Imatges de pàgina

the oo in food. The only sign which I at present should care to defend is q for the sh in shine; and, even here, the aid of a committee of printers would be required to put it into form. I think now, as I thought then, that if we could only get the small letters, the capitals might be left to develop themselves; holding, however, most decidedly that the small must be equally as well fitted for writing as for printing.

But even in the case of the new letter I have suggested, I am prepared to take the facts of the present time as I find them. The Phonetic Alphabet of the Phonetic Journal, I accept as it stands; with a few exceptions, which I leave to the judgement of time.

The only new letter then which, under any circumstances, I should feel inclined to defend, I leave undefended. It was no creation of my own; but a sign taken from Rask's "Essay on the Sibilants," which I was then translating.

This Essay and the Greek Grammar belong to Metagraphy or Transliteration, rather than to Phonetic Spelling in the strict sense of the term. The former will be alluded to in the sequel.

Such were my early but forgotten productions,-still-born innocents. The writers of the Gulielmian age, of whom so much had been asked, did, of course, just nothing at all for them. Indeed, for my own part the little I know about them is as follows:

One copy of the Essay on the Sibilants was certainly sold; for, some years afterwards, it appeared in a sale-list with the rest of the library of Mr Forskal of the British Museum.

Of the "Address" I heard that a copy was ordered by a circulating book-club in the country, and that "three weeks" were allowed to each member for the reading of it. It was republished by Mr Pitman, in his Phonetic Journal for July, 1859.

Thirdly, for the Greek Grammar in English letters, there was an actual wholesale order. It was given by a friendly bookseller at Eton who remembered me as a boy. I thought it was done for old acquaintance' sake, and was sorry to hear that the venture had been an unsuccessful one. But the sad truth came out at last. He had taken it for a comic Greek Grammar, and was both surprised and hurt when the few premature and precocious purchasers complained of it as an imposition. They could not, for the life of them, see the fun in it.' Nor, when stock was taken, did he.


I may perhaps be allowed to quote here the opening and concluding paragraphs of the "Address to the Authors of England and America," which attempted something-in a field that has since been diligently and profitably cultivated-and effected nothing.

Messieurs and Mesdames,

The obscurest individual amongst you, as well as the most celebrated, works equally, though in a different degree, towards the production of what may be called the literature of the age we live in. I think it highly probable, that in describing the modes of thought of the nineteenth century, some future historian may express himself in phrases like the following:"About this time, knowledge ceased to be the exclusive property of the learned

and the secluded. What Socrates did for philosophy, the writers of the Gulielmian age did for every kind of knowledge; they brought it down into common life, and men then began to form themselves into societies, not for the sake of pursuing, but of diffusing it; and works written professedly for the people came to be distributed at prices which a few years before would have appeared incredible. These productions of the press were meant for the information of the lower-they succeeded only in enlightening the middle classes. It never struck the promoters of such liberal schemes, that the chief embargos upon knowled consisted not in the scarcity of books, or in the abstruseness of such of them as had been written with no especial view of being adapted to the most uninformed apprehension, but that the cause of the evil was more deeply rooted, namely, in the excessive difficulties which presented themselves in the first approaches towards knowledge, which arose from the complexity of the mode of spelling then in use, sufficient to give a distaste for every thing which books could teach, to all such beginners as were not gifted either with iron assiduity or instinctive genius. It never struck them, that although there was no royal road to knowledge, it was by no means incumbent on them to keep the usual one clogged up with unnecessary obstacles; and the amount of the distaste for studies such things tended to create, none seemed to have taken the trouble to calculate."

The following pages contain an attempt to obviate such remarks, and to render the very elements of mental improvement of as easy attainment as the nature of the things will allow, by the substitution of a complete for an incomplete orthography: and I address it to those in whose hands alone lies the power of introducing or rejecting alterations.

The author's proposals were then detailed at length, and the subject was urged upon the attention of the writers for the press by the following concluding remarks :


