The Rudiments of Grammar
for the English Saxon Tongue
by Elizabeth Elstob

as I have before observ’d, it must be very difficult to imagin, how a Man can judge of a thing he knoweth nothing of, whether there can be occasion or no to consider it

It may seem surprising that the first Anglo-Saxon grammar in English was written by a woman. But consider:

On the one hand, the English universities of Elizabeth Elstob’s time didn’t admit women. The first would be London University in 1868, fully a century and a half in the future, followed by Oxford, Cambridge and Durham over the next few decades. And in each case, taking degrees—as opposed to sitting for examina­tions—came still later: 1878 for London, 1895 for Durham . . . and well into the 20th century for Oxford and Cambridge.

On the other hand, those same universities didn’t teach English—whether literature or the history of the language—and would not do so until late in the 19th century. So if your particular interest was the English language, it would have made no difference if you had a university education.

Enter Elizabeth Elstob (1683–1756). Limits on female education didn’t stop her from learning Latin and Greek, French and German. Opportunities expanded still more when she went to live with her clergyman brother—who did have the benefit of a university education. Unfortunately he died in the year her second scholarly work, the Anglo-Saxon Grammar, was published. She spent the rest of her life as a teacher, first running a small school and then as governess in the Duke of Portland’s household.

Anglo-Saxon Script

For the ebook, I have put all Anglo-Saxon—and, rarely, Gothic—into sans-serif type for consistency. (If this is your browser’s default for all text, you will simply have to pay close attention.)

The printed book used the letterforms found in manuscripts. Some are essentially the same as those used today; a few are significantly different. Font support for some of these characters is spotty. This version of the ebook is for people whose devices can’t display the letters in the second column—or if archaic letters simply make your brain tired. If you prefer to read the real thing, use the standard version instead. The two are identical in every way except the letterforms.

insular d
insular f
insular g
insular r
insular s
insular tꞆ ꞇ
wynnǷ ƿ
thatꝤ ꝥ

The letter the author calls G is properly yogh, later to be written as ȝ (lower-case) and Ȝ (upper-case). The letter she calls “double u” is wynn; she may not have known the name. For capital letters other than T and W, the printed book either uses modern letterforms, or a form that never made it into unicode at all (see page 3), so I’ve stuck with the modern forms.

There are also:

dotless iı
dotted y
ashÆ æ
ethÐ ð
thornÞ þ

but those should not cause trouble for anyone, so I have left them as printed. As far as I can make out, eth ð and thorn þ in Elstob’s book are absolutely and completely inter­changeable, although they ought to represent different sounds: voiced ð, unvoiced þ.

In the book’s font, wynn w and p look very similar:

page image showing word “spew”

When in doubt, I checked against Bosworth-Toller, available online thanks to Prague’s Charles University.


I have silently simplified and regularized headings in inflectional tables. For example,

A. Me, me, from the Goth. MIR. Acc. Us, us. Acc. Wıt, we two.
Ab. Me, for, or from me. Abl. Us, from us. Abl. Unc, unge, & uncrum, for us two.

can perfectly well be expressed as

Acc. Me, me, from the Goth. MIR. Us, us. Wıꞇ, we two.
Abl. Me, for, or from me. Us, from us. Unc, unge, & uncrum, for us two.

Finally, a few lists such as numbers and prepositions were printed as massive run-on paragraphs. I have broken them into line-by-line lists for readability.

This and That

“Dr. Hickes” is George Hickes (1642–1715), who died in the year Elstob’s Grammar was published. (Don’t be misled by the “Dr.” Academic doctorates in England were several centuries away; he was a Doctor of Divinity.)

I have supplied close-quotes where needed. As usual for its time, the book put an open-quote at the beginning of each line of a multi-line quotation, and dispensed with the close-quote.

Apostrophes are often omitted: “These Gentlemens ill Treatment” and so on.

Following the usage of the time, citations in German were printed in Fraktur. I have approximated the effect by putting them in blackletter instead.

The word “perfect” means, etymologically, “complete” or “fully done”.


This ebook is based on the 1715 edition—so far as I know, the only one there was—printed by W. Bowyer.

Typographical errors are marked with mouse-hover popups and are listed again at the end of each section. The word “invisible” means that the letter or punctuation mark is missing, but there is an appropriately sized blank space.


Elstob’s Grammar had neither hide nor hair of a Table of Contents, Index, or any other aid to navigation. Here are the main sections:


for the

English-Saxon Tongue,
First given in English:
with an

For the Study of

Being very useful towards the understanding our
ancient English Poets, and other WRITERS.

By Elizabeth Elstob.

Our Earthly Possessions are truly enough called a Patrimony, as derived to us by the Industry of our Fathers; but the Language that we Speak is our Mother-Tongue; And who so proper to play the Criticks in this as the Females.

In a Letter from a Right Reverend Prelate to the Author.


Printed by W. Bowyer: And Sold by J. Bowyer at the Rose in Ludgate-street, and C. King in Westminster-hall, 1715.


picture of coin showing Caroline of Ansbach in profile

Her Royal Highness



THIS small Treatise, which the Author once hoped to have had the Honour of dedicating to Her Royal Highness the Princess SOPHIA, a Lady endowed with all Princely Accomplishments, and particularly a most Bounteous Patroness of Letters, begs leave now most humbly to offer itself to Your Royal Highness’s gracious Acceptance, who so undoubtedly inherit all the Royal and Illustrious Qualities of that Great Lady.

Madam, it addresses itself to Your Royal Highness, congratulating Your Auspicious Arrival into England, in a Language which bears a Name that is common both to the German and English Nations, the SAXON. This will not, I presume, make it a less agreeable Present to Your Royal Highness, in whose Royal Offspring the Saxon Line is to be continued, with encrease of all Princely and Heroick Virtues. If this may seem too much a Trifle, to deserve Admittance to Your Royal Highness, it being a Treatise of Grammar, Your Royal Highness will be pleased to remember, that it hath not only been thought worthy of their Protection, but even to employ the Pens of some great Emperors and Kings. Julius Cæsar writ three Books, de Analogia, and the Emperor Charlemaign, from whom so many Renowned Princes are descended, composed a Grammar for his own Language, the ancient Francick: which is the Mother of the present German, and of near Alliance with the Anglo-Saxon, all of them confessing their Original from the Goths.

Hoping it might yield some kind of Diversion to Your Royal Highness, I have here and there interspersed some Instances, of German, Francick, and Gothick Words, whereby that Affinity is declared. I am the more in hopes of Your Royal Highness’s kind Aspect upon this little Work, after the Precedent of such Great and Royal Examples, when I understand that His Majesty, Your Royal Father, Our most gracious Sovereign, who is a great Judge and Promoter of all good Learning, doth in a more particular manner recommend the cultivating the Study of the German Antiquities; in order to the right Understanding and Illustration of which, the Knowledge of the English-Saxon Language and Antiquities, is so very necessary. I have but one thing more to add, that this Present, worthless as it is, is the humble Tribute of a Female; the First, I imagin, of the kind that hath been offer’d to Your Royal Highness: Such as it is, it desires with all Submission, to be received into Your Royal Highness’s Favourable Protection, together with the Author, who with most hearty Prayers for Your Royal Highness, and Your whole Royal House, begs leave to subscribe her self,

May it please Your Royal Highness,

Your Royal Highness’s

Most Dutiful, and Most
Obedient Humble Servant,

Elizabeth Elstob.

Notes and Corrections: Dedication

the Author once hoped to have had the Honour of dedicating to Her Royal Highness the Princess SOPHIA
[Sophia of Hanover—granddaughter of James I/VI and mother of George I—holds the dubious distinction of being the oldest heir to the British throne. She died in June 1714, aged 83. If she had held on for another two months she would have succeeded Queen Anne; instead the crown went to her son. His son, the future George II, had married Caroline of Ansbach in 1705; she is the Princess of Wales to whom the book is dedicated.]

His Majesty, Your Royal Father
[Your royal father-in-law, that is.]

i B

decorative headpiece

to the

Reverend Dr. Hickes.


SOON after the Publication of the Homily on St. Gregory, I was engaged by the Importunity of my Friends, to make a Visit to Canterbury, as well to enjoy the Conversation of my Friends and Relations there, as for that Benefit which I hoped to receive from Change of Air, and freer Breathing, which is the usual Expectation of those, who are used to a sedentary Life and Confinement in the great City, and which renders such an Excursion ii now and then excusable. In this Recess, among the many Compli­ments and kind Expressions, which their favourable Acceptance of my first Attempt in Saxon, had obtain’d for me from the Ladies, I was more particularly gratified, with the new Friendship and Conversation, of a young Lady, whose Ingenuity and Love of Learning, is well known and esteem’d, not only in that Place, but by your self: and which so far indear’d itself to me, by her promise that she wou’d learn the Saxon Tongue, and do me the Honour to be my Scholar, as to make me think of composing an English Grammar of that Language for her use. That Ladies Fortune hath so disposed of her since that time, and hath placed her at so great distance, as that we have had no Opportunity, of treating farther on this Matter, either by Discourse or Correspondence. However though a Work of a larger Extent, and which hath amply experienced your Encouragement, did for some time make me lay aside this Design, yet I did not wholly reject it. For having re-assumed this Task, and accomplish’d it in such manner as I was able, I now send it to you, for your Correction, and that Stamp of Authority, it must needs receive from a Person of such perfect and exact Judgement in these Matters, in order to make it current, and worthy of Reception from the Publick. Indeed I might well have spared my self the labour of such an Attempt, after the elaborate Work of your rich and learned Thesaurus, and the ingenious Compendium of it by Mr. Thwaites; but considering the Pleasure I my self had reaped from the Knowledge I have gained from this Original of our Mother Tongue, and that others of my own Sex, might be capable of the same Satisfaction: I resolv’d to give them the Rudiments of that Language in an English Dress. However not ’till I iii B2 had communicated to you my Design for your Advice, and had receiv’d your repeated Exhortation, and Encouragement to the Undertaking.

The Method I have used, is neither entirely new, out of a Fondness and Affectation of Novelty: nor exactly the same with what has been in use, in teaching the learned Languages. I have retain’d the old Division of the Parts of Speech, nor have I rejected the other common Terms of Grammar; I have only endeavour’d to explain them in such a manner, as to hope they may be competently understood, by those whose Education, hath not allow’d them an Acquaintance with the Grammars of other Languages. There is one Addition to what your self and Mr. Thwaites have done on thus Subject, for which you will, I imagine, readily pardon me: I have given most, if not all the Grammatical Terms in true old Saxon, from Ælfrick’s Translation of Priscian, to shew the polite Men of our Age, that the Language of their Forefathers is neither so barren nor barbarous as they affirm, with equal Ignorance and Boldness. Since this is such an Instance of its Copiousness, as is not to be found in any of the polite modern Languages; and the Latin itself is beholden to the Greek, not only for the Terms, but even the Names of Arts and Sciences, as is easily discerned in the Words, Philosophy, Grammar, Logick, Rhetorick, Geometry, Arithmetick, &c. These Gentlemens ill Treatment of our Mother Tongue has led me into a Stile not so agreeable to the Mildness of our Sex, or the usual manner of my Behaviour, to Persons of your Character, but the Love and Honour of one’s Countrey, hath in all Ages been acknowledg’d such a Virtue, as hath admitted of a Zeal even somewhat extravagant. Pro Patria mori, used to be one of the great Boasts of iv Antiquity; and even the so celebrated Magnanimity of Cato, and such others as have been called Patriots, had wanted their Praise, and their Admiration, had they wanted this Plea. The Justness and Propriety of the Language of any Nation, hath been always rightly esteem’d a great Ornament and Test of the good Sense of such a Nation; and consequently to arraign the good Sense or Language of any Nation, is to cast upon it a great Reproach. Even private Men are most jealous, of any Wound, that can be given them in their intellectual Accomplishments, which they are less able to endure, than Poverty itself or any other kind of Disgrace. This hath often occasion’d my Admiration, that those Persons, who talk so much, of the Honour of our Countrey, of the correcting, improving and ascertaining of our Language, shou’d dress it up in a Character so very strange and ridiculous: or to think of improving it to any degree of Honour and Advantage, by divesting it of the Ornaments of Antiquity, or separating it from the Saxon Root, whose Branches were so copious and numerous. But it is very remarkable how Ignorance will make Men bold, and presume to declare that unnecessary, which they will not be at the pains to render useful. Such kind of Teachers are no new thing, the Spirit of Truth itself hath set a mark upon them; Desiring to be Teachers of the Law, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm, 1 Tim. I. 7. It had been well if those wise Grammarians had understood this Character, who have taken upon them to teach our Ladies and young Gentlemen, The whole System of an English Education; they had not incurr’d those Self-contradictions of which they are guilty; they had not mention’d your self, and your incomparable Treasury of Northern Literature in so cold v and negligent a manner, as betrays too much of an invidious Pedantry: But in those Terms of Veneration and Applause which are your just Tribute, not only from the Learned of your own Countrey, but of most of the other Northern Nations, whether more or less Polite: Who would any of them have glory’d in having you their Native, who have done so much Honour to the Original of almost all the Languages in Europe.

But it seems you are not of so much Credit with these Gentlemen, who question your Authority, and have given a very visible Proof of their Ingenuity in an Instance which plainly discovers, that they cannot believe their own Eyes. “The Saxons, say they, if we may credit Dr. Hickes, had various Terminations to their Words, at least two in every Substantive singular: whereas we have no Word now in use, except the personal Names that has so. Thus Dr. Hickes has made six several Declensions of the Saxon Names: He gives them three Numbers; Singular, Dual, and Plural: We have no Dual Number, except perhaps in Both: To make this plainer, we shall transcribe the six Declensions from that Antiquary’s Grammar.” I would ask these Gentlemen, and why not credit Dr. Hickes? Is he not as much to be believ’d as those Gentlemen, who have transcribed so plain an Evidence of the six Declensions to shew the positive Unreasonableness and unwarrantable Contradiction of their Disbelief? Did he make those six Declensions? or rather, did he not find them in the Language, and take so much pains to teach others to distinguish them, who have Modesty enough to be taught? They are pleased to say we have no Word now in use that admits of Cases or Terminations. But let us ask them, what vi they think of these Words, God’s Word, Man’s Wisdom, the Smith’s Forge, and innumerable Instances more, For in God’s Word, &c. is not the Termination s a plain Indication of a Genitive Case, wherein the Saxon e is omitted? for example, Godes Word, Mannes Wısdom, Smıðes Heorð. Some will say, that were better supplied by his, or hers, as Man his Thought, the Smith his Forge; but this Mistake is justly exploded. Yet if these Gentlemen will not credit Dr. Hickes, the Saxon Writings might give them full Satisfaction. The Gospels, the Psalms, and a great part of the Bible are in Saxon, so are the Laws and Ecclesiastical Canons, and Charters of most of our Saxon Kings; these one wou’d think might deserve their Credit. But they have not had Learning or Industry enough to fit them for such Acquaintance, and are forc’d therefore to take up their Refuge with those Triflers, whose only Pretence to Wit, is to despise their Betters. This Censure will not, I imagine, be thought harsh, by any candid Reader, since their own Discovery has sufficiently declared thew Ignorance: and their Boldness, to determine things whereof they are so ignorant, has so justly fix’d upon them the Charge of Impudence. For otherwise they must needs have been ashamed to proceed in manner following. “We might give you various Instances more of the essential difference between the old Saxon and modern English Tongue, but these must satisfy any reasonable Man, that it is so great, that the Saxon can be no Rule to us; and that to understand ours, there is no need of knowing the Saxon: And tho’ Dr. Hickes must be allow’d to have been a very curious Enquirer into those obsolete Tongues, now out of use, and containing nothing valuable, yet it does by no means follow (as is plain from what has been said) vii that we are obliged to derive the Sense, Construction, or Nature of our present Language from his Discoveries.”

I would beseech my Readers to observe, the Candour and Ingenuity of these Gentlemen: They tell us, We might give you various Instances more of the essential difference between the old Saxon and modern English Tongue; and yet have plainly made it appear, that they know little or nothing of the old Saxon. So that it will be hard to say how they come to know of any such essential difference, as MUST satisfy any reasonable Man; and much more that this essential difference is so great, that the Saxon can be no Rule to us, and that to understand ours, there is no need of knowing the Saxon. What they say, that it cannot be a Rule to them, is true; for nothing can be a Rule of Direction to any Man, the use whereof he does not understand; but if to understand the Original and Etymology of the Words of any Language, be needful towards knowing the Propriety of any Language, a thing which I have never heard hath yet been denied; then do these Gentlemen stand self-condemned, there being no less than four Words, in the Scheme of Declensions they have borrowed from Dr. Hickes, now in use, which are of pure Saxon Original, and consequently essential to the modern English. I need not tell any English Reader at this Day the meaning of Smith, Word, Son, and Good; but if I tell them that these are Saxon Words, I believe they will hardly deny them to be essential to the modern English, or that they will conclude that the difference between the old English and the modern is so great, or the distance of Relation between them so remote, as that the former deserves not to be remember’d: except by such Upstarts who having no Title to viii a laudable Pedigree, are backward in all due Respect and Veneration towards a noble Ancestry.

Their great Condescension to Dr. Hickes in allowing him to have been a very curious Inquirer into those obsolete Tongues, now out of use, and containing nothing valuable in them, is a Compli­ment for which I believe you, Sir, will give me leave to assure them, that he is not at all obliged; since if it signifies any thing, it imports, no less than that he has employ’d a great deal of Time, and a great deal of Pains, to little purpose. But we must at least borrow so much Assurance from them, as to tell them, that your Friends, who consist of the most learned sort of your own Countrey-men, and of Foreigners, do not think those Tongues so obsolete and out of use, whose Significancy is so apparent in Etymology; nor do they think those Men competent Judges to declare, whether there be any thing contain’d in them valuable or not, who have made it clear, that they know not what is contain’d in them. They wou’d rather assure them, that our greatest *Divines, and Lawyers, and Historians are of another Opinion, they wou’d advise them to consult our Libraries, those of the two Universities, the Cottonian, and my Lord Treasurers; to study your whole Thesaurus, particularly your Dissertatio Epistolaris, to ix C look into Mr. Wanleys large and accurate Catalogue of Saxon Manuscripts, and so with Modesty gain a Title to the Applause of having confest their former Ignorance, and reforming their Judgment. I believe I may farther take leave to assure them, that the Doctor is as little concerned for their Inference, which they think so plain from what has been said, that they are not obliged to derive the Sense, Construction, or Nature of our present Language from his Discoveries. He desires them not to derive the Sense and Construction of which they speak, in any other manner, than that in which the Nature of the things themselves makes them appear; and so far as they are his Discoveries only, intrudes them on no Man. He is very willing they should be let alone by those, who have not Skill to use them to their own Advantage, and with Gratitude.

* Archbishops Parker, Laud, Usher, Bishop Stillingfleet, the present Bishops of Worcester, Bath and Wells, Carlisle, St. Asaph, St. Davids, Lincoln, Rochester, with many other Divines of the first Rank.

The Lord Chief Justice Cook, Mr. Lambard, Selden, Whitlock, Lord Chief Justice Hales, and Parker, Mr. Fortescue of the Temple, and others.

Leland, who writes in a Latin Style in Prose and Verse, as polite and accurate as can be boasted of by any of our modern Wits. Jocelin, Spelman, both Father and Son, Cambden, Whelock, Gibson, and many more of all Ranks and Qualities, whose Names deserve well to be mention’d with Respect, were there room for it in this place.

