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of God has chosen to reveal itself to him.”* And it is a deep feeling of the perpetual power of the associations of our language, which prompts the poet's words
We must be free or die, who speak the tongue.
Now how is the language to be guarded and cultivated? By the thoughtful and conscientious use of it by every one who speaks it. It is not by authors alone, but by each man and woman to whom it is the mother-tongue, that the language is to be preserved in its purity and power; by each one in his sphere and according to his opportunities. This is a duty, and the fulfilment of it is of deeper moment than many are aware of. It is not enough thought of, that “accuracy of style is near akin to veracity and truthful habits of mind,” and to sincerity and earnestness of character.i “Language,” observes a great master of it—“Language is part of man's character.”f You may, I believe, easily prove the truth of this by familiar observation, discovering the physiognomy that is in speech as well as in the face. You will find one man's words are earnest of sincerity, straightforwardness of character, fair dealing, genuine and deep feeling, true manliness, true womanliness, symbolized in the words. You will perceive in another man's speech signs of a confused habit of thought, of vagueness and indirectness of purpose. What before was a beautiful and transparent atmosphere, through which earthly objects
* Guesses at Truth, Part i. p. 296.
f Coleridge's Literary Remains, vol. i. p. 241.
f Landor's Imaginary Conversations. First Series. Demosthenes and Eubulides, vol. i. p. 232.
could be distinctly seen, or the stars were brightly shining, is turned into murkiness and mist. Again, there are men whose words, volubly uttered and with ample rotundity of sound, come to us like sounds, and nothing more, suggesting the unreality and hollowness of the speaker's character; and sometimes, too, to the thoughtful observer, the falsity of character will betray itself in the fashion of the speech. Dr. Arnold, in his Lectures introductory to Modern History, (the best guide-book in our language to historical reading generally,”) has shown how we must judge of an historian's character by his style. “If it is very heavy and cumbrous, it indicates either a dull man or a pompous man, or at least a slow and awkward man; if it be tawdry and full of commonplaces enunciated with great solemnity, the writer is most likely a silly man; if it be highly antithetical and full of unusual expressions, or artificial ways of stating a plain thing, the writer is clearly an affected man. If it be plain and simple, always clear, but never eloquent, the writer may be a very sensible man, but is too hard and dry to be a very great man. If on the other hand, it is always eloquent, rich in illustrations, and without the relief of simple and great passages, we must admire the writer's genius in a very high degree, but we may fear that he is too continually excited to have attained to the highest wisdom, for that is necessarily calm. In this manner the mere language of an
o: Mr. Reed's edition of Arnold's Lectures, with notes, appeared in America, in 1845; and for the memory of that remarkable man he felt and expressed——as will be often seen in these Lectures—am almost filial respect. Some of the happiest hours of the last months of Mr. Reed's life were passed at Foxhow, in the society of Mrs. Arnold, her children, and grandchildren. W. B. R.
historian will furnish us with something of a key to his mind, and will tell us, or at least give us cause to presume, in what his main strength lies, and in what he is deficient.” The same method of observation, let me add, will not unfrequently furnish us with a key to the characters of other authors beside the historians, and also of men and women who are not authors, but our ordinary companions in life. According to this view of the subject, the first study of style begins not with the words, as the tongue articulates them or the hand writes them, but it begins here, at the heart, and works upward and outward from that. The philosophy and art of language come afterward. Supposing the moral qualifications to exist—I mean sincerity, truthfulness, freedom from affectation or vanity, earnestness—then in the next place it is important to associate a certain conscientiousness in the use of speech, so that it shall correspond to something within us. I do not mean that we are to sacrifice the naturalness of speech to a perpetual pedantry; that we should be ambitious of being such rigid purists as to break the liberty and spirit of a living language by the weight of too much authority; that we should fetter the easy grace of colloquial speech with sad formality, as Charles Lamb complains of in the conversation of the Scotch, when he said, “Their affirmations have the sanctity of an oath.” But there may be somewhat more of heed in our use of language than we do pay to it, without running into any thing so odious as pedantry; and indeed cultivated conversation not unfrequently turns to these topics of language, and in a casual and familiar way will treat them most agreeably and intelligently, so that we may correct an inaccuracy of diction or of pronunciation, which we might have remained unconscious of, but for an interchange of views in such companionship. In this way, we may do much for one another by a fellowship of loyalty to the language. . Besides the vice of using words without thoughts or feelings to correspond to them, there is another fault which would be chastened by a little more conscientiousness in our expressions; I mean a propensity very common—somewhat more so, perhaps, to one sex (I will not say which) than the other—to employ words of force disproportionate to the occasion, especially in the expression of feelings either agreeable or the reverse. Something which is simply pleasing is described as “delightful” or “charming;” or that which is disagreeable or unsightly or discordant, is spoken of as “dreadful,” “terrible,” “horrible,” or “awful.” This, no doubt, is often merely the exaggeration of innocent exuberance of spirits, and the words are received, therefore, with large allowances. It in some measure comes of poverty or carelessness of speech, or both, somewhat in the way that oaths are uttered sometimes, (we may charitably believe,) not as a purposed profanity, but for lack of words that are strong without the stain of wickedness upon them. But besides being alien from accuracy and a truthful habit of mind, the habitual use of disproportioned language is attended with this disadvantage, our strong words are all wasted before they are wanted; if, for instance there comes an occasion calling for deep and hearty hatred, and also for an earnest expression of it, our vocabulary is exhausted; our armory is despoiled by our own extravagance; we have been shooting our arrows in the air, and when we truly need them, our quiver is empty.” Let us now look at some of the characteristics of the English language as an instrument of expression for those who recognise the duty of the thoughtful use of it. He will the better understand and use it who keeps in mind that it belongs to the family of the Northern languages. Our English speech is to be traced beyond England into the forests of Germany and to the shores of the Northern Ocean; the dialect, that was in time to grow into our English language, was carried fourteen hundred years ago to the island from the Teutonic region of the continent. Our speech holds not its genealogy from the cultivated languages of the South; they had done their appointed work—the languages of Greece and Rome—and the English language, for the fulfilment of its destiny, had another birth, and was long kept aloof from them. It was to have a fresher and purer spring than in the languages
* In another relation, one sees the constant misuse of this word, in its strict employment by Barrow, when he speaks of “a devout affection of heart, an aveful sense of mind.” Barrow, vol. v. p. 605. W. B. R. * There is an opposite fault, which we have caught from England, but which an English writer, mindful of the language, has condemned “as that stupid modern vulgarism, by which we use the word ‘nice' to denote almost every mode of approbation for almost every variety of quality, . . . from sheer poverty of thought,” or fear of “saying any thing definite.” Julius Charles Hare, Philological Museum. H. R. . .
f It was a slow and various transmission which carried the language which was to grow into modern English over from the contiment to the island; for there are reckoned six several migrations of different divisions of the Saxon race, extending through almost exactly a century, bearing with them their various dialects for future
formation into one great language. H. R.