire and might otherwise have expected under such a title. We must confess that, in our apprehension, the work is in its substance too light, and in its style too "flippant," for the gravity of the subject; besides being guilty of committing many gross errors in the very act of assuming to correct the alleged errors of others. Had it not been thought worthy of special notice on the other side of the water, and of republication on this, we should not have thought it worth while to disturb its distant repose with any criticisms of ours. But as we have now ventured a charge, we must be allowed to produce at least a few of our witnesses. Not having seen the English

1 The Rise, Progress, and Present Structure of the English Language. By the Rev. MATTHEW HARRISON, A. M., Rector of Church Oakley, Hants; and late Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford. 12mo. pp. 393. Philadelphia. 1850.

original, we shall refer in our citations to the American reprint, although the latter may exhibit errors for which the author is not responsible.

In the first place, let us look at some of Mr. Harrison's historical and philological facts and theories.

"We have the extraordinary fact," says he, "that whilst not a single fragment of Anglo Saxon Literature existed or even had been called into existence, a Scandinavian Literature had existed for ages in Iceland - the remotest habitation of man."1

Now according to Bosworth's express statement,—and to his authority Mr. Harrison himself refers in his preface, Iceland was not so much as known to the Norsemen till A. D. 861, and not settled at all till some years after. But, not to speak of Beowulf or the Saxon Chroniclers, Alfred's works must have been written or compiled about the year 880; and, whatever may have been the precise age of the Poet Caedmon, Alfred's fragmentary versions show that he must have lived many years before, probably some 200; and the laws of Ethelbert cannot be placed much later than the year 600.2

After eulogizing in the strongest terms the ancient Greek for its

1 Page 35. Here and elsewhere we take the liberty to insert our own Italicizing. 2 Grimm's view of the relative antiquity of the Anglo Saxon and the Icelandic literature may be gathered from the following, which is immediately subjoined to a paragraph relating to the Gothic language and literature: "Auf der entgegengesetzten westseite haben andere auswanderer, die Angelsachsen, sehr bedeutende freilich um vier und mehr jahrhunderte jüngere denkmäler ihrer sprache, in pocsie wie in prosa, hinterlassen, aus welchen ein ausser ordentlicher gewinn gezogen wird: denn wenn auch die gedichte sämtlich schon in christlicher zeit aufgeschrieben oder abgefasst sind, enthalten sie doch anklänge an frühere heidnische darstellung, vorzüglich Beovulf, Caedmon,"” u. s. w.

"Im Norden dauert der eingeborne volksstamm bis heute fort, der sprachquell hat sich da mächtig und in ungetrübter lauterkeit erhalten: sind die aufzeichnungen noch später als die angelsächsischen erfolgt, so geht die fassung der meisten eddischen lieder der grundlage nach doch ungezweifelt in das heidenthum selbst zurück und zeigt dichtung und rede fast ungestört; die altnordische sprache hat uns also nicht wenige geheimnisse des alterthums zu erschliesen; ihre kraft flüchtete aus Norwegen nach Island.

"Ueber den althochdeutschen sprachquellen hat ein ungünstiges geschick gewaltet sie stehen hinter der reinheit und dem hohen alter des gothischen denkmals; sie erreichen zwar das alter, aber lange nicht den werth noch die menge der angelsächsischen quellen, und wenn ihre aufzeichnung allerdings um drei oder vier jahrhunderte früher erfolgt ist als die der altnordischen, werden sie durch den inneren gehalt und reichthum dieser weit übertroffen,” u. s. w.-Deutsche Grammatik, I. B. S. 2, 3, u. 7.


Historical Facts and Theories.


subtleness and copiousness, its facility and precision, its harmony and perfect grammatical finish, Mr. Harrison yet talks in another place of something's being "humane,”—it is not easy to discover what it is -"when compared with the twisting and turning, the fantastic gyrations, and the indefinite declensions, of the German noun," (pages 74 and 92). But, which exhibits the greater variety and complication of "twistings and turnings, fantastic gyrations, and indefinite declensions," the Greek noun, or the German? Which is the easier for a learner to master? Or, is what was a perfection in the idolized Greek, become an intolerable blemish in a modern tongue?

