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a well-executed performance of this kind was wanting. To echo back the rules of former grammarians, to translate Latin grammars into English, or English grammars into Latin, requires but small abilities, and has been the practice of many late writers in this species of erudition. But to trace language to its original source, to assign reasons for the justness of every rule in grammar, to show the similitude of languages, and at the same time every distinguishing idiom of each, was reserved for the ingenious writer before us.
In the first and second parts of his work we have the rudiments of the four languages referred to in the title, explained with the utmost precision and brevity; those rules which serve for one language being adapted, with very little variation, to the other three. Here no technical term is used, till it be first made plain by a definition; and reasons are always assigned for the peculiarities of languages and usages in syntax.
The third part contains four Dissertations; in which, as these are calculated for entertainment as well as instruction, our author often indulges some peculiarities, ingeniously supported, though very liable to be controverted.
The first treats of the possible number of simple sounds in speech, of which he presents us with an alphabet; by these sounds alone he would have children taught to read, being of opinion, that they might learn by this method in a few months, what they are years in acquiring by the other, now in use among us. The author is led from his inquiry concerning the origin of simple sound, into an examination, whether language is the natural result of man's own industry, or whether communicated to him by some superior power. “If," says he, “in the ordinary course of things, language is transmitted in a constant series from parents to children, we must go back till we arrive at some point of time, wherein the first of the human species, whether one, two, or a
thousand, could not receive language in this channel; but it must have been derived to them in as extraordinary a manner as their existence, from the same fountain that gave them their being. We cannot help apprehending but that the first man's creator must be his instructor in languages as well as duty, teaching him how to form articulate sounds and words, giving him knowledge of things, their attributes, actions, and relations, as well as the power of assigning them their names." To the same origin our author attributes the use also of alphabetical writings, and is of opinion, as we have hinted in the preceding article, that the alphabet was first given by God to Moses on the mount.* His reasoning on this head is curious, if not satisfactory; however, we must decline the particulars for want of room.
The second dissertation treats of the changes of sounds in pronunciation; how far they may be imitated in writing; and the chief causes of the variation in words. As we have seen some modern innovations in our language, with regard to spelling, Mr. Bayly may be a useful monitor, to warn writers against such affectation. Language,” says he,“ by following pronunciation in writing, may be so altered from itself as to become new, and rendered so vague in its meaning, that books written even but a hundred years past, have the appearance of being barbarous, and to the surviving generations are scarce intelligible. Pronunciation might be left to take its course, vary ever so much and ever so often; but writing, as being the only preservative of a language,
* [" Talking of the origin of languages:-JOHNSON. It must have come by inspiration. A thousand, nay a million, of children could not invent a language. While the organs are pliable, there is not understanding enough to form a language : by the time there is understanding enough, the organs are become stiff. Inspiration seems to me to be necessary, to give man the faculty of speech; to inform him that he may have speech ; which I think he could no more find out without inspiration, than cows or hogs would think of such a faculty.”—Boswell, vol. viii. p. 198.)
ought to be kept to some standard. Orthography should be steady, be made the guide to orthoepy, or at least a check upon it, and not orthoepy be the guide to orthography. Had such a rule as this, founded in reason and the nature of things, been attended to in all writings, though it is easy to see that it required a knowledge equal to divine to be able to write words truly in the first language, posterity would not have found so much difficulty as they now do, in understanding them; the etymology and meaning of words would have been more determinate, and the streams of knowledge traced with more certainty up to their fountain head.”
The subject of the third dissertation is style, or the art of just writing; that of the fourth, elocution, or the art of speaking: both contain rules that may be useful, hints that are new, and ingenious observations. Upon the whole, the author attempts to give a rational and universal view of language, from its elements through its several combinations and powers, in writing and speaking. He is possessed of learning to examine his subject minutely, and good sense to avoid incurring the imputation of pedantry; so that his book will be found equally useful to the student and entertaining to the critic.
X.-BURTON'S GREEK TRAGEDIES.*
[From the Monthly Review, 1758. “Pentalogia; sive Trage
diarum Græcarum Delectus." 8vo. Oxford.]
Dr. Burton, whose former productions in the learned languages are more than sufficient proofs of his abilities for an under
* [Dr. John Burton was born at Wombworth, in Devonshire, in 1696, and died rector of Mapledurham, Oxfordshire, in 1771. His works consist of
taking of this nature, has here presented the public with an edition of five Greek tragedies, indisputably the best in that language; and we may venture to add, superior to all that were ever composed in any other. Three of these are the Edipus Tyrannus, the Edipus Coloneus, and the Antigone of Sophocles; the first peculiarly excellent for its fine complication of terror and distress, especially towards the catastrophe; the second, for its pathetic opening, which Milton has so happily imitated in his Sampson Agonistes; the third, also a master-piece, for what is called by Aristotle the Tων επεισοδιων οικονομιαν, the just disposition of incidents. The other tragedies in this book are the Phænissæ of Euripides, and the Septem ad Thebas of Æschylus, which, though inferior to those of Sophocles, have, however, with great propriety, a place in this edition. They are introduced with intention to show (as our author expresses it), “in materia consimili ingeniorum dissimilium concertatio," the efforts of different geniuses in the same species of composition.
This edition, as we are informed, was long since undertaken; but the death of a young gentleman, who was principally instrumental in forwarding it, occasioned its being for some time discontinued : and it had perhaps been totally suppressed, but for the assistance given the editor by Dr. Markland and Mr. Heath, and the advantage of printing at the expense of the fund bequeathed to the university by Mr. Rolle, for purposes of this nature.
The work is a performance of much less ostentation than use; not being calculated to amuse the critic, but to advance the learner. The notes annexed contain no minute philological disquisitions,
“ Occasional Sermons,” “Opuscula Miscellanea Theologica,” and “Opuscula Metrico-prosaica, &c.” He was," says Dr. Kippis, “an able divine, a sound scholar, and an excellent academic; and set a useful example to University men, whether as fellows, tutors, officers, or editors.”] VOL. IV.
which are often still more obscure than the text, and counteract their intention, by increasing that labor which they profess to lessen. Here we have the conduct of the drama laid open, the grammatical difficulties explained, the different readings exhibited, and the text receiving proper light from a just punctuation. Notwithstanding this, the learned author seems sensible of one objection that may be raised against the present performance; namely, that he has given no Latin translation of the text, as is usual in most editions of the Greek classics. This objection he has taken some pains to obviate. The idioms of the Greek and Latin languages, as he observes, are so different as to render a translation very difficult, if not impossible; but though such a labor were actually effected, it would rather obstruct than promote the end it seems intended to answer. He who, in learning Greek, has continual recourse to a translation for assistance, is insensibly drawn into a disuse of his grammar and lexicon, the proper guides for introducing him to an intimacy with the language he desires to be acquainted with. “ Opibus alieni adjustus nihil de suo promet; nihil demum marte proprio sibi elaborandum esse censebit: et velut in regione ignota hospes inelegans, ducem secutus aliquando falsum sæpe fallacem, huc illuc temere circumvagabitur: et cum Græciam universam itinere rapido peragraverit, nihil fere de Græcia, nihil vere Atticum aut quovis modo memorabile, domum reportabit.” We should in this respect imitate such as first revived Greek learning in the West; who, without translations, instructed those that afterwards became so eminent for their skill in this enchanting language.
The assistances, however, which are denied in a translation, are amply recompensed here, by the explications of every material difficulty in the text, in notes at the bottom of each page; by a separate phraseology, and by a lexicon of the uncommon words subjoined to the whole. These are the helps offered to