Blog Archives

Lowth’s grammars in ECCO II

The new version of ECCO is now readily accessible at the University of Leiden. It contains eleven (!) more editions of Lowth’s grammar, including … Read more »

Looking for ‘Wild’s’ grammar…

At the moment I am transcribing and analysing nineteenth- century family letters from New England. In one of the letters a schoolboy mentions Wild’s grammar. So far I have not succeeded in finding details about this book. It may have been printed in America, but at the time grammars were also often imported from Great Britain. If anyone can give me more information about this book I would be much obliged.

Bas van Elburg

ECCO Part II: for better or for worse?

ECCO Part II, a new version of Eighteenth Century Collections Online was released earlier this year. It has everything that was in ECCO, plus nearly fifty thousand additional titles and a new interface. One of the great additions for this group for instance is the two volumes of the first edition (1755) of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary (in folio). This all sounds great, but it seems that not everything is improved. Read more »

Robert Baker in ECCO

To my suprise, I found two additions this morning to the publications by Robert Baker listed in ECCO. Surprisingly, though, they don’t show up every time, but I can’t work out why this is.

Robert Baker is the author of Reflections on the English Language (1770, 2nd ed. 1779), and various other works in ECCO. His Reflections is the first … Read more »

Ann Fisher in the New York Times

On 26 July 2009, a short piece appeared on the “all-purpose pronoun”, which was first written about by Ann Fisher in her New Grammar (1745). You will find the link to the article here.

Correction to OED’s entry for “government”

The grammatical term “government”, according to the OED, was first found as a lemma in Johnson’s dictionary, where it is defined as “influence with regard to construction”. It is next recorded as being first used by Lowth in a nineteenth-century reprint of the grammar, published in 1838. The quotation in question, “Adverbs have no Government”, is, however, also found in the first edition (1762:126), so the reference in the OED may be simplified accordingly.

ECCO wish list

In the short time since it has been available, ECCO (Eighteenth Century Collections Online) has become an indispensable tool for our research. Yet it contains errors, and, despite its vastness, it lacks books and editions of grammars that are important for the study of the publication history of English grammars, to mention one example. Here, please add which titles of grammars and editions of already included works you would like to be added to ECCO. Hopefully, they will soon be included as a result.

Righter or more right?

On 15 March 1755, Lowth wrote to his wife asking if she “should think it righter to stay at home” with their little boy. The form righter would be entirely in agreement with his own rule in the grammar (1762) (also found in other grammars of the period) that monosyllabic adjectives should occur in the comparative form with –er. Yet Quirk et al. (1985:461-3) specifically note that “the exceptions real, right, and wrong require comparison with periphrasis”, so it should be more right in other words. Why should this be the case? And since when has right been an exception?

Lane’s Key to the Art of Letters

Last year, a very interesting article came out by Robert Rix, dealing with a grammar that has not received a lot of attention within English linguistics: A. Lane’s Key to the Art of Letters, first published in 1700 and reprinted twice down to 1706. The grammar must therefore have enjoyed a certain amount of popularity, and it may not have been reprinted after that date because the author appears to have been no longer alive by that time. As Rix notes, the final edition of the grammar contains his obituary. (Lane’s lifedates in Koerner’s Index of Biographical Names can thus be pushed slightly forward: fl.1695-c.1706.)

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How tall was Robert Lowth?

In the spring of the year 1772, James Boswell called upon Robert Lowth, and, as he wrote in his journal, found him to be "a neat, judicious little man in his conversation with me" (ed. Wimsatt and Pottle 1960:112). But what does "little" mean in this context? Does this mean that Lowth was not very tall? Read more »