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Title: Conversation - Its Faults and Its Graces
Author: Peabody, Andrew P. (Andrew Preston), 1811-1893
Language: English
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       *       *       *       *       *


          M DCCC LV.

  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by
  In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of






THE Compiler has attempted to bring together in this little volume the
principles which should govern conversation among persons of true
refinement of mind and character, and to point out some of the most
common and easily besetting vulgarisms occurring in the colloquial
English of our country and day. Part I. is an Address delivered before a
Young Ladies' School, in Newburyport. Part II. is a Lecture addressed to
the Literary, Scientific and Mechanics' Institution at Reading, England.
Part III. is a reprint from the fourth English edition of "A Word to the
Wise, or Hints on the Current Improprieties of Expression in Writing and
Speaking," by Parry Gwynne, a few passages not applicable to the habits
of American society being omitted. Part IV. is composed  of selections
from two little English books, entitled, "Never too late to Learn:
Mistakes of daily occurrence in Speaking, Writing and Pronunciation
corrected;" and "Common Blunders in Speaking and Writing."





DECEMBER 19, 1846,



You have made me happy by your kind invitation to meet you, and to
address you on this anniversary. A day spent in this room at your annual
examination, nearly two years ago, was a season of privilege and
enjoyment not readily to be forgotten. I had previously entertained a
high regard for your instructor. I then learned to know him by his work;
and, were he not here, I should be glad to extend beyond a single
sentence my congratulations with you that you are his pupils.

I have said that I accepted your invitation with gladness. Yet, in
preparing myself to meet you, I find a degree of embarrassment. This is
for you a season of recreation,--a high festival; and I am accustomed to
use my pen and voice only on grave occasions, and for solemn services. I
know not how to add to your amusement. Should I undertake to make sport
for you, my awkwardness would give you more mirth than my wit. The best
that I can do is to select some subject that is or ought to be
interesting to you, and to endeavor to blend a little instruction with
the gayer and more lively notes of the occasion. The lesson shall be
neither tediously long nor needlessly grave.

I propose to offer you a few hints on _conversation_. How large a
portion of life does it fill up! How innumerable are its ministries and
its uses! It is the most refined species of recreation,--the most
sparkling source of merriment. It interweaves with a never-resting
shuttle the bonds of domestic sympathy. It fastens the ties of
friendship, and runs along the golden links of the chain of love. It
enriches charity, and makes the gift twice blessed. There is, perhaps, a
peculiar appropriateness in the selection of this topic for an address
to young ladies; for they do more than any other class in the community
towards establishing the general tone and standard of social
intercourse. The voices of many of you already, I doubt not, strike the
key-note of home conversation; and you are fast approaching an age when
you will take prominent places in general society; will be the objects
of peculiar regard; and will, in a great measure, determine whether the
social converse in your respective circles shall be vulgar or refined,
censorious or kindly, frivolous or dignified. It was said by a wise man
of antiquity,--"Only give me the making of songs for the people, and I
care not who makes the laws." In our unmusical age and land, talking
occupies the place which songs did among the melody-loving Greeks; and
he who could tune the many-voiced harp of the social party, need crave
no higher office or more potent sway.

Permit me now to enumerate some of the characteristics of graceful,
elegant, and profitable conversation, commencing with the lower graces,
and passing on to the higher.

Let me first beg you, if you would be good talkers, to form and fix now,
(for you can do this only now,) habits of correct and easy
pronunciation. The words which you now miscall, it will cost you great
pains in after life to pronounce aright, and you will always be in
danger of returning inadvertently to your old pronunciation. There are
two extremes which you ought equally to shun. One is that of
carelessness; the other, that of extreme precision, as if the sound of
the words uttered were constantly uppermost in the mind. This last fault
always suggests the idea of vanity and pedantry, and is of itself enough
to add a deep indigo hue to a young lady's reputation.

One great fault of New England pronunciation is, that the work is
performed too much by the outer organs of speech. The tones of the voice
have but little depth. Instead of a generous play of the throat and
lungs, the throat almost closes, and the voice seems to be formed in the
mouth. It is this that gives what is called a _nasal_ tone to the voice,
which, when denied free range through its lawful avenues, rushes in part
through the nose. We notice the nasal pronunciation in excess here and
there in an individual, while Englishmen and Southerners observe it as a
prevailing characteristic of all classes of people in the Northern
States. Southerners in general are much less careful and accurate in
pronunciation than we are; but they more than compensate for this
deficiency by the full, round tones in which they utter themselves. In
our superficial use of the organs of speech, there are some consonants
which we are prone to omit altogether. This is especially the case with
_g_ in words that end with _ing_. Nine persons out of ten say _singin_
instead of _singing_. I know some public speakers, and many private
ones, who never pronounce the _t_ in such words as _object_ and
_prospect_. Very few persons give the right sound to _r_ final. _Far_ is
generally pronounced as if it were written _fah_. Now, I would not have
the full Hibernian roll of the _r_; but I would have the presence of the
letter more distinctly recognized, than it often is, even by persons of
refined and fastidious taste.

Let me next beg you to shun all the ungrammatical vulgarisms which are
often heard, but which never fail to grate harshly on a well-tuned ear.
If you permit yourselves to use them now, you will never get rid of
them. I know a venerable and accomplished lawyer, who has stood at the
head of his profession in this State, and has moved in the most refined
society for half a century, who to this day says _haint_ for _has not_,
having acquired the habit when a schoolboy. I have known persons who
have for years tried unsuccessfully to break themselves of saying _done_
for _did_, and _you and I_ for _you and me_. Many well-educated persons,
through the power of long habit, persist in saying _shew_ for _showed_,
while they know perfectly well that they might, with equal propriety,
substitute _snew_ for _snowed_; and there is not far hence a clergyman,
marvellously precise and fastidious in his choice of words, who is very
apt to commence his sermon by saying, "I _shew_ you in a recent
discourse." A false delicacy has very generally introduced _drank_ as
the perfect participle of _drink_, instead of _drunk_, which alone has
any respectable authority in its favor; and the imperfect tense and
perfect participle have been similarly confounded in many other cases. I
know not what grammar you use in this school. I trust that it is an old
one; for some of the new grammars sanction these vulgarisms, and in
looking over their tables of irregular verbs, I have sometimes half
expected to have the book dashed from my hand by the indignant ghost of
Lindley Murray. Great care and discretion should be employed in the use
of the common abbreviations of the negative forms of the substantive and
auxiliary verbs. _Can't_, _don't_, and _haven't_, are admissible in
rapid conversation on trivial subjects. _Isn't_ and _hasn't_ are more
harsh, yet tolerated by respectable usage. _Didn't_, _couldn't_,
_wouldn't_, and _shouldn't_, make as unpleasant combinations of
consonants as can well be uttered, and fall short but by one remove of
those unutterable names of Polish gentlemen which sometimes excite our
wonder in the columns of a newspaper. _Won't_ for _will not_, and _aint_
for _is not_ or _are not_, are absolutely vulgar; and _aint_, for _has
not_ or _have not_, is utterly intolerable.

Nearly akin to these offences against good grammar is another untasteful
practice, into which you are probably more in danger of falling, and
which is a crying sin among young ladies,--I mean the use of
exaggerated, extravagant forms of speech,--saying _splendid_ for
_pretty_, _magnificent_ for _handsome_, _horrid_ for _very_, _horrible_
for _unpleasant_, _immense_ for _large_, _thousands_ or _myriads_ for
any number greater than _two_. Were I to write down, for one day, the
conversation of some young ladies of my acquaintance, and then to
interpret it literally, it would imply that, within the compass of
twelve or fourteen hours, they had met with more marvellous adventures
and hair-breadth escapes, had passed through more distressing
experiences, had seen more imposing spectacles, had endured more
fright, and enjoyed more rapture, than would suffice for half a dozen
common lives. This habit is attended with many inconveniences. It
deprives you of the intelligible use of strong expressions when you need
them. If you use them all the time, nobody understands or believes you
when you use them in earnest. You are in the same predicament with the
boy who cried WOLF so often, when there was no wolf, that nobody would
go to his relief when the wolf came. This habit has also a very bad
moral bearing. Our words have a reflex influence upon our characters.
Exaggerated speech makes one careless of the truth. The habit of using
words without regard to their rightful meaning, often leads one to
distort facts, to misreport conversations, and to magnify statements, in
matters in which the literal truth is important to be told. You can
never trust the testimony of one who in common conversation is
indifferent to the import, and regardless of the power, of words. I am
acquainted with persons whose representations of facts always need
translation and correction, and who have utterly lost their reputation
for veracity, solely through this habit of overstrained and extravagant
speech. They do not mean to lie; but they have a dialect of their own,
in which words bear an entirely different sense from that given to them
in the daily intercourse of discreet and sober people.

In this connection, it may not be amiss to notice a certain class of
phrases, often employed to fill out and dilute sentences, such as, _I'm
sure_,--_I declare_,--_That's a fact_,--_You know_,--_I want to
know_,--_Did you ever?_--_Well! I never_,--and the like. All these forms
of speech disfigure conversation, weaken the force of the assertions or
statements with which they are connected, and give unfavorable
impressions as to the good breeding of the person that uses them.

You will be surprised, young ladies, to hear me add to these
counsels,--"Above all things, swear not at all." Yet there is a great
deal of swearing among those who would shudder at the very thought of
being profane. The Jews, who were afraid to use the most sacred names in
common speech, were accustomed to swear by the temple, by the altar, and
by their own heads; and these oaths were rebuked and forbidden by divine
authority. I know not why the rebuke and prohibition apply not with full
force to the numerous oaths by _goodness_, _faith_, _patience_, and
_mercy_, which we hear from lips that mean to be neither coarse nor
irreverent, in the schoolroom, street, and parlor; and a moment's
reflection will convince any well-disposed person, that, in the
exclamation _Lor_, the cutting off of a single letter from a consecrated
word can hardly save one from the censure and the penalty written in the
third commandment. I do not regard these expressions as harmless. I
believe them inconsistent with Christian laws of speech. Nor do they
accord with the simple, quiet habit of mind and tone of feeling which
are the most favorable to happiness and usefulness, and which sit as
gracefully on gay and buoyant youth as on the sedateness of maturer
years. The frame of mind in which a young lady says, in reply to a
question, _Mercy! no_, is very different from that which prompts the
simple, modest _no_. Were there any room for doubt, I should have some
doubt of the truth of the former answer; for the unnatural, excited,
fluttered state of mind implied in the use of the oath, might indicate
either an unfitness to weigh the truth, or an unwillingness to
acknowledge it.

In fine, transparency is an essential attribute of all graceful and
becoming speech. Language ought to represent the speaker's ideas, and
neither more nor less. Exclamations, needless expletives, unmeaning
extravagances, are as untasteful as the streamers of tattered finery
which you sometimes see fluttering about the person of a dilapidated
belle. Let your thoughts be as strong, as witty, as brilliant, as you
can make them; but never seek to atone for feeble thought by large
words, or to rig out foolish conceits in the spangled robe of genuine
wit. Speak as you think and feel; and let the tongue always be an honest
interpreter to the heart.

But it is time that we passed to higher considerations. There are great
laws of duty and religion which should govern our conversation; and the
divine Teacher assures us that even for our idle words we are
accountable to Him who has given us the power of speech. Now, I by no
means believe that there is any principle of our religion which frowns
upon wit or merriment, or forbids playful speech at fit seasons and
within due limits. The very fact that the Almighty has created the
muscles which produce the smile and the laugh, is a perpetual rebuke to
those who would call all laughter madness, and all mirth folly.
Amusement, in its time and place, is a great good; and I know of no
amusement so refined, so worthy an intellectual being, as that
conversation which is witty and still kind, playful, yet always
reverent, which recreates from toil and care, but leaves no sting, and
violates no principle of brotherly love or religious duty.

Evil speaking, slander, detraction, gossip, scandal, are different names
for one of the chief dangers to be guarded against in conversation; and
you are doing much towards defending yourselves against it by the
generous mental culture which you enjoy in this seminary. The demon of
slander loves an empty house. A taste for scandal betrays a vacant mind.
Furnish your minds, then, by useful reading and study, and by habits of
reflection and mental industry, that you may be able to talk about
subjects as well as about people,--about events too long past or too
remote to be interwoven with slander. But, if you must talk about
people, why not about their good traits and deeds? The truest ingenuity
is that which brings hidden excellences to light; for virtue is in her
very nature modest and retiring, while faults lie on the surface and are
detected with half an eye.

You will undoubtedly be careful to have your words always just and kind,
if you will only take a sufficiently thorough view of the influence of
your habits of conversation, both in the formation of your own
characters and in determining the happiness of others. But how low an
estimate do many of us make of the power of the tongue! How little
account we are apt to take of our words! Have we not all at times said
to ourselves, "Oh! it is only a word!" when it may have been sharp as a
drawn sword, have given more pain than a score of blows, and done more
harm than our hands could have wrought in a month? Why is it that the
slanderer and the tale-bearer regard themselves as honest and worthy
people, instead of feeling that they are accursed of God and man? It is
because they deal in evil words only, and they consider words as mere
nought. Why is it that the carping tongue, which filches a little from
everybody's good name, can hardly utter itself without a sneer, and
makes every fair character its prey, thinks better of itself than a
petty pilferer would? It is because by long, though baseless
prescription, the tongue has claimed for itself a license denied to
every other member and faculty.

But, in point of fact, your words not only express, but help create,
your characters. Speech gives definiteness and permanence to your
thoughts and feelings. The unuttered thought may fade from the
memory,--may be chased away by better thoughts,--may, indeed, hardly be
a part of your own mind; for, if suggested from without, and met without
a welcome, and with disapproval and resistance, it is not yours. But by
speech you adopt thoughts, and the voice that utters them is as a pen
that engraves them indelibly on the soul. If you can suppress unkind
thoughts, so that, when they rise in your breast, and mount to your very
lips, you leave them unuttered, you are not on the whole unkind,--your
better nature has the supremacy. But if these wrong feelings often find
utterance, though you call it hasty utterance, there is reason to fear
that they flow from a bitter fountain within.

Consider, also, how large a portion speech makes up of the lives of all.
It occupies the greater part of the waking hours of many of us; while
express acts of a moral bearing, compared with our words, are rare and
few. Indeed, in many departments of duty, words are our only possible
deeds,--it is by words alone that we can perform or violate our duty.
Many of the most important forms of charity are those of speech.
Alms-giving is almost the only expression of charity of which the voice
is not the chief minister; and alms, conferred in silent coldness, or
with chiding or disdainful speech, freeze the spirit, though they may
warm the body. Speech, too, is the sole medium of a countless host of
domestic duties and observances. There are, indeed, in every community
many whose only activity seems to be in words. There are many young
ladies, released from the restraints of school, and many older ladies,
with few or no domestic burdens, with no worldly avocation and no taste
for reading, whose whole waking life, either at their own homes or from
house to house, is given to the exercise, for good or evil, of the
tongue,--that unruly member. And how blessed might they make that
exercise,--for how many holy ministries of love, sympathy, and charity
might it suffice,--how many wounds might it prevent or heal,--did they
only believe and feel that they were writing out their own characters in
their daily speech! But too many of them forget this. So long as they do
not knowingly and absolutely lie, they feel no responsibility for their
words. They deem themselves virtuous, because they refrain from vices to
which they have not the shadow of a temptation; but carp, backbite, and
carry ill reports from house to house, with an apostle's zeal and a
martyr's devotedness. To say nothing of the social effect of such a
life, is not the tongue thus employed working out spiritual death for
the soul in whose service it is busy? I know of no images too vile to
portray such a character. The dissection of a slanderer's or
talebearer's heart would present the most loathsome specimen of morbid
anatomy conceivable. It is full of the most malignant poison. Its life
is all mean, low, serpent-like,--a life that cannot bear the light, but
finds all its nourishment and growth in darkness. Were these foul and
odious forms of speech incapable of harming others,--did human reptiles
of this class creep about in some outward guise, in which they could be
recognized by all, and their words be taken for what they are worth, and
no more,--still I would beg them, for their own sakes, not to degrade
God's image, in which they were created, into the likeness of a creeping
thing; I would entreat them not to be guilty of the meanest and most
miserable of all forms of spiritual suicide; I would beseech them, if
they are determined to sell their souls, to get some better price for
them than the scorn and dread of all whose esteem is worth having.

In this connection, we ought to take into account the very large class
of literally idle words. How many talk on unthinkingly and heedlessly,
as if the swift exercise of the organs of speech were the great end of
life! The most trivial news of the day, the concerns of the
neighborhood, the floating gossip, whether good-natured or malignant,
dress, food, frivolous surmises, paltry plans, vanities too light to
remain an hour upon the memory,--these are the sole staple of what too
many call conversation; and many are the young people who are training
themselves in the use of speech for no higher or better purpose. But
such persons have the threatened judgment visibly following their idle
speech. Their minds grow superficial and shallow. They constantly lose
ground, if they ever had any, as intellectual and moral beings. Such
speech makes a person, of however genteel training, coarse and vulgar,
and that not only in character, but even in voice and manners, and with
sad frequency it obliterates traits of rich loveliness and promise. The
merely idle tongue is also very readily betrayed into overt guilt. One
cannot indulge in idle, reckless talk, without being implicated in all
the current slander and calumny, and acquiring gradually the envious and
malignant traits of a hackneyed tale-bearer. And the person who, in
youth, can attract the attention and win the favor of those of little
reflection by flippant and voluble discourse, will encounter in the very
same circles neglect, disesteem, and dislike, before the meridian of
life is passed; for it takes all the charms that youth, sprightliness,
and high animal spirits can furnish, to make an idle tongue fascinating
or even endurable.

