Open main menu

Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/92

This page needs to be proofread.


6 2 INTRODUCTION.

ancient rivals, brought as it had been by a long succession of illustrious authors to a high decree of perfection. 1 It was to the volumes of Addison that the Scotch student was henceforth to give his days and nights. To read English was an art soon acquired, but to write it, and still more to speak it correctly, demanded a long and laborious study. Very few, with all their perseverance, succeeded like Mallet in "clearing their tongues from their native pronunciation." Even to understand the language when spoken was only got by practice. A young lady from the country, who was reproached with having seen on the Edinburgh stage some loose play, artlessly replied : " Indeed they did nothing wrong that I saw ; and as for what they said, it was high English, and I did not understand it." Dr. Beattie studied English from books like a dead language. To write it correctly cost him years of labour.' " The conversation of the Edinburgh authors," said Topham, " showed that they wrote English as a foreign tongue," for their spoken language was so unlike their written. 5 Some men were as careless of their accent as they were careful of their words. Hume's tone was always broad Scotch, but Scotch words he care- fully avoided.' 1 Others indulged in two styles and two accents, one for familiar life, the other for the pulpit, the court of Session, or the professor's chair. In all this there was a great and a strange variety Lord Kames, for instance, in his social hour spoke pure Scotch, though "with a tone not displeasing from its vulgarity ; " on the Bench his language approached to English. 7 His brother judge, Lord Auchinleck, on the other hand, clung to his mother tongue. He would not smooth or round his periods, or give up his broad Scotch, however vulgar it was accounted. The sturdy old fellow felt, no doubt, a contempt for that " compound of affecta- tion and pomposity " which some of his countrymen spoke a language which "no Englishman could understand." In their attempt to get rid of their accent they too often arrived at the young lady's High English, a mode of speaking far enough removed no doubt from the Scotch, but such as " made ' the fools who used it ' truly ridiculous." ' There were others who were far more suc-

' Scotland and Scotsmen in the Eighteenth B Hume's Letters to Strahan, p. 6.

Century, i. 169. ' Scotland and Scotsmen, etc., i. 211, ii. 544;

'* Johnson's Works, viii. 464. and Tytler's Life of Lord Kames, ii. 240.

3 Scotland and Scotsmen, etc., ii. 63. * Scotland and Scotsmen, etc., i. 167-170, ii.

4 Forbes' Life aj Beattie, p. 243. 543.

5 Letters from Edinburgh, p. 55. a Boswell's fohnson, ii. 159. Lord Jeffrey was

�� �