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MRS. SARAH, MRS. MARY, AND MRS. ELIZABETH ABNEY,
Daughters of Sir Thomas Abney, Knight and Alderman of London.
MY HONOURED YOUNG FRIENDS,
HEN it pleased God to afford me the first degrees of release from a long and tiresome weakness, I thought myself bound to make my best acknowledgment of that uncommon generosity and kindness of your honoured parents, by which I was first invited into your family, and my health began to be restored. Nor could I do any thing more grateful to them, nor more pleasing to myself, than offer my assistance in some part of your education, while I was incapable of more public work.
I began therefore at the first principles of learning, that I might have opportunity to correct any lesser mistakes of your youngest years, and to perfect your knowledge of our mother-tongue: For this purpose, when I found no spelling-book sufficient to answer my designs, I wrote many of these directions; but my health was so imperfect, that I was not able, at that time, to transcribe and finish this little book, which was designed for you.
Thus it lay by neglected some years, till a charity-school arose at Cheshunt in Hertfordshire, raised and supported by the diffusive goodness of your family, in concert with the pious neighbourhood. Then was I requested, and even provoked to put the last hand to this work, for the better instruction of the children that were taught there; though I must confess, it has grown up, under my reviews of it, to a much larger size than I ever intended.
But, Ladies, I take the freedom to make you my sole patronesses in this affair; for I scarce know any thing else that can effectually defend me, for laying out so many hours in these rudiments of learning, but a desire to be made useful in lesser services, while I am cut off from greater; and the duty of gratitude to an excellent household, where so many years of my affliction have been attended with so rich a variety of conveniences and benefits: And now I ask your leave to offer it to the public.
May the valuable lives of Sir Thomas Abney, and his honoured Lady, be prolonged as blessings to the world; while the kindness they have shown me, is signally and plentifully rewarded from heaven with blessings on all your heads And may the little share I have had in assisting your education, be improved by divine providence and grace, to your temporal and everlasting welfare. So prays
Theobalds in Hertfordshire,
July 31, 1720.
Your affectionate Instructor,
And obliged hunble Servant,
TO" THE ART OF READING AND WRITING ENGLISH."
THE reader is briefly informed, in the Title Page, what is the general
design of this little book, and who are the persons that may hope to profit by it. The Dedication sufficiently acquaints him with the occasion of this composure: And since custom has taught the world to expect a word or two of address in the first leaves of a book, it shall be the business of the Preface to offer a few things which relate to the methods of teaching to read and write English, and to declare a little more particularly what may be expected from this attempt.
My learned friends will easily forgive me, that I did not write for them, who are fitter to be my instructors, in a science which has never been my professed business: I expect rather they will reprove me, for descending from nobler studies, to employ my thoughts on so mean a subject. Now, if I had a mind to flatter my ambition, I would call in several great names to answer for me. Shall those renowned divines and mathematicians, Bishop Wilkins, and Dr. Wallis? Shall Milton, that noblest of poets, and Ray, that pious philosopher, busy themselves in grainmars and dictionaries, and nomenclatures, and employ their meditations on words and syllables, and that without sinking their character? Then surely I may tread in their steps and imitate such patterns without disgrace.
But I will content myself with a much plainer apology, and confess to the world that I think nothing of this nature too mean for me to lay out a few weeks of my life upon, for the service of a family, to whom, under God, I owe that I live: For when I had surveyed grammars, and spelling-books, for this service, I found none of them perfectly answer my design, that is, to lead English readers into an easy acquaintance with their mother-tongue, without constraining them to acquire the knowledge of other languages. And though I did not set myself at first to write these directions for the public, yet, since they are written, surely I may offer them to the world without offence. It is not my ambition, by this composure, to supplant the primer or the spelling-book. This book was not written to stand in their stead; yet since it lies naturally in my way, I will venture to speak my sentiments concerning the best way of composing them. It is the custom of common spelling-books, in the first part of them, after the letters, to join consonants and vowels together in various forms, then to make tables of common words, of one, two, three, and more syllables: After these, they place catalogues of proper names, dividing them all into their distinct syllables; and I think this method is happily and judiciously contrived for the ease of the teacher, and the profit of the learner. In this part, all the words should be ranged in distinct tables, according to their accents on the first, second, or following syllables; and the consonants which are pronounced double, should have a double accent upon them, as Mr. Dyche has contrived, and Mr. Munday has since improved. At the end of this first part of the book, three or four pages would be sufficient just to tell the young scholars, briefly, which are vowels, which are consonants, which are diphthongs; and to teach them the common
stops of comma, colon, and period, with the marks of the ten figures, &c. till they grow up to be fit for a fuller acquaintance with all these things.
But, I think, the second part of a spelling-book would be much better composed of lessons for children of various kinds: Wherein there should be not only such praxes on the words of different syllables, as Mr. Dyche has framed, but several easy portions of scripture collected out of the Psalms, and Proverbs, and the New Testament, as well as other little composures, that might teach them duty and behaviour towards God and man, abroad and at home. Then I would place some pages of short sentences, to discourage the vices to which children are most addicted: Then a catalogue of common English proverbs: After this, some of the more difficult parts of the scripture, with proper names in it, choosing out such verses, as may, at the same time, entertain the child with some agreeable notices of sacred history. Next to this might be added some well-chosen, short, and useful stories, that may entice the young learner to the pleasure of reading; something of the history of mankind, a short account of England, or the common affairs of our nation: And the world will forgive me, if I should say, let a few pieces of poesy be added; and let the verse be of various kinds, to acquaint the learner with all sorts of subjects and manners of writing, that he may know how to read them when they are put into his hand. And if the author would add proper short prayers and graces for children, he has my hearty appro bation. After all, it would not be amiss if a leaf or two were employed in shewing the child how to read written letters, by a plate of writing in the secretary and the round-hand graven on purpose; as well as the Lord's prayer, or creed, or some such short specimen, repeated in the Roman, the Italian, the Old English, and the written letters. I should rejoice to see a good spelling-book framed according to this model.
Then, if I might be thought worthy to give advice to the teachers, F would persuade them to follow this method, namely, Let the children learn to know the letters, and a great part of the single syllables, as they are ranked in spelling-books, before they read any thing else; and be sure that they are well taught to give the full force and sound of the vowels and consonants, as they are variously joined. Then let them have two sorts of tasks appointed every day, one in the tables, or catalogues of words in the first part, and one in the lessons of the second part. Thus they would learn at the same time something valuable and useful in life, as well as the art of reading. And by this means also the child would have some variety in his learning, to render it more pleasant.
The book that I have written is supposed at least to follow the first reading of such a spelling-book; or, which is all one, to be written for those who are a little acquainted with reading: For the art of reading is best begun like the art of speaking, and that is, by rote; though it is best improved and perfected by rules.
The manner in which I would advise the perusal of this little book, so far as is necessary for children, should be this: When they give their spelJing books a second reading, or, for want of that, when they begin their bible, let them also begin such parts as their master shall choose out of this bok: And thus they should have two sorts of lessons every day again; and by the one they would learn rules which they should carefully put in practice in the ather. But my chief hope is to improve the knowledge of persons advanced