A Grammar of the English Language provides a fascinating snapshot of the language and grammar of the early nineteenth century. It was a controversial book, first published in 1818 in New York and in 1819 in London. The author, William Cobbett (1763-1835), was a champion of the poor who had taught himself to read and write. His radicalism brought him into conflict with the authorities on many occasions. He reserved a special kind of venom for politicians, men of letters like Dr. Johnson, the lexicographer, and for Fellows of English Colleges, "who live by the sweat of other people's brows."
Here, he criticizes these men for their poor command of English, which was (he says) no better than that of chambermaids, hucksters, and plough-boys. Written in the form of letters and lessons to his fourteen-year-old son, the Grammar is the most colorful and entertaining treatment of the subject ever published. It gives advice on syntax and etymology, including "false grammar taken from Dr. Johnson's writing," "errors and nonsense in a king's speech," and "six lessons, intended to prevent Statesman from using false grammar."
This edition includes a new introduction by Lord Hattersley, which gives the book a modern perspective.
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William Cobbett (1763-1835), author of Rural Rides, is (in the words of G. K. Chesterton) 'the noblest English example of the noble calling of the agitator'. A champion of the poor who had taught himself to read and write, his radicalism brought him into conflict with the authorities on many occasions, but he reserved a special kind of venom for politicians like Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of Wellington, for men of letters like Dr Johnson, the lexicographer, and for Fellows of English Colleges, 'who live by the sweat of other people's brows'. He became well known as a radical socialist in his time, and was imprisoned for two years for writing against flogging in the army. He became an MP (for Oldham) in 1832 after the First Reform Bill.
"...the noblest English example of the noble calling of the agitator"--G. K. Chesterton
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