Let me ask you now to consider for a moment the influence which we exert
in conversation upon the happiness or misery of others. It is not too
much to say, that most of us do more good or harm in this way than in
all other forms beside. Look around you,--take a survey of whatever
there is of social or domestic unhappiness in the families to which you
belong, or among your kindred and acquaintance. Nine tenths of it can be
traced to no other cause than untrue, unkind, or ungoverned speech. A
mere harsh word, repented of the next moment,--how great a fire can it
kindle! The carrying back and forth of an idle tale, not worth an hour's
thought, will often break up the closest intimacies. From every
slanderous tongue you may trace numerous rills of bitterness, winding
round from house to house, and separating those who ought to be united
in the closest friendship. Could persons, who, with kind hearts, are yet
hasty in speech, number up, at the close of a day, the feelings that
they had wounded, and the uncomfortable sensations that they had caused,
they would need no other motive to study suavity of manner, and to seek
for their words the rich unction of a truly charitable spirit. Then,
too, how many are the traits of suspicion, jealousy, and heart-burning,
which go forth from every day's merely idle words, vain and vague
surmises, uncharitable inferences and conjectures!

These thoughts point to the necessity of religion as the guiding,
controlling element in conversation. All conversation ought to be
religious. Not that I would have persons always talking on what are
commonly called religious subjects. Let these be talked of at fitting
times and places, but never obtrusively brought forward or thrust in.
But cannot common subjects be talked of religiously? Cannot we converse
about our plans, our amusements, our reading, nay, and our neighbors
too, and no sacred name be introduced, and yet the conversation be
strictly religious? Yes,--if throughout the conversation we own the
laws of honesty, frankness, kind construction, and sincere
benevolence,--if our speech be pure, true, gentle, dignified,--if it
seek or impart information that either party needs,--if it cherish
friendly feeling,--if it give us kinder affections towards others,--if
it bring our minds into vigorous exercise,--nay, if it barely amuse us,
but not too long, and if the wit be free from coarseness and at no one's
expense. But we should ever bear it in mind, that our words are all
uttered in the hearing of an unseen Listener and Judge. Could we keep
this in remembrance, there would be little in our speech that need give
us shame or pain. But that half hour spent in holding up to ridicule one
who has done you no harm,--that breathless haste to tell the last piece
of slander,--you would not want to remember in your evening prayer. From
the flippant, irresponsible, wasteful gossip, in which so much time is
daily lost, you could not with a safe conscience look up and own an
Almighty presence.

Young ladies, my subject is a large one, and branches out into so many
heads, that, were I to say all that I should be glad to say, the setting
sun would stop me midway. But it is time for me to relieve your
patience. Accept, with these fragmentary hints, my cordial
congratulations and good wishes. Life now smiles before you, and beckons
you onward. Heaven grant that your coming days may be even happier than
you hope! To make them so is within your own power. They will not be
cloudless. If you live long, disappointments and sorrows must come.
There will be steep and rough passages in the way of life. But there is
a Guide, in whose footprints you may climb the steep places without
weariness, and tread the rough ground without stumbling. Add to your
mental culture faith in Him, and the self-consecration of the Christian
heart. Then even trials will make you happier. When clouds are over your
way, rays from Heaven will struggle through their fissures, and fringe
their edges. Your path will be onward and upward, ever easier, ever
brighter. On that path may your early footsteps be planted, that the
beautiful bloom of your youth may not wither and perish, but may ripen
for a heavenly harvest!





WE are all of us more or less apt to overlook that which is continually
going on around us. We omit to make it a matter of inquiry, and reserve
our attention for that which is more rare, although of far less
importance. What is it, for instance, which, after a course of long,
sultry heat,--when the sun, day by day, has blazed in the sky
above,--what is it, I ask, which has still preserved the verdure and
freshness of all vegetable life? Surely it has been nothing else than
the dew of heaven, gently, regularly, plenteously falling, as each
evening closed in. Nevertheless, how little is it thought of,--how
little are its benefits acknowledged! But when the clouds gather
speedily and darkly, and perhaps unexpectedly, when the sense of
coolness spreads once more through the parched atmosphere, when
abundance of rain all at once descends, then all observe the change, all
notice the beneficial results; yet perhaps they are trifling indeed
compared with those of the nightly and forgotten dew, which has never
ceased to fall, week by week, or even month by month, during the course
of the drought. I feel no doubt that it will be acknowledged how it is
the same, the very same, in all things calling for our observation. So,
therefore, it is regarding conversation, as a thing of every day. We
flock to hear and admire some mighty orator's address, but we think
little of and little appreciate that daily, hourly thing which is our
subject now,--I mean conversation. But I leave you to judge which has
the most effect on our general interest, as social creatures,--which, in
the long run, has most to do with the pleasure and the profit of all
human intercourse.

Having made this claim on your attention, I would now observe that the
subject is one of so wide a scope that I can do little more than present
you with a few thoughts, which I have noted down as they have risen to
my own mind, upon it. And I trust that they will prove not entirely
unacceptable, though well indeed aware that the topic is one to which it
must be very difficult indeed to do any justice.

But I must first try to meet one objection, for which I am quite
prepared, namely, that conversation is not a fit subject for a lecture
at all, but should be considered as too independent and free to have
any rules, principles, or guidance applied to it. This, however, is
indeed a fallacy, and may briefly be exposed by a few such questions as
those I am about to ask. What should be more free than the sword of the
soldier in the battle-day?--than the pencil of the artist at the
mountain side?--or than the poet's song in its upward flight? Yet who
would condemn the use of the drill, or the study of perspective, or the
rules of poetic art? No less untenable is it to maintain that
conversation can be subject to no principle, rule, or review, without
checking its free and unfettered range. Cowper has simply summed up the
whole truth:--

          "Though conversation in its better part
           May be esteemed a gift, and not an art;
           Yet much depends, as in the tiller's toil,
           On culture and the sowing of the soil."

Nor shall I venture to suggest any measures which I do not believe
already well sanctioned, well honored, and well practised too, even by
many who have never yet thought of classifying them at all. But these I
shall freely give, as my duty is, at your summons this night.

Conversation may be termed or defined as "the exchange and
communication, by word, of that which is passing in the inward mind and
heart." And none of all known creatures, except man, has this peculiar
gift. The animal tribes approach us and even surpass us in many of
their physical powers and capacities. As to their capacities in the five
senses of the body, I conceive that, generally speaking, it is so; but
none of them converse, like man, in expressive words, however they may
and do comprehend one another through inferior means. Homer has
therefore defined our race as "word-dividing men." And surely such a
capacity or power is not bestowed on us unaccompanied by an obligation
and a claim to give due diligence how we do and how we may employ it.
Never to act thus is surely an undue disregard of our endowment,--a
virtual depreciation and contempt of that which is at once among the
most needful, the most useful, and, at the same time, most ornamental
gifts of God to mankind.

As, then, it is said of real wisdom, that first "it is pure," or free
from error and wrong, so too, first of all, right and proper
conversation must be free from everything evidently and positively
inconsistent with our duty towards God and man. It has ever been well
said that we must be just before we are generous. The one attribute is
essential and indispensable in every transaction of life. The acts and
deeds connected with the other are comparatively undefined and
indefinable. So it is essential, it is indispensable, that our
conversation, from our own choice and deliberate aim, should be utterly
free from all things irreverent to God and injurious to our
fellow-creatures. God's name must never be taken in vain. God's Word,
and divine things generally, must never be treated with any levity. No
sentence must come forth from our lips having any tendency to undermine
or subvert the principles and practices of true religion. These are
among the mere dues and obligations to Him who gives us the faculty of
speech, and enables us to interchange conversation with our fellows;
and, beyond all doubt, hour after hour of silence and reserve would be
infinitely better--more to be desired by any Christian--than the most
entertaining and most captivating talk of a witty but unprincipled man.
And so too, exactly, with regard to our fellow-creatures. They too have
an absolute claim on us, that we should resolutely keep to the grand
rule of speaking to them only such things as will do them no hurt,--no
hurt to their minds, no hurt to their feelings, no hurt to their best
and true and everlasting interest. As the words of one lead many to
heaven and joy, so too the words of another lead many to hell and woe.
Better, again I say, would it be for you to be silent as a dumb man than
to indulge carelessly and wickedly in any such utterances. He who does
it is a cruel enemy of his fellow-creatures, however popular, however
able and attractive he may be.

Thus much with regard to conversation--on the negative side. Thus much
as to that nature and character of which it must _not_ be, under any
circumstances. And, having no intention to make my present address in
any degree of that more solemn and absolutely serious kind, which it is
my privilege so often to employ in my profession, I will only add here
that, having now seen what it is essential and indispensable for us to
shun in conversation, so again, to aim at pleasing God and serving our
fellow-creatures is not less needful,--not less essential, as the one
grand object and scope with which at all times we should use and
interchange it. I am sure you will all admit that I could not rightly
proceed without laying down this broad, this sure foundation. On it we
may build the lighter superstructure; but, without laying it down, I
could not conscientiously proceed. Nay, farther, I feel equally
convinced that many would perceive at once the deficiency, and regret it
too, were I to adopt any other course. Conversation, to be worthy of the
name at all, is not child's play. It must be dealt with, if considered
at all, as an important and substantial thing, not as the mere toy
wherewith to trifle and sport each day and hour till we pass away to
meet that judgment where our Lord has himself declared,--"By your words
ye shall be justified, and by your words ye shall be condemned."

The subject may now branch out into many and various directions. To make
a choice is the only difficulty. One of these may lead us to notice
that, in all conversation, special attention should ever be paid to the
feelings of all present. Every subject should be studiously avoided
likely to give needless pain, and perhaps, as it were, open the
sluice-gate through which other observations might more plentifully
flow in from others of the company, painful to one or more in the
circle. Nothing, of course, will teach this so much as true kindness and
true sympathy of heart; and, if this be wanting, offences of this kind
will continually abound,--yes, I am sorry to say, will sometimes be
studiously and intentionally committed. But even the most loving and
most kindly spirit will do well to be very watchful on this point,
seeking to exercise all judgment and tact in the matter; and even beyond
this a beautiful art is sometimes to be witnessed,--happy indeed are
they who possess it,--which turns and leads away the general strain of
talk, and that often with unperceived skill, when approaching dangerous
ground, or perhaps already beginning to grieve or disturb another.

Among injurious practices in talk, the following may perhaps be
enumerated:--an overbearing vehemence, challenging assertions, cold
indifference to the statements of others, a love of argumentation, an
inclination to regard fair liberty of mutual address as undue license,
pressure on another to express more than he desires, all personalities
which would be forbidden by the royal law of speaking unto others as you
would like to be spoken to yourself. These and many more transgressions,
in our address one to another, are not only of a grave, but also of a
very evident kind, and therefore on them, perhaps, there is less need to

Others are more subtle,--more elude the grasp of ordinary observation.
All social life, and even all family life, if rightly carried on,
requires not only mutual forbearance in talk, but mutual sympathy too,
mutual encouragement one from the other. In families and in society we
find the old, the young; the busy and those comparatively unemployed;
the studious or the literary, and those whose tastes are completely
different; people occupied in various professions and trades;
politicians and statesmen; soldiers and sailors; young men and women
reared up at home, with young men and women reared up at schools and
public institutions; travellers acquainted with divers parts of the
globe, and those who never have quitted their own land; men of the city
and men of the field;--in a word, persons and characters almost as
various in the aspect of their inward taste as the very features which
each countenance wears,--for I may venture to say that no two persons
think or feel exactly and altogether alike. Now, whenever there is such
a thing as opinion, and whenever there is such a thing as feeling (which
is the case in all members of families, and in all members of society
with whom you can possibly live or be thrown), there at once is, or
there arises, an immediate claim for a kind and proper treatment of
these opinions and of these feelings. They may not be your own, they may
be utterly different from your own, but that has nothing to do with the
question. As a general rule, every one present has no less right to
them than you have to yours. You had better go, like Shakspeare's Timon,
altogether out of the concourse of your fellow-creatures, if you cannot
realize this truth and apply it too. And it is in conversation that you
will ever give the chief proofs and evidences whether you do so or not.
In it there must be nothing despotic,--nothing to give any present the
idea that you have any right to decide what his opinions, what his
tastes, what his habits, what his pursuits, should be. You will, of
course, not misunderstand me here,--not forget that I am supposing each
opinion, each taste, each habit and pursuit, as, on the face of it,
allowable and innocent, although not yours. I repeat it, there must be
no despotism in society. Equality must prevail as a general rule; I say
a general rule, because there are, no doubt, certain seasons and times
when the intercourse of social and of family life must partake of that
special character which is adapted to the various relationships of man.
The parent must, at times, simply direct the child by his words. The
teacher, authoritatively, must instruct the pupil. The master or
employer must tell the employed what to do. And occasionally, in
society, the rule above laid down will, by general consent, lie in
abeyance, if it may be so expressed. And, on certain subjects,--I mean
those whereon we are ourselves ignorant, but others in our company are
highly informed,--we may be content to be just listeners, merely
demonstrating that sympathy and interest adequate to keep up the flow
of instruction from another's lips. But intercourse of this kind
scarcely can be termed conversation; and when circumstances like these
occur in social and family life, they must be directed by other rules
not altogether applicable to our present subject. Now, to enter with
full sympathy into the claims of all present in society for this equal
right of interchanged sentiment, and to show this feeling at times by
patient forbearance and at other times by manifest appreciation of that
which others say, is no slight grace and gift. And here the various
lessons on the subject, which experience or observation has taught, must
be brought into play; and the information in any way gained as to the
various feelings, habits, and tastes ordinarily entertained by people of
different ages, different professions, and different characters, must be
judiciously applied. Nor will this, in the least, spoil free and fair
discussion of any topic. On the contrary, it will promote it. And thus
that principle will be rightly maintained which I have endeavored to lay
down and commend, viz., that when any special opinion, feeling, or taste
is expressed in society,--I mean, of course, in a proper and legitimate
way,--it should always be treated by all present with that measure of
respect which each one would wish exercised towards himself for his own
personal views. Just in proportion as men are boorish, coarse, and
unsocial, in the true and extensive sense of the word, will they
transgress here. Yes, even put together one, ungainly tempered, from
his field, and another of the same character from his shop or counting
house, and very likely not five minutes will elapse before one or the
other will say something to disparage those habits and tastes with which
he himself happens to be not conversant. There ensues discord and
disseverance, or, it may be, silence and separation. But, on the other
hand, just in proportion as you are enabled to unite yourself with
others through your demeanor and words,--not, of course, hypocritically
or obsequiously, but from real sympathy with all the innocent tastes and
engagements of our fellow-creatures,--just, I say, in proportion as you
are enabled to do this, will your intercourse with them, in the way of
conversation, be of that kind at which we should aim. None will be
afraid of your indulging in rebuffs, or ridicule, or depreciation. None
will meet from you a cold, heartless, and repulsive indifference. To
you, and before you, the flower[A] of each human heart (if I may so
speak) will then have a tendency to open and expand its varied forms and
hues, instead of retaining them all closed and shut up; and many, many
thoughts will be expressed to you and before you which will never be
heard, or at all events rarely, indeed, by those of a sneering,
unsympathizing, hard, and ungenial spirit. Thus you will be known, or
rather felt, instinctively felt, as one who will do nothing to chill,
but, on the contrary, much to encourage that free spirit (in the best
sense of the word) which should mark and imbue all social intercourse
deserving the name at all; and you will be welcomed by all who can
appreciate good taste, good tact, and (I will add) good feeling
too,--for that is the chief spring of all such conduct; and you will be
enabled to receive and communicate much pleasure and profit too,
wheresover you may go.

A word here may not be inappropriate as to what is sometimes called
"drawing a person out"--_i. e._ leading another to tell you, or any
company assembled in your presence, what they know, what they have seen,
what they feel, what, in a word, they are able to communicate, if so
disposed and led. Now, this drawing out is a very delicate affair. When
successfully done, it is most valuable. When the attempt proves
unsuccessful, you are very likely to lose or interfere with the very
object in view. Questioning of all kinds,--up from that on the simplest
topic, and with a purpose of the simplest kind, to that involving the
most important results,--questioning, I say, of all kinds, requires
judgment and tact. Many persons much err in this department of address.
Some err by asking about matters on which it is quite clear that they
have no real feeling and concern. Some err by demands as to your own
personal proceedings, wherewith they have no connection. Some, again,
err by putting questions, not wrongly or inappropriately, but merely too
many at a time, or in too rapid a succession. This scarcely can be
called conversation at all,--and, generally speaking, (though I do not
deny that there are exceptions, which will at once recur to the
intelligent,) yes, generally speaking, is most unsatisfactory. And the
reason, if we analyze the matter, is, that all the statements, or
observations, or call them what you will, proceed, under such
circumstances, from one of the parties engaged. It is not reciprocal; it
is not mutually communicated with due equality of interchanged thought.
You will at once perceive that this must be detrimental; and I would
suggest that when you may observe the damage which is thus done to
conversation, you should seek at once to put the discourse on a better
plan,--to shift it, as it were, on a better line for good progress. And
that may sometimes be done by putting a question to those who question
you, or even more, by making the number of questions on each side, in
some measure, to correspond. This, of course, must not be done harshly
or abruptly, nor so as to give the very least impression that you
yourself desire to withhold and draw in; but it may often be
advantageously done; and you will thus afford to another the natural and
fit means of telling you something, as a response for that which you
tell him. Then true conversation will begin; then the due interchange
of expression, which alone merits the name; then each party becomes
rightly placed, and the intercourse will improve almost instantaneously.

