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THE following Poems by the author of "Alton Locke," "Hypatia," etc., are forwarded to us in advance of their publication in London. Ticknor & Fields are preparing to issue the volume to which they belong, simultaneously with its appearance on the other side of the Atlantic.
A THOUGHT FROM THE RHINE.
BY CHARLES KINGSLEY.
I HEARD an Eagle crying all alone
Above the vineyards, through the summer night,
Is trenched and walled by busy-handed men,
Are trim with grapes, which swell from hour to hour
For joy at their own riches :-So, I thought,
THE baby sings not on its mother's breast-
O stunted thoughts! O chill and fettered rhyme !
So-like a child who whiles away the time
Watching its mother homeward through the glen;
Tells to his listening mate within the nest
Till all the wakened woodlands laugh and thrill,
And rings aloft, not smooth, yet clear and strong.
An American Dictionary of the English Language. By NOAH WEBSTER. 1828-1853.
SOME five-and-twenty years have elapsed since this Dictionary was first issued; and, to its compiler and publishers, they have been years of success. The time for producing the work, was fortunate. Our language had grown rapidly for a considerable period: its vocabulary was largely increased by the contributions of science, by numerous adoptions from foreign tongues, and by an accumulation of derivatives from our own established words; so that a well-digested record of the progress of the language was really needed. Besides, the parties in interest, following the suggestion of the title-page, had industriously cultivated an Esprit-Americain in behalf of the book which materially aided its favorable reception.
If Webster had confined himself to recording such additions of words as usage had sanctioned; to a careful sifting of etymologies; and to his own valuable definitions; his work would have been as great an acquisition to literature as to his individual profit. But, unfortunately, like many other men, priding himself most on what he was least fitted for; and assuming a character for which few men are fitted-that of a reformer-he added to his legitimate labour the gratuitous task of improving the orthography of the language.
True, language, like all things human, is mutable. So long as it continues to be spoken, it will continue to change. From the days of JOHNSON to the days of Webster, thousands of words had been added to the common stock, and many variations had taken place in the meanings of words. Spelling, also, had undergone some modifications. For example, the k of music, physic, etc., and the u of favour, honour, etc., had been gradually dropped by good writers, though probably without good reason; and thus orthography, too, was in a state of progress. This was an undesirable state; for it left the student without any absolute standard. And if the student chose
to refine upon the matter, he would soon see that not only was there no absolute standard, but that the very principles of our orthography-its rules and its analogies-were exceedingly defective.
This is all true; but it is also true that discovering defects is one thing; curing them, another: and it is the fate of reformers, generally, to propose remedies that are worse than the disease. They can see that such and such wheels of the machine have an eccentric motion; but they can not see that cutting away what they deem superfluous flanges may disturb other wheels that are regulated by that very eccentricity. A change which the reformer thinks will promote simplicity, may happen to produce confusion; and, unless he fully understands the machinery, he is pretty certain to do mischief by meddling with it.
This would seem to be Webster's predicament. He aspired to a Newtonian law that would reconcile all orthographical inconsistencies; he produced certain arbitrary rules of his own creation that reconcile nothing, that are whimsically limited in their scope, and are ridiculous from their reciprocal contradictions.
Webster remarks that "the chief value of a dictionary consists in its definitions." Some one else remarks, that "opinions differ." Yet it must be acknowledged that Webster's remark, as applied to his own dictionary, is not far from the truth. The vocabulary of his book has, certainly, the merit of amplitude. He says it "contains sixteen thousand words not to be found in any similar, preceding work:" but when one opens the book in the middle and finds, consecutively,
he may, perhaps, doubt whether "the value of the dictionary" increases in the direct ratio of its voluminousness. Webster's etymologies, too, are copious probably more so than any preceding lexicographer's, in the propor tion of three to one: but as their genuineness is not always beyond question, their quantity is hardly a fair measure of their "value." The orthography of the dictionary requires a more careful consideration.
The principles or rather, the dogmas-of Webster's proposed reform, are embodied in the following enumerated paragraphs:
1. Considering that the tendency of our language to greater simplicity and broader analogies ought to be watched and cherished with the utmost care, he felt that whenever a movement toward wider analogies and more general rules had advanced so far as to leave but few exceptions to impede
its progress, those exceptions ought to be set aside at once and the analogy rendered complete.
