Quaker and Grammarian
At the end of the eighteenth century, which is commonly considered as a key
period for the standardisation of the English language, the American-born
Quaker Lindley Murray (1745–1826) compiled his English Grammar (1795).
The book was widely used for decades since, was trans lated into many lan -
guages, and became the best-selling gram mar of all times, with sales figures
that even according to today’s stan dards are considered highly impressive.
The present study first and foremost investigates who Murray was, and what
led him to compile this grammar and many other textbooks. In the process,
several previous misconcep tions have been set straight by the author. Mur -
ray’s life as a Quaker is painted in great detail, together with the effect his
religious outlook had on his writings. To this end, a corpus of 262 of his au -
tograph letters was compiled and analysed for his usage. This has addition -
ally resulted in insight into several features of typical Quaker usage that were
prescribed at the time, and to which Murray ad hered. As the second part of
this study, Murray’s language use as found in these letters is compared to a
selection of the rules laid down in the English Grammar. Here we see that Mur-
ray, although he was language conscious, did not always follow these rules.
The findings in this book will be of interest to scholars in various fields, such
as social history, and book and publishing studies, but they will be especially
important for socio historical linguists with an interest in language use in Eng -
land, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.