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it should be perpetually changing ; and we must give over at one time, or at length infallibly change for the worse; as the Romans did, when they began to quit their simplicity of style, for affected refinements, such as we meet in Tacitus and other authors; which ended by degrees in many barbarities, even before the Goths had invaded Italy

The fame of our writers is usually confined to these two islands, and it is hard it should be limited in time, as much as place, by the perpetual variations of our speech. It is your lordship’s observation, that if it were not for the Bible and Common Prayer Book in the vulgar tongue, we should hardly be able to understand anything that was written among us a hundred years ago ; which is certainly true : for those books being perpetually read in churches, have proved a kind of standard for language, especially to the common people. And I doubt, whether the alterations since introduced have added much to the beauty or strength of the English tongue, though they have taken off a great deal from that simplicity, which is one of the greatest perfections in any language. You, my lord, who are so conversant in the sacred writings, and so great a judge of them in their originals, will agree, that no translation our country ever yet produced, has come up to that of the Old and New Testament: and by the many


passages, which I have often had the honour to hear your lordship cite from thence, I am persuaded, that the translators of the Bible were masters of an English style much fitter for that work, than any we see in our present writings; which I take to be owing to the simplicity that runs through the whole. Then, as to the greatest part of our liturgy, compiled long before the translation of the Bible now in use, and little altered since; there seem to be in it as great strains of true sublime eloquence, as are anywhere to be found in our language; which every man of good taste will observe in the communion service, that of burial, and other parts.

But when I say, that I would have our language, after it is duly correct, always to last, I do not mean that it should never be enlarged. Provided that no word, which a society shall give a sanction to, be afterward antiquated and exploded, they may have liberty to receive whatever new ones they shall find occasion for ; because then the old books will yet be always valuable according to their intrinsic worth, and not thrown aside on account of unintelligible words and phrases, which appear

harsh and uncouth, only because they are out of fashion. Had the Roman tongue continued vulgar in that city till this time, it would have been absolutely necessary, from the mighty changes that have been made in law and religion, from the many terms of art required in trade and in war, from the new inventions that have happened in the world, from the vast spreading of navigation and commerce, with many other obvious circumstances, to have made great additions to that language; yet the ancients would still have been read and understood with pleasure and ease. The Greek tongue received many enlargements between the time of Homer and that of Plutarch, yet the former author was probably as well understood in Trajan's time, as the latter. What Horace says of words going off and perishing like leaves, and new ones coming in their place, is a misfortune he laments, rather than a thing he approves ; but I cannot see why this should be absolutely necessary, or if it were, what would have become of his monumentum ære perennius ?

Writing by memory only, as I do at present, I would gladly keep within my depth ; and therefore shall not enter into farther particulars. Neither do I pretend more than to shew the usefulness of this design, and to make some general observations, leaving the rest to that society, which I hope will owe its institution and patronage to your lordship. Besides, I would willingly avoid repetition, having, about a year ago, communicated to the public much of what I had to offer upon this subject, by the hands of an ingenious gentleman, who, for a long time, did thrice a-week divert or instruct the kingdom by his papers; and is supposed to pursue the same design at present, under the title of Spectator. This author, who has tried the force and compass of our language with so much success, agrees entirely with me in most of my sentiments relating to it; so do the greatest part of the men of wit and learning whom I have had the happiness to converse with ; and therefore I imagine that such a society would be pretty unanimous in the main points.

Your lordship must allow, that such a work as this, brought to perfection, would very much contribute to the glory of her Majesty's reign ; which ought to be recorded in words more durable than brass, and such as our posterity may read a thousand years hence, with pleasure as well as admiration. I always disapproved that false compliment to princes, that the most lasting monument they can have is the hearts of their subjects. It is indeed their greatest present felicity to reign in their subjects' hearts ; but these are too perishable to preserve their memories, which can only be done by the pens


able and faithful historians. And I take it to be your lordship's duty, as prime minister, to give order for inspecting our language, and rendering it fit to record the history of so great and good a princess. Besides, my lord, as disinterested as you appear to the world, I am convinced that no man is more in the power of a prevailing favourite passion than yourself; I mean, that desire of true and lasting honour, which you have borne along with you through every stage of your life. To this you

have often sacrificed your interest, your ease, and your health ; for preserving and increasing this, you have exposed your person to secret treachery, and open violence. There is not, perhaps, an example in history of any minister, who, in so short a time, has performed so many great things, and overcome so many difficulties. Now, though I am fully convinced that you fear God, honour your Queen, and love your country, as much as any

of your fellow-subjects, yet I must believe that the desire of fame has been no inconsiderable motive to quicken you in the pursuit of those actions which will best deserve it. But, at the same time, I must be so plain as to tell your lordship, that if you will not take some care to settle our language, and put it into a state of continuance, I cannot promise that your memory shall be preserved above a hundred years, farther than by imperfect tradition.

As barbarous and ignorant as we were in former centuries, there was more effectual care taken by our ancestors to preserve the memory of times and persons, than we find in this age of learning and politeness, as we are pleased to call it. The rude Latin of the monks is still very intelligible ; whereas, had their records been delivered down only in the vulgar tongue, so barren and so barbarous, so subject to continual succeeding changes, they could not now be understood, unless by antiquaries who make it their study to expound them. And we must, at this day, have been content with such poor abstracts of our English story, as laborious men of low genius would think fit to give us; and even these, in the next age, would be likewise swallowed up in succeeding collections. If things go on at this rate, all I can promise your lordship is, that, about two hundred years hence, some painful compiler, who will be at the trouble of studying old language, may inform the world, that in the reign of Queen Anne, Robert, Earl of Oxford, a very wise and excellent man, was made high treasurer, and saved his country, which in those days was almost ruined by a foreign war, and a domestic faction. Thus much he

may be able to pick out, and willing to transfer into his new history ; but the rest of your character, which I, or any other writer, may now value ourselves by drawing, and the particular account of the great things done under your ministry, for which you are already so celebrated in most parts of Europe, will probably be dropped, on account of the antiquated style and manner they are delivered in.

How then shall any man, who has a genius for history equal to the best of the ancients, be able to undertake such a work with spirit and cheerfulness, when he considers that he will be read with pleasure but a very

few years, and, in an age or two, shall hardly be understood without an interpreter ? This is like employing an excellent statuary to work upon mouldering stone. Those who apply their studies to


of others, will always have some concern for their own ; and I believe it is for this reason that so few writers among us,

preserve the

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