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altogether as being the product of a period of dark. ness, but as lying now, from distance and change of circumstances, in the dark to us; secondly, there is so much of that produced after what seems to us to have been the rising of the sun as we can look back upon; thirdly, there is what belongs to our own day, and lies not behind us but rather before us or around us. Of the three subjects thus presented, the first offers a field chiefly for philological and antiquarian erudition; even the third, not being yet past, does not come properly within the domain of history; the only one that persectly admits of being treated historically is the daylight or middle division. But that is always both by far the most extensive and also in every other respect the most important. The survey which is taken in the present work of so much of our English literature as is thus properly historical is no doubt far from complete. Still it will be found to include not only, of course, all our writers of the first class, but also, I believe, all those, without exception, who can be regarded as of any considerable distinction. If that be so, it will, whatever its defects of execution, present a view of the whole subject of which it professes to treat ; for it is only great names and great works that make a literature. An account of the writings of Chaucer, of Spenser, of Shakspeare, of Bacon, of Milton, of Dryden, of Pope, of Swift, of Burke, of Burns, of Cowper, would sufficiently unfold the course and revolutions of our English literature from its commencement down to the beginning of the present century. Many names, however, have also been noticed in these volumes which have no pretensions to be considered as even of second-rate importance, but yet some information in regard to which, if it were no more than the date to which each of them belongs,
might, it was thought, add to the serviceableness of
stood still sufficiently expressed what I had to say. The present work, therefore, it will be understood, comprehends and incorporates all of the former one (now out of print) which it has been considered desirable to preserve. It is, in truth, in the main a republication of that, though with many alterations and some curtailments, as well as considerable additions and enlargements. I have even retained, though hardly coming under the new title, the summaries of the progress of Scientific Discovery in successive periods, as not taking up very much room, and supplying a good many dates and other facts which even in following the history of Literature it is sometimes convenient to have at hand. The present work, on the other hand, professes to combine the history of the Literature with the history of the Language. The scheme of the course and revolutions of the Language which is followed here, and also in the later editions of my Sketches of the History of the English Language, was first announced by me in an article published in the Dublin University Magazine for July, 1857. It is extremely simple, and, resting not upon arbitrary but upon natural or real distinctions, gives us the only view of the subject that can claim to be regarded as of a scientific character, In the earliest state in which it is known to us the English is both a homogeneous and a synthetic language,_ homogeneous in its vocabulary, synthetic in its grammatical structure. It has since, though of course always operated upon, like everything human, by the law of gradual change, undergone only two decided revolutions; the first of which destroyed its synthetic, the second its homogeneous, character. Thus, in its second form it is still a homogeneous, but no longer a synthetic, language; in its third, it is neither synthetic WOL. I. 2
nor homogeneous, but has become both analytic in its
to produce the first of the two revolutions, its ultimate
effect to produce the second. I there, also, gave an account of the examination of the vocabulary of our existing English instituted by Dr. J. P. Thommerel, in his Recherches sur la Fusion du Franco-Normand et de l'Anglo-Saxon, published at Paris in 1841, in which he showed, in opposition to all previous estimates, that, of the words collected in our common dictionaries, instead of two thirds being of native origin, as usually assumed, and only one third of Latin or French extraction, the fact is just the other way;-two thirds are foreign and only one third native. I proceeded to remark, however, that of the words in common use both in speaking and in writing, which may be taken as about 10,000 in number, probably full a half are pure English ; and that of those in common colloquial use, which may be about 5000 in all, probably four fifths are of native stock. “And the 4000 or 5000 nonRoman words,” I added, “that are in general use (4000 in our common speech, 5000 in literary composition), compose all the fundamental framework of the language,
all that may be called its skeleton or bony structure, and also perhaps the better part of its muscular tis. sue.” The portion of our literature to which the present work is properly speaking devoted is that of the Third Form of the Language, and may be regarded as commencing with the poetry of Chaucer in the middle of
the fourteenth century.
P.S. Upon more careful consideration, I find that the simile in the 6th Iliad is not fairly represented in the translation given vol. ii. p. 546. Nothing turns upon it; but I ought not to have supposed it possible that Homer could have been in anything inconsistent with truth and nature.
Queen's College, Belfast,