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Præterperfect Tense, as in the Words drown'd, walkid, arriv'd, for drowned, walked, arrived, which has very much disfigured the Tongue, and turned a tenth part
of our smootheft Words into so many Clusters of Conso. nants. This is the more remarkable, because the want of Vowels in our Language has been the general Complaint of our politest Authors, who nevertheless are the Men that have made these Retrenchments, and conse. quently very much increased our former Scarcity.
THIS Refle&tion on the words that end ined, I have heard in Conversation from one of the greateft Genius's this Age has produced. I think we may add to the foregoing Observation, the Change which has happened in our Language, by the Abbreviation of several Words that are terminated in eth, by substituting an s in the room of the last Syllable, as in drowns, walks, arrives, and innume. rable other Words, which in the Pronunciation of our Fore-fathers were drowneth, walketh, arriveth. This has wonderfully multiplied a Letter which was before too fre. quent in the English Tongue, and added to that hifling in our Language, which is taken to much Notice of by Foreigners; but at the same time humours our Taciturnity, and eases us of many superfluous Syllables.
I might here observe, that the same single Letter on many occasions does the Office of a whole Word, and re. presents the His and Her of our Fore-fathers. There is no doubt but the Ear of a Foreigner, which is the best Judge in this case, would very much disapprove of fuch Innovations, which indeed we do our felves in fome measure, by retaining the old Termination in writing, and in all the Solemn Offices of our Religion.
A S in the Instances I have given we have epitomized many of our particular Words to the Detriment of our Tongue, so on other Occasion's we have drawn two Words into one, which has likewise very much untuned our Language, and clogged it with Consonants, as mayn't, can't, ma'nt, wo'nt, and the like, for may not, can not, shall not, will not, &c.
IT is perhaps this Humour of speaking no more than we needs must, which has fo miserably curtailed some of Qur Words, that in familiar Writings and Conversations they often lose all but their first Syllables, as in mel, np.
pos, incog. and the like; and as all ridiculous Words make their first Entry into a Language by familiar Phrases, I dare not answer for thefe that they will not in time be looked upon as a part of our Tongue. We see some of our Poets have been so indiscreet as to imitate Hudibras's Doggrel Expressions in their serious Compositions, by throwing out the signs of our Substantives, which are essential to the English Language. Nay, this Humour of shortning our Language had once run so far, that some of our celebrated Authors, among whom we may reckon Sir Roger L'Estrange in particular, began to prune their Words of all superfluous Letters, as they termed them, in order to adjust the Spelling to the Pronunciation; which would have confounded all our Etymologies, and have quite de ftroyed our Tongue.
W E may here likewise observe that our proper Names, when fainiliarized in English, generally dwindle to Monda syllables, whereas in other modern Languages they receive a softer Turn on this Occasion, by the Addition of a new Syllable. Nick in Italian is Nicolini, Jack in French Fanot; and ro of the rest.
THERE is another Particular in our Language which is a
great Instance of c'ır Frugality of Words, and that is the suppresling of several Particles which must be produced in other Tongues to make a Sentence intelligible : This often perplexes the best Writers, when they find the Rela. tives whom, which, or they, at their Mercy whether they may have Admission or not; and will never be decided till we have something like an Academy, that by the best Authorities and Rules drawn from the Analogy of Languages shall settle all Controversies between Grammar and Idiom.
I have only considered our Language as it shews the Genius and natural Temper of the English, which is modest, thoughtful and sincere, and which perhaps may recommend the People, though it has spoiled the Tongue. We might perhaps carry the same Thought into other Languages, and deduce a great part of what is peculiar to them from the Genius of the People who 1peak them. It is certain, the light talkative Humour of the French, has not a little infected their Tongue, which might be shewn by many Instances; as the Genius of the Italians, which is so
much addi&ted to Musick and Ceremony, has moulded all their Words and Phrases to those particular Úses. The Stateliness and Gravity of the Spaniards shews itself to Perfection in the Solemnity of their Language, and the blunt honest Humour of the Germans sounds better in the Roughness of the High Dutch, than it would in a Politer Tongue.
Monday, August 6.
I shall Print the following Letter.
quaint you, that I am, and ever have been from my Youth upward, one of the greatest Liars this and has produced. I have read all the Moralists upon the Subject, but could never find any Effect their Discourses had upon me, but to add to my Misfortune by new
Thoughts • and Ideas, and making ine more ready in my Language ' and capable of sometimes mixing seeming Truths with
my Improbabilities. With this strong Passion towards ? Fallhood in this kind, there does not live an honefter
Man, or a sincerer Friend; but my Imagination runs ? away with me, and whatever is started I have such a ! Scene of Adventures appears in an Instant before me,
that I cannot help uttering them, tho'to my iminediate • Confusion, I cannot but know I am liable to be detecta •ed by the first Man I meet.
