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As in the instances I have given we have epitomized many of our particular words to the detriment of our tongue, so on other occasions 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, shan't, won't,” 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 so miserably curtailed some of our words, that in familiar writings and conversations they often lose all but their first syllables, as in “mob. rep. 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 these, 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 doggerel expressions in their serious compositions, by throwing out the signs of our substantive which are essential to the English language. Nay, this humour of shortening 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 destroyed our tongue.
We may here likewise observe that our proper names, when familiarized in English, generally dwindle to monosyllables, whereas in other modern languages they receive a softer turn on this occasion, by the addition of a new syllable. Nich in Italian is Nicolini, Jack in French Janot; and so of the rest. * There is another particular in our language which is
* In the cant words and phrases of the vulgar we
observe abbreviation greatly to prevail. Compression naturally arises from the vigour of English intellect, as dilation is a necessary consequence of the more superficial understandings of some of our southern neighbours.
a great instance of our frugality of words, and that is, the suppressing 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 relatives whom, wbich, or they, at their mercy whether they have admission or not; and will never be decided until 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 speak 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 addicted to music and ceremony, has moulded all their words and phrases to those particular
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-Dutcb, than it would in a politer tongue.
ACCORDING to the request of this strange fellow, I shall print the following letter.
without any manner of preface or apology, acquaint you that I am, and ever have been, from my youth upward, one of the greatest liars this island 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 me more ready in my language, and capable of sometimes mixing seeming truths with my improbabilities. With this strong passion towards falsehood in this kind, there does not live an honester 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, though to my immediate confusion, I cannot but know I am liable to be detected by the first man I meet.
Upon occasion of the mention of the battle of Pultowa, I could not forbear giving an account of a kinsman of mine, a young merchant who was bred at Moscow, that had too much mettle to attend books of entries and accounts, when there was so active a scene
in the country where he resided, 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 Moscovites kept their fireinso soldier-like a manner, and brought up those troops which were covered from the enemy at 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 genius 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 Imperial Majesty twice or thrice a week all the while he lodged at Deptford. 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 motive 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 gentleman since, and he is coal-black. I have intimations every day in my life that nobody believes me, yet I am never the better. I was saying something the other day to an old friend at Will's coffeehouse, and he made me no manner of answer; but told me, that an acquaintance 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 answered, of Surely you think me the most incredulous man in the world, if I do not believe what you have told me every day these ten years." The mischief of it is, I find myself wonderfully inclined 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 no ill-natured man, and never speak things to any man's disadvantage. I never directly defame, but I do what is bad as in the consequence, for I have often made a man say such and such a lively expression, who was born a mere elder brother. When one has said in my hearing, Such-a-one is no wiser than he should be, I immediately have replied, Now 'faith, I cannot 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 watched in every expression he uttered, upon my recommendation of him, and consequently been subject to the more ridicule. I once endeavoured to cure myself of this impertinent quality, and resolved to hold my tongue for seven days together; I did so, but then I had so many winks and unnecessary distortions of my face upon what any body else said, that I found I only forbore the expression, and that I still lied in my heart to every man I met with. You are to know one thing (which I believe
say is a pity, considering the use I should have made of it) I never travelled in my life; but I do not know whether I could have spoken of any 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 though I never was out of this dear town, and fifty miles about it, have been three nights together dogged by bravoes, for an intrigue with a cardinal's mistress at Rome.
• It 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 number of us to make a Society among ourselves; and since we cannot be believed any longer, I beg of you to print this my letter,