Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 50

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My uncle's jaws began to quiver with indignation. — He said, the scribblers of such infamous stuff deserved to be scourged at the cart's tail for disgracing their country with such monuments of malice and stupidity. — 'These vermin (said he) do not consider, that they are affording their fellow subjects, whom they abuse, continual matter of self-gratulation, as well as the means of executing the most manly vengeance that can be taken for such low, illiberal attacks. For my part, I admire the philosophic forbearance of the Scots, as much as I despise the insolence of those wretched libellers, which is akin to the arrogance of the village cock, who never crows but upon his own dunghill.' The captain, with an affectation of candour, observed, that men of illiberal minds were produced in every soil; that in supposing those were the sentiments of the English in general, he should pay too great a compliment to is own country, which was not of consequence enough to attract the envy of such a flourishing and powerful people.

Mrs Tabby broke forth again in praise of his moderation, and declared that Scotland was the soil which produced every virtue under heaven. When Lismahago took his leave for the night, she asked her brother if the captain was not the prettiest gentleman he had ever seen; and whether there was not something wonderfully engaging in his aspect? — Mr Bramble having eyed her sometime in silence, 'Sister (said he), the lieutenant is, for aught I know, an honest man and a good officer — he has a considerable share of understanding, and a title to more encouragement than he seems to have met with in life; but I cannot, with a safe conscience, affirm, that he is the prettiest gentleman I ever saw; neither can I descern any engaging charm in his countenance, which, I vow to God, is, on the contrary, very hard-favoured and forbidding.'

I have endeavoured to ingratiate myself with this North-Briton, who is really a curiosity; but he has been very shy of my conversation ever since I laughed at his asserting that the English tongue was spoke with more propriety at Edinburgh than at London. Looking at me with a double squeeze of souring in his aspect, 'If the old definition be true (said he), that risibility is the distinguishing characteristic of a rational creature, the English are the most distinguished for rationality of any people I ever knew.' I owned, that the English were easily struck with any thing that appeared ludicrous, and apt to laugh accordingly; but it did not follow, that, because they were more given to laughter, they had more rationality than their neighbours: I said, such an inference would be an injury to the Scots, who were by no means defective in rationality, though generally supposed little subject to the impressions of humour.

The captain answered, that this supposition must have been deduced either from their conversation or their compositions, of which the English could not possibly judge with precision, as they did not understand the dialect used by the Scots in common discourse, as well as in their works of humour. When I desired to know what those works of humour were, he mentioned a considerable number of pieces, which he insisted were equal in point of humour to any thing extant in any language dead or living — He, in particular, recommended a collection of detached poems, in two small volumes, intituled, The Ever-Green, and the works of Allan Ramsay, which I intend to provide myself with at Edinburgh. — He observed, that a North-Briton is seen to a disadvantage in an English company, because he speaks in a dialect that they can't relish, and in a phraseology which they don't understand. — He therefore finds himself under a restraint, which is a great enemy to wit and humour. — These are faculties which never appear in full lustre, but when the mind is perfectly at ease, and, as an excellent writer says, enjoys her elbow-room.

He proceeded to explain his assertion that the English language was spoken with greater propriety at Edinburgh than in London. He said, what we generally called the Scottish dialect was, in fact, true, genuine old English, with a mixture of some French terms and idioms, adopted in a long intercourse betwixt the French and Scotch nations; that the modern English, from affectation and false refinement, had weakened, and even corrupted their language, by throwing out the guttural sounds, altering the pronunciation and the quantity, and disusing many words and terms of great significance. In consequence of these innovations, the works of our best poets, such as Chaucer, Spenser, and even Shakespeare, were become, in many parts, unintelligible to the natives of South Britain, whereas the Scots, who retain the antient language, understand them without the help of a glossary. 'For instance (said he), how have your commentators been puzzled by the following expression in the Tempest — He's gentle and not fearful: as if it was a paralogism to say, that being gentle, he must of course be courageous: but the truth is, one of the original meanings, if not the sole meaning, of that word was, noble, high-minded; and to this day, a Scotch woman, in the situation of the young lady in the Tempest, would express herself nearly in the same terms — Don't provoke him; for being gentle, that is, high-spirited, he won't tamely bear an insult. Spenser, in the very first stanza of his Fairy Queen, says,