Page images

sity of referring to an index predi- phy and learning to be dealt with cates some deficiency in such fami- in any other but a casual handling liarity. In the days when no pam- on the present occasion. It is a phlet or parliamentary speech was scene within which a reflective percomplete without a passage from son may form an estimate of the the classics, there was some excuse human mind in its greatness and in for perpetually pottering in the Del- its littleness. How vast is the inphine indexes. But it is to be hoped genuity, the capacity for systematisthat we have now reached that ing the actual accumulation of facts simplicity and good taste which in the memory, which have all will tolerate no quotation except poured their riches in here; and for its exceeding aptness, and that yet how much preposterous noncan only be felt by one entirely sense has been brought into it by familiar with all its surroundings etymological vagaries! Some of in its native place.

the wildest flights of the human Hence there is a set of books imagination have been taken in etythat ought to be positively drum- mology. It has a fascination for med out of literature. These are intellects of a rambling order, like they which profess to supply quota- gambling or other wicked practices, tions ready selected and ranged in and leads them into thorough inalphabetical order. Our reason for tellectual dissipation. Some lancondemning these is already express- guages are far more apt to excite it ed. We would not, however, de- than others. The German is ety. sire to extend it to some old books mological through and through, but known as anthologies, wherein are with a compact commonplace sort collected passages from various of adjustment which has little requarters, ranged generally in alpha- lish for the wilder set of devotees. betical order, according to the mat- The Celtic is usually the resort of ter to which they refer. In these those of them who have not access one is often introduced to a gem to the Oriental treasures. They can found among the rubbish of some do almost anything they please with voluminously inaccessible author. it. Colonel Vallancy resolved to be The earliest of these which we hap- at the bottom of the words used by pen to be acquainted with, called the Carthaginian in search of his Margarita Poetica,' professes to be daughter, in Terence's play. To compiled by Albertus de Eyb, Doc- most people it seemed something tor of Laws, and is published in the of the same kind as the chorus put year 1503. The copy presently on by Captain Marryat in the mouth the table is in a richly- stamped of a large Chinese army, who, rebinding, where the Gothic forms still treating before a few hundreds of predominate. It professes to be the Tartars, sing a song of triumph property of the monastery of Au- as they hasten away—“Souchong, gustins at Herbepolis or Wurtzburg. polly hong, tee tum, tilly lilly, tee It is one of the books in which the tum tee !” But Colonel Vallancy capitals were filled in by the old made out the expressions to be way of illumination, and the monks pure Irish-too pure, in fact ; for seem to have gone the length of his countrymen reminded him that drawing the outline for an illumin- the kind of Irish he made out of ated letter A, but no further-per- the old Carthaginian's words was not haps they had other things to think a hundred years old. of.' Another of these collections, Topographical antiquaries bent on exceedingly rich and curious, pub- giving etymologies are sure to find lished in a lumbering folio in 1607, that the Celtic can accommodate is called the ‘Polyanthea Nova.' them. The Scotch parish minister

Passing from mere simple indexes almost invariably finds refuge for to dictionaries, we enter a field too the name of his parish in that wide and rich in all sorts of philoso- primitive and patriarchal language. .


We remember one curious excep- with each other than a boot-jack has tion—the parish of Stobo: “Sto," with a boat-hook. The former term Latin for I stand". beau," applied to the doings of dragoons, French for “beautiful,” to be sure! the latter to the sweeping character and so exactly applicable ! The most of the method of prosecution, which cautious and sceptical are

took in all like a drag-net. Although, times taken off their feet by the then, etymologists have dreamed magic of concurring sounds. Horne dreams, and those who have attemptTooke, who was clever enough in his ed to put the world under the desrailings against the weakness of potism of a universal language of

a others, was himself led by analogies their own self-willed construction into very odd verbal companion- a favourite passion at one timeship. Yet he could play on the ety- have utterly failed, yet inch by mologists after this fashion : What inch the linguistic philosophers are is required is to derive King Pepin gaining sure positions, and closing from Hotspur, and the feat is per- round us with menacing results. formed thus, to the best of our From the labours of the later invesrecollection : "Hotspur, ootep, jnep, tigators, especially those untiring Whep-diaper napkin, Pipken, Pip- obstinate Germans, it seems to be

, pen King, King Peppen."

coming to this, that all the world Yet with a perfect adherence to shall be subject to what they term truth and accuracy, few depart- philosophical grammar. All of us, ments of nature are capable of giv- from Greenland's icy mountains ing forth more striking phenomena to India's coral strand," whatever than etymology. No less marvel- be the external form of our speech, lous than the results, too, is generally are compelled to arrange it accordthe genius that discovers them. It ing to certain subtle laws, which, is impossible to describe its nature, though invisible, are not the less impossible also to create it by teach- absolute. ing where it does not exist. It is But that is not all. We seem an instinct in some minds, like the free to differ from each other in the special capacities of the pointer. form of our speech, though it all Words the most unlike are brought comes under the same law as to its from distant regions and united to- essence; and differed we have from gether in family unity, while those time immemorial—since the buildwhich seem almost identical are for ing of the Tower of Babel, at all ever disconnected. Queen Chris- events—making such a variety in the tina of Sweden happily character- groups of languages, as every one is ised the acme of etymological ac- more or less aware of. But here complishment when she said of too we are not following our own Ménage that he knew notonly where free-will, but acting blindly under the winds came rom, but where the law of some despotic rule. they went to. To take very common Our language undergoes a change examples, among the least doubtful to suit it to its shifting surroundthings in all knowledge is that the ings, but we have no more to do two words so unlike each other, with that change than the tree

