« НазадПродовжити »
getting at a solution of words into their component parts, not glossing over one difficulty by bringing another to parallel it, nor like saying with Mr. Harris, when it is asked, “ what a Conjunction is ?” that there are conjunctions copulative, conjunctions disjunctive, and as many other frivolous varieties of the species as any one chooses to hunt out " with laborious foolery.” Our author hit upon his parent-discovery in the course of a law-suit, while he was examining, with jealous watchfulness, the meaning of words to prevent being entrapped by them; or rather, this circumstance might itself be traced to the habit of satisfying his own mind as to the precise sense in which he himself made use of words. Mr. Tooke, though he had no objection to puzzle others, was mightily averse to being puzzled or mystified himself. All was, to his determined mind, either complete light or complete darkness. There was no hazy, doubtful chiaro-scuro in his understanding. He wanted something “ palpable to feeling as to sight.” “ What,” he would say to himself,“ do I mean when I use the conjunction that? Is it an anomaly, a class by itself, a word sealed against all inquisitive attempts ? Is it enough to call it a copula, a bridge, a link, a word connecting sentences ? That is undoubtedly its use, but what is its origin ?" Mr. Tooke thought he had answered this question satisfactorily, and loosened the Gordian knot of grammarians,
“ familiar as his garter,” when he said, “ It is the common pronoun, adjective, or participle, that, with the noun, thing or proposition, implied, and the particular example following it.” So he thought, and so every reader has thought since, with the exception of teachers and writers upon Grammar. Mr. Windham, indeed, who was a sophist, but not a logician, charged him with having found “a mare's-nest;" but it is not to be doubted that Mr. Tooke's etymologies will stand the test, and last longer than Mr. Windham's ingenious derivation of the practice of bull-baiting from the principles of humanity!
Having thus laid the corner-stone, he proceeded to apply the same method of reasoning to other undecyphered and impracticable terms. Thus the word, And, he explained clearly enough to be the verb add, or a corruption of the old Saxon, unandad. “ Two and two make four,” that is, “two add two make four.” Mr. Tooke, in fact, treated words as the chemists do substances ; he separated those which are compounded of others from those which are not decompoundable. He did not explain the obscure by the more obscure, but the difficult by the plain, the complex by the simple. This alone is proceeding upon the true principles of science : the rest is pedantry and petit-maitreship. Our philosophical writer distinguished all words into names of things, and directions added for joining them together, or
originally into nouns and verbs. It is a pity that he has left this matter short, by omitting to define the Verb. After enumerating sixteen different definitions (all of which he dismisses with scorn and contumely) at the end of two quarto volumes, he refers the reader for the true solution to a third volume, which he did not live to finish. This extraordinary man was in the habit of tantalizing his guests on a Sunday afternoon with sundry abstruse speculations, and putting them off to the following week for a satisfaction of their doubts; but why should he treat posterity in the same scurvy manner, or leave the world without quitting scores with it? I question whether Mr. Tooke was himself in possession of his pretended nostrum, and whether, after trying hard at a definition of the verb as a distinct part of speech, as a terrier-dog mumbles a hedge-hog, he did not find it too much for him, and leave it to its fate. It is also a pity that Mr. Tooke spun out his great work with prolix and dogmatical dissertations on irrelevant matters; and after denying the old metaphysical theories of language, should attempt to found a metaphysical theory of his own on the nature and mechanism of language. The nature of words, he contended (it was the basis of his whole system) had no connection with the nature of things or the objects of thought; yet he afterwards strove to limit the nature of things and of the human mind by the technical structure of language. Thus he endeavours to show that there are no abstract ideas, by enumerating two thousand instances of words, expressing abstract ideas, that are the past participles of certain verbs. It is difficult to know what he means by this. On the other hand, he maintains that “a complex idea is as great an absurdity as a complex star,” and that words only are complex. He also makes out a triumphant list of metaphysical and moral non-entities, proved to be so on the pure principle that the names of these non-entities are participles, not nouns, or names of things. That is strange in so close a reasoner, and in one who maintained that all language was a masquerade of words, and that the class to which they grammatically belonged had nothing to do with the class of ideas they represented.
It is now above twenty years since the two quarto volumes of the Diversions of Purley were published, and fifty since the same theory was promulgated in the celebrated Letter to Dunning. Yet it is a curious example of the Spirit of the Age that Mr. Lindley Murray's Grammar (a work out of which Mr. C*** helps himself to English, and Mr. M*** to style*)
* This work is not without merit in the details and examples of English construction. But its fault even in that part is that he confounds the genius of the English language, making it periphrastic and literal, instead of elliptical and
has proceeded to the thirtieth edition in complete defiance of all the facts and arguments there laid down. He defines a noun to be the name of a thing. Is quackery a thing, i. e. a substance ? He defines a verb to be a word signifying to be, to do, or to suffer. Are being, action, suffering, verbs ? He defines an adjective to be the name of a quality. Are not wooden, golden, substantial adjectives ? He maintains that there are six cases in English nouns, that is, six various terminations without any change of termination at all, and that English verbs have all the moods, tenses, and persons that the Latin ones have. This is an extraordinary stretch of blindness and obstinacy. He very formally translates the Latin Grammar into English, (as so many had done before him) and fancies he has written an English Grammar; and divines applaud, and schoolmasters usher him into the polite world, and English scholars carry on the jest, while Horne Tooke's genuine anatomy of our native tongue is laid on the shelf. Can it be that our politicians smell a rat in the Member for Old Sarum ? That our clergy do not relish Parson Horne ? That the world at large are alarmed at acuteness and originality greater than their own ? What has all this to do with the formation of the English language or idiomatic. According to Mr. Murray, hardly any of our best writers ever wrote a word of English.
* At least, with only one change in the genitive case.