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which, in fact, is the very object I mean to contend for; or rather for a fyftem of spelling, as I'am perfectly confident we have none at present, or at least I have never been able to find it. We are not to regard the current or fashionable orthography of the day, as the result of an enquiry into the subject by men of learning and genius; but rather as the mechanical or capricious efforts of writers and printers to express by letters, according to their ear, the vulgar speech of the country, just as travelers attempt that of the Chickfaws or Cherokees, without the assistance of grammar, and utterly ignorant or regardless of consistency, principle, or system. This was the case in Caxton's time, when a word was spelled almost as many different ways as it contained letters, and is no otherwise at this day; and, perhaps, the prejudices of education and habit, even in minds sufficiently expanded and vigorous on other subjects, will always prevent a reform, which it were to be wished was necessary to objects of no higher importance. Whether what I call the right method of printing these words be “ such as was never adopted before by any mortal,” or not, does not seem of much consequence ; for, reasoning from principle and not precedent, I am by no means anxious to avail myself of the inconsistencies of an age in which even scholars were not always agreed in the orthography of t..eir own name: a sufficient number of instances will, however, occur in the course of this note to shew that the remark was not made with its author's usual deliberation; which I am the rather disposed to believe, from his conceiving that this method could not be followed in pronunciation ;” since were it universally adopted, pronunciation neither would nor possibly could be affected by it in any degree whatever. “ Fanciful and unfounded" too as my “ supposed canon” may be, I find it laid down in Ben Jonson's Grammar, which expressly says that “ the second and third person fingular of the present are made of the first by adding oft and eth, which last is sometimes shortened into s." And afterward, speaking of the first conjugation, he tells us that “ it fetcheth the time past from the present by adding ed.” I shall have reason to think myself peculiarly unfortunate, if, after my hypothesis is “ allowed in its utmost extent,” it will not prove what it was principally formed to do, viz. that Shakspeare has not taken a liberty in extending certain words to suit the purpose of his metre. But, surely, if I prove that he has only given those words as they ought to be written, I prove the whole of my position, which should cease, of course, to be termed or considered an hypothesis. A mathematical problem may, at first fight, appear“ fanciful and unfounded” to the ableft mathematician, but his affent is ensured by its demonftration. I may safely admit that the words in question are “ more frequently used” by our author's contemporaries, and by himself, “ without the additional syllable;" as this will only shew that his contemporaries and himself have“ more fre
quently" taken the liberty of shortening those words, than written them at length. Such a word as alarm’d, for instance, is generally, perhaps constantly, used by poets as a disfyllable; and yet, if we found it given with its full power a-larm-ed, we should scarcely fay that the writer had taken the liberty of lengthening it a syllable. Thus too the word diamond is usually spoken as if two syllables, but it is certainly three, and is fo properly given by Shakspeare:
“ Sir, I must have that diamond from you.” Hadft is now a monosyllable, but did our author therefore take a liberty in writing Hades?
“ Makes ill deeds done. Hadest thou not been by.” Not only this word, but mayeft, doeft, doeth, and the like are uniformly printed in the bible as diffyllables. Does Butler, to ferve his rhime, stretch out the word brethren in the following passage ?
“ And fierce auxiliary men,
“ That came to aid their brethren." Or does he not rather give it, as he found it pronounced, and as it ought to be printed ? The word idly is still more to the purpose: It is at present a diffyllable; what it was in Shakspeare's time may appear from his Comedy of Errors, 1623 :
“ God helpe poore foules how idlely doe they talk :" or, indeed, from any other passage in that or the next edition, being constantly printed as a trisyllable. So, again in Spenser's Faery Queene, 1609, 1611 :
“ Both staring fierce, and holding idlely." And this orthography, which at once illuftrates and supports my fyftem, appears in Shelton's Don Quixote, Sir T. Smith's Commerwealth, Goulart's Histories, Holinsed's Chronicle, and numberless other books; and consequently proves that the word was not stretched out by Spenser to fuit the purpose of his metre, though I am aware that it is misspelled idely in the first edition, which is less correctly printed. But the true and eftablished spelling might have led Mr. Seward and Dr. Farmer to a better reading than gentily, in the following line of Beaumont and Fletcher:
• For when the west wind courts her gently." Proved, I suppose, is rarely found a diffyllable in poetry, if even pronounced as one in profe; but, in the Articles of Religion, Oxford, 1728, it is spelled and divided after my own heart: " -- whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be prove-ed thereby, &c.” The words observation and affe&tion are usually pronounced, the one as consisting of three, the other of four fyllables, but each of them is in reality a syllable longer, and is to properly given by our author:
“ With obfervation, the which he vents :"
Examples, indeed, of this nature would be endless; I shall therefore content myself with producing one more, from the old ballad of The Children in the Wood:
“ You that executors be made,