But to leave these Pedagogues to huff and swagger in the heighth of all their Arrogance. I cannot but think it great Pity, that in our Considerations, for Refinement of the English Tongue, so little Regard is had to Antiquity, and the Original of our present Language, which is the Saxon. This indeed is allow’d by an ingenious Person, who hath lately made some Proposals for the Refinement of the English Tongue, That the old Saxon, except in some few Variations in the Orthography, is the same in most original Words with our present English, as well as with the German and other Northern Dialects; which makes it a little surprizing to me, to find the same Gentleman not long after to say, The other Languages of Europe I know nothing of, neither is there any occasion to consider them: because, as I have before observ’d, it must be very difficult to imagin, how a Man can judge of a thing he knoweth nothing of, whether there can be x occasion or no to consider it. I must confess I hope when ever such a Project shall be taken in hand, for correcting, enlarging, and ascertaining our Language, a competent Number of such Persons will be advised with, as are knowing, not only in Saxon, but in the other Languages of Europe, and so be capable of judging how far those Languages may be useful in such a Project. The want of understanding this aright, wou’d very much injure the Success of such an Undertaking, and the bringing of it to Perfection; in denying that Assistance toward adjusting the Propriety of Words, which can only be had from the Knowledge of the Original, and likewise in depriving us of the Benefit of many useful and significant Words, which might be revived and recalled, to the Increase and Ornament of our Language, which wou’d be the more beautiful, as being more genuine and natural, by confessing a Saxon Original for their native Stock, or an Affinity with those Branches of the other Northern Tongues, which own the same Original.

The want of knowing the Northern Languages, has occasion’d an unkind Prejudice towards them: which some have introduc’d out of Rashness, others have taken upon Tradition. As if those Languages were made up of nothing else but Mono­syllables, and harsh sounding Consonants; than which nothing can be a greater Mistake. I can speak for the Saxon, Gothick, and Francick, or old Teutonick: which for aptness of compounded, and well sounding Words, and variety of Numbers, are by those learned Men that understand them, thought scarce inferior to the Greek itself. I never cou’d find my self shocked with the Harshness of those Languages, which grates so much in the Ears of those that never heard them. I never perceiv’d in the xi C2 Consonants any Hardness, but such as was necessary to afford Strength, like the Bones in a human Body, which yield it Firmness and Support. So that the worst that can be said on this occasion of our Forefathers is, that they spoke as they fought, like Men.

The Author of the Proposal, may think this but an ill Return, for the soft things he has said of the Ladies: but I think it Gratitude at least to make the Return, by doing Justice to the Gentlemen. I will not contradict the Relation of the ingenious Experiment of his vocal Ladies, tho’ I could give him some Instances to the contrary, in my Experience of those, whose Writings abound with Consonants; where Vowels must generally be understood, and appear but very rarely. Perhaps that Gentleman may be told that I have a Northern Correspondence, and a Northern Ear, probably not so fine as he may think his own to be, yet a little musical.

And now for our Monosyllables. In the Controversy concerning which, it must be examin’d, first whether the Charge which is exhibited against the Northern Languages is true, that they consist of nothing but Mono­syllables; and secondly, whether or no the Copiousness and Variety of Mono­syllables may be always justly reputed a fault, and may not sometimes as justly be thought, to be very useful and ornamental.

And first I must assert, that the ancient Northern Languages, do not wholly nor mostly consist of Mono­syllables. I speak chiefly of the Gothick, Saxon, and Teutonick. It must be confest that in the Saxon, there are many Primitive Words of one Syllable, and this to those who know the Esteem that is due to Simplicity and Plainness, in any Language, will rather be judged a Virtue than a Vice: That is, that the first Notions of things should be exprest in the plainest and simplest xii manner, and in the least compass: and the Qualities and Relations, by suitable Additions, and Composition of Primitive Words*; for which the Saxon Language is very remarkable, as has been before observed, and of which there are numerous Examples, in the following Treatise of Saxon Grammar, and infinitely more might have been added.

* Of this the Greeks give us a fair Example, when they express the Original and Author of all Things, their Πατὴρ ἀνδρῶντε θεῶντε, by their Mono­syllable Ζεύς. As the Hebrews do by יה, the Goths the Ancestors of our Saxon Progenitors by the Word GOÞ, the Saxons, old Germans, Teutons, Francick, and English, in the Mono­syllable God, the Germans Gott, and the French Dieu.

The second Enquiry is, whether or no the Copiousness and Variety of Mono­syllables may be always justly reputed a fault, and may not as justly be thought, to be very useful and ornamental? Were this a fault, it might as justly be charged upon the learned Languages, the Latin and Greek: For the Latin you have in Lilly’s Rules concerning Nouns, several Verses, made up for the most part of Mono­syllables, I mention him not as a Classick, but because the Words are Classical and Mono­syllables; and in the Greek there are several as it were, idle Mono­syllables, that have little Significancy, except to make the Numbers in Verse compleat, or to give a Fulness to their Periods, as the Verses of Homer and other Greek Poets plainly evidence: An Instance or two may suffice;

Ἐξ οὗ δὴ τα πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε.

Here are four Monosyllables in this Verse.

Τὴν δ’ ἐγὼ οὗ λύσω, πρίν μιν καὶ γῆρας ἔπεισιν.

Here are six Monosyllables, and one cutting off.


Ἀλλ’ ἴθι, μὴ μ’ ἐρέθιζε, σαώτερος ὥς κε νέηαι.

Ὅς ᾔδη τά τ᾽ ἐόντα τά τ᾽ ἐσσόμενα πρό τ᾽ ἐόντα,

Hom. Il. I. l. 70.

Here are seven Monosyllables; yet so far is Virgil from being angry with his Master Homer on this Account, that he in a manner transcribes his very Words, imitating him as near as the Latin wou’d permit;

Quæ sint, quæ fuerint, quæ mox ventura trahantur.

Here is the whole Sense of Homer exprest, and five Mono­syllables. But Mr. Dryden, who has exprest the Sense of Virgil with no less Accuracy, gives you the whole Line in Mono­syllables;

He sees what is, and was, and is to come.

Mr. Pope is equally happy in the Turn he has given to the Original, who as he is an exact Master of Criticism, so has he all those Accomplishments of an excellent Poet, that give us just Reason to hope he will make the Father of the Poets speak to us in our own Language, with all the Advantages he gave to his Works in that wherein they were first written, and the modest Opinion he prescribes to his own, and other Mens Poetical Performances, is no Discouragement to these Hopes;

Whoever thinks a faultless Piece to see,

Thinks what ne’er was, nor is, nor e’er shall be.

And Horace, while he is teaching us the Beauties in the Art of Poetry, gives no less than nine Mono­syllables in the compass of a Verse and a half;

Sed nunc non erat his locus: & fortasse cupressum

Scis simulare. Quid hoc si, &c.


Now if these are Beauties, as I doubt not but the politer Criticks will allow, I cannot see why our Language may not now and then be tolerated in using Mono­syllables, whew it is done discreetly, and sparingly; and as I do not commend any of our Moderns who contract Words into Mono­syllables to botch up their Verses, much less such as do it out of Affectation; yet certainly the use of Mono­syllables may be made to produce a charming and harmonious Effect, where they fall under a Judgment that can rightly dispose and order them. And indeed, if a Variety and Copiousness of Feet, and a Latitude of shifting and transposing Words either in Prose or Poetical Compositions, be of any use, towards the rendering such Compositions sweet, or nervous, or harmonious, according to the Exigencies of the several sorts of Stile, one wou’d think Mono­syllables to be best accommodated to all these Purposes, and according to the Skill of those who know how to manage them, to answer all the Ends, either of masculine Force, or female Tenderness; for being single you have a Liberty of placing them where, and as you please; whereas in Words of many Syllables you are more confined, and must take them as you find them, or be put upon the cruel necessity of mangling and tearing them asunder. Mr. Dryden, it is true, wou’d make us believe he had a great Aversion to Mono­syllables. Yet he cannot help making use of them sometimes in entire Verses, nor conceal his having a sort of Pride, even where he tells us he was forc’d to do it. For to have done otherwise would have been a Force on Nature, which would have been unworthy of so great a Genius, whose Care it was to study Nature, and to imitate and copy it to the Life; and it is not improbable, that there might be somewhat of a latent Delicacy and Niceness in this xv Matter, which he chose rather to dissemble, than to expose, to the indiscreet Management of meaner Writers. For in the first Line of his great Work the Æneis, every Word is a Mono­syllable; and tho’ he makes a seeming kind of Apology, yet he cannot forbear owning a secret Pleasure in what he had done. “My first Line in the Æneis, says he, is not harsh.

“Arms and the Man I sing, who forc’d by Fate.

“But a much better Instance may be given from the last Line of Manilius, made English by our learned and judicious Mr. Creech;

“Nor could the World have born so fierce a Flame.

“Where the many liquid Consonants are placed so artfully, that they give a pleasing Sound to the Words, tho’ they are all of one Syllable.”

It is plain from these last Words, that the Subject-matter, Mono­syllables, is not so much to be complain’d of; what is chiefly to be requir’d, is of the Poet, that he be a good Workman, in forming them aright, and that he place them artfully: and, however Mr. Dryden may desire to disguise himself, yet, as he some where says, Nature will prevail. For see with how much Passion he has exprest himself towards these two Verses, in which the Poet has not been sparing of Mono­syllables: “I am sure, says he, there are few who make Verses, have observ’d the Sweetness of these two Lines in Coopers Hill;

“Tho deep, yet clear; tho gentle, yet not dull;

“Strong without Rage, without o’erflowing full.


“And there are yet fewer that can find the reason of that Sweetness, I have given it to some of my Friends in Conversation, and they have allow’d the Criticism to be just.”

You see, Sir, this great Master had his Reserves, and this was one of the Arcana, to which every Novice was not admitted to aspire; this was an Entertainment only for his best Friends, such as he thought worthy of his Conversation; and I do not wonder at it, for he was acquainted not only with the Greek and Latin Poets, but with the best of his own Countrey, as well of ancient as of latter times, and knew their Beauties and Defects: and tho’ he did not think himself obliged to be lavish, in dispersing the Fruits of so much Pains and Labour at random, yet was he not wanting in his Generosity to such as deserved his Friendship, and in whom he discern’d a Spirit capable of improving the Hints of so great a Master. To give greater Probability to what I have said concerning Mono­syllables, I will give some Instances, as well from such Poets as have gone before him, as those which have succeeded him. It will not be taken amiss by those who value the Judgment of Sir Philip Sydney, and that of Mr. Dryden, if I begin with Father Chaucer.

Er it was Day, as was her won to do.


And but I have her Mercy and her Grace,

That I may seen her at the leste way;

I nam but deed there nis no more to say.

xvii D


Alas, what is this wonder Maladye?

For heate or colde, for colde of heate I dye,

Chaucer’s first Book of Troylus, fol. 159. b.

And since we are a united Nation, and he as great a Poet, considering his time, as this Island hath produced, I will with due Veneration for his Memory, beg leave to cite the learned and noble Prelate, Gawen Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld in Scotland, who in his Preface to his judicious and accurate Translation of Virgil, p. 4. says,

Nane is, nor was, nor zit sal be, trowe I,

Had, has, or sal have, sic craft in Poetry:

Again, p. 5.

Than thou or I, my Freynde, quhen we best wene.

But before, at least contemporary with Chaucer, we find Sir John Gower, not baulking Mono­syllables;

Myne herte is well the more glad

To write so as he me bad,

And eke my Fear is well the lasse.

To Henry the Fourth.

King Salomon which had at his asking

Of God, what thyng him was leuest crave.

He chase Wysedom unto governyng

Of Goddes Folke, the whiche he wolde save:

And as he chase it fyl him for to have,


For through his Witte, while that his Reigne laste,

He gate him Peace, and Rest, into his laste.


Peace is the chefe of al the Worldes Welth,

And to the Heven it ledeth eke the way,

Peace is of Soule and Lyfe the Mannes Helth,

Of Pestylence, and doth the Warre away,

My Liege Lord take hede of that I say.

If Warre may be lefte, take Peace on Hande

Which may not be without Gaddes Sande*.

* Besides the Purpose, for which these Verses are here cited, it may not be amiss to observe from some Instances of Words contain’d in them, how necessary, at least useful, the Knowledge of the Saxon Tongue is, to the right understanding our Old English Poets, and other Writers. For example, leuest, this is the same with the Saxon leofost, most beloved, or desirable. Goddes Folke, not God his Folk, this has plainly the Remains of the Saxon Genitive Case. Sande, this is a pure Saxon Word, signifying Mission, or being sent. See the Saxon Homily on the Birth Day of St. Gregory, p. 2. He ðurh hıs ræde & sande us fram deofles bıggengum ætbræd. He through his Counsel and Commission rescued us from the Worship of the Devil.

Nor were the French, however more polite they may be thought, than we are said to be, more scrupulous in avoiding them, if these Verses are upon his Monument;

En toy qui es fitz de Dieu le Pere,

Sauue soit, qui gist sours cest pierre.

This will be said to be old French, let us see whether Boileau will help us out, who has not long since writ the Art of Poetry;

xix D2

Mais moi, grace au Destin, qui n’ai ni feu ne lieu,

Je me loge où je puis, & comme il plaist à Dieu. Sat. vi.

And in that which follows,

Et tel, en vous lisant, admire chaque traité,

Qui dans le fond de l’ame, & vous craint & vous hait.

Let Lydgate, Chaucer’s Scholar also be brought in for a Voucher;

For Chaucer that my master was and knew

What did belong to sorting Verse and Prose,

Ne’er stumbled at small faults, nor yet did view

With scornful Eye the Works and Books of those

That in his time did write, nor yet would taunt

At any Man, to fear him or to daunt.

Tho’ the Verse is somewhat antiquated, yet the Example ought not to be despised by our modern Criticks, especially those who have any Respect for Chaucer.

I might give more Instances out of John Harding, and our good old Citizen, Alderman Fabian, besides many others: but out of that Respect to the nice Genij of our Time, which they seldom allow to others, I will hasten to the Times of greater Politeness, and desire that room may be made, and attention given to a Person of no less Wit than Honour, the Earl of Surrey, who at least had all the Elegancy of a gentle Muse, that may deserve the Praises of our Sex.

Her Praise I tune whose Tongue doth tune the Spheres,

And gets new Muses in her Hearers Ears.

Stars fall to fetch fresh Light from her rich Eyes,

Her bright Brow drives the Sun to Clouds beneath.



O Glass! with too much Joy my Thoughts thou greets.

And again upon the Chamber where his admired Geraldine was born;

O! if Elyzium be above the Ground,

Then here it is, where nought but Joy is found.

And Michael Drayton, who had a Talent fit to imitate, and to celebrate so great a Genius, of all our English Poets, seems best to have understood the sweet and harmonious placing of Mono­syllables, and has practised it with so great a Variety, as discovers in him a peculiar Delight, even to Fondness; for which however, I cannot blame him, notwithstanding this may be reputed the Vice of our Sex, and in him be thought effeminate. But let the Reader judge for himself;

Care draws on Care, Woe comforts Woe again,

Sorrow breeds Sorrow, one Griefe brings forth twaine,

If live or dye, as thou doost, so do I,

If live, I live, and if thou dye, I dye;

One Hart, one Love; one Joy, one Grief, one Troth,

One Good, one Ill, one Life, one Death to both.


Where as thou cam’st unto the Word of Love,

Even in thine Eyes I saw how Passion strove;

That snowy Lawn which covered thy Bed,

Me thought lookt white, to see thy cheeke so red,

Thy rosye cheeke oft changing in my sight,

Yet still was red to see the Lawn so white:


The little Taper which should give the Light,

Me thought waxt dim, to see thy Eye so bright.


Your Love and Hate is this, I now do prove you,

You Love in Hate, by Hate to make me love you.

And to the Countess of Bedford, one of his great Patronesses;

Sweet Lady yet, grace this poore Muse of mine,

Whose Faith, whose Zeal, whose Life, whose All is thine.

The next that I shall mention, is taken out of an ingenious Poem, entituled, The Tale of the Swans, written by William Vallans in blank Verse in the time of Queen Elizabeth; for the reprinting of which, we are obliged to that ingenious and most industrious Preserver and Restorer of Antiquities, Mr. Thomas Hearne of Oxford;

Among the which the merrie Nightingale

With swete, and swete (her Brest again a Thorne.)

In another Place,

And in the Launde, hard by the Parke of Ware.


To Ware he comes, and to the Launde he flies.


And in this Pompe they hie them to the Head.


I come now to the incomparable Spencer, against whose Judgment and Practice, I believe Scarce any Man will be so bold as to oppose himself;

Assure your self, it fell not all to Ground;

For all so dear as Life is to my Heart,

I deem your Love, and hold me to you bound.


Go say his Foe thy Shielde with his doth bear.


More old than Jove, whom thou at first didst breed.


And now the Prey of Fowls in Field he lies.

Nor must Ben. Johnson be forgotten;

Thy Praise or Dispraise is to me alike;

One doth not stroke me, nor the other strike.


Curst be his Muse, that could lye dumb, or hid

To so true Worth, though thou thy self forbid.

In this Train of Voters for Monosyllables, the inimitable Cowley marches next, whom we must not refuse to hear;

Yet I must on; what Sound is’t strikes mine Ear?

Sure I Fames Trumpet hear.

And a little after,

Come my best Friends, my Books, and lead me on;

’Tis time that I were gone.


Welcome, great Stagirite, and teach me now

All I was born to know.

And commending Cicero, he says,

Thou art the best of Orators; only he

Who best can praise thee, next must be.

And of Virgil thus,

Who brought green Poesy to her perfect Age,

And made that Art, which was a Rage.

And in the beginning of the next Ode, he wou’d not certainly have apply’d himself to WIT in the harsh Cadence of Mono­syllables, had he thought them so very harsh;

Tell me, O tell, what kind of thing is Wit,

Thou who Master art of it.


In a true Piece of Wit all things must be

Yet all things there agree.

But did he believe such Concord to be inconsistent with the use of Mono­syllables; he had surely banished them from these two Lines; and were I to fetch Testimonies out of his Writings, I might pick a Jury of Twelve out of every Page.

And now comes Mr. Waller, and what does he with his Mono­syllables, but,

Give us new Rules, and set our Harp in Tune.

And that honourable Peer whom he commends, the Lord Roscommon thus keeps him in Countenance;

Be what you will, so you be still the same;


And again,

In her full Flight, and when she shou’d be curb’d.

Soon after,

Use is the Judge, the Law, and Rule of Speech.

And by and by,

We weep and laugh, as we see others do,

He only makes me sad who shews the way:

But if you act them ill, I sleep or laugh.

The next I shall mention is my Lord Orrery, who, as Mr. Anthony Wood says, was a great Poet, Statesman, Soldier, and great every thing which merits the Name of Great and Good. In his Poem to Mrs. Philips, he writes thus;

For they imperfect Trophies to you raise,

You deserve Wonder, and they pay but Praise;

A Praise which is as short of your great due,

As all which yet have writ come short of you.


In Pictures none hereafter will delight,

You draw more to the Life in black and white;

The Pencil to your Pen must yield the Place,

This draws the Soul, where that draws but the Face.

But having thank’d these noble Lords for their Suffrage, we will proceed to some other Witnesses of Quality: And first I beg leave to appeal to my Lord Duke of Buckinghamshire, in bes Translation of The Temple of Death;

xxv E

Her Chains were Marks of Honour to the Brave,

She made a Prince when e’er she made a Slave.


By wounding me, she learnt the fatal Art,

And the first Sigh she had, was from my Heart.

My Lord Hallifax’s Muse hath been very indulgent to Mono­syllables, and no Son of Apollo will dare to dispute his Authority in this Matter. Speaking of the Death of King Charles the Second, and his Improvement of Navigation, and Shipping; he says,

To ev’ry Coast, with ready Sails are hurl’d,

Fill us with Wealth, and with our Fame the World.


Us from our Foes, and from our selves did shield.


As the stout Oak, when round his Trunk the Vine

Does in soft Wreaths, and amorous Foldings twine.

And again,

In Charles, so good a Man and King, we see,

A double Image of the Deity.

Oh! Had he more resembled it! Oh why

Was he not still more like; and cou’d not die?

My Lord Landsdown’s Muse, which may claim her Seat in the highest Point of Parnassus, gives us these Instances of her Sentiments in our Favour;

So own’d by Heaven, less glorious far was he,

Great God of Verse, than I, thus prais’d by thee.


Again on Mira’s singing,

The Slave that from her Wit or Beauty flies,

If she but reach him with her Voice, he dies.

In such noble Company, I imagin Mr. Addison will not be ashamed to appear, thus speaking of Mr. Cowley;

His Turns too closely on the Reader press;

He more had pleas’d us, had he pleas’d us less.

