« PreviousContinue »
tion from some quarter or other, of having, more or less,“ departed from the faith.”
But can it be true, that the first trustees of Yale College were “ liberal” and “ catholic," in the sense in which these epithets are used by President Quincy? If we correctly apprehend his meaning, he would be understood to say, that the founders of Harvard College designedly gave it a constitution which, so far as any provision of the charter was concerned, would admit of its easily passing into the hands of any sect of religionists, who could use the words “ piety” and “ godliness ;” and that in making their fundamental arrangements, they had this object distinctly in view. This we do not believe to have been the fact in Connecticut; and yet every argument adduced to prove it to have been true at Harvard is equally cogent to prove it to have been true at Yale. The first trustees of the latter college had the proposition distinctly before them, to insert a provision in their charter, that strict Calvinism should be taught; and on consideration, they rejected it. Not that they were not Calvinists, or did not intend to make their own system of faith the ground of religious instruction. They undoubtedly supposed, that they were abundantly secured in another way. “They were as orthodox Calvinists as any men,” but, like President Holyoke, were not disposed to adopt “new measures.”
The question here, we wish it understood, is not how far the present directors of either Harvard or Yale, in the management of their respective institutions, are bound to respect the religious opinions of their founders; or whether they are bound at all. These questions are of entirely a different character from that which we are about to consider, and would lead to a discussion, on which we have no inclination at present to enter. The inquiry will be simply as to the matter of fact, whether the founders of Harvard College were “ liberal” in the sense above explained ? In our opinion, the reasoning of President Quincy on this point is inconclusive and unsatisfactory.
[To be continued.]
THE Saxon part of the English language has, as yet, attracted but little attention in the United States. The causes of this neglect are obvious. The importance of studying the language, as a whole, or any part of it, has not been deeply felt. Our institutions of learning have been tardy in making provision for the radical study of the vernacular speech. Professors of the English language have not, in general, formed a part of the corps of instruction in a college. If the subject has received any degree of attention, it has been indirect and ineffectual. The history of the language, its structure, its various dialects have been considered as falling into the province of the antiquarian, rather than as being a matter of intense interest, and of great practical value to the general student. In our seminaries, the subject has been conjoined with, or appended to the department of oratory or belles-lettres, as if unworthy to stand on independent ground.
Again, the influence of certain writers has been unfavorable to the development of the original elements of the language. They have bowed down before Latin or French idols. In their zeal for high-sounding periods, or the polysyllabic march of a sentence, they have overlooked that which imparts to the language its masculine energy, its iron strength, its wedge-like force. Writers, like Dr. Johnson and Gibbon, have exerted a pernicious influence.* Their peculiarities are precisely such as attract the admiration of the young, at the period when the style is in a process of formation. It is singular that a man of so much acumen as the great lexicographer, who, in his conversation, showed such powers of irony and sarcasm, who, in other words, possessed qualities of mind which naturally seek
* The recent editor of Gibbon, Mr. Milman, has some of the faults of his author. In the History of Christianity, his style is exceedingly faulty. Not a few sentences are wretchedly ungrammatical. The history is, in many respects, very interesting.
short and pithy modes of expression, should have employed, in his written compositions, such a rotund and ponderous Latin terminology. The influence of Burke's writings has been, in a degree, like that of Dr. Johnson's. Robert Hall's style, though it combines distinguished excellencies, is still wanting in the force and simplicity which is the result of familiarity with the Saxon elements. His conversation and his ordinary style of preaching were not chargeable with this fault, at least in an equal degree.
We shall, perhaps, be pardoned in referring to two individuals in our own country, who have illustrated what may be called the Roman and the Saxon styles of composition. Dr. Dwight, in his more elaborate discourses, like the one which was preached before the American Board for Foreign Missions, has the pomp and stateliness of a well trained Castilian. PolysyHables roll along in imperial magnificence. On the other hand, Dr. Beecher has the sententious brevity, the point, the fiery glow of one who has smelted the ore in the native mines; who determines, with a sort of blacksmith energy, to force an instant entrance into the citadel of the conscience. Hence he uses hot shot and hand-grenades, rather than the thundering cannon.
We do not intend, by these remarks, to decry the use of Latin and French words. It is the honor of the English language, that it is a mixed one, that it has gathered the spoils of many realms and tongues. It is a poor conceit, which would confine a writer to words of one or two letters. There are thoughts and feelings which refuse to be compressed into monosyllables. There are species of compositions which demand, for their full effect, that they should be clothed in the Roman toga, The English translation of the Bible is celebrated for its thorough Saxon character. Yet, when occasion calls, the venerable translators resort to their Gallic and Italian neighbors. What can be more perfectly Latin than the version of some of the sublimer passages in the Apocalypse ?
