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A DISINTERESTED REVIEW.
We have much pleasure in announcing to our readers the publication of a new and interesting work, entitled - The Comic ENGLISH GRAMMAR; ” and we feel that we should neither be doing justice to ourselves nor to the public if we did not recommend every one to be provided with a copy of it at the very earliest opportunity. The author is well known to the world by the facetious introduction to the Latin tongue, with which he has provided the youth of these kingdoms ; indeed, it might have been said that he is personally known to everybody by means of the portrait prefixed as a frontispiece to that work, had that same portrait been at all like him which it is not. But, let it not be supposed from this assertion that we are ourselves acquainted with him, — such a supposition would materially invalidate our credit for impartiality; we certainly have seen him, however, and therefore can speak with some confidence. We are the more earnest upon this point, inasmuch as we know, from good authority, that more than one young lady has already declined an introduction to him, declaring herself certain that he must be a horrid fright. We hear that he is yet a bachelor, and we strongly recommend him to consider what may be the consequences of allowing wrong impressions respecting his personal appearance to get about. Verb. sat. Before we quit this topic we will just observe, that our author, in allowing this portrait to be exhibited to the world, has not by any means laid himself open, like some people whom we could name, to the charge of vanity: he having merely followed the example of Vyse, Dilworth, and even Dr. Johnson, with various other writers on different branches of education, whose miniatures, most of them presenting, like his own, a slightly comic character, have accompanied their respective publications.
The principal reason assigned in the Preface to the “Comic English Grammar,” for the production of that work, is the very proper one that all previous grammars have proved inadequate to the attainment of their object, - i. e. the promotion of conversational elegance. This assertion is substantiated by a passing reference to the language commonly employed by the “ useful” members of society; and we must admit that the language of the Sovereign people has no pretension to be called the King's English. We do not wish to forestal the author in his exemplifications of this great truth, but will simply take the liberty of calling the attention of our readers to the singularly infelicitous mode in which certain itinerant venders of green-grocery, drivers and conductors of public vehicles, and benevolent individuals, who amuse themselves by removing superfluities from our public streets, are in the habit of communicating their ideas to each other. We would, also, direct their notice to the dialects prevalent in Whitechapel, Spitalfields, and St. Giles's, and would put it to them, as enlightened persons, whether all of these are not appalling. Then, too, there are the countless vulgar. isms which infest our provinces. The comparatively minor, but positively shocking improprieties of Pentonville, Islington, Woolwich, Peckham-Rye, and Camberwell, must also be taken into account. These facts having been duly digested, let it be considered
how many natives of this country, cockneys and countrymen, (to say nothing of people who call themselves “ genteel,” and of various literary characters,) there are, who constantly talk and write bad English: and then, let the question be asked, “In what condition is Great Britain with respect to Grammar?” We do not pause for a reply, because we feel convinced that we shall receive one in less time than the vernacular pronunciation of the name of Mr. John Robinson would occupy. We shall be told that the language of the country is in an alarming state. This being admitted, no one will deny that any attempt to reform it is in the highest degree commendable. “In great attempts— " Our readers know the rest, and therefore well understand us when we say that no worse fate could possibly have awaited our author than a “glorious” failure ; but, should any one fancy that he has failed, all we can say is, that our opinion - may we be pardoned for a little bit of “ Comic English”? - is “quite different.” To the Senate, the Bar, — for, if
the best-regulated assemblies, — to the world of fashion, to the nobility, clergy, gentry, and public in general, we confidently recommend this little work. On students in law, linen-drapery, and medicine, on the swell mob, on mayors and aldermen, on hospital committee-men, and on all others who occasionally fall into inaccuracies of language, we would press its diligent perusal. But, more especially do we solicit towards it the attention of select vestries, and of all manner of parochial boards and authorities, who, more than any other sorts and conditions of men, perhaps, stand in need of the instructions which it contains. And now, (we address ourselves more particularly to the classes of readers last-mentioned, and to the agricultural population,) that the public may not, on our mere recommendation, purchase “a pig in a poke," we will exhibit a few samples of the work. Of the achievements both of the author and artist we shall allege no more than that, were we in their places we should say, as the clown in the pantomime last year expressively remarked, “We think we've done it rayther just a few !”
One of the chief merits of the Comic English Grammar consists in the profound spirit of philosophy which pervades its pages. We have often had occasion to find fault with grammars in general, for dealing so largely as they do in mere assertion, unsupported by any shadow of proof. One thing is called masculine, another feminine, and a third neuter; and to the question Why? or Wherefore? we obtain no other answer than, “ Because it is.” If grammarians will give old women's reasons, they deserve, and must be content to be looked upon as old women. It is to be hoped, however, that they will hereafter imitate the illustrious example now set them by our author, who, in Etymology, for instance, Chapter III. Section 2, while treating of the very subject just alluded to, viz. : “Gender," endeavours to frame a rational hypothesis in order to account for the peculiarities which distinguish certain words in reference to it. The Sun, as some of our readers are probably aware, rejoices in the masculine, the Moon in the feminine gender. This instead of being stated in the Comic English Grammar as a mere dry fact destined to effect an ingress at one ear of the student only to make its exit at the other, or else to be thrown by into some odd ventricle or corner of the brain, where it might be hid among a heap of rubbish, and probably not be forthcoming when wanted, is impressed upon the mind by a theory which, to say the least of it, is ingenious.
Astronomy tells us that the Moon's light is derived from the Sun,—and our author teaches us that we are enabled by that fact to understand the principle on which different genders are ascribed to these two heavenly bodies. The Sun, he says, like a rich husband, affords the Moon the means of shining; those means consisting, of course, in the golden rays which he so profusely lavishes upon her. These the Moon, who, like the sex in general, is fond of change, reflects towards the Earth and elsewhere, in the shape of silvery light, and, to make the analogy more perfect, the time that she chooses for shining is the night; just as all fine ladies do in making their toilet for the ball or the opera. So much for the author. How the artist has illustrated the idea, the reader shall judge in an instant.
We have already hinted at the Science which will be found, here and there, to enrich the pages of the work. It will also be seen to contain sundry hints with regard to morality, and reflections on human nature, suggested by the various subjects particularly discussed. Thus in Chapter III. Section 4, of Case, we are informed that
And Section 1 of Chaper V, treating of personal pronouns, gives occasion for a glance at the personal language sometimes employed at
So, towards the conclusion of the Etymology, it is remarked, with regard to Conjunctions, that they are sometimes effected by the Reverend members of the Clerical profession in joining hands; but the too romantic reader has, at the same time, the salutary caution impressed upon him, that hearts are not always in such cases conjoined as well; as in the following specimen of
In the political allusions which, among other things, are made in the course of the work, much less prejudice and illiberality are manifested than, we are sorry to say, the generality of modern productions exhibit. For instance, in an example under the head of “ Conjunctions Disjunctive,” we are informed that, “ Though Lord John is as cunning as a Fox, yet Sir Robert is as deep as a Pitt.” The author evidently desires to be fair ; and with Queen Dido (in a double sense of the word a fair one), might have said
“ Tros Tyriusque mihi nullo discrimine agetur.” A little further on, too, in illustration of the same subject, he remarks, with reference to a recent legislative measure, “ We pay less for our letters, but shall have to pay more for our panes ; they have lightened our postage, but they will darken our rooms.”