« ZurückWeiter »
some twenty years ago, a sketch of the antislavery movement in America for an English journal.
A word more on pronunciation. I have endeavored to express this so far as I could by the types, taking such pains as, I fear, may sometimes make the reading harder than need be. At the same time, by studying uniformity I have sometimes been obliged to sacrifice minute exactness. The emphasis often modifies the habitual sound. For example, for is commonly fer (a shorter sound than fur for far), but when emphatic it always becomes for, as “ wut for!” So too is pronounced like to (as it was anciently spelt), and to like ta (the sound as in the tou of touch), but too, when emphatic, changes into tue, and to, sometimes, in similar cases, into toe, as, “I did n' hardly know wut toe du!” Where vowels come together, or one precedes another following an aspirate, the two melt together, as was common with the older poets who formed their versification on French or Italian models. Drayton is thoroughly Yankee when he says “I’xpect,” and Pope when he says, “ť inspire." With becomes sometimes 'ith, 'ŭth, or 'th, or even disappears wholly where it comes before the, as, “I went along th' Square" (along with the Squire), the are sound being an archaism which I have noticed also in choir, like the old Scottish quhair.1 (Herrick has, “Of flowers ne'er sucked by th' theeving bee.") Without becomes athout and 'thout. Afterwards always retains its locative s, and is pronounced always ahterwurds', with a strong accent on the last syllable. This oddity has some support in the erratic towards' instead of to'wards, which we find in the poets and sometimes hear. The sound given to the first syllable of to'wards, I may remark, sustains the Yankee lengthening of the o in to. At the beginning of a sentence, ahterwurds has the accent on the first syllable ; at the end of one, on the last; as, “ah'terwurds' he tol' me," "he tol me ahterwurds'.” The Yankee never makes a mistake in his aspirates. U changes in many words to e, always in such, brush, tush, hush, rush, blush, seldom in much, oftener in trust and crust, never in mush, gust, bust, tumble, or (?) flush, in the latter case probably to avoid confusion with flesh. I have heard flush with the ě sound, however. For the same reason, I suspect, never in gush (at least, I never heard it), because we have already one gesh for gash. A and i short frequently become e short. U always becomes o in the prefix un (except unto), and o in return changes to u short in uv for of, and in some words beginning with om. T and d, b and p, v and w, remain intact. So much occurs to me in addition to what I said on this head in the preface to the former volume.
1 Greene in his Quip for an Upstart Courtier to square it up and downe the streetes before his mistresse."
Of course in what I have said I wish to be understood as keeping in mind the difference between provincialisms properly so called and slang. Slang is always vulgar, because it is not a natural but an affected way of talking, and all mere tricks of speech or writing are offensive. I do not think that Mr. Biglow can be fairly charged with vulgarity, and I should have entirely failed in my design, if I had not made it appear that high and even refined sentiment may coexist with the shrewder and more comic elements of the Yankee character. I believe that what is essentially vulgar and mean-spirited in politics seldom has its source in the body of the people, but much rather among those who are made timid by their wealth or selfish by their love of power. A democracy can afford much better than an aristocracy to follow out its convictions, and is perhaps better qualified to build those convictions on plain principles of right and wrong, rather than on the shifting sands of expediency. I had always thought “Sam Slick” a libel on the Yankee character, and a complete falsification of Yankee modes of speech, though, for aught I know, it may be true in both respects so far as the British provinces are concerned. To me the dialect was native, was spoken all about me when a boy, at a time when an Irish daylaborer was as rare as an American one now. Since then I have made a study of it so far as opportunity allowed. But when I write in it, it is as in a mother tongue, and I am carried back far beyond any studies of it to long-ago noonings in my father's hay-fields, and to the talk of Sam and Job over their jug of blackstrap under the shadow of the ash-tree which still dapples the grass whence they have been gone so long.
But life is short, and prefaces should be. And so, my good friends, to whom this introductory epistle is addressed, farewell. Though some of you have remonstrated with me, I shall never write any more
“ Biglow Papers,” however great the temptation, - great especially at the present time, - unless it be to complete the original plan of this Series by bringing out Mr. Sawin
“ original Union man. The very favor with which they have been received is a hindrance to me, by forcing on me a self-consciousness from which I was entirely free when I wrote the First Series. Moreover, I am no longer the same careless youth, with nothing to do but live to myself, my books, and my friends, that I was then. I always hated politics, in the ordinary sense of the word, and I am not likely to grow fonder of them, now that I have learned how rare it is to find a man who can keep principle clear from party and personal prejudice, or can conceive the possibility of another's doing so. I feel as if I could in some sort claim to be an emeritus, and I am sure that political satire will have full justice done it by that genuine and delightful humorist, the Rev. Petroleum V. Nasby. I regret that I killed off Mr. Wilbur so soon, for he would have enabled me to bring into this preface a number of learned quotations, which must now go a-begging, and also enabled me to dispersonalize myself into a vicarious egotism. He would have helped me likewise in clearing myself from a charge which I shall briefly touch on, because my friend Mr. Hughes has found it needful to defend me in his preface to one of the English editions of the “Biglow Papers." I thank Mr. Hughes heartily for his friendly care of my good name, and were his Preface accessible to my readers here (as I am glad it is not, for its partiality makes me blush), I should leave the matter where he left it. The charge is of profanity, brought in by persons who proclaimed African slavery of Divine institution, and is based (so far as I have heard) on two passages in the First Series
“An' you 've gut to git up airly,
Ef you want to take in God,"
“God 'll send the bill to you,”
and on some Scriptural illustrations by Mr. Sawin.
Now, in the first place, I was writing under an assumed character, and must talk as the person would whose mouthpiece I made myself. Will any one familiar with the New England countryman venture to tell me that he does not speak of sacred things familiarly? that Biblical allusions (allusions, that is, to the single book with whose language, from his church-going habits, he is intimate) are not frequent on his lips? If so, he cannot have pursued his studies of the character on so many long-ago muster-fields and at so many cattle-shows as I. But I scorn any such line of defence, and will confess at once that one of the things I am proud of in my countrymen is (I am not speaking now of such persons as I have assumed Mr. Sawin to be) that they do not put their Maker away far from them, or interpret the fear of God into being afraid of Him. The Talmudists had conceived a deep truth when they said, that “all things were in the power of God, save the fear of God”; and when people stand in great dread of an invisible power, I suspect they mistake quite another personage for the Deity. I might justify myself for the passages criticised by many parallel ones from Scripture, but I need not. The Reverend Homer Wilbur's notebooks supply me with three apposite quotations. The first is from a Father of the Roman Church, the second from a Father of the Anglican, and the third from a Father of Modern English poetry. The Puritan divines would furnish me with many more such. St. Bernard says, Sapiens nummularius est Deus : nummum fictum non recipiet; "A cunning money-changer is God: he will take in no base coin.” Latimer says, “ You shall perceive that God, by this example, shaketh us by the noses and taketh us by the ears." Familiar enough, both of them, one would say! But I should think Mr. Biglow had verily stolen the last of the two maligned passages from Dryden's “Don Sebastian," where I find