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A Grammar of the Anglo-Saxon Language. By LOUIS F. KLIPSTEIN, Ph. D. of the University of Giessen. New York: Geo. P. Putnam. 1848.
When, more than twelve centuries ago, Augustine and his monks took up their abode in Britain, they made Latin the literary language of the people. Four centuries and a half later, William the Conqueror and his companions introduced French as the language of the courtly and polite. Thus the Saxon came to be regarded as a semi-barbarous tongue, fit only for the base uses of the vulgar. From those remote periods to the present time these ideas and the course of education which they superinduced have been constantly modifying the vernacular speech of Englishmen and their descendants. The effect of foreign additions to the Anglo-Saxon has been to break up its inflexions, to destroy its power of inversion, and, what is of more consequence, to almost disable it from forming new words out of its own materials. And if we are not mistaken, this tendency to Latinize and Gallicize the language, exhibits itself with increased vigor in this country, in consequence of the great admixture of foreigners which the English stock has received, who, finding the Saxon words and constructions the most difficult to acquire, replace them by others which are easier because more familiar to them; added to which is our general dislike for what is regarded as plain and homely, and our fondness for the genteel and magniloquent. To be sure, it is very commonly represented that in borrowing words ready made we are combining in our own language all the beauties of the tongues which are thus laid under contribution. But there is a fallacy in this. A Latin or French word as employed in English, is usually no more like the same word in its original position in the language from which it sprung than a withered branch which stops the gap in a hedge is like the same branch, prolific in foliage and fruit, before it was severed from its parent stem. Of the Saxon words in our language we have a close, intimate, and definite knowledge; we have been familiarized with them by every day use from childhood upwards; and they serve alike as the vehicle of our daily communication with those around us, and to embody the most delicate and fanciful of the poet's imaginings. Such is not the case with words adopted from foreign languages; these are gradually learned at a later period of life; they are known to us as the
language of formal discourse and of books; and a great part of them are employed only as scientific terms, or to denote abstact ideas or peculiarities in the natural or artificial productions of other countries. Hence the impression which they make on our feelings as well as our understanding, is much weaker and more vague than that produced by words of the former class. So true is this, and so generally is it felt and acknowledged, that it has been usual to act on the supposition that the homely Saxon words and their uses are already so well known that it is unnecessary to make a study of them; and consequently the attention of teachers and pupils has been directed almost exclusively to the less familiar terms introduced from abroad. Hence while a well taught schoolboy is able to give at once the etymology of almost every word of Latin origin, our best lexicographers are often at a loss when called upon to give an account of a Saxon vocable. They possess indeed, as we have said, that practical familiarity with most of the words of this class, which is all-sufficient for ordinary purposes of speaking and writing; but that accurate historico-grammatical knowledge of the origin and formation of these words which is necessary to the thorough understanding of them, and to their correct idiomatic use on all occasions, they do not possess, and consequently cannot impart. But it is not only the lexicography of our language which is so far behind the philological science of the day; its grammar is in a still more deplorable plight, and this too in a great measure through the misdirected efforts of those who would fain improve it. Happily a dictionary of an entire language, like the English, is a work of great labor and expence, and publishers cannot lightly be coaxed into hazarding such a serious outlay; but a grammar may be made of any dimensions one pleases, and as there is not probably in England or the United States a petty schoolmaster who does not consider himself perfectly competent to so easy an undertaking, we are presented every year with a batch of books on this subject, by persons whose entire stock of linguistic knowledge beyond their native tongue consists in a little Latin and less Greek, and in a style and spirit which the very Genius of ignorance, dullness and pedantry (supposing such a personage to_exist) need not blush to call his own. Perhaps the intelligent reader will say, why waste good indignation on such ephemeral matters? We reply, it is true, their existence is but for a day; but even during that
mercial, political, scientific, or literary purposes; not requiring the awkward intervention of an interpreter, we can at once grasp each other by the hand and interchange our wishes and ideas, sure of ready appreciation and sympathy from kindred minds.
