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THE MEMBERS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD,
BOTH RESIDENT AND NON-RESIDENT,
TO WHOM I AM INDEBTED
FOR NUMEROUS PROOFS OF SYMPATHY AND KINDNESS
DURING THE LAST TWELVE YEARS,
IN GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THEIR GENEROUS SUPPORT
7TH OF DECEMBER, 1800.
My Lectures on the Science of Language are here printed as I had prepared them in manuscript for the Royal Institution. When I came to deliver them, a considerable portion of what I had written had to be omitted; and, in now placing them before the public in a more complete form, I have gladly complied with a wish expressed by many of my hearers. As they are, they only form a short abstract of several Courses delivered from time to time in Oxford, and they do not pretend to be more than an introduction to a science far too comprehensive to be treated successfully in so small a compass.
My object, however, will have been attained, if I should succeed in attracting the attention, not only of the scholar, but of the philosopher, the historian, and the theologian, to a science which concerns them all, and which, though it professes to treat of words only, teaches us that there is more in words than is dreamt of in our philosophy. I quote from Bacon: “ Men believe that their reason is lord over their
words, but it happens, too, that words exercise a reciprocal and reactionary power over our intellect. Words, as a Tartar's bow, shoot back upon the understanding of the wisest, and mightily entangle and pervert the judgment.”
Oxford, June 11, 1861.