London May 24 1817
A person in your situation must inevitably be annoyed with a number of complaints, yet as I believe mine to be a sensible one, I cannot resolve to suppress it. I received from my parents an excellent English education, was well versed in all our best authors both of Poetry and Prose, from the time of Chaucer till the golden days of Elizabeth and Anne. Accustomed constantly to hear my memory resorted to, and my judgement invoked like an Oracle — within the last few years however the case is widely altered — A mass of splendid heresies have sprung up and the Creed of Taste is so totally changed, that a man like myself who is too old to recommence his education, or at least not inclined to do so, finds himself at a loss in company from knowing nothing of what the Literary Proselytes around him are discussing with all the zeal of a new cause — or still worse he runs the risk of being stared at in ridicule, if in evil hour he quotes some old orthodox bard “whom nobody reads” now.
But it is not this I quarrel with. I could be content to let these butterflies enjoy their hour of sunshine. They are motes that appear brilliant and valuable only in the beam of fashion which gilds them with superficial beauty, which the others are stirling gems which shine brighter from the fiery tests of time and criticism. They ask not the splendour of that fleeting radiance but even in the gloom of neglect shine with their own inherent — light.
But this Mr Editor is not my ground, if affectation sickened elsewhere I had hitherto been accustomed to find taste and correctness in the Attic Chest, and have even been considered as no unworthy member of its Society. But this is past — for since the Peace, even they have consented to admit such a cargo of foreign barbarisms, that our native lovely English weeps at the speck with which those who profess to adorn it have disfigured its beauties while there was only an affectation of Persian and Greek I bore it — The latter I knew was Greek to others as well as to me, and the Persian or the Hebrew I always considered a hoax; but of late Mr Editor you have admitted such an inundation of French poetry and prose, or what is still worse, or prose that is neither French nor English, that my patience cannot stand it. Everybody is supposed to “know French” and therefore Mr Editor you may judge from experience of the uncomfortable feelings of one whose education went no farther than Latin, when he finds himself unable to comprehend a word uttered by those whose conversation he has long regarded as the chief blessing of existence. I would have these Gallicians know that some of these words have but an awkward sound in an English Ear. I hear the ladies boasting of their progress in the Beaux Hearts, and the gentlemen vaunting their familiarity with Belle’s letters. I also fell into a mistake the other day, but as no one will tell me what it was I only know I spoke wrong and will allow you a laugh at my blunder.
Reading a modern author I met with the words en chemise and appealed to a lady near me for their meaning. En chemise, said she, means undressed. Next morning I called on a friend who asked me to return to dinner. I accepted his invitation, at the same time saying to his Lady that I must request her to receive me “en chemise” as I was going a long round, and should have no time to dress me. A little while after I told her she looked best “en chemise as beauty” is when unadorned adorned the most. She made no reply but by staring as if she thought me mad, and I made a firm resolution never to attempt a Gallicism again.
Your most obedient