Imágenes de páginas

A Hand-Book of the English Language, for the use of

Students of the Universities, and Higher Classes of
Schools. By R. G. LATHAM, M.D., F.R.S., late Pro-
fessor of the English Language and Literature, Uni-
versity College, London. New-York: D. Appleton

& Co. 1852.
On the Study of Words. By RICHARD CHENEVIX TRENCH,

B.A., Vicar of Lichenstoke, Hants, Examining Chap-
lain to the Lord Bishop of Oxford, and Professor of
Divinity, King's College, London. From the second
London edition, revised and enlarged. Redfield.
New-York. 1852.

[ocr errors]

The freedoms which have been taken with our language in present times, by a class of persons who are audacious in degree with their ignorance, render every publication from good writers, who aim at preserving the purity of the language, and are prepared to show good authorities for what they declare, a matter of just congratulation to the friends of pure literature. Such labourers are particularly essential to our safety at a time like the present, when all authority seems to be offensive to self-esteem, and when whim and caprice, quite as frequently as the argument of convenience, are relied on, to justify all the usurpations of vulgarity. The two writers whose title pages are above given, belong to a class whom it is always a pleasure with us to commend to public confidence. In relation to the subjects which they discuss in these volumes, they deserve the utmost deference and consideration from all sorts of readers. The learned will go over their pages with renewed strength in their own convictions ; the uninformed will find them ample sources of instruction, at once deep, pure and grateful—they equally conduct to the wells of "English undefiled," and exhibit only a proper vigilance in their endeavours to keep their waters pure. We shall have to indicate their merits and characteristics very briefly, but hurry over them with the less reluctance, in consequence of the excellence and cheapness of the editions now available to the American public. We should desire to see them-particularly the work of Trench-in the hands of every young American,

now that we are threatened, by the press itself, and through the medium of language, with a new irruption of Vandalism, and a return to ancient barbarisms.

Dr. Latham's work is a compendious embodiment of the results of his philological labours, as set forth in his larger treatises. These treatises are devoted to investigations into the English language, conducted by the light and upon the principles of scientific comparative philology. The reputation which Dr. Latham has acquired as a philologer is considerable; but we are unable to undertake a critical discussion of the results of his labours, because, upon many points, no one could honestly be justified in assuming the office of the critic, without an extent of acquirement in scientific philology, to which neither our pressing occupations, nor our limited opportunities of access to the requisite literary apparatus, have permitted us to aspire. We are, here, perpetually reminded of the imperfections in our public libraries; of the want of public libraries of any great value in the South, and the pressing necessity which exists for liberal endowments of the literary institutions in every State, which shall enable the community to meet the growing wants and wishe of the student. Without some large additions to our present stock of books, it is scarcely possible that our workers in profound studies, however devout, shall be able to pass much beyond the mere threshhold of learning. We may gain the entrance, but must linger in the court, not

“ With base acknowledgement of soul too low

To tread the heights that woo us as we go ;" but simply through the want of the absolute helps and stairways, without a certain number of which, no industry, no devotion, can possibly ascend beyond a certain moderate eminence.

The consequence of this deficiency of the apparatus of learning, and a proper education, not less than of the peculiar moral condition of the country, is a lack of thoroughness, even where thoroughness is the essential object of pursuit. We are kept, perforce, upon the surface, when the desire and the duty equally prompt to dive. The danger is, accordingly, that the country will be discredited, by reason of its superficiality-the progress of pretension

being such, in fact, as to hold forth a promise to vanity and ambition, such as the reality and the truth cannot hope to approximate. We doubt if the real learning of the country be half as solid and certain at this moment as it was twenty-five years ago.

Where are the young Legarés of the South, the young Everetts of the North, worthy to take the place of these two eminent worthies in the schools ? Education is, perhaps, more extensively spread; but is it as well comprehended, as judiciously used, as valuable to the possessor, as honourable to the country? We are constrained to doubt, if not positively to deny. For our own part, we confess that we see no sort of evidence, anywhere, to this effect. We see no such devotion to learning for its own sake-no toilsome selfsacrifice to letters-no giving up of the external world, its small attractions and vulgar interests—no isolation, in almost monastic retreats, consecrated to communion with the mighty masters, who still “rule us from their urns.” The more familiar spectacle is one which possesses few of the features of this; and we too commonly find that, what this or that city or society recognizes and asserts as learning, is but a specious counterfeit, a fraudulent presentment, which, presuming only on a common degree of ignorance, far greater than its own, asserts an impudent claim to a rank infinitely beyond its genuine acquisitions.

