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You will remember that in taking up this subject on a former occasion, I proposed to confine myself to the pronunciation, leaving altogether for the present the vocabulary of the dialect, as far too important to be made a mere supplement to the consideration of the vocal sounds, which is at best only an introductory branch of the subject. You will remember also that I proposed to look at the pronunciation under two aspects, the phoneticwhat the characteristic sounds of the dialect actually are; and the historical—their antiquity, source, and authority. Under the former head I endeavoured to rebut a commonly received opinion, that the sounds of the dialect are peculiarly hard and discordant, and to the authorities then quoted in support of this view, I may now add that of the earliest writer on English dialects Alexander Gill, Master of St. Paul's School, and for some years Milton's tutor, who, writing on this subject in 1619, speaks as follows: "But of all our dialects none equal the Western in barbarism, especially if you hear it spoken by the country people of Somerset ; for one might well doubt whether they spoke English or some foreign idiom." In opposition to this view I endeavoured to show, that so far from being rough and unmusical, the pronunciation is remarkably soft and easy, abounding to a
characteristic extent in open vowels and smooth consonants.
Under the second head I have now to illustrate historically, that the pronunciation of the dialect, instead of being, as it is also commonly considered to be, vulgar and corrupt, was, on the contrary, pure and legitimate-I might almost say classical. But in speaking of comparative purity, some standard must of course be assumed, and this is naturally found in Anglo-Saxon, the root-element and mother-tongue of modern English. I need scarcely remind you that at least two-thirds of all the words in the language are of Saxon origin; that these words include the terms expressive of all natural relations, times and seasons, objects, affections, and activities; and that the Saxon element of English is thus the well-spring of its tenderness and strength, the source of its sparkling life and kindly merriment, its healthful bloom and manly vigour. Anglo-Saxon, therefore, as the parent of each, is the standard by which the purity of both literary and provincial English must alike be tested. It used to be thought, indeed, and the opinion may still be held by those who have not considered the subject, that the provincial dialects were only indirectly connected with the root-element of the language-are at best only grandchildren of the mother-tongue, correct English being the direct offspring. The very reverse, however, would be much nearer the truth, literary English being in fact wrought out of the dialects, instead of the dialects being degraded forms of the more refined speech. This is now fully understood; and we
may say with confidence that the dialect is not only the direct offspring of the parent stock, but the elder son, who, having remained always at home in his father's house, cultivating the land of his sires, has retained much of their habits, language, and way of life. Current English, on the other hand, is rather the younger but more active, enterprising son, who, having early left home to see the world, has, in various expeditions, military or commercial, visited many lands, conversed with men of different manners, and gathered in knowledge and experience from every quarter; and who accordingly returns changed not only in appearance, but in speech and manner also, the ruddy Saxon bloom of his cheek tanned to manly brown, his once fair hair of a deeper colour, and all traces of a rustic origin well-nigh lost in his more easy, polished bearing, more rich and copious vocabulary, more free, cultivated, and various life. So changed, indeed, as scarcely to be recognised by the elder, to whom the lapse of time has brought no change, except the inevitable vicissitudes of the seasons; and who, having continued from year to year ploughing the lands his forefathers ploughed, eating the beef it was their pride to raise, and drinking the good October in which their souls delighted, naturally stigmatises the refinements of the younger, whether of speech or manner, as "new-fangled contraptions," "outlandish dixnary talk," "vurrin vrenchivied, slack-twisted ways."
Such, in general, is the relation between current and provincial English. The dialects faithfully reflect the character of those who preserve them,
and are eminently conservative. The genuine native, the true son of the soil, is slow-going and self-contained to a proverb. He looks with distrust and suspicion, if not with aversion and downright hatred, on everything to which he is unaccustomed, resisting every innovation, every novelty, with the whole vis inertia of his nature, which is immense. This characteristic is roughly, but nevertheless truly enough, represented in the following verses, which appeared a few years ago in a local paper, and which I will read as an illustration of the dialect:
THE WOLD ZUMMERZET VARMER.
I be a Zummerzet Varmer, one o' the wolden school;
I uzed ta goo ta plow en marn, an do a good day's work,
When tha Landlards uzed to tell us that the Parliment voke were wrong,
We vollowed 'em; whata'er thay cried, we joained 'em in the
But Varmers now theink var theimselves, and be sich larned
That thay want ta leaid the Landlards, 'stead o' tha Landlards leaiding theam.
Mazheenery now ez all the goo, ya caint doo anything But what thay'll zay you doo et wrong, you must uze some mazheene;
I wesh thay'd tax tha cursed theings, I haite thaer vary zight, Thay tiake the Labrer's work away, and that I'm sure baint right.
Thay talk about thear cheamastry, an tha duze knows whot bezides,
Tes a zign we're gwain ta ruin whan Varmers get za wize;
I years 'em talk ov Varmers' Clubs, and ax 'em what they meain.
Thay tell me o' discussions 'bout mazheenery druv by steam; Thay meet ta talk, and reaid, et zeems, liake other larned men, But out a vield a plowen groun ez a better plaice for theam.
I be a Zummerzet Varmer, one o' the wolden school;
I see that this was written ten years ago, and it is, therefore, to be hoped that the worthy who complains with such indignant pathos has gone to his rest before the recent aggressive operations of the "Bath and West of England Agricultural Society" were set on foot. For their lectures on Clay Soils, in the very market-place where (as he would consider) only the produce of such soils ought to be exhibited and discussed—their agricultural implement show-yards opened at his very door in the district sacred to manual labour, with farmers, old and young, crowding to watch the experimental working of steam-ploughs and flails— would have been quite too much for him. Had he survived so long, this last unmanly outrage on his feelings would certainly have broken his heart; his death would have made a paragraph for the newspapers, headed, "Fatal Accident from a SteamEngine;" and any enlightened jury of his country