brief space they accomplish an infinite deal of mischief. Most of the matter they contain is plundered from Murray (name of odious reminiscences!) or other old writers; but each of these grammar-makers has some method of his own, most commonly a new name for a tense or a part of speech. He always What, then, can we do to preserve as far has influence enough to get his book intro- as may be, this our priceless heritage, both duced for a season into a greater or less num- from the natural causes of corruption and ber of schools, the unfortunate inmates of change, and from the still more dangerous which are duly indoctrinated in the new dis- inroads of soi-disant phonographers, lexicogracovery. Newspaper critics too of kindred kid-phers, and grammarians? The answer is not ney with these would-be philologers, who can see exactly to the tips of their noses and not a hair beyond, who have not the remotest idea but that the English can be perfectly explained out of itself, and who find no difficulty (why should they?) in supposing their forefathers to have been egregious numskulls -these writers pounce upon the new mare's nest with greedy gusto, and bolt the eggs whole, suspecting their addled condition. The natural consequence in a country where schools are so generally attended, and newspapers so constantly read, is that we are vexed with successive swarms of absurd neologisms in speech, from which we are no more able to escape than were our Egpyptian prototypes in misery from their plague of frogs. In the temple, the forum, the market, -from the journal over which we pore in the morning to the curtain-lecture which lulls us to repose at night, our eyes and ears are constantly assailed with the pest of bad and unidiomatic English.
With every nation which has a literature to boast of, the preservation of its language in purity and vigor should be an object of religious and unremitting care; but such is peculiarly the case with those that speak the English language. These have the inestimable advantage of inheriting a tongue, which, for these five hundred years has been the receptacle of the treasures of wisdom and fancy poured forth in profusion by many of the finest scholars, philosophers and poets which the world has seen; while by means of translation and imitation it has been further enriched with the brightest gems culled from the literatures of other nations of every clime and age. This language, too, is spreading itself over many of the finest portions of the globe with a rapidity of which history affords no previous example. In addition to the parent country and her possessions in Asia, Australia, Africa, South America, and the West Indies, it is fast spreading over the whole of this magnificent continent, swallowing up in its progress the tongues of the aboriginal tribes and of European immigrants of other races, even as the rod of Moses gulped down those of his humbug competitors. With the inhabitants of all these countries and colonies we can now hold ready and unconstrained intercourse for com
far to seek. In this, as in other respects, the only effectual antidote against the effects of charlatanism and error is the diffusion of sound knowledge among the people. Now the only way in which a thorough knowledge can be obtained of a composite language like ours, is through the study of the original idioms from which it is derived, the principal of which, in the case of the English, are the Anglo-Saxon and the Latin. The latter language is already sufficiently cared for; but the former has been hitherto almost wholly neglected as a branch of ordinary education, or, indeed, of education at all. The AngloSaxon writings, it is true, cannot, for a moment, be compared with even the scanty remains we possess of the splendid literature of Rome. The productions of the Anglo-Saxon pen are exceedingly meagre and few. Almost the whole of it is of a monkish character, with little that is peculiar about it, and even that consists, for the most part, of translations from the Latin.
But when we have allowed this objection to the study of Anglo-Saxon literature for its own sake, and we confess it is not a slight one, we have allowed all. On the other hand, much can be said in favor of it. If this literature is not extensive, and, for the most part, not original, it is, at least, a wholesome christian literature. If it will not much improve the heads, neither will it corrupt the hearts of those who devote themselves to the study of it. Besides, when we speak of its poverty and want of originality, we do so only in a comparative sense. Many pieces have escaped the ravages of time, which are valuable and interesting for the historical facts they contain, or for the knowledge they afford us of the institutions and laws, the state of society, and the literary genius of our ancestors. Neither is the want of originality of a great part of the Anglo-Saxon writings altogether without its advantages. As they treat of subjects with which we are well acquainted, and, especially, as they are very often nothing but translations from the Latin, we are enabled to ascertain the precise sense of words, and thus to build up the grammar and lexicography of the language for philological purposes with much greater accuracy and certainty than we could otherwise have
done. For it is to be remembered that languages are often studied for other purposes than the mere enjoyment of their literary productions some for the purposes of science, others for business, others for travel or diplomacy, and we hold that an amply sufficient inducement to the study of the Anglo-Saxon is to be found in the very important light which it throws on the language of our daily life in this glorious nineteenth century. Such, too, is the opinion of Dr. Klipstein, the author of the grammar, the title of which is placed at the head of this notice, who has devoted much labor to the production of a series of books designed to form a complete course of Anglo Saxon, the want of which has rendered any thing like a general prosecution of the study in this country hitherto impossible. He has already published, besides the grammar, an edition of the Gospels, Ælfrie's Homily on the Birth-day of St. Gregory, and two volumes of Analecta one of prose, and the other of poetry. We select the grammar as the object of our critical remarks, because it is the only one of these works which makes much pretensions to originality, and because our observations may be of some service to the new edition which is announced as in preparation.
