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The Glory of English Prose

Letters to my Grandson

LETTERS TO MY GRANDSON

I

MY DEAR ANTONY,

The letters which I wrote “On the world about you" having shown you that throughout all the universe, from the blazing orbs in infinite space to the tiny muscles of an insect's wing, perfect design is everywhere manifest, I hope and trust that you will never believe that so magnificent a process and order can be without a Mind of which it is the visible expression.

The chief object of those letters was to endorse your natural feeling of reverence for the Great First Cause of all things, with the testimony of your reason; and to save you from ever allowing knowledge of how the sap rises in its stalk to lessen your wonder at and admiration of the loveliness of a flower.

I am now going to write to you about the literature of England and show you, if I can, the immense gulf that divides distinguished writing and speech from vulgar writing and speech.

There is nothing so vulgar as an ignorant use of your own language.

Every Englishman should show that he respects and honours the glorious language of his country, and will not willingly degrade it with his own pen or tongue.

“We have long preserved our constitution," said Dr. Johnson; “let us make some struggles for our language.”

There is no need to be priggish or fantastic in our choice of words or phrases.

Simple old words are just as good as any that can be selected, if you use them in their proper sense and place.

By reading good prose constantly your ear will come to know the harmony of language, and you will find that your taste will unerringly tell you what is good and what is

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