and verse, come from the same has with its own growing, We Latin root, verto. Stranger comes “steam” up the Rhine, we

coal' from extraunus : we can see this our vessels, we “telegraph” to our pretty well if we go the length of friends, we “turn off” and “put on? the French half-way house, étranger. the gas,--and so on. Our grandOn the other hand, while Louis fathers had not these terms because XIV.was persecuting the Huguenots they had no use for them, and they of France with the dragonet, Charles have come to us because we have II.'s ministers were persecuting the use for them. But who gave us Covenanters with the drag-net. The them? We can point to the men two words had no more in common who, step by step, have invented


[ocr errors]

the improvements which made oc- suming a less lofty strain, Monsieur casion for the words, but the Jourdan exulted in that specialty words themselves grew up under of it that he talked prose-always some occult law without any one had and always would; but then being their author. Neither by Monsieur Jourdan was a goose, and individual effort, nor by a vote of this boast is only given as an inthe most powerful collective body, stance of his egregious folly. can we adjust our language to our One comfort in viewing the affair will. The nearest thing to success- is, that we are all in the same posiful dictation in the tenor of lan- tion, high or low. The greatest guage is when an Act of Parliament genius in the world cannot make a creates functions, and provides that new word or a new grammatical the person who is to perform them term. The world, gathering up new shall be called “the Master of the words under the absolute law which Rigmarole,” or suchlike.

directs it, may perhaps find a new It appears, then, that we follow a word in his writings; but so it may blind destiny, and have no more in the kennel, and with far greater choice in our way of working out a probability. Neology, or the use language than bees have in the con- of new words, is a literary crime. struction of their cells, or spiders in The man of genius, if he would be the weaving of their webs. The listened to and have influence, utmost achievement which intellect must work with the old. They have can perform upon the manufacture been constructed and brought into is the classifying and arranging it use in the humblest strata of society long after it is complete, as Lin- —they have served the basest and næus adjusted the proper places most sordid objects before they are respectively of daisies, turnips, and fit for his use as expressive words, beetroot in his system. It is rather the significance of which is felt at a gloomy look-out this, that our once. The highest genius thus, in tongues are tied to some absolute fact, only plays on words, and is law-as absolute as those which rule bound to play on them according the material world ; and so are our to certain laws of arrangement.

If thoughts too, for that matter; for he endeavour either to make new the initial step which led to the words or construct methods of arexposition of the whole framework rangement not in conformity with of the laws of universal grammar, established law, he destroys the was the necessity we are all under conditions on which alone he can of framing propositions with their obtain a hearing. If one watches subjects, predicates, and copulas, and the infancy and progress of a new of thinking categorically, though word until it acquires a sure and

, it is sometimes cast up against one permanent social position by being by way of reproach that he fails to incorporated into the language, he

But this is hardly more will generally find that its origin is an affair of constructing language of the very humblest. Of authors than a father giving names to his and polite speakers none but a few children; and notwithstanding the very rash people have ventured to powerful sanction for the protection acknowledge it. It has been long of the artificially constructed name in obscurity, and in that condition in both cases, the more powerful has got somehow familiar to the hidden law which rules language ear, and is at last supposed to be is apt to break in like the sea something of very ancient descent, through a dike, and substitute a come of an ancestry buried in the familiar abbreviation or a nick- mists of antiquity. If some dis

tinguished author, read by half the There are some who exult in this world, should make use of it before slavery, thinking it a beautiful ex- it is thus ripened, a mark is set ample of the order of nature. As- upon it at once—the mark of ne

do so.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]


ology-and ten to one but it loses workman who has the largest influall the chances of advancement it ence in bringing new words into a would have retained by continuing language is the dictionary-maker; to reside in humble obscurity. and in the exercise of this high When an author becomes a standard prerogative he may be considered of style, he generally reaches this as deriving some compensation for eminence by his freedom from the the hardness of his lot otherwise. vice of neology. People can find no Johnson has reigned supreme in new word in him. He writes in his dictionary as the arbiter, long

good old idiomatic English." To since the Rambler has ceased to be have used the commonest words in the model of composition for ambithe commonest manner is the at- tious essayists. It is true that the tainment by which he has gained maker of a dictionary is of all his renown. So little is the


men least entitled to be a maker either of genius or of learning in con- of words : he is but a classifier structing the elements of language. and assorter of things made. He

. It is an amiable feature in is sworn over to impartiality in the human nature, that when anything selection of those words which have is eminently persecuted or scorned, already established their citizen

