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cines, taken only with half an ounce of right Virginia tobacco, for six successive mornings, I am become open, obliging, officious, frank, and hospitable.
Your humble servant,
This careful father and the humble petitioner hereafter mentioned, who are under difficulties about the just management of fans, will soon receive proper advertisements relating to the professors in that behalf, with their places of abode and methods of teaching.
July 5, 1711. SIR, • In your Spectator of June the 27th you transcribe a letter sent to you from a new sort of muster-master, who teaches ladies the whole exercise of the fun; I have a daughter just come to town, who, though she has always held a fan in her hand at proper times, yet she knows no more how to use it according to true discipline, than an aukward school-boy does to make use of his new sword. I have sent for her on purpose to learn the exercise, she being already very well accomplished in all other arts which are necessary for a young lady to understand; my request is, that you will speak to your correspondent on my behalf, and in your next paper let me know what he expects, either by the month, or the • quarter, for teaching; and where he keeps his place of rendezvous. I have a son too, whom I would fain have taught to gallant fans, and should be glad to know what the gentleman will have for teaching them both, I finding fans for practice at my own expence. This information will in the highest manner oblige, Sir, your most humble servant,
• As soon as my son is perfect in this art (which I hope will be in a year's time, for the boy is pretty apt), I design he shall learn to ride the great horse (although he is not yet above twenty years old) if his mother, whose darling he is, will venture him.'
TO THE SPECTATOR.
SHEWETH, • That it was your Petitioner's misfortune to walk to Hackney church last Sunday, where to his great amazement he met with a soldier of your own training; she furls a fan, recovers a fan, and goes through the whole exercise of it to admiration. This well-managed officer of yours has, to my knowledge, been the ruin of above five young gentlemen besides myself, and still goes on laying waste wheresover she comes, whereby the whole village is in great danger. Our humble request is therefore, that this bold Amazon be ordered immediately to lay down her arms, or that you would issue forth an order, that we who have been thus injured may meet at the place of general rendezvous, and there be taught to manage our snuff-boxes in such a manner as we may be an equal match for her; And your Petitioner shall ever pray, &c.'
Est brevitate opus, ut currat sententia
HOR. I SAT. X. 9. " Let brevity dispatch the rapid thought.”
ON THE CONCISENESS OF THE ENGLISH, IN COMMON
I HAVE somewhere read of an eminent person, wlio used in his private offices of devotion to give thanks to Heaven that he was born a Frenchman : for my own part, I look upon it as a peculiar blessing that I was born an Englishman. Among many other reasons, I think myself very happy in my country, as the language* of it is wonderfully adapted to a man who is sparing of his words, and an enemy to loquacity.
As I have frequently reflected on my good fortune in this particular, I shall communicate to the public my speculations upon the English tongue, not doubting but they will be acceptable to all my curious readers.
The English delight in silence more than any other European nation, if the remarks which are made on us by foreigners are true. Our discourse is not kept up in conversation, but falls into more pauses and intervals than in our neighbouring countries; as it is observed, that the matter of our writings is thrown much closer together, and lies in a narrower compass than is usual in
* The reader will find a very masterly and complete examina. tion of the English language, both in its positive and comparative excellences and defects, preceded by a concise historical account of its formation and progress, in Dr. Blair's ninth lecture.
the works of foreign authors : for, to favour our natural taciturnity, when we are obliged to utter our thoughts, we do it in the shortest way we are able, and give as quick a birth to our conceptions as possible.
This humour shews itself in several remarks that we may make upon the English language. * As first of all by its abounding in monosyllables, which gives us an opportunity of delivering our thoughts in few sounds. This indeed takes off from the elegance of our tongue, but at the same time expresses our ideas in the readiest manner, and consequently answers the first design of speech better than the multitude of syllables, which make the words of other languages more tuneable and sonorous. The sounds of our English words are commonly like those of string music, short and transient, which rise and perish upon a single touch; those of other languages are like the notes of wind instruments, sweet and swelling, and lengthened out into variety of modulation.
In the next place we may observe, that where the words are not monosyllables, we often make them so, as much as lies in our power, by our rapidity of pronunciation; as it generally happens in most of our long words which are derived from the Latin, where we contract the length of the syllables, that gives them a grave and solemn air in their own language, to make them more proper for dispatch, and more conformable to the genius of our tongue. This we may find in a multitude of words, as liberty, conspiracy, theatre, orator, &c.
The same natural aversion to loquacity has of late years made a very considerable alteration in our language, by closing in one syllable the termination of our
* Ms. Tooke in his Diversions of Purley, a treatise which con. tains every essential constituent of philosophy, without the usual garb, observes, that after perspicuity, the next necessary quality of style is promptness of conveyance. In this last, the English certainly excels most languages.
præterperfect tense, as in the words, “ drown'd, walk'd, arriv'd," for "drowned, walked, arrived," which has very much disfigured the tongue, and turned a tenth part of our smoothest words into so many clusters of consonants. 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 consequently very much increased our former scarcity.
This reflection on the words that end in ed, I have heard in conversation from one of the greatest geniuses 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 etb, by substituting an s in the room of the last syllable, as in “ drowns, walks, arrives,” and innumerable other words, which in the pronunciation of our forefathers were, “ drowneth, walketh, arriveth.” This has wonderfully multiplied a letter which was before too frequent in the English tongue, and added to that bissing in our language, which is taken so 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 represents the bis and ber of our forefathers. There is no doubt but the ear of a foreigner, which is the best judge in this case, would very much disapprove of such innovations, which indeed we do ourselves in some measure by retaining the old termination in writing, and in all the solemn offices of our religion.
* DEAN SWIFT, who was very anxious for the improvement of the English language. He submitted a proposal to his friend Lord Oxford, for correcting and improving it, by appointing a certain number of learned men to collect observations severally, discuss them together, and amend according to the result. LORD OXPOR D had actually engaged gentlemen for the purpose ; but his dismission from office prevented the design from being executed.