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The nature and use of verbal criticism, with its principal canons.

us to disuse them, both the example and the arguments of the critic will have their weight. A very little attention will satisfy every reasonable person of the difference there is between the bare omission, or rather the not employing of what is used, and the introduction of what is unusual. The former, provided

what you substitute in its stead be proper, and have the authority of custom, can never come under the

observation, or at least the reprehension of a reader; whereas the latter shocks our ears immediately. Here, therefore, lies one principal province of criticism, to point out the characters of those words and idioms which deserve to be disfranchised, and consigned to

perpetual oblivion. It is by carefully filing off all

roughnesses and inequalities, that languages, like metals, must be polished. This indeed is an effect of taste. And hence it happens, that the first rudiments of taste no sooner appear in any people, than the language begins, as it were of itself, to emerge out of that state of rudeness, in which it will ever be found in uncivilised nations. As they improve in arts and sciences, their speech refines; it not only becomes richer and more comprehensive, but acquires greater precision, perspicuity, and harmony. This effect taste insensibly produces among the people long before the

language becomes the object of their attention. But when criticism hath called forth their attention to this object, there is a probability that the effect will be accelerated.

sect. II. Every thing favoured by good use, not worthy to be retained....Can. V.

IT is, however, no less cortain, on the other hand, that in the declension of taste and science, language will unavoidably degenerate, and though the critical art may retard a little, it will never be able to prevent this degeneracy. I shall therefore subjoin a few remarks under the form of canons, in relation to those words or expressions, which may be thought to merit degradation from the rank they have hitherto maintained, submitting these remarks entirely, as every thing of the kind must be submitted, to the final determination of the impartial public.

Canon the sixth.

THE first canon on this subject is, All words and phrases which are remarkably harsh and unharmonious, and not absolutely necessary, may justly be judged worthy of this fate.

I CALL a word or phrase absolutely necessary, when we have no synonymous words, in the event of a . dismission, to supply its place, or no way of conveying properly the same idea without the aid of circumlocution. The rule, with this limitation, will, I believe, be generally assented to. The only difficulty is, to fix the criteria by which we may discriminate the obnoxious words from all others.

It may well be reckoned that we have lighted on one criterion, when we have found a decompound or

The nature and use of verbal criticism, with its principal canons.

term composed of words already compounded, whereof the several parts are not easily, and therefore not closely united. Such are the words bare-faced-ness, shame-faced-ners, un-fuccessful—ners, dis-interest-edners wrong-headed-ness, tender-hearted-ness. They are so heavy and drawling, and withal so ill compacted, that they have not more vivacity than a periphrasis, to compensate for the defect of harmony.

ANOTHER criterion is, when a word is so formed and accented as to render it of difficult utterance to the speaker, and consequently disagreeable in sound to the hearer. This happens in two cases; first, when the syllables which immediately follow the accented syllable, are so crowded with consonants, as of necessity to retard the pronounciation. The words quértionless, chröniclers, convénticlers, concipiscence, remembrancer, are examples of this. The accent in all these is on the antepenultimate, for which reason the two last syllables ought to be pronounced quick; a thing scarcely practicable, on account of the number of consonants which occur in these syllables. The attempt to quicken the pronunciation, though familiar to Englishmen, exhibits to strangers the appearance of awkward hurry, instead of that easy fluency to be found in those words wherein the unaccented syllables are naturally short. Such are levity, vánity, avidity, all accented in like manner on the antepenultimate. The second case in which a simiiar dissonance is found, is when too many syllables

Sect. II. Everything favoured by good use, not worthy to be retained....Can. v.

follow the accented syllable. For though these be naturally short, their number, if they exceed two, makes a disagreeable pronunciation. Examples of this are the words primarily, cirrorily, stimmarily, perémptorily, perémptoriners, vindicative ; all of which are accented on the fourth syllable from the end. It were to be wished, that the use which now prevails in regard to the manner of accenting some words, would alter, as we cannot afford to part with every term that is liable to exception in this respect. Nor is a change here to be despaired of, since we find it hath happened to several words already, as the places which they occupy in ancient poetry sufficiently eVlnCe.

A THIRD criterion is, when a short or unaccented syllable is repeated, or followed by another short or unaccented syllable very much resembling. This always gives the appearance of stammering to the pronunciation. Such are the words hålily, firriering, sillily. We have not many words chargeable with this fault; nay, so early have the people been sensible of the disagreeable sound occasioned by such recurrences, that it would appear they have added the adverbial termination to very few of our adjectives ending in ly. I believe there are no examples extant of heavenlily, godlily, timelily, dailily. Johnson hath given us in his Dictionary, the word lowlily, but without quoting authorities. In these and suchlike, the simple forms, as heavenly, godly, timely, daily,

The nature and use of verbal criticism, with its principal canons.

homely, courtly, comely, seem always to have served both for adjective and adverb; though this too hath its inconvenience. It deserves our notice, that the repetition of a syllable is never offensive, when either one or both are long, as in papa, mamma, murmur, tartar, barbarous, lily.

BESIDEs the cases aforesaid, I know of none that ought to dispose us the total disuse of words really significant. A little harshness by the collision of consonants, which, nevertheless, our organs find no difficulty in articulating, and which do not suggest to the hearer the disagreeable idea of either precipitation or of stammering, are by no means a sufficient reason for the suppression of an useful term. The monosyllables judg’d, drudg’d, grudg'd, which some have thought very offensive, appear not in the least exceptionable, compared with the words above-mentioned. It would not do well to introduce such hard and strong sounds too frequently; but when they are used sparingly and properly, they have even a good effect. Variety in sound is adyantageous to a language: and it is convenient that we should have some sounds that are rough and masculine, as well as some that are liquid and feminine.

I observe this the rather, because I think there is at present a greater risk of going too far in refining, than of not going far enough. The ears of some cri

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