The Grammarian





The best way to learn to write is to write.



Herbert Spencer never studied grammar until he had learned to write. He

took his grammar at sixty, which is a good age for one to begin this

most interesting study, as by the time you have reached that age you

have largely lost your capacity to sin.



Men who can swim exceedingly well are not those who have taken courses

in the theory of swimming at natatoriums, from professors of the

amphibian art--they were just boys who jumped into the ol' swimmin'

hole, and came home with shirts on wrong-side out and a tell-tale

dampness in their hair.



Correspondence schools for the taming of bronchos are as naught; and

treatises on the gentle art of wooing are of no avail--follow

nature's lead.



Grammar is the appendenda vermiformis of the science of pedagogics: it

is as useless as the letter q in the alphabet, or the proverbial two

tails to a cat, which no cat ever had, and the finest cat in the world,

the Manx cat, has no tail at all.



"The literary style of most university men is commonplace, when not

positively bad," wrote Herbert Spencer in his old age.



"Educated Englishmen all write alike," said Taine. That is to say,

educated men who have been drilled to write by certain fixed and

unchangeable rules of rhetoric and grammar will produce similar

compositions. They have no literary style, for style is individuality

and character--the style is the man, and grammar tends to obliterate

individuality. No study is so irksome to everybody, except the sciolists

who teach it, as grammar. It remains forever a bad taste in the mouth of

the man of ideas, and has weaned bright minds innumerable from a desire

to express themselves through the written word.



Grammar is the etiquette of words, and the man who does not know how to

properly salute his grandmother on the street until he has consulted a

book, is always so troubled about the tenses that his fancies break thru

language and escape.



The grammarian is one whose whole thought is to string words according

to a set formula. The substance itself that he wishes to convey is of

secondary importance. Orators who keep their thoughts upon the proper

way to gesticulate in curves, impress nobody.



If it were a sin against decency, or an attempt to poison the minds of

the people, for a person to be ungrammatical, it might be wise enough

to hire men to protect the well of English from defilement. But a

stationary language is a dead one--moving water only is pure--and the

well that is not fed by springs is sure to be a breeding-place

for disease.



Let men express themselves in their own way, and if they express

themselves poorly, look you, their punishment will be that no one will

read their literary effusions. Oblivion with her smother-blanket lies in

wait for the writer who has nothing to say and says it faultlessly.



In the making of hare soup, I am informed by most excellent culinary

authority, the first requisite is to catch your hare. The literary

scullion who has anything to offer a hungry world, will doubtless find a

way to fricassee it.





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