The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

May 16, 2016

May 16, 1831

Thomas Laurence Kington-Oliphant, (May 16, 1831 to July 8, 1902) was an British scholar. He was the eldest son of Margaret Oliphant and Thomas Kington. T. L. Kington-Oliphant, was the way his name appeared on his books, which include:

History of Frederick the Second
(1862)
The Sources of Standard English (1873)
The Duke and the Scholar (1875)
The New English
(1886)


A few excerpts from his scholarly labor will demonstrate a certain charm and antiquated quality to Victorian scholarship in philology.


England assuredly is at last waking up to the importance of studying her old tongue in all its stages. I cannot otherwise account for the rapid sale of my late book on 'Standard English ;' nearly 2,000 copies of this have gone off within four years or so....


In the present work I have embodied whatever of the former book was worth preserving; great additions have been made, since I take notice of about 3,000 English words and phrases. I have had much help from criticism, both in print and by letter. I cannot understand why an author need whimper under the rod of reviewers. If the criticism be sound, he should be thankful for a chance of improving his book. If the criticism be absurd, he may amuse his readers by inserting it in the notes to his next edition. I have freely availed myself of this privilege; no harm is done, if all names be suppressed.....
 

[In reference to the 13th century state of the English language, specifically the East Midland dialect, we read]:

I now return once more to the neighbourhood of Colchester. We have a collection of King Alfred's saws, dating from about the year 1200. It seems, like the Essex Homilies, to belong to the Great Sundering Line...

I may here remark, that in these Proverbs of Alfred we see a great change clearly foreshadowed, that was soon to mar the beauty of our English speech. There is an evident distaste for compounding Verbs with Prepositions .... It was unlucky that, of all England, the shires near London should have been the ones that started an evil habit, elsewhere unknown. One consequence of this clipping was, that English became more and more one syllabled.
[Coincident with this, but not illustrating his particular point, we learn that a new verb was used to describe cat behavior in the 13th century.] 

So mus (mouse) creates a new verb, applied to cats.

He must mean "to mouse," to hunt for rodents.

The Old and Middle English (1878), where we found these excerpts, was one of the projects 
T. L. Kington-Oliphant could pursue after inheriting a Scottish estate in 1864. This enabled him to leave his position at the Inner Temple, where he had worked after getting his Oxford degree.

His interest in history extended to his family's, as is apparent from another book he wrote:
The Jacobite Lairds of Gask (1870).

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