A change from the present to a better state of things is not to be brought about suddenly, nor is it desirable that it should be so. Innovations must succeed each each other slowly, but they would take place, and they would in the end succeed, if every man, in the least degree awakened to what ought to be done, would either himself introduce, if he be a writer, some alteration; or, if he be a reader, hesitate to condemn such authors as do so. A mighty change might be effected, with very little additional trouble given to the reading public, if even half those who appear in print would exert themselves to differ from the received orthography, even no more than Mitford does in his history of Greece, Hare and Thirlwall in their translation of Niebuhr, or Oliver in his critical grammar of the English language, or the author of the present work in the sheets now perused. Thus one might confine his innovations to the substitution of z for s in the plurals; another may write "A" for oo in such irregularly written words as blood, flood; and a third use the semivowel for the vowel in such diphthongs as house, oil. But the true adaptation of the letters of a nation to its language will begin with the introduction of one of the new signs, p, etc. We must not, however, shut our eyes to the fact, that be such a change brought about as it may, the present and the next generation will have two alphabets to learn: this I think is the maximum of the inevitable evil which attends all innovations. To such as ask in what degree the present change is to be oonsidered a final one, I can only answer that I see at present not the most distant prospect of the growth or introduction of anything like a new sound; but I will neither deny that the observations I have made on the use of the letters r and u involve some idea of a change in the pronunciation of the combinations those two letters form; nor that future innovators may arise and argue that it is abstractedly right that such letters as we have derived from other alphabets, should in our own keep that force, and that force only, which was given by the nation that invented them; nor that, for the sake of making our language of easy attainment to foreigners, and foreign

languages as little difficult as possible to ourselves, it may be practically advantageous that such sounds as the majority of European nations agree in attributing to certain letters we attribute to the same letters ourselves. In the first of these cases, y, as the descendant of v, a vowel sound, will be ejected from a language where the sound it was invented to represent is wanting; and in the second, a substitute will be procured for j, and j be sounded as y is at present, on the plea that the present power we give to j is unique and singular: and if the plea, that in printing diphthongs, the true elements must be given, avail, ay or aj, aoy or aoj, and aw, will be substituted for ey, oy, and ow. Greater changes than these

can conceive no innovator who will venture to propose, or any alterations in our language which it will demand. But for fear lest I be considered to overvalue the evils of a thing so apparently unimportant as the fact of having twenty-four letters instead of thirty, or three modes of spelling a word instead of one, I must observe that the full weight of the embargo, both upon the attainment of information in respect to individuals, and the diffusion of it over masses of popu lation arising therefrom, is all the less evident, because it is exactly in proportion as a man is possessed of literary acquirements or mental capabilities, that the difficulties he had to get over before he was enabled to read, and therefrom arising narrowness of his escape from a distaste to study, are less vividly impressed upon him. In his attempts to calculate such things, he can hardly be said to proceed upon any experience in regard to feelings he has forgotten; he must infer, as it were à priori, that such difficulties as he finds our alphabet to cause, would create so much discouragement in a child's mind, just as he would determine that all such practical knowledge as that fire burns, ice chills, etc., is the fruit of a series of unpleasant though forgotten experiments. Many early feelings must be re-embodied by my readers before they will be able to appreciate the arguments on which most of what has been written depends. As to the value of my own evidence on such subjects, I may truly say that I am possessed by no such blind enthusiasm as would shut my eyes to the difficulty of effecting such a change as the one proposed; still less am I conscious of having one iota of that feeling which too often prompts people to exhibit plans, not in order that the public may value them for the good they work, but for the specimen of acuteness they may display on the part of the projector. Moreover, the system I would introduce is far from being so exclusively my own as to generate any undue parental partiality. The investigations which led me to it lay among the works of writers the least likely to communicate their enthusiasm: whilst the admission that forming a system with reference to nothing but the standard of perfection, and adapting new improvements to an imperfect state of things previously existing, are things entirely different, I am less unwilling than unable to remedy imperfections arising from the nature of the alphabet I have to, as it were, engraft them upon, should prevent the giving to the thing proposed even a prima facie appearance of its being a mere theory.

If I thought my attempt destined to share the fate of many such as have gone before it and been similar to it, and that it was doomed to be raked up from the pit of oblivion only in order to be held up as a warning to others of the futility of such like efforts as the present one, I should most certainly withhold it from the public, valuing, as I ought to do, their time and my own: but I am encouraged by finding, that of the many who have expressed a wish for alterations, few have in the smallest degree adopted any; and of those who have adopted any, few have detailed their reasons for doing so. The public, most naturally, place little reliance on a person who embodies his abuse of an alphabet in words spelt literatim in the mode he complains of, and still less on one who, if he does not leave too much to their penetration, seems to pay too little deference to their usages.

It is but equivocal advantage that the present attempt is in no wise a party cause, as, if it were so, men might be brought to think upon it, and their feelings might be enlisted on the side of their judgement; but so much is it the common

interest of every man who speaks English, that it is the business of everybodywhich is nobody; and the idea of its being this is what ought especially to be guarded against. Great as the change from wrong to right is, it may be brought about without either the aid of academies or orthographical societies, if only a majority of those who read and of those who write would not so much convince themselves of the necessity of such a reform, but of the power each individual has to promote it; and the exertions necessary thereto consist in little more than the conquering of a prejudice, and the acting upon their conviction.