And of Mr. Waller,

Oh had thy Muse not come an Age too soon.

And of Mr. Dryden’s Muse,

Whether in Comick Sounds or Tragick Airs

She forms her Voice, she moves our Smiles or Tears.

And to his Friend Dr. Sacheverell,

I’ve done at length, and now, dear Friend, receive

The last poor Present that my Muse can give.

And so at once, dear Friend and Muse, fare well.

To these let me add the Testimony of that Darling of the Muses, Mr. Prior, with whom all the Poets of ancient and modern Times of other Nations, or our own, might seem to have intrusted the chief Secrets, and greatest Treasures of their Art. I shall speak only concerning our own Island, where his Imitation of Chaucer, of Spencer, and of the old Scotch Poem, inscribed the Nut-Brown Maid, shew how great a Master he is, and how much every thing is to be valued which bears the Stamp of his Approbation. And we shall certainly find a great deal to countenance the use of Mono­syllables in his Writings. Take these Examples;

xxvii E2

Me all too mean for such a Task I weet.


Grasps he the Bolt? we ask, when he has hurl’d the Flame.


Nor found they lagg’d too slow, nor flew too fast.

And again,

With Fear and with Desire, with Joy and Pain

She sees and runs to meet him on the Plain.


With all his Rage, and Dread, and Grief, and Care.

In his Poem in answer to Mrs. Eliz. Singer, on her Poem upon Love and Friendship,

And dies in Woe, that thou may’st live in Peace.

The only farther Example of Monosyllabick Verses I shall insert here, and which I cannot well omit, is what I wou’d desire the Author to apply to his own Censure of Mono­syllables, they are these which follow;

Then since you now have done your worst,

Pray leave me where you found me first.

Part of the seventh Epistle of the first Book of Horace imitated, and address’d to a noble Peer, p. ult.

After so many Authorities of the Gentlemen, these few Instances from some of our Female Poets, may I hope be permitted to take place. I will begin with Mrs. Philips on the Death of the Queen of Bohemia;

Over all Hearts and her own Griefs she reign’d.


And on the Marriage of the Lord Dungannon,

May the vast Sea for your sake quit his Pride,

And grow so smooth, while on his Breast you ride,

As may not only bring you to your Port,

But shew how all things do your Virtues court.

To Gilbert Lord Archbishop of Canterbury,

That the same Wing may over her be cast,

Where the best Church of all the World is plac’d.

Mrs. Wharton upon the Lamentations of Jeremiah;

Behold those Griefs which no one can repeat,

Her Fall is steep, and all her Foes are great.

And my Lady Winchelsea in her Poem entituled, The Poor Man’s Lamb;

Thus wash’d in Tears, thy Soul as fair does show

As the first Fleece, which on the Lamb does grow.

Sir, from these numerous Instances, out of the Writings of our greatest and noblest Poets, it is apparent, That had the Enmity against Mono­syllables, with which there are some who make so great a Clamour, been so great in all Times, we must have been deprived of some of the best Lines, and finest Flowers, that are to be met with in the beautiful Garden of our English Posie. Perhaps this may put our Countreymen upon studying with greater Niceness the use of these kind of Words, as well in the Heroick Compositions, as in the softer and more gentle Strains. I speak not this, upon Confidence of any Judgment I have in Poetry, but according to that Skill, which is natural to the Musick xxix of a Northern Ear, which, if it be deficient, as I shall not be very obstinate in its Defence, I beg leave it may at least be permitted the Benefit of Mr. Dryden’s Apology, for the Musick of old Father Chaucer’s Numbers, “That there is the rude Sweetness of a Scotch Tune in it, which is natural and pleasing, tho’ not perfect.”

Sir, I must beg your Pardon for this long Digression, upon a Subject which many will think does not deserve it: but if I have herein discover’d some of the greatest Beauties of our English Poets, it will be more excusable, at least for the respect that is intended to so noble an Art as theirs. But to suspect the worst, considering that I am now writing a Preface, I am provided with another Apology from Mr. Dryden, who cautions his Reader with this Observation, That the Nature of a Preface is Rambling, never wholly out of the way, nor in it. Yet I cannot end this Preface, without desiring that such as shall be employ’d in refining and ascertaining our English Tongue, may entertain better Thoughts both of the Saxon Tongue, and of the Study of Antiquities. Methinks it is very hard, that those who labour and take so much pains to furnish others with Materials, either for Writing, or for Discourse, who have not Leisure, or Skill, or Industry enough to serve themselves, shou’d be allow’d no other Instances of Gratitude, than the reproachful Title of Men of low Genius, of which low Genius’s it may be observed, that they carry some Ballast, and some valuable Loading in them, which may be despised, but is seldom to be exceeded in any thing truly valuable, by light and fluttering Wits. But it is not to be wonder’d, that Men of Worth are to be trampled upon, for otherwise they might stand in the way of these Assumers; and indeed were it not for the Modesty of their Betters, xxx and their own Assurance, they wou’d not only be put out of the way of those Expectations that they have, but out of all manner of Countenance. There is a Piece of History that I have met with in the Life of Archbishop Spotswood, that way not unfitly be remember’d on this Occasion, shewing that studious Men of a private Character are not always to be reputed Men of low Genius: “Nor were his Virtues (says the History) buried and confined within the Boundaries of his Parish, for having formerly had a Relation to the noble Family of Lenox, he was look’d upon as the fittest Person of his Quality to attend Lodowic, Duke of Lenox, as his Chaplain in that honourable Embassy to Henry the fourth of France, for confirming the ancient Amity between both Nations; wherein he so discreetly carried himself, as added much to his Reputation, and made it appear that Men bred up in the Shade of Learning might possibly endure the Sun-shine, and when it came to their turns, might carry themselves as handsomly abroad, as they (whose Education being in a more pragmatick way) usually undervalue them.”

But that of low Genius is not the worst Charge which is brought against the Antiquaries, for they are not allow’d to have so much as common Sense, or to know how to express their Minds intelligibly. This I learn, from a Dissertation on reading the Classicks, and forming a just Stile; where it is said, “It must be a great fault of Judgment if where the Thoughts are proper, the Expressions are not so too: A Disagreement between these seldom happen, but among Men of more recondite Studies, and what they call deep Learning, especially among your Antiquaries and Schoolmen.” This is a good careless way of talking, it may pass well enough for the genteel Negligence, in xxxi short, such Nonsense, as Our Antiquaries are seldom guilty of; for Propriety of Thoughts, without Propriety of Expression is such a Discovery, as is not easily laid hold of, except by such Hunters after Spectres and Meteors, as are forced to be content with the Froth and Scum of Learning, but have indeed nothing to shew of that deep Learning, which is the effect of recondite Studies. And there was a Gentleman, no less a Friend to polite Learning, but as good a judge of it as himself, and who is also a Friend to Antiquities, who was hugely pleased with the Humour of his saying Your Antiquaries, being very ready to disclaim an Acquaintance with all such Wits, and who told me the Antiquaries, were the Men in all the World who most contemn’d Your Men of Sufficiency and Self-conceit. But here his Master Horace is quite slipt out of his Mind, whose Words are,

Scribendi rectè, sapere est & principium & fons.

Rem tibi Socraticæ poterunt ostendere chartæ:

Verbaque provisam rem non invita sequentur.

Thus translated by my Lord Roscommon,

Sound Judgment is the ground of writing well:

And when Philosophy directs your Choice

To proper Subjects rightly understood,

Words from your Pen will naturally flow.

Horace’s Sapere, and my Lord Roscommon’s Proper Subjects rightly understood, I take to be the same as Propriety of Thought, and the non invita sequentur, naturally flowing, I take to import the Fitness and Propriety of Expression. I also gather from hence, that xxxii there is a very easy and natural Connexion between these two, and these same Antiquaries of OURS, must be either very dull and stupid Animals, or a strange kind of cross-grain’d and perverse Fellows, to be always putting a Force upon Nature, and running out of a plain Road. He must either insinuate that they are indeed such, or that Horace’s Observation is not just, or that for the Word invita we ought to have a better reading, for which he will be forc’d to consult the Antiquaries. I know not how some of the great Orators, he has mention’d, will relish his Compli­ments upon the Score of Eloquence, when he has said such hard things against Antiquaries; many of them, and those of chief Note, were his Censure just and universal, must of necessity be involv’d in it. For example, the late Bishop of Rochester, of whom he says, “He was the correctest Writer of the Age, and comes nearest the great Originals of Greece and Rome, by a studious Imitation of the Ancients.” So that, as I take it, he was an Antiquary: If he excludes English Antiquities, I desire him to remember the present Bishop of Rochester, of whom he has given this true Character, “Dr. Atterbury writeth with the fewest Faults, and greatest Excellencies of any who have studied to mix Art and Nature in their Compositions, &c.” He hath however thought fit to adorn the Subject of Antiquities with the Beauties of his Stile, without any Force upon Nature, or the being obliged to forsake her easy and unconstrain’d Method of applying proper Expressions to proper Thoughts. The Bishop of St. Asaph hath shewn his Skill in Antiquities, by more Instances than one; yet do I not find, that even in the Opinion of this Gentleman, it hath spoil’d his Stile. I shall add to these the late and present Bishops of Worcester, the former, xxxiii F Dr. Stillingfleet, is allow’d by all to have been one of the most learned Men and greatest Antiquaries of his Age; and for the present Bishop, who is also a learned Antiquary, take the Character which is given of his Skill and Exactness in the English Tongue from *Bishop Wilkins; “I must acknowledge my self obliged, saith he, to the continual Assistance I have had from my most learned and worthy Friend, Dr. William Lloyd, than whom (so far as I am able to judge) this Nation could not have afforded a fitter Person, either for that great Industry, or accurate Judgment, both in Philological, and Philosophical: Matters, required to such a Work. And particularly, I must wholly ascribe to him that tedious and difficult Task, of suiting the Tables to the Dictionary, and the drawing up of the Dictionary itself, which, upon trial, I doubt not, will be found to be the most perfect, that was ever yet made for the English Tongue.” I will only farther beg leave to mention, the Bishop of Carlisle, Your Self, and Dr. Gibson, who for good Spirit, masterly Judgment, and all the Ornaments of Stile, in the several ways of Writing, may be equalled with the best and most polite. To conclude, if this Preface is writ in a Stile, that may be thought somewhat rough and too severe, it is not out of any natural Inclination to take up a Quarrel, but to do some Justice to the Study of Antiquities, and even of our own Language itself, against the severe Censurers of both; whose Behaviour in this Controversy has been Such, as cou’d not have the Treatment it deserved in a more modest or civil manner. If I am mistaken herein, I beg Pardon: I might alledge that which perhaps xxxiv might be admitted for an Excuse, but that I will not involve the whole Sex, by pleading Woman’s Frailty. I confess I thought it would be to little purpose to write an English Saxon Grammar, if there was nothing of Worth in that Language to invite any one to the study of it; so that I have only been upon the Defensive. If any think fit to take up Arms against me, I have great Confidence in the Protection of the Learned, the Candid, and the Noble; amongst which, from as many as bear the Ensigns of St. George, I cannot doubt of that help, that true Chevalrie can afford, to any Damsel in Distress, by cutting off the Heads of all those Dragons, that dare but to open their Mouths, or begin to hiss against her. But, Sir, before I conclude, I must do you the Justice to insert an extract of two Letters from the Right Honourable D. P. to the Reverend Dr. R. Taylor, relating to your Thesaurus. Lingg. Vett. Septentrion. which indeed might more properly have been placed in the eighth Page of this Preface, had it come sooner to my Hands. It is as follows,

———“The Dean’s Present, which I shall value as long as I live for his sake. Dom. Mabillon was the first that told me of that Work, and said, that the Author was a truly learned Person, and not one of those Writers who did not understand their Subject to the bottom, but, said he, that learned Man is one of ten thousand.”

* See the Epistle to the Reader in the Essay towards a Real Character, p. 3.

And in another Letter to the abovemention’d Dr. Taylor———“When Dom. Mabillon first told me of it, he did not name the Author, so as I understood who he was, but the Elogium he made of him, was indeed very great, and I find that the Dean in one Word, has done that worthy Man Justice.” This high Elogium of your self, and of your great Work, xxxv from so renown’d an Antiquary, as it is a great Defence and Commendation of the Old Northern Learning, so is it the more remarkable, in that it was given by one, against whom you had written in the most tender Point of the Controversy, De Re Diplomatica, as may be seen in your Lingg. Vett Septentr. Thesaur. Præfat. General. p. xxxvi, &c.

Sir, I once more heartily beg your Pardon for giving you so much trouble, and beg leave to give you my Thanks for the great Assistance I have receiv’d in the Saxon Studies from your learned Works, and Conversation; and in particular for your favourable Recommendation of my Endeavours, in a farther cultivating those Studies, who with sincere Wishes for your good Health, and all imaginable Respect for a Person of your Worth and Learning, am,

  Your Most Obliged,
    Humble Servant,

Elizabeth Elstob.

Notes and Corrections: Preface

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Elizabeth Elstob’s contemporaries must really have had it in for monosyllables, or she would not have felt compelled to spend so many pages defending them. My personal favorite use of monosyllables for poetic effect came a century or so later:

And from that chasm with ceaseless turmoil seething

As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing

A mighty fountain momently was forced

[vii] they will hardly deny them to be essential to the modern English
[The technical term “core vocabulary” was still far in the future.]

[viii Footnote] the present Bishops of . . . St. Asaph, St. Davids
[Both in Wales.]

[xiii] Hom. Il. I. l. 70.
[The first three lines were Iliad I.6, I.29 and I.32.]

[xvii] Nane is, nor was, nor zit sal be, trowe I
[Given the context, it’s a bit ironic to see the conventional rendering of yogh as z. It’s really “nor ȝit sal be”.]

[xxii] Nor must Ben. Johnson be forgotten;
spelling unchanged
[Spellings of earlier names wouldn’t be fully canonicalized until the late 19th century. In fact it’s surprising that the author names Cicero a page or two further along; in her time he was more often called Tully (using his nomen rather than his cognomen).]

[xxvii] Grasps he the Bolt? we ask, when he has hurl’d the Flame.
[The words “we ask” are often shown in parentheses, making it plain that they aren’t supposed to count toward the pentameter.]

[xxxiv] might more properly have been placed in the eighth Page of this Preface
[When she started talking about Dr. Hickes.]


group of men in robes



GRammar is the Art of Speaking and Writing, truly and properly. Speaking we use certain Signs, which are necessary to discover our Thoughts to one another. These Signs, are Sound, and Voice.

But besides, Sound, and Voice, by which we are able to converse with one another when present; There are other Signs have been invented, where these Sounds cannot be heard, to supply the want of them in such manner, as that we may both converse with one another at a distance, and communicate our Thoughts to future Ages.

The first of these Signs belongs properly to Speech, of unwritten Discourse. The latter are made use of in Writing.

Hence the Greeks, from whom we receiv’d the first Rudiments of this Art, have deliver’d down to us the 2 Names of these Signs in the Word γράμματα, from γράφω*, I write. The Latins in their Litera, from Lino, I mark, or draw a stroke: The Art itself the Greeks exprest by γραμματικὴ, the Latins by Grammatica and Literatura: Nor were our Saxon Ancestors destitute of a proper Term of Art whereby to express it, which we find in the Word Stæfcræft.

Voice and Sound, are either Articulate and Intelligible, such as are used by rational Creatures: or Inarticulate and Confused, such as we observe in Brutes or irrational Creatures to express their Inclinations and Desires.

The first of these the Saxons called andgıtfullıc stemn; that is, a Sound, that may be fully and distinctly understood: For instance, Arms and the Man I sing.

The other gemencged stemn, a mixed, or confused Sound, by which our understanding of any thing is not so clear and distinct. As the lowing of an Ox, the neighing of a Horse, or the barking of a Dog.

* I cannot but bere observe the Similitude between this Word γράφω, and the Saxon agrafene, Exod. ch. xx. v. 4. translated by Ælfric: The Text runs thus, Ne wẏrc þu þe agrafene Godas. Work not thou for thy self Graven Gods. It is very remarkable, that the Saxon Church in that Age, at least the good Archbishop Ælfric, were not for stifling this Passage.

Of Letters.

A Letter in Saxon stæf, is the least part of any Book or Writing, and cannot be divided. A Book or Writing may be divided into Words, S. cwẏdas, those Words into Parts, S. dælas, those Parts into Syllables, S. stæf gefegas, and after­wards Syllables into stafas Letters. Beyond this there is no farther Division. In 3 each Letter may be consider’d, its Name, S. Nama, its Figure, or Shape, S. hıw, the same as our hue, its Power, S. mıht, i.e. what Power Letters have being join’d together with one another.

The Saxon Language hath three and twenty Letters, which are thus described.

Last chance! If you prefer to read the letters in something closer to their originally printed form, use the standard version of the ebook instead.

Name. Figure. Power.
A A vowel. a A a
Be B b B b
Ce C c C c
De D d D d
E E vowel. e E e
Ef F f F f
Ge G g G g
Ha H h H h
I I vowel. ı I i
Ka K k K k
El L l L l
Em M m M m
En N n N n
O O vowel. o O o
Pe P p P p
Er R r R r
Es S s S s
Te T t T t
V U vowel. u V u
Double u W w W w
Ics X x X x
Y Gr. vowel much used in the Saxon. Y y
Za Z z Z z
Æ Æ æ Æ æ
Th Ð Þ þ ð Th th
That That that
And & and

page image: Anglo-Saxon alphabet


These Letters are divided into Vowels and Consonants.

A Vowel is a Letter that yields a Sound of itself, without having need of any other Letter to be join’d with it.

There are five Vowels, S. clẏpıgendlıce, or sẏlf swegende, a, e, ı, o, u. , is Greek, though very much used in Saxon. It is very natural here to take notice of the Agreement there is between the German, or High-Dutch, and Anglo-Saxon, in their happy expressing the Grammatical Terms by Words of their own. I shall now and then give an Instance both from the modern German, and from the old Francick or Teutonick. What the Saxons called sẏlf swegende, sounding alone, i.e. Vowel, the Germans now write it Selbstlautende.

See Mr. King’s Compleat English Guide for the High-Germans, p. 2.

The Consonants, S. samod swegende, Germ. Mitlautende, sounding together, are such Letters, as to render their Sound, must needs be join’d with one of the five Vowels; these are either Semi-Vowels, S. healf clẏpıgende, half Sounding, or Mutes, S. dumbe.

The Semi-Vowels, so called because they have not so full a Sound as the five Vowels, are these seven, f, l, m, n, r, s, x; the first six, ef, el, em, en, er, es, begin with the Letter e, and end the Sound in themselves; x, ıcs, alone beginneth with the Vowel ı.

The Mutes, so named because they make but a little Sound, they are these six, b, c, d, g, p, t, these begin of themselves, and end in the Vowel e, as, be, ce, de, ge, fe, te; h, and k, and z, end in a, as, ha, ka, za.

Notes and Corrections: Of Letters

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The Consonants, S. samod swegende, Germ. Mitlautende, sounding together
[Here she says the same thing in four different languages: Latin, Anglo-Saxon, German, English. In general she will be content with two or three.]

The Semi-Vowels, so called
[Today the term is more narrowly constrained to (in English) y and w. The consonants listed in this paragraph are continu­ants—except x, which of course isn’t a single phoneme at all.]

The Mutes, so named
[Today generally called stops.]

be, ce, de, ge, fe, te
text unchanged: error for ge, pe, te

A Syllable stæf gefeg, is that which gives a Sound, by a single Letter, or by many Letters join’d together. 5 G Out of Syllables Words are made. Words make up Speech or Discourse.

Words are distributed into several kinds, which are called the Eight Parts of Speech.

Noun, Nama.

Pronoun, Naman spelıend; instead of, or supplying the Place of a Noun.

Verb, Word; which compleats its own Signification, with a full Sense or Meaning.

Participle, Dælnımend; Part taking, taking part from a Noun, and part from a Verb.

Participle, Dælnimend; Part taking, taking part from a Noun, and part from a Verb.
[It is interesting that she considers Participles a distinct part of speech, while lumping Adjectives under Nouns.]

