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

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A gentle knight was pricking on the plain;

which knight, far from being tame and fearful, was so stout that

Nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.

To prove that we had impaired the energy of our language by false refinement, he mentioned the following words, which, though widely different in signification, are pronounced exactly in the same manner wright, write, right, rite; but among the Scots, these words are as different in pronunciation, as they are in meaning and orthography; and this is the case with many others which he mentioned by way of illustration. — He, moreover, took notice, that we had (for what reason he could never learn) altered the sound of our vowels from that which is retained by all the nations in Europe; an alteration which rendered the language extremely difficult to foreigners, and made it almost impracticable to lay down general rules for orthography and pronunciation. Besides, the vowels were no longer simple sounds in the mouth of an Englishman, who pronounced both i and u as dipthongs. Finally, he affirmed, that we mumbled our speech with our lips and teeth, and ran the words together without pause or distinction, in such a manner, that a foreigner, though he understood English tolerably well, was often obliged to have recourse to a Scotchman to explain what a native of England had said in his own language.

The truth of this remark was confirmed by Mr Bramble from his own experience; but he accounted for it on another principle. He said, the same observation would hold in all languages; that a Swiss talking French was more easily understood than a Parisian, by a foreigner who had not made himself master of the language; because every language had its peculiar recitative, and it would always require more pains, attention, and practice, to acquire both the words and the music, than to learn the words only; and yet no body would deny, that the one was imperfect without the other: he therefore apprehended, that the Scotchman and the Swiss were better understood by learners, because they spoke the words only, without the music, which they could not rehearse. One would imagine this check might have damped the North Briton; but it served only to agitate his humour for disputation. — He said, if every nation had its own recitative or music, the Scots had theirs, and the Scotchman who had not yet acquired the cadence of the English, would naturally use his own in speaking their language; therefore, if he was better understood than the native, his recitative must be more intelligible than that of the English; of consequence, the dialect of the Scots had an advantage over that of their fellow-subjects, and this was another strong presumption that the modern English had corrupted their language in the article of pronunciation.

The lieutenant was, by this time, become so polemical, that every time he opened his mouth out flew a paradox, which he maintained with all the enthusiasm of altercation; but all his paradoxes favoured strong of a partiality for his own country. He undertook to prove that poverty was a blessing to a nation; that oatmeal was preferable to wheat-flour; and that the worship of Cloacina, in temples which admitted both sexes, and every rank of votaries promiscuously, was a filthy species of idolatry that outraged every idea of delicacy and decorum. I did not so much wonder at his broaching these doctrines, as at the arguments, equally whimsical and ingenious, which he adduced in support of them.

In fine, lieutenant Lismahago is a curiosity which I have not yet sufficiently perused; and therefore I shall be sorry when we lose his company, though, God knows, there is nothing very amiable in his manner or disposition. — As he goes directly to the south-west division of Scotland, and we proceed in the road to Berwick, we shall part tomorrow at a place called Feltonbridge; and, I dare say, this separation will be very grievous to our aunt Mrs Tabitha, unless she has received some flattering assurance of his meeting her again. If I fail in my purpose of entertaining you with these unimportant occurrences, they will at least serve as exercises of patience, for which you are indebted to

Yours always,
J. MELFORD
MORPETH, July 13.