To transmit the birthright of civilisation which we derived from our ancestors unimpaired, and, if it may be so, improved to our posterity, is a social duty; and when the trouble each individual will have in clearing away the rubbish on the high road to knowledge is not greater than that of accustoming himself to write or read such a change as there is from cat to kat, at such intervals as may allow the innovations to accumulate until confirmed by custom, and the full necessary change have taken place-I say that that man is selfish who will not submit to it.

And be it remembered that the introduction of new letters touches with us no national prejudice, as it did with the Danes, with whom a° was objected to as a substitute for aa, on the ground of its being Swedish; nor is our present a b c entwined with any ideas of national glory and triumphs gone by, as is that of the Greeks. Our own alphabet, even in the best of times, was at best but a transfer from the Latin; the only original parts of it, and , are rejected: the alterations it underwent in the Norman times are tokens not of our glory but our subjugation. The natural shortness of life is not more curtailed by waste of time on the part of ourselves, than the unattainableness of universal knowledge is aggravated by the multiplicity of its unnecessary obstacles. The division of labor is as important in literature as in manufactures; and if we of this age are bound to do for our posterity what our ancestors have done for ourselves; and if each era has its own peculiar modes of thought, and the universal culture of the intellect be so much a feature of the present one as to lead the many to confound it with superficialness, is that man who labors to exhibit in the most intelligible point of view that which is already discovered, serving mankind and earning their gratitude, one whit less than his fellow, who, with no greater genius, but more ambition, seeks to add to the stock of knowledge, leaving its diffusion to others? Both employments are undoubtedly of the highest nature, and neither must be raised at the expense of the other; but the one who, by rendering dark things light, and good things common, makes two intellectualists where before there was but one, adds to the number of laborers in the vineyard of knowledge; and by multiplying the quantum of thought in operation, finally, though indirectly, not only spreads wisdom more upon the earth, but also brings down more from heaven.

I confess I know no poetry equal to the contemplation of that intuitive and instinctive acquirement, and that unbounded substitution of intellectual for physical power, which must and will take place when there is not in any one branch of any one kind of wisdom any other let or hindrance than those which lie either in the nature of the subject itself, or in the insufficiency of the mind working thereon.



It has been indicated in the preceding section that a time has now come which differs from the days which went before it, in being exceptionably favorable. This is not a matter of degree, but of kind. The question of simple education has been long before us. The present, however, is a time of compulsory education. It is more

than this; it is a time of subsidised education. More still, it is a time of self-subsidised, self-sustained, and self-supporting education: education which must be its own great reward; and education to which every one who is benefited by it must contribute. This brings it within the domain of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Commissioners whose business it is to make the most of all existing educational endowments. Great powers are claimed for raising new, and utilising old funds; the old endowments are to be diverted, and new rates to be laid, for the sake of the one great object of education in general.

The end justifies the means. But the means are (what, to the same extent, they have never been before) exceptional; and the very fact of their being so must be taken as an element in the price paid for an inordinately superior advantage. Nevertheles, it creates a second party in the affair: and it does not follow that, because we get a great boon or profit, we are precluded from looking closely into the details of the bargain.

Here, except as an item which always commands attention, I put the money element out of the question. The incidence of the taxation falls on the more valuable article time: for time, so valuable to all, is of double value to the working man. If education, however, is made a matter which takes from him double, treble, four times, etc., the amount which is absolutely necessary, a wrong is inflicted upon him; and this unnecessary waste may easily induce him to prefer the existing state of acquiescent ignorance to that of compulsory enlightenment. Perhaps he may be burning the candle at both ends; or, be himself a ratepayer paying rates out of the money which his son, when dismissed from bird-tending, fails to earn. Such is his condition. The skilled artisan of the towns, himself, to a great degree, in the same predicament, may, perhaps, teach him a broader view of such matters ;-may, indeed, persuade him that all is for the best. Let us assume that he does so. There is still a point on which both can agree; namely, that whatever be given in return for the immediate loss should be given in return for as slight a sacrifice as possible.

Here I pause. The moment it is shown that the art of reading and writing can be obtained at the price of so many shillings or so many days less than the amount which the constrained education of his son charges, he has a matter which touches him most closely. The particular case may be phonetic spelling, or it may be anything else. At any rate, it is a matter for a large class to look to, and, as the day has now come when this class can not only judge for themselves, but have a voice in the decision, I submit that I am justified in speaking of the present time as one which we have not seen before, and one which we should not allow to pass by.

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