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will not always be confined to the exchange, the warehouse, or the port, but will be communicated by degrees to other ranks of the people, and be at last incorporated with the current speech.
There are likewise internal causes equally forcible. The language most likely to continue long without alteration, would be that of a nation raised a little, and but a little, above barbarity, secluded from strangers, and totally employed in procuring the conveniences of life; either without books, or, like some of the Mahometan countries, with very few: men thus busied and unlearned, having only such words as common use requires, would perhaps long continue to express the same notions by the same signs. But no such constancy can be expected in a people polished by arts, and classed by subordination, where one part of the community is sustained and accommodated by the labour of the other. Those who have much leisure to think, will always be enlarging the stock of ideas; and every increase of knowledge, whether real or fancied, will produce new words, or combinations of words. When the mind is unchained from necessity, it will range after convenience; when it is left at large in the fields of speculation, it will shift opinions; as any custom is disused, the words that expressed it must perish with it; as any opinion grows popular, it will innovate speech in the same proportion as it alters practice.
As by the cultivation of various sciences, a language is amplified, it will be more furnished with words deflected from their original sense; the geometrician will talk of a courtier's zenith, or the eccentric virtue of a wild hero, and the physician of sanguine expectations and phlegmatic delays. piousness of speech will give opportunities to capricious choice, by which some words will be preferred, and others degraded; vicissitudes of fashion will enforce the use of the new, or extend the signification of known terms. The tropes of poetry will make hourly encroachments, and the metaphorical will beome the current sense: pronunciation will be varied by levity or ignorance, and the pen must at length comply with the tongue; illiterate writers will, at one time or other, by public infatuation, rise into renown, who, not knowing the original import of words, will use them with colloquial licentiousness, confound distinction, and forget propriety. As politeness increases, some expressions will be considered as too gross and vulgar for the delicate, others as too formal and ceremonious for the gay and airy; new phrases are therefore adopted, which must, for the same reasons, be in time dismissed.
There is another cause of alteration more prevalent than any other, which yet in the present state of the world cannot be obviated. A mixture of two languages will produce a third distinct from both, and they will always be mixed, where the chief part of education, and the most conspicuous accomplishment, is skill in ancient or in foreign tongues. He that has long cultivated another language, will find its words and combinations crowd upon his memory; and haste and negligence, refinement and affectation, will obtrude borrowed terms and exotic expressions.
The great pest of speech is frequency of translation. No book was ever turned from one language into another, without imparting something of its native idiom; this is the most mischievous and comprehensive innovation; single words may enter by thousands, and the fabric of the tongue continue the same; but new phraseology changes much at once; it alters not the single stones of the building, but the order of the columns. If an academy should be established for the cultivation of our style, which I, who can never wish to see dependance multiplied, hope the spirit of English liberty will hinder or destroy, let them, instead of compiling grammars and dictionaries, endeavour, with all their influence, to stop the licence of translators, whose idleness and ignorance, if it be suffered to proceed, will reduce us to babble a dialect of France.
If the changes that we fear be thus irresistible, what remains but to acquiesce with silence, as in the other insurmountable distresses of humanity? It remains that we retard what we cannot repel, that we palliate what we cannot cure. Life may be lengthened by care, though death cannot be ultimately defeated: tongues like governments, have a natural tendency to degeneration; we have long preserved our constitution, let us make some struggles for our language.
2. TO THE EARL OF CHESTERFIELD.
February 7, 1755.
MY LORD - I have lately been informed, by the proprietor of The World, that two papers, in which my, Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your lordship. To be so distinguished is an honour, which, being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.
When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind,
by the enchantment of your address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre, that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When once I had addressed your lordship in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.
Seven years, my lord, have now passed, since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.
The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks.
Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached the ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity, not to confess obligations when no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron, which Providence has enabled me to do for myself.
Having carried on my work thus far with so little obliga tion to any favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have long been wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation. My lord, your lordship's most humble, most obedient servant, SAMUEL JOHNSON.
