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your eye over the enclosed paper. I do not have done me in its dedication. I ought to by this opportunity send you any of our Ga- have made this acknowledgment sooner, but zettes; because the postage from Liverpool much indisposition prevented me. would be more than they are worth. I can “I cannot but applaud your zeal for preonly add my best wishes of every kind of fe- serving the purity of our language, both in its licity for the three Hartleys, to whom I have expressions and pronunciation, and in correctthe honour of being an affectionate friend and ing the popular errors several of our states most obedient humble servant,
are continually falling into with respect to “ B. FRANKLIN." both. Give me leave to mention some of
them, though possibly they may have already
occurred to you. I wish however in some “ Mrs. Mecom, Boston.
future publication of yours you would set a " PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 17, 1789.
discountenancing mark upon them. The " DEAR SISTER,—You tell me you are de- first I remember is the word improved. sired by an acquaintance to ask my opinion, When I left New England in the year 1723, whether the general circumstances, mentioned this word had never been used among us, as in the history of Baron Trenck, are founded far as I know, but in the sense of ameliorated, in fact; to which I can only answer, that of or made better, except once in a very old book the greatest part of those circumstances, the of Dr. Mather's, entitled • Remarkable Proscene being laid in Germany, I must conse- vidences.' As that eminent man wrote a quently be very ignorant; but of what he very obscure hand, I remember that when I says, as having passed in France, between the read that word in his book, used instead of ministers of that country, himself, and me, the word imployed, I conjectured it was an I can speak positively that it is founded in error of the printer, who had mistaken a too falsehood, and that the fact can only serve to short l in the writing for an r, and a y, with confound, as I never saw him in that coun- too short a tail for a v; whereby employed was try, nor ever knew or heard of him any where, converted into improved. But when I retill I met with the abovementioned history turned to Boston, in 1733, I found this change in print, in the German language, in which had obtained favour, and was then become he ventured to relate it as a fact, that I had, common; for I met with it often in perusing with those ministers, solicited him to enter the newspapers, where it frequently made an into the American service. A translation of appearance rather ridiculous. Such for inthat book into French has since been printed, stance as the advertisement of a country house but the translator has omitted that pretended to be sold, which had been many years imfact, probably from an apprehension that its proved as a tavern; and in the character of being in that country known not to be true, a deceased country-gentleman, that he had might hurt the credit and sale of the transla- been for more than thirty years improved as tion.
a justice of the peace. This use of the word “I thank you for the sermon on sacred mu- improved is peculiar to New England, and not sic; I have read it with pleasure. I think it a to be met with among any other speakers of very ingenious composition. You will say English, either on this or the other side of the this is natural enough, if you read what I have formerly written on the same subject,
“ During my late absence in France, I find in one of my printed letters, wherein you that several other new words have been inwill find a perfect agreement of sentiment troduced into our parliamentary language; respecting the complex music; of late, in my
for example, I find a verb formed from the opinion, too much in vogue; it being only substantive notice : I should not have NOTICED pleasing to learned ears who can be delighted this, were it not that the gentleman, &c. Also with the difficulty of execution instead of har- another verb from the substantive advocate, mony and melody. Your affectionate brother, the gentleman who ADVOCATES or has advo“ B. FRANKLIN."
CATED that motion, &c.* Another from the substantive progress, the most awkward and
abominable of the three, the committee having “ Noah Webster.
PROGRESSED, resolved to adjourn. The word " PHILADELPHIA, Dec, 26, 1789.
opposed, though not a new word, I find used “Dear Sir,– I received some time since in a new manner, as, the gentleman who are your · Dissertations on the English Lan- OPPOSED to this measure ; to which I hate guage. The book was not accompanied by also myself always been OPPOSED. If you any letter or message, informing me to whom should happen to be of my opinion with re I ain obliged for it, but I suppose it is to spect to these innovations, you will use your yourself. It is an excellent work, and will authority in reprobating them. be greatly useful in turning the thoughts of our countrymen to correct writing. Please best writers; they perfectly accord with the genius or
verbs the to accept my thanks for the great honour you the language.