Adverb, Wordes gefera; that which is join’d with a Verb, but has no meaning consider’d alone.

Conjunction, Geðeodnẏs, or Gefegıncg; it signifies nothing of itself, but joins together Nouns or Verbs.

Conjunction . . . joins together Nouns or Verbs
[Or any other part of speech you like: red and yellow, quickly or slowly, above but near.]

Preposition, Foresetnẏs; Placing before, and it serves either a Noun or Verb, always standing before them.

Interjection, Betwux aworpennẏs; it lies between other Words, and denotes the Commotions of the Mind.

Of these eight kinds of Words, four are varied, by different Terminations or Endings, which is called declining, S. declınunge*; the other four, without any Variation, are always found the same.

* This is a Latin Word Saxonized, for which they likewise used gebegung, or gebẏgung, bowing, or inflexion.

These several kinds of Words, with their peculiar Variations and Circum­stances, shall be consider’d each in its proper place.

varied, by different Terminations or Endings, which is called declining
[I think today “declining” or “declension” is applied to nouns and adjectives, while verbs are conjugated. The generic term for everything you do to a word is “inflection”.]


And first of Nouns.

A Noun, S. Nama, is a word by which we name any thing, and by which one thing is distinguish’d from another; and these Names are such as express the several kinds of things, or the Singulars and Individuals of each kind.

The first of these are called Appellatives, or common Names, Gemænelıce*, as a Man, a Horse, a Dog; as Man is the common Name to every human Creature, and Horse to all of that kind, &c.

* Germ. Specie Gemein, as of the word Man, ’tis said, Bekomt allen Menschen insgemein. See Mr. King’s Compleat English Guide for High-Germans.

For the other, namely the Singulars or Individuals, Sẏnderlıce; by these Particulars of each kind are distinguished from one another; or else we may say, that this or that general Name is restrain’d, to this or thar particular Thing or Person; as amongst Men, when we say William, or Edward, we distinguish the single Person William, from that single Person Edward. So likewise when we say St. Paul’s, or St. Peter’s Church, we restrain the common Notion of Church to signifie this particular Church that is called St. Paul’s, or that particular Church which is called St. Peter’s. The Words by which such common and general Words and Names are thus limited and restrain’d, the Grammarians call proper Names.

Germ. Sonderlichen Nahmen, ibid.

Nouns may be consider’d either as giving Name or Signification to a thing, without any other relation or regard, or else as they include some necessary Relations and Circum­stances, which cou’d not be understood or signified without joining them to one of the former.

7 G2

These Self-significant Names, or independent, are stiled Nouns Substantives, Spedıglıce.

The other, which always declare some Quality, Circum­stance, or Relation, are called Nouns Adjectives, Names gefera.

An Instance of the first may be in this Noun Substantive Man, or Church, where nothing more is consider’d, than what is barely understood by the word Man, or Church.

An Instance of the second, viz. a Noun Adjective, is when somewhat is added to the Signification of the Noun Substantive, as when we say of Man, a good or virtuous Man, of the Church, holy Church, Church universal.

Concerning Nouns, these Things farther may be consider’d.

Of the Eight Parts of Speech above-mentioned, it hath been observ’d, that four are subject to variety of Termination or Ending, and are said to be declined; the others are not declined. Of the four first, three, namely, Noun, Pronoun, Participle, are declined with Cases, On gebıgum. Verb, is declined by Moods, On gemetum, or, On þære spræce wıgon, S.

The Cases of Nouns are Six.

1. Nominative, i.e. Nemnıgendlıc, S. With this we name every thing, as, this Man lives.
2. Is Genitive, Gestrınendlıc, S. or, Geagnıendlıc. By this we signifie the producing or owning any thing, as, this Man’s Son, ðẏses Mannes Sunu; or this Man’s Horse, ðıses Mannes Hors.
8 3. Dative, Forgıfendlıc. By this we signifie the giving: or bestowing any thing; I give this Man a Horse, ðısum Mann ıc forgıfe Hors.
4. Accusative, Wregendlıc, S. With this is declared how Men speak concerning any thing, as, this Man I accuse, þısne Mann ıc wrege; this Man I love, þısne Mann ıc lufıge; this thing I perceive or apprehend, ðıs þıncg ıc gelæhte.
5. Vocative, Clẏpıgendlıc oððe Gecẏgendlıc. With this we call upon any Thing, or Person, as, O thou Man speak to me, eala þu Mann sprec to me.
6. Ablative, Ætbredendlıc By this is declared, what we take or receive from others, or from whence we go, as, from this Man I received Money, fram ðısum Mann ıc underfeng feoh; I rode from the City, fram ðıese Bẏrıg ıc rad.

Of Genders.

BY Genders, S. Cẏnn, the Names of things are distinguish’d according to their Sex, whether Masculine, S. Werlıc, that is He, or Feminine, S. Wıflıc, that is She; and tho’ every thing is properly comprehended under one or the other of these Genders; yet the Grammarians, for some Reasons that shou’d favour their Art, have invented a Term which expresses neither kind, which is called Neuter, S. Naðor cẏnd.

the Grammarians . . . have invented a Term which expresses neither kind
[Grammarians are responsible for for a lot of nonsense, but they can hardly be blamed for the Indo-European languages’ three-gender structure. I wonder what our author would say to languages that instead divide things into “animate” and “inanimate”.]


Of Number.

THere be two Numbers, the Singular, Anfeald Getel, and the Plural, Mænıgfeald Getel; sometimes there is a Dual, and this is a Circum­stance both of Nouns and Verbs, as, Ic ræde, I read, we rædað, we read.

Of the Articles.

AS the Greeks and other Nations have had their Articles placed before their Nouns, so the Saxon Tongue hath used hers, both with Skill and Beauty. These are naturally to be consider’d according to their Cases or Endings, before we treat of the Nouns.

Singular Number. Plural Number.
Nom. de, seo , þat & þæt, τό.   Ða, οἱ, αἱ, τά.
Gen. Þæs, þære, þas & þæs. Þæra.
Dat. Þam, þære, þam. Þam.
Acc. Þone, þa, þat & þæt. Þa.
Abl. Þam, þære, þam. Þam.

Se, seo, þat, are not only placed before Appellatives, or common Names, but also before proper Names, and Individuals, as, se Man, the Man, seo Wıfman, the Woman, se Iohannes, John, seo Æþelflede, Ethelfleda.

The Agreement between the Anglo-Saxon, the old Francick, and the present German, may be seen in Dr. Hickes’s Francick Grammar, Chap. 2. De Articulis, p. 10.

AS the Greeks and other Nations have had their Articles placed before their Nouns
[We will not talk about Romanian, or the Scandinavian languages, whose definite articles are instead postpositive.]


Of Nouns Substantives.

NOuns Substantives have Six Declensions.

First Declension.
Singular. Plural.
Nom. Smið, a Smith.   Smıðas, Smiths.
Gen. Smıðes, of a Smith. Smıða, of Smiths.
Dat. Smıðe, to the Smith. Smıðum, to the Smiths.
Acc. Smıð, the Smith. Smıðas, the Smiths.
Voc. Eala þu Smıð, O thou Smith. Eala ge Smıðas, O ye Smiths.
Abl. Smıðe, from the Smith. Smıðum, from the Smiths.

For Smıðas, the Dano-Saxons writ Smıðes, in the Nominative Plural.

Second Declension.
Singular. Plural.
Nom. Wıtega, a Prophet.   Wıtegan, Prophets.
Gen. Wıtegan. Wıtegena.
Dat. Wıtegan. Wıtegum.
Acc. Wıtegan. Wıtegan.
Voc. Eala þu Wıtega. Eala ge Wıtegan.
Abl. Wıtegan. Wıtegum.

Acc.   Witegan.   Witegan.
text has , for final .

The Third Declension.
Singular. Plural.
Nom. Andgıt, Understanding.   Andgıtu, -ta, -to
Gen. Andgıtes. Andgıta.
Dat. Andgıte, -ta. Andgıtum.
Acc. Andgıt. Andgıtu.
Voc. Eala pu Andgıt. Eala ge Andgıtu.
Abl. Andgıte. Andgıtum.
The Fourth Declension.
Singular. Plural.
Nom. Word, a Word.   Word, -de, -da.
Gen. Wordes. Worda.
Dat. Worde. Wordum.
Acc. Word. Word.
Voc. Eala þu Word. Eala ge Word.
Abl. Worde. Wordum.

So Bearn, Cıld, and Wıf, make in the Plural Number, Bearn, Cıld, and Wıf.

The Fifth Declension.
Singular. Plural.
Nom. Wıln, a Maiden.   Wılna, -ne, -no, -nu.
Gen. Wılne. Wılna.
Dat. Wılne. Wılnum.
Acc. Wıln. Wılna.
Voc. Eala þu Wıln. Eala ge wılna.
Abl. Wılne. Wılnum.

So Swustor, and Sweostor, a Sister, make in the Plural, Swustra, Sweostra, Gesweostra, Sisters.

The Sixth Declension.
Singular. Plural.
Nom. Sunu, a Son.   Suna.
Gen. Suna. Suna.
Dat. Suna, -nu. Sunum.
Acc. Suna, -nu. Suna.
Voc. Eala þu Sunu. Eala ge Suna.
Abl. Sunu. Sunum.
Mr. Thwaites adds a Seventh.
Singular. Plural.
Nom. Freo, -eoh, a Free Man.   Freos.
Gen. Freos Frea.
Dat. Freo. Freum.
Acc. Freo, -eoh. Freos.
Voc. Eala þu Freoh Eala ge Freos.
Abl. Freo. Freum.

The whole Variety of declining Noun Substantives, may be reduced to these seven Rules of Declension, except these few following which are not so regular; as, Fæder, Father, seldom alters in the Singular Number, but in the Plural it follows the Rule of the first Declension. Indeed the Dano-Saxons have it Fædores, in the Genitive Singular. Gescẏ, Shoes; Modor, -er, Mother; Broþor, -er, Brother, are not declined; unless that Broþor, in the Plural Number, may be referr’d to the third Declension. But Boc, a Book, Bec, Books; Fot, a Foot, Fet, Feet; Man, a Man, Men, Men; Lus, a Louse, Lẏs, Lice; Mus, a Mouse, Mẏs, Mice; Cu, a Cow, Cẏ, Cows; Toþ, a Tooth, 13 H Teþ, Teeth, (sometimes ‘tis read Toþas;) Gos, a Goose, Ges, Geese: With the Number change the Vowel; Cealf, a Calf, and Æg, an Egg, make in the Plural Ægru, Eggs, Cealfru, Calves.

Nouns Substantives are either Simple or Compound; Hıwe, a Family, Gedale, Division, Hıwe-gedale, the Separation of a Family. There is a great Variety of Compound Nouns, a very copious Instance of which we have in this Description of Noah’s Ark by Cædmon, Mere-hus, a Sea House, Wudu-fæsten, a wooden Castle, Mere-cıeste, a Sea Chest, Sund-reced, a swimming Hall, Wæg-bord, a floating Tabernacle, Wæg-þele, a floating Chamber, Stream-wealle, a Wall against the Stream, Hrof-gefor, a moveable Covering, or Roof. From which Instances, and an almost innumerable Company of others, that might be added, some of which will be occasionally disperst here and there in this Treatise; it appears that the Charge against all the Northern Languages, which is made by some, of their being made up of nothing else but of harsh Consonants and Mono­syllables, without any beautiful Composition of Words, is very unjust, and is urged by those who speak of them in this sort, as by Men who talk at random, and who are altogether ignorant of the Matter. The Terminations of Substantives are very numerous, it may not however be amiss here to note some of the most common.

Sund-reced, a swimming Hall
text has fwimming

Some end in dom or dome, which denotes Power, or Office, or some Quality or Condition of Life, either with Authority or Jurisdiction, or without it; as, Cẏnedome, the Power and Authority of a King, as also the Place in which he exercifes that Power; in English Kingdom.


Bısceopdom, the Power and Office of a Bishop, Bishopdom.

Wısdom, Prudence, Wisdom.

Freodom, a State of Liberty, Freedom; of the same kind are these still retain’d in common use.

Popepom, Dukedom, Christendom, Thraldom, &c. Agreeable to this Termination in dom, is the Francick duom and tuom, as from Rih, a King, Rihtuom, a Kingdom, from Her, a Lord, Hertuom, Dominion or Lordship, Wisduom, Wisdom, Jungarduom, the Stare or Relation of a Youth towards his Tutor.

Others end in rıc, or rıce, which signifies Power or Office; as,

Cẏnrıc, Kingdom.

Bısceoprıce, Bishoprick, which word we still retain in the Bishoprick of Durham.

Not a few end in had, or hade, as Preosthade, the Condition or Office of a Priest, &c.

Munuchade, the State of a Monk. Hence is deduced our Termination head, as Godhead, Manhed, which we meet with in Gawen Douglas Pref. to Virg. p. 9. l. 4.

Hence also our hood, as from Cıld-had, Child-hood, Cnıht-hade, Knight-hood. To this a Resemblance is born by the Francick heyd and hed, as Christan-heyd, Christianity, Heyder-hed, Brightness, Heusc-heyd, Civility. So Brotherhood, Neighbourhood.

And to this Class probably may be refer’d the Notation of the words Alodium and Feudum, so much controverted amongst Lawyers. Alodium, i.e. Allhade, or Allhode, signifying the free and perpetual Inheritance and Possession of an Estate, without any Service and Incumbrance. Feodum, or Feudum, Feohade, an Estate held under the Dominion of some superior Lord for a limited time, on Performance of certain Services and Conditions, as 15 H2 Mr. Somner conjectures: But Dr. Hickes seems better to derive the word from the Scano-Gothic lod, or lwd. See his Francick Grammar, p. 90.

Some Substantives end in scẏr and scẏre, which denotes Præfecture, Care, Office, Business and Employment; as Geferscẏr, Fellowship, Tunscẏre, the Office or Employment of a Steward. The Footsteps of this Termination, are perhaps to be found in the word Englishery, Englischeria, a word well known in Bracton and Fleta, signifying the Birth-right or Condition of an Englishman. Nor is it altogether improbable by an easy Transposition of this Termination scẏre, to derive the ending of several of our Words in RY, as, Yeomanry, Husbandry, Houswifry, Cookery, &c.

Others in scẏp and scẏpe, as, Geferscẏp, Fellowship, Þegenscẏpe, Thainship, the Office and Dignity of a Thain, Weorðscẏpe, Worship; thus Courtship, Lordship, Wardship, Workmanship, &c. With this we may compare the Francick skepe, skepi and skip, as, Landskepe, a Country, or Landskip, Gibodskip, a Commanding.

There are many Substantives that end in a, as Cempa, a Soldier, Gerefa, an Earle, what we call our High Sheriff or Shrieve, Nama, Name: Many of these are made English by leaving out the a or changing it into e, as, Kemp or Kempe; Ox or Name. The same is observable in Words ending in a short derived from the Latin, both in English and French, as Muse, from Musa, secret, from secreta.

Words ending in a short derived from the Latin
text unchanged
[That is, words ending in short “a”. (At first I thought she had left out a word: “a short something”.)]

To encrease the Variety of Terminations, there are several Substantives that end in reden, ræden, redenne, rædenne, which signifies Law, or Counsel: So that words of this Composition do generally import somewhat of Regularity and Government, as, Geferredenne, 16 that Law or Rule by which any Society or Corporation is govern’d, Hıwredenne, the Rule for managing a Family, Mægredenne, the Rule of Alliance amongst Kindred, Teondredenne, that Counsel by which we accuse, or go to Law with any one, Gecwıdredenne, the Advice er Method made use of for making a Will or any Covenant.

Others end in elde, as, Færelde, a Journey.

els, Ræcels, Frankincense, Rædels, a Riddle.

Some in sceaft, as, Hẏgesceaft, the Soul; this agrees with the Francick Hugiscefti, Thought, Geuuitschaf, a Testimony, Heidenskapht, Heathenism.

Some in cræft, as, Wıgcræft, Boc-cræft. The old Germans were not unacquainted with this Termination, as may be seen in the word Megincraft and Mancraft. See the learned Dr. Eccard’s Notes upon the Great Hymn, or Te Deum, printed at Helmstad, 1713: Also his Chatechesis Theotisca, p. 148, printed the same year by Nicholas Forster, Bookseller to the Court of Hanover.

Likewise several Feminines end in ẏss, ıss, ess, ẏsse, ısse, esse, and in nes, nesse, nıs, nısse, (from the Gothic NES) as, Cneorısse, Generation, Þrınesse, the Trinity. The Francick also acknowledges these Terminations, as, Lutternisse, Clearness or Purity, Gelicnesse, Likeness.

Some in ange, ınge, onge, unge, ẏnge, as, Leasunge, Lying.

Others in þ, or þe (Goth. Þ, ÞA) as, Mẏrð, Mirth, Eorð, Earth, Gesıhðe, Sight.

Some in er, and ere, as, Godspeller, Evangelist, Fulluhter, Baptist, Sædere, a Sower. Words of this Termination are thought to be deriv’d from Wer, Goth. WAIR, a Man. The Scots to this Day in Imitatation of the Saxons, use Lawwer, a Lawyer. The 17 Masculines in er have their Feminines in estre, ıstre, or ẏstre, as, Sẏngestre, a Songster, Rædẏstre, a Female Reader.

Diminutives, and many others end in lıng, as, Cnæplıng, a little Boy, Ræplıng, a Captive. Some in least, or leste, as, Gẏmeleast, Carelessness.

Words that denote Descent, Patronomica, Fæderlıce Naman, Names derived from the Father’s Name, end in ıng, as, Cenfusıng, the Son of Cenfusa.

It must be observed, that Sunna, Sun, is of the Feminine, and Mona, Moon, is of the Masculine, and Wıf is of the Neuter Gender.

Nouns are distinguish’d by their Articles, Adjectives, and Pronouns.

Of Adjectives.

AN Adjective, names gefera; is either Simple, as, eadıg, happy, efen, even or equal; or Compound, as, tır eadıg, high in Power, efen-ece, co-eternal, efen-spedelıc, equal in Substance.

Adjectives are declined after this Example.
Singular Number. Plural Number.
Nom. Masc. Neut. Fem.
God, Good, bonus, -um. Gode, bona. Gode.
Gen. Godes. Godre. Godra.
Dat. Godum. Godre. Godum.
Acc. Godne, God. Gode. Gode.
Voc. Goda Gode. Gode, -an.
Abl. Godum. Godre. Godum.

Several Adjectives, besides their common Termination, receive a final a, which generally gives somewhat of a particular Emphasis, as, Godcund, Divine, Godcunda, very Divine, or very Holy.

The Terminations of Adjectives are as follows.

Adjectives that signify Nation or Countrey, end in ısc, as, Iudeısc; hence our ish, as, Jewish, Englısc, English, Romanısc, Romish, &c.

Many are form’d from Nouns Substantives, by adding leas or lease, signifying want or defect; from hence also our less is derived, as, receleas, careless, scomleas, shameless, ꞅacleaꞅ, harmless: So fatherless, motherless, friendless, &c.

Others end in lıc, or lıce, from whence our Termination in like, and ly, as, heofenlıc, heavenly, godlıc, godlike, and godly.

Others, which signify the Matter out of which any thing is made, end in en, as, æscen, ashen, from Æsc, an Ash, beorcen, birchen, stænen, stony.

Many end in ıg, as, hefıg, heavy, dreorıg, dreery, sorry, mırıg, merry, ænıg, any: This Termination is changed into our y.

Adjectives expressing Number, end after the same manner, as, twentıg, ðrıttıg, and so on.

Some end in ful, as, Wæterful, full of Water, or dropsical.

Some in bær, as, westmbær, fruitful, or bearing Fruit, lust bær, jocund, or bearing Joy.

Some in fæst, as, rædfæst, fast to his Resolution.

Others end in sum, as, langsum, very long or tiresom as we say, wınsum, very pretty, well favour’d: We retain the same ending in several words, as, handsom, wholesom, fulsom, toilsom.

Some in bær, as, westmbær, fruitful
[I wouldn’t have been surprised if a vowel had gone astray, but Bosworth-Toller offers a wæstm-bǽre.]


Nouns Adjectives are to be consider’d, either as they have a positive Signification, or as they signify comparing one thing with another, by which Comparison we find, how things agree with, differ from, or excel one another. This is either in a less degree, or in the highest: That which expresses the less degree, is term’d Comparative, Wıðmetenlıce, this denotes the measure by which a thiag is known to be greater or better than another. The other, the highest, is call’d the Superlative, Oferstıgendlıce, which signifies the most and the best, as if indeed it did exceed all degrees of Comparison.

The Termination of the Comparative degree, is in er, ere, ar, ære, ır, or, ur, ẏr.

The Superlative in ast, æst, est, ıst, ost, ust, ẏst; as, rıhtwıse, righteous, rıhtwısere, more righteous, rıhtwısast, -est, -ẏst, most righteous; and when a greater Stress or Emphasis is put upon the Signification, it is usual to take a final a in both the degrees, as, rıhtwısera, -ara, &c. in the Comparative; rıhtwısasta, -æsta &c. in the Superlative. But all do not follow this order, as, god, good, betere, -ra, better, betst, betesta and selost, best of all; ẏfel, evil, wẏrs, worse, wẏrst, worst; mıcel, much, mære, mæra, more, mæst, mæsta, most; lẏtel, little, lesse, less, læst, lest of all; utter, ẏttre, outer, or beyond, ẏttrest, ẏtemest, ẏtemesta, utmost, or last of all.

Some are compared from Adverbs, as from ær, before, ærest, æresta, from the Cimbric fyr, or fyrr, fẏrmest, fẏrmesta; besides these there is forma, formest, formesta, foremost; furðor, furður, furðre, furðra, further, beyond.


Of Pronouns.

THE Pronoun Primitive, Frumcenned, or Fẏrmest, of the first Person, is thus declined.

Singular. Plural. The Dual Number where two Persons are signified.
Nom. Ic, I. We, we. Wıt, we two.
Gen. Mın, of me. Ure, of us. Uncer, of us two.
Dat. Me, to me. Us, to us. Unc, unge, & uncrum, to us two.
Acc. Me, mec, from the Goth. MIR. Us, us. Wıt, we two.
Abl. Me, for, or from me. Us, from us. Unc, unge, & uncrum, for us two.

Acc. Me, mec, from the Goth. MIR.
“mec” unchanged: expected me

For the Primitive we, we, the Dano-Saxons use woe, and usıh, as also usıc, usıch, usıg, for us.

The Pronoun Possessive, Geagnıendlıc, of the first Person, is thus declined.

Singular Number. Plural Number.
Nom. Mın, mıne, mın, meus, mea, meum.   Mine, mei, meæ, mea, those things which are mine.
Gen. Mınes, mınre, mınes. Mınra.
Dat. Mınum, mınre, mınum. Mınum.
Acc. Mınne, mıne, mın. Mıne.
Voc. Mın, mıne, mın. Mıne.
Abl. Mınum, mınre, mınum. Mınum.
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Singular Number. Plural Number.
Noster, nostra, nostrum.
Nom. Ure, ure, ure.   Ure.
Gen. Upes, urre, ure. Urra.
Dat. Urum, urre, urum. Urum.
Acc. Urne, ure, urne. Ure.
Voc. Ure, ure, ure. Ure.
Abl. Urum, urre, urum. Urum.

For the Possessive ure, is read use; user, and usser, ussum, for urum; usses, for ures; usse, for urne in the Danish Saxon.

Singular Number. Plural Number.
Noster, nostra, nostrum.
Nom. Uncer, uncere, uncer.   Uncre.
Gen. Uncres, uncerres, uncres. Uncerra.
Dat. Uncrum, uncerre, uncrum. Uncrum.
Acc. Uncerne, uncere, uncerne. Uncre.
Voc. Uncer, uncere, uncer. Uncre.
Abl. Uncrum, uncerre, uncrum. Uncrum.

The Pronoun Primitive of the second Person is thus declined.

Singular. Plural. Dual.
Nom. Ðu, thou. Ge, ye. * Gẏt.
Gen. Þin. Eower. Incer.
Dat. Þe. Eow. Incrum & inc.
Acc. Þe, þec. Eow. Inc.
Voc. Eala þu. Eala ge. Eala inc.
Abl. Þe. Eow. Incrum & inc.

* Incıt, you two, is found for gẏt, as if it were ıncgẏt; geow for eow; and ıuch, ıwh, uıh, ıuıh, ıuıch, eowıc, ıowıh, geıow, in the Dano-Saxon for eow; and ıuer, ıuerre, ıuor for eower, D. S.


The Pronouns Possessives of the second Person are Þin, and Eower, and are thus declined.

Singular Number.
Tuus, tua, tuum.
Nom. Ðin, þine, þin; the rest, as, min, mine, min &c.
Sing. Numb. Plural.
Vester, vestra, vestrum.
Nom. Eower, eowere, eower.   Eowere.
Gen. Eoweres, eowerra, eoweres. Eowerra.
Dat. Eowerum, eowerre, eowerum. Eowrum.
Acc. Eowerne, eowere, eowerne. Eowere, &c.

For eowere eowre is written &c. and for eowrum, D. S. ıurre; and ıncer is declin’d like uncer.

The Pronoun Primitive of the third Person is thus: declined.

Sing. Numb. Plural.
Nom. He, he.   , they.
Gen. Hẏs. Hıra.
Dat. Hım. Hım.
Acc. Hıne. Hı.
Abl. Hım. Hım.

Se is used for he; for , is found hıg, and heo; for heora, is written hıora, and heorum; for hıra, her and here; heom also for hım, hı-heom, they themselves: Hıt, hẏt, is Neuter, of he and heo, and signifies that: He in D. S. often redundant; as, ðæs he falsað, he blasphemeth.

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Sing. Numb. Plural.
Nom. Heo, she.   Hı.
Gen. Hıre. Heora.
Dat. Hıre. Hım.
Acc. Hı. Hı.
Abl. Hıre. Hım.

The Pronoun Ðıs, Þeos, Þat, is thus declined.

Singular. M. Feminine. Plural.
Nom. Ðıs, ðes. Ðeos. Ðas.
Gen. Ðıses, ðısses, þeses, & þæs. Ðıssere. Ðısera, þıssera.
Dat. Ðısum, & þıs. Ðıssere. Ðısum.
Acc. Ðısne, þıs, þæs. Ðæs, þas, þeos. Ðas.
Abl. Ðısum. Ðıssere, þısere. Ðısum.
Sing. Numb. Neut. Plural.
Nom. Ðat.   Þa.
Gen. Þıs, & þas. Þæra.
Dat. Þam. Þam.
Acc. Þat. Þa.
Abl. Þam. Þam.

For ðıs, ðes, are used ðat, ðæt; ðẏsum and ðıson, for ðısum; ðıasne, for ðısne; ðısse and ðære, for ðıssere; ðıssa and ðıss for ðıssera: Ðıs, ðes, ðeos, ðat, signify isthic, isthæc, isthoc.


The Pronoun Relative Hwılc, Hwılce, is thus declined.

Sing. Numb. Plural.
Nom. Hwılc, hwılce, hwılc, which.   Hwılce.
Gen. Hwılces, hwılcre, hwılces. Hwılcra.
Dat. Hwılcum, hwılcre, hwılcum. Hwılcum.
Acc. Hwılcne, hwılce, hwılcne. Hwılce.
Abl. Hwılcum, hwılcum, hwılcum. Hwılcum.

Hwılc also signifies, who, of what Quality, any one is, Swa hwılc swa, whosoever. In the same manner is declin’d ælc, ælce, quisque, quæque, quodque; and æghwılc, æghwılce (as ælc hwılc) unusquisque, unaquæque, unumquodque; æghwılc, for ælchwılc, as, æghwer, every where, for ælchwær; anra gehwılc, each one.

Se, seo, and þe, þeo, þat, put on the Nature of Pronouns Relative: Ðe being placed after Pronouns of all Persons; signifies who, as, ıc þe, ðu þe, se þe, I who, thou who, he who: For se ðe, is used ðe ðe.

Sẏlf, self, is thus declined.

Masculine Sing. Numb. Plural Number.
Nom. Sẏlf.   Sẏlfe.
Gen. Sẏlfes. Sẏlfra.
Dat. Sẏlfum. Sẏlfum.
Acc. Sẏlfne. Sẏlfe.
Abl. Sẏlfum. Sẏlfum.
Feminine Sing Numb. Plural Number.
Nom. Sẏlfe.   Sẏlfe.
Gen. Sẏlfre. Sẏlfra.
Dat. Sẏlfre. Sẏlfum.
Acc. Sẏlfe. Sẏlfe.
Abl. Sẏlfre. Sẏlfum.

Sẏlf, or sẏlfe, are compounded with other Pronouns, ıc sẏlf, I my self, mın selfes, of my self, we sẏlfe, we our selves, ure sẏlfra, of our selves, &c. And with Nouns, as, Petrus sẏlf, Peter’s self, Crıst sẏlf* sang Pater Noster ærost, Christ himself first sang Pater Noster. From the word sang, may be observed the Antiquity of singing the Service in the Saxon Church, as was first observed in the Preface to the Homily on the Birth-day of St. Gregory, p. 36.

* It is worthy to observe how the Francick agrees with this, and what Dr. Eccard has said in his Notes upon his Catechesis Theotisca, p. 116.

Sing. Numb. Plural.
Masc. Fem. Neut.
Nom. Ẏlc, Ẏlce, Ẏlc,   ẏlce.
Gen. ẏlces, ẏlcre, ẏlces, ẏlcra.
Dat. ẏlcum, ẏlcre, ẏlcum, ẏlcum.
Acc. ẏlcne, ẏlce, ẏlcne, ẏlce.
Abl. ẏlcum, ẏlcre, ẏlcum, ẏlcum.

a added to ẏlc, gives it an Emphasis, as, ẏlca, that very Thing, or Person; and is thus varied.

Sing. Numb. Plural.
Nom. ẏlca.   ẏlcan.
Gen. ẏlcan. ẏlcra.
Dat. ẏlcan. ẏlcan.
Acc. ẏlcan. ẏlcan.
Abl. ẏlcan. ẏlcan.

Se ẏlca, the very same, Masc. seo ẏlce, the very same, Fem. þas ẏlcan, is the Genitive Case, Masc. and Neut. þære ẏlcan, is Gen. Case, Fem.


Swılc, hwılc, þıllıc, þẏlc, and þıslıc, such, are all declined like ẏlc.

Hwa, hua, Masc. Fem. and Neut, who: And hwæt, huæt, what, are thus declined.

Singular Number.
Nom. Hwa, hwæt, hwat.
Gen. Hwæs.
Dat. Hwam, hwæm, hwam.
Acc. Hwæne, hwone, hwæne.
Abl. Hwam, hwæm, hwam.

To this sort belongs hwæt hugu, hwæt hwæg, D. S. huot huoego, which signifies a little: hwæt hwegunınga, hwæt hweganunges, something; æg hwa, æg hwæt, (from ælc hwa) every one, every thing; swa hwa swa, whosoever, swa hwæt swa, whatsoever; ge hwa, any one, ge hwæt, ge hwæd, any thing; elles hwæt, somewhat else; hwæne, hwene, hwon, a little.

Masc and Neut. ænıg, any one, any thing.

Sing. Numb. Plural.
Nom. M. N. Ænıg, ænıge, F.   Ænıge.
Gen. Ænıges, ænıgre. Ænıgra.
Dat. Ænıgum, ænıgre. Ænıgum.
Acc. Ænıgne, ænıge. Ænıge.
Abl. Ænıgum, ænıgre. Ænıgum.

For ænıg, is read ænı; ænıne, for ænıgne; (as dẏsıne, for dẏsıgne;) for ænıgum, is read ængum; from ne, not, and ænıg, any, is made nænıg, none, or nothing; as likewise is ænlıwıc, or ænlıwıg, each one; ænlıwıge, Feminine.

Singular Number.
Masculine. Feminine.
Nom. Ænlıwıg.   Ænlıwıge.
Gen. Ænlıwıges. Ænlıwıgre.
Dat. Ænlıwıgum. Ænlıwıgre.
Acc. Ænlıwıgne. Ænlıwıge.
Abl. Ænlıwıgum. Ænlıwıgre.

Sum, some Person, or some Thing, and Sume, the Feminine, are declined thus.

Sing. Numb. Plur. Numb.
Nom. Sum, sume.   Sume.
Gen. Sumes, sumre. Sumra.
Dat. Sumum, sumre. Sumum.
Acc. Sumne, sume. Sume.
Abl. Sumum, sumre. Sumum.

An, one, is sometimes put for sum, some; for sum, that signifies any one, the word man sometimes used.

Sing. Numb.
Masc. Neut. Fem.
Nom. An, æn, ane,
Gen. Anes, anre,
Dar. Anum, anre,
Acc. Anne, ane,
Abl. Anum. anre.

In the same manner is nan, none, declined.

Agen, and agene, which signifies Propriety in any thing, or Possesion of it; for which at this Day is used own, and by the Northern English awn.

Singular Number.
Masc. and Neut. Fem.
Nom. Agen.   Agene.
Gen. Agenes. Agenre.
Dat. Agenum. Agenre.
Acc. Agenne. Agene.
Abl. Agenum. Agenre.
Sing. Numb. Plur. Numb.
Masc. Fem. Neut.
Nom. Eall, ealle, eall, all.   Ealle.
Gen. Ealles, ealre, ealles. Ealra.
Dat. Eallum, ealre, eallum. Eallum.
Acc. Ealne, ealle, ealne. Ealle.
Abl. Eallum, ealre, eallum. Eallum.

Eall, æll or all, being compounded with another word, signify Excellence, Perfection or Fullness, as, Ællmıhıtıg, Allwealda, thus in English, Almighty, All-governing.

Hwæþer, gehwæþer, æghwæþer, either; swahwæþer, swæhwæþer, swaþer, swæþer, whethersoever; auþer, oþer, owþer, other; naþer, nawþer, naþor, nahwæþer, nohweþer, neither; ægþer, either, are declined in the common form of Pronouns in er, such as uncer and eoþer

We will close the Series of Pronouns with awıht or awuht, contracted awht, auht, uht, by leaving out the a, wıht, wuht, any thing: From hence nawıht, nowıht, nauht, naht, nænıgwuht, nothing, in English no-whit, in the Plural nauhtas.

29 K

Cardinal Numbers, Þat sınd þa heafod Getel.

Þa Naman ðe getacnıaþ Getel, the Names that signify Number.

These Numbers, from four to a hundred, are of all Genders.

Endebẏrdlıce Naman, Nouns that signify the Order of Things, as,

Add to these, ba, begen, batwa, butu, butwu, both, Nom. Ba, Gen. Begra, Dat. Bam, Acc. Ba, Abl. Bam; Twın, getwın, Twins; eallswa fela, so many; eallswa mıcel, so much; eftswa mıcel, the same; hwılcere, how many; an-feald, one-fold; twẏ-feald, two-fold; þrẏ-feald, three-fold; ẏtemesta, last of all.

In numbering and reckoning up of Things, sum and healf, are of great use, as, þrıttıga sum, some thirty, or about thirty, oþer healf, one and a half, oþer healf hund, a hundred and fifty. The Greeks and Latins likewise use the same way of Writing ἔβδομεν ἡμιτάλαντον, six Talents and a half: Sestertius (qu. semis tertius) two Pound and a half; the ancient note of which was LLS, now HS.

Notes and Corrections: Cardinal Numbers

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The long lists of cardinal and ordinal numbers were each printed as a single run-in paragraph. I have opened them out for readability. If anyone can explain the connection she is drawing between eahta and Greek ῆτα—other than the coinci­dence of homophony—I would like to hear about it.

hund eahtatıg . . . hund twelftıg
[Bosworth-Toller tells me that the prefix hund, meaning something like “decade”, is used with numbers from 70 to 120. So our author could also have listed a hund seofontıg, as she does with the ordinals.]

hund endlufontıg, a hundred and ten
[I believe the form “eleventy” is found somewhere in The Hobbit.]

Of Verbs. Be FORDUM.

A Verb is a Part of Speech, with Time or Tense, and Person, but without Case.

There are eight Things belong to a Verb, first Signification, Getacnung, signifying either somewhat done, dædlıc Word, Verb active; or somewhat suffer’d, þrowıgendlıc Word, Verb passive; or neither, naþor, i.e. Neuter: Second Tense or Time, Tıd; Mood, Gemet; Kind, Hıw; Figure, Gefegednẏss; Conjunction, Geþeodnẏs; Person, Had; Number, Getel.

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Of Tense. Be TIDE.

In general there are three Tenses, belonging to each Verb that is perfect; first the present Tense, andweard Tıd, as, ıc stande, I stand; the Præterit Tense, or time past, forþgewıten Tıd, ıc stod, I stood; the future Tense, or time to come, towerd Tıd, ıc stande nu rıhte, oþþe on sumne tıman, I shall stand by and by, or some time or other. The Præterit, or time past, is consider’d three ways; first as a time imperfectly past, unfulfremed forþgewıten, as when a thing is begun, and not fully accomplish’d, ıc stod, I did stand: Secondly the Præter­perfect, or time perfectly past, forþgewıten fulfremed, ıc stod, I have stood: Thirdly the Præter­plusquam­perfect, the time more than perfectly past, forþgewıten mare þon fulfremed, because it had been done a long time before, as, I stood long before, ıc stod gefẏrn.

Of Moods. Be GEMETUM.

MOOD, Gemet, is the way or manner of speaking of any thing: There are six Moods, the Indicative, Gebıcnıgendlıce; the Imperative, Bebeodendlıc; the Optative, Gewıscendlıc, the Potential, Mægenlıc; the Subjunctive, Underþeodendlıc; the Infinitive, Unge-endıgendlıc.

The Indicative, with this we declare what we our selves, or what other Men do; as, ıc ræde, I read, hereby is declared what I do. This Mood is perfect in all its Tenses and Persons, and for that reason is the first.


The Imperative; with this Mood we command other Men to do something, or suffer something, as; ræd þu, do thou read; ræde he, let him read; beswıng þıs Cıld, whip this Child; sẏ he beswungen, let him be whipt. This Mood speaks of that which is to come, and has no Præter­perfect Tense, because no Man commands the doing what is done already; he speaks to some other, and not to himself, because every Man commands some other Person, and not himself.

The Optative; it has need of the help of some other word in order to make it perfect, as, Eala gıf ıc lufode God, I wish I had loved God; Eala gıf ıc rædde nu, O that I had read now. Eala gıf, is an Adverb, and it makes this Mood perfect after this manner.

The Subjunctive, or Conjunctive, because it is under the aforesaid Moods, and needs the help of another word, as, þon ıc ræde com to me, when I read come to me; þonne ıc tæce þu leornast, when I teach thou learnest.

The Infinitive, Ungeendıgendlıc, or without Ending, because that no Speech is ended without the Addition of three Things, Person, Tense, and Number, lufıan, to love; there is no knowing before-hand any thing by this manner of Speech, without saying ıc wẏlle lufıan, I will love. In these words, I will, is the First Person, Present Tense, Singular Number.

The Infinitive Mood is of two kinds, the one is called Primitive, as, lufıan, to love, tæcan, to teach, geseon, to see. The other derivative, to lufıenne, to geseonne.


Of the Verb Substantive.

THE Verb Substantive, by the help of which the passive Voice is form’d, in Saxon is beon, to be.

The Indicative Mood Present Tense.

Sing. Eom, eam, am, om, beom, beo, ar, sẏ, sı, I am; eart, arþ, bıst, es, sı, thou art; ẏs, ıs, bẏþ, bıþ, sı, he is.

Plur. Sındon, sendon, sıent, sẏnd, sınd, sınt, sın, sıen, seon, sıe, sẏndon, sındun, aron, bıþon, beoþ, we are, ye are, they are.

Plur. Sindon, sendon . . . bıþon, beoþ, we are, ye are, they are.
[Er . . . Do all fifteen forms have all three meanings?]

The Præterimperfect Tense.

