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THE HON. GEORGE P. MARSH.
I REJOICE that
letters have called forth hostile criticism; because now, haply, we shall be able to blend amusement with instruction; and, by good-humouredly laughing at the faults which each writer commits, shall induce the public to join in our mirth, and to take an interest in a study which hitherto, perhaps, they have regarded as intolerably dull.
There is, in a recent number of The Nation'a letter dated from Trinity College and signed “S.” It purports to be a review of 'Moon's English'. I am always thankful for the criticisms of any one who shows, by his mastery over language, that his critical opinions are deserving of respect. But when a would-be critic of my language, is unable to see the faults in his own, I smile at the expression of his benevolent intentions; and, while thanking him very cordially for his proffered services, decline to place myself under his tuition.
The second sentence in the letter of my collegiate friend is as follows: “Mr. Marsh is, of course, quite able to carry on a
“contest with Mr. Moon triumphantly, if he “would be at the trouble to do it, and certainly
“ does not need to call for any assistance.” An elegant writer would have said;" trium
“phantly to carry on a contest with Mr. Moon”, and not, "to carry on a contest with Mr. Moon "triumphantly". Besides how can Mr. Marsh's ability to carry on a contest be dependent on his will ? Mr. S. says that Mr. Marsh is "able if he would ", etc. But that is not all;
; for, Mr. S. adds, “and certainly does not need to "call for any assistance." That is, Mr. Marsh is able “ if he would be at the trouble to do it, "and [if he] certainly does not need to call for
any assistance." Mr. S. ought to have said; “and he certainly does not need to call for
any assistance." But as the sentence stands, we are told that Mr. Marsh's ability to carry on a contest with Mr. Moon triumphantly, is dependent on the possession of two things : the will to be at the trouble, and the certainty of his not needing to call for any assistance. Should he fail in either of these matters, his triumph
would, in the judgment of Mr. S., be doubtful ! Well, after all, Mr. S. may be right; for, certainly, if Mr. Marsh needed his assistance, the case would indeed be a hopeless one.
I will examine the composition of another sentence of Mr. S.'s, and then proceed to investigate some of his critical opinions. In the same paragraph as that from which I just now quoted, I read :
Perhaps his (Mr. Moon's] carelessness is due to the
“fact that he is writing for Americans, of whose “ability to speak or write the English correctly "he has, at times, been hardly able to conceal his “ doubts.”
I am constrained to protest, here, against the injustice of this remark. I have, on every occasion, stood up in defence of the Americans; and those who know me and have read · The Dean's English', can bear witness to the truth of this assertion. It is the Dean of Canterbury who has maligned the people whose first President's name I am proud to bear. This is by way of parenthesis. Now let us examine the structure of the sentence. "To speak or write" should be,“ to speak or to “write"; the actions are different, therefore the preposition should be repeated after the disjunctive conjunction "or"; and then, “to speak or "write the English" should, unquestionably, be “to speak or to write English”, “English”
. means the language; “ the English” means the people. We can no more speak "the English", than we can speak “the Americans".
Mr. S. objects to the word cotemporaries”. I really do not know how that word came to be printed in my letter in ‘The Round Table'. I am certain that in the manuscript which I sent to America I did not say ;
“the pages of one of your cotemporaries";
I said; .“ the pages of · The Nation'". As for
' the word “cotemporaries", which Mr. S. hopes may not take root, and which, he says, Dr. Bentley called "a down-right barbarism ", Dr. Ogilvie, one of our best lexicographers, says, in his dictionary ;
“CONTEMPORARY, see Cotemporary, the prefer" able word.” Mr. S. appears to think that
“The general use in words compounded with the
“ inseparable preposition con is to retain the n “ before a consonant and to expunge it before a “ vowel or an h mute.”
Indeed? How happens it, then, that we say ;co-bishop, co-herald, co-guardian, co-partner, co-worker, co-surety, co-defendent, co-lessee, cotrustee, co-tenant, co-regent, etc., etc. ? Why do we say cohabit, and not conhabit? Why do we say covet, and not convet? Why do we say covenant, and not convenant? The first syllable of each of these words is from the Latin con, and the second syllable begins with a consonant. If Mr. S. should ever be on a jury, he would, doubtless, make his co-jurors conjurors; and were he speaking of the co-founders of the great American Republic, he would call them confounders !
Mr. S. objects also to my use of the word
as applied to grammar and to composition, and would substitute the word “error"; assigning as his reason, that " error respects the “act, fault respects the agent." I suppose, then, that geologists ought not to call a dislocation of part of the earth's crust “a fault”, but “an "error"! Will Mr. S. have the goodness to suggest the alteration to his geological friends ?