2. We had numerous words derived from the French, originally ending in re, as cidre, chambre, etc. And, as these had gradually conformed to English spelling, until the number ending in re was reduced to fifteen or twenty, with their derivatives, it was necessary to complete the analogy at once by transposing the terminations of the remainder. Acre, massacre, and lucre, however, are necessary exceptions, since transposing their terminations would endanger their pronunciation.
3. We had many hundreds of primitives ending in a single consonant, whose derivatives were formed by the addition of ing, ed, er, etc., and in their derivatives, this single consonant was doubled when the accent fell on it, as forget, forgetting; but it was not doubled when the accent fell on a preceding syllable, as garden, gardener. There were also about fifty words ending in 7, in which the analogy was violated, as travel, traveller. It was necessary, therefore, at once to strike out the superfluous l from these fifty words. But the l was retained in chancellor, metallurgy, crystalline, with their cognates, because they were derived directly from the Latin and Greek, cancellarius, metallum, and spiora2.2.05.
4. Expense, recompense, license, which formerly had a c in their last syllable, had since taken an 8, because 8 is used in their derivatives, as, expensive, etc. As in this instance, it was necessary to change only three words to complete the analogy, namely, defence, offence, and pretence, their c was at once replaced with an 8, and they were written defense, offense, and pretense. It had been asked, why not spell fence in the same manner? And nothing is easier than the answer; the derivatives require the c; as, fencing, etc., and therefore the c of fence is retained.
5. Foretel, instil, distil, fulfil should be written foretell, instill, etc., because their derivatives, fortelling, instilling, etc., are so written.
6. Dulness, fulness, skilful, wilful, must be written dullness, fullness, etc., because their primitives are so written, as, dull, full, skill, will. Walker says there is no reason why we should not write dullness, fullness, skillful, and willful, as well as stiffness, gruffness, and crossness.
7. Such compounds as befall, miscall, install, forestall, inthrall, enroll, and their derivatives befulling, miscalling, installing, forestalling, inthrall ment, and enrollment, are spelled with the ll, to prevent a false pronunciation.
8. Mould and moult should be spelled mold and molt, because the u has been dropped or never was used in gold, bold, fold, colt.
9. Wo should be spelled woe, because doe, foe, hoe, toe, and all similar nouns of one syllable are so spelled. The parts of speech other than nouns, as go, so, no, retain the termination in o; as, also, do nouns of more than one syllable, as motto, potato, tomato.
10. Practise, the verb, should be spelled practice, because the noun is so spelled. Drought should be spelled drouth, because it is extensively so pro
nounced. Height should be spelled hight, because it was so spelled by MILTON. Ton should be spelled tun, and molasses, melasses, because that spelling is more consistent with the etymologies. Contemporary should be spelled cotemporary, because it is more easily pronounced. Plough should be spelled plow, because that spelling more naturally represents the sound. 11. Verbs from the Greek 5, and others formed in analogy with them, have the termination in ize, as baptize, legalize, etc. Catechise, and exorcise are exceptions. Verbs and some nouns, derived directly from the French and a few from other sources, have the termination in ise, as advertise, advise, affranchise, chastise, circumcise, comprise, compromise, criticise, demise, despise, devise, disfranchise, disguise, emprise, enfranchise, enterprise, exercise, merchandise, misprise, premise, reprise, revise, supervise, surmise, surprise.
These eleven paragraphs, dogmas, rules, or whatever they may be termed, form with the exception of a few "instances" entirely too trivial to be discussed, the sum-total of Webster's orthographical creed, presented substantially in his own words.
1. The assumptions of number one are characteristic and suggestive. They prophetically weigh and measure the lexicographer. Nobody can doubt what sort of orthography will follow such a preamble. The "tendencies" which it would puzzle any other philologist to discover: the complacent "solicitude" with which those tendencies are "watched and cherished": and the heroism which summarily removes impeding "exceptions" (regardless of consequences, as reformers always nobly proclaim themselves) are consistent with each other and pleasant to look upon.
2. Webster found fifteen or twenty words derived from the French and retaining their original termination in re, "although numerous other words, of similar derivation and termination had gradually conformed to English spelling," that is, the re had been transposed to er, as cidre to cider, chambre to chamber, etc. What Webster means by the term "English spelling,” in this connection, is not obvious: re is as consistent with any admitted or fixed principle of English orthography, as er: but the reason why these fifteen or twenty words retained their original termination, and why Webster should have let them alone, is obvious enough to every one but himself, namely, that their derivatives required it. As Webster found the words, they stood thus: