Blog Archives

Dyche’s Guide to the English Tongue (1707)

In her paper called "Eighteenth grammars and book catalogues", Anita Auer quotes Feather (1985:34) on the popularity of Dyche’s Guide to the English Tongue: between 1733 and 1747, 33 editions came out of the work, to a total of 265,000 copies, "or nearly 18,000 copies a year, of which a mere handful is extant".

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From plural to singular?

My colleague from the Dutch department, Marijke van der Wal, came across an intreaguing point in her reaearch on nineteenth-century grammars of Dutch, and she would like to know whether there are similar instances in English grammars or grammars for other languages. Please let us have your findings on this, even if you never came across the kind of approach to grammar.

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Six cases in English?

A few weeks ago, I received the following question from Nicola McLelland, on behalf of Martin Durrell.

"I certainly remember (and may have told you about) an English grammar which my father had at home when I was a boy. This listed six cases for English, i.e.

  • Nominative ‘the man’
  • Vocative ‘O man!’
  • Accusative ‘the man’
  • Genitive ‘of the man’
  • Dative ‘to the man’
  • Ablative ‘by the man’

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Date of Lily’s grammar

Could anyone help elucidate the question of the publication date of Lily’s Short Introduction to Grammar? Vorlat (1975) lists it as 1567, but she also writes that it was authorized as the only Latin grammar by Henry VIII in 1540. The copy in Alston’s series English Linguistics is dated 1549, and this edition can also be found in EEBO. So what am I to make of this? Did earlier copies of the grammar circulate? Lily lived from 1468 to 1522 (Vorlat 1975), so it would seem that the grammar only became popular well after his death. By what date does one refer to the grammar in a paper?

Lowth’s bookcase

Just to show what a wonderful source ECCO is: it includes the first edition of Sheridan’s pronouncing dictionary. This book was published in 1780 and evidently by subscription, for the front matter includes a list of subscribers, including the Bishop of London, i.e. Lowth! However, the book is not listed in his Will, so I wonder what would have happened to it.

Lowth more given to melancholy than mirth?

The entry on Robert Lowth in the Oxford Companion to the English Language (McArthur 1992) opens by saying that  Lowth was “a philologist ‘more inclined to melancholy than to mirth’”. McArthur doesn’t identify the source of this quotation, and so far I haven’t been able to identify it myself. Does anyone know its origins?

Textual Authority & 18th Century Copyright Law

The lack of definition for the right of the author as the proprietor of his/her own works after being sold to a publisher means that the textual authority of later editions/printings cannot always be taken for granted.
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Grammars, grammarians and grammar-writing

Good news: this book, which contains a collection of articles many of which are based on the first workshop organised by the Codifiers project, has just been announced on the Walter de Gruyter website. If all goes according to plan, it should be out by May 2008. When published, will be the first book produced by the members of the project.

Peter Hall’s 1834 Memoir of Robert Lowth

Anthony Lowth sent us the following entry: 

In November last year a biography of Robert Lowth was posted on the Codifiers weblog to mark the anniversary of his death. This biography, which was originally published around the time of Lowth’s death in the Gentleman’s Magazine, was full of factual errors.

For those interested in a rather more accurate and detailed account of Robert Lowth’s career there is now on the web a scan of Rev.Peter Hall’s 1834 publication ‘Sermons and Other Remains of Robert Lowth, Lord Bishop of London’. This starts with a 45 page ‘memoir’ of Robert Lowth’s career. Included in this is a biography of Robert’s father William Lowth, said to have been written by the son.

To find this scan, open the Google homepage, click on More, then select  Book Search. Next enter ‘Lowth Sermons’ in the search box, and it will find, amongst other things, Peter Hall’s book.

Anyone reading this account of Lowth’s career who has a particular interest in his grammar is, I’m afraid, likely to be disappointed. There is only one short paragraph that mentions the grammar at all (see page 24). The work for which Robert Lowth is best known, and most often written about, is his series of lectures delivered at Oxford University about Sacred Hebrew Poetry. Having said that, I don’t think there can be much doubt that, 245 years later, it is his grammar that has had the greatest effect on greatest number of people. Sadly this is something he gets few thanks for from current generations.

A bibliographic approach to the study of 18th century grammars

María Rodríguez-Gil and Nuria Yáñez-Bouza  are currently carrying out bibliographic research on the eighteenth-century grammatical tradition and they would like to request your collaboration. They have prepared a brief questionnaire, where you will find more information about our study. They would be very grateful if you could take some time to complete it and would return it to them by email (for details, see attached file). Download file