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them into more elegance and harmony,—to diminish the uncouthness and deformities which still attached to it.
A favourable instance of this influence operating on a mind of the first order may be found in the writings of the bosom friend of Erasmus, Sir Thomas More. Ben Jonson tells us that his works were considered as models of pure and elegant style;' and Hallam is of opinion that his history of Richard III. 'is the first example of good English language; pure and perspicuous, well chosen, without vulgarisms or pedantry.' The interval between Mandeville and Sir Thomas More was little more than a century and a half; yet many of the sentences of the latter, making allowance for an obsolete term here and there, are even now models of easy and elegant English. The same comparative freedom from Latinised diction may be asserted of the fathers of the English Reformation, more especially of Latimer. Their writings are certainly less largely tinctured with exotic terms than those of the next age; though the construction is often, it must be confessed, uncouth to the last degree, and deserves to be characterised by Pliny's description of Seneca's style, 'arena sine calce,'' sand without lime.' Their more limited use of Latinisms, limited as compared with that of the divines and philosophers of the age of Elizabeth and James, may be attributed to two causes. First, classical literature had not yet been so exclusively studied; and, secondly, the writers in question were perpetually engaged in active life, everywhere coming in contact with the people, and naturally falling into a more vernacular diction. It is the recluse scholars, the philosophers and divines, who flourished at the conclusion. of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century, who indulged in the largest coinage of Latin
terms. Generally, it may be observed,' says Mr. Craik, with regard to the English prose of the earlier part of the sixteenth century, that it is both more simple in its construction and of a more purely native character in other respects, than the style which came into fashion in the latter years of the Elizabethan period. When first made use of in prose composition, the mother tongue was written as it was spoken . . . . in genuine Saxon words and direct unencumbered sentences; no painful imitation of any learned or foreign model was attempted. . The delicacy of a scholarly taste no doubt influenced even the English style of such writers as More, and his more eminent contemporaries or immediate followers; but whatever elegance or dignity these compositions thus acquired was not the effect of any professed or conscious endeavour to write in English as they would have written in what were called the learned tongues.'
Not only was the first effect of the revival of classical literature on language and style simply beneficial, but it continued to be so till Elizabeth had ascended the throne. The critical cultivation of the language proceeded for some time on right principles and by a safe method. Nay, some of the learned men of the century might be considered almost purists in their views upon this subject. Thus we are told that Sir John Cheke (1514-1557), the famous Professor of Greek at Cambridge, under whom studied Roger Ascham, the celebrated tutor of Elizabeth herself, projected a plan of reforming the English language by eradicating all words except those derived from Saxon roots! The project was very visionary and hopeless, it is true; nay, unwise and ungrateful; for our language was already composite, and the words derived from the Latin and French not only
formed an integral part of the language, but could not be dispensed with, except by the violent and impracticable expedient of reviving obsolete roots. The project however, at all events, shows that he had no desire to overrun the language with the words and the idioms of his cherished classics. His own style. he has left but little is remarkably idiomatic, and makes us regret that we have no more of him. His pamphlet on Ket the tanner's rebellion, 1549, The Hurt of Sedition,' would be necessarily plain and popular, being printed to be dispersed among the rebels. A few lines will show that Cobbett could not have written more to the level of the parties than the Greek Professor. 'Ye pretend to a commonwealth. How amend ye it by killing of gentlemen, by spoiling of gentlemen, by imprisoning of gentlemen? A marvellous tanned commonwealth! Why should ye hate them for their riches or their rule? Rule, they never took so much in hand, as you do now. They never resisted the king, never withstood his council, be faithful at this day, when ye be faithless, not only to the king, whose subjects ye be, but also to your lords whose tenants ye be. Is this your true duty, in some of homage, in most of fealty, in all of allegiance, to leave your duties, go back from your promises, disobey your betters and obey your tanners, to change your obedience from a King to a Ket, and submit yourselves to traitors?' A similar freedom from any ill consequences of familiarity with classical literature appears in the pages of Ascham, whose style is also comparatively pure in diction and for the most part simple in construction.
Considerable changes, however, which we have now to trace, were fast approaching. It is to be attributed not solely to familiarity with the ancient languages, but in part also to the vanity of those
travelled gentlemen who then, as at other times, frequently brought home a larger accession of affectation than of knowledge, and a richer treasure of words than of thoughts. So early as 1580 we find Wilson, the author of the first English work on Rhetoric, thus expressing himself: 'Among other lessons this should first be learned,-- that we never affect any strange inkhorn terms, but speak as is commonly received, neither seeking to be over fine, nor yet being over careless, using our speech as most men do, and ordering our wits as the fewest have done. Some seek so far outlandish English, that they forget altogether their mother's language. And I dare swear this, if some of their mothers were alive they were not able to tell what they say and yet these fine English clerks will say they speak in their mother-tongue, if a man should charge them with counterfeiting the king's English. Some far-journeyed gentlemen at their return home, like as they love to go in foreign apparel, so they will powder their talk with over-sea language. He that cometh lately out of France will talk French-English, and never blush at the matter. Another chops in with English-Italianated, and applieth the Italian phrase to our English speaking. The fine courtier will talk nothing but Chaucer; the mystical wise man and poetical clerks will speak nothing but quaint proverbs and blind allegories, delighting much in their own darkness, especially when none can tell what they do say. The unlearned, or foolish fantastical, that smells but of learning (such fellows as have seen learned men in their days), will so Latin their tongues, that the simple cannot but wonder at their talk, and think surely they speak by some revelation. I know them that think rhetoric to stand wholly upon dark words, and he that can catch
an inkhorn term by the tail, him they count to be a fine Englishman, and a good rhetorician.' The folly had got so common, that Shakspeare amused his audiences with ridiculing Euphuists, and other the like coxcombs.
The language towards the middle of Elizabeth's reign may be said to have consisted of much the same elements as at present, and to have deserved the eulogium that Dr. Johnson has passed upon its copiousness (the singularity of excluding Shakspeare from the dialect of poetry, and of confiding him to that of common life, is nothing to our present purpose): 'From the authors,' says he,' which rose in the time of Elizabeth a speech might be formed adequate to all the purposes of use and elegance. If the language of theology were extracted from Hooker and the translators of the Bible, the terms of natural knowledge from Bacon, the phrases of policy, war, and navigation from Raleigh, the dialect of poetry from Spenser and Sydney, and the diction of common life from Shakspeare, few ideas would be lost to mankind for want of English words in which they might be expressed.' The bulk of this language, as we have so often said, is, and has ever been, Saxon; at the same time, the obligations to Greek and Latin have been neither few nor small. The derivatives from these add much to its wealth, especially in those departments in which it was weakest science, philosophy, and art; and though it has often been made a subject of lamentation that it should have thus resorted to the perilous experiment of calling in the aid of foreign auxiliaries, instead of depending on its home-born strength, and adapting itself, as the modern German has done, to the demands of increasing knowledge by combinations of its own elements, it must never be