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necessarily a new form. In confirmation of this opinion on the conjunction “or”, see Dr. Campbell's 'Philosophy of Rhetoric', Vol.ii, page 49. A third error in the sentence consists of an improper change in the mood of the verb. Mr. Marsh says;—"The greater the merits of his work may “be otherwise, the greater is the sin of his trans“gression." This should have been ;-" The
greater the merits of his work are otherwise, “the greater is the sin of his transgression"; or, better still;—"The greater the merits which “his work has otherwise, the greater is the sin of “his transgression.”
Mr. Marsh's 'Notes' are thus continued :
“In justice it should be added that where the Web
"sterian orthography differs from that generally “regarded as normal in England, the latter is "given in brackets and small italics, in the pre“sent edition. This is an improvement, certainly, “but it would have been much better and fairer "to put the spelling adopted by the highest “living and recent authorities at least upon an “equal footing with that which the editors pro“pose to substitute for it, by assigning to it as
conspicuous a place and letter as to the new “orthography."
In this passage Mr. Marsh did not, I believe,
mean to speak of a certain orthography "garded as normal in England", but of a certain orthography regarded in England as normal. In the latter part of the sentence Mr. Marsh falls into a similar error, and tells us something which is directly opposed to that which he wished to express. He says ;—“It would have been much “better and fairer to put the spelling adopted “by the highest living and recent authorities at "least upon an equal footing with that which the "editors propose to substitute for it, by assigning “ to it as conspicuous a place and letter as to the "new orthography." We are told that the editors of 'Webster's Dictionary'propose to substitute one mode of spelling for another, by giving to each an equally conspicuous place and letter! I venture to suggest that Mr. Marsh's meaning would have been more clearly expressed by the following briefer form of words : - This is an im"provement, certainly ; but it would have been “much better and fairer to put both upon an
equal footing, by assigning to the spelling
adopted by the highest living and recent au“thorities, a place and letter as conspicuous as “that assigned to the new orthography."
Nothing is unimportant in literary composition. As, in chess, the result of a game is frequently determined by the position of a pawn, so, in a sentence, a writer's meaning is frequently determined by the position of a comma. In Mr. Marsh's next sentence there should be a comma after the word “language”; and then we should not read of
"A word-book of a living language not extending
" beyond a single volume."
Passing over the next sentence, I read as follows:
“ That which has been accomplished for some lan
guages, and which is in process of accomplish“ment for several others-namely, a complete “historical and expository lexicon of the speech “—so far from having been effected for the
English language by Webster and his improvers, was not even attempted by them, nor, though “ Johnson and Richardson, not to mention some “older and less famous laborers in the same "field, had large and liberal ideas upon the “possibilities of lexicography, has it ever been “seriously undertaken until it was commenced,
within the last ten years, by the London Philo“logical Society."
In the first place, can we correctly speak of a lexicon as being “in process of accomplishment”?
Ought we not rather to speak of the writing of such a work as being in process of accomplishment ? To accomplish is to complete, to fill up; and as a lexicon cannot be said to exist until it is completed, it appears to me that we can no more speak of a lexicon as being in process of accomplishment, than we can speak of anything that is completed, as being in process of completion. Towards the end of the sentence, Mr. Marsh says ;—"nor has it ever been seriously under"taken until it was commenced, within the last "ten years, by the London Philological Society.” Why this change in the tense of the verbs? It surely cannot be justified. Mr. Marsh should have said ;—"nor had it ever been seriously under“taken until it was commenced, within the last “ten years, by the London Philological Society.”
One of the most frequently recurring errors in Mr. Marsh's Notes' is the improper omission of the article after the disjunctive conjunction I have given one or two instances of this; here is another, which differs from those previously noticed, in that it has an adjective before the first noun; and therefore, as the article is not repeated after the "or", the construction of the sentence requires that we accept the adjective as
applying to the second noun as well as to the first. Mr. Marsh speaks of
“The revolutions of language which have thrown out
“ of use and into oblivion a vast multitude of
terms familiar, in different ages, to our litera"ture and our daily speech, sometimes supplying
their places by new vocables, sometimes burying “them with the dead objects or ideas they stood “ for."
If Mr. Marsh did not mean to speak of dead ideas as well as of “dead objects”, he should have said — "sometimes burying them with the dead
objects or with the ideas they stood for”; or, “ for which they stood.”