Sing. 1. Wæs, I was; 2. wære, thou wert; 3. was, wæs he was.

Plur. 1, 2, 3. Wæron, wærun, we were, ye were, they were.

For wære, wæron, in the D. S. we meet with wæs; as also uues, uıes, uæs, wes: But for wærun, is read wærum, or woerun.

The Future Tense.

Sing. 1. Beo, beom, bıom, I shall be; 2. bẏst, thou shalt be; 3. bẏþ, wæs, he shall be.

Plur. 1, 2, 3. Beoþ, bıþon, we shall be, ye shall be, they shall be.

The Imperative Mood.

Sing. 2. Beo þu, sı þu, or sıg þu, wæs þu, be thou; 3. bẏþ he, sẏ he, sı he, sıg he, sıende he, let him be.


Plur. 1. Beo we, or sın we, let us be; 2. beoþ, beo ge, or sın ge, wese ge, wosas ge, wosaþ ge, be ye; 3. beon hı, or sın hı, sıen hı, let them be.

The Optative and Subjunctive Moods, Present Tense.

Sing. 1. Beo, sı, sẏ, may I be; 2. bẏst, sı, mayest thou be; 3. beo, sı, may he be.

Plur. 1. Beon, sẏn, sın, may we be; 2. beon, sın, sẏn, beoþ, may ye be; 3. beon, sın, sẏn, may they be.

For and sın, is often writ sıo, seo, sıg, sıe, se, sıon, seon; and for beoþ, in D. S. beoþan.

The Imperfect, Perfect, Plusquamperfect and Future Tenses.

Sing. Wære, I might, could, would, should, or ought to be; have been, had been.

Plur. Weron, -an, -en, -un, wære, we, ye, they might, could, would, should, or ought to be; have been, had been.

The Infinitive Mood Present Tense, or Primitive.

Beon, bıon, bıan, bẏan, bıen, wæsan, to be; wosa, wossa, wosan, were, sıe, D. S. to be; to beonne, to bıonne, to wosanne. This is the Infinitive Mood derivative, and answers to the Gerunds, Supines, and Participles; in Latin existendi, of being; existendo, in being; existendum, to be; futurus, shall be; hıt ıs tıma to beonne, it is time to be, tempus est existendi; us ıs here to beonne, existendum, vel manendum, est nobis hic, we must be here; se þe sceal beonne, futurus, he that shall be; to weard, is the same; se þe to weard ıs, he that is to come. Saxon Homil. on the beheading of St. John Baptist.


The Verb Weorþan Geweorþan, to be, to be made or done, is formed after this manner.

The Indicative and Subjunctive Moods Present and Future Tense.

Sing. 1. Ic weorþe, wurþe, wẏrþe, wurde, I am, I shall, or will be, I may be, I am made, I may be made; þu weorþest, wurþest, wurdest, thou are, mayest, shalt, or wilt be, thou art made, thou shalt be made, thou mayest be made; he weorþe, wurþe, wẏrþe, weorþeþ, wurde, he is, shall be, may be, he is made, he may be made, he shall be made.

Plur. We weorþon, weardon, -an, -en, weorðaþ, wurðaþ, we are, &c. ge weorþe, weorðeþ, weordeþ, -aþ, ye are, shall be, may be, &c. hı weorðon, weordon, -an, -en, -un, weorðað, wurðað, they are, &c..

The Future is sometimes exprest with the help of sceal, as, ıc sceal weorðan, I shall be, or shall be made.

The Præterperfect Tense.

Sing. Ic wearð, I was, or was made; ðu wearþest, thou wert, or wast made; he wearþ, he was, or was made.

Plur. We wurdon, -an, -en, weordon, -an, -en, we were, &c. ge werdeð, ye were, &c. hı wordon, -an, -en, weordon, -an, -en, they were, &c.

The Imperative Mood.

Sing. Weorða ðu, be thou, or be thou made; weorðe, wurðe, wẏrðe he, be he, or let him be, or be made.

Plur. Weorðon, -an, -en, -un, we, be we, or let us be, or be made; weorðe ge, be ye, or be ye made; weorðe hı, be they, or let them be, or be made.

Plur. Weorðon, -an, -en, -un, we, be we, or let us be, or be made
text has -en, -un, -we with spurious hyphen


The Infinitive Mood.

Weorðan, geweorðan, worþan, to be, or to be made; to weorþan, answerable to the Gerunds, of being, in being, to be, or must be: The Participle worden, geworden, made.

Of the Verb Active Regular.

A Verb Active is either Regular, or Irregular. An Example of the Verb Active Regular is, Lufıan, to Love.

The Indicative Mood, Present, and Future Tense.

Sing. Ic lufıge, I love; þu lufast, -est, -st; he lufaþ, -eþ, -þ.

Plur. We lufıaþ, we love; ge lufıaþ; hı lufıaþ.

When the Infinitive ends in an, having a Vowel going before it, then the Plural Endings are in ıaþ; as, hıngrıaþ, wẏrıaþ, þolıaþ, &c. But if they end in eon, then the Plural Endings are in eoþ; as, geseoþ, from geseon: But if a Consonant go before an, then they end in ; as, þẏrstaþ, we, ye, they thirst. G before an, in the forming of Tenses, is often changed into an h, as from wægan, to weigh, wæhþ.

The third Person Singular in Moods ending in ðan, and tan, often end in t; as, fædan, to feed, fet, he feedeth.

The Persons in the Plural Number often end after the same manner as the first Person Singular, as, hwæt ete we, what shall we eat, hu fleo ge, how shall ye fly. The same Persons end, as well in en, on, un, as in ; as, in wıtun, wıtaþ, ye know; nẏton, nuuton, 37 L nẏtaþ, ye know not: Sometimes it is read wutas, wutoþ, ye know, in the Poets. For the Poets often instead of , use the Termination oþ. The D. S. form this Present Tense, in a much different manner, as, ıc lufıga, or, lufıgo, I love; þu lufıges, or lufıgas; he lufıga or lufıgas, -es, -ıs; we lufıgas, or lufıges; ge lufıgas, -es; hı lufıgas, or -es.

The Present Tense of the Indicative Mood, is form’d by the Auxiliar eom, and the Participle of the Present Tense; as, ıc eom sıttende, I am sitting, instead of I sit. Ð the Asperate in the Termination of the third Person Singular, is often changed into the soft t, as, arıst, he riseth, for arıseþ.

hı lufıgas, or -es.
hyphen missing

Ð the Asperate in the Termination of the third Person Singular, is often changed into the soft t
[She means fricative, a word that didn’t exist until the middle of the 19th century. Aspiration isn’t phonemic in English—or, for that matter, in most Indo-European languages on this side of the centum:satem divide. It is probably a universal truth that every language, everywhere, distinguishes between “soft” and “hard” in a way that its speakers think is intuitively obvious.]

The Præterimperfect Tense.

Sing. Ic lufode, -ede; þu lufodest; he lufode.

Plur. We lufodon; ge lufodon; hı lufodon.

Verbs having f, l, m, n, r, s, t, before the ending of the Infinitive Mood, often contract their Præter­perfect Tenses; as, betẏnan, to shut, betẏnde. The Præter­perfect Tense wat, hath the same Signification of the Present Tense; as, ıc wat, I know; þu watst, thou knowest, qu. watest; and welst, weltst, thou didst command, qu. wealtest, wealdest, from wealdan, to govern. The second Person Singular in the Præterimperfect Tense in the D. S. ends in es; as, ıneades, thou wentest in, for ıneodest.

The Præterimperfect Tense is otherwise form’d, by the Auxiliar wæs, and the Participle of the Present Tense; as, ıc wæs bodıende, I was preaching, for ıc bodode, I did preach.

The Præterperfect, and Præterplusquamperfect, are formed like the Præterimperfect Tense, as also by the Participle of the Present Tense, and the Auxiliar 38 hæbbe, i.e. have; hæfod, heafod, had, from hæbben, to have.

The Præterperfect Tense.
Singular. Plural.
Ic hæbbe lufod, I have loved.   We hæbbað lufode, we have loved.
Ðu hæbbest lufod. Ge hæbbad lufode.
He hæbbað lufod. Hı hæbbaþ lufode.

Hafa and haue, are used for hæbbe; hafast, haust, for hæbbest; hafaþ, haueþ, for hæbbaþ; hafen, hauen, for hæbbaþ, in the Normanno-Saxon.

The Præterpluperfect Tense.
Singular. Plural.
Ic hæfod ge heord, I had heard.   We hæfdon ge heorde;
Þu hæfodest geheord. Ge hæfdon ge heorde.
He hæfod geheord. Hı hæfdon ge heorde.

Hæddon and heafdon, are often used instead of hæfdon: But hæfde is instead of hæfode, from which it is contracted.

He hæfod geheord.   Hı hæfdon ge heorde.
[Throughout this table, she seems undecided whether the element ge- is a prefix or a separate word.]

The Future is form’d like the Present Tense, as above; and also by the Auxiliar sceal and wılle, from the words sceoldan, to owe, and wıllan, to will, in English, shall, and will.

Singular. Plural.
Ic sceal fæstan, I shall fast.   We sceolon, -un, -an, fæstan.
Þu scealt fæstan. Ge sceolon, -un, -an, fæstan.
He sceal fæstan. Hı sceolon, -un, -an, fæstan.
39 L2

For sceolon is used sculon, and schullen, N. S. The Auxiliaries sceal and wılle, are often read with an Elleipsis, or leaving out of the Principal Verb; as, Ðıs Godspel sceal on Andræas-mæsse dæg, This Gospel shall [be read] on the Feast of St. Andrew; here the words beon geræden must be understood: Nelle ıc nu næfre hıonon, I will never go from hence; the word faran, to go, is left out.

in English, shall, and will
text has Eng-/glish at line break

The Imperative Mood.

Sing. Lufa þu, love thou; lufıge he, let him love.

Plur. Lufıon we; lufıge ge; lufıon hı.

For lufıge ge, we meet with lufıaþ, as we do likewise faraþ & axıaþ, go and ask, &c. and we read this irregular word wurpen, throw it away. The second Plural in the D. S. ends in as or es; as, lufas, or lufes ge, love ye; being a‑kin to the first in a, as, gesea, let us see, for geseon.

The Optative Mood Present Tense.
Singular. Plural.
Eala gıf ıc nu lufıge, I wish I may love.   Eala gıf we nu lufıon, -an.
Eala gıf þu nu lufıge. Eala gıf ge nu lufıon, -an.
Eala gıf he nu lufıge. Eala gıf hı nu lufıon, -an.
The Præterimperfect, Præterperfect, and Præterpluperfect Tenses.
Singular. Plural.
Eala gıf ıc nu lufode, I wish I might love.   Eala gıf we nu lufodon.
Eala gıf þu nu lufodest. Eala gıf ge nu lufodon.
Eala gıf he nu lufode. Eala gıf hı nu lufodon.

The Future Tense is like the Present, only adding gẏt, as, eala þat ıc lufıge gẏt.

The Subjunctive Mood is form’d after the same manner, only that instead of eala gẏf, it uses þonne, or þaþa, when.

The Subjunctive Mood Present Tense.
Singular. Plural.
Þonne ıc nu lufıge, when I love.   Þonne we nu lufıaþ.
Þonne þu nu lufast. Þonne ge nu lufıaþ.
Þonne he nu lufaþ. Þonne hı nu lufıaþ.
The Præterimperfect, Præterperfect, and Præterpluperfect Tenses.
Singular. Plural.
Þonne, or þaþa, ıc lufode.   Þonne we, ge, hı lufodon.
Þonne þu lufodest.
Þonne he lufode.
The Future Tense.

Þonne ıc lufıge gẏt, &c.

The Potential Mood is two-fold, either Simple, or Compound: Simple, when it is exprest by the Verb alone; 41 for example: Astıge nu of rode, þat we Geseon & Gelẏfon, Come down from the Cross, that we may see and believe. The Compound does express the Power, Liberty, Inclination, or Necessity, of doing any thing, by the Aid or Addition of some other word, such as Mæg, Mıht, Wold, Nold, Sceold, Mot, Most, exprest by our May, Might, &c. Mæg is the Present Tense of the Indicative Mood, and Mıht the Præterimperfect Tense of the Verb Magan, to be able, and is thus form’d.

Singular. Plural.
Ic mæg.   We magon, -an, -en, -un.
Þu mægest. Ge magon, -an, -en, -un.
He mæg. Hı magon, -an, -en, -un.
Ic mıht.   We mıhton.
Þu mıhtest. Ge mıhton
He mıht. Hı mıhton.

Wold, is the Præterimperfect Tense of the Indicative Mood of the Verb Wıllan, to will, and is form’d as Mæg, and Mıht.

Nold is a Contraction of ne wold.

Sceolde, is the Præterimperfect Tense of the Indicative Mood of the Verb Sceoldan, to owe.

Mot, I am able, or it is lawful for me, is form’d thus.

Sing. Ic mot; þu motest; he mot.

Plur. We, ge, hı, moton.

The Reader may observe, that mæg, and mot, make the Present Tense; and mıht, nold, sceold, most, make the Præterimperfect Tense.

The Infinitive Mood, as before is observ’d, is two-fold, either Primitive or Derivative; Primitive, as, lufıan, 42 to love, tæcan, to teach, geseon, to see; Derivative, which answers to the Gerunds, Supines, and Participles, in the Latin Grammar, as, to lufıenne to geseonne: Of which take the Examples following.

First, of Gerunds in di, Hıt ıs tıma to rædanne, tempus est legendi, it is the time of reading, or time to read.
do, Ne elca þu to gecẏrranne to Gode, ne sis tardus in convertendo ad Deum, be not slow in turning to God.
dum, Us ıs to lufıenne, amandum est nobis, we are to love, or we must love.
Secondly, of Supines. First Supine, Com þu us to forspıllanne, venisti nos perditum, art thou come to destroy us?
Latter Supine, Hıt ıs eaþelıc to cweþanne, facile est dictu, it is easy to be said.
Thirdly, of Participles of the Future in rus, Eart þu se þe to cumenne eart, an tu is qui venturus es, art thou he that is to come?
dus, For þeof, he bıþ to profıanne, oþþe to sleanne oþþe to alẏsanne, pro fure est accusandus, aut occidendus, aut liberandus, he must be proved a Thief, or slain as a Thief, or set free.

Of Participles.

PArticiples are either of the Present Tense, as lufand, lufıend, loving, or of the Præter­perfect Tense, lufad, lufed, lufod, loved.


There are some that do not answer this Rule, such as end in en, as, gebunden, bound, or bounden; oferwroh, covered; beot, beat, or beaten; afed, fed; acwanc, quenched, as will appear in the more general Collection of Irregular Verbs.

Of the Passive Voice.

THE Passive Voice is form’d of the Verb Substantive, and the Participle of the Present Tense, as,

Indicative Mood Present Tense.

Ic eom gelufod, I am loved; þu eart, &c.

Præterimperfect Tense.

Ic wæs gelufod, I was loved, &c.

In the same manner, is the Præterperfect, and Præterpluperfect form’d.

The Future Tense.
Ic beo gelufod, or, I shall, or will be beloved.
Ic sceal beon gelufod, or,
Ic wılle beon gelufod.
The Imperative Mood.

Sı þu gelufod, be thou loved; sı he, &c.

The Optative Mood Present Tense.

Eala gıf ıc eom gelufod, I wish I be loved.

The Præterimperfect Tense.

Eala gıf ıc wære gelufod, I wish I were loved.


So is the Præterperfect and Præterpluperfect Tenses formed.

So is the Præterperfect and Præterpluperfect Tenses formed.
text unchanged

The Future Tense.

Eala gıf ıc beo gelufod, O that I may be loved hereafter.

After the same manner is the Subjunctive formed through all Tenses, by adding þonne, as,

Ðonne ıc nu eom gelufod, when I am loved, &c.

So likewise is the Potential, by the addition of one of these words, mæg, mıht, mot, most, wold, sceold; as,

Ic mæg beon gelufod, I may be beloved, &c.

The Infinitive Mood is thus formed.

Beon gelufod, to be loved; wesan fulluhtod, to be baptized.

Here may not unfitly be subjoined a Collection of such Verbs, as agree not with the Rules here prescribed.

Irregular Verbs, Unemne Word.

Acwencan, to extinguish; acwenct, acwanc, acwınen, quenched, or put out.

Adreogan, to suffer, to lead; adrugon, they have suffer’d.

Æthrınan, to touch; æthran, he touched.

Agan, to own, or possess; agun, agan, we, ye, have; aht, we have had; ahton, they have had, or possest.

Ahebban, to lift up; ahof, he hath lifted up, unless ahof may be derived from ahafan, to heave up, upahebban is the same.

Ahreogan, to rush; ahreog, ahrug, he rushed; ahrugon, they rushed.

45 M

Arısan, to rise; aras, he arose, or raised himself.

Aspanan, to entice; aspon, he enticed; asponnen, aspanen, enticed; so spanıan.

Aþwean, to wash; aswoh, he washed; so þwean.

Awından, to wind; awand, he wound; awunden, wound; so wından, to wind up.

Awreon, to uncover; awroh, he uncovered; so wreon, to cover.

Beatan, to beat; beot, he beat.

Befrınan, to enquire; befran, he enquired.

Belgan, to be angry; bealh, he was angry; so gebelgan, to be angry.

Beorgan, to take heed, to have a care; beorh, he took care.

Bewæcan, to deceive; bewæht, he deceived; likewise wæcan.

Bıddan, to pray; bıt, he prayed; bæd, bad, he prayed, or commanded.

Bıwından, to wind up; bıwand, he wound up; bıwunden, wound up.

Brıngan, to bring; brohte, he brought.

Brucan, to enjoy; breac, bræc; he enjoyed.

Bugan, bıgean, to bow, or bend; beah, bıgde, he bowed; begd, beged; so abugan, gebugan.

Bıcgean, to buy; bohte, he bought; so bebıcgean, to sell.

Ceosan, to chuse; ceas, he chose; also geceosan.

Coman, cuman, cwıman, to come; com, he came; comon, cumon, they came.

Cunnan, to know; can, I know; cuþe, he knew.

Delfan, to dig; dulf, dıelf, delf, dealf, dalf, he dug; dulfen, digged.

Don, to do, or make; do, I do; dest, dẏst, thou dost; deð, dẏð, he doth; doþ, we, ye, they do; dıd, dıde, dẏde, he did; do, don, let him do, let them do.


Dreccan, to vex, or grieve; droht, he vexed; drohton, they vexed.

Drıfan, to drive; draf, he drove; so adrıfan, be drıfan.

Dẏrran, to dare; dorste, he dared.

Edlæcan, to repeat, or renew; edlæht, he repeated; so ge edlæcan, and æfenlæcan.

Emwlatıan, to look about; emwlat, he looked about.

Faran, to go; ferde, for, he went; foran, they are gone; so afaran, to go out; forðfaran, to dye.

Feallan to fall; feoll, he fell.

Fengan, to take, feng, foh, he took; also fon, and be fangan, to take.

Feohtan, to fight; feaht, he fought; futon, they fought.

Fından, to find; fand, he found.

Fleon, to fly; fleh, fleoh, fly.

Gangan, or gan, to go; eode, geode, I went, or did go; ga, go thou; ga ge, go ye.

Gebından, to bind; geband, he bound; gebunden, bound; so bından, to bind.

Gelæcan, to approach, gelıhte, he came near.

Gemetan, to find; gemette, he found.

Gemunan, to remember; gemune, gemunde, it is remember’d; gemunon, they are remember’d.

Geotan, to pour out; gut, he poured out; gutan, they poured out.

Gesean, geseon, to see; gesaw, geseah, geseh, geseag, gesag, he saw; gesewen, seen.

Geswıngan, to whip; geswang, he whipped; geswungen, whipped.

Getan, to obtain; geot, geotte, he obtained; geoton, they obtained.

Gewæccan, geweacan, gewæcean, to afflict; geweahte, gewæhte, he afflicted.

Gıfan, to give; gaf, he gave.

47 M2

Grından, to grind; grand, he ground; grundon, they ground.

Hangen, to hang; hoh, he hung; so ahangen, hanged.