"The Latin language, long the vehicle tongue the German; this was more particoused in distributing knowledge among the larly useful to those who were not well acdifferent nations of Europe, is daily more and quainted with the English; there being such more neglected; and one of the modern a prodigious number of our words that are tongues, viz. the French, seems in point of both verbs and substantives, and spelt in the universality to have supplied its place; it is same manner, though often accented differspoken in all the courts of Europe; and most ently in the pronunciation. This method has, of the literati, those even who do not speak by the fancy of printers, of late years been it, have acquired knowledge enough of it to laid aside, from an idea that suppressing the enable them easily to read the books that are capitals shows the character to greater adwritten in it. This gives a considerable ad- vantage; those letters prominent above the vantage to that nation; it enables its authors line disturbing its even, regular appearance. to inculcate and spread throughout other na- The effect of this change is so considerable, tions such sentiments and opinions on import that a learned man of France who used to ant points as are most conducive to its inter- read our books, though not perfectly acquaintests, or which may contribute to its repu.ed with our language, in conversation with tation, by promoting the common interests me on the subject of our authors, attributed of mankind. It is perhaps owing to its being the greater obscurity he found in our modern written in French, that Voltaire's Treatise on books, compared with those of the period Toleration has had so sudden and so great an abovementioned, to change of style for the effect on the bigotry of Europe, as almost en worse in our writers; of which mistake I contirely to disarm it. The general use of the vinced him by marking for him each substanFrench language, has likewise a very advan- tive with a capital in a paragraph, which he tageous effect on the profits of the bookselling then easily understood, though before he could branch of commerce, it being well known, not comprehend it. This shows the inconvethat the more copies can be sold that are nience of that pretended improvement. From struck off from one composition of types, the the same fondness for an even and uniform profits increase in a much greater proportion appearance of characters in the line, the printthan they do in making a great number of ers have of late banished also the Italic types, pieces in any other kind of manufacture. And in which words of importance to be attended at present there is no capital town in Europe to in the sense of the sentence, and words on without a French bookseller's shop corres which an emphasis should be put in reading, ponding with Paris. Our English bids fair used to be printed. And lately another fancy to obtain the second place. The great body has induced some printers to use the short of excellent printed sermons in our language round s instead of the long one, which former. and the freedom of our writings on political ly served well to distinguish a word readily by subjects, have induced a number of divines of its varied appearance. Certainly the omitting different sects and nations, as well as gentle- this prominent letter makes the line appear men concerned in public affairs, to study it; more even; but renders it less immediately so far at least as to read it. And if we were legible, as the paring all men's noses might to endeavour the facilitating its progress, the smooth and level their faces, but would render study of our tongue might become much more their physiognomies !ess distinguishable. Add general. Those who have employed some to all these improvements backwards, another parts of their time in learning a new language, modern fancy that gray printing is more beauhave frequently observed, that while their ac- tiful than black; hence the English new books quaintance with it was imperfect, difficulties are printed in so dim a character as to be read small in themselves operated as great ones in with difficulty by old eyes, unless in a very obstructing their progress. A book, for ex- strong light and with good glasses. Whoever ample, ill printed, or a pronunciation in speak- compares a volume of the Gentleman's Magaing, not well articulated, would render a sen- zine, printed between the years 1731 and tence unintelligible; which from a clear print 1740, with one of those printed in the last ten or a distinct speaker would have been imme- years, will be convinced of the much greater diately comprehended. If therefore we would degree of perspicuity given by black ink than have the benefit of seeing our language more by gray. Lord Chesterfield pleasantly reknown among mankind, we should endeavour marked this difference to Faulkner, the printto remove all the difficulties, however small, er of the Dublin Journal, who was vainly that discourage the learning it. But I am making encomiums on his own paper, as the sorry to observe, that of late years those diffi- most complete of any in the world, but Mr. culties, instead of being diminished, have been Faulkner,' said my lord, don't you think augmented. In examining the English books it might be still farther improved by using that were printed between the restoration and paper and ink not quite so near of a colour ?' the accession of George the second, we may For all these reasons I cannot but wish that observe, that all substantives were begun with our American printers would in their editions a capital, in which we imitated our mother avoid these fancied improvements, and thereby
render their works more agreeable to foreign- 1 and deposited it in the college library, where ers in Europe, to the great advantage of our is also deposited one of governor Saltonstall's bookselling commerce.
