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attended to as it deserves : the facilitating of the acquisition of other languages, whether ancient or modern. A good foundation in the general principles of grammar is in the first place necessary for all those, who are initiated in a learned education ; and for all others likewise, who shall have occasion to furnish themselves with the knowledge of modern languages. Universal grammar cannot be taught abstractedly: it must be done with reference to some language already known; in which the terms are to be explained, and the rules exemplified. The learner is supposed to be unacquainted with all but his native tongue; and in what other, consistently with reason and common sense, can you go about to explain it to him? When he has a competent knowledge of the main principles of grammar in general, exemplified in his own language; he then will apply himself with great advantage to the study of any other. To enter at once upon the science of grammar, and the study of a foreign language, is to encou two difficulties together, each of which would be much lessened by being taken separately and in its proper order. For these plain reasons, a competent grammatical knowledge of our own language is the true foundation, upon which all literature, properly so called, ought to be raised. If this method were adopted in our schools; if children were first taught the common principles of grammar, by some short and clear system of English grammar, which happily by its simplicity and facility is perhaps fitter than that of any other language for such a purpose; they would have some notion of what they were going about, when they should "enter into the Latin grammar; and would hardly be engaged so many years, as they now are, in that most irksome and difficult part of literature, with so much labour of the memory, and with so little assistance of the understanding. Lowth.
OF PRECISION IN WRITING. The exact import of precision may be drawn from the etymology of the word. It comes from precidere, to cut off: it imports retrenching all superfluities, and proming the expression so as to exhibit neither more nor less than an exact copy of his idea who uses it. It is often difficult to separate the qualities of style from the qualities of thought: and it is found so in this instance. For in order to write with precision, though this be properly a quality of style, ope must possess a very considerable degree of distinctness and accuracy in this manner of thinking.
The words, which a man uses to express his ideas, may be faulty in three respects; they may either not express that idea which the author intends, but some other which only resembles, or is akin to it; or, they may express that idea, but not quite fully and completely; or, they may ex. press it, together with something more than he intends. Precision stands opposed to all these three faults ; but chiefly to the last. In an author's writing with propriety, his being free from the two former faults seems implied. The words which he uses are proper; that is, they express that idea which he intends, and they express it fully; but to be precise, signifies, that they express that idea, and no more. There is nothing in his words which introduces any foreign idea, any superfluous, unseasonable accessory, so as to mix it confusedly with the principal object, and thereby to render our conception of that object loose and indistinct. This requires a writer to have, himself, a very clear apprehension of the object he means to present to us; to have laid fast hold of it in his mind; and never to waver in any one view he takes of it: a perfection to which, indeed, few writers attain.
The use and importance of precision may be deduced from the nature of the human mind. It never can view, clearly and distinctly, above one object at a time. If it must look at two or three together, especially objects among which there is resemblance or connection, it finds itself confused and embarrassed. It cannot clearly perceive in what they agree, and in what they differ. Thus, were any object, suppose some animal, to be, presented to me, of whose structure I wanted to form a distinct notion, I would desire all its trappings to be taken off, I would require it to be brought before me by itself, and to stand alone, that there might be nothing to distract my attention. The same is the case with words. If, when you would inform me of your meaning, you also tell me more than what conveys it; if you join foreign circumstances to the principal object; if, by unnecessarily varying the expression, you shift the point of view, and make me see sometimes the object itself, and sometin another thing
that is connected with it; you thereby oblige me to look on several objects at once, and I lose sight of the principal. You load the animal you are showing me with so many trappings and collars, and bring so many of the same species before me, somewhat resembling, and yet somewhat differing, that I see none of them clearly.
This forms what is called a loose style : and is the proper opposite to precision. It generally arises from using a superfluity of words. Feeble writers employ a multitude of words, to make themselves understood, as they think, more distinctly: and they only. confound the reader. They are sensible of not having caught the precise expression, to convey what they would signify; they do not, indeed, conceive their own meaning very precisely themselves ; and, therefore, help it out, as they can, by this and the other word, which may, as they suppose, supply the defect, and bring you somewhat nearer to their idea : they are always going about it and about it, but never just hit the thing. The image, as they set it before you, is always seen double; and no double image is distinct. When an author tells me of his hero's courage in the day of battle, the expression is precise, and I understand it fully. But if, from the desire of multiplying words, he will needs praise his courage and fortitude; at the moment he joins these words together, my idea begins to waver. He means to express one quality more strongly; but he is, in truth, expressing two. Courage resists dangers; fortitude supports pain. The occasion of exerting each of these qualities is different; and being led to think of
both together, when only one of them should be in my view, my view is rendered unsteady, and my conception of the object indistinct.
From what I have said, it appears, that an author may, in a qualified sense, be perspicuous, while yet he is far from being precise. He uses proper words and proper arrangement: he gives you the idea as clear as he conceives it himself; and so far he is perspicuous : but the ideas are not very clear in his own mind : they are loose and general; and, therefore, cannot be expressed with precision. All subjects do not equally require precision. It is sufficient, on many occasions, that we have a general view of the meaning. The subject, perhaps, is of the known and familiar kind; and we are in no hazard of mistaking the sense of the author, though every word which he uses be not precise and exact.
ON PURITY AND PROPRIETY OF LANGUAGE.
PURITY and propriety of language are often used indiscriminately for each other; and, indeed, they are very nearly allied. A distinction, however, obtains between them. Purity, is the use of such words, and such constructions, as belong to the idiom of the language which we speak; in opposition to words and phrases that are imported from other languages, or that are obsolete, or new-coined, or used without proper authority. Propriety, is the selection of such words in the language, as the best and most established usage has appropriated to those ideas which we intend