But if, in these very commonest forms of our mutual address, it is not
an easy thing to put questions well,--neither too many, nor in their
wrong place,--then we may be well assured that it is more difficult
still when the object, expressly, is to lead on another, gifted perhaps
in many ways, or having perhaps some special thing to tell, unknown to
you or others present. And yet what a valuable art this is! Much is lost
in society by incapacity for its due exercise. Much is gained by skill
in its employment. But many reasons concur to render it very difficult.
The following may be mentioned among many others. Some are full of
matter, but shy or reserved. Some are unaware of the deep interest which
certain things, well known to them, would have for others, if they would
communicate them; (in illustration of this, I may perhaps quote
scientific men, travellers, those who have led strange and peculiar
lives.) Some are too modest to put themselves in any prominent light.
Others are too proud so to do, lest they should fail in winning full
attention to their words. Some are jaded and worn with previous hours of
intellectual toil, and the current of their thoughts is still flowing on
in a channel of its own. Some are laboring under a kind of awe of one or
more persons in the company. Some are young, and scarcely seem to
realize or know how acceptable are the thoughts and fresh expressions of
youth to those of maturer years. Others are afraid of being too
professional in their remarks. Others are indolent in the use of their
tongue and utterance. And numerous other causes might be mentioned,
which sadly interfere with the full, free, and general flow of discourse
or conversation. And yet, at the same time, there may be rich stores in
the assembly,--much, very much, to communicate,--something, at least, in
each either to please, or inform and improve,--something perhaps in
every one present which, if told and expressed to those around him,
would add and contribute no slight nor unprized contribution to the
common stock. But how to elicit it--there is the difficulty.
Nevertheless, very much may be done by tact and kindness, by animation
and by cordiality, by watching and waiting for fit opportunities, by
that appreciation of each one in the circle which will encompass and
arouse all, as it were, with a kind of electric chain,--by a constant
and deliberate aim to converse yourself at the time when it may be
requisite, and willingly to lapse into silence and the background when
another takes up the subject. And, although it is a measure which
requires no little taste and moderation in its use, still it is
sometimes not only very graceful, but very effectual too, if you will
open out on some few personal topics which may concern yourself, and
thus win a response from others present, who may personally know or
have personally gone through that which you and others in the company
would desire, and rightly desire, to hear opened out without any

In order, again, to promote conversation of a superior sort, endeavor
must be made to expand and enlarge its bounds to the very utmost. It
should be of a comprehensive kind,--not the gossip of some narrow set,
not a mere comment on the persons and affairs of any one locality, not a
wearisome and dull repetition of things already, perhaps long, familiar
to all present. I repeat, it should be comprehensive,--brought forward,
as it were, from a full treasury of "things new and old," and coined
into various sums, larger for such occasions as may need, and
small--yes, even to the smallest--for the fit use and time. It should be
formed of various materials, of that which has been seen, and heard, and
read. A monotonous character is fatal to it. At one time it should
arouse and awaken,--at another it should calm and soothe. At one time it
should lead into deep and grave questions,--at another it should play
lightly over the surface of things. At one time it may touch the spirit
of the hearer, almost into tears,--at another it may raise the full
freedom of laughter and mirth. At one time it may be addressed to all
within the convenient reach of your words,--at another to one listening
ear. If possible, it should touch on many tastes, on many places, on
various interests, giving to each present (however different each taste
and character) the best and fairest opening for a share in the circling
talk, which opportunity every one, at fit occasion and turn, should be
willing to embrace, and thus to render his or her social dues to those
who freely and fairly contribute theirs. No one, on the other hand,
should seek dominion, nor ever two or three, over the remainder. Again,
conversation should never be allowed so to fall into separate or little
knots, that one here or one there should remain alone or excluded
altogether. It should be carried on in appropriate tones of voice. They
should be somewhat raised, or rather, I would say, strengthened for the
old and for those who are a little deaf, of whom there are many. This,
however, not too obviously; not to remind any of infirmity. They should
be quick, firm, and spirited for those in middle age, with their
faculties in full strength. They should be somewhat gentler to the
young, lest they be at all checked; and somewhat slower, that they may
have more time and means to frame their own answer. For which the reason
is, that as "practice makes perfect" in all things, so they, whose
practice has, of course, been less than their seniors', need more time
to make up for the want of it, even in conversation. At all times
discourse is liable to alternations as to its interest and life. Expect
this, and even should it become at any moment what is called dull, or
even should an awkward pause and silence come on, do not seem to notice
it. This will only make it worse. Rather try yourself to gather up the
broken thread, or to introduce some new matter. Every one should avoid
bringing forward or needlessly dwelling on any topic whatsoever likely
to affect any others present with any unfavorable reminiscences. The
wealthy will avoid, as a general rule, allusions to their property and
wealth before any persons who, although their equals in society, are
known to be of poor and inadequate estate. The healthy and the vigorous
of frame will not forget that others are invalids; those free as air in
the disposition of their time, that others have but very little, and
that with difficulty spared; the quick and intelligent, that others are
more slow in apprehension; those of hardy spirit, well strung and
braced, that others are nervous, sensitive, and tried by words, tones,
gestures, and expressions, which would not try, nor vex, or affect them
in the least degree. But what tact is requisite in all this! And many,
many failures must there be; sins of commission and of omission too,
even among those who earnestly seek in this matter to fulfil, always and
everywhere, the rules of true courtesy, and, which is better still, the
rules of true Christian love. Nevertheless, the aim at which we point is
by no means without its value as a profitable exercise both of the mind
and heart. No, nor is it ineffectual and unblessed. For, although at
times words may be said which we would long to recall, and strings of
feeling touched by our utterance which afterthought tells us we should
not have moved, and topics handled with much want of that skill and
judgment which we should have wished most truly to employ, still, with a
good aim before us, and with right principles in some measure realized,
and seeking to correct any error when discovered, as well as to advance
more in all which improves and adorns right social intercourse, much
will be done towards the goodly end. And large indeed will be the amount
of pleasure and of benefit which you may thus hope to reap for yourself
and communicate to others in the course of your life, and that, too, up
to an age, should your days be prolonged, when you may be shut up, or at
all events much restrained, from many other means of active usefulness.
For the mellowed wisdom of age, showing and expressing itself in that
charity and sympathy for all which nothing less than experience itself
has taught, is indeed a strong and beautiful thing.

Hitherto I have spoken altogether on conversation with those whose rank
and position of life corresponds with your own. A few words now on
conversation, first, with those of a higher rank, and, secondly, with
those in the humbler conditions of life--to use the common phrase; and
every man should be qualified and prepared for any and for all kinds of

To those of a higher rank than ourselves we may, without derogating in
the least from our independence and self-respect, show that deference
which not only the customs of all nations, but the Scripture also most
evidently inculcates. This, of course, will appear when engaged with
them in conversation. It will, however, be shown rather in some
occasional acknowledgment than in the manner or matter of discourse. The
rank of another does not in the least demand that you should surrender
your opinion to his, nor conceal your sentiments, nor assume any other
line of subjects and topics than you would address to those more
immediately your equals in worldly position. A vague, undefined notion
seems to float through each rank of society in our land, that those in
the stage above think, feel, and act in a manner different from those
below. A very great mistake this, which oftentimes chills and checks and
mars all open freedom of address when one of an higher and one of a
lower rank are brought into those circumstances where the opportunity
for conversation occurs, if not the absolute claim. But let it be
remembered that the mind and heart of man or of woman varies but little
through these mere distinctions of the world. I do not say that it does
not vary at all, but very little. The main current of joy, the main
current of sorrow, is the same in all classes, though the lesser streams
may variously and separately flow. The main current of affections, of
interests, is the same. All are subject to the same need of kind,
friendly sympathy; all are made to interchange thought; all share in the
manifold impressions of our common nature. Wealth and nobility, and rank
and station, are, after all, only artificial things, not the main
staple of life in any man or woman. When, therefore, you are brought
into the society of one or more like these, be to them appropriately
courteous. Acknowledge their position at once, and then let your
intercourse with them flow freely on, just as with others. Trouble not
them, nor trouble yourself, with any other system of address. Deprive
not them, nor deprive yourself, of free, open, natural communication.
And, depend upon it, that acting and speaking thus, you will not only be
oftentimes pleased rather than silenced and embarrassed by such society,
but you will be sure to please and to be valued,--yes, and to meet no
less friendly sympathy, both of mind and heart, than is to be found in
each other rank of life.

And now a few words on conversation with our poorer friends or
neighbors, or any persons in this class of life with whom, habitually,
we may have to do, or whom we may meet at any time or place. And few of
that class being, I conclude, here, I may speak to you as those who
would gladly receive any hints for kind consideration as to the right
way of fulfilling your own part in this matter. For I, too, would wish
to be a learner on it, so important do I conceive it to be. So much has
been said, and so much has been written, on the benefit of free, kindly
intercourse between the rich and the poor, the employers and the
employed, those who labor with their heads and those who labor with
their hands, that any mere general or vague observations on the subject
would be quite out of place here. I shall, accordingly, regard you not
only as admitting this truth, but also as desirous yourselves to
exemplify it; and, again, as admitting, and feeling too, that merely to
pay wages, and to give directions and commands, and to bestow alms, and
to support charitable institutions (however needful and good such things
may be), is not enough for one desiring to secure the sympathy and love
of his poorer brethren. For that you must be ready, willing, able to
converse with them. To qualify yourself for doing this, is in many
professions an indispensable and most evident duty,--for instance, with
the ministers of religion and with medical men. They could do nothing
without such conversation. And, considering it due at proper seasons
from every one in a higher class of life to those below them, I shall
just offer you a few hints, which seem to me not unworthy of note.
Avoid, then, on the one hand, all hard, overbearing address; while, on
the other, there must be energy, spirit, firmness, and life. Avoid all
semblance of patronage and condescension, but at the same time never
make any forced attempts to appear what you are not, or to assume a
character not your own. Do not imagine the range of subjects small; and,
when you can, choose those topics in which you and those addressed both
take an interest. Many there are common to all classes. Be not impatient
to come to a point too quick, but give people a full opportunity to
express themselves in their own way; nor count this waste time. It is
very much otherwise. Use short rather than long sentences,--language
colloquial, not that of books,--giving emphasis, tone, and strength to
your words,--never lapsing into cold, lifeless, inexpressive tones.
Trust oftentimes, in conversation with the poor and comparatively
uneducated, that there is much more intelligence within than the answer
which they make in words would lead you, at first sight, to expect. Be
willing and ready to tell something about yourself, your family, and
concerns, when there appears any interest about them. Remember that
family ties and affections are strong in one as in another of the human
family; and, as among your own friends and associates you would refer to
these natural topics, so do here. Let wants and necessities, and trials
and difficulties, not be forgotten, but let them not be the whole
subject-matter of discourse. No, let it range far more widely, far more
attractively; and your looks and your demeanor, and your tones and
words, being all directed by good will, and by practice too, you indeed
will be no idler in good works during times and occasions thus employed.
You will win much love, much esteem, much appreciation; you will hear
much right feeling expressed, and, at times, much to inform you of a
practical kind. You will do good and receive good too.

It appears to me that I have now presented to your notice almost a
sufficiency of topics, relative to conversation, for one single lecture.
Nevertheless, I feel unwilling to conclude without drawing your
attention to a few facts connected with the subject. One is, that the
ablest and mightiest authors of all times and countries have borne their
strong testimony to the attraction which conversation presents, by
casting a large portion of their writings into this form or mould. Thus
did Homer in poetry, Plato in philosophy, and dramatists, of all ages,
in their plays. Thus did Cicero in his various treatises; and Horace
appears[B] talking to you in many and many a page. Dante's grand poem,
"Il Purgatorio," is chiefly a conversation. The French have ever
excelled in such writings; and of such a character is that well-known
gem in the literature of Spain, I of course allude to "Don Quixote." In
Shakspeare and Walter Scott it is the same, and they, perhaps, are the
most popular writers of our land, except one. Who, do you ask, is that?
John Bunyan, the author of the "Pilgrim's Progress;" but that very book
comes up with its testimony too, being a dialogue throughout,--rich in
pathos and wit, rich in illustration, rich in experience, rich in all
variety and combination,--in a word, the very perfection of talk; not
less attractive than it is weighty, not less entertaining than
heavenly, holy, and full of all things which make a book precious.

But another book there is, of which it is well said:--

          "A glory gilds the sacred page,
             Majestic like the sun!
           It gives a light to every age;
             It gives, but borrows none."

And in that book of books there are four short but most mighty
narratives. And each of those narratives contains the one most important
record which ever had to be told upon this earth. Each of them gives one
concurrent history; namely, that of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ,
with his sayings and his deeds. And of conversation these holy
narratives are full. God has chosen this mode of reaching our minds and
influencing our hearts, by large--very large--portions of them written
after this fashion. Cowper felt this so deeply, that, in his poem on our
present subject, he has beautifully told and paraphrased all that went
on when Jesus met and talked with the two disciples on the way to
Emmaus. Moreover, in those gospels, there is one, penned by that
"disciple whom Jesus loved;" and if there is much conversation in all
four of them, in it especially--in the gospel of St. John--conversation
appears in all its full and continued glory. Take one or two examples.
Mankind, all mankind, had to be taught about the complete atonement for
our sins made by our Saviour on the cross. Where is it more clearly,
more mightily told than in the third chapter of St. John's gospel? But
what is that chapter? Is it a law prescribed in set terms?--No. Is it a
sermon?--No. Is it a mere address?--No. You will all remember it is a
conversation,--Christ's conversation with Nicodemus by night. And so it
is again in the very next chapter, where a subject of no less
importance--I say it advisedly, no less importance--is set forth, viz.
the work of the Holy Spirit in man's heart; and that is portrayed for us
in a conversation with the woman of Samaria, at Sychar's well. What
striking instances are these! And many others might be added to them.
And thus we have before us even the sanction and proof from the Word of
God, that the most mighty and transcendent truth can reach us in no
better form than that which conversation gives, and also that Jesus
Christ put his own royal stamp of glory on it, by employing it Himself
continually, when upon the earth among men, though he was their Lord and
their God.

Having thus been led on,--I think very naturally, and, as I think, quite
appropriately, too, for one of my office and position, at any time or
place, or on any subject,--I will not return to any lighter theme. I do
not in the least regret that I have selected my present topic out of
very many which suggested themselves to my mind, when I was asked to
exercise the privilege of thus addressing you, as I have now done for
these four years. I might have chosen others far more entertaining,
and, no doubt, some far more kindling and exciting at this present
time,[C] when our thoughts and our feelings are all so concentrated on
one distant spot of strife and of contest, and of danger, and of
bravery, and wounds, and deaths, and bereavements,--and amidst all, of
honor unexampled to our brave brethren in arms. But, for many reasons, I
have done otherwise. I have chosen, as usual, a subject of general, of
national, of wide-world, of never-failing interest, from day to day,
from week to week, from month to month, from year to year, among the
vast race of our fellows,--born social creatures, born for mutual
sympathy, with interchanged utterance, speech, and conversation.
Strongly do I feel its importance, and I cannot help expressing my
surprise that so little, so very little, has systematically been written
or said upon it. I have found it no ordinary theme, I assure you; and,
though it is one on which we all instinctively are interested in any
circle, or with whomsoever we may at any time be, still it is not one on
which the arrangement and classification of thought is an easy thing. I
therefore shall not feel disappointed, nor, do I trust, will you be
disappointed either, in that good employment of your time which you have
a right to expect from me, as your lecturer to-night here, if I shall
have set before you any thoughts, for your attention, which may improve,
in the least degree, the course and the current of ordinary
conversation. When we remember how much of our innocent
gratification,--how much of our daily harmony one with another,--how
much of our mutual improvement,--depends on the right exercise of this
goodly gift,--then, I am sure, you will not consider that the subject is
one to be neglected or ignored. I verily believe that I do not
over-state the fact, in asserting that for one time when we are liable
to hurt, or distress, or offend another by our acts and deeds, there are
fifty or an hundred, or perhaps more, occasions, when we are liable to
do so by our words, and demeanor, and utterance. And again, for once
that we can do kind and profitable actions to those around us, and
associating with us, there are fifty or an hundred,--perhaps more
occasions still,--when we can please or profit another by our words. I
ask you, as those who can judge in this matter for yourselves, "Is it
not so? Is it not so most undeniably?" Well, then, if I have been
successful in laying down any right principles, in exposing anything
disadvantageous, or in presenting any available means for rendering your
daily intercourse more evidently kind, more evidently sympathizing, more
evidently, in a word, such as that which every good man would wish to
exhibit, and which must render him not only welcome and not only useful,
but a real and true ornament of society in the best sense of the word;
if I have shown you anything whatever available to this end, whether for
your use at home or abroad, in the cottage or the shop, in the humblest
abode or in the noblest and in the wealthiest, then surely I shall not
have spoken in vain. I speak on no narrow topic, and I speak for all.
Truly it is one which touches all; and in this lies its strength and its
interest. There is no one, I believe, who does not intuitively and
instinctively feel either his gain or his loss in conversation,--the
effect of it on his own mind and on his own feelings at the time and
afterwards,--either its harms or its charms. All must feel this, though
unable perhaps to classify their thoughts or express them on it, and
perhaps they have never thought of so doing. And I, for one, will not
hesitate to say that, it having been my lot to mix much, and willingly,
in all the various classes of society,--and having endeavored, so far as
in my power has been, to cultivate and show a true brotherly and
friendly spirit, both to high and low,--I have met nothing to confer
more pleasure and more advantage in daily life than fit conversation. I
have found it from the poorest. I have found it from those of middle
station. I have found it among the noble and the rich. And, while
without it the hours of social and of family life may drag on heavily,
and in a wearisome and worthless way, under the roofs of splendor and
magnificence, and in the midst of feasts, and pomp, and parade, with it,
freely interchanged from well-informed heads and cordial hearts,
expressing what they know and telling what they feel, without any
restraint except that of love, and tact, and propriety,--with it, I
say, the simplest home may be one of enjoyment and improvement every
recurring day, and each coming guest will share its attractions,--and
therefore I say to every one present, "Despise not this gift, and try to
improve it; and seek Divine help for its right regulation, as well as
for its use; and be well assured that, under God's blessing, in its
direction you will gain for yourself, and promote for your
fellow-creatures, no slight share of true enjoyment, no slight benefits
both for this world and for the world to come."


    [A] "Quale i fioretti, dol notturno gielo
          Chinati e chiusi, poi che 'l sol gl' imbianca,
         Si drizzan tutti aperti in loro stelo,
           Tal mi fece io di mia virtute stanca."
                                       _Inf._ Can. ii. 127-9.

    [B] "Omne vafer vitium ridenti Flaccus amico
         Tangit, et admissus circum præcordia ludit."
                                             Pers. i. 116.

    [C] December, 1854.







IT is readily acknowledged, by all well educated foreigners, that
English Grammar is very easy to learn, the difficulties of the language
lying in the numberless variations and licenses of its pronunciation.
Since to us then, children of the soil, pronunciation has no
difficulties to offer, is it not a reproach that so many speak their own
language in an inelegant and slatternly manner,--either through an
inexcusable ignorance of grammatical rules, or a wanton violation of
them? There are two sorts of bad speakers,--the educated and the
uneducated. I write for the former, and I shall deal the less leniently
with them, because "where much is given, much will be expected." Ay, and
where much has been achieved too, and intellectual laurels have been
gathered, is it not a reproach that a _slatternly_ mode of expression
should sometimes deteriorate from the eloquence of the scholar, and
place the accomplished man or woman, in _this_ respect, on a level with
the half-educated or the illiterate?

Some one, I think it is Lord Chesterfield, has wisely said, "Whatever is
worth doing, is worth doing well." Then, if our native language is worth
studying, surely it is worth _speaking well_, and as there is no
standing still in excellence of any kind, so, even in language,--in so
simple a thing as the expression of our thoughts by words,--if we do not
improve we shall retrograde.

It is a common opinion that a knowledge of Latin supersedes the
necessity of the study of English grammar. This must entail a strong
imputation of carelessness on our Latin students, who sometimes commit
such solecisms in English as make us regret they did not _once_, at
least, peruse the grammatical rules of their native language.

We laugh at the blunders of a foreigner, but perpetrate our own offences
with so much gravity that an observer would have a right to suppose we
consider them what they really are,--_no laughing matter_.



Some people speak of "so many _spoonsfull_," instead of "so many
spoonfuls." The rule on this subject says: "Compounds ending in _ful_,
and all those in which the principal word is put last, form the plural
in the same manner as other nouns,--as 'handfuls, spoonfuls,
mouthfuls,'" &c., &c.

Logic will demonstrate the propriety of this rule. Are you measuring by
a plurality of spoons? If so, "so many _spoonsfull_" must be the correct
term; but if the process of measuring be effected by _refilling the same
spoon_, then it becomes evident that the precise idea meant to be
conveyed is, the _quantity_ contained in the vessel by which it is
measured, which is a "_spoonful_."


It is a common mistake to speak of "a disagreeable effluvia." This word
is _effluvium_ in the singular, and _effluvia_ in the plural. The same
rule should be observed with _automaton_, _arcanum_, _erratum_,
_phenomenon_, _memorandum_, and several others which are less frequently
used, and which change the _um_ or _on_ into _a_, to form the plural. It
is so common a thing, however, to say _memorandums_, that I fear it
would sound a little pedantic, in colloquial style, to use the word
_memoranda_; and it is desirable, perhaps, that custom should make an
exception of this word, as well as of _encomium_, and allow two
terminations to it, according to the taste of the speaker and the style
of the discourse,--_memorandums_ or _memoranda_, like _encomiums_ or


We have heard _pulse_ and _patience_ treated as pluralities, much to our


It seems to be a position assumed by all grammarians, that their readers
already understand the meaning of the word "case," as applied to nouns
and pronouns; hence they never enter into a clear explanation of the
simple term, but proceed at once to a discussion of its grammatical
distinctions, in which it frequently happens that the student, for want
of a little introductory explanation, is unable to accompany them. But I
am not going to repeat to the scholar how the term "case" is derived
from a Latin word signifying "to fall," and is so named because all the
other cases _fall_ or _decline_ from the nominative, in order to express
the various relations of nouns to each other,--which in Latin they do by
a difference of termination, in English by the aid of prepositions,--and
that an orderly arrangement of all these different terminations is
called the declension of a noun, &c. I am not going to repeat to the
scholar the things he already knows; but to you, my gentle readers, to
whom Latin is still an unknown tongue, to whom grammars are become
obsolete things, and grammatical definitions would be bewildering
preliminaries, "more honored in the breach than in the observance,"--to
you I am anxious to explain, in the clearest manner practicable, all
the mysteries of this case, because it was a cruel perplexity to myself
in days of yore. And I will endeavor to make my lecture as brief and
clear as possible, requesting you to bear in mind that no knowledge is
to be acquired without a little trouble; and that whosoever may consider
it too irksome a task to exert the understanding for a _short_ period,
must be content to remain in inexcusable and irremediable ignorance.
Though, I doubt not, when you come to perceive how great the errors are
which you daily commit, you will not regret having sat down quietly for
half an hour to listen to an unscholastic exposition of them.


We all understand the meaning of the word "case," as it is applied to
the common affairs of life; but when we meet with it in our grammars, we
view it as an abstruse term. We will not consent to believe that it
means nothing more than _position of affairs_, _condition_, or
_circumstances_, any one of which words might be substituted for it with
equal propriety, if it were not indispensable in grammar to adhere
strictly to the same term when we wish to direct the attention
unerringly to the same thing, and to keep the understanding alive to the
justness of its application; whilst a multiplicity of names to one thing
would be likely to create confusion. Thus, if one were to say, "This is
a very hard case," or "A singular case occurred the other day," or
"That poor man's case is a very deplorable one," we should readily
comprehend that by the word "case" was meant "circumstance" or
"situation;" and when we speak, in the language of the grammar, of "a
noun in the nominative case," we only mean a person or thing placed in
such circumstances as to become merely named, or named as the performer
of some action,--as "the man," or "the man walks." In both these
sentences, "man" is in the nominative case; because in the first he is
simply _named_, without reference to any circumstance respecting him,
and in the second he is named as the performer of the _act_ of _walking_
mentioned. When we speak of a noun in the possessive case, we simply
mean a person or thing placed under such circumstances as to become
named as the _possessor_ of something; and when we speak of a noun in
the objective case, we only intend to express a person or thing standing
in such a situation as to be, in some way or other, affected by the act
of some other person or thing,--as "Henry teaches Charles." Here Henry
is, by an abbreviation of terms, called _the nominative case_, (instead
of the _noun_ in the nominative case,) because he stands in that
situation in which it is incumbent on us to name him as the _performer_
of the act of teaching; and Charles is, by the same abbreviating
license, called the _objective case_, because he is in such a position
of affairs as to _receive_ the act of teaching which Henry performs. I
will now tell you how you may always distinguish the three cases. Read
the sentence attentively, and understand accurately what the nouns are
represented as doing. If any person or thing be represented as
_performing_ an _action_, that person or thing is a noun in the
nominative case. If any person or thing be represented as _possessing
something_, that person or thing is a noun in the possessive case. And
if any person or thing be represented as neither performing nor
possessing, it is a noun in the objective case, whether directly or
indirectly affected by the action of the nominative; because, as we have
in English but _three_ cases, which contain the substance of the _six
Latin_ cases, _whatever is neither nominative nor possessive must be
objective_. Here I might wander into a long digression on passive and
neuter verbs, which I may seem to have totally overlooked in the
principle just laid down; but I am not writing a grammar,--not
attempting to illustrate the various ramifications of grammatical laws
to people who know nothing at all about them,--any more than I am
writing for the edification of the accomplished scholar, to whom purity
of diction is already familiar. I am writing, chiefly, for that vast
portion of the educated classes who have never looked into a grammar
since their school days were over, but who have ingeniously hewn out for
themselves a middle path between ignorance and knowledge, and to whom
certain little hillocks in their way have risen up, under a dense
atmosphere, to the magnitude of mountains. I merely wish to give to
them, since they will not take the trouble to search for themselves, one
broad and general principle, unclogged by exceptions, to guide them to
propriety of speech; and should they afterwards acquire a taste for
grammatical disputation, they will of course apply to more extensive
sources for the necessary qualifications.


It is scarcely possible to commit any inaccuracy in the use of these
cases when restricted to nouns, but in the application of them to
pronouns a woful confusion often arises; though even in this confusion
exists a marked distinction between the errors of the ill-bred and those
of the well-bred man. To use the objective instead of the nominative is
a _vulgar_ error; to use the nominative instead of the objective is a
_genteel_ error. No person of decent education would think of saying,
"Him and me are going to the play." Yet how often do we hear even well
educated people say, "They were coming to see my brother and _I_,"--"The
claret will be packed in two hampers for Mr. Smith and _I_,"--"Let you
and _I_ try to move it,"--"Let him and _I_ go up and speak to
them,"--"Between you and _I_," &c. &c.;--faults as heinous as that of
the vulgarian who says, "Him and me are going to the play," and with
less excuse. Two minutes' reflection will enable the scholar to correct
himself, and a little exercise of memory will shield him from a
repetition of the fault; but, for the benefit of those who may _not_ be
scholars, we will accompany him through the mazes of his reflections.
Who are the persons that are performing the act of "coming to see"?
"_They_." Then the pronoun _they_ must stand in the nominative case. Who
are the persons to whom the act of "coming to see" extends? "My brother
and I." Then "my brother and I," being the _objects affected_ by the act
of the nominative, must be a noun and pronoun standing in the objective
case; and as nouns are not susceptible of change on account of cases, it
is only the _pronoun_ which requires alteration to render the sentence
correct: "They were coming to see my brother and _me_." The same
argument is applicable to the other examples given. In the English
language, the imperative mood of a verb is never conjugated with a
pronoun in the nominative case, therefore, "Let you and _I_ try to move
it," "Let him and _I_ go up and speak to them," are manifest
improprieties. A very simple test may be formed by taking away the first
noun or pronoun from the sentence altogether, and bringing the verb or
preposition right against that pronoun which you use to designate
yourself: thus, "They were coming to see _I_," "The claret will be
packed in two hampers for _I_," "Let _I_ try to move it," &c. By this
means your own ear will correct you, without any reference to
grammatical rules. And bear in mind that the number of _nouns_ it may
be necessary to press into the sentence will not alter the _case_
respecting the pronouns.

"Between you and I" is as erroneous an expression as any. Change the
position of the pronouns, and say, "Between I and you;" or change the
sentence altogether, and say, "Between I and the wall there was a great
gap;" and you will soon see in what case the first person should be
rendered. "Prepositions govern the objective case," therefore it is
impossible to put a nominative _after_ a preposition without a gross
violation of a rule which ought to be familiar to everybody.


The same mistake extends to the relative pronouns "who" and "whom." We
seldom hear the objective case used either by vulgar or refined
speakers. "Who did you give it to?" "Who is this for?" are solecisms of
daily occurrence; and when the objective "whom" _is_ used, it is
generally put in the wrong place; as, "The person whom I expected would
purchase that estate," "The man whom they intend shall execute that
work." This intervening verb in each sentence, "I expected" and "they
intend," coming between the last verb and its own nominative (the
relative pronoun), has no power to alter the rule, and no right to
violate it; but as the introduction of an intervening verb, in such
situations, is likely to beguile the ear and confuse the judgment, it
would be better to avoid such constructions altogether, and turn the
sentence in a different way; as, "The person whom I expected _to be_ the
purchaser of that estate," "The man whom they intend _to_ execute that
work." If the reader will cut off the intervening verb, which has
nothing to do with the construction of the sentence, except to mystify
it, he will perceive at a glance the error and its remedy: "The person
_whom_ would purchase that estate," "The man _whom_ shall execute that


It is very easy to mistake the nominative when another noun comes
between it and the verb, which is frequently the case in the use of the
indefinite and distributive pronouns; as, "One of those houses _were_
sold last week," "Each of the daughters _are_ to have a separate share,"
"Every tree in those plantations _have_ been injured by the storm,"
"Either of the children _are_ at liberty to claim it." Here it will be
perceived that the pronouns "one," "each," "every," "either," are the
true nominatives to the verbs; but the intervening noun in the plural
number, in each sentence, deludes the ear, and the speaker, without
reflection, renders the verb in the plural instead of the singular
number. The same error is often committed when no second noun appears to
plead an apology for the fault; as, "Each city _have their_ peculiar
privileges," "Everybody has a right to look after _their_ own
interest," "Either _are_ at liberty to claim it." This is the effect of
pure carelessness.


There is another very common error, the reverse of the last mentioned,
which is that of rendering the adjective pronoun in the _plural_ number
instead of the singular in such sentences as the following: "_These_
kind of entertainments are not conducive to general improvement,"
"_Those_ sort of experiments are often dangerous." This error seems to
originate in the habit which people insensibly acquire of supposing the
prominent noun in the sentence (such as "entertainments" or
"experiments") to be the noun qualified by the adjective "these" or
"those;" instead of which it is "kind," "sort," or any word of that
description _immediately following_ the adjective, which should be so
qualified, and the adjective must be made to agree with it in the
singular number. We confess it is not so agreeable to the ear to say,
"_This_ kind of entertainments," "_That_ sort of experiments;" but it
would be easy to give the sentence a different form, and say,
"Entertainments of this kind," "Experiments of that sort," by which the
requisitions of grammar would be satisfied, and those of euphony too.


But the grand fault, the glaring impropriety, committed by "all ranks
and conditions of men," rich and poor, high and low, illiterate and
learned,--except, perhaps, one in twenty,--and from which not even the
pulpit or the bar is totally free,--is, the substitution of the active
verb _lay_ for the neuter verb _lie_ (to lie down). The scholar _knows_
that "active verbs govern the objective case," and therefore _demand_ an
objective case after them; and that neuter verbs _will not admit_ an
objective case after them, _except_ through the medium of a preposition.
_He_, therefore, has no excuse for his error, it is a wilful one; for
him the following is not written. And here I may as well say, once for
all, that whilst I would _remind_ the _scholar_ of his lapses, my
instructions and explanations are offered _only_ to the class which
requires them.

"To lay" is an active transitive verb, like _love_, _demanding_ an
objective case after it, _without the intervention of a preposition_.
"To lie" is a neuter verb, _not admitting an objective case after it,
except through the intervention of a preposition_;--yet this "perverse
generation" _will_ go on substituting the former for the latter. Nothing
can be more erroneous than to say, as people constantly do, "I shall go
and lay down." The question which naturally arises in the mind of the
discriminating hearer is, "_What_ are you going to lay down,--money,
carpets, plans, or what?" for, as a transitive verb is used, an object
is wanted to complete the sense. The speaker means, in fact, to tell us
that he (himself) is going to _lie down_, instead of which he gives us
to understand that he is going to _lay_ down or _put_ down something
which he has not named, but which it is necessary to name before we can
understand the sentence; and this sentence, when completed according to
the rules of grammar, will never convey the meaning he intends. One
might as well use the verb "to put" in this situation, as the verb "to
lay," for each is a transitive verb, requiring an objective case
immediately after it. If you were to enter a room, and, finding a person
lying on the sofa, were to address him with such a question as "What are
you doing there?" you would think it ludicrous if he were to reply, "I
am _putting_ down;" yet it would not be more absurd than to say, "I am
_laying_ down;" but custom, whilst it fails to reconcile us to the
error, has so familiarized us with it, that we hear it without surprise,
and good breeding forbids our noticing it to the speaker. The same
mistake is committed through all the tenses of the verb. How often are
nice ears wounded by the following expressions,--"My brother _lays_ ill
of a fever,"--"The vessel _lays_ in St. Katharine's Docks,"--"The books
were _laying_ on the floor,"--"He _laid_ on a sofa three weeks,"--"After
I had _laid_ down, I remembered that I had left my pistols _laying_ on
the table." You must perceive that, in every one of these instances, the
wrong verb is used; correct it, therefore, according to the explanation
given; thus, "My brother _lies_ ill of a fever,"--"The vessel _lies_ in
St Katherine's Docks,"--"The books were _lying_ on the floor,"--"He
_lay_ on a sofa three weeks,"--"After I had _lain_ down, I remembered
that I had left my pistols _lying_ on the table."

It is probable that this error has originated in the circumstance of the
present tense of the verb "to lay" being conjugated precisely like the
imperfect tense of the verb "to lie," for they are alike in orthography
and sound, and different only in meaning; and in order to remedy the
evil which this resemblance seems to have created, I have conjugated at
full length the simple tenses of the two verbs, hoping the exposition
may be found useful; for it is an error which _must_ be corrected by all
who aspire to the merit of speaking their own language _well_.


_To lay._

Present tense.

          I lay       }
          Thou layest }  money,
          He lays     }  carpets,
          We lay      }  plans,--any
          You lay     }  _thing_.
          They lay    }

Imperfect tense.

          I laid        }
          Thou laidest  }  money,
          He laid       }  carpets,
          We laid       }  plans,--any
          You laid      }  _thing_.
          They laid     }

          Present Participle, Laying.
          Perfect Participle, Laid.


_To lie._

Present tense.

          I lie      }
          Thou liest }  down,
          He lies    }  too long,
          We lie     }  on a sofa,--any
          You lie    }  _where_.
          They lie   }

          Imperfect tense.

          I lay       }
          Thou layest }  down,
          He lays     }  too long,
          We lay      }  on a sofa,--any
          You lay     }  _where_.
          They lay    }

          Present Participle, Lying,
          Perfect Participle, Lain.

In such sentences as these, wherein the verb is used reflectively,--"If
I lay myself down on the grass I shall catch cold," "He laid himself
down on the green sward,"--the verb "to lay" is with propriety
substituted for the verb "to lie;" for the addition of the emphatic
pronoun _myself_, or _himself_, constituting an objective case, and
coming _immediately after_ the verb, _without the intervention of a
preposition_, renders it necessary that the verb employed should be
_active_, not _neuter_, because "active verbs govern the objective
case." But this is the only construction in which "to lay" instead of
"to lie" can be sanctioned by the rules of grammar.


The same confusion often arises in the use of the verbs _sit_ and _set_,
_rise_ and _raise_. _Sit_ is a neuter verb, _set_ an active one; yet how
often do people most improperly say, "I have _set_ with him for hours,"
"He _set_ on the beach till the sun went down," "She _set_ three nights
by the patient's bedside." What did they set,--potatoes, traps, or what?
for as an objective case is evidently implied by the use of an active
verb, an object is indispensable to complete the sense. No tense
whatever of the verb "to sit" is rendered "set," which has but _one
word_ throughout the whole verb, except the active participle "setting;"
and "sit" has but two words, "sit" and "sat," except the active
participle "sitting;" therefore it is very easy to correct this error
by the help of a little attention.


_Raise_ is the same kind of verb as _set_,--active-transitive, requiring
an objective case after it; and it contains only two words, _raise_ and
_raised_, besides the active participle _raising_. _Rise_ is a neuter
verb, not admitting an objective case. It contains two words, _rise_ and
_rose_; besides the two participles, _rising_ and _risen_. It is
improper, therefore, to say, "He _rose_ the books from the floor," "He
_rises_ the fruit as it falls," "After she had _risen_ the basket on her
head," &c. In all such cases use the other verb _raise_. It occurs to
me, that if people would take the trouble to reckon how many different
words a verb contains, they would be in less danger of mistaking them.
"Lay" contains two words, "lay" and "laid," besides the active
participle "laying." "Lie" has also two words, "lie" and "lay," besides
the two participles "lying" and "lain;" and from this second word "lay"
arises all the confusion I have had to lament in the foregoing pages.


To the scholar I would remark the prevalent impropriety of adopting the
subjunctive instead of the indicative mood, in sentences where doubt or
uncertainty is expressed, although the former can only be used in
situations in which "contingency and futurity" are combined. Thus, a
gentleman, giving an order to his tailor, may say, "Make me a coat of a
certain description, if it _fit_ me well I will give you another order;"
because the "fit" alluded to is a thing which the future has to
determine. But when the coat is made and brought home, he cannot say,
"If this cloth _be good_ I will give you another order," for the quality
of the cloth is _already_ determined; the future will not alter it. It
may be good, it may be bad, but whatever it _may be_ it already _is_;
therefore, as contingency only is implied, _without futurity_, it must
be rendered in the indicative mood, "If this cloth _is_ good," &c. We
may with propriety say, "If the book be sent in time, I shall be able to
read it to-night," because the sending of the book is an event which the
_future_ must produce; but we must not say, "If this book be sent for
me, it is a mistake," because here the act alluded to is already
performed,--the book has come. I think it very likely that people have
been beguiled into this error by the prefix of the conjunction,
forgetting that conjunctions may be used with the indicative as well as
with the subjunctive mood.


Some people use the imperfect tense of the verb "to go," instead of the
past participle, and say, "I should have _went_," instead of "I should
have gone." This is _not_ a very common error, but it is a very great
one; and I should not have thought it could come within the range of the
class for which this book is written, but that I have heard the fault
committed by people of even tolerable education. One might as well say,
"I should have _was_ at the theatre last night," instead of "I should
have _been_ at the theatre," &c., as say, "I should have _went_" instead
of "I should have _gone_."


Others there are who invert this error, and use the past participle of
the verb "to do" instead of a tense of the verb, saying, "I _done_"
instead of "I _did_." This is inadmissible. "I _did_ it," or "I _have
done_ it," is a phrase correct in its formation, its application being,
of course, dependent on other circumstances.


There are speakers who are _too refined_ to use the past (or perfect)
participle of the verbs "to drink," "to run," "to begin," &c., and
substitute the _imperfect tense_, as in the verb "to go." Thus, instead
of saying, "I have drunk," "he has run," "they have begun," they say, "I
have _drank_" "he has _ran_," "they have _began_" &c. These are minor
errors, I admit; still, nice ears detect them.


I trust it is unnecessary to warn any of my readers against adopting the
flagrant vulgarity of saying "_don't_ ought," and "_hadn't_ ought,"
instead of "ought _not_." It is also incorrect to employ _no_ for _not_
in such phrases as, "If it is true or _no_ (not)," "Is it so or _no_


Many people have an odd way of saying, "I expect," when they only mean
"I think," or "I conclude;" as, "I expect my brother is gone to Richmond
to-day," "I expect those books were sent to Paris last year." This is
wrong. _Expect_ can relate only to _future_ time, and must be followed
by a future tense, or a verb in the infinitive mood; as, "I expect my
brother _will go_ to Richmond to-day," "I expect _to find_ those books
were sent to Paris last year." Here the introduction of a future tense,
or of a verb in the infinitive mood, rectifies the grammar without
altering the sense; but such a portion of the sentence must not be
omitted in expression, as no such ellipsis is allowable.


The majority of speakers use the imperfect tense and the perfect tense
together, in such sentences as the following,--"I intended to _have
called_ on him last night," "I meant to _have purchased_ one
yesterday,"--or a pluperfect tense, and a perfect tense together I have
sometimes heard, as, "You should _have written_ to _have told_ her."
These expressions are illogical, because, as the _intention_ to perform
an act _must_ be _prior_ to the act contemplated, the act itself cannot
with propriety be expressed by a tense indicating a period of time
_previous_ to the intention. The three sentences should be corrected
thus, placing the second verb in the infinitive mood, "I intended _to
call_ on him last night," "I meant _to purchase_ one yesterday," "You
should have written _to tell_ her."

But the imperfect tense and the perfect tense are to be combined in such
sentences as the following, "I remarked that they appeared to have
undergone great fatigue;" because here the act of "undergoing fatigue"
_must_ have taken place _previous_ to the period in which you have had
the opportunity of remarking its effect on their appearance; the
sentence, therefore, is both grammatical and logical.


Another strange perversion of grammatical propriety is to be heard
occasionally in the adoption of the present tense of the verb "to have,"
most probably instead of the past participle, but in situations in which
the participle itself would be a redundance; such as, "If I had _have_
known," "If he had _have_ come according to appointment," "If you had
_have_ sent me that intelligence," &c. Of what utility is the word
"have" in the sentence at all? What office does it perform? If it
stands in place of any other word, that other word would still be an
incumbrance; but the sentence being complete without it, it becomes an
illiterate superfluity. "If I had _have_ known that you would have been
there before me, I would have written to you to _have_ waited till I had
_have_ come." What a construction from the lips of an educated person!
and yet we do sometimes hear this _slip-slop_ uttered by people who are
considered to "speak French and Italian _well_," and who enjoy the
reputation of being "accomplished!"


It is amusing to observe the broad line of demarcation which exists
between _vulgar_ bad grammar and _genteel_ bad grammar, and which
characterizes the violation of almost every rule of syntax. The vulgar
speaker uses adjectives instead of adverbs, and says, "This letter is
written _shocking_;" the genteel speaker uses adverbs instead of
adjectives, and says, "This writing looks _shockingly_." The
perpetrators of the latter offence may fancy they can shield themselves
behind the grammatical law which compels the employment of an adverb,
not an adjective, to qualify a verb, and behind the first rule of
syntax, which says "a verb must agree with its nominative." But which
_is_ the nominative in the expression alluded to? _Which_ performs the
act of looking,--the writing or the speaker? To say that a thing _looks_
when _we_ look _at_ it, is an idiom peculiar to our language, and some
idioms are not reducible to rules; they are conventional terms which
pass current, like bank notes, for the sterling they represent, but must
not be submitted to the test of grammatical alchymy. It is improper,
therefore, to say, "The queen looks beautifully," "The flowers smell
sweetly," "This writing looks shockingly;" because it is the speaker
that performs the act of looking, smelling, &c., not the noun looked
_at_; and though, by an idiomatical construction necessary to avoid
circumlocution, the sentence _imputes the act_ to the _thing beheld_,
the qualifying word must express the quality of the thing spoken of,
_adjectively_, instead of qualifying the act of the nominative
understood, _adverbially_. What an adjective is to a noun, an adverb is
to a verb; an adjective expresses the quality of a thing, and an adverb
the manner of an action. Consider what it is you wish to express, the
_quality of a thing_, or the _manner of an action_, and use an adjective
or adverb accordingly. But beware that you discriminate justly; for
though you cannot say, "The queen looked _majestically_ in her robes,"
because here the act of _looking_ is performed by the spectator, who
looks _at_ her, you can and _must_ say, "The queen looked _graciously_
on the petitioner," "The queen looked _mercifully_ on his prayer,"
because here the _act_ of _looking_ is performed _by_ the queen. You
cannot say, "These flowers smell sweetly," because it is _you_ that
smell, and not the flowers; but you can say, "These flowers perfume the
air deliciously," because it is _they_ which impart the fragrance, not
you. You cannot say, "This dress looks badly," because it is you that
look, not the dress; but you can say, "This dress _fits_ badly," because
it is the dress that performs the act of fitting either well or ill.
There are some peculiar idioms which it would be better to avoid
altogether, if possible; but if you feel compelled to use them, take
them as they are,--you cannot prune and refine them by the rules of
syntax, and to attempt to do so shows ignorance as well as affectation.


There is a mistake often committed in the use of the adverbs of place,
_hence_, _thence_, _whence_. People are apt to say, "He will go _from
thence_ to-morrow," &c. The preposition "from" is included in these
adverbs, therefore it becomes tautology in sense when prefixed to them.


"Equally as well" is a very common expression, and a very incorrect one;
the adverb of comparison, "as," has no right in the sentence. "Equally
well," "Equally high," "Equally dear," should be the construction; and
if a complement be necessary in the phrase, it should be preceded by the
preposition "with," as, "The wall was equally high with the former
one," "The goods at Smith's are equally dear with those sold at the shop
next door," &c. "Equally the same" is tautology.


"Whether," sometimes an adverb, sometimes a conjunction, is a word that
plainly indicates a choice of things (of course I cannot be supposed to
mean a _freedom_ of choice); it is highly improper, therefore, to place
it, as many do, at the head of each part of a sentence, as, "I have not
yet made up my mind whether I shall go to France, or _whether_ I shall
remain in England." The conjunction should not be repeated, as it is
evident the alternative is expressed _only in the combination_ of the
_two_ parts of the sentence, not in either of them taken separately; and
the phrase should stand thus, "I have not yet made up my mind whether I
shall go to France _or_ remain in England."


There is an awkwardness prevalent amongst all classes of society in such
sentences as the following: "He quitted his horse, and got _on to_ a
stage coach," "He jumped _on to_ the floor," "She laid it _on to_ a
dish," "I threw it _on to_ the fire." Why use two prepositions where one
would be quite as explicit, and far more elegant? Nobody, at the present
day, would think of saying, "He came up to London _for_ to go to the
exhibition," because the preposition "for" would be an awkward
superfluity. So is "to" in the examples given; in each of which there is
an unwieldiness of construction which reminds one of the process of
glueing, or fastening, one thing "on to" another. Expunge the redundant
preposition, and be assured, gentle reader, the sentence will still be
found "an elegant sufficiency." There are some situations, however, in
which the two prepositions may with propriety be employed, though they
are never indispensable, as, "I accompanied such a one to Islington, and
then walked on to Kingsland." But here _two_ motions are implied, the
walking onward, and the reaching of a certain point. More might be said
to illustrate the distinction, but we believe it will not be deemed


There seems to be a natural tendency to deal in a redundance of
prepositions. Many people talk of "continuing _on_." I should be glad to
be informed in what other direction it would be possible to _continue_.


It is most illiterate to put the preposition _of_ after the adverb
_off_, as, "The satin measured twelve yards before I cut this piece _off
of_ it," "The fruit was gathered _off of_ that tree." Many of my readers
will consider such a remark quite unnecessary in this volume; but many
others, who ought to know better, must stand self-condemned on reading


There is a false taste extant for the preposition "on" instead of "_of_"
in songs, poetry, and many other situations in which there is still less
excuse for borrowing the poetic license; such as, "Wilt thou think _on_
me, love?" "I will think _on_ thee, love," "Then think _on_ the friend
who once welcomed it too," &c., &c. But this is an error chiefly to be
met with among poetasters and melodramatic speakers.


Some people add a superfluous preposition at the end of a
sentence,--"More than you think _for_." This, however, is an awkwardness
rarely committed by persons of decent education.


That "prepositions govern the objective case" is a golden rule of
grammar; and if it were only _well remembered_, it would effectually
correct that mistake of substituting the nominative for the objective
pronoun, which has been complained of in the preceding pages. In using a
relative pronoun in the objective case, it is more elegant to put the
preposition before than after it, thus, "To whom was the order given?"
instead of, "Whom was the order given to?" Indeed, if this practice
were to be invariably adopted, it would obviate the possibility of
confounding the nominative with the objective case, because no man would
ever find himself able to utter such a sentence as, "To who was this
proposal made?" though he might very unconsciously say, "Who was this
proposal made to?" and the error would be equally flagrant in both


There is a great inaccuracy connected with the use of the disjunctive
conjunctions _or_ and _nor_, which seem to be either not clearly
understood, or treated with undue contempt by persons who speak in the
following manner: "Henry or John _are_ to go there to-night," "His son
or his nephew _have_ since put in _their_ claim," "Neither one _nor_ the
other _have_ the least chance of success." The conjunctions disjunctive
"or" and "nor" separate the objects in sense, as the conjunction
copulative unites them; and as, by the use of the former, the things
stand forth separately and singly to the comprehension, the verb or
pronoun must be rendered in the singular number also; as, "Henry _or_
John _is_ to go there to-night," "His son _or_ his nephew _has_ since
put in _his_ claim," &c. If you look over the sentence, you will
perceive that only _one_ is to do the act, therefore only _one_ can be
the nominative to the verb.


Many people improperly substitute the disjunctive "but" for the
comparative "than," as, "The mind no sooner entertains any proposition,
_but_ it presently hastens to some hypothesis to bottom it
on."--_Locke._ "No other resource _but_ this was allowed him." "My
behavior," says she, "has, I fear, been the death of a man who had no
other fault _but_ that of loving me too much."--_Spectator._


Sometimes a relative pronoun is used instead of a conjunction, in such
sentences as the following: "I don't know but _what_ I shall go to
Brighton to-morrow," instead of, "I don't know but _that_," &c.


Sometimes the disjunctive _but_ is substituted for the conjunction
_that_, as, "I have no doubt _but_ he will be here to-night." Sometimes
for the conjunction _if_, as, "I shouldn't wonder _but_ that was the
case." And sometimes _two_ conjunctions are used instead of one, as,
"_If that_ I have offended him," "_After that_ he had seen the parties,"
&c. All this is very awkward indeed, and ought to be avoided, and might
easily be so by a little attention.



IT is obsolete now to use the article _an_ before words beginning with
long _u_ or with _eu_, and it has become more elegant, in modern style,
to say, "a university," "a useful article," "a European," "a euphonious
combination of sentences," &c., &c. It is also proper to say "such a
one," not "such an one."


Some people pronounce the plural of handkerchief, scarf, wharf, dwarf,
_handkerchieves_, _scarves_, _wharves_, _dwarves_. This is an error, as
these words, and perhaps a few others, are exceptions to the rule laid
down, that nouns ending in _f_ and _fe_ shall change these terminations
into _ves_ to form the plural.


There is an illiterate mode of pronouncing the adverb _too_, which is
that of contracting it into the sound of the preposition _to_; thus, "I
think I paid _to much_ for this gun," "This line is _to long_ by half."
The adverb _too_ should be pronounced like the numeral adjective _two_,
and have the same full distinct sound in delivery, as, "I think I paid
_two_ much for this gun," "This line is _two_ long by half."


One does not expect to hear such words as "necessi'ated,"
"preventative," &c., from people who profess to be educated; but one
_does_ hear them, nevertheless, and many others of the same genus, of
which the following list is a specimen, not a collection.

          "Febuary" and "Febbiwerry," instead of February.
          "Seckaterry" instead of secretary.
          "Gover'ment"      "     government.
          "Eve'min"         "     evening.
          "Sev'm"           "     seven.
          "Holladiz"        "     holidays.
          "Mossle"          "     morsel.

"Chapped," according to orthography, instead of _chopped_, according to
polite usage.

And we have even heard "continental" pronounced _continential_, though
upon what authority we know not. Besides these, a multitude of others
might be quoted, which we consider too familiar to particularize and
"too numerous to mention."


There is an old jest on record of a person hearing another pronounce the
word curiosity "_curosity_," and remarking to a bystander, "That man
murders the English language." "Nay," replies the person addressed, "he
only knocks an eye (i) out." And I am invariably reminded of this old
jest whenever I hear such pronunciations as the following,--"Lat'n" for
Latin, "sat'n" for satin, and Britain pronounced so as to rhyme with
_written_,--of which a few examples will be given on a subsequent page,
not with the wild hope of comprising in so short a space _all_ the
perversions of prosody which are constantly taking place, but simply
with the intention of reminding careless speakers of some general
principles they seem to have forgotten, and of the vast accumulation of
error they may engraft upon themselves by a lazy adherence to the custom
of the crowd. Before, however, proceeding to the words in question, it
may be satisfactory to our readers to recall to their memory the
observations of Lindley Murray on the subject. He says, "There is
scarcely anything which more distinguishes a person of poor education
from a person of a good one than the pronunciation of the _unaccented
vowels_. When vowels are _under the accent_, the best speakers, and the
lowest of the people, with very few exceptions, pronounce them in the
same manner; but the _un_accented vowels in the mouths of the former
have a distinct, open, and specific sound, while the latter often
totally sink them, or change them into some other sound." The words that
have chiefly struck me are the following, in which not only the i but
some of the other vowels are submitted to the mutilating process, or, as
I have heard it pronounced, _mutulating_.