The "Grammar of the Anglo-Saxon Language" is a duodecimo of 222 pages, and is divided into short, numbered sections, for the convenience of teacher and learner. We have felt sufficient interest, in the fact that it is the first Anglo-Saxon grammar printed in this land of Saxon, to induce us to read it through from beginning to end. It is a compilation, to all appearance hastily made, from Parke and Bosworth; it will answer well enough for the present, and as a first attempt, but contains many things which it is desirable should be corrected in future. We will point out some of them. The first thing which gives us an unfavorable opinion of the author's judgment is the substitution of th for the Anglo-Saxon character, and th for p. These letters, representatives as they are of simple sounds, have as much right to be retained as the w, or indeed any letter of the alphabet. Instead of being dismissed from the Saxon, they ought to have been preserved in the English as they have been in the Icelandic. Another change for the worse is the printing of a e (which represents a simple vowel sound) in two separate letters, instead of using the compound character æ. The Preface is followed by an "Introduction" of 20 pages. The best we can say for this anonymous production, is that it contains some good quotations from the Edinburgh Review. On page 32 of the Grammar, we are told that "á is pronounced like a in fate; é like e in mete." This is an error: á, according to all analogy, should be pronounced like a in father, and é like a in fate. The system of the declension of nouns is that
of Bosworth; and we think the author has done well in adopting it, it being the clearest and most easily remembered. On page 59 there is an error in the synopsis of the Declension of Adjectives: the dat. fem. sing. ends not in "um," but in -re. Section 84 is badly worded; it should read, "Those which end in a single consonant after a short vowel double the consonant in declining, when the inflection begins with a vowel." In section 179 it is said, "Hence there can be, in strict terms, neither Compound Tenses nor a Passive Voice in Anglo-Saxon." The idea is from Bosworth, but has been spoiled in the process of reproducing it. If there are such things as compound tenses or a compound passive at all, they exist in Anglo-Saxon; because, in that language, auxiliary verbs are employed to make such forms; so that in the expression ic maeg beon lufod is precisely equivalent to the English I may be loved. What Boswosth and many others contend is, that such phrases have no right to be called independent tenses or voices at all, and this we suppose is what Dr. K. means to say likewise. The "List of Complete Verbs," extending from page 113 to page 154, could have been compressed with great advantage into one-fourth of the space. This spinning out of paradigms so as to occupy quite a large portion of the book is a very general fault in our common grammars. The intention appears to be to make the matter plain, but the effect is the very reverse. The proper design of throwing the main facts of grammar into a tabular form, and which should never be lost sight of, is that the relations of the several parts of a paradigm to each other may be exhibited, if possible, at a glance. In section 407 the astonishing assertion is made after Bosworth, that "all verbs in the language owe their origin to nouns." The cause of the blunder is this. The infinitive may be, and usually is regarded as the logical root of the verb; but it by no means follows that it is its etymological root.The real root of a verb or noun is what is called "the crude form," or that part which is left after subtracting all affirmatives, and which in the case of verbs most frequently coincides with the second parsing of the imperative. Now, the Anglo-Saxon infinitive happens to have a subformative an or ian; consequently it is a sheer fallacy to assert that dælan, to divide, is derived from dal, a part, simply because the former has a syllable more than the latter. We do not know how to reconcile the author's assertion of his independence of Tooke "and others of the late English school," with the fact of his having borrowed so much from them, including some of their most doubtful principles, such as the one just remarked upon. The Appendix D, taken mainly from Turner's Anglo-Saxons, is one of the best things in the book. In section
