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HEN the number and variety of English Grammars already published, and the abiliiy with which some of them are written, are considered, little can be expected from a new compilation, besides a careful selection of the most useful matter, and some degree of ini: provement in the mode of adapting it to the understanding, and the gradual progress of learners. In these respects something, perhaps, may yet be done, for the case and advantage of young persons.
In books designed for the instruction of youth, there is a medium to be observed, between treating the subject in so extensive and minute a manner, as to embarrass and confuse their minds, by offering too much at once for their comprehension; and, on the other hand, conducting it by such short and general precepts and observations, as convey to them no clear and precise information. A distribution of the parts, which is either defective or irregular, has also a tendency to perplex the young understanding and to retard its knowledge of the principles of literature. A distinct general view, or outline, of all the essential parts of the study in which they are engaged ; a gradual and judicious supply of this outline ; and a due arrangement of the divisions, according to their natural order and connection, appear to be among the best means of enlightening the minds of youth, and of facilitating their acquisitions of knowledge. The author of this work, at the same time that he has endeavoured to avoid a plan, which may be too concise or too extensive, defective in its parts or irregular in their disposition, has studied to render his subject sufficiently easy, intelligible, and comprehensive. He does not presume to have completely attained these objects. How far he has succeeded in the attempt, and wherein he has failed, must be referred to the determination of the judicious and candid reader.
The method which he has adopted, of exhibiting the performance in characters of different sizes, will, he trusts, be conducive to that gradual and regular procedure, which is so favourable to the business of instruction. The more important rules, definitions, and observations, and which are therefore the most proper to be committed to memory, are printed with a larger type ; whilst rules and remarks that are of less consequence, that extend or diversify the general idea, or that serve as explanations, are contained in the smaller letter : these, or the chief of them, will be perused by the student to the greatest advantage, if postponed till the general system be completed. The use of notes and observations, in the common and detached manner, at the bottom of the page, would not, it is imagined, be so likely to attract the perusal of youth, or admit of so ample and regular an illustration, as a continued and uniform order of the several subjects. In adopting this mode, care has been taken to adjust it so that the whole may be perused in a connected progress, or the part contained in the larger character read in order by itself. Many of the notes and observations are intended, not only to explain the subjects, and to illustrate them, by comparative views of the grammar of other languages, and of the various sentiments of English grammarians; but also to invite the ingenious student to inqui. ry and reflection, and to prompt to a more enlarged, critical, and philosophical research.
With respect to the definitions and rules, it may not be improper more particularly to observe, that in se lecting and forming them, it has been the author's aim to render them as exact and comprehensive, and, at the same time, as intelligible to young minds, as the nature of the subject, and the difficulties attending it, would admit. He presumes that they are also calculated to be readily committed to memory, and easily retained. For this purpose, he has been solicitous to select terms that are smouth and voluble; to proportion the members of the sentences to one another; to avoid protracted periods; and to give the whole definition
or rule, as much harmony of expression as he could devise.
From the sentiment generally admitted, that a proper selection of faulty composition is more instructive to the young grammarian, than any rules and examples of propriety that can be given, the Compiler has been induced to pay peculiar attention to this part of the subject; and though the instances of false grammar, under the rules of Syntax, are numerous, it is hoped they will not be found too many, when their variety and usefulness are considered.
In a work which professes itself to be a compilation, and which, from the nature and design of it, must consist chiefly of materials selected from the writings of others, it is scarcely necessary to apologize for the use which the Compiler has made of his predecessors' labours; or for omitting to insert their names. From the alterations which have been frequently made in the sentiments and the language, to suit the connexion, and to adapt them to the particular purposes for which they are introduced ; and, in many instances, from the uncertainty to whom the passages originally belonged, the insertion of names could seldom be made with propriety. But if this could have been generally done, a work of this nature would derive no advantage from it, equal to the inconvenience of crowding the pages with a repetition of names and references. It is, however, proper to acknowledge, in general terms, that the authors to whom the grammatical part of this compilation is principally indebted for its materials, are Harris, John-son, Lowth, Priestley, Beattie, Sheridan, Walker, and Coote.
THE Rules and Observations respecting Perspicuity, &c. contained in the Appendix, and which are, chiefly, extracted from the writings of Blair and Campbell, will, it is presumed, form a proper addition to the Grammar: The subjects are very nearly related ; and the stựdy of perspicuity and accuracy in writing, appears naturally to follow that of Grammar. A competent acquaintance
with the principles of both, will prepare and qualify the students, for prosecuting those additional improvements in language, to which they may be properly directed.
On the utility and importance of the study of Gram. mar, and the principles of Composition, much might be advanced, for the encouragement of persons in early life to apply themselves to this branch of learning ; but as the limits of this Introduction will not allow of many observations on the subject, a few leading sentiments are all that can be admitted here with propriety. As words are the signs of our ideas, and the medium by which we perceive the sentiments of others, and communicate our own ; and as signs exhibit the things which they are intended to represent, more or less accurately, according as their real or established conformity to those things is more or less exact ; it is evi. dent, that in proportion to our knowledge of the nature and properties of words, of their relation to each other, and of their established connexion with the ideas to which they are applied, will be the certainty and ease, with which we transfuse our sentiments into the minds of one another; and that, without a competent knowledge of this kind, we shall frequently be in hazard of misunderstanding others, and of being misunderstood ourselves. It may indeed be justly asserted, that many of the differences in opinion amongst men, with the disputes, contentions, and alienations of heart, which have too often proceede: from such differences, have been occasioned by a want of proper skill in the connexion and meaning of words, and by a tenacious misapplication of language.
One of the best supports, which the recommendation of this study can receive, in small compass, may be derived from the following sentiments of an eminent and candid writer* on language and composition “All that “regards the study of composition, merits the higher
s attention upon this account, that it is intimately con"nected with the improvement of our intellectual pow"ers. For I must be allowed to say, that when we are "employed after a proper manner, in the study of com“ position, we are cultivating the understanding itself. “ The study of arranging and expressing our thoughts
with propriety, teaches to think, as well as to speak, “ accurately.”
Before the close of this Introduction, it may not be superfluous to observe, that the author of the following work has no interest in it, but that which arises from the hope, that it will prove of some advantage to young persons, and relieve the labours of those who are employed in their education.
He wishes to promote, in some degree, the cause of virtue, as well as of learning; and with this view, he has been studious, through the whole of the work, not only to avoid every example and illustration, which mighı have an improper effect on the minds of youth ; but also to introduce, on many occasions, such as have a moral and religious tendency. His attention to objects of so much importance will, he trusts, meet the approbation of every well disposed reader. If they were faithfully regarded in all books of education, they would doubtless contribute very materially to the order and happiness of society, by guarding the innocence, and cherishing the virtue of the rising generation.
Holdgate, near York,-1795.
TO THE NINTH EDITION.
The eighth edition of this grammar received considerable alterations and additions : but works of this nature admit of repeated improvements; and are, perhaps, never complete. The author, solicitous to render his book more worthy of the encouraging approbation bestowed on it by the public, has again revised the work with care