“ And overseers eke." In this passage the word overseers is evidently and properly used as a quadrisyllable; and, in one black letter copy of the ballad, is accurately printed as such, overseeers; which, if Shakspeare's orthography should ever be an editor's object, may serve as a guide for the regulation of the following line :
“ That high all-feer that I dallied with.” Of the words quoted by Mr. Tyrwhitt, as instances of the liberty supposed to have been taken by Shakspeare, those which I admít to be properly a syllable shorter, certainly obtained the same pronunciation in the age of this author which he has annexed to them. Thus country, monstrous, remembrance, assembly, were not only pronounced, in his time, the two first as three, the other as four syllables, but are fo ftill; and the reason, to borrow Mr. Tyrwhitt's words, “must be obvious to every one who can pronounce the language.' Henry was not only usually pronounced, (as indeed it is at present,) but frequently written as a trisyllable ; even in profe. Thus in Dr. Hutton's Discourse on the Antiquities of Oxford, at the end of Hearne’s Textus Roffenfis, “ King Henery the eights colledge.” See, upon this subject, Wallifii Grammatica, p. 57. That Mr. Tyrwhitt should have treated the words angry, humbler, nobler, used as tri. syllables, among those which could « receive no support from the supposed canon," must have been owing to the obscure or imperfect manner in which I attempted to explain it; as these are, unluckily, fome of the identical instances which the canon, if a canon it must be, is purposely made to support, or, rather, by which it is to be supported: an additional proof that Mr. Tyrwhitt, though he might think it
proper to reprobate my doctrine as “ fanciful and unfounded," did not give himself the trouble to understand it. This canon, in short, is nothing but a moft plain and simple rule of English grammar, which has, in substance, at least, been repeated over and over :-Every word, compounded upon the principles of the English or Saxon language, always preserves its roots unchanged: a rule which, like all others, may be liable to exceptions, but I am aware of none at present. Thus humbler and nobler, for instance, are composed by the adjectives humble, noble, and er, the fign of the comparative degree ; angry, of the noun anger, and y the Saxon adjective termination ig. In the use of all these, as trisyllables, Shakspeare is most correct; and that he is no less so in England, which used to be pronounced as three syllables, and is fo itill, indeed, by those who do not acquire the pronunciation of their mother tongue from the books of purblind pedants, who
want themselves the inftruction they pretend to give, will be evident from the etymology and division of the word, the criteria or touchstones of orthography. Now, let us divide England as we please, or as we can, we shall produce neither its roots nor its meaning; for what can one make of the land of the Engs or the gland of the Ens? but write it as it ought to be written, and divide it as it ought to be divided, En-gle-land, (indeed it will divide itself, for there is no other way) and you will have the sense and derivation of the word, as well as the origin of the nation, at first sight; from the Saxon Engla landa, the land or country of the Engles or Angles: just as Scotland, Ireland, Finland, Lapland, which neither ignorance nor pedantry has been able to corrupt, design the country of the Scot, the Ine, the Fin, and the Lap: and yet in spite of all sense and reason, about half the words in the language are in the same aukward and absurd predicament, than which nothing can be more distorted and unnatural; as, I am confident it must have appeared to Mr. Tyrwhitt, had he voluntarily turned his attention that way, or actually attempted, what he haftily thought would be very easy, to shew that this “ supposed canon was quite fanciful and unfounded;" or, in short, as it will appear to any perfon, who tries to subject the language to the rules of syllabication, or in plainer English to spell his words; a talk which, however useful, and even necesfary, no Dictionary-maker has ever dared to attempt, or, at least, found it possible to execute. Indeed, the same kind of objection which Mr. Tyrwhitt has made to my fyftem might be, and, no doubt, has, by superficial readers, been frequently made to his own, of inserting the final syllable in the genitives Peneus's, Theseus's, Venus's, ox's, ass's, St. James's, Thomas's, Wallis's, &c. and printing, as he has done, Peneufes, Theseuses, Venuses, oxes, afjes, St. Jamefes, Thomafes, Wallifes; an innovation neither less singular nor more just, than the one I am contending for, in the conjugation, or use in composition, of resemble, wrestle, whifle, tickle, &c. But, as I am conscious that I burn day-light, so my readers are probably of opinion that the game is not worth the candle: I fall, therefore, take the hint; and, to thew how much or little one would have occasion, in adopting my system, to deviate from the orthography at present in use, I beg leave, in the few words I add, to introduce that which, as a considerable easy and lasting improvement, I wish to see established. Tedious, then, as my note has become, and imperfect as I am obligeed to leave it, I flatter myself I have completely justifyed this divineeft of authors from the ill founded charge of racking his words, as the tyrant did his captives. I hope too I have, at the fame time, made it appear that there is something radically defective and erroneous in the vulgar methods of spelling, or rather misspelling; which requires correction. A lexicographer of eminence and ability's will have it
very much in his power to introduce a systematical reform, which, once established, would remain unvaryed and invariable as long as the language endureed. This Dr. Johnson might have had the honour of; but, learned and eloquent as he was, I must be permited to think that a profound knowlege of the etymology, principles, and formation of the language he undertook to explain, was not in the number of those many excellencys for which he will be long and deserveedly admireed. Ritson,