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Division of the art of Transmitting into the doctrine concerning
the Organ of Discourse, the doctrine concerning the Method of Discourse, and the doctrine concerning the Illustration of Discourse. Division of the doctrine concerning the organ of discourse into the doctrine concerning the Notations of Things, concerning Speech, and concerning Writing; whereof the two first constitute Grammar, and are divisions of it. Division of the doctrine concerning the notations of things into Hieroglyphics and Real Characters. Second division of Grammar into Literary and Philosophic. Reference of Poesy in respect of metre to the doctrine concerning Speech. Reference of the
doctrine concerning Ciphers to the doctrine concerning Writing. It is permitted to every man (excellent King) to make merry with himself and his own matters. Who knows then but this work of mine is copied from a certain old book found in the most famous library of St. Victor, of which Master Francis Rabelais made a catalogue ? For there is a book there entitled “ The Ant-hill of Arts.” And certainly I have raised up here a little heap of dust, and stored under it a great many grains of sciences and arts; into which the ants may creep and rest for a while, and then prepare themselves for fresh labours. Now the wisest of kings refers sluggards to the ants; and for my part I hold all men for sluggards who care only to use what they have got, without preparing for new seedtimes and new harvests of knowledge.
Let us now proceed to the art of Transmitting, or of producing and expressing to others those things which have been
invented, judged, and laid up in the memory; which I will call by a general name the Art of Transmission. This art includes all the arts which relate to words and discourse. For although reason be as it were the soul of discourse, yet in the handling of them reason and discourse should be kept separate, no less than soul and body. The art of transmission I will divide into three parts; the doctrine concerning the Organ of Discourse, the doctrine concerning the Method of Discourse, and the doctrine concerning the Illustration or adornment of Discourse.
The doctrine concerning the Organ of Discourse, which is also called Grammar, has two parts; one relating to Speech, the other to Writing: for Aristotle says rightly that “words are the images of thoughts and letters are the images of words.” Both these I assign to Grammar. But to go a little higher up, before I come to Grammar and the parts thereof just mentioned, I must speak concerning the Organ of Transmission in general. For it seems that the art of transmission has some other children besides Words and Letters. This then may be laid down as a rule; that whatever can be divided into differences sufficiently numerous to explain the variety of notions (provided those differences be perceptible to the sense) may be made a vehicle to convey the thoughts of one man to another. For we see that nations which understand not one another's language carry on their commerce well enough by means of gestures. And in the practice of some who had been deaf and dumb from their birth and were otherwise clever, I have seen wonderful dialogues carried on between them and their friends who had learned to understand their gestures. Moreover it is now well known that in China and the provinces of the furthest East there are in use at this day certain real characters, not nominal; characters, I mean, which represent neither letters nor words, but things and notions; insomuch that a number of nations whose languages are altogether different, but who agree in the use of such characters (which are more widely received among them), communicate with each other in writing; to such an extent indeed that any book written in characters of this kind can be read off by each nation in their own language.
The Notes of Things then which carry a signification without the help or intervention of words, are of two kinds: one ex congruo, where the note has some congruity with the notion, the other ad placitum, where it is adopted and agreed upon at pleasure. Of the former kind are Hieroglyphics and Gestures; of the latter the Real Characters above mentioned. The use of Hieroglyphics is very old, and held in a kind of reverence, especially among the Egyptians, a very ancient nation. So that they seem to have been a kind of earlier born writing, and older than the very elements of letters, except perhaps among the Hebrews. Gestures are as transitory Hieroglyphics. For as uttered words fly away, but written words stand, so Hieroglyphics expressed in gestures pass, but expressed in pictures remain. For when Periander, being consulted with how to preserve a tyranny, bade the messenger follow him, and went into his garden and topped the highest flowers, hinting at the cutting off of the nobility, he made use of a Hieroglyphic just as much as if he had drawn it on paper. In the meantime it is plain that Hieroglyphics and Gestures have always some similitude to the thing signified, and are a kind of emblems. Whence I have called them “notes of things by congruity.” Real characters on the other hand have nothing emblematic in them, but are merely surds, no less than the elements of letters themselves, and are only framed ad placitum, and silently agreed on by custom. It is evident however that a vast multitude of them is wanted for writing; for there ought to be as many of them as there are radical words. This portion therefore of the doctrine of the Organ of Discourse, which relates to the Notes of Things, I set down as wanting. And although it may seem to be of no great use, since words and writing by letters are by far the most convenient organs of transmission ; yet I thought good to make some mention of it here, as a thing
I not unworthy of consideration. For we are handling here the currency (so to speak) of things intellectual, and it is not amiss to know that as moneys may be made of other material besides gold and silver, so other Notes of Things may be coined besides words and letters.