"UPON Occasion of the mention of the Battel of Pula
towa, I could not forbear giving an Account of a Kinc• man of mine, a young Merchant who was bred at Mofco, • that had too much Meral to attend Books of Entries and
Accounts, when there was so active a Scene in the Country where he refided, and followed the Czar as a Volunteer: This warm Youth, born at the Instant the thing was spoke of, was the Man who unhorsed the Swedish
• General, he was the Occasion that the Muscovites kept • their Fire in so Soldier-like a manner, and brought up · those Troops which were covered from the Enemy ac 'the beginning of the Day; besides this, he had at last the
good Fortune to be the Man who took Count Piper. « With all this Fire I knew my cousin to be the civilest • Creature in the World. He never made any impertinent • Show of his Valour, and then he had an excellent Geni
for the World in every other' kind. I had Letters * from him (here I felt in my Pockets) that exactly spoke
the Czar's Character, which I knew perfectly well; and “I could not forbear concluding, that I lay with his Im
perial Majesty twice or thrice a Week all the while he lodged at Debtford. What is worse than all this, it is impossible to speak to me, but you give me some occasion
of coming out with one Lie or other, that has neither • Wit, Humour, prospect of Interest, or any other Mo<tive that I can think of in Nature. The other Day, when
one was commending an Eminent and Learned Divine, what occasion in the World had I to say, Methinks he
would look more Venerable if he were not so fair a Man?: " I remember the Company smiled. I have seen the Gen« tleman since, and he is Cole Black. I have Intimations • every Day in my Life that no Body believes me,yet I am.
never the better. I was saying something the other Day • to an old Friend at Will's Coffee house, and he made me
no manner of Answer; but told me, that an AcquainStance of Tully the Orator having two or three times
together said to him, without receiving any Answer, & That upon his Honour he was but that very Month forty “ Years of Age; Tully answer'd, Surely you think me the « moft incredulous Man in the World,' if I don't believe what you have told
me every Day this ten Years. The • Mischief of it is, I find my self wonderfully inclin'd to
have been present at every Occurrence that is spoken of
before me; this has led me into many Inconveniencies, « but indeed they have been the fewer, because I am to - ill-natur'd Man, and never speak Things to any Man's
Disadvantage. I never directly defame, but I do what • is as bad in the Consequence, for I have often made a «Man fay such and such a lively Expreffion, who was born a mere elder Brother. When one has said in my
Hearing, Such a one is no wiser than he should be, lim.
mediately. have reply'd, Now 'faith I can't see that, he • said a very good thing to my Lord such a one, upon such an Occasion, and the like. Such an honest Dolt as this has been watch'd in every Expreffion he uttered, upon
my Recommendation of him, and confequently been • subject to the more Ridicule. I once endeavoured to
cure my self of this impertinent Quality, and resolved to • hold my Tongue for seven Days together; I did so, bat • then I had so many Winks and unneceffary Distortions of my Face upon
what any Body else laid, that I found • I only forbore the Exprellion, and that I ftill lied in my • Heart to every Man I met with. You are to know one • Thing(which'I believe you'll say is a Pityconfidering the - Use I Thould have made of it) I never Travelled in my · Life; but I do not know whether I could have spoken
ofany Foreign Country with more Familiarity than I do at present, in Company who are Strangers to me. I have cursed the Inns in Germany; commended the Brothels at Venice; the Freedom of Conversation in France; and
tho’I never was out of this dear Town, and fifty Miles • about it, have been three Nights together dogged by Bra
voes for an Intrigue with a Cardinal's Mistress at Rome.
• 1 T were endless to give you Particulars of this kind, ** but I can assure you, Mr. SPECTATOR, there are about
Twenty or Thirty of us in this Town, I'mean by this
Town the Cities of London and Westminster; I say there • are in Town a sufficient Nunber of us to make a Society
among our felves; and since we cannot be believed any longer, I you to print this my Letter, that we
may meet together, and be under such Regulation as • there may be no Occasion for Bélief or Confidence
among us. If you think fit we might be called The Histo
rians, for Liar is become a very harsh Word. And that a • Member ofthe Society may not hereafter be ill received
by the rest of the World, I desire you would explain a lit• tle this sort of Men, and not let us Historians be ranked as • we are in the Imaginations of ordinary People, among
common Liars, Make-bates, Impostors and Incendia* ries. For your Instruction herein, you are to know that • an Historian, in Conversation is only a Person of fo pregnant a Fancy, that he cannot be contented with ordinary