A Handbook of the Cornish Language - chiefly in its latest stages with some account of its history and literature
by Henry Jenner
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Transcribed from the 1904 David Nutt edition by David Price, email




Never credit me but I will spowt some Cornish at him. Peden bras, vidne whee bis cregas.

The Northern Lass, by RICH BROME, 1632.


Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO. At the Ballantyne Press


H. L. J.

_Kerra ow Holon_! _Beniges re vo_ _Gans bennath Dew an ddh a th ros dhemmo_, _Dh whelas gerryow gwan pan dhetha v_, _Tavas dha dassow_, _ha dh th drovya d_. _En cov an ddh splan-na es pel passyes_; _En cov idn ddh lowenek_, _gwin gan bs_, _War Garrak Loys en Cs_, _es en dan sks_ _Askelly Myhal El_, _o gan gwithes_; _En cov las ddh wheg en Kernow da_, _Ha n mar younk_na whekkah vel r-ma_ _Dhemmo a dhg genev an gwella tra_, _Pan dhetha v en kerh_, _en ol bro-na_; _Dheso m re levar dha davas teg_, _Flogh ow empinyon v_, _dh m kerra Gwrg_.


Scrfes en agan Ch n, Dawthegves ddh Ms Gorefan En Bledhan agan Arledh, 1904.


This book is principally intended for those persons of Cornish nationality who wish to acquire some knowledge of their ancient tongue, and to read, write, and perhaps even to speak it. Its aim is to represent in an intelligible form the Cornish of the later period, and since it is addressed to the general Cornish public rather than to the skilled philologist, much has been left unsaid that might have been of interest to the latter, old-fashioned phonological and grammatical terms have been used, a uniform system of spelling has been adopted, little notice has been taken of casual variations, and the arguments upon which the choice of forms has been based have not often been given.

The spelling has been adapted for the occasion. All writers of Cornish used to spell according to their own taste and fancy, and would sometimes represent the same word in different ways even in the same page, though certain general principles were observed in each period. There was a special uncertainty about the vowels, which will be easily appreciated by those who are familiar with Cornish English. Modern writers of all languages prefer consistent spelling, and to modern learners, whose object is linguistic rather than philological, a fairly regular system of orthography is almost a necessity. The present system is not the phonetic ideal of one sound to each symbol, and one symbol for each sound, but it aims at being fairly consistent with itself, not too difficult to understand, not too much encumbered with diacritical signs, and not too startlingly different from the spellings of earlier times, especially from that of Lhuyd, whose system was constructed from living Cornish speakers. The writer has arrived at his conclusions by a comparison of the various existing spellings with one another, with the traditional fragments collected and recorded by himself in 1875, with the modern pronunciation of Cornish names, with the changes which English has undergone in the mouths of the less educated of Cornishmen, and to some extent with Breton. The author suggests that this form of spelling should be generally adopted by Cornish students of their old speech. The system cannot in the nature of things be strictly accurate, but it is near enough for practical purposes. Possibly there is much room for controversy, especially as to such details as the distribution of long and short vowels, the representation of the Middle Cornish _u_, _ue_, _eu_ sometimes by __, sometimes by __, and sometimes by _eu_ or _ew_, or of the Middle Cornish _y_ by _i_, _e_, or _y_, or occasionally by an obscure _, _, or _, and it is quite likely that others might arrive at different conclusions from the same evidence, though those conclusions might not be any the nearer to the sounds which the Cornishmen of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries really did make. As for grammatical forms, it will be seen that the writer is of opinion that the difference between Middle and Modern Cornish was more apparent than real, and that except in the very latest period of all, when the language survived only in the mouths of the least educated persons, the so-called corruptions were to a great extent due to differences of spelling, to a want of appreciation of almost inaudible final consonants, and to an intensification of phonetic tendencies existing in germ at a much earlier period. Thus it is that inflections which in the late Cornish often seem to have been almost, if not quite, inaudible, have been written in full, for that is the authors notion, founded on what Middle Cornishmen actually did write, of what Modern Cornishmen were trying to express. For most things he has precedents, though he has allowed himself a certain amount of conjecture at times, and in most cases of difficulty he has trusted, as he would advise his readers to do, to Breton rather than to Welsh, for the living Breton of to-day is the nearest thing to Cornish that exists.

Why should Cornishmen learn Cornish? There is no money in it, it serves no practical purpose, and the literature is scanty and of no great originality or value. The question is a fair one, the answer is simple. Because they are Cornishmen. At the present day Cornwall, but for a few survivals of Duchy jurisdictions, is legally and practically a county of England, with a County Council, a County Police, and a Lord-Lieutenant all complete, as if it were no better than a mere Essex or Herts. {0a} But every Cornishman knows well enough, proud as he may be of belonging to the British Empire, that he is no more an Englishman than a Caithness man is, that he has as much right to a separate local patriotism to his little Motherland, which rightly understood is no bar, but rather an advantage to the greater British patriotism, {0b} as has a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Welshman, or even a Colonial; and that he is as much a Celt and as little of an Anglo-Saxon as any Gael, Cymro, Manxman, or Breton. Language is less than ever a final test of race. Most Cornishmen habitually speak English, and few, very few, could hold five minutes conversation in the old Celtic speech. Yet the memory of it lingers on, and no one can talk about the country itself, and mention the places in it, without using a wealth of true Cornish words. But a similar thing may be said of a very large proportion of Welshmen, Highlanders, Irishmen, Manxmen, and Bretons.

Omnia Grce, Quum sit turpe magis nostris nescire Latine.

The reason why a Cornishman should learn Cornish, the outward and audible sign of his separate nationality, is sentimental, and not in the least practical, and if everything sentimental were banished from it, the world would not be as pleasant a place as it is.