Hengan, to hang; heng, he hung; hengon, they hung.

Healdan, to hold; heold, he held.

Helpan, to help; hulpe, he helped; so gehelpan.

Hlıhan, to laugh; hloh, he laughed.

Hnıgan, to stoop, or bow; hnah, hnag, as, in under hnag, I stooped, or went under.

Hweorfan, to turn; hwurf, he turned; hwurfan, they turned; so ahweorfan.

Iecan, to encrease, or enlarge; ıht, enlarged.

Lıþan, to fail; lað, he faileth.

Lıxon, to shine; lıxton, they shine; qu. lıxdon, lıxodon.

Magan, to be able; mıht, I had been able.

Nıman, to take; nam, he took; numen, taken; so genıman.

Oferwrean, to cover; oferwroh, covered; so wreon.

Ofslean, to kill; ofsloh, he killed; also ofslægan, or ofslagan, makes ofslog.

Ongınnan, to begin; ongan, he began.

Ongıtan, to understand; ongeat, he understood; ongatun, they understood; also gẏtan, or getan, to get, procure, or obtain.

Plætan, to smite; plat, he smote.

Plıhtan, to give his word, or be a surety; plıht, he gave his word.

Reccan, to tell, to give an account; roht, he told; rohton, they declared.

Rıdan, to ride; rad, he rode; so likewise on rıdan.

Sahtlan, to reconcile; sæht, he reconciled, N. S.

Sawan, to sow; sew, he sowed; sawen, sowed.

Scınan, to shine; scean, he shined.

Scıppan, to create; sceop, he created; so gescıppan.


Secan, to seek; soht, he sought; sohton, they sought; so gesæcan.

Secgan, sæggan, sæcgan, to say; sæcgde, sæde, he said, qu. from sæcgode; also wıðsecgan, wıðsagan, to contradict.

Settan, to place; seotte, set, he placed.

Sıngan, to sing; sang, he sung.

Sıttan, to sit; sæt, he sate.

Slagan, to kill, or slay; sloh, he killed, qu. slog, g being turn’d into h.

Slıtan, to slit; slat, he did slit.

Spıwan, to spue, spaw, he spew’d.

Standan, to stand; stod, he stood; also wıþstandan, to withstand.

Streccan, to stretch; streht, he stretched; strehton, they stretched.

Stıgan, to ascend, stag, stah, stıh, he ascended; also the Compounds, gestıgan, astıgan, onstıgan, nẏþerstıgan, to descend.

Swerıan, to swear; swor, he swore.

Swıgan, to be silent; suwode, he was silent; suwon, they were silent.

Tætan, to teach; tæht, he taught; tæc, teach.

Teon, to lead, or to draw; teh, tuge, he drew; teo, teoh, draw; hence tow, a word known amongst Sailors; so ateon.

Ðencan, to think; ðoht, ðohte, he thought; geþencan.

Tẏþıan, to give; tẏþde, tẏdde he gave.

Unnan, to give; udde, he gave.

Wacıan, to watch; weahte, watched; so awacıan.

Wedan, to be mad; wedde, he was mad.

Weorcan, worcan, to build; worhte, he built; forwẏrcan, to undo.

Yrnan, arnıan, arnan, to run; arn, he ran; urnon, they ran.

Notes and Corrections: Irregular Verbs

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The terms “strong verb” and “weak verb” don’t seem to have been in use yet. (If the ngram viewer can be trusted, the pair showed up in the first half of the 19th century.) Most of the verbs listed aren’t really irregular; they just change their stem vowel between tenses.

Bıddan . . . bæd, bad, he prayed, or commanded
[Comma between bæd and bad missing.]

Geotan, to pour out
[In Joseph Moxon’s work on printing (published 1683, the year of Elizabeth Elstob’s birth) he defines a Geat as “the little Spout or Gutter made in the Brim of Casting Ladles”. It struck me at the time that the word must have some connection with the German verb giessen, to pour.]

Hangen . . . Hengan, to hang
[Yes, but which of the two means “hang” as in hanging a picture, and which means “hang” as in hanged by the neck until dead?]

hnah, hnag, as, in under hnag, I stooped, or went under
[This looks like a mistake for “as, ıc under hnag”.]

Spıwan, to spue, spaw, he spew’d.
[I’m awfully glad she included this verb, because it helps illustrate the difference between p and wynn.]


Of Adverbs.

ADverb, Wordes gefera, the Companion of a Verb; because it is always joined with a Verb, and has not its full Signification without it.

because it is always joined with a Verb
[Or adjective, ahem.]

There are three things belong to it: First Kind, Hıw. Primitive, Frumcenned, as, dıgellıce, secretly, gelomlıce, often; or,
Derivative, Ofgangende, as, gelomlıcor, oftner, gelomlıcost, very often.
Secondly Figure, Gefegednẏss. Either Single, anfeald; or,
Compound, menıgfeald.

Thirdly Signification, Getacnung, and this is divided into several Significations, as,

1. Adverbs of Time, i.e. Tıdlıce, or þa ðe tıda getacnıað, those that signify Time, as, á, áá, ááá, always, or for evermore; gefẏrr, heretofore; nıwan, newly done, or of late; ær, before; on æran dæg, the other day; gẏstandæg, yesterday; to dæg, to day; to merıgen, to morrow; nu, now; ætsumon cẏrre, some time or other, &c.

á, áá, ááá, always, or for evermore
[Either the printer’s Anglo-Saxon font didn’t have accented (long) á, or the author forgot to mark it; the printed book simply has “á, áá, ááá” in ordinary Roman type.]

2. Adverbs of Place, Stowlıce, local; hıder, hither; þıder, thither; and these are either such as express things in a place, as, her, here; ðær, there; hwær, where; or from a place, fram stowe, as, heonon, hence; þanon, thence; hwanon, whence.

3. Of denying; or forbidding, forbeodendlıce, oððe mıstıhtendlıce; as, noht, nocht, not; nateswhon, in no wise, &c.


4. Some are of Confirmation, fæstnıgende, as, ıa ıc dẏde, yes I did; wıtodlıce, truly; gewıslıce, that is to say.

5. Of Swearing, Swerıgendlıc; ðurh, by; as, ıc swerıge ðurh God, I swear by God; ðurh mın heafod, by my Head: And here I cannot help remarking what the pious Ælfric observes on this head, who makes this Observation. Our Saviour has forbid every kind of Oath, and commanded that our Speech shall be thus confirmed; Hıt ıs swa, hıt ıs, it is so, it is; i.e. yea, yea; Nıs hıt swa, hıt nıs, it is not so, it is not, nay, nay: There are many other Adverbs of Swearing; but why should we say any more, since we may not swear at all.

6. Some are of Exhorting or Encouraging, Tıhtendlıce; as, nu la; come on, go to; nu ge la, take courage: This is sometimes exprest by the Imperative Mood; as, do þu, and do ge.

7. Some are of Affirming or Asserting, Fæstnıgende; as, soðlıce, truly; fulsoð, most truly, or indeed and indeed: This word continues still in use in the word Forsooth, but the Sense is misunderstood: For whereas it is only a Note of Affirmation, it is used as a word of Compli­ment and Respect, which we find exacted with great Niceness from their Children, by the meaner sort in and about the City of London, where they are sure to be taught to say Forsooth Mother, and Forsooth Grandmother, &c.

8. Some are of Doubting, Twınıgendlıce; as, wen, wenunge, it may be, probably, &c.

9. Of Quality, ðe getacnıað hwılcnẏsse, which signifies Quality, or how a thing is done; as, wel, well; ẏfele, ill; fægere, fairly; snoterlıce, wisely; swæslıce, properly.


10. Of Quantity, ða getacnıað mẏcelnẏsse, oððe lẏtelnẏsse, these denote much, or little; as, mıcel, much; lẏtel, little; naht, nothing.

11. Congregatives or Collectives, Gadrıgendlıce, these unite, or gather things together; as samod, at one; ætgedere, together.

12. Discretives, Sẏndrıgendlıce; onsundron, apart, separately; dıgellıce, secretly.

13. Of Likeness, Gelıcnẏsse; as, swaswa, even so; eal swa and eac swılce, in like manner; endemes, the same.

14. Of Intention or Eagerness; geornfullıce, eagerly, or earnestly; swıðe, very much; ðearle, over much; mıcclum, much.

15. Of Remission, Slacıgendlıce, when the Sense is slacken’d; as, lẏtlum, by little and little; stundmælum, by degrees; softe, easily, softly; hwæt hugu, hwæt hwæganunges, moderately.

16. Of Order, Endebẏrdlıce; as, þær-rıhte, immediately; sıððan, since, or after­wards; nextan, next, or at length; hwẏrftum, by turns.

17. Of Wishing, Gewıscendlıce; as, eala gıf, O that.

18. Comparatives, Wıðmetendlıce; as, swıðor, rather, or more; hwonlıcor, less; bet, better; wẏrs, worse.

19. Superlatives, Oferstıgendlıce; as, swẏðost, most of all; hwonlıcost, least; hrædlıcost, soonest.

20. Diminutives, Wanıgendelıce; as, dıgellıce, secretly; hwonlıcor dıgellıce, a little more secretly.

21. Demonstratives, Æteowıgendlıce; as, efne, lo; loca nu her, behold.

22. Interrogatives, Axıgendlıce; hwı, why? for hwı, wherefore?


23. Relatives, Edlesendlıce; as, þa þa, ıc wæs geong, when I was young.

24. Numerals, þa ðe getacnıad getel, those that signify Number; as, ænne, once; tuwa, twice; ðriwa, thrice, &c.

Of Conjunctions, Be GEÐEODNẎSSE.

COpulatives, Geþeodendlıce; and, ond, [ende, D. S.] and eac, ac, [oc, D. S.] and.

Disjunctives, Ascẏrıgendlıce; oþþe, or; ne ne, neither; swa swa, as, &c.

Discretives, Sẏndrıgendlıce; ac, but; soðlıce, but; wıtodlıce, for, &c.

Causals, for suman ıntıngan, words spoken for some cause; ðẏ, because; þat that; forðam, because; forðan ðe, forðı, because.

Exceptives, buton, butan, [buta, D. S.] nẏmþe, nemne, unless; huru þınga, only.

Interrogatives, Axıgendlıce; la, is it so? hwı, hwẏ, why? hunu, is it not?

Adversatives, Wẏþerredlıce; þeah, altho’; þeah þe, altho’; ægðer ge, either this or that; hwæder, hwæþer, hwæþere, nevertheless.

Illatives, or that infer the Reason of Things, gesceadlıce; as, forþı, therefore; aþẏ, the same.

Of Præpositions, Be FORESETNẎSSE.

PRæpositions may be consider’d either in Construction, or Composition.

In Construction they may be consider’d either as governing an Accusative Case, or an Ablative.

Throughout this section, each list of prepositions was printed as a single run-in paragraph. I have broken them up for clarity. (The tables were printed as shown.) For what it’s worth, I dimly recall a Greek instructor saying that it is inaccurate to speak of a preposition governing a case; it’s really the other way around.

53 N
Præpositions governing an Accusative Case.
Agen, or agean, against.   Agen Mannes Sunu, against the Son of Man.
Ongean. Ongean Galıleam, over against Galilee.
Togeanes. Togeanes hıne, against him.
Teh. Teh hıne þa ferdon, then they came against him.
Onteonan. And me onteonan æte, and against my will didst eat.
Wıð. Þe wıð us agẏltað, that trespass against us.

Be, in, to
[The text says Be, ın, to, all in Anglo-Saxon script, but I think this is what she meant. To will be listed on the next page under Prepositions with the Ablative Case.]

Here I cannot forbear giving you a particular Instance, it being so highly valuable, and remarkable for the Matter it contains.

* Crıst wæs PRESBẎTER. Christ was a Priest,
Þa þa he nam hlaf, When he took the Loaf,
And heold betwux hıs Handum, And held betwixt his Hands,
And þone Calıc eac swa, And the Chalıce also,
And to Heofonum beseah, And to Heaven look’d up,
And to hıs Fæder clẏpode, And to his Father call’d,
And þancıende, And with giving Thanks,
Bletsode to HUSLE, Blest it to Sacrifice,
54 And sẏððan hıt hıs Dıscıpulum, And then to his Disciples,
Sealde to þıcganne, Gave it, that they might eat,
FOR HIS SẎLFES LICHAMAN, Instead of his Body,
AND FOR HIS AGEN BLOD. And For his own Blood.

* See Dr. Hickes’s Saxon Grammar in the Thesaurus, p. 63.

From the Gothic HUNSL, which signifies a Sacrifice. See Mr. Junius’s Glossary.

Præpositions governing the Ablative Case.

Several of these Præpositions govern both Cases, which will appear by comparing the foregoing Scheme.

an, in, for, on
comma after “for” missing

A Collection of Præpositions used in Composition.

Those which are seldom met with but in Composition are noted with an Asterisk.

Emn, equal, as, emn-scolere, School-fellow;
; invisible

gewıta, conscious
text has gewı,/ta at line break


Of Interjections.

INterjections, Betwux alegednẏss; are either Interjections which signify Sorrow, þæs modes sarnẏsse, the Grief of the Mind, as, wa ıs me, woe is me; wa hım, alas for him; welawa, well away; eoh, hıgla; thus the French helas, eala, alas; or,

Of Rejoicing, or being merry, as, hlıchende, laughing, as, ha ha, he he, wel me, as they say in the North to this Day, weles mothe, that is, well is me of thee.

Of Calling, as, eala, æla, æala, hola, O la la, come hither; la is both prefixed and affixed to Interro­gations.

Of Wishing, Gewıscendlıce, as, eala gıf, O that; wa la, I wish.

Of Exhorting, Tıhtendlıce, as, wella, ute, go to; uton, go ye.

Of Admiring, Wundrıgende, as, eala hu, O how.

Of Shewing, Æteowıgende, as, heonu, efne, see, behold! loca nu, see here!

Of Praising, Lofıgende, as, eala eala, very good, very well! selþe, the same!

Of Syntax.

Of the Construction and Ordering of Nouns and Verbs, Be WORDA & NAMENA Gefegednẏsse & Geendebẏrdnẏsse.

HAving spoken of Nouns and Verbs, and the other Parts of Speech, singly consider’d, we are now to 58 take notice of them as they are joined together to make up Sentences in Discourse: And, as in the Grammars of other Languages we find three noted Rules of Agreement, called, The three Concords, so these likewise are first to be observed in the Grammars of the Saxon Tongue.

The first is between the Nominative Case, and the Verb, which must always agree in the same Number, and the same Person. If the Nominative Case be in the Singular Number, and first Person, the Verb that is join’d with it, must accord with it in the same Number and Person, as, ıc fullıge eow on Wætere, I baptize you with Water: If in the second, so likewise, as, þu eart mın gelufoda Sunu, thou art my beloved Son: If in the third, in the same manner, as, he eow fullaþ on Halgum Gaste, he will baptize you with the Holy Ghost: If in the Plural Number, the same Method must be observed through all Persons, as, we, ge, hı wundrodon, we, ye, they wondred.

The second Rule of Agreement is that which concerns Nouns Substantives, and Nouns Adjectives. As the Rule touching the Nominative Case, and the Verb, required an Agreement between them in Number and Person, so here the Substantive and the Adjective, must not only agree in Number, but they must accord in Gender, or Sex, and in Case, or Termination: For the Adjective being a proper Attendant upon the Substantive, it hath been thought decent that it should not only be of the same Sex, that is, a Male to wait upon a Male, and a Female upon a Female, but likewise to appear in a Dress, or Habit, by which it may easily be discern’d to which Sex they belong. The first of these Answers, the Grammatical Term of Gender, the other, of Case: And by this it may be understood what is 59 meant, when it is said, that the Substantive, and the Adjective ought to agree, in Number, Gender, and Case: As for example, in the Masculine, the Accusative Case Singular Number, Dumbne Gast hæbbende, having a dumb Spirit: In the Feminine Ablative Case Singular Number, as, of Ealre þınre Heortan, and of Ealre þınre Sawle, with all thy Heart, and with all thy Soul. The Neuter Gender, or that which is indifferent to either Sex, has its proper Terminations, as also its Adjectives, by which they shew their Relation to it. Participles observe the same Rule in agreeing with Substantives.

The third Rule of Concordance, is that which touches the Agreement of an Antecedent Noun, with its Relative Pronoun: For to avoid the tediousness of repeating the same word, or thing, the use of Pronouns was first invented; and this Agreement must not only be in Number, and in Sex, I might also say, in Case, but in Person too, as, Wa eow Boceras and Pharıseı Lıceteras, forþam ge sẏnt gelıce hwıtum Bẏrgenum, Woe be to you Scribes and Pharisees Hypocrites, for ye are like whited Sepulchres; And se þe swereþ on Temple, he swereþ on hım, and on þam þe hım on eardıgaþ, He that sweareth by the Temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth in it.

When two Substantives come together, which signify different things, the latter shall be the Genitive Case, as, þæs Hælendes Lıchaman, the Body of Jesus; Godes Rıces Godspel, the Gospel of God’s Kingdom. Sometimes the latter Substantive is a Dative Case, instead of a Genitive, as, we habbaþ Abraham us to Fæder, we have Abraham to our Father.


But Substantives are sometimes put in the same Case by apposition, as, Caıus Iulıus Romana Casere, Ælfred Cẏnıng, Rome burh.

The Genitive Case is sometimes put alone, the former Substantive being understood by an Ellepsis, as, he geseah Iacobum Zebedeı, where Sunu is left out by an Ellipsis.

The Praise and Dispraise of a thing, is exprest by the Genitive Case, as, þa wæron hwıtes lıchaman, & fægeres andwlıtan Men, they were of white Complexion, and Men of fair Countenance.

Ðearf, which answers to the Latin word opus, will have a Dative, or an Ablative Case, as, þearf ıs þære bote, there is need of Repentance, or making amends: But sometimes it is used as an Adjective, to signify what is necessary, as, mıcel ıs nẏd þearf Manna gehwılcum, it is very necessary for every Man; ac wuton don swa us þearf ıs, but let us do as it is necessary for us.

Notes and Corrections: Of Syntax

Participles observe the same Rule in agreeing with Substantives
[Well, yeah. That would be because participles are adjectives.]

Ðearf, which answers to the Latin word opus
[That is, in the construction opus est X, there is need for X.]

Of the Construction of Adjectives.

Adjectives governing a Genitive Case.

1. OF Comparison, as, Manna ærest, the first of Men.

2. That signify Fullness, as, fulle deadra bana, full of dead Mens Bones. These also have an Ablative Case, as, fulle lıcetunge & unrıhtwısnẏsse, full of Deceit and Unrighteousness.

61 O
Adjectives that govern a Dative Case.

1. Such as signify Obedience or Disobedience, as, oððe he bıd anum gehẏrsum, & oðrum ungehẏrsum, or he will obey the one, and disobey the other.

2. Of Likeness or Unlikeness, as, heo ıs gelıc sıttendum Cnapan on foretıge, it is like to Children sitting in the Market-place.

3. That signify, Care or Desire, as, Þat ge ne sẏn ẏmbhẏdıge, eowre sawle hwæt ge eton, ne eowrum lıchaman, mıd hwam ge sẏn ẏmbscrẏdde, be not careful for your Life, what ye shall eat, nor for your Bodies, what ye shall put on.

Adjectives that govern the Ablative Case.

1. That signify Worth, as, doð medemne wæstm þære dædbote, bring forth fruits worthy of Repentance.

2. That signify Fullness, as, fulle ealre fẏlðe, full of all filth.

3. That signify Guilt, as, dome scẏldıg, guilty of Judgment; geþeahte scẏldıg, in danger of the Council, or guilty before it.

The Interrogative, and that which answers to it, shall be in the same Case, as, hwæs ıs þeos anlıcnẏs & þıs gewrıt? whose is this Image and Inscription? hı cwedon þæs Caseres, they answered Cæsar’s.

Of the Construction of Verbs.

