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THE LIBRARY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LOS ANGELES GIFT Perigord -: --■ • ^ Vf'-,\ • r. Digitized by tine Internet Arcliive in 2008 witli funding from IVIicrosoft Corporation littp:// OOtren ^^Aii9/^^^^.- ENGLISH PAST AND PRESENT ENGLISH PAST AND PRESENT BY RICHARD CHENEVIX TRENCH, D. ARCHBISHOP FOURTEENTH EDITION REVISED AND IN PART REWRITTEN BY A. The book (the third edition, revised) lies before me at the present moment, having been care- fully treasured as a precious relic of the past. But this knowledge, like all other knowledge which is worth attaining, is only to be attained at the price of labour and pains.
IT is exactly thirty years ago since I was first introduced to Trench's ' English Past and Present' I remember the day as if it was yesterday — it was some day in June 1859 — when my schoolmaster, Charles Pritchard, the present Savilian Professor of Astronomy in the University of Oxford, put into my hands ' English Past and Present,' not as a class-book, but as a book recommended for private reading. Compare what Milton has said on this matter : Verba enim partim inscita Duty to 0717' Own Toiig7ie.
PAGE The English Vocabulary r LECTURE IL English as it might have been .... So may we hope to be ourselves guardians of its purity, and 4 The English Vocabtdary. not corrupters of it; to introduce, it may be, others into an intelligent knowledge of that, with which we shall have ourselves more than a merely superficial acquaintance; to bequeath it to those who come after us not worse than we received it ourselves.
To know concerning this language, the stages which it has gone through, the sources from which its riches have been derived, the gains which it has made or is now making, the perils which are threatening it, the losses which it has sustained, the capabilities which may be yet latent in it, waiting to be evoked, the points in which it transcends other tongues, the points in which it comes short of them, all this may well be the object of worthy ambition to every one of us.
vii false or doubtful etymologies ; a great number of corrections have been silently made in the text and in the notes in small matters of detail. Mayhew and Skeat : Concise Diet, of Middle English, 1888. Loud and sudden revolutions attract and even com- pel observation ; but revolutions silent and gradual, although with issues far vaster in store, run their course, and it is only when their cycle is nearly or quite com- pleted, that men perceive what mighty transforming forces have been at work unnoticed in their very midst.
Some portions of the book have been rewritten, and there have also been added passages in the text, as well as some footnotes. I'hus, in this matter of language, how few aged persons, even among those who retain the fullest pos- session of their faculties, are conscious of any serious difference between the spoken language of their early youth, and that of their old age ; are aware that words and ways of using words are obsolete now, which were Changes Unnoticed.
192 LECTURE VL Diminutions of the English Langv age— con^iimcci 253 LECTURE VIL Changes in the Meaning ok English Words . New ones are perpetually coined to meet the demand of an advanced understanding, of new feelings that have sprung out of the decay of old ones, of ideas 2 The English Vocabulary. that have shot forth from the summit of the tree of our knowledge ; old words meanwhile fall into disuse and become obsolete ; others have their meaning narrowed and defined ; synonyms diverge from each other and their property is parted between them; nay, whole classes of words will now and then be thrown overboard, as new feelings or perceptions of analogy gain ground.
And as it is with ideas, so it is with their symbols, words.
The following is a list of authorities referred to in the editorial additions. It is not the less certain, considering the multitude of words which have fallen into oblivion during these four or five hundred years, that there must have been some lives in this chain which saw those words in use at their commencement, and out of use before their close.
For, indeed, the love of our native language, what is it, in fact, but the love of our native land expressing itself in one particular direction ?
A history of the language in which all these vicissitudes should be pointed out, in which the introduction of every new word should be noted, so far as it is possible — and much may be done in this way by laborious and diligent and judicious research — in which such words as have become obsolete should be followed down to their final extinction, in which all the most remarkable words should be traced through their successive phases of meaning, and in which moreover the causes and occasions of these changes should be explained, such a work would not only abound in entertainment, but would throw more light on the development of the human mind than all the brainspun systems of metaphysics that ever were written.' These words are not my own, but the words of a greatly honoured friend and teacher, who, though we behold him now no more, still teaches, and will teach, by the wisdom of his writings, and the remembered nobleness of his life. I have put them in the forefront of ray lectures ; anticipating as they do, in the way of mas- terly sketch, all or nearly all which I shall attempt to accomplish ; and indeed drawing out the lines of very much more, to which I shall not venture to put Love of Our Own Tongue. At the same time the subject is one which, even with partial and imperfect hand Ung, will, I trust, find an answer and an echo in the hearts of all whom I address ; which every Englishman will feel of near concern and interest to himself.
Every man of education should make it the object of his unceasing concern, to preserve his lan- guage pure and entire, to speak it, so far as is in his power, in all its beauty and perfection. A nation whose language becomes rude and barbarous, must be on the brink of barbarism in regard to every- thing else.
It has been well and worthily said by an illustrious German scholar, ' The care of the national language I consider as at all times a sacred trust and a most important privilege of the higher orders of society.
I have always looked upon this event as an epoch in my life. Nay more, — it is not too much to affirm that processes modifying the English which we now write and speak, have been operating from the first day that man, being gifted with discourse of reason, projected his thought from himself, and embodied and contemplated it in his word.