Whether anything will come of the Cornish part of the Celtic movement remains to be seen, but it is not without good omen that this book is published at the Sign of the Phoenix.

A few words of comprehensive apology for the shortcomings of this handbook. When the writer was asked by the Secretary of the Celtic-Cornish Society to undertake a Cornish grammar, which was the origin of this book, it was more than twenty years since he had dropped his Cornish studies in favour of other and more immediately necessary matters. Much of what he once knew had been forgotten, and had to be learnt over again, and the new grammar was wanted quickly. There must needs be, therefore, inaccuracies and inconsistencies, especially with regard to the spelling, which had to be constructed, and he is conscious also that there are at least two living men, if no more, who could have made a far better book. Of either of these two, Dr. Whitley Stokes and Prof. Joseph Loth, Doyen of the Faculty of Letters in Rennes University, who probably know more about Cornish between them than any one else ever did, the writer may well say, as John Boson of Newlyn said of Keigwin two centuries ago, Markressa an dean deskez fear-na gwellaz hemma, ev a venja kavaz fraga e owna en skreefa-composter, etc. {0c} For, indeed, even in that same skreefa-composter is there much scope for argument, and Bosons et cetera stands for a good deal besides.

It is not given to a grammar-writer to strive after originality. If he did so, he would probably not be the better grammarian. The writer therefore has no hesitation in acknowledging to the full his many obligations to previous workers on the subject. To Lhuyd and Pryce, to Gwavas, Tonkin, Boson, and Borlase he owes much (and also, parenthetically, he thanks Mr. John Enys of Enys for lending him the Borlase MS.). But it is to the workers of the second half of the nineteenth century, living or departed, that he owes most, and especially to Dr. Edwin Norris, Dr. Whitley Stokes, Prof. Loth, Canon Robert Williams, and Dr. Jago. Of the works of these writers he has made ample use, though he has not necessarily agreed with them in every detail.

The well-known work of Edwin Norris has been of the greatest value in every way, and the copious examples given in his Sketch of Cornish Grammar have frequently saved the writer the trouble of searching for examples himself. Dr. Whitley Stokess editions of two dramas and a poem have been of the greatest assistance, the notes to the St. Meriasek being especially valuable in collecting and comparing the various forms of irregular verbs, etc. Without Canon Williamss Lexicon nothing could have been done, and though some amount of friendly criticism and correction has been given to it by Dr. Stokes and Prof. Loth, neither of whom, of course, really undervalues the Lexicon in the least, no one can fail to appreciate that excellent work. Prof. Loths articles are mostly on details. A more general work from his hand is much to be desired, and every Cornish student must look forward to the forthcoming volume of his Chrestomathie Bretonne, which will contain the Cornish section. It would have been better for the present work if its author could have seen that volume before writing this. But Prof. Loths articles in the Revue Celtique have been full of suggestions of the greatest value. Dr. Jagos English-Cornish Dictionary has also been most useful. In a somewhat uncritical fashion, he has collected together all the various forms and spellings of each word that he could find, and this rendered it possible to make easily comparisons which would otherwise have given a good deal of trouble. Even the somewhat unconventional lexicographical arrangement of the book has had its uses, but, if one may venture an adverse criticism, it was a pity to have followed Borlase in including without notice so many Welsh and Breton words for which there is no authority in Cornish. It is on this account that the work needs to be used with caution, and may at times mislead the unwary.

The author begs to thank very heartily Mr. E. Whitfield Crofts (Peter Penn of the Cornish Telegraph) for his great service in making this handbook known among Cornishmen.

Perhaps a subject in connection with Cornish which may be of greater general interest than anything else is the interpretation of Cornish names. It is for this reason that a chapter embodying shortly some general principles of such a study has been added, and for those who would try their hands at original verse composition in Cornish a chapter on the principles of Cornish prosody has also been given. The composition of twentieth-century Cornish verse has already begun. Dr. C. A. Picquenard of Quimper, well known as a Breton poet under the title of Ar Barz Melen, has produced several excellent specimens, Mr. L. C. R. Duncombe-Jewell published the first Cornish sonnet in Celtia in 1901, and the present writer has contributed a sonnet and translations of the Trelawny Song and the National Anthem to the Cornish Telegraph, besides writing two Christmas Carols, one in Celtia and one printed separately, and the dedication of this book, which, he may remark, is not meant for a sonnet, though it happens to run to fourteen lines.

The writer had originally intended to add some reading lessons, exercises, and vocabularies, but it was found that the inclusion of these would make the book too large. He hopes to bring out shortly a quite small separate book of this character, which may also include conversations, and he has in preparation a complete vocabulary, though he has no idea as to when it will be finished.



There have been seven Celtic languagesnot all at once, of courseand indeed it is possible that there may have been more; but seven are known to have existed. One other may have been a Celtic speech, or it may have been something pre-Celtic, but of it we know too little to judge.

The Celtic languages belong to the type known as Aryan or Indo-European, the language of the higher or white races whose original habitat was once taken to have been near or among the Himalayas, but is now located with much less exactness than heretofore. To this class belong the Sanscrit, with its multitude of Indian derivatives; the Persian, ancient and modern; the Greek, the Latin with all its descendants, the Lithuanian, the Slavonic, the Teutonic and Scandinavian, the Albanian and the Celtic. It is not to be supposed that the possession of an Aryan language is necessarily a proof of the possession of Aryan blood. In many cases the conquering white race imposed its language on the aborigines whom it subjugated and enslaved. This must have been very much the case in Britain, and it is probable that the lower classes of a great part of England, though they now speak a language of mixed Teutonic and Latin origin, as they once spoke Celtic, are largely the descendants, through the slaves successively of Britons, Romans, and Saxons, and the villains