3. SAYINGS OF SAMUEL JOHNSON.
1. On Monday, the 16th of May , when I [Boswell] was sitting in Mr. Davies's back parlour, Johnson unexpectedly
came into the shop. Mr. Davies mentioned my name, and respectfully introduced me to him. I was much agitated; and recollecting his prejudice against the Scotch, of which I had heard much, I said to Davies, »Don't tell where I come from <<. >> From Scotland«, cried Davies, roguishly. »Mr. Johnson«<, said I, »I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it«. This speech was somewhat unlucky; for with that quickness of wit for which he was so remarkable, he seized the expression » came from Scotland«, which I used in the sense of being of that country: and, as if I had said that I had come away from it, or left it; retorted, »That, Sir, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help«. This stroke stunned me a good deal; and when we had sat down, I felt myself not a little embarassed, and apprehensive of what might come next. He then addressed himself to Davies: » What do you think of Garrick? He has refused me an order for the play for Miss Williams, because he knows the house will be full, and that an order would be worth three shillings«. Eager to take any opening to get into conversation with him, I ventured to say, »O, Sir, I cannot think Mr. Garrick would grudge such a trifle to you«. >> Sir«<, said he, with a stern look, I have known David Garrick longer than you have done, and I know no right you have to talk to me on the subject. <<
2. Dr. Johnson and I [Boswell] took a sculler at the Temple Stairs, and set out for Greenwich. I asked him if he really thought a knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages an essential requisite to a good education. Johnson. Most certainly, Sir; for those who know them have a very great advantage over those who do not. Nay, Sir, it is wonderful what a difference learning makes upon people even in the common intercourse of life, which does not appear to be much connected with it«. »And yet«, said I, »people go through the world very well, and carry on the business of life to good advantage, without learning«. Johnson. » Why, Sir, that may be true in cases where learning cannot possibly be of any use; for instance, this boy rows us as well without learning as if he could sing the song of Orpheus to the Argonauts, who were the first sailors«. He then called to the boy, >What would you give, my lad, to know about the Argonauts?<«< >> Sir«<, said the boy, »I would give what I have«. Johnson was much pleased with his answer, and we gave him a double fare. Dr. Johnson then turning to me, » Sir«, said he, »a desire of knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind; and every human being, whose mind is not de
bauched, will be willing to give all that he has, to get knowledge<<.
3. >> Sir, I would no more deprive a nobleman of his respect than of his money. I consider myself as acting a part in the great system of society, and I do to others as I would have them to do to me. I would behave to a nobleman as I should expect he would behave to me, were I a nobleman and he Sam Johnson. Sir, there is one Mrs. Macauley in this town, a great republican. One day, when I was at her house, I put on a very grave countenance, and said to her, 'Madam, I am now become a convert to your way of thinking. I am convinced that all mankind are upon an equal footing; and to give you an unquestionable proof, Madam, that I am in earnest, here is a very sensible, civil, wellbehaved fellow-citizen, your footman; I desire that he may be allowed to sit down and dine with us'. She has never liked me since. Sir, your levellers wish to level down as far as themselves; but they cannot bear levelling up to themselves. They would all have some people under them; why not then have some people above them?<<
4. An animated debate took place whether Martinelli should continue his History of England to the present day. Goldsmith. >> To be sure he should«. Johnson. »No, Sir, he would give great offence. He would have to tell of almost all the living great what they do not wish told<<. Goldsmith. »It may, perhaps, be necessary for a native to be more cautious; but a foreigner, who comes among us without prejudice, may be considered as holding the place of a judge, and may speak his mind freely«. — Johnson. >> Sir, a foreigner, when he sends a work from the press, ought to be on his guard against catching the error and mistaken enthusiasm of the people among whom he happens to be<<. Goldsmith. » Sir, he wants only to sell his history, and to tell truth: one an honest, the other a laudable motive<<. Johnson. »Sir, they are both laudable motives. It is laudable in a man to wish to live by his labours; but he should write so as he may live by them, not so as he may be knocked on the head. I would advise him to be at Calais before he publishes his history of the present age. A foreigner who attaches himself to any political party in this country is in the worst state that can be imagined; he is looked upon as a mere intermeddler. A native may do it from interest«. - Boswell. »Or principle«. Goldsmith. >> There are people who tell a hundred political lies every day, and are not hurt by it. Surely, then, one may tell