, it is sure to find champions. There ship in the language; and if there seldom come any set of neolo- were any suspicion of neology agies on the stage to be hunted gainst him, he would utterly lose off it, but some champion is found his influence, and would be no to befriend them, seldom to much better in the eye of literature than effect. Chivalry in this respect some public officer of trust sushas gone so far in France as to pected to be in connivance with produce certain dictionaries of ne- swindlers. ology. There is this to be said But, like all people in public for them, that in that restless trust, the lexicographer can give country revolutions have necessarily some influence to his leanings, and, brought new nomenclatures. These, being but a fallible man, he will an article of much hardier growth give it. Like Mr Robert Laneham, than the efforts of philological Clerk of the Council in the reign of philosophers, would in time have Elizabeth, who so frankly tells the really to be incorporated in the lan- world, "If I see a listener or a

a a guage, and an account of them in

pryer-in at the chinks or lockhole, their infancy would be valuable. I am presently on the bones of him. One of these lying on the table is If a friend comes, I make him sit French and English, the produc- down with me on a form or chest; tion, apparently, of a refugee, M. the rest may walk in God's name. ” Dupre. It is called 'Lexicographia So may the dictionary-maker do Neologia Gallica'—the 'Neological something for a friend, but he must French Dictionary, containing words be cautious, otherwise he may lose of new creation not to be found in his power. There is a book, long any French and English vocabulary ago forgotten, called 'A Full, Large, hitherto published, &c. : the whole and General Phrase-Book,' by Wilforming a Remembrancer of the liam Robertson, A.M. It is a dicFrench Revolution. Here we have tionary of the English language, “ Centralisation," which has taken with Latin translations, these transroot in France and come over here, lations being affluently accompaand “ Carmagnole,” which is pretty nied by specimens of the idiomatic well known. We also have, of method of employing the word in less use to modern times, “ Cheva- Latin phrases or sentences correlier de la Guillotine," " Chouan,” sponding with those in common

Citoyen actif,” “Fraternisation, " use in England. It is observable &c.

that, the author being a native of It would seem that the literary Scotland, at a period (1681) when



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the language even of the polite done, feels that they have accomworld then differed a good deal plished monuments of labour and from accepted English, his English of learning which are absolutely phrases are pretty strongly tinged stupendous. Possibly dictionarywith Scotticisms. Perhaps he could makers may not have had so uninot well help this.

form a life as one might suppose An instance of great influence from their works, and from all we exercised by the dictionary-maker know of them. They may have is to be found in Johann Cristoph had their romance at home-may Adelung. He took up the position have been crossed in love, and that the dialect of Upper Saxony thence driven to dictionarying; (his own) was the standard of the may have been involved in domesGerman language, and made a large tic tragedies—who can say? The school of supporters for this view. only instance we can call up at this The question is, whether in this he moment of any one of the tribe discovered an absolute truth, or coming before the public in any gave effect to his own prejudices? flagrant tragedy is Barnaby Brisson, In either view his influence was the author of the ponderous dicvery great. He made war on the tionary of the civil and canon law, principle which was gaining growth, best known by his Latin name of that any terms, though previously Brissonius. He was hanged, and unused, if derivations from existing under rather remarkable circumwords in conformity with the genius stances, when the Catholic League of the German language, have a had possession of Paris. He legitimate place in it. He fortified thought, poor man! to propitiate his opinions by grammars and trea- his executioners by requesting life tises; and in the recesses of his enough to finish a work he was Leipzic study made himself an es- employed in; but if any of them tablished power in Germany. had ever encountered the tough in

Notwithstanding their influence, tricacies of his dictionary, it is not we apprehend, however, that dic- likely that they would have felt tionary-makers are on the whole an the appeal to be a softening one. oppressed race, doomed to more Johnson is an exception to the than their due share of obscure class, in having kept up curiosity drudgery. When one of them has and wonder while he was at work, with infinite labour brought his and drawn attention to his workwork to a conclusion, he shall see shop, as to some great artist's studio. another, who is fortunate enough It has been an enigma what made by a slight improvement to make one of his hot, impatient, impulsive

, “the best,” get all the honours and temperament write a dictionary, emoluments of the project. How and we offer our solution of the often do we see in libraries cum- enigma. It was by way of a great brous dictionaries made by men mortification of the flesh-a heavy who are entirely forgotten! A Wil- penance to keep down his rebelliliam Robertson has just been men- ous temperament. The same thing tioned as the author of a univer- has been done by many a man of sal phrase-book. There are also full-blooded, sanguine, impetuous two thick quarto dictionaries, a nature, as we read in the histories Greek and a Hebrew, bearing his of the anchorites who have lived on name; but he is utterly disavowed the tops of pillars, or gone into the by the biographical dictionaries, caves of the desert to feed on pulse, and persons asking for him there and study, and reflect, and macewill find his name not known. rate their bodies. So he chained Such men as the Stephenses and down his restless impetuous spirit Ducanges are, to be sure, pretty high to this dictionary. The difference in the lists of fame; but every one between him and them is, that who looks into what they have while they left nothing behind

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »