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any new characters; without rendering any book useless, and without occasioning any difficulty to elderly people. The schemes of Sir Thomas Smith, Dr. Gill, Dr. Franklin and others which have been offered, create difficulties which are needless, and which must forever prevent their success. If any general effort were to be made to effect the object, I could present a scheme, for the purpose, of far greater simplicity.
4th. The friends of English literature have a deep interest in reforming the orthography of the language, for its irregularities are among the greatest obstacles to the diffusion of it in foreign countries. This circumstance has had a material influence in retarding the study of English among foreigners, and giving a preference to the French. The French is far inferior to the English, in copiousness and strength; indeed the French is inferior to most languages in Europe. Yet the French nation have had the address to spread the knowledge of their language, so that it is, in a manner, a common medium of intercourse in Europe, and in some parts of Asia.
Few men seem to have observed the connexion of this extension of the French language with the political views of the French government, and its influence upon the manners and morals of other nations. The French language is unquestionably one of the principal instruments of extending the influence of the nation from the Ganges to the wilds of America. The natives of France are spread over the habitable globe. Not a country, city, or town, and scarcely a village can be named, in which we may not find Frenchmen, who, either in the characters of ministers, consuls, merchants, travellers, refugees, teachers of their language, painters, dancing masters, fencing masters, music masters, or barbers, are spreading a knowledge of their language, introducing frivolous amusements and levity of manners, or securing political attachments with a view to some national advantage. In no country can the French government want influence, where a party of friends is not previously secured to their hands; and the late events in
Europe demonstrate that the general diffusion of the French language has been the pioneer to their arms. with all these lessons of experience, the English, whose very existence is menaced by the power of France, are so little sensible of the policy by which her influence and dominions have been extended, that they cannot establish a college even in India, without attaching to it French professors. The people of the United States fall into the same current of fashionable error; and our sons and daughters are taught to believe, that a knowledge of the French language, like French cotillions, is essential as a polite accomplishment. Little as men are accustomed to reflect upon the remote or primary causes of great revolutions, we may be assured that the French language has been a principal instrument by which the government has divided the citizens, and vanquished the armies, of the neighbouring states; while it has propagated the most licentious manners, and the most detestable system of political principles.
To pave the way for this extension of their language, the French had the policy to refine and improve it, by purifying its orthography, and reduc ing it to a good degree of regularity. In short, they first removed the chief obstacles to the easy acquisition of their language by foreigners; and without this previous measure, their efforts would have been unavailing.
The English pursue a different line of conduct; and with a far more excellent language with more extensive colonial establishments; with an unlimited commerce, and all the motives to extend their influence, which any nation can have, they take incredible pains to retain in their language, the anomalies which offer almost insurmountable obstacles to its progress among for eigners. Every suggestion of a reformation is repelled by the dogmas of Dr. Johnson, or other writers, that "change is inconvenient, even from worse to better, and that there is in constancy and stability a general and lasting advantage, which overbalances the slow improvements of gradual correction." These positions, with
cut great modification, are not true, and would be as applicable to the Laplanders and Caffres, as to the English. The principles are just only when they apply to things in themselves indifferent, in which custom is the only ground of right or propriety. They are true as they regard the formation of language, and the words used as symbols of ideas. But when oral languages are formed, and characters have acquired a particular sound or use, it is no longer a matter of indifference which characters are used for particular sounds. In this case also the convenience is on the side of change. The amount of all the trouble attending a reformation would not equal the inconveniences, which are encountered every month in teaching an anomalous language. In short, the principles, as laid down and perpetually repeated by men of letters, if they had been adhered to in practice, would have interrupted all improvement, and chained men to the condition of savages. The true principle to be settled in every question of change, is, whether the advantages overbalance the inconvenience; and on this question, in this case, there can be no doubts. In regard to the propagation of principles of freedom, the arts, sciences, and manufac tures; in regard to every thing which exalts mankind and tends to diffuse the blessings of civilized society; the improvement of our language deserves the united efforts of the learned, and the encouragement of government.
Further, the friends of the Christian religion have an interest of vast moment in the improvement of our language, as an instrument of propagating the gospel.
The colonial establishments of the English, and the missions for preaching the gospel, in the remotest parts of the earth present to the friends of religion, science and civilization, a most animating prospect. In Asia, Africa, and the South Seas, the English are laying the foundation of empires, which shall consist of their descendants; but the diffusion of their language among foreigners will be greatly retarded by the difficulty of learning it ; an obstacle which
might be removed with less effort of a few distinguished characters, than is necessary to carry into effect the object of a single missionary society.
A language, in which a large part of its words are so written, that the characters are no certain guides to the pronunciation, a language which may be called a compound of alphabetical writing with hieroglyphics, can never make its way extensively among foreigners.
I will only remark further, that the opposition to a correction of our orthography is confined, in this country, to the learned. The great body of the people are so much perplexed with the difficulties of learning to spell, that they desire a reformation, and would readily embrace it. They know not from what cause such irregularities originate, and cannot conceive why they are permitted to exist. I have been repeatedly solicited to undertake the task of reformation; but men of letters, who encourage every other improvement, resist all attempts to improve the orthography of the language-Quadam imo virtutes olio sunt. Tacitus.
The Reviewers recommend to me, before 1 execute the etymological part of my undertaking, to study the various dialects of the ancient British language, and name Lhuyd's Archeologia Britannica, as the best elementary work on the subject. I sincerely thank the gentlemen for their advice, and for any assistance which they or other English gentlemen will afford me. But the gentlemen are informed that I have already studied Lhuyd, with diligence, and probably with success, as I have found many of the radical words, not only of English and French, but of the Latin, which had escaped the observation of others. I have also made discoveries calculated to illustrate some points of ancient history. It is my earnest desire to prosecute my designs to a useful conclusion; but my means are scanty, the labour Herculean, and the discouragements numerous and formidable.
New-Haven, June 10, 1807.
Review of New Publications.
The New Cyclopædia: or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences: Formed upon a more enlarged plan of arrangement than the Dictionary of Mr. Chambers. Comprehending the various articles of that work, with additions and improvements: Together with the new subjects of Biography, Geography, and History; and adapted to the present state of literature and science. By Abraham Rees, D. D. F. R. S. Editor of the last edition of Mr. Chambers' Dictionary. With the assistance of eminent, professional gentlemen. Illustrated with new plates, including maps, engraved for the work by some of the most distinguished artists. First American edition, revised, corrected, enlarged, and adapted to this country, by several literary and scientific characters. Philadel phia. Samuel F. Bradford.
Vol. I. Part I.
In entering upon the review of a publication so extensive and important, as an Universal Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences, we deem it not improper to mention some of the characteristics, which ought to distinguish a work of this kind, that it may effect, as far as possible, the beneficial purposes, which alone give it a claim to patronage. No objections, we presume, can be justly made to the propriety of such a delineation, as it will obviously assist both ourselves and our readers, in the different stages of our progress. Vol. III. No. 3.
A Cyclopædia professes to give a brief, though, in a great measure, a satisfactory account, not only of the Arts and Sciences, properly so called, but also of those branches of knowledge, which derive most of their imInportance from daily use. deed the advantage most expected and desired, by subscribers in general, is that which results from having within their reach a manual, by which they may satisfy their curiosity, correct their mistakes, and, upon a hasty reference, gain that information, which may be immediately useful.
The adept in science, and the accomplished scholar, while prosecuting their studies, have recourse rather to the original treatises, in which most of the advances in science, and inventions in arts, are made known to the world. The UNIVERSAL DICTIONARY may more properly be compared to a vast magazine, filled by the industry of man, and containing supplies for ordinary wants, and materials for future labour, than to a magnificent palace, or a solemn temple. To such a work as this of Dr. Rees, the artisan, the navigator, the` merchant, the traveller, and the agriculturist, as well as those who are engaged in the learned professions, recur for the acquisition of that general knowledge, which few, if any private libraries contain, and which every man of extensive views must, at some period, find necessary. Hence the first publication of an Encyclopedia was hailed by
the scientific part of mankind, as an improvement of high and distinguished importance to the cause of learning.
That one compilation cannot contain all that has been written, nor even all that has been well written on every subject, is sufficiently obvious. It is necessary, that the scientific heads should be treated with peculiar caution and ability. A small mistake in a chain of arguments, in a demonstration, or in an experimental process, may terminate in absurdity. Clearness in every thing, intended for instruction, is an indispensable requisite; and this indeed is an excellence, in which the copier and abridger may be supposed to surpass the author and invent
The author himself, having a clear conception of his own ideas, naturally imagines that lie communicates them clearly to others, which is not always the fact, but the copyist, who in this respect stands in the place of the reader, and perceives his obscurities of style, or ambiguities of expression, may easily correct them.
The articles of biography are of primary importance. This species of writing is the most useful branch of history. The biographer ought therefore to possess the qualities, which constitute a good historian, but especially a fixed and inflexible regard to truth; and uniformly to reject every thing, which savours of sectarian bigotry, or the animosity of party.
But above all, the Editors of a Cyclopædia ought to be careful, as friends to their fellow men, and servants of their Maker, to admit nothing, which will natur
ally tend to undermine the great foundations of morality and religion. A sincere Christian, writing on almost any subject, will show to his readers, on which side he ranks himself, in the great contest, which has always existed in the world, between the friends of God and his enemies. Such has been the practice of many of the most resplendent luminaries of English literature; and such will continue to be the practice of those, who feel a solemn responsibility for all their actions, and particularly for those actions, by which the rising generation may be materially influenced. not be misunderstood to approve of that species of cant, by which religion is irreverently dragged into every paragraph, however incoherently, and unnecessarily, and the same hackneyed observations are repeated on a thousand different occasions, where they neither elucidate, nor enforce; where they give neither strength to argument, nor animation to piety. Let Christians profit by the plans, and the diligence of infidels. It is well known, that the enemies of revelation during the last half century have employed all ed all their ingenuity and strength in every species of publication, to infuse and spread their malignant theories through the world: and that in Dictionaries and Encyclopædias, they have found an ample field for their purpose. No walk of literature has been secure from their open assaults, or insidious ambuscades. It is therefore of peculiar importance, that the friends of truth cast not away the weapons, which Providence may put into their hands, and that they be
constantly mindful of the cause, which they are bound to support; and of the means, which may be used with most success.
These are some of the most important characteristics, which we would wish to find in a Universal Dictionary. We shall now briefly mention some of the improvements, which the public has a right to expect in this American edition.
The American Editor, in his advertisement states, that he "has engaged, in the various departments of science and literature, the assistance of gentlemen, whose talents and celebrity do honour to their country, and will essentially enrich this great and important work. Several important additions and corrections have been made to the present part; [Part I. Vol. I.] times in the body of an article, without any distinguishing mark, but most generally at the end, and enclosed in crotchets." Anxious for the honour of American literature, we received this information with mingled pleasure and solicitude. On examination of the first half volume, in reference to the additions and omissions made by the American Editor, in conformity to his original plan, we are free to make this general remark, that, with few exceptions, both have been judicious, and real improvements of the work. But loud, and we think unreasonable, complaints were raised against the Editor, on account of his omis sions in some particular articles, and against the plan of omitting: any part of the English edition. These complaints induced the American Editor to change his
first plan, and to pledge himself in the remainder of the work, to retain the whole of the English copy, and to enclose all additional matter in crotchets. The principles, which are to govern the gentlemen employed by the Editor, to examine and remark on the articles, which relate to morals and theology, are announced in the following words:
66 Since, indeed, it has been determined that nothing which appears in "Rees' New Cyclopædia" shall henceforth be omitted in the American edition of the work, we thought it incumbent to avow, and we have accordingly here avowed, the principles which will govern us in examining and remarking on the moral and theological opinions which it exhibits. We are sensible that this is an arduous, an important, and a delicate duty. We have approached it not without undissembled diffidence in our ability
to discharge it worthily. In its exe
cution we believe that we can promise diligence and vigilance; and we shall endeavour not to transgress the prescriptions of decorum, the laws of candour, nor the demands of Christian meekness. With all this, however, we believe it to be perfectly consistent to say, that it will be matter of little concern to us in what class of living literary merit the name may be enrolled, or in what niche of the temple of fame the statue may be found, of him who has touched irreverently the hallowed depository of God's revealed will. In the best manner we can, we will withstand his audacity, expose his impiety, and invest him with his proper character: for we believe with Young, that "with the talents of an angel, a man may be a fool." Those who sympathise with heretics and infidels will in vain endeavour to turn us from our purpose. Our work is sacred and we dare not slight it. Our responsibility is not only to man, but to God."
We are, on the whole, pleased with this change in the plan of the Editor, as it removes all ground of complaint against him