« AnteriorContinuar »
short, mental food would have to run shorter still; and, in order to discover, as far as I could, how far this had been the case, I a short time ago examined such materials as I have command over and which throw any light on the subject. I have also been fortunate enough to have the opinions and assistance of several newsagents in Bolton, one of them the principal wholesale man in the town. Such result, therefore, as I am about to communicate, may be taken, not as my opinion only, but may be received as the actual experience of those best able to judge of the circumstances.
The result of the strike on the circulation in Bolton of popular literature, newspapers, periodicals, and magazines may be very briefly stated, since in point of fact it seems to have been all but nil. I believe I am right in saying that the Bolton newsvendors do not lay any loss in their business, in the departments I have named, to the strike; the chief effect, when an effect has been sensible at all, has been a greater difficulty than usual in getting in money, and perhaps a more than usual demand for credit. These latter, of course, hold good in all retail trades in times of pressure.
If this is all I have to communicate, if the strike has had no influence, or scarcely any, on the sale of popular literature, it may be asked why you have the subject brought before you at all, and it might be said that an inquiry as to the effect of the strike upon the weather would be just as profitable; but the fact that the famine, which must have been felt somewhere, has not reached printed paper seems to me to be a most noteworthy one, and, after the experience I have had in such matters, a really extraordinary one. In order that we may see this alike, it is necessary that I should remind you of what I found the state of affairs to be some twenty years ago, when first I began to observe in my own business the signs of what was passing around Then I well remember the excessive fluctuations that the sales of periodicals and newspapers were alike subject to. At that time the newspaper was, I imagine, about the first luxury to give way; an uninteresting chapter in a tale in a popular periodical would leave the wholesale agent the following week with large numbers on hand; when few bought papers, an exciting item of news, which everyone wished to see, would suddenly treble the demand; and on the other hand, at the approach of holiday time-Easter, Whitsuntide, or Christmas-the pence began to be hoarded, and down went the numbers. This is the case even now to some extent; the man who goes to Blackpool for a week will buy his papers there, and the demand at home will be correspondingly reduced, but this does not affect the total demand, which remains unaltered, an entirely different matter from what I have spoken of. The stability of the circulation of cheap litera
ture now is a matter that no one actively mixed up with it as I am can help observing, especially when past experience can be drawn upon for comparison. It is on this ground that I venture to call the circumstance of the severe pressure on the pockets of the Bolton operatives, having little or no influence on the circulation of periodical literature, extraordinary. I was prepared to find the result much smaller than would have been experienced in former times; but I did not expect to hear that so greatly altered is the present state of things that the penny paper or journal has left the region of luxury, and like sugar, which our legislators until very recently classed among the luxuries of life, has become one of the necessities of existence.
My communication to-night is to be a short one, and really nothing beyond what I have already read strikes me as being necessary to add to the facts spoken of; but I have had some information given to me while I have been making inquiries on the foregoing matter, which, though not necessarily a part of it, still as throwing some light on the subject may not be without interest. I am told the butchers and bakers, especially the former, whose business is with the working-classes, suffered severe loss of trade during the strike; that the same was experienced by grocers and tea dealers; and I quote a letter received by a friend, who says, "I apprehend the beersellers and innkeepers felt the strike intensely, many having scarcely anything to do." Another correspondent states that some of the beerhouse keepers gave away beer daily one way, to be sure, of keeping up the demand for the article, but a way which I think the newsagents could hardly afford to adopt with their wares. Lastly, I am told the police cases for drunkenness were much decreased, another illustration of the fact that virtue is only found through tribulation.
OBSOLETE FRENCH WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE..
BY LEONARD D. ARDILL.
[Read March 4, 1878.]
The writers who flourished at a period when the French language was as yet far from having attained that elegance of construction and clearness of expression for which it has since become so conspicuous, furnish us with many instances of a somewhat peculiar philological fact. As we peruse their quaint old pages we are constantly meeting with words which, though at one time pure French, are now so no longer, having long since been discarded from the polite speech of our Gallic neighbours. On the other hand, these words are still in use amongst us, and bear to the present day the very same meanings as when first intro
duced into the English tongue through the medium of the Norman Conquest. Thus the words barge, cheftain, plenté, challenge, dael, jolité, frisque, bacon, forain, claret, jouel, noise, baronesse, robeur, record, ancestrie, hamlet, and many others are such as an Englishman has merely to pronounce in his own way; and he has before him, if not the actual terms themselves, at least the phonetic equivalents of those which are "as familiar in our mouths as household words."
Now, the difficulties which the words in question present to the French reader do not arise from their being originally English, or from their having occupied a merely temporary position in the French language. It is simply owing to the circumstance that, whilst forming, as they do, living, active, and component parts of our English tongue, they have either become obsolete with our friends across the Channel, or, being "words which bear the dust of centuries on their shoulders," have been elbowed out of the way, or politely bowed aside by younger and smarter kinsfolk. Some of them, indeed, are now seldom heard of at all, except in some far-away old country village, where the elegance and polish of modern city life are as yet unknown. Some of them still find a home with the Canadian "habitan," who has carried to the banks of the St. Lawrence the customs and the speech of the France of long ago. Even to this day the hardy voyageur of the Rocky Mountain district, the trapper in the wild lands which own the sway of the Hudson Bay Company, the dark-eyed Creole of New Orleans, and the swarthy planter of the French West India Islands, may be heard using words which seem strange and antiquated as they greet the ears of their more polished cousins from the old country, but which often sound like echoes from home to the Anglo-Saxon traveller. A somewhat similar fate would appear to have befallen many French words in England.
