Item of the Day: A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings (1790)

Full Title: A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings. On Moral, Historical, Political and Literary Subjects. By Noah Webster, Jun. Attorney at Law. Printed at Boston, for the author, by I. Thomas and E. T. Andrews . . . MDCCXC. [1790]

[The following text has been transcribed exactly as it appears in the preface. No corrections or alterations have been made to grammar or spelling]. 

PREFACE.

The following Collection consists of Essays and Fugitiv Peeces, ritten at various times, and on different occasions, az wil appeer by their dates and subjects. Many of them were dictated at the moment, by the impulse of impressions made by important political events, and abound with a correspondent warmth of expression. This freedom of language wil be excused by the frends of the revolution and of good guvernment, who wil recollect the sensations they hav experienced, amidst the anarky and distraction which succeeded the cloze of the war. On such occasions a riter wil naturally giv himelf up to hiz feelings, and hiz manner of riting wil flow from hiz manner of thinking.

Most of thoze peeces, which hav appeered before in periodical papers and Magazeens, were published with fictitious signatures; for I very erly discuvered, that altho the name of an old and respectable karacter givs credit and consequence to hiz ritings, yet the name of a yung man iz often prejudicial to hiz performances. By conceeling my name, the opinions of men hav been prezerved from an undu bias arizing from personal prejudices, the faults of the ritings hav been detected, and their merit in public estimation ascertained.

The favorable reception given to a number of theze Essays by an indulgent public, induced me to publish them in a volum, with such alterations and emendations, az I had heerd suggested by frends or indifferent reeders, together with some manuscripts, that my own wishes led me to hope might be useful.

During the course of ten or twelv yeers, I hav been laboring to correct popular errors, and to assist my yung brethren in the road to truth and virtue; my publications for theze purposes hav been mumerous; much time haz been spent, which I do not regret, and much censure incurred, which my hart tells me I do not dezerv. The influence of a yung writer cannot be so powerful or extensiv az that of an established karacter; but I hav ever thot a man’s usefulness depends mor on exertion than on talents. I am attached to America by berth, education and habit; but abuv all, by a philosophical view of her situation, and the superior advantages she enjoys, for augmenting the sum of social happiness.

I should hav added another volum, had not recent experience convinced me, that few large publications in this country wil pay a printer, much less an author. Should the Essays here presented to the public, proov undezerving of notice, I shal, with cheerfulness, resign my other papers to oblivion.

The reeder wil obzerv that the orthography of the volume iz not uniform. The reezon iz, that many of the essays hav been published before, in the common orthography, and it would hav been a laborious task to copy the whole, for the sake of changing the spelling.

In the essays ritten within the last yeer, a considerable change of spelling iz introduced by way of experiment. This liberty waz taken by the writers before the age of queen Elizabeth, and to this we are indeted for the preference of modern spelling over that of Gower and Chaucer. The man who admits that the change of housoonde, mynde, ygone, moneth into husband, mind, gone, month, iz an improovment, must acknowlege also the riting of helth, breth, rong, tung, munth, to be an improovment. There iz no alternativ. Every possible reezon that could ever be offered for altering the spelling of wurds, still exists in full force; and if a gradual reform should not be made in our language, it wil proove that we are less under the influence of reezon than our ancestors.

Hartford, June, 1790.

 

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Filed under 1790's, Culture, Early Republic, Education, Eighteenth century, Language, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

One response to “Item of the Day: A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings (1790)

  1. Pingback: Spelling and Reading in English « educating alice

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