428 we have the following syntactical rule, "The perfect participle with habban, to have, does not always agree with the nominative, but is frequently inflected and made to agree with the governed word." Now, who ever heard before of the participle in such a case agreeing with the nominative? The rule is nothing but a travestie of Rask's section 401, which is expressed with the usual philosophical precision of that admirable and much lamented scholar. His words are, "The part. pass., in combination with the auxiliary ic habbe, is not always put in the neuter as an unchangeable supine, but is frequently inflected like an adjective in the different genders of the accusative governed by habbe"-a construction resembling a very common one in French. In fact the whole Syntax of nine pages, which is naturally that part of the Anglo-Saxon grammar for which most requires to be done, appears to be nothing but a rehash from Rask, with the addition of some trivial observations on agreement, which Rask designedly omitted as common to all languages. The syntax of the Anglo-Saxon still remains to be written. In section 476 it is said that the Latin poetry of the Anglo-Saxons "originated from the Roman, and followed the same laws." That this statement is only partially true will be seen on consulting Rask, section 433 seqq. where examples are given of Latin verses written according to the laws of alliteration, "which shows," says Rask, "that it was, as it were, a national requisite in all poetry, without which it would have lost its wonted peculiarity of sound for the Anglo-Saxons." In section 477 Dr. K. copies the strange assertion of Sharon Turner, that "the only rule which they [the AngloSaxons] appear to have observed in the composition of their native verses was that of pleasing the ear." To which is added in section 489, Alliteration, though sometimes used, was never a fundamental principle in Anglo-Saxon poetry." How any one who possesses the merest smattering of AngloSaxon, nay, who has ever seen or heard the laws of alliteration stated, and then turned over a volume of poetry to see if they were true, could make such a statement, is to us wholly incomprehensible. If any one fact is already established, it is that "alliteration is the chief characteristic of the Anglo-Saxons," and not only so, but it continued to be largely employed by English poets for centuries after the battle of Hastings. Rask's able disquisition on the subject has, in fact, established the fundamental laws of Anglo-Saxon versification so firmly beyond the reach of controversy, that even his prejudiced critic, Guest, has been compelled to propound the same laws, with but very slight modification.†
* Rask's Grammar, (Sharpe's Trans.) p. 144. + History of English Rhythms, Vol, II, p. 142.
Our deliberate opinion of the book, then, after a careful examination, is that it is a very imperfect performance, and must be greatly improved before it will be "stamped with the seal of European approval," as the writer of the Introduction seems to anticipate. Nevertheless its simplicity and cheapness are a sufficient cloak to a multitude of defects, and it will answer the purpose sufficiently well until something better can be supplied. The main hindrance to the spread of Anglo-Saxon studies has hitherto been the dearness and scarcity of the necessary books; the most of those published in England having been "got up" in such a luxurious form as effectually tabooed them from the mass of the people. Latterly an improvement has been manifested in this respect. The publication of several skeleton grammars, the new edition of Thorpe's Analecta, and the long expected abridgement of Bosworth's Dictionary, have placed in the hands of learners a cheap and excellent apparatus which will be of great use in promoting this important and too long neglected branch of education. We are heartily glad that a man of Dr. Klipstein's energy and perseverance has taken on himself the task of extending these benefits to our own country. The great good he will thus accomplish will remain, while the faults of haste and inexperience will gradually be corrected, either by his own further study and experience, or by the labors of others which his good example will bring into the field.
The Little Savage: By CAPT. MARRYATT, R. N. New York: Harper & Brothers.