The fact in question was lately brought under my notice in a more than usually forcible manner when reading the quaintlysimple, yet artlessly-elegant, pages of Messire Jehan Froissard, the author of those famous chronicles which contain such a charming record of days dear to the heart of every student of English history. Now, in Froissard's case, the circumstance of his making use of words which a Frenchman of the nineteenth century would consider as either obsolete or antiquated is not the result of his having employed such as were strangers to the tongue in which he wrote. Of course, it may be objected that, though he wrote in French, he was not a Frenchman by birth, being a native of Hainault. Still, having received a courtly education, and being in constant intercourse with the most refined circles of his time, where French was the common tongue, he may be fairly considered as a perfect master of the language which he used. For the same reasons, his style, homely and rude though it may
appear, when compared with the more polished productions of modern times, may safely be taken as a model of the best writing of his day.
I have, therefore, selected him as the author from whose pages I propose to illustrate my subject. Yet, as the French reader. follows him to court, camp, and battle-field, and listens to the glowing narrative of coronations, tournaments, sieges, single combats, and assaults, he is continually meeting with words which are just as strange and obscure to him as many of Chaucer's old Norman-French terms are to the English reader of the present day, who may not have studied the transition period of his own language. Again, he meets with such words as achievement, chapelet, defiance, feint, joli, journee, presbyterian, pavement, and others, which, though still recognized as forming part of the vocabulary of his native tongue, have become so altered in their meaning as to be no longer understood in the sense in which they were accepted some four or five centuries ago. Monsieur Charles Nodier, who has written at some length on obsolete French words and phrases, thinks that many of them, remarkable for their picturesque beauty of expression and vigour of form, might be revived with great advantage to the language which they once adorned. The circumstance of their having gradually and quietly dropped out of use in the French language, whilst they are retained in all their pristine strength in the English tongue, might form the subject of an investigation at once both useful and interesting. Some words seem to have always retained their connection with the two countries, whilst it would appear as if others had bidden farewell to the land of their birth ages ago, in order to settle permanently where they had found a more congenial home.
Now, the question naturally rises: What kind of words are those which have been absorbed by the English, to their almost complete exclusion from the French language? When we come to consider the matter, the very first thing that strikes us is that they are either short and terse in character, or such as carry a certain descriptive energy in their very sound. There can hardly be a doubt that these are qualities which must have eminently fitted them for adoption by a language remarkable for the bold, manly character of its construction. At the same time they are, perhaps, the chief reasons for their having been rejected from a language which has been constantly undergoing what might, perhaps, not be inappropriately termed a refining process, in which elegance of expression and conciseness of diction have often been gained by the sacrifice of strength and beauty. Indeed, it may be safely asserted that the French language has suffered much at the hands of modern writers, who have impoverished its word-power by over-pruning, rather than enriched it by judicious
culture. Monsieur Auguste Brachet, an able philologist, who has done much to popularize the critical study of the French language, justly remarks that "the further we go back the more it improves." At the first glance this may seem rather paradoxical, but, if we would form a just estimate of the intrinsic merits of any language, we must always bear in mind that there is a wide difference between Form and Expression. Thus, the French of Froissard and his contemporaries is remarkable for vigour of form united to rudeness of expression; whilst, on the other hand, that of Corneille, Racine, or Voltaire is distinguished by its poverty of idiomatic form, associated with great power of analyctical expression. However, as my subject treats of words not phrases, these observations apply to it in a comparatively minor degree. • Nevertheless, I think that it will be readily admitted that, as far as regards the class of words which we have under consideration, the old ones, though, perhaps, somewhat wanting in delicacy of expression, most undoubtedly bear away the palm from their successors in all that concerns vigour of form. A few examples, taken at random, will show how some fine, pithy old words, possessed of no small share of native dignity, have been lost to the French language. The sturdy "maronnier" of old no longer puts to sea from Picard or Norman port. He has been driven off the high-seas, and now finds refuge on the rivers and canals as a common bargeman, whilst his clipped successors, the "marin" and the "matelot," elbow our own "mariners" of England in almost every port from London to Hong Kong. The "barge" has long since disappeared from the waters of the Seine, having been compelled to make way for the "bateau," although in England it still holds its own. Indeed, the very name of “barge” calls up memories of
The slow canal, the yellow-blossomed vale,
What modern French word expresses so well as "plente" the rude but generous hospitality of byegone days? Indeed it can hardly be said that the language possesses an exact synonym, for the modern term "abondance," as commonly used, seems somewhat strained in meaning. "Gaieté de cœur" may, perhaps, be allowed to answer the roll call instead of “jolité ;" but the coldly polite "défi," or still more formal "cartel," seem sadly wanting in the firm, manly tone which rings out in "challenge." The leisurely day's "journée" has become the hurried and distant "voyage," The bold "robeur" of old has degenerated into the sneaking "voleur" of to-day. "Claret" has become "Bordeaux" and "vin ordinaire." For "forain" we have "etranger." The stately "baronesse" is now that mincing upstart, "Mme. la Baronne." "Achevement," which so graphically expressed the