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must long since have been forgotten, for it certainly was unknown to the moderns, at least to the Parisians ; which to prove, I need use but one plain simple argument. They are as well instructed, judicious, and prudent a people as exist any where in the world, all professing, like inyself, to be lovers of economy ; and from the many heavy taxes required from them by the necessities of the state, have surely reason to be economical. I say it is impossible that so sensible a people, under such circumstances, should have lived so long by the smoky, unwholesome, and enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known that they might have as much pure light of the sun for nothing. I am, &c.
Of modern innovations in the English language,
and in the art of Printing,
Philadelphia, Dec. 26, 1789. DEAR SIR, I received, some time since, your Dissertations on the English Language. It is an excellent work, and will be greatly useful in turning the thoughts of our country. men to correct writing. Please to accept my thanks for it, as well as for the great honor you have done me in its dedication. I ought to have made this acknowledgement sooner, but much indisposition prevented me.
I cannot but applaud your zeal for preserving the purity of our language both in its expression and pro. nunciation, and in correcting the popular errors several of our states are continually falling in with respect to both. Give me leave to mention some in them, though possibly they may already have occurred to you. I wish, however, that in some future publication of yours you would set a discountedancing mark upon them.
The first I remember is the word inproved. When I left New-England in the year 1723, this word had neve er been used among us, as far as I know, but in the 'sense of ameliorated, or made better, except once in a very old book of Dr. Mather's, entitled " Remarkable . Providences." As that man wrole a very obscure hand, I remember that when I read that word in his book, used instead of the word employed, Į conjectured that it was an error of the printer, who had mistaken a short l in the writing for an r, and a y with 100 short a tail for a v, whereby emfiloyed was converted into improved: but when I returned to Boston, in 1733, I found that this change had obtained favour, and was then become common ; for I met with it often in perusing the news. papers, where it“ frequently inade an appearance rather ridiculous. Such, for instance, as the advertisement of a country housc to be sold, which had been many years improved as a tavern; and in the character of a deceasert country genileman, that he had been, for more than thirty years, improved as a justice of the peace. This use of the word imfirove is peculiar to New-Enge lara, and not to be met with among any other speakers of English, either on this or the other side of the water.
During'ny late absence in France, I find that several other new words have been introduced into our parlia. mentary languuze. For example, I find a verb forined from the substantive notice. I should not have noticed this, were it not that the gentlemun, &c. Also another verb, from the substantive advocate : The gentleman who advocates, or who 1.18 advocated that motion, &c. Ana other from the substantive progress, the most awkward and abominable of the three: The committee having progressed, resolved to alljourn. The word opposed, though not a new word, I find used in a new manner, as, The gentlemen who are opposed to this nueasure, to which I have also myself always been opposed. If you should happen to be of niy opinion with respect to these linovations, you will use your authority in rep!e bating then:.
. The Latin language, long the vehicle used in distri. buting knowledge among the different nations of Europe, is daily more and more neglected; and one of the mode 'ern tongues,' viz. French, seems, in point of universality, to have supplied its place. It is spoken in all the courts of Europe ; and most of ite literati, even those who do not speak it, have acquired knowledge of it, to enable them easily to read the books that are written in it. This gives a considerable advantage to that nacion, It enables its authors to inculcate and spread through other nations, such sentiments and opinions, on important points, as are most conducive to its interests, or which may contribute to its reputation, by promoting the common interests of mankind. It is, perhaps, owing to its being written in French, that Voltaire's Treatise on Toleration has had so sudden and so great an effect on the bigotry of Europe, as almost entirely to disarm it. The general use of the French language has likewise a very advantageous effect on the profits of the bookselling branch of commerce, it being well known, that the more copies can be sold that are struck off from one composition of types, the profits increase in a much greater proportion than they do in making a greater number of pieces in any other kind of manu. facture. And at present there is no capital town in Europe without a French book-seller's shop corresponding with Paris. Our English bids fair to obiain the second place. The great body of excellent printed sermons in our language, and the freedoin of our wri.. tings on political subjects, have induced a great number of divines of different sects and nations, as well as genre tlemen concerned in public affaii's, to study it, so far at least as to read it. And if we were to endeavor the facilitating its progress, the study of our tongue might become much more general. Those who have employed some part of their time in learning a new lana guage, must have fyequently observed, that while their acquaintance with it was imperfeci, difficulties, smail in themselves, operated as great ones in obstructing
their progress. A book, for example, ill printed, or a : pronunciation in speaking not well articulated, would render a sentence unintelligible, which from a. clear print, or a distinct speaker, would have been im mediately comprehended. If, therefore, we would have the benefit of seeing our language more generally known among mankind, we should endeavor to remove all the difficulties, however small, that discourage the Jearning of it. But I am sorry to observe, that of late. years, those difficulties, instead of being diminished, have been augmented. • In examining the English books that were printed between the restoration and the accession of George the Second, we may observe, that all substantives were begun with a capital, in which we imitated our mother tongue, the German. This was more particularly useful to those who were not well acquainted with the English, there being such a prodigious number of our words that are both verbs and substantives, and spelt in the same manner, though often accented differently in pronunciation. This method has, by the fancy of printers, of late years, been entirely laid aside , from an idea, that suppressing the capitals shews. the character to greater advantage ;; those letters, prominent ide: bove the line, disturbing its even, regular appearance The effect of this change is so considerable, that a learned man in France, who used to read our books, though not perfectly acquainted with our language, in. conversation with me on the subject of our authors, alm. tributed the greater obscurity he found in our ipoderni books, compared with those written in the period above mentioned, to change of style for the worse in our wrie ters; of which mistake I convinced him, by inaikim for him each substantive with a capital, in a paragraph, which he then easily understood, though before he. could not comprehend it. This shews the inconvene. ience of that pretended improvement.
From the same fondness for an uniform and even appearance of characters in the line, the printers jjave:
of late banished also the Italic types, in which words of importance to be attended to in the sense of the sen. tence, and words on which an emphasis should be put in reading, used to be printed. And lately another fancy has induced other printers to use the round instead of the long one, which formerly served well to clistinguish a word readily by its varied appearalice. Certainly the omitting this prominent letter makes a fine appear more even, but renders it less immediately legible; as the paring of all men's noses might smooth and level their faces, but would render their physiognomies less distinguishable. Add to all these improve. ments backwards, another modern fancy, that grey printing is more beautiful than black. Hence the Engdish new books are printed in so dim a character, as to be read with difficulty by old eyes, unless in a very strong light and with gooel glasses. Whoever compares a volume of the Gentlemali's Magazine, printed between the years 1731 and 1740, with one of those printed in the last ten years, will be convinced of the much greater degree of perspicuity given by the black than by the grey. Lord Chesterfield pleasantly remarked this difference to Faulkener, the printer of the Dublin Journal, who was vainly making encomiums on. his own paper, as the niost complete of any in the world. “ But Mr. laulkener," says my lord, o don't you think it might be still farther improved, by using paper and ink not quite so near of a colour.''For all. these reasons, I cannot but wish that our American printers would, in their editions, avoid these fancied. improvements, and thereby vender their works more: arteable to foreigners in Europe, to the great advanMage of our bookselling commerce.
Farther, to be more sensible of the advantage of clear and distinct printing, let us consider the assistance it affords in reading well aloud to an auditory. In so do ing the eye generally slides forward three or four words before the voice. If the sight cleariy distinguishes what the coming words are, it gives time to order the