          Brit'n       instead of   Britain.
          Lat'n            "        Latin.
          Sat'n            "        Satin.
          Patt'n           "        Patten.
          Curt'n           "        Curtain.
          Cert'n           "        Certain.
          Bridle           "        Bridal.
          Idle             "        Idol.
          Meddle           "        Medal.
          Moddle           "        Model.
          Mentle           "        Mental.
          Mortle           "        Mortal.
          Fatle            "        Fatal.
          Gravle           "        Gravel.
          Travle           "        Travel.
          Sudd'n           "        Sudden.
          Infidle          "        Infidel.
          _Scroop_'-lous   "        _Scru-pu_-lous.

And a long train of _et cetera_, of which the above examples do not
furnish a tithe.

          _Note._--That to sound the _e_ in _garden_ and
          _often_, and the _i_ in _evil_ and _devil_, is a
          decided error. They should always be pronounced
          _gard'n_ and _oft'n_, _ev'l_ and _dev'l_.

Some people pronounce the _I_ in Irish and its concomitants so as to
make the words Ireland, Irishmen, Irish linen, &c., sound as if they
were written _Arland_, _A-rishmen_, _Arish_ linen, &c. This is literally
"knocking an _i_ out."


It is affected, and contrary to authority, to deprive the _s_ of its
sharp hissing sound in the words _precise_, _desolate_, _design_, and
their derivatives.


There is one peculiarity which we feel bound to notice, because it has
infected English speakers,--that of corrupting the _e_ and the _i_ into
the sound of _a_ or _u_, in the words ability, humility, charity, &c.;
for how often is the ear wrung by such barbarisms as, humi_lutty_,
civi_lutty_, qua_laty_, quan_taty_, cru_alty_, char_aty_, human_aty_,
barbar_aty_, horr_uble_, terr_uble_, and so on, _ad infinitum_!--an
uncouth practice, to which nothing is comparable, except pronouncing
_yalla_ for yellow.


There is in some quarters a bad mode prevalent of pronouncing the plural
of such words as _face_, _place_, &c., _fazes_, _plazes_, whilst the
plural of _price_ seems everywhere subject to the same strange mutation.
The words should be _faces_, _places_, _prices_, without any softening
of the _c_ into _z_. There is, too, an ugly fashion of pronouncing the
_ng_, when terminating a word or syllable, as _we_ pronounce the same
combination of letters in the word _finger_, and making such words as
"singer," "ringer," &c., rhyme with _linger_. Sometimes the double _o_
is elongated into the sound which we give to that dipthong in "room,"
"fool," "moon," &c., which has a very bad effect in such words as
_book_, _look_, _nook_, _took_, &c.; and sometimes it is contracted into
the sound of short _u_, making "foot," and some other words, rhyme with


And having remarked on the _lingering_ pronunciation, it is but fair to
notice a defect, the reverse of this, namely, that of omitting the final
_g_ in such words as _saying_, _going_, _shilling_, &c., and pronouncing
them "sayin," "goin," "shillin." This is so common an error that it
generally escapes notice, but is a greater blemish, where we have a
right to look for perfection, than the peculiarities of the provinces in
those who reside there.


It is also a common fault to add a gratuitous _r_ to words ending with a
vowel, such as Emma_r_, Louisa_r_, Julia_r_, and to make _draw_, _law_,
_saw_, _flaw_, with all others of the same class, rhyme with _war_; to
omit the _r_ in such words as _corks_, _forks_, _curtains_, _morsel_,
&c.; in the word _perhaps_, when they conscientiously _pronounce_ the
_h_; and sometimes in _Paris_; or to convert it into the sound of a _y_
when it comes between two vowels, as in the name _Harriet_, and in the
words _superior_, _interior_, &c., frequently pronounced _Aah-yet_,
_su-pe-yor_, _in-te-yor_, &c.


There is a vicious mode of amalgamating the final _s_ of a word (and
sometimes the final _c_, when preceded and followed by a vowel) with the
first letter of the next word, if that letter happens to be a _y_, in
such a manner as to produce the sound of _sh_ or of _usu_ in _usual_;
as, "A _nishe_ young man," "What _makesh_ you laugh?" "If he _offendsh_
you, don't speak to him," "_Ash_ you please," "Not _jush_ yet," "We
always _passh_ your house in going to call on _Missh_ Yates,--she lives
near _Palash_ Yard;" and so on through all the possibilities of such a
combination. This is decided, unmitigated _cockneyism_, having its
parallel in nothing except the broken English of the sons of Abraham;
and to adopt it in conversation is certainly "not speaking like a
Christian." The effect of this pronunciation on the ear is as though the
mouth of the speaker were filled with froth, which impedes the
utterance, and gives the semblance of a defect where nature had kindly
intended perfection; but the radical cause of this, and of many other
mispronunciations, is the carelessness, sometimes the ignorance, of
teachers, who permit children to read and speak in a slovenly manner,
without opening their teeth, or taking any pains to acquire a distinct


Whilst we are on the subject of Prosody, we must not omit to mention the
vicious pronunciation occasionally given to the words _new_, _due_,
_Tuesday_, _stupid_, and a few others, sometimes corrupted into _noo_,
_doo_, _Toosday_, _stoopid_, &c., by way of refinement, perhaps, for
lips which are too delicate to utter the clear, broad, English _u_.


Never say "Cut it in _half_," for this you cannot do unless you could
_annihilate one_ half. You may "cut it in two," or "cut it in halves,"
or "cut it through," or "divide it," but no human ability will enable
you to _cut it in half_.


Never speak of "lots" and "loads" of things. Young men allow themselves
a diffusive license of speech, and of quotation, which has introduced
many words into colloquial style that do not at all tend to improve or
dignify the language, and which, when heard from _ladies_' lips, become
absolute vulgarisms. A young man may talk recklessly of "lots of
bargains," "lots of money," "lots of fellows," "lots of fun," &c., but a
lady may _not_. Man may indulge in any latitude of expression within the
bounds of sense and decorum, but woman has a narrower range,--even her
mirth must be subjected to rule. It may be _naïve_, but must never be
grotesque. It is not that we would have _primness_ in the sex, but we
would have refinement. Women are the purer and the more ornamental part
of life, and when _they_ degenerate, the Poetry of Life is gone.


"Loads" is a word quite as objectional as "lots," unless it can be
reduced to a load of _something_, such as a _ship_-load, a _wagon_-load,
a _cart_-load, a _horse_-load, &c. We often hear such expressions as
"loads of shops," "loads of authors," "loads of compliments;" but as
shops, authors, compliments, are things not usually piled up into loads,
either for ships or horses, we cannot discover the propriety of the


Some people, guiltless of those absurdities, commit a great error in the
use of the word _quantity_, applying it to things of _number_, as "a
quantity of friends," "a quantity of ships," "a quantity of houses," &c.
_Quantity_ can be applied only where _bulk_ is indicated, as "a quantity
of land," "a quantity of timber;" but we cannot say, "a quantity of
fields," "a quantity of trees," because _trees_ and _fields_ are
specific individualities. Or we may apply it where individualities are
taken in the gross, without reference to modes, as "a quantity of
luggage," "a quantity of furniture;" but we cannot say "a quantity of
boxes," "a quantity of chairs and tables," for the same reason which is
given in the former instances. We also apply the term _quantity_ to
those things of number which are too minute to be taken separately, as
"a quantity of beans," "a quantity of oats," &c., &c.


Avoid favorite words and phrases; they betray a poverty of language or
of imagination not creditable to a cultivated intellect. Some people are
so unfortunate as to find all things _vulgar_ that come "betwixt the
wind and their nobility;" others find them _disgusting_. Some are always
_anticipating_, others are always _appreciating_. Multitudes are
_aristocratic_ in all their relations, other multitudes are as
_distingués_. These two words are chiefly patronized by those whose
pretensions in such respects are the most questionable. To some timid
spirits, born under malignant influences no doubt, most things present
an _awful_ appearance, even though they come in shapes so insignificant
as a cold day or an aching finger. But, thanks to that happy diversity
of Nature which throws light as well as shadow into the human character,
there are minds of brighter vision and more cheerful temperament, who
behold all things _splendid_, _magnificent_, down to a cup of small
beer, or a half-penny orange. Some people have a grandiloquent force of
expression, thereby imparting a _tremendous_ or _thundering_ character
even to little things. This is truly carrying their conceptions into
the sublime,--sometimes a step beyond.

We have, however, no intention of particularizing _all_ the "pet"
phrases which salute the ear; but the enumeration of a few of them may
make the _candid_ culprit smile, and avoid those trifling absurdities
for the future.

       *       *       *       *       *

We would, under favor, suggest to the reader the advantage of not
relying too confidently on knowledge acquired by habit and example
alone. There are many words in constant use which are perverted from
their original meanings; and if we were to dip into some standard
dictionary occasionally, search out the true meanings of words with
which we have fancied ourselves acquainted, and convict ourselves of
_all_ the errors we have been committing in following the crowd, our
surprise, perhaps, would equal that of Molière's _Bourgeois Gentilhomme_
when he discovered that he had been talking _prose_ for forty years.

The words _feasible_, _ostensible_, _obnoxious_, _apparent_, _obtain_,
_refrain_, _domesticated_, and _centre_, are expressions which, nine
times out of ten, are misapplied, besides a host of others whose
propriety is never questioned, so firmly has custom riveted the bonds of

In closing this little volume, the writer begs leave to say that the
remarks offered are intended only as "Hints," which they who desire
perfection may easily improve, by a little exercise of the
understanding, and a reference to more extensive sources, into a
competent knowledge of their own tongue; also as _warnings_ to the
careless, that their lapses do not pass so unobserved as they are in the
habit of supposing.

Though many of the syntactical errors herein mentioned are to be found
in the works of some of our best writers, they are _errors_
nevertheless, and stand as blemishes upon the productions of their
genius, like unsightly excrescences upon a lovely skin. Genius is above
grammar, and this conviction may inspire in some bosoms an undue
contempt for the latter. But grammar is a constituent part of good
education, and a neglect of it _might_ argue a _want_ of education,
which would, perhaps, be mortifying. It is an old axiom that "civility
costs nothing," and surely grammatical purity need not cost _much_ to
people disposed to pay a little attention to it, and who have received a
respectable education already. It adds a grace to eloquence, and raises
the standard of language where eloquence is not.

A handsome man or handsome woman is not improved by a shabby or
slatternly attire; so the best abilities are shown to a disadvantage
through a style marked by illiteracies.




1. HAVE you _learned_ French yet? say _learnt_, as _learned_ is now used
only as an adjective,--as, _a learned man_. Pronounce _learned_ in _two_

2. The business would suit any one who _enjoys bad health_ [from an
advertisement in a London newspaper]; say, any one _in a delicate state
of health_, or, _whose health is but indifferent_.

3. "We have no _corporeal_ punishment here," said a schoolmaster once to
the author of this little work. _Corporeal_ is opposed to _spiritual_;
say, _corporal_ punishment. _Corporeal_ means _having a body_. The
Almighty is not a _corporeal_ being, but a _spirit_, as St. John tells

4. That was a _notable_ circumstance. Pronounce the first syllable of
_notable_ as _no_ in _notion_. Mrs. Johnson is a _notable_ housewife;
that is to say, _careful_. Pronounce the first syllable of _notable_ as
_not_ in _Nottingham_.

5. Put an _advertisement_ in the "Times." Pronounce _advertisement_
with the accent on _ver_, and not on _tise_.

6. He _rose up_ and left the room; leave out _up_.

7. You have _sown_ it very badly; say, _sewed_ it.

8. Mr. Dupont _learnt_ me French; say, _taught_. The _master teaches_,
but the _pupil learns_.

9. John and Henry both read well, but John is the _best_ reader; say,
the _better_ reader, as _best_ can only be said when _three or more
persons_ or objects are compared.

10. The _two first_ pupils I had; say, the _first two_.

11. He has _mistook_ his true interest; say, _mistaken_.

12. Have you _lit_ the fire, Mary? say, _lighted_.

13. The doctor _has not yet came_; say, _has not yet come_.

14. I have always _gave_ him good advice; say, _given_.

15. To be is an _auxiliary_ verb. Pronounce _auxiliary_ in _five_
syllables, sounding the second _i_, and _not in four_, as we so
frequently hear it.

16. _Celery_ is a pleasant edible; pronounce _celery_ as it is written,
and _not salary_.

17. Are you at _leisure_? pronounce _lei_ in _leisure_ the same as _Lei_
in _Leith_, and _not_ so as to rhyme with _measure_.

18. Have you seen _the Miss Browns_ lately? say, _the Misses Brown_.

19. You have soon _forgot_ my kindness; say, _forgotten_.

20. He keeps _his coach_; say, _his carriage_.

21. John is my _oldest_ brother; say, _eldest_. _Elder_ and _eldest_ are
applied to _persons_,--_older_ and _oldest_ to _things_.

22. Disputes have frequently _arose_ on that subject; say, _arisen_.

23. The cloth was _wove_ in a very short time; say, _woven_.

24. French is _spoke_ in every state in Europe; say, _spoken_.

25. He writes as the best authors would have _wrote_, had they _writ_ on
the same subject; say, would have _written_,--had they _written_.

26. I prefer the _yolk_ of an egg to the white; say, _yelk_, and sound
the _l_.

27. He is now very _decrepid_; say, _decrepit_.

28. I am very fond of _sparrowgrass_; say, _asparagus_, and pronounce it
with the accent on _par_.

29. You are very _mischievous_. Pronounce _mischievous_ with the accent
on _mis_, and _not on chie_, and do not say _mischievious_.

30. It was very _acceptable_. Pronounce _acceptable_ with the accent on
_cept_, and _not on ac_, as we so often hear it.

31. "No conversation be permitted in the Reading Room to the
interruption of the company present. _Neither Smoking or Refreshments
allowed_" [from the prospectus of a "Literary and Scientific
Institution"]; insert _can_ after _conversation_, and say, _neither
smoking nor refreshments_.

32. _No extras or vacations_[from the prospectus of a schoolmistress
near London]; say, _neither extras nor vacations_.

33. He is very covetous. Pronounce _covetous_ as if it were written
_covet us_, and _not covetyus_, as is almost universally the case.

34. I intend to _summons_ him; say, _summon_. _Summons_ is a _noun_, and
_not a verb_.

35. Dearly _beloved_ brethren. Pronounce _beloved_ in _three_ syllables,
and _never in two_, as some clergymen do.

36. He is now _forsook_ by every one; say, _forsaken_.

37. Not _as I know_; say, _that I know_.

38. He came _for to do_ it; leave out _for_.

39. They have just _rose_ from the table; say, _risen_.

40. He is quite _as good as me_; say, _as good as I_.

41. _Many an one_ has done the same; say, _many a one_. _A_, and _not
an_, is used before the _long sound of u_, that is to say, when _u_
forms _a distinct syllable of itself_, as, _a unit_, _union_, _a
university_. It is also used before _eu_, as, _a euphony_; and likewise
before the word _ewe_, as, _a ewe_. We should also say, _a youth_, not
_an youth_.

42. _Many people_ think so; say, _many persons_, as _people_ means _a

43. "When our ships sail among the _people_ of the Eastern islands,
_those people_ do not ask for gold,--'iron! iron!' is the call." [From a
work by a peer of literary celebrity.] Say, among the _inhabitants_;
and, instead of _those people_, which is ungrammatical, say, _those

44. _Was you_ reading just now? say, _were you_.

45. I have _not had no dinner yet_; say, _I have had no dinner yet_, or,
I have _not yet had my dinner_, or, _any dinner_.

46. She will _never be no taller_; say, she will _never be taller_, or,
she will _never be any taller_.

47. I _see him_ last Monday; say, _saw him_.

48. He was _averse from_ such a proceeding; say, _averse to_.

49. He has _wore_ his boots three months; say, _worn_.

50. He has _trod_ on my toes; say, _trodden_.

51. Have you _shook_ the cloth? say, _shaken_.

52. I have _rang_ several times; say, _rung_.

53. I _knowed_ him at once; say, _knew_.

54. He has _growed_ very much; say, _grown_.

55. George has _fell_ down stairs; say, _fallen_.

56. He has _chose_ a very poor pattern; say, _chosen_.

57. They have _broke_ a window; say, _broken_.

58. Give me _them books_; say, _those books_.

59. My brother gave me _them there pictures_; say, gave me _those

60. Whose are _these here books_? say, _these books_.

61. The men _which_ we saw; say, _whom_.

62. The books _what_ you have; say, _which_, or _that_.

63. The boy _as is_ reading; say, _who is_ reading.

64. The pond is _froze_; say, _frozen_.

65. He has _took_ my slate; say, _taken_.

66. He has often _stole_ money from him; say, _stolen_.

67. They have _drove_ very fast; say, _driven_.

68. I have _rode_ many miles to-day; say, _ridden_.

69. You cannot _catch_ him; pronounce _catch_ so as to rhyme with
_match_, and not _ketch_.

70. Who has _got_ my slate? leave out _got_.

71. What are you _doing of_? leave out _of_.

72. _If I was rich_ I would buy a carriage; say, _If I were_.

73. We have all within us an _impetus_ to sin; pronounce _impetus_ with
the accent on _im_, and not on _pe_, as is very often the case.

74. He may go to the _antipodes_ for what I care; pronounce _antipodes_
with the accent on _tip_, and let _des_ rhyme with _ease_. It is a word
of _four_ syllables, and _not of three_, as many persons make it.

