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as it receives the express sanction of the learned. The errors of which I speak are generally the result of ignorance or inadvertency, neither of which can be said to imply concurrence or consent. Moreover, in every instance where I cite an erroneous locution, I can quote far more numerous examples of the correct form.
From the list of authors quoted, I have excluded—lst, our poets of every period and degree; deeming it superfluous to quote errors which might be defended or excused on the score of poetical license, rhythm, and even rhyme; 2ndly, with three or four exceptions, the writers who flourished before the present century. Errors which are wholly inexcusable at the present day, may well be pardoned in an age when the rules of our syntax were comparatively undetermined.
The examples are thus confined to the writers of our own time, and among these to our chief historians and essayists. No one is surprised to hear that ungrammatical forms of speech are to be met with, at every page, in that species of literary production, to which we apply the terms
“ light,” “ current,” “fugitive.” It was always so,
' and will continue so to the end of time. It is so in the same department of literature in other countries, and there is no reason why ours should be an exception to the common lot. But that the grossest solecisms and the most palpable blunders should be of frequent occurrence in those who claim to occupy the highest place in the republic of letters, is what few may be prepared to admit.
Much hạs been written in our day on the English Language;" on the "Rise, Progress, and Present Structure of the English Language; on “ English Past and Present;' on the “Study
: of Language;" on the “Study of Words ;” on English Synonymes ;” and on “ English Gram
But of what avail are all those writings, if, when we come to put our words together, to combine them for the main purpose for which they are designed, we show ourselves deficient in artistic skill? What would be thought of the painter who could expatiate on the properties of colours, yet should be incapable of making a judicious disposition of them canvass ? What of the architect who could
explain the origin and use of his building materials, yet in practice should exhibit ignorance of the laws of symmetry ?
In recommending for imitation the example of the French, so far as relates to grammatical propriety, I do not wish to be understood as recommending that we should sacrifice any of the advantages of our own mother-tongue to the attainment of that object. French is one of the poorest of modern languages; but its poverty does not arise from its method and propriety. This indeed is so little the case, that, if it were written with no greater attention to grammar than English commonly is, it would soon be reduced to an intolerable jargon. English, on the other hand, is one of the richest of living languages; but its copiousness
; and vigour would suffer no diminution by being combined with a higher degree of method and propriety. That these qualities are not unattainable is sufficiently shown by the examples of such writers as Hazlitt, Southey, and Landor. That they are attainable in an eminent degree, is proved by the fact that the greatest prose writer of the age is indebted for much of his
fame to the correctness and brilliancy of his diction. Correctness, however, like other merits in a writer, has its relative value.
In some, it is the chief recommendation; in others, its absence is the principal defect. Correctness is not necessary to constitute a great writer; inaccuracy is sufficient to disparage the greatest.
15th July, 1856.