The Influence And Method Of English Studies -- By: W. G. T. Shedd

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 013:50 (Apr 1856)
Article: The Influence And Method Of English Studies
Author: W. G. T. Shedd


The Influence And Method Of English Studies

William G. T. Shedd

That the philological structure and history of the English language is a branch of investigation very greatly neglected by all to whom this tongue is vernacular, will hardly be questioned. If one examines the public or private libraries of this country, he finds them better supplied with works in almost every other department of knowledge, than with those that relate to the origin and early progress of the literature of the Englishman and Anglo-American. How little is known of the lexicographical labors of Junius, Lye, and Spelman; of the critical researches of Hearne, Ritson, Pinkerton, Tyrwhitt, Wright, and Price; and even of the histories of Warton, and Ellis. The publications of the Camden and Percy societies rarely make their way over the Atlantic. The small but increasing stock of Anglo-Saxon literature, well edited by scholars like Conybeare, Thorpe, Bosworth, Kemble, and Cardale, and still more, the Anglo-Norman literature brought to light by Michel and other French scholars, is a terra incognita to many whose explorations in classic and oriental regions have been extensive and accurate. Notwithstanding the genial and thorough criticism of Coleridge, Hazlitt, and Schlegel, it can hardly be affirmed that the literature of the Elizabethan era, has made that profound impression upon the thinking and composition of the present age, which its intrinsic merits entitle it to. That hearty and idiomatic, yet flowing and graceful, style of English, which is one result of the study of this portion of the language and literature, is confined to a comparatively small circle of writers. The common English diction of the day, has been formed more by the age of Queen Anne, than by that of Shakspeare and Bacon. The orator, reviewer, and paragraphist, puts on the “learned sock,” not of Jonson the

dramatist, but of Johnson the moralist, and the pompous and measured diction of Gibbon, is preferred to the more natural and flexible, but not less finished and musical, phrase of Hooker.

The critical study of the English language and literature, as a special discipline in the general system of modern education, is consequently a topic that needs to be frequently and earnestly discussed, in order that a proper enthusiasm may exist in reference to it. The readers of this journal will bear testimony, that, from time to time, attention has been directed to this department of inquiry; and it is in the line of these preceding efforts that we would labor, and move forward.

The English language is the language into which we are born, and the English literature is the literature in which we are brought up. From the beginning of our exis...

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