« ПретходнаНастави »
sir! sacrilege by act of parliament ! It's death, sir ! death by the law! and the law I'll hare of him, for it's lawful to have the law.”
This was the whole range of his ideas, even when the passions had tumbled them all out of their dormitories.
Innumerable fresh instances of Irish eloquence and wit crowd upon our recollection, but we forbear. The examples we have cited are taken from real life, and given without alteration or embellishment.
HAVING proved by a perfect syllogism that the Irish must blunder, we might rest satisfied with our labours; but there are minds of so perverse a sort, that they will not yield their understandings to the torturing power of syllogism.
It may be waste of time to address ourselves to persons of such a cast; we shall therefore change our ground, and adapt our arguments to the level of vulgar capacities. Much of the comic effect of Irish bulls, or of such speeches as are mistaken for bulls, has depended upon the tone, or brogue, as it is called, with which they are uttered. The first Irish blun
ders that we hear are made or repeated in this peculiar tone, and afterward, from the power of association, whenever we hear the tone we expect the blunder. Now there is little danger that the Irish should be cured of their brogue ; and consequently there is no great reason to apprehend that we should cease to think or call them blunderers.
of the powerful effect of any peculiarity of pronunciation to prepossess the mind against the speaker, nay even to excite dislike amounting to antipathy, we have an instance attested by an eye-witness, or rather an ear-witness.
“ In the year 1755,” says the Rev. James Adams, “I attended a public disputation in a foreign university, when at least 400 Frenchmen literally hissed a grave and learned English doctor, not by way of insult, but irresistibly provoked by the quaintness of the repetition of sh. The thesis was, the concurrence of God in actionibus viciosis: the whole hall resounded with the hissing cry of sh, and its continual occurrence in actio, actione, viciosa, &c.
It is curious that Shiboleth should so long continue a criterion among nations !
What must have been the degree of irritation that could so far get the better of the politeness of 400 Frenchmen as to make them hiss in the days of l'ancien regime! The dread of being the object of that species of antipathy or ridicule which is excited by unfashionable peculiarity of accent has induced many of the misguided natives of Ireland to affect what they imagine to be the English pronunciation.
They are seldom successful in this attempt, for they generally overdo the business. We are told by Theophrastus, that a barbarian, who had taken some pains to attain the true Attic dialect, was discovered to be a foreigner by his speaking the Attic dialect with a greater degree of precision and purity than was usual amongst the Athenians themselves. To avoid the imputation of committing barbarisms, people sometimes run into solecisms, which are yet more ridiculous. Affectation is always more ridiculous than ignorance.
There are Irish ladies, who, ashamed of their country, betray themselves by mincing out their abjuration, by calling tables teebles, and chairs cheers! To such renegadoes we prefer the honest quixotism of a modern champion* for the Scottish accent, who, bolding asserting that “the broad dialect rises above reproach, scorn, and laughter," enters the lists, as he says of himself, in Tartan dress and armour, and throws down the gauntlet to the most prejudiced antagonist. “How weak is prejudice !” pursues this patriotic enthusiast. “The sight of the Highland kelt, the flowing plaid, the buskined leg, provokes my antagonist to laugh! Is this dress ridiculous in the eyes of reason and common sense ? No; nor is the dialect of speech : both are characteristic and national distinctions.
* James Adams, S. R. E. S., author of a book entitled, “ The Pronunciation of the English Language vindicated from imputed Anomaly and Caprice ; with an Appendix on the Dialects of Human Speech in all Countries, and an analytical Discussion and Vindication of the Dialect of Scotland.”
“ The arguments of general vindication,” continues he, “rise powerful before my sight, like the Highland bands in full array. A louder strain of apologetic speech swells my words. What if it should rise high as the unconquered summits of Scotia's hills, and call back, with voice sweet as Caledonian song, the days of ancient Scottish heroes; or attempt the powerful speech of the Latian orator, or his of Greece! The subject, methinks,would well accord with the attempt: Cupidum, Scotia optima, vires deficiunt. I leave this to the king of songs. Dunbar and Dunkeld, Douglas in Virgilian strains, and later poets, Ramsay, Ferguson, and Burns, awake from your graves ; you have already immortalized the Scotch dialect in raptured melody! Lend me your golden target and wellpointed spear, that I may victoriously pursue, to the extremity of South Britain, reproachful ignorance and scorn still lurking there : let impartial candour seize their usurped throne. Great, then, is the birth of this national dialect,” &c.
So far so good. We have some sympathy with the rhapsodist, whose enthusiasm kindles at the names of Allan Ramsay and of Burns; nay, we are willing to hear (with a grain of allowance) that “the manly eloquence of the Scotch bar affords a singular pleasure to the candid English hearer, and gives merit and dignity to the noble speakers, who retain so much of their own dialect and tempered propriety of English sounds, that they may be emphatically termed British orators.” But we confess that we lose our patient decorum, and are almost provoked to laughter, when our philological Quixote seriously sets about to prove that Adam and Eve spoke broad Scotch in Paradise.
How angry has this grave patriot reason to be with his ingenious countryman Beattie,* the celebrated champion of Truth, who acknowledges that he never could, when a boy or man, look at a certain translation of Ajax's speech into one of the vulgar Scotch dialects without laughing !
We shall now with boldness, similar to that of the Scotch champion, try the risible muscles of our English reader; we are not, indeed, inclined to go quite such lengths as he has gone: he insists, that the Scotch dialect ought to be adopted all over England ; we are only going candidly to confess, that we think the Irish, in general, speak better English than is commonly spoken by the natives of England. To limit this proposition so as to make it appear less absurd, we should observe, that we allude to the lower classes of the people in both countries. In some counties in Ireland, a few of the poorest labourers and cottagers do not understand English, they speak only Irish, as in Wales there are vast numbers who speak only Welsh; but amongst those who speak English we find fewer vulgarisms than amongst the same rank of persons in England. The English which they speak is chiefly such as has been traditional in their families from the time of the
* Vide Illustrations on Sublimity, in his Essays.