I have also long wished that we might be “Further, to be more sensible of the ad-honoured also with that of Dr. Franklin. In vantage of clear and distinct printing, let us the course of your long life, you may probeconsider the assistance it affords in reading bly have become possessed of several portraits well aloud to an auditory. In so doing the eye of yourself. Shall I take too great a liberty, generally slides forward three or four words in humbly asking a donation of one of them before the voice. If the sight clearly distin- to Yale College? You obliged me with a guishes what the coming words are, it gives mezzotinto picture of yourself many years time to order the modulation of the voice to ago, which I often view with pleasure. But express them properly. But if they are ob- the canvass is more permanent. We wish to scurely printed or disguised by omitting the be possessed of the durable resemblance of capitals and long s’s or otherwise, the reader the Anierican patriot and philosopher. You is apt to modulate wrong, and finding he has have merited and received all the honours of done so he is obliged to go back and begin the republic of letters; and are going to a the sentence again, which lessens the pleasure world, where all sublunary glories will be of the hearers. This leads me to mention an lost in the glories of immortality. Should old error in our mode of printing. We are you shine throughout the intellectual and sensible that when a question is met with in stellary universe, with the eminence and reading, there is a proper variation to be used distinguished lustre with which you have apin the management of the voice. We have peared in this little detached part of the cre therefore a point called an interrogation, ation, you would be what I most fervently affixed to the question in order to distinguish wish to you, sir
, whatever may be my fate it. But this is absurdly placed at its end; so in eternity. The grand climacteric in which that the reader does not discover it, till he I now am, reminds me of the interesting finds he has wrongly modulated his voice, and scenes of futurity. You know, sir, that I am is therefore obliged to begin again the sen- a Christian, and would to heaven all others tence. To prevent this, the Spanish printers, were such as I am, except my imperfections more sensibly, place an interrogation at the and deficiencies of moral character. As much beginning as well as at the end of a question. as I know of Dr. Franklin, I have not an idea We have another error of the same kind in of his religious sentiments. I wish to know printing plays, where something often occurs the opinion of my venerable friend concernthat is marked as spoken aside. But the word ing Jesus of Nazareth. He will not impote aside is placed at the end of the speech, when this to impertinence, or improper curiosity, it ought to precede it as a direction to the rea- in one, who for so many years has continued der, that he may govern his voice accordingly. to love, estimate, and reverence his abilities The practice of our ladies in meeting five or and literary character, with an ardour and afsix together to form a little busy party, where fection bordering on adoration. If I have said each is employed in some useful work while too much let the request be blotted out, and one reads to them, is so commendable in itself be no more; and yet I shall never cease to that it deserves the attention of authors and wish you that happy immortality, which I be printers to make it as pleasing as possible, both lieve Jesus alone has purchased for the virtuto the reader and hearers.
ous and truly good of every religious denomi“ After these general observations, permit nation in Christendom, and for those of every me to make one, that I imagine may regard age, nation, and mythology, who reverence your interests. It is that your spelling book the Deity, are filled with integrity, righteousis miserably printed here, so as in many places ness, and benevolence. to be scarcely legible, and on wretched paper.
“ EZRA STILES." If this is not attended to, and the new one lately advertised as coming out, should be preferable in these respects, it may hurt the
“ President Stiles. future sale of yours.
" PHILADELPHIA, March 9, 1730 “I congratulate you on your marriage, of “REVEREND AND DEAR SIR-I received which the newspapers inform me.—My best
kind letter of January 28, and am glad wishes attend you, being with sincere esteem, you have at length received the portrait of sir, your most obedient and most humble ser-governor Yale from his family, and deposites vant,
it in the college library. He was a great and good man, and had the merit of doing infinite
service to your country by his munificence to Dr. Stiles to Dr. Franklin.