This is a narrative in the Robinson Crusoe vein. A boy born upon a solitary and desert island-one of the Peruvian guano islandscoming into consciousness with a wicked and morose sailor only for a companion. The sailor has been the murderer of the boy's father, and indirectly of his mother. He cherishes great hatred for the boy and treats him very tyrannically, refusing all intelligence which the opening mind of the child craves, until being struck blind by lightning he becomes dependent upon the boy, who thus compels him to gratify his thirst for knowledge. The sailor dies and he is left alone on the island. After some years a boat of a wrecked vessel visits the island, in which is the widowed lady of a missionary. They obtain what provisions the boy has, and treacherously leave him and the lady on the island. She adopts him as a son and teaches him the christian religion. Without proceeding further with the story, this will indicate the character of the book. It has a decidedly religious tone, and some parts of it are extremely well done, especially the first part, describing the struggles of the mind of the boy for knowledge.
Mornings among the Jesuits at Rome: By the
This is an age of much religious inquiry and
The Works of Michael de Montaigne, comprising his Essays, Letters, a Journey through Germany and Italy, with notes from all the Commentators, Biographical, and Bibliographical Notices, &c., &c., &c.: By WILLIAM HAZLITT. Philadelphia: J. W. Moore,
grant that they may find it. In the philosophies of nature, which for ages were at war, such reconciliation has been found. May it not be so in religion also? Many appear to think that the subject requires these antagonisms to keep it from stagnation and corruption; but science has advanced more rapidly since the reconciliation, and why, therefore, should not religion?
Liberty's Triumph. John Wiley, publisher,
has produced the first American epic, worthy This is an extraordinary book. The author so to be called. The subject is the war of historical fidelity with which the author has the Revolution. Were it not for the strict pretty generally narrated the incidents of the struggle for liberty, this work might be ranked among the purest productions of the imagithe incidents and characters of those dark nation. The author has succeeded in lifting times from the vulgar and the common-place, to a level with the demi-gods of the elder epic. For this he has justly entitled himself to the gratitude of those departed heroes, of whom scarcely enough remain with us to prevent those honored vehicles, which form a conspicuWe note, with perfect satisfaction, the pubous ornament of the grand pageant which anlication of this very complete edition of Mon-nually celebrates the birth of our Independtaigne's writings. It will place these renowned Essays within the reach of many who have only heard of them through others, and who will not be disappointed with their delightful gossip. Gossip, too, dignified frequently by much wisdom and many profound observations. Hallam says "they are the first provocatio ad populum. The first appeal from the bench and the academy to the haunts of busy and of idle men. The first book that taught
the unlearned reader to observe and reflect for
The Philosophy of Religion: By J. D. MOR-
ence, from becoming subjects of ridicule."
As an instance of the classic elegance which this poem imparts to the heroes of the revolution, we may mention the exchange of the inglorious appellation of "Old Put" for that of "Re-now-ned Put-nam." This is one of the touches of genius seldom found in the productions of modern poets. In short, it may be said that whoever doubts this poet's claim to immortality, has never read his poem entirely through.
Henrich Von Gagern: a public character:
The greater part of the books published during the last year treat of revolutionary themes. The revolution has destroyed, for some time, the interest in literary and scientific researches, producing books of a politi cal and social character. We consider it worth while to inquire into them and to place before the reader a book, the object of which is to relate the career of one of the greatest men, if not the greatest man, of the German revolution. It is true, he has disap
The North British Review has devoted two articles to a severe review of the principles propounded in this work. We commend the book, notwithstanding, to the perusal of every serious mind. It discusses subjects in the highest region of thought, and in a style universally dear. There is a close analogy, if not identity, in many of the ideas with those so forcibly insisted upon by Dr. Bushnell. Great talent is evinced by the author and much earnestness, but not the genius with which Dr. Bushnell illuminates the subject, carry-pointed the expectation of many, but we ing the reader away by a power of language not surpassed in modern writing. These men are of the worthies of modern times who are striving for the reconciling point of the conflicting elements of christian opinion. Heaven
durst not judge the man except in relation to the people, in the midst of whom he was living and acting. Gagern is a true patriot, he was so from his first entering into public life; he was not observed by many