Now therefore I pass on to Grammar, which is as it were the harbinger of other sciences; an office not indeed very noble, yet very necessary; especially as sciences in our age are principally drawn from the learned languages, and are not learned in our mother tongue. Nor must it be esteemed of little dignity, seeing that it serves for an antidote against the curse of the confusion of tongues. For man still strives to renew and reintegrate himself in those benedictions of which by his fault he has been deprived. And as he arms and defends himself against the first general curse of the barrenness of the earth, and of eating bread in the sweat of his face, by the invention of all other arts; so against this second curse of the confusion of tongues he calls in the aid of Grammar; whereof the use in a mother tongue is small; in a foreign tongue more ; but most in such foreign tongues as have ceased to be vulgar tongues, and are only extant in books.
Grammar likewise is of two sorts; the one being Literary, the other Philosophical. The one is used simply for languages, that they may be learned more quickly or spoken more correctly and purely; the other ministers in a certain degree to philosophy. And here I am reminded that Cæsar wrote some books on “ Analogy;" and a doubt occurs to me, whether they handled this kind of philosophical grammar of which I speak. I suspect however that they did not contain anything very subtle or lofty; but only laid down precepts for a chaste and perfect style, not vitiated or polluted either by a bad habit of speech, or by any particular affectation; in which style himself excelled. Taking the hint however from this, I have thought of a kind of grammar which should diligently inquire, not the analogy of words with one another, but the analogy between words and things, or reason ; not going so far however as that interpretation which belongs to Logic. Certainly words are the footsteps of reason, and the footsteps tell something about the body. I will therefore give some sketch of what I mean. But I must first say that I by no means approve of that curious inquiry, which nevertheless so great a man as Plato did not despise; namely concerning the imposition and original etymology of names; on the supposition that they were not arbitrarily fixed at first, but derived and deduced by reason and according to significance; a subject elegant indeed, and pliant as wax to be shaped and turned, and (as seeming to explore the recesses of antiquity) not without a kind of reverence,- but yet sparingly true and bearing no fruit. But the noblest species of grammar, as I think, would be this: if someone well seen in a great number of tongues, learned as well as vulgar, would handle the various properties of languages ; showing in what points each excelled, in what it failed. For so not only
may languages be enriched by mutual exchanges, but the several beauties of each may be combined (as in the Venus of Apelles) into a most beautiful image and excellent model of speech itself, for the right expressing of the meanings of the mind. And at the same time there will be obtained in this way signs of no slight value but well worthy of observation (which a man would hardly think perhaps) concerning the dispositions and manners of peoples and nations, drawn from their languages. I like well that remark of Cicero's that the Greeks had no word to express the Latin ineptus ; “ because,” says he, “ that vice was so familiar among the Greeks that they did not perceive it in themselves;”! a censure worthy of the Roman gravity. And how came it that the Greeks used such liberty in composition of words, the Romans on the contrary were so strict and sparing in it? One may plainly collect from this fact that the Greeks were fitter for arts, the Romans for business: for the distinctions of arts are hardly expressed without composition of words; whereas for the transaction of business simpler words are wanted. Then again the Hebrews have such a dislike to these compositions that they had rather abuse a metaphor than introduce a compound word: and the words they use are so few and so little mixed, that one may plainly perceive from their very language that they were a Nazarite nation, separated from the rest of the nations. And is it not a fact worthy of observation (though it may be a little shock to the spirits of us moderns) that the ancient languages were full of declensions, cases, conjugations, tenses, and the like, while the modern are nearly stripped of them, and perform most of their work lazily by prepositions and verbs auxiliary? Surely a man may easily conjecture (how well so ever we think of ourselves) that the wits of the early ages were much acuter and subtler than our own. There are numberless observations of this kind, enough to fill a good volume. And therefore it is not amiss to distinguish Philosophic Grammar from Grammar Simple and Literary, and to set it down as wanting.
To Grammar also I refer ill accidents of words, of what kind soever; such as Sound, Measure, Accent. The primary formation of simple letters indeed (that is, by what percussion of the tongue, by what opening of the mouth, by what meeting of the lips, by what effort of the throat, the sound of each letter
· Cicero De Orat, ii. 4.