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ETYMOLOGY AND SYNTAX
EXPLAINED AND ILLUSTRATED.
BY THE REV. ALEX. CROMBIE,
LL.D. F.R.S. M.R.S.L. AND F.z.s.
STATIONERS' HALL COURT.
TO THE SECOND EDITION.
The success with which the principles of any art or science are investigated, is generally proportioned to the number of those, whose labours are directed to its cultivation and improvement. Inquiry is necessarily the parent of knowledge; error itself, proceeding from discussion, leads ultimately to the establishment of truth.
Were we to estimate our progress in the knowledge of English grammar from the number of works already published on the subject, we should perhaps be prompted to infer, that in a field so circumscribed, and at the same time so often and so ably explored, no object worthy of notice could have escaped attention. And yet in this, as in every other art or science, strict examination will convince us, that, though much may have been accomplished, still much remains, to stimulate the industry, and exercise the ingenuity, of future inquirers. The author indeed is fully persuaded, that it is impossible to examine the English language with any degree of critical accuracy, and not perceive, that its syntactical principles especially are yet but imperfectly illustrated, and that there are many of its idioms, which have entirely eluded the attention of our grammarians. That these defects are all supplied by the present work, the author is far from having the vanity to believe. That he has examined a few peculiarities, and elucidated some principles, which have escaped the observation of other grammarians, he trusts the intelligent reader will remark.
The Treatise, the second edition of which now solicits the notice of the public, is intended chiefly for the improvement of those, who have made some advancement in classic literature. That an acquaintance with Greek and Latin facilitates the acquisition of every other language, and that by a knowledge of these the classical scholar is therefore materially assisted in attaining a critical acquaintance with his native tongue, it would argue extreme perversity to deny. But that an extensive knowledge of Greek and Latin is often associated with an imperfect and superficial acquaintance with the principles of the English language, is a fact, which experience demonstrates, and it would not be difficult to explain. To make any tolerable progress in a classical course, without acquiring a general knowledge of English grammar, is indeed impossible ; yet to finish that course, without any correct acquaintance with the mechanism of the English language, or any critical knowledge of its principles, is an occurrence neither singular nor surprising. No language whatever can be critically learned, but by careful study of its general structure, and peculiar principles. To assist the classical scholar in attaining a correct acquaintance with English grammar, is the chief, though not the sole, end for which the present Treatise was composed. That it is, in some degree, calculated to answer this purpose, the author, from its reception, is willing to believe.
His obligations to his predecessors in the same department of literature, he feels it his duty to acknowledge. He trusts, at the same time, that the intelligent reader will perceive, that he has neither copied with servility nor implicitly adopted the opinions of others; but has, in every question, exercised his own judgment, in observance of that respect, which all men owe to truth, and consistently, he hopes, with that deference, which is confessedly due to transcendent talents.
The Treatise, he believes, contains some original observations. That all of these deserve to be honoured with a favourable verdict in the court of Criticism, he has neither the presumption to insinuate, nor the vanity to suppose. If they be found subservient to the elucidation of any controverted point, be the ultimate decision what it may, the author will attain his aim.
The work having been composed amidst the solicitudes and distractions of a laborious profession, the author has reason to apprehend, that some verbal inaccuracies may have escaped his attention. But, in whatever other respects the diction may be faulty, he trusts at least, that it is not chargeable with obscurity; and that he may be able to say, in the humble language of the poet,
Ergo, fungar vice cotis, acutum
Hor. Art. Poet.