It would be really provoking, indeed, were it not so supremely ridiculous, to behold the pretentious complacency with which our shallow-pated and conceited sciolists will babble about "philology," as about other things above them-simply upon the strength of a school-boy acquaintance with the characters of two or three alphabets. They have hammered over the alphabet, and grow grammarians, forsooth! They have dipped into Eastwick's Translation of Bopp's Comparative Grammar, and you are instantly required to admit their claims as philologists. They fancy this a tremendous performance, and, for such as they, it certainly is. Now, we must not be understood as saying anything of Bopp which shall be construed to convey a disparaging impression of his true merits. Bopp's Grammar is a very valuable one, indeed, in its sphere; but Bopp was not a critical Greek scholar, and his labours belong only to one department of the science of philology. One of the most distinguished

scholars of the day holds the following language, in reference to this particular :* " Bopp's Comparative Grammar is conspicuously deficient in that critical tact which is rarely found in any one who has not passed through the regular training of the older classical scholarship ; nor, indeed, does this excellent etymologer give any evidence of an extensive familiarity with the Greek or Latin authors. Intimately acquainted with the old languages of India and Persia, and well disciplined in Grimm's Teutonic Philology, Bopp has not been able to acquire either the knowledge or the habits of mind which characterize the ripe and elegant scholar. His own field is wide, and he has well surveyed it. But he has not crossed its boundaries." And again: “It is much to be regretted that Lord Ellesmere, to whose exertions and liberality the English student is indebted for a translation of Bopp's Vergleichende Grammatik, did not seek the assistance of some classical scholar, who might have supplied the defects of his author, and corrected his oversights. The great knowledge of Sanscrit possessed by the editor, Professor Wilson, was not needed for the mere translation of Bopp's Grammar, which, on that subject, speaks for itself; and it is clear that the Professor and his coadjutor, Lieutenant Eastwick, were not competently acquainted with the German language in general, or with the grammatical technicalities of German philology in particular.” On the other hand, some classical scholars have injuriously neglected comparative philology, as Lobeck and Ellendt, for instance.

But, even at this day, men can be found presumptuous enough to discuss comparative philology, who are profoundly ignorant of all that has been done since Bopp's Grammar was published, in many branches of this department of science, and who have never even perused the immortal master-piece upon the general subject, the essay “Ueber die Verschiedenheit des Menschlichen Sprachbaeús und ibren Einfluss auf die geistige Entwickelung des Menschengeschlechts;" to say nothing of their absolute incompetency to appreciate even Bopp's researches, without a knowledge of Teutonic philology, some acquaintance with Sanscrit, and for detecting and

* Donaldson.


judging his errors, deficiencies and oversights—a critical acquaintance with Greek philology. Need we refer to the philologaster, who would have us believe that our word man is contained in the first syllable of úvýp, and that Bav is the radical syllable of baivw; (!)* or the Ancien Professeur," who is so far behind the time as to undertake the revival of the exploded derivation of the Indo-grammar from the Semitic tongues.

Confessing thus, that we have no patience with that class of conceited triflers, who, at second and third hand, will presume to discuss topics which are entirely beyond their possession and pursuit, and who, accordingly, deal out their insipid platitudes, to the admiration of cliques, who are only the more desperately ignorant than themselves, we shall modestly refrain from any critique upon Dr. Latham's philological labours, (by the way, he has “become very generally known as a collector of philological facts, mainly with reference to the languages of Africa,'') and confine ourselves to mentioning some of the results at which he has arrived, and which he gives summarily in the book before us, having discussed them in detailed investigations in his larger treatises.

From A.D. 449 to A.D. 547, there were, according to tradition, six consecutive settlements of tribes from the continent, in different parts of Britain. The details do not rest upon contemporary evidence, and there is direct evidence in favour of there having been German tribes in England anterior to A.D. 447. Therefore, the displacement of the original British tribes began at an earlier period than is generally supposed, (perhaps about the middle of the fourth century,) and was also more gradual than was usually admitted. The Jutes, Saxons and Angles are commonly represented, on the authority of Bede, first, as the chief sources of the present English population of Great Britain. But there are good reasons (which Dr. Latham states briefly in the present work,) for believing that the Angles and Saxons were the same people, and that no such people as the Jutes ever left Germany to settle in Britain. In reaching this conclusion, as also the fact that the Germanic invaders of Britain were Anglo. Saxons, from the area of Hanover, Oldenburg, Westpha

* See Neu Cratylus, 2d edition, note to p. 222.

« AnteriorContinuar »