VErbs Substantives, and Verbs Passive, which signify Calling or Naming, will have a Nominative Case after them, as well as before them, as, ıc eom ærıst & lıf, 62 I am the Resurrection and the Life; se hælend þe ıs genemned Crıst, Jesus which is called Christ.

se hælend þe ıs genemned Crıst
[hælend means healer, savior or—by obvious extension—Jesus. But this strikes me as a bizarre translation; it would only make sense if the Anglo-Saxon had used the actual name “Jesus”.]

Verbs that govern a Dative Case are such as Signify,
Commanding, as, wealdan, to command.   Ealdor Men wealdað hıra ðeoda, Princes govern their People.

In most of these Instances there is an Ellipsis of some word left out, as in words of

Words left out, and to be understood.
Suffering, as, þolıan, to suffer. Þolıge hıs hẏdes, let his hide suffer; ðolıge hıs freotes, let him lose his freedom. As, Wıte, Punishment.
Helping, as, helpan, to help. God Ælmıhtıg helpe ure, God Almighty be our help. Untrumnẏsse, Weakness.
Tasting, as, onbıtan, to taste. Nænıg Man nanes metes onbıte, let no Man taste any meat; Wınes onbẏrde, he tasted Wine. Dæl, part, some, portion.
Praying or Asking, as, bıddan, to ask, or desire. Gıf he bıt fısces, if he ask a Fish. Gıfe, the gift.
Compassionating, as, gemıltsıan, to have mercy on.   Ure gemıltsod, having compassion for us. These sometimes have a Dative Case.
63 O2 Giving or Granting, as tıþıgean, to grant or bestow. Fulluhtes tıþıge, let him give Baptism. Gerẏne, the Sacrament.
Of Touching, æthrẏnan. Ne æthran þu mın, touch me not. Lıce, Body.
Of Meditating or Consulting, cepan, to intend.   He fleames cept, he took care for, or provided for his flight.
Of Denying, ætsacan, to deny. þa ætsacað þæs ærıstes, who deny the Resurrection. Lare or geleafan, the Doctrine or Belief.

Where there is no Ellipsis, these Words are for the most part Transitives, and govern an Accusative Case.

Of Touching, æthrẏnan. / Ne æthran þu mın, touch me not. / Lıce, Body.
[We will not talk about how long it took me to figure out that this construction has nothing to do with body lice.]

Verbs that govern a Dative Case.
1. Verbs put Acquisitively, as,   Gıf hwa hım rıhtes bıdde, if any one desire Justice, or Right to be done to him.
2. Verbs of Commanding or Obeying, as,   Þa bead he þam unclenan Gaste, then gave he his command to the unclean Spirit; Wındas and Sæ hım hẏrsumıað, the Winds and Sea are obedient to him.

3. Verbs of Giving, ministring, restoring, serving, chiding, forbidding, favouring, declaring, answering, lending, trusting, judging, thanksgiving, tempting, hurting, &c. also the words fılıan, and fılıgean, as, Petrus fılıgde þam hælende, Peter followed our Saviour.

Verbs that govern an Accusative Case.

Verbs Transitives, which are known when the Action passes, or is transfer’d from the Doer, upon some Person or Thing that receives that Action, as when I say, I honour my Parents, the Action of shewing Honour or Respect, passes from me to my Parents, whom I desire to receive that Honour and Respect, as has been observed: Some Verbs govern two Accusative Cases, of the Person, and of the Thing; Gedo hıne rıhtes wẏrþe, let him have the Honour done him of what is right. There are many reciprocal Speeches in the Saxon Tongue; as, hıg æteowdon hıg manegum, they shew’d themselves to many; Crıst hıne gerest, Christ rested himself.

The Ablative Case is sometimes put absolutely, as; gebıgedum cneowum hım to cwæð, upon his bended Knees he said to him; seofon sıþon, seven times. And sometimes the Genitive Case after the manner of the Greeks, as, sona þæs Wıntres, early this Winter, suppose or understand anweardes, ἱσταμένου, vel ἀρχομένου χειμῶνος.

The Infinitive Mood will have an Accusative Case before it, as, swa ge geseoð me habban, as ye see me to have; ða secgað hıne lıbban, they say that he is alive.

Note, That the Construction of Gerunds and Supines in the Latin, is perform’d in the Saxon by the Infinitive Mood.

Note also, That the Construction of the other Parts of Speech, viz. Adverb, Conjunction, Præposition, Interjection, hath been already accounted for, where we had occasion to speak concerning each of them.

And sometimes the Genitive Case after the manner of the Greeks
[Back when there were more cases, this would have been the Locative Absolute.]


Of the Dialects.

DR. Hickes and Mr. Thwaites have spoken very largely on this Subject, to whom I must refer my Readers for a more ample Account. I shall only beg leave to observe by the way, that before the distinction of Dano-Saxon, and Normanno-Saxon, there were doubtless several Dialects, or Proprieties of Speech introduced by those several Nations, of the Saxons, Angli, and Jutæ, or Geatæ, who took Possession of the Island, and of those other Colonies that were called out of Germany; which yet for the Space of four or five hundred Years, differ’d not so much amongst themselves, as not to be easily understood by one another. The Poets also had their peculiar Dialect, and set of Poetical Words and Phrases, the Danes, as well as the Saxons: And here I chuse to bring in the mutual Variation and Transposition of the Vowels and Consonants, which is placed at the beginning of Dr. Hickes’s Grammar, but could not so conveniently be placed at the beginning of this.

a, ae; ae, ea; ae, oe; ae, ẏ; e, ae; e, ı, ẏ; u, e; ẏ, u.

The wonderful Variety of changing the Vowels for one another, may be seen in this one word mænegeo, signifying a Multitude, as, mænegeo, mænego, mænıgeo, mænıgo, mænıgu, mænıo, mænıu, mænẏgeo, manegeo, manegu, manıge, manıgo, menegeo, menego, menegu, menıgeo, menıgo, menıgu, menıo, menıu; twenty different ways.

The Saxon Points are thus marked, a Comma, or short Pause thus ( . ) a Period, or full Stop thus (see below) or (see below) an Interro­gation, thus (see below).

page image showing previous paragraph


Of the Saxon Poetry.

THE Saxon Poems are either such as are made up of words purely Saxon, or such as have some mixture of the Danish, and are called Dano-Saxon. The pure Saxon Verses are known by that Exactness of Grammatical Construction, which is to be observed in them; and from their Purity, in rarely admitting those forreign words with which the Cimbrick, Saxon, Dano-Saxon, and Francick Poets fill their Poems: Of which kind of words, a large account may be had in Dr. Hickes’s Thesaurus Ling. Vet. Septen. and in the Epitome of it by Mr. Thwaites, so that I need only to give you a short Specimen of them here.

Balo. Evil.
Beadu-rınc. A cruel Man.
Beorn. A Man, a noble Man.
Brego. A General, or a King.
Corðre. A Multitude.
Dogor. A Day.
Eafora. Children, or Offspring.
Egor. The Sea.
Feorh, ferhð. The Soul.
Fıras. Men, Rulers.
Fold. The Earth.
Frea. A Lord.
God-web. Purple.
Gum-rınc. A Soldier.
Hadre, hadro. Serene, clear.
Hæle, hæleð. A Hero.
Heaþo. High, the top.
Hıld. War, a Fight.
67 Hrusa. A Rock.
Lago. The Sea.
Lıst. Knowledge, Skill.
Lıð, lıþa. A Ship.
Lıxan. To shine, to give light.
Mago, Mago-rınc. A Kinsman.
Meca. A Sword.
Metod. God, the Creator.
Mold. The Ground, or the Earth.
Rodor. The Firmament.
Sefa. The Mind.
Sıgor. Victory.
Sınc. A Collection of Things.
Sund, sunð. The Sea, hence the Baltick Sound.
Ðrago. Lasting.
Torht. Illustrious, famous.
Tẏr. A Lord, Empire.
Usser, ussıch. Us, we.
Werod, weorod. An Army.

As well in the Pure Saxon, as in the Dano-Saxon, there are certain Words, which denoting some particular State or Condition of Men, are set loose to signify Man in general, as,

Æþelıng. Noble.
Bearn. A Child.
Beorn. A Nobleman.
Ealdor. An Elder, a Captain.
Eofora. Children.
Eorle. An Earl.
Gefera, gesıþ. A Companion.
Gerefa. A Sheriff, or Ruler.
Leod, leoda. One of the same Countrey.
68 Scealc, scalc. A Servant.
Þegen. A Thain.
Wıga, wıgend. Leader.
Wıne. A Friend.

Nouns of Multitude are used by the Poets to signify Men, or Mankind, as, Leod, Leoda, a Nation, People; Werod, an Army; Folc, Folce, People; Eorlas & Ceorlas, noble and ignoble; Weras & Wıf, Men and Women.

The Saxon Verses consist of three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or more Syllables, but for the most part of four or five Syllables, with which the Poets now and then intersperse Verses of fewer or more Syllables, as their fancy directs, without any seeming Exactness of Order or Regularity. Verses of four and five Syllables are most current, where the Warmth of the Poet hastens as it were, and precipitates the Vigour of his Stile.

As to the Quantity of Syllables, which are not visibly long by Position (as the Grammarians speak) it must be confest, that in a Language which has been so long disused, and the true Pronunciation whereof is uncertain to us, it can not be so easy to declare what Syllables are naturally long or short: it must be a good Ear, and a particular Genius, that can be able to judge well on this Subject. It is certain the Saxon Poets indulge themselves in a large Variety of Poetical Numbers, in which, perhaps, they were not exceeded even by the Scaldri, who, as Wormius reports, had cxxxvi several kinds of Verses, in which they took a liberty of using many bold Figures, and frequent transposition of words. Sometimes they use a kind of Rhime and Verses ending alike, as,

Agene Broþor,

And hıs Modor.

69 P

Mıddan geard,

Mancẏnnes weard.

Sometimes they pleas’d themselves with Words beginning alike, as, Feoh & Fuglas; Laðra lınd. Now and then they made their Verses with Words sounding alike, as, wıde & sıde; gleam & dream. The Adonick Verse was not unknown to them, as, Rodera waldend; and except the Hexameter and Pentameter Verses, there is perhaps no kind of Metre to be met with in the Greeks and Latins, which a Man of Curiosity and Sagacity might not discover in the Northern Poets.

Notes and Corrections: Of the Saxon Poetry

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Egor. The Sea.
[Has this got some connection with Latin aequor?]

Eorlas & Ceorlas . . . Weras & Wif
[In general, when the author uses an ordinary ampersand rather than the Tironian ampersand, it means that the amper­sand isn’t to be construed as part of the Saxon utter­ance. Here it isn’t so clear.]

Words beginning alike
[The OED’s earliest citation for the word “alliteration” is as recent as 1698.]

Words sounding alike
[I expected examples of assonance, but instead she proceeds directly to rhyme.]

The Adonick Verse was not unknown to them
[A five-syllable foot consisting of a dactyl followed by a trochee (dah dit dit dah dit). If the normal line was five syllables, it would be pretty striking if they didn’t come out with the occasional Adonic.]

Of Accent.

THE Tone, or Accent, which the Saxons made use of, is said to have been the Acute only, and it was chiefly made use of to distinguish Words of a doubtful meaning, as, Gód, good, Mán, evil, to distinguith them from God and Man. To what other Purposes they served is not easily to be discerned from our printed Books, in which they seldom appear, tho’ nothing is more frequent in the Manuscripts, especially over words of one Syllable, and in words of more Syllables over that Vowel, or Syllable, upon which a greater Strength and Emphasis is to be laid.

I could not think of finishing this Treatise, without acknowledging how much I am obliged, both for Method and Materials, to the learned Mr. Thwaites’s most useful and ingenious Epitome of Dr. Hickes’s great Thesaurus, and to the Thesaurus itself: Of which learned Work too great Encomiums cannot be given, either for the amplitude of the Subject, or justness of the Performance. 70 An ingenious and exact Account of it has been given by Dr. Wotton in a Latin Treatise, entitled, Linguarum Vett. Septentrionalium Thesauri Grammatico-Critici, & Archæologici, Auctore Georgio Hickesio, Conspectus Brevis, which very well deserves to be reprinted, since I hear it is very scarce. As to the Thesaurus itself, which can produce as many Testimonies of learned Men in its Praise, as perhaps any Book has receiv’d that has ever been printed; yet it hath not indeed escaped the undeserved Censure of some Men, as being defective in some things: but I, who have had occasion strictly to peruse it, believe upon due Reflection, and a nearer Inspection into the Work, its most severe Censurers, will find reason rather to complain of their own, than of the Author’s Mistakes. However in a Work of so great bulk, illustrating so many Languages, it cannot be conceived, but that some things, might well escape the greatest Care, and exactest Judgment: The Author would be glad could she promise herself to have given as few occasions of blame in this little Book.

Dr. Wotton in a Latin Treatise . . . which very well deserves to be reprinted, since I hear it is very scarce
[Fortunately one of those scarce copies made its way to Harvard, where it has been scanned for the usual online sources.]


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A 20th-Century Assessment

In 1956, the Augustan Reprint Society republished the introduction to Elstob’s Grammar under her own descriptive title, An Apology for the Study of Northern Antiquities (available from Project Gutenberg). As usual with Augustan Reprints, the text came with a new introduction, this one by Charles Peake of University College, London.

Attentive readers will note that the author is scrupulously referred to as “Miss Elstob”, because in 1956 nothing was more important than a woman’s marital status. In 1715 she would have been “Mrs. Elstob”, as befitted a grown woman putting her name on a scholarly work.

The answerers who rushed into print in 1712 against Swift’s Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue were so obviously moved by the spirit of faction that, apart from a few debating points and minor corrections, it is difficult to disentangle their legitimate criticisms from their political prejudices. As Professor Landa has written in his introduction to Oldmixon’s Reflections on Dr. Swift’s Letter to Harley and Mainwaring’s The British Academy (Augustan Reprint Society, 1948): “It is not as literature that these two answers to Swift are to be judged. They are minor, though interesting, documents in political warfare which cut athwart a significant cultural controversy.”

Elizabeth Elstob’s Apology for the Study of Northern Antiquities prefixed to her Rudiments of Grammar for the English-Saxon Tongue is an answer of a very different kind. It did not appear until 1715; it exhibits no political bias; it agrees with Swift’s denunciation of certain current linguistic habits; and it does not reject the very idea of regulating the language as repugnant to the sturdy independence of the Briton. Elizabeth Elstob speaks not for a party but for the group of antiquarian scholars, led by Dr. Hickes, who were developing and popularizing the study of the Anglo-Saxon origins of the English language—a study which had really started in the seventeenth century.

What irritated Miss Elstob in the Proposal was not Swift’s eulogy or Harley and the Tory ministry, but his scornful reference to antiquarians as “laborious men of low genius,” his failure to recognize that his manifest ignorance of the origins of the language was any bar to his pronouncing on it or legislating for it, and his repetition of some of the traditional criticisms of the Teutonic elements in the language, in particular the mono­syllables and consonants. Her sense of injury was personal as well as academic. Her brother William and her revered master Dr. Hickes were among the antiquarians whom Swift had casually insulted, and she herself had published an elaborate edition of An English-Saxon Homily on the Birthday of St. Gregory (1709) and was at work on an Anglo-Saxon homilarium. Moreover she had a particular affection for her field of study, because it had enabled her to surmount the obstacles to learning which had been put in her path as a girl, and which had prevented her, then, from acquiring a classical education. Her Rudiments, the first Anglo-Saxon grammar written in English, was specifically designed to encourage ladies suffering from similar educational disabilities to find an intellectual pursuit. Her personal indignation is shown in her sharp answer to Swift’s insulting phrase, and in her retaliatory classification of the Dean among the “light and fluttering wits.”

As a linguistic historian she has no difficulty in exposing Swift’s ignorance, and in establishing her claim that if there is any refining or ascertaining of the English language to be done, the antiquarian scholars must be consulted. But it is when she writes as a literary critic, defending the English language, with its mono­syllables and consonants, as a literary medium, that she is most interesting.

There was nothing new in what Swift had said of the character of the English language; he was merely echoing criticisms which had been expressed frequently since the early sixteenth century. The number of English mono­syllables was sometimes complained of, because to ears trained on the classical languages they sounded harsh, barking, unfitted for eloquence; sometimes because they were believed to impede the metrical flow in poetry; sometimes because, being particularly characteristic of colloquial speech, they were considered low; and often because they were associated with the languages of the Teutonic tribes which had escaped the full refining influence of Roman civilization. Swift followed writers like Nash and Dekker in emphasizing the first and last of these objections.

There were, of course, stock answers to these stock objections. Such criticism of one’s mother tongue was said to be unpatriotic or positively disloyal. If it was difficult to maintain that English was as smooth and euphonious as Italian, it could be maintained that its mono­syllables and consonants gave it a characteristic and masculine brevity and force. Monosyllables were also very convenient for the formation of compound words, and, it was argued, should, when properly managed, be an asset rather than a handicap to the English rhymester. By the time Swift and Miss Elstob were writing, an increasing number of antiquarian Germanophils (and also pro-Hanoverians) were prepared to claim Teutonic descent with pride.

Most of these arguments had been bandied backwards and forwards rather inconclusively since the sixteenth century, and Addison in The Spectator No. 135 expresses a typically moderate opinion on the matter: the English language, he says, abounds in mono­syllables,

which gives us an opportunity of delivering our thoughts in few sounds. This indeed takes off from the elegance of our tongue, but at the same time expresses our ideas in the readiest manner, and consequently answers the first design of speech better than the multitude of syllables, which make the words of other languages more tunable and sonorous.

It is likely that neither Swift nor Miss Elstob would have found much to disagree with in that sentence. Swift certainly never proposed any reduction in the number of English mono­syllables, and the simplicity of style which he described as “one of the greatest perfections in any language,” which seemed to him best exemplified in the English Bible, and which he himself practised so brilliantly, has in English a very marked monosyllabic character.

But in his enthusiasm to stamp out the practice of abbreviating, beheading and curtailing polysyllables—a practice which seemed to him a threat to both the elegance and permanence of the language—he described it as part of a tendency of the English to relapse into their Northern barbarity by multiplying mono­syllables and eliding vowels between the rough and frequent consonants of their language. His ignorance of the historical origins of the language and his rather hackneyed remarks on its character do not invalidate the general scheme of his Proposal or his particular criticisms of current linguistic habits, but they did lay him open to the very penetrating and decisive attack of Elizabeth Elstob.

In her reply to Swift she repeats all the stock defenses of the English mono­syllables and consonants, but, by presenting them in combination, and in a manner at once scholarly and forceful, she makes the most convincing case against Swift. Unlike most of her predecessors, Miss Elstob is not on the defensive. She is always ready to give a sharp personal turn to her scholarly refutations—as, for instance, when she demonstrates the usefulness of mono­syllables in poetry by illustrations from a series of poets beginning with Homer and ending with Swift. There can be little doubt that Swift is decisively worsted in this argument.

It is not known whether Swift ever read Miss Elstob’s Rudiments, though it is interesting to notice a marked change of emphasis in his references to the Anglo-Saxon language. In the Proposal he had declared with a pretense of knowledge, that Anglo-Saxon was “excepting some few variations in the orthography . . . the same in most original words with our present English, as well as with German and other northern dialects.” But in An Abstract of the History of England (probably revised in 1719) he says that the English which came in with the Saxons was “extremely different from what it is now.” The two statements are not incompatible, but the emphasis is remarkably changed. It is possible that some friend had pointed out to Swift that his earlier statement was too gross a simplification, or alternatively that someone had drawn his attention to Elizabeth Elstob’s Rudiments.

All writers owe much to the labors of scholarship and are generally ill-advised to scorn or reject them, however uninspired and uninspiring they may seem. Moreover when authors do enter into dispute with “laborious men of low genius” they frequently meet with more than their match. Miss Elstob’s bold and aggressive defense of Northern antiquities was remembered and cited by a later scholar, George Ballard, as a warning to those who underestimated the impor­tance of a sound knowledge of the language. Indeed, he wrote, “I thought that the bad success Dean Swift had met with in this affair from the incom­parably learned and ingenious Mrs. Elstob would have deterred all others from once venturing in this affair.” (John Nichols, Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century, 1822, IV, 212.)

Charles Peake
University College, London

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.