Another cause of the neglect of the Anglo-Saxon may be traced to the common impression that we are sufficiently acquainted with it already. We may not be able to read the letters; we may possess no Saxon dictionary; we may not have looked into any author anterior to Chaucer, or, perhaps, to Shakspeare; we may have never analyzed the language into its original elements, and yet we may deceive ourselves with the impression that we understand the Anglo-Saxon, because we can write tolerably good English. But a perfect mastery of the latter depends on a careful study of the former. An acquaintance with the dialect of Alfred and of Alfric would enlarge our vocabulary, would amplify the knowledge which we already have; would give significance to terms which we now lazily utter, with but a dim apprehension that they mean any thing; and, in short, would show us how rich our mother dialect is. We need to enliven and enlarge our most current and familiar ideas, lest they should become stagnant and nothing worth.
We may mention, as an additional reason for the want of interest in Saxon studies, the difficulty which has existed, until very recently, of procuring the suitable apparatus of grammars, lexicons, etc. The works of Hickes, Lye, and some others have, indeed, long been found in some of our large libraries. But where these volumes are accessible, scarcely any thing could be more unattractive. They contain treasures of knowledge, but to the beginner exceedingly uncouth and repulsive.
Within a few years, however, this want has been supplied. A new zest for the study of the Anglo-Saxon has been awakened in England. Several individuals, most of them now living, have given us good fruits, as the result of their industrious and well-directed labors. A number of distinguished scholars on the continent have earnestly and successfully co-operated, In the following pages we propose to give a brief account of these labors, or, of the present condition of Anglo-Saxon · studies in England. A slight retrospect of its past history may not be unacceptable.*
* A brief article on this subject was inserted in Vol X. of the Bibl. Repos., first series, pp. 386–398. We shall endeavor not to repeat the statements made in that article. Since that was published, however, great advances have been made in Enlgand in Anglo-Saxon studies, and several valuable books have been issued. Among these are Dr. Bosworth's Dictionary, in 930 pages large octavo, and Petheram's Anglo-Saxon Literature in England. We have drawn freely from these volumes, especially from the last named. We have also before us Palgrave's History of the Anglo-Saxons ; and several AngloSaxon grammars, Rev. Henry Soames's History of the AngloSaxon Church, the Deutsche Grammatik of Grimm of Göttingen, and the various reviews and notices which have recently Whether the Saxons, on their invasion of Britain, possessed a knowledge of written language, has been much disputed. Like most of the Teutonic race, they employed Runes to record their events. After the conversion of the Britons to Christianity, the Roman Missionaries taught them to write in the manner to which they had been accustomed. Hence the origin of what we now term the Anglo-Saxon letters; but there are three only which strictly possess that character, and they are derived apparently from the ancient Runes. These are equivalent to our th, dh and w. What we term the Saxon alphabet was that which was in general use in England from the 13th to the 16th century. The first school established in England was at Canterbury, at the beginning of the 7th century. Ethelbert, king of Kent, who assisted Augustine in promoting the conversion of the people, was the author of the first written Anglo-Saxon laws, which have descended to us, or which are known to have been established. Theodore, ordained Archbishop of Canterbury near the close of the 7th century, in conjunction with his friend Adrian, brought over many books from Rome, and zealously. diffused knowledge wherever he went. Egbert, who was Archbishop of York in 712, founded a noble library at York. The celebrated and truly venerable Bede, to whom all who speak the English language are so much indebted, began his education at seven years of age, in the monastery of Weremouth. His writings embrace almost every subject of learning then known. By their diffusion a flood of light was poured in on the minds of his countrymen.* Learning was not now confined to ecclesiastics and kings. The Anglo-Saxon women were not only learners but teachers. In the Epistles of Boniface, we find many letters addressed to him by his female pupils, which show their acquisitions in Latin verse as well as prose. About the year 728, Ina, king of the West Saxons, founded a school for the instruction of his countrymen, who chose to be educated at Rome.
In 849, Alfred the Great was born. He conceived the noble
appeared in England on the subject. Our main design in this paper is to communicate information which may be valuable to the American student, and which is not easily accessible.
* His Ecclesiastical History has just been issued from the press, accompanied by a good English translation, in a very. handsome volume.