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The Lake Dialect
by [?]

To the Editor of ‘Titan.’

My Dear Sir,–I send you a few hasty notes upon Mr. Robert Ferguson’s little work (relating to the dialect current at the English Lakes).[1] Mr. Ferguson’s book is learned and seasonable, adapted to the stage at which such studies have now arrived among us, and adapted also to a popular use. I am sure that Mr. Ferguson knows a great deal more about his very interesting theme than I do. Nevertheless, I presume to sit in judgment upon him; or so it will be inferred from my assuming the office of his reviewer. But in reality I pretend to no such ambitious and invidious functions. What I propose to do, in this hasty and extempore fashion, is–simply to take a seat in Mr. Ferguson’s court as an amicus curiae, and occasionally to suggest a doubt, by possibility an amendment; but more often to lead astray judge, jury, and docile audience into matter growing out of the subject, but very seldom leading back into it, too often, perhaps, having little to do with it; pleasant by possibility, according to Foote’s judgment in a parallel case, ‘pleasant, but wrong.’ No great matter if it should be so. It will be read within the privileged term of Christmas;[2] during which licensed saturnalia it can be no blame to any paper, that it is ‘pleasant, but wrong.’

[Footnote 1:
The Northmen in Cumberland and Westmoreland. By Robert Ferguson. Carlisle: Steel & Brother. London: Longmans & Co.]

[Footnote 2:
Writing at the moment in Scotland, where Christmas is as little heard of, or popularly understood or regarded, as the Mahometan festival of Beyram or the fast of Ramadan, I ought to explain that, as Christmas Day, by adjournment from Lady Day–namely, March 25–falls uniformly on December 25, it happens necessarily that Twelfth Day (the adoration of the Magi at Bethlehem), which is the ceremonial close of Christmas, falls upon the 5th day of January; seven days in the old, five in the new, year. ]

I begin with lodging a complaint against Mr. Ferguson, namely, that he has ignored me–me, that in some measure may be described as having broken ground originally in this interesting field of research. Me, the undoubted parent of such studies–i. e. the person who first solemnly proclaimed the Danish language to be the master-key for unlocking the peculiarities of the Lake dialect–me, has this undutiful son never noticed, except incidentally, and then only with some reserve, or even with a distinct scruple, as regards the particular point of information for which I am cited. Seriously, however, this very passage, which offers me the affront of utter exclusion from what I had regarded as my own peculiar territory, my own Danish ring-fence, shows clearly that no affront had been designed. Mr. Ferguson had found occasion, at p. 80, to mention that Fairfield, the most distinguished[3] of the Grasmere boundaries, and ‘next neighbour to Helvellyn’ (next also in magnitude, being above three thousand feet high), had, as regarded its name, ‘been derived from the Scandinavian faar, sheep, in allusion to the peculiar fertility of its pastures.’ He goes on thus–‘This mountain’ (says De Quincey) ‘has large, smooth pastoral savannahs, to which the sheep resort when all its rocky or barren neighbours are left desolate.’ In thus referring to myself for the character of the mountain, he does not at all suppose that he is referring to the author of the etymology. On the contrary, the very next sentence says–‘I do not know who is the author of this etymology, which has been quoted by several writers; but it appears to me to be open to considerable doubt’; and this for two separate reasons, which he assigns, and which I will notice a little further on.