Friday, May 06, 2016


The Marks and Moles of Pedantry

Charles Boyle (1674-1731), Bentley's Dissertations on the Epistles of Phalaris and the Fables of Aesop, Examin'd (London: Thomas Davies, 1745), p. 93:
PEDANTRY is a Word of a very various and mix'd Meaning, and therefore hard to be defin'd: But I will describe it to the Dr. as well as I can, by pointing out some of the chief Marks and Moles of it.

The first and surest Mark of a Pedant is, to write without observing the receiv'd Rules of Civility, and common Decency: And without distinguishing the Characters of those he writes to, or against: For Pedantry in the Pen, is what Clownishness is in Conversation; it is written, Ill-breeding.

It is Pedantry, to effect the Use of an hard Word, where there is an easy one; or of a Greek or Latin Word, where there is an English one, that signifies the very same thing.
Id., p. 94:
To over-rate the Price of Knowledge, and to make as great ado about the true rendring of a Phrase, or accenting of a Word, as if an Article of Faith, or the Fortune of a Kingdom depended upon it, is Pedantry. And so is an assuming and positive Way of delivering ones self, upon Points especially not worth our Concern, and not capable of being perfectly clear'd.
Id., p. 95:
To depart from the Common Ways of writing or speaking, and such as have been us'd by the best Pens, on Purpose to shew ones self more exact; and knowing than the Rest of the World, is a Piece of Affection, that savours of Pedantry.
Id., p. 97:
Pedantry consists also in low and mean Ways of Speech, which are a vicious Affectation of what is natural and easy, as hard Words are of Learning and Scholarship.
An Itch of contradicting Great Men, or Establish'd Opinions upon very slight Grounds, is another Instance of Pedantry.
Id., p. 98:
The Subject is fruitful; but I will confine myself to one Particular more of the Pedant's Character; and that is, a Love of quoting Books or Passages not extant, or never seen by him, in order to amaze and confound his poor Reader, and make himself terrible in the Way of Learning.
Some think that Boyle's pamphlet was ghost-written by his former teacher Francis Atterbury (1663–1732).

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