75. _Vouchsafe_, a word seldom used, but, when used, the first syllable
should rhyme with _pouch_. _Never say, vousafe._

76. Ginger is a good _stomachic_; pronounce _stomachic_ with the accent
on _mach_, sounding this syllable _mak_, and _not mat_, as is often the

77. The land in those parts is very _fertile_; pronounce _fertile_ so as
to rhyme with _pill_. The _ile_ in all words must be sounded _ill_,
with the exception of _exile_, _senile_, _gentile_, _reconcile_, and
_camomile_, in which _ile_ rhymes with _mile_.

78. _It is surprising the fatigue he undergoes_; say, _The fatigue he
undergoes is surprising_.

79. _Benefited_; often spelt _benefitted_, but _incorrectly_.

80. _Gather_ up the fragments; pronounce _gather_ so as to rhyme with
_lather_, and _not gether_.

81. I _propose_ going to town next week; say, _purpose_.

82. If I _am not mistaken_, you are in the wrong; say, If I _mistake

83. _Direct_ your letters to me at Mr. Jones's; say, _Address_ your

84. Wales is a very _mountainious_ country; say, _mountainous_, and
place the accent on _moun_.

85. Of two evils choose _the least_; say, _the less_.

86. _Exag'gerate_; pronounce _exad'gerate_, and _do not sound agger_ as
in the word _dagger_, which is a very common mistake.

87. He knows _little or nothing of Latin_; say, _little, if anything, of

88. He keeps a _chaise_; pronounce it _shaise_, and not _shay_. It has a
regular plural, _chaises_.

88. The _drought_ lasted a long time; pronounce _drought_ so as to rhyme
with _snout_, and not _drowth_.

90. The man was _hung_ last week; say, _hanged_; but say, I am fond of
_hung beef_. _Hang, to take away life by hanging_, is a regular verb.

91. We _conversed together_ on the subject; leave out _together_, as it
is implied in _conversed_, _con_ being equivalent to _with_, that is to
say, _We talked with each other_, &c.

92. The affair was _compromised_; pronounce _compromised_ in three
syllables, and place the accent on _com_, sounding _mised_ like
_prized_. The word has nothing to do with _promised_. The noun
_compromise_ is accented like _compromised_, but _mise_ must be
pronounced _mice_.

93. A _steam-engine_; pronounce _engine_ with _en_ as in _pen_, and _not
like in_, and _gine_ like _gin_.

94. Numbers were _massacred_; pronounce _massacred_ with the accent on
_mas_, and _red_ like _erd_, as if _mas'saker'd_, never _mas'sacreed_.

95. The king of Israel and the king of Judah sat _either of them_ on his
throne; say, _each of them_. _Either_ signifies the _one_ or the
_other_, but _not both_. _Each_ relates to _two or more objects_, and
signifies _both of the two_, or _every one of any number taken singly_.
_Never_ say "_either_ of the three," but "_each_ or _any one_ of the

96. A _respite_ was granted the convict; pronounce _respite_ with the
accent on _res_, and sound _pite_ as _pit_.

97. He soon _returned back_; leave out _back_, which is implied by _re_
in _returned_.

98. The _horizon_ is the line that terminates the view; pronounce
_horizon_ with the accent on _ri_, and not on _ho_.

99. She has _sang_ remarkably well; say, _sung_.

100. He had _sank_ before assistance arrived; say, _sunk_.

101. I have often _swam_ across the Tyne; say, _swum_.

102. I found my friend better than I expected _to have found him_; say,
_to find him_.

103. I intended _to have written_ a letter yesterday; say, _to write_,
as however long it now is since I thought of writing, "_to write_" was
then present to me, and must still be considered as present when I bring
back that time and the thoughts of it.

104. His death _shall be_ long regretted [from a notice of a death in a
newspaper]; say, _will be_ long, &c. _Shall_ and _will_ are often
confounded; the following rule, however, may be of use to the reader.
Mere _futurity_ is expressed by _shall_ in the _first_ person, and by
_will_ in the _second_ and _third_; the _determination_ of the speaker
by _will_ in the _first_, and _shall_ in the _second_ and _third_; as, I
WILL go to-morrow, I SHALL go to-morrow. N. B. The latter sentence
simply expresses a future event; the former expresses my determination.

105. "_Without_ the grammatical form of a word can be recognized at a
glance, little progress can be made in reading the language" [from a
very popular work on the study of the Latin language]; say, _Unless_ the
grammatical, &c. The use of _without_ for _unless_ is a very common

106. Have you begun _substraction_ yet? say, _subtraction_.

107. He claimed admission to the _chiefest_ offices; say, _chief_.
_Chief_, _right_, _supreme_, _correct_, _true_, _universal_, _perfect_,
_consummate_, _extreme_, &c., _imply_ the superlative degree without
_est_ or _most_. In language sublime or impassioned, however, the word
_perfect_ requires the superlative form to give it effect. A lover,
enraptured with his mistress, would naturally call her the _most
perfect_ of her sex.

108. The ship had _sprang_ a leak; say, _sprung_.

109. I _had rather_ do it now; say, I _would rather_.

110. He was served with a _subpoena_; pronounce _subpoena_ with the
accent on _poe_, which you will sound like _tea_, and sound the _b_
distinctly. _Never pronounce the word soopee'na._

111. I have not travelled _this twenty years_; say, _these twenty

112. He is _very much the gentleman_; say, He is _a very gentlemanly
man_, or _fellow_.

113. The _yellow_ part of an egg is very nourishing; _never_ pronounce
_yellow_ like _tallow_, which we so often hear.

114. We are going to the _zoological_ gardens; pronounce _zoological_ in
_five_ syllables, and place the accent on _log_ in _logical_. Sound
_log_ like _lodge_, and _the first two o's in distinct syllables_.
_Never_ make _zool_ _one_ syllable.

115. He always preaches _extempore_; pronounce _extempore_ in _four_
syllables, with the accent on _tem_, and _never in three_, making _pore_
to rhyme with _sore_.

116. _Naught_ and _aught_; _never_ spell these words _nought_ and
_ought_. There is no such word as _nought_, and _ought_ is a verb.

117. Allow me to _suggest_; pronounce _sug_ so as to rhyme with _mug_,
and _gest_ like _jest_. Never _sudjest_.

118. The Emperor of Russia is a _formidable_ personage; pronounce
_formidable_ with the accent on _for_, and _not on mid_, as is often the

119. Before the words _heir_, _herb_, _honest_, _honor_, _hostler_,
_hour_, _humble_, and _humor_, and their compounds, instead of the
article _a_, we make use of _an_, as the _h_ is not sounded; likewise
before words beginning with _h_ that are _not_ accented on the _first
syllable_, such as _heroic_, _historical_, _hypothesis_, &c., as, _an
heroic action_, _an historical work_, _an hypothesis_ that can scarcely
be allowed. N. B. The letter _h_ is seldom mute at the beginning of a
word; but from the negligence of tutors and the inattention of pupils
many persons have become almost incapable of acquiring its just and full
pronunciation. It is, therefore, incumbent on teachers to be
particularly careful to inculcate a clear and distinct utterance of this

120. He was _such an extravagant young man_ that he soon spent his whole
patrimony; say, _so extravagant a young man_.

121. I saw the _slough_ of a snake; pronounce _slough_ so as to rhyme
with _rough_.

122. She is _quite the lady_; say, She is _very lady-like in her

123. He is _seldom or ever_ out of town; say, _seldom, if ever_, out of

124. Death _unloosed_ his chains; say, _loosed_ his chains.

125. It is dangerous to walk _of a_ slippery morning; say, _on a_
slippery morning.

126. He who makes himself famous by his eloquence, illustrates his
origin, let it be _never so mean_; say, _ever so mean_.

127. His fame is acknowledged _through_ Europe; say, _throughout_

128. The bank of the river is frequently _overflown_; say, _overflowed_.

129. _Previous to_ my leaving England I called on his lordship; say,
_previously to_ my leaving, &c.

130. I doubt _if this_ will ever reach you; say, _whether this_, &c.

131. He was _exceeding kind_ to me; say, _exceedingly kind_.

132. I lost _near_ twenty pounds; say, _nearly_.

133. _Bills are requested to be paid quarterly_; say, _It is requested
that bills be paid quarterly_.

134. It was _no use asking_ him any more questions; say, _of no use to
ask him_, &c.

135. The Americans said they _had no right_ to pay taxes; say, they
_were under no obligation_ to pay, &c.

136. I _throwed_ my box away, and _never took no more snuff_; say, I
_threw_, &c., and _took snuff no more_.

137. She was _endowed_ with an exquisite taste for music; say, _endued_
with, &c.

138. I intend to _stop_ at home; say, to _stay_.

139. At this time I _grew_ my own corn; say, I _raised_, &c.

140. He _was_ no sooner departed than they expelled his officers; say,
he _had_ no sooner, &c.

141. He _was_ now retired from public business; say, _had_ now retired,

142. They _were_ embarked in a common cause; say, _had_ embarked, &c.

143. Hostilities _were_ now become habitual; say, _had_ now become.

144. Brutus and Aruns killed _one another_; say, _each other_.

145. Pray, sir, who _may you be_? say, who _are you_?

146. Their character as a warlike people _is_ much degenerated; say,
_has_ much, &c.

147. He is gone on an _errand_; pronounce _errand_ as it is written, and
not _arrant_.

148. In a popular work on arithmetic we find the following sum,--"If for
7_s._ 8_d._, I can buy 9 lbs. of raisins, _how much_ can I purchase for
£56 16_s._?" say, "_what quantity_ can I," &c. Who would think of saying
"_how much raisins_?"

149. Be very careful in distinguishing between _indite_ and _indict_;
_key_ and _quay_; _principle_ and _principal_; _check_ and _cheque_;
_marshal_ and _martial_; _counsel_ and _council_; _counsellor_ and
_councillor_; _fort_ and _forte_; _draft_ and _draught_; _place_ and
_plaice_; _stake_ and _steak_; _satire_ and _satyr_; _stationery_ and
_stationary_; _ton_ and _tun_; _levy_ and _levee_; _foment_ and
_ferment_; _fomentation_ and _fermentation_; _petition_ and _partition_;
_practice_ and _practise_; _Francis_ and _Frances_; _dose_ and _doze_;
_diverse_ and _divers_; _device_ and _devise_; _wary_ and _weary_;
_salary_ and _celery_; _radish_ and _reddish_; _treble_ and _triple_;
_broach_ and _brooch_; _ingenious_ and _ingenuous_; _prophesy_ and
_prophecy_; _fondling_ and _foundling_; _lightning_ and _lightening_;
_genus_ and _genius_; _desert_ and _dessert_; _currier_ and _courier_;
_pillow_ and _pillar_; _executer_ and _executor_; _suit_ and _suite_;
_ridicule_ and _reticule_; _lineament_ and _liniment_; _track_ and
_tract_; _lickerish_ and _licorice_; _statute_ and _statue_; _ordinance_
and _ordnance_; _lease_ and _leash_; _recourse_ and _resource_;
_straight_ and _strait_; _immerge_ and _emerge_; _style_ and _stile_;
_compliment_ and _complement_; _bass_ and _base_; _contagious_ and
_contiguous_; _eminent_ and _imminent_; _eruption_ and _irruption_;
_precedent_ and _president_; _relic_ and _relict_.

150. I prefer _radishes_ to _cucumbers_; pronounce _radishes_ exactly as
it is spelt, and not _redishes_, and the _u_ in the first syllable of
_cucumber_ as in _fuel_, and not as if the word were _cowcumber_.

151. Never pronounce _barbarous_ and _grievous_, _bartarious_ and

152. The _two last_ chapters are very interesting; say, The _last two_,

153. The soil on these islands is so very thin, that little vegetation
is produced upon them _beside_ cocoanut trees; say, _with the exception
of_, &c.

154. He restored it _back_ to the owner; leave out _back_.

155. _Here_, _there_, _where_, are generally better than _hither_,
_thither_, _whither_, with verbs of motion; as, _Come here_, _Go there_.
N. B. _Hither_, _thither_, and _whither_, which were formerly used, are
now considered stiff and inelegant.

156. _As far as I_ am able to judge, the book is well written; say, _So
far as_, &c.

157. It is doubtful whether he will play _fairly or no_; say, _fairly or

158. "The Pilgrim's _Progress_;" pronounce _progress_, _prog-ress_, not

159. He is a boy of a great _spirit_; pronounce _spirit_ exactly as it
is written, and never _sperit_.

160. The _camelopard_ is the tallest of known animals; pronounce
_camelopard_ with the accent on the _second_ syllable. Never call it
_camel leopard_, as is so often heard.

161. He is very _awkward_; never say, _awkard_.

162. He ran _again_ me; I stood _again_ the wall; instead of _again_,
say _against_. Do it _again_ the time I mentioned; say, _by_ the time,

163. I always act _agreeable_ to my promise; say, _agreeably_.

164. The study of syntax should be _previously_ to that of punctuation;
say, _previous_.

165. No one should incur censure for being tender of _their_ reputation;
say, of _his_ reputation.

166. They were all _drownded_; say, _drowned_.

167. _Jalap_ is of great service; pronounce _jalap_ exactly as it is
written, NEVER _jollop_.

168. He is gone on a _tour_; pronounce _tour_ so as to rhyme with
_poor_, _never_ like _tower_.

169. The rain _is_ ceased; say, _has_ ceased.

170. _They laid their heads together_, and formed their plan; say, _They
held a consultation_, &c. _Laid their heads together_ savors of SLANG.

171. The _chimley_ wants sweeping; say, _chimney_.

172. I was walking _towards_ home; pronounce _towards_ so as to rhyme
with _boards_. _Never_ say _to wards_.

173. It is a _stupenduous_ work; say, _stupendous_.

174. A _courier_ is expected from Paris; pronounce _cou_ in _courier_ so
as to rhyme with _too_. _Never_ pronounce _courier_ like _currier_.

175. Let each of us mind _their_ own business; say, _his_ own business.

176. Is this or that the _best_ road? say, the _better_ road.

177. _Rinse_ your mouth; pronounce _rinse_ as it is written, and NEVER
_rense_. "_Wrench your mouth_," said a fashionable dentist one day to
the author of this work.

178. The book is not _as_ well printed as it ought to be; say, _so_ well
printed, &c.

179. Webster's _Dictionary_ is an admirable work; pronounce _dictionary_
as if written _dik-shun-a-ry_; _not_, as is too commonly the practice,

180. Some disaster has certainly _befell_ him; say, _befallen_.

181. She is a pretty _creature_; never pronounce _creature_, _creeter_,
as is often heard.

182. We went to see the _Monument_; pronounce _monument_ exactly as it
is written, and _not_ as many pronounce it, _moniment_.

183. I am very wet, and must go and _change myself_; say, _change my

184. He has had a good _education_; _never_ say, _edication_, which is
often heard, nor _edicate_ for _educate_.

185. He is much better _than me_; say, _than I_.

186. You are stronger _than him_; say, _than he_.

187. I had _as lief_ stand; say, I _would as soon_ stand.

188. He is _not a whit_ better; say, _in no degree_ better.

189. They are _at loggerheads_; say, _at variance_.

190. His character is _undeniable_,--a very common expression; say,

191. Bring me the _lantern_; never spell _lantern_, _lanthorn_.

192. The room is twelve _foot_ long, and nine _foot_ broad; say, twelve
_feet_, nine _feet_.

193. He is _singular_, though _regular_ in his habits, and also very
_particular_; beware of leaving out the _u_ in _singular_, _regular_,
and _particular_, which is a very common practice.

194. They are detained _at_ France; say, _in_ France.

195. He lives _at_ London; say, _in_ London, and beware of pronouncing
_London_, as many careless persons do, _Lunnun_. _At_ should be applied
to small towns.

196. No _less_ than fifty persons were there; say, No _fewer_, &c.

197. _Such another_ mistake, and we shall be ruined; say, _Another such_
mistake, &c.

198. It is _some distance_ from our house; say, _at some distance_, &c.

199. I shall call _upon_ him; say, _on_ him.

200. He is a Doctor of _Medicine_; pronounce _medicine_ in _three_
syllables, NEVER in _two_.

201. They told me to enter _in_; leave out _in_, as it is implied in

202. His _strength_ is amazing; never say, _strenth_.

203. "_Mistaken_ souls, who dream of heaven,"--this is the beginning of
a popular hymn; it should be, "_Mistaking_ souls," &c. _Mistaken
wretch_, for _mistaking wretch_, is an apostrophe that occurs everywhere
among our poets, particularly those of the stage; the most incorrigible
of all, and the most likely to fix and disseminate an error of this

204. Give me both _of_ those books; leave out _of_.

205. Whenever I try to write well, I _always_ find I can do it; leave
out _always_, which is unnecessary.

206. He plunged _down_ into the stream; leave out _down_.

207. She is the _matron_; say _may-tron_, and not _mat-ron_.

208. Give me _leave_ to tell you; NEVER say _leaf_ for _leave_.

209. The _height_ is considerable; pronounce _height_ so as to rhyme
with _tight_. Never _hate_ nor _heighth_.

210. Who has my _scissors_? _never_ call _scissors_, _sithers_.

211. First _of all_ I shall give you a lesson in French, and last _of
all_ in music; leave out _of all_ in both instances, as unnecessary.