He declares, in one place, that the Hebrew language dispensed altogether with Case inflections, "each noun remaining invariable, except in the difference between the singular and plural numbers," thus ignoring entirely the construct state of the Hebrew noun, and the modifications it undergoes in connection with different suffixes; yet, in another place, he says that "the Hebrew had four Cases, the Greek five, the Latin six." (pp. 46 and 140.)

The Normans are represented as having dispensed with the Cases of the Anglo-Saxon, in order to avoid trouble, as they supposed, while they were really returning, it is said, to a more ancient philosophical principle. But it is probably nearer the truth to say, that the modifications of the Anglo-Saxon language, were made by the Anglo-Saxons themselves, much more than by the Normans; and that those changes would have been very nearly what they have been, had no Normans ever seen the Island of Great Britain. Moreover, as to the philosophical principles on which the changes proceeded, it is hard to say whether to express Case relations by separate words, by prefixes, or by suffixes, is the most philosophical. The use of separate words is undoubtedly the most ancient. But it is to be noted, that the "Northmen"- we hardly know whether by this term, our author means to designate the "Normans" again, or their predatory predecessors, the Danes, etc; but if the latter, which is the proper use of the word, then the Northmen"— had Case inflections in their own languages, and those inflections, notwithstanding all the "trouble" they occasion and all their want of "philosophical principle," have retained a firm footing in those languages or their successors to the present day. (p. 40.)

In his theory of the formation of language, Mr. Harrison seems to have quite confounded the original or primeval language with the languages of savages, barbarians, nomadic tribes, pastoral people, etc. "All languages must originally have been scanty; in the first place,

simply expressive of visible objects. [No verbs-no sense but sight?] Grammatical inflections, philosophical principles and subtle distinctions must have been unknown." "As mankind advanced in civilization, convenience would dictate abbreviation and the adoption of arbitrary forms of speech; and language would thus gradually become more artificial. As new objects and new combinations of ideas presented themselves, new terms would be invented; and the language would thus become more copious and more connected." (pp. 67, 68.)

All this may sound very well as a "philosophical" theory; although his idea of a "philosophical principle" seems here to be quite different from that on which he just now represented the Normans as having acted. But it is a fact founded on the most irrefragable testimony, that the dialects of savages as many of the American and African dialects, for example-are often distinguished by a most poetic copiousness, a most elastic power of expansion, and a most artificial grammatical structure.


Mr. Harrison holds that our language has lost in euphony by the change of the th of the third person singular of the verb into s. This th he declares to be "the gentlest and most pleasing of all sounds.” Change the th of loveth," says he, "into loves, [he means, change loveth into loves] and we at once pass from the note of the dove to the hiss of the serpent." We will only stop to ask how much better the last statement would sound, if pronounced thus: "we at onth path from the note of the dove to the hith of the therpent”? (p. 50.) Mr. Harrison throws down the gauntlet boldly to all authority in points of grammar. He aims at principles. "A principle is a landmark to which we can always look forward, in doubt and perplexity. It is a pedestal on which we can take our stand, prepared to climb higher and higher, but never to descend." "That which is right is right, without any authority at all; and that which is wrong cannot be made right by any authority." (p. 125.) to think, despite Mr. Harrison's authority, that in language there is no right but fact. There are no à priori principles which can be set against facts to judge or condemn them; without some authority of usage nothing right could exist; the right is founded upon the authority of actual use and nothing else. The business of the grammarian, like that of the true philosopher of nature, is to interpret facts, not to prescribe them. That is the right language for each age, place, rank, class, or profession, which is the established usage of that age, place, rank, class or profession. To seek after an absolute, universal, un

Now we take the liberty

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