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The Florence Professor

AT Florence they have established a Professor, chosen from amongst the most eminent of the Della Crusca Academicians, who professes publicly the Italian language. It was thus, also, the Romans established a similar Student, who dedicated his life to the profession of their language.

I cannot but wish that an Academy, or at least a Professorship, were founded in England, for the preservation of our language: they might censure any faulty innovations which appeared in the style of those compositions which were likely to become extensive in their circulation. They might detect the tinsel of Della Crusca, the Gallicisms of Gibbon, and the Scotticisms of Blair, on their earliest publication. They would compel our authors to be more vigilant; and we might thus be enabled to leave our heirs the rich inheritance of a classical style, who, in their gratitude, would recompense our labours, by delivering it down to posterity uncontaminated.

Swift, and other good judges of the purity of the English language, have testified their desire for such an establishment; and, although I have not forgotten the sentiments of Johnson on this occasion, I cannot but oppose them. Had there been such an Academy, or Professorship, founded in the days the Rambler was published, posterity would have read as many protests against the pedantic Latinity of his English as there are papers in that work. He seems to have been sensible, though somewhat late, of his error; for his biographical style is, indeed, a classical standard of the English language. It was then he most cordially praised the Addisonian periods. Akenside has committed the same violations in verse which Johnson has in prose.

Editor’s Notes

D’Israeli’s youthful enthusiasm for the establishment of an English Academy of Literature soon cooled: in his article ‘A Glance into the French Academy’ he would write that:

If the Assembles of Academicians are thus triflingly passed, we need not regret that no Academy for polite literature is established in our country.