that institution. The honour you propose de "YALE COLLEGE, Jan. 28, 1790. ing me, by placing mine in the same nee Sir,-We have lately received governor with his, is much too great for my deserts; Yale's portrait from his family in London, but you always had a partiality for me, and to
that it must be ascribed. I am however too continuance in the next, though without
infirm. fection, I am, &c. I send with this a very learned work as “P. S. Had not your college some present it seems to me, on the ancient Samaritan of books from the king of France. Please to Coins, lately printed in Spain, and at least let me know if you had an expectation given curious for the beauty of the impression. you of more, and the nature of that expectaPlease to accept it for your college library. tion? I have a reason for the inquiry. I have subscribed for the Encyclopedia now “I confide that you will not expose me to printing here, with the intention of present. criticisms and censures by publishing any part ing it to the college. I shall probably depart of this communication to you? I have ever before the work is finished, but shall leave di- let others
enjoy their religious sentiments, rections for its continuance to the end. With without reflecting on them for those that apthis
you will receive some of the first num-peared to me unsupportable or even absurd. bers.
All sects here, and we have a great variety, “ You desire to know something of my re- have experienced my good-will in assisting ligion. It is the first time I have been ques- them with subscriptions for the building their tioned upon it. But cannot take your curi
new places of worship, and as I have never osity amiss, and shall endeavour in a few opposed any of their doctrines, I hope to go words to gratify it. Here is my creed: I be out of the world in peace with them all.” lieve in one God, the creator of the universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most
To * * * acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of
(Without date.) man is immortal, and will be treated with jus
“ DEAR SIR, I have read your manuscript tice in another life respecting its conduct in with some attention. By the argument it this. These I take to be the fundamental contains against a particular Providence, points in all sound religion, and I regard them though you allow a general Providence, you as you do in whatever sect I meet with them. strike at the foundations of all religion. For As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom without the belief of a providence that takes you particularly desire, I think the system of cognizance of, guards and guides, and may morals and his religion, as he left them to us, favour particular persons, there is no motive the best the world ever saw or is like to see; to worship a Deity, to fear its displeasure, or but I apprehend, it has received various cor- to pray for its protection. I will not enter rupting changes, and I have, with most of the into any discussion of your principles, though present dissenters in England, some doubts as you seem to desire it. At present I shall onto his divinity; though it is a question I do ly give you my opinion, that though your reanot dogmatize upon, having never studied it, sonings are subtle, and may prevail with some and think it needless to busy myself with it readers, you will not succeed so as to change now, when I expect soon an opportunity of the general sentiments of mankind on that knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no subject, and the consequence of printing this harm, however, in its being believed, if that piece will be, a great deal of odium drawn belief has the good consequence, as probably upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit it has, of making his doctrines more respected to others. He that spits against the wind, and more observed, especially as I do not per- spits in his own face. But were you to succeive that the Supreme takes it amiss by dis- ceed, do you imagine any good would be done tinguishing the believers in his government by it? You yourself may find it easy to live a of the world with any peculiar marks of his virtuous life without the assistance afforded displeasure. I shall only add respecting my- by religion ; you having a clear perception of self, that having experienced the goodness of that Being in conducting me prosperously June 6, 1753.
* Supposed to be a letter to George Whitfield, dated through a long life, I have no doubt of its
| Uncertain; perhaps the following one.
the advantages of virtue, and the disadvan- rank with our most distinguished authors. tages of vice, and possessing a strength of re- For among us it is not necessary as among solution sufficient to enable you to resist com- the Hottentots, that a youth to be raised into mon temptations. But think how great a por- the company of men should prove his mantion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant hood by beating his mother. I would advise men and women, and of inexperienced, incon- you therefore not to attempt unchaining the siderate youth of both sexes, who have need tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen of the motives of religion to restrain them by any other person, whereby you will save from vice, to support their virtue, and retain yourself a great deal of mortification from them in the practice of it till it becomes ha- the enemies it may raise against you, and bitual, which is the great point for its securi- perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance. ty. And perhaps you are indebted to her If men are so wicked with religion, what originally, that is to your religious education, would they be if without it? I intend this letfor the habits of virtue upon which you now ter itself as a proof of my friendship, and justly value yourself. You might easily dis- therefore add no professions to it; but subplay your excellent talents of reasoning upon scribe simply yours, a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a )
“ B. FRANKLIN."