212. I shall have finished by the _latter_ end of the week; leave out
_latter_, which is unnecessary.

213. They sought him _throughout_ the _whole_ country; leave out
_whole_, which is implied in _throughout_.

214. Iron sinks _down_ in water; leave out _down_.

215. I own that I did not come soon enough; but _because why_? I was
detained; leave out _because_.

216. Have you seen the new _pantomime_? never say _pantomine_, as there
is no such word.

217. I _cannot by no means_ allow it; say, I _can by no means_, &c., or,
I _cannot by any means_, &c.

218. He _covered it over_; leave out _over_.

219. I bought _a new pair of shoes_; say, _a pair of new shoes_.

220. He _combined together_ these facts; leave out _together_.

221. My brother called on me, and we _both_ took a walk; leave out
_both_, which is unnecessary.

222. The _duke_ discharged his _duty_; sound the _u_ in _duke_ and
_duty_ like the word _you_, and carefully avoid saying, _dook_ and
_dooty_, or _doo_ for _dew_.

223. _Genealogy_, _geography_, and _geometry_ are words of Greek
derivation; beware of saying, _geneology_, _jography_, and _jometry_, a
very common practice.

224. He made out the _inventory_; place the accent in _inventory_ on the
syllable _in_, and NEVER on _ven_.

225. He deserves _chastisement_; say, _chas-tiz-ment_, with the accent
on _chas_, and NEVER on _tise_.

226. He threw the _rind_ away; never call _rind_, _rine_.

227. They contributed to his _maintenance_; pronounce _maintenance_ with
the accent on _main_, and _never_ say, _maintainance_.

228. She wears a silk _gown_; never say, _gownd_.

229. Sussex is a _maritime_ county; pronounce the _last_ syllable of
_maritime_ so as to rhyme with _rim_.

230. He _hovered_ about the enemy; pronounce _hovered_ so as to rhyme
with _covered_.

231. He is a powerful _ally_; _never_ place the accent on _al_ in
_ally_, as many do.

232. She bought a _diamond_ necklace; pronounce _diamond_ in _three_
syllables, NEVER in _two_, which is a very common practice.

233. He reads the "Weekly _Despatch_;" NEVER spell the word _despatch_,

234. He said _as how_ you _was_ to do it; say, he said _that you were to
do it_.

235. Never say, "_I acquiesce with you_;" but, "_I acquiesce in your
proposal, in your opinion_," &c.

236. He is a distinguished _antiquarian_; say, _antiquary_.
_Antiquarian_ is an adjective; _antiquary_, a noun.

237. In Goldsmith's "History of England" we find the following
extraordinary sentence in one of the chapters on the reign of Queen
Elizabeth:--"This" [a communication to Mary, Queen of Scots] "they
effected by conveying their letters to her by means of a brewer _that
supplied the family with ale through a chink in the wall of her
apartment_." A queer brewer that,--to supply his ale through a chink in
the wall! How easy the alteration to make the passage clear! "This they
effected by conveying their letters to her _through a chink in the wall
of her apartment, by means of a brewer that supplied the family with

238. Lavater wrote on _Physiognomy_; in the last word sound the _g_
distinctly, as _g_ is always pronounced before _n_ when it is not in the
same syllable; as, _indignity_, &c.

239. She is a very clever _girl_; pronounce _girl_ as if written _gerl_;
never say _gal_, which is very vulgar.

240. He built a large _granary_; pronounce _granary_ so as to rhyme with
_tannery_, never call the word _grainary_.

241. Beware of using _Oh!_ and _O_ indiscriminately; _Oh!_ is used to
express the emotion of _pain_, _sorrow_, or _surprise_; as, "Oh! the
exceeding grace of God, who loves his creatures so." _O_ is used to
express _wishing_, _exclamation_, or a direct _address_ to a person; as,

          "O mother, will the God above,
           Forgive my faults like thee?"

242. Some writers make a distinction between _farther_ and _further_;
they are, in fact, the very same word. _Further_, however, is less used
than _farther_, though it is the genuine form.

243. He did it _unbeknown_ to us; say, _unknown_, &c.

244. If I say "They retreated _back_," I use a word that is
_superfluous_, as _back_ is implied in the syllable _re_ in _retreated_.
Never place the accent on _flu_ in _superfluous_, but always on _per_.

245. In reading Paley's "Evidences of Christianity," I unexpectedly
_lit on_ the passage I wanted; say, _met with_ the passage, &c.

246. He has ordered a _phaeton_ from his coach-maker; beware of saying,
_pheton_ or _phaton_. The word should always be pronounced in _three_
syllables, with the accent on _pha_. N. B. In pha-e-ton the _a_ and _e_
do _not_ form a diphthong, as many suppose; the word is of Greek origin.

247. Be careful to use the hyphen (-) correctly; it joins compound
words, and words broken by the ending of the line. The use of the hyphen
will appear more clearly from the following example: "_many colored_
wings" means _many_ wings, which are _colored_; but "_many-colored_
wings" means "wings of _many colors_."

248. He had to wait in an _antechamber_; carefully avoid spelling the
last word _antichamber_. N. B. An _antechamber_ is the chamber that
leads to the chief apartment. _Ante_ is a LATIN PREPOSITION, and means
_before_, as, to ante_date_, that is, "to date beforehand." _Anti_ is a
GREEK PREPOSITION, and means _against_, as, anti_monarchical_, that is,
"against government by a single person."

249. The _axe_ was very sharp; never spell _axe_ without the _e_.

250. The force of voice, which is placed on any particular word or words
to distinguish the sense, is called _emphasis_ and those words are
called _emphatical words_: as, "Grammar is a _useful_ science." In this
sentence the word _useful_ is emphatical. The great importance of
_emphasis_ may be seen by the following example:

    1. Will you _call_ on me to-morrow?
       Yes, I shall [_call_].

    2. Will you call on _me_ to-morrow?
       No, but I shall call on your _brother_.

    3. Will you call on me _to-morrow_?
       No, but I shall on the _following day_.

    4. Will _you_ call on me to-morrow?
       No, but my _brother_ will.

251. Never say _o-fences_ for _offences_; _pison_ for _poison_;
_co-lection_ for _collection_; _voiolent_ for _violent_; _kiver_ for
_cover_; _afeard_ for _afraid_; _debbuty_ for _deputy_.

252. He is a mere _cipher_; never spell _cipher_ with a _y_.

253. I was _necessitated_ to do it; a vile expression, and often made
worse by _necessiated_ being used. Say, I was _obliged_, or _compelled_,
to do it.

254. Gibbon wrote the "_Rise_ and Fall of the Roman Empire;" pronounce
_rise_, the noun, so as to rhyme with _price_; _rise_, the verb, rhymes
with _prize_.

255. Have you been to the _National_ Gallery? Never pronounce _national_
as if it were written _nay-shun-al_, a very common error, and by no
means confined to uneducated persons.

256. I bought a new _umbrella_; beware of pronouncing _umbrella_,
_umberella_, or _umbereller_, both very common errors.

257. He is a supporter of the _government_; beware of omitting the _n_
in the second syllable of _government_. A very common practice.

258. He strenuously maintained the _contrary_; never place the accent on
the _second_ syllable in _contrary_. In the ancient and time-honored
ditty, however, of

             "Mistress Mary,
              Quite _contrary_,
          How does your garden grow?"

a ballad with which we are all more or less familiar, the word
"_contrary_" _is_ accented on the _second_ syllable, so as to rhyme with
the name of the venerable dame to whom these memorable lines were

259. "Received this day _of_ Mr. Brown, ten pounds;" say, "Received this
day _from_", &c.

260. "In what case is the word _dominus_?" "In the _nominative_, sir."
In the hurry of school pronunciation "_nominative_" is nearly always
heard in _three_ syllables, as if written _nomnative_ or _nomative_, an
error that should be very carefully avoided; it is a word of _four_

261. Of whatever you _get_, endeavor to save something; and, with all
your _getting_, _get_ wisdom. Carefully avoid saying _git_ for _get_,
and _gitting_ for _getting_.

262. So intent was he on the song he was _singing_, as he stood by the
fire, that he did not perceive that his clothes were _singeing_. N. B.
Verbs ending with a _single e_ omit the _e_ when the termination _ing_
is added; as, _give_, _giving_. In _singeing_, however, the _e_ must be
retained, to prevent its being confounded with _singing_.

263. The boy had a _swingeing_ for _swinging_ without permission. _Read
the preceding note._

264. The man who was _dyeing_ said that his father was then _dying_.
Read the note in No. 262, in reference to _dyeing_; and observe that
_die_ changes the _i_ into _y_ before the addition of the termination

265. His _surname_ is Clifford; never spell the _sur_ in _surname_,
_sir_, which shows an ignorance of is true derivation, which is from the

266. In "Bell's Life in London," of Saturday, Jan. 13th, of the current
year [1855], there is a letter from a Scotchman to the editor on the
subject of the declining salmon fisheries in Scotland. In one passage
the writer thus expresses himself: "The Duke of Sutherland has got
_almost no rent_ for these [salmon] rivers for the last four years," &c.
The writer should have said, _scarcely any rent_. "_Almost no rent_" is
a downright Scotticism.

267. His _mamma_ sent him to a preparatory school; _mamma_ is often
written with one _m_ only, which is not, as may at first be supposed, in
imitation of the French [_maman_], but in sheer ignorance. The word is
pure Greek.

268. Active verbs often take a neuter sense; as, _The house is
building_. Here _is building_ is used in a neuter signification, because
it has no object after it. By this rule are explained such sentences
as, _Application is wanting_, _The grammar is printing_, &c.

269. He _attackted_ me without the slightest provocation; say,

270. I saw him _somewheres_ in the city; say, _somewhere_. N. B.
_Nowheres_, _everywheres_, and _anywheres_ are also very frequently

271. He is still a _bacheldor_; say, _bachelor_.

272. His language was quite _blasphemous_; beware of placing the accent
on _phe_ in _blasphemous_. A very common mistake. Place the accent on
the syllable _blas_.

273. I fear I shall _discommode_ you; say, _incommode_.

274. I can do it _equally as well as_ he; leave out _equally_, which is
altogether superfluous.

275. We could not forbear _from_ doing it; leave out _from_, which is

276. They accused him _for_ neglecting his duty; say, _of_ neglecting,

277. He was made much _on_ at Bath; say, made much _of_, &c.

278. He is a man _on_ whom you can confide; say, _in_ whom, &c.

279. _I'm thinking_ he will soon arrive; say, _I think_, &c.

280. He was obliged to _fly_ the country; say, _flee_ the country. A
very common mistake.

281. The snuffers _wants_ mending; say, _want_ mending.

282. His conduct admits _of_ no apology; leave out _of_, which is quite

283. A _gent_ has been here, inquiring for you,--a detestable, but very
common, expression; say, a _gentleman_, &c.

284. That was _all along of_ you; say, That was _all your fault_.

285. You have no _call_ to be vexed with me; say, no _occasion_, &c.

286. I _don't_ know nothing about it,--a very common cockneyism; leave
out _don't_.

287. I _had_ rather not, should be, I _would_ rather not.

288. I _had better_ go, should be, _It were better_ that I should go.

289. A _new pair_ of gloves, should be, A _pair of new_ gloves.

290. He is a _very rising_ man, should be, He is _rising rapidly_.

291. Apartments _to let_, should be, Apartments _to be let_.

292. No _less_ than ten persons, should be, No _fewer_ than ten persons.
_Less_ must be applied to quantity, as, No _less_ than ten pounds.
_Fewer_ must be applied to things.

293. I _never_ speak, _whenever_ I can help it, should be, I never speak
_when_ I can help it.

294. _Before_ I do that, I must _first_ be paid, should be, Before I do
that, I must be paid.

295. To _get over_ an illness, should be, To _survive_, or, To _recover
from_ an illness.

296. To _get over_ a person, should be, To _persuade_ a person.

297. To _get over_ a fact, should be, To _deny_ or _refute_ it.

298. The _then_ Duke of Bedford, should be, The Duke of Bedford _of that
day_, or, The _sixth_ Duke of Bedford.

299. The _then_ Mrs. Howard, should be, The Mrs. Howard _then living_.

300. A _couple_ of pounds, should be, _Two_ pounds. Couple implies
union, as, A married couple.

301. He speaks _slow_, should be, He speaks _slowly_.

302. He is _noways_ in fault, should be, He is _nowise_ in fault.

303. He is _like_ to be, should be, He is _likely_ to be.

304. _All over_ the land, should be, _Over all_ the land.

305. I am stout in comparison _to_ you, should be, I am stout in
comparison _with_ you.

306. At _best_, should be, At _the best_.

307. At _worst_, should be, At _the worst_.

308. The dinner was _all eat up_, should be, The dinner was _all eaten_.

309. I _eat_ heartily, should be, I _ate_ heartily.

310. As I _take_ it, should be, As I _see_ it, or _understand_ it.

311. I shall _fall down_, should be, I shall _fall_.

312. It fell _on_ the floor, should be, It fell _to_ the floor.

313. He _again repeated_ it, should be, He _repeated_ it.

314. His conduct was _approved of_ by all, should be, His conduct was
_approved_ by all.

315. He was killed _by_ a cannon ball, should be, He was killed _with_ a
cannon ball. The gun was fired _by_ a man.

316. Six weeks _back_, should be, Six weeks _ago_, or _since_.

317. _Every now and then_, should be, _Often_, or _Frequently_.

318. Who finds him _in_ money? should be, Who finds him money?

319. The _first of all_, should be, The _first_.

320. The _last of all_, should be, The _last_.

321. Be that as it _will_, should be, Be that as it _may_.

322. My _every_ hope, should be, _All_ my hopes.

323. Since _when_, should be, Since _which time_.

324. He put it _in_ his pocket, should be, He put it _into_ his pocket.

325. Since _then_, should be, Since _that time_.

326. The _latter_ end, should be, The _end_.

327. I saw it _in here_, should be, I saw it _here_.

328. That _ay'nt_ just, should be, That _is not_ just.

329. The hen is _setting_, should be, The hen is _sitting_.

330. The wind _sets_, should be, The wind _sits_.

331. To _lift up_, should be, To _lift_.

332. I said so _over again_, should be, I _repeated_ it.

333. From _here to there_, should be, From _this place to that_.

334. _Nobody else_ but him, should be, _Nobody_ but him.

335. The balloon _ascended up_, should be, The balloon _ascended_.

336. _This_ two days, should be, _These_ two days.

337. Do you _mean_ to come? should be, Do you _intend_ to come?

338. Each of them _are_, should be, Each of them _is_. _Each_ means one
_and_ the other of two.

339. _Either_ of the _three_, should be, _Any one_ of the three.
_Either_ means one _or_ the other of two.

340. _Neither_ one _or_ the other, should be, Neither one _nor_ the
other. _Neither_ (not either) means not the one _nor_ the other of two.

341. Better _nor_ that, should be, Better _than_ that.

342. _Bad grammar_, should be, Bad or ungrammatical _English_.

343. As soon as _ever_, should be, As soon as.

344. You will _some_ day be sorry, should be, You will _one_ day be

345. From _now_, should be, From _this time_.

346. Therefore, I _thought_ it proper to write you, should be,
Therefore, I _think_ it proper to write _to_ you.

347. _There's_ thirty, should be, There _are_ thirty.

348. _Subject matter_, should be, The subject.

349. A _summer's_ morning, should be, A _summer_ morning.

350. My clothes _have got_ too small, or too short, for me, should be, I
have become too stout or too tall for my clothes.

351. A _most perfect_ poem, should be, A _perfect_ poem. Perfect,
supreme, complete, brief, full, empty, true, false, do not admit of

352. Avoid using unmeaning or vulgar phrases in speaking, as, You don't
say so? Don't you know? Don't you see? You know; You see; So, you see,

353. Is Mr. Smith _in_? should be, Is Mr. Smith _within_?

354. The _other one_, should be, The other.

355. _Another one_, should be, Another.

356. I _left_ this morning. Name the place left.

357. Over head _and ears_, should be, Over _head_.

358. I may _perhaps_, or _probably_, should be, I may.

359. Whether he will or _no_, should be, Whether he will or _not_.

360. _Says_ I, should be, _Said_ I, or, I _said_.

361. He spoke _contemptibly_ of him, should be, He spoke
_contemptuously_ of him.

362. _Was_ you? should be, _Were_ you?

363. I am _oftener_ well than ill, should be, I am _more frequently_
well than ill.

364. For _good and all_, should be, For _ever_.

365. It is _above_ a month since, should be, It is _more_ then a month

366. He is a _superior_ man, should be, He is _superior to most_ men.

367. He _need_ not do it, should be, He _needs_ not do it.

368. Go _over_ the bridge, should be, Go _across_ the bridge.

369. I was some distance from home, should be, I was _at_ some distance
from home.

370. He _belongs_ to the _Mechanics'_ Institution, should be, He is a
_member_ of the _Mechanics'_ Institution.

371. For _such another_ book, should be, For _another such_ book.

372. They _mutually_ loved _each other_, should be, They loved _each

373. I _ay'nt_, should be, I _am not_.

374. I am _up to you_, should be, I _understand_ you.

375. Bread has _rose_, should be, Bread has _risen_.

376. He was in _eminent_ danger, should be, He was in _imminent_ danger.

377. Take hold _on_, should be, Take hold _of_.

378. Vegetables were _plenty_, should be, Vegetables were _plentiful_.

379. Avoid all slang and vulgar words and phrases, as, _Any how_,
_Bating_, _Bran new_, _To blow up_, _Bother_, _Cut_, _Currying favor_,
_Fork out_, _Half an eye_, _I am up to you_, _Kick up_, _Leastwise_,
_Nowheres_, _Pell-mell_, _Scrape_, _The Scratch_, _Rum_, _Topsy-turvey_,
_Walk into_, _Whatsomever_.

"Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar."--SHAKESPEARE.



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Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 6 "havn't" changed to "haven't" (and _haven't_, are)

Page 38, "recal" changed to "recall" (long to recall)

Page 109, "_I threw_" changed to "I _threw_ to match rest of usage

Advertising, Page 2, "RUSSELLS'" changed to "RUSSELL'S" (RUSSELL'S

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