« PreviousContinue »
Of all the tasks of our school days, perhaps none was more repugnant to any of us, than the study of grammar; and when, after many a good caning, we had at last, in some fashion, mastered its rules, our estimate of their value was not very different from the charity boy's estimate of the value of the alphabet which he had just learnt; ;
-we questioned whether it was worth while going through so much to learn so little.
The task of working out a puzzling sum in arithmetic, or of solving a difficult problem in geometry, was, to say the least of it, one possessing some degree of interest; but what interest could attach to the studying of rules concerning verbs and pronouns ? The determining of the
cost of a horse by the progressive amounts to be paid for the nails in his shoes, or the feat of crossing the famous bridge in the first book of Euclid, was, to most of us, a matter of pride; but what pride could a boy take in learning that a verb is a word which signifies to be', 'to do', or 'to suffer!" ?
• To suffer'! I can imagine the almost malicious pleasure which Lindley Murray felt as he wrote those words, and thought of the prophetic significance which they had fortheluckless urchins who should fail to understand his rules of grammar. Well, it is the pupil's turn now; and, notwithstanding that the old grammarian was a personal friend of my family's, I cannot resist the temptation to take up the pen against him, and to repay him for the terror of his name in my school days, by showing that, in the very volume in which he laid down his rules, he frequently expressed himself ungrammatically.
However, it is not merely to gratify, even good humouredly, a boyish feeling of retaliation, that I enter upon this task. My chief object is to render some little service to those who are desirous of acquiring a critical knowledge of the English language, but who are in danger of being
misled in their studies, by the bad English of one who has been considered our principal grammarian.
I will not criticise the first edition of his work; nor, indeed, any one of the seventy editions which, including abridgments, were issued before the work had received the author's final emendations; but will, in simple justice to him, confine my criticisms to the most accurate edition published—the two volume octavo edition of 1816, which he describes, both on the title page and in the preface, as "corrected".
First, then, he says, in strangely ungrammatical language, on page 10;
“From the sentiment generally admitted, that a
proper selection of faulty composition is more " instructive to the young grammarian, than [are]
any rules and examples of propriety that can be
given, the compiler has been induced to pay “particular attention to this part of the subject; “and though the instances of false grammar, “ under the rules of syntax, are numerous, it is
hoped [that] they will not be found too many, “ when their variety and usefulness are con“sidered.”
1, also, hope that the following instances of false grammar, taken from Lindley Murray's own composition, will not be found too many, when their variety and usefulness are considered ;their “variety”, because they relate to almost every part of speech in the language; and their “usefulness", because such errors, when pointed
" out as having been committed by one who professes to be a master of composition, are more impressive, and therefore more instructive, than any number of examples of good English could possibly be.
It is scarcely necessary to mention that, in the foregoing quotation, Lindley Murray really says;—“A proper selection of faulty composition “is more instructive than [is] any rules and "examples"!
“A similar error occurs on page 365; there he says;
Many sentences are miserably mangled, and the
“ force of the emphasis (are] totally lost".
Here, also, the ellipsis of the second verb is unallowable ; because, as in the former instance, the number of the nominative to that verb, is not the same as the number of the nominative to the preceding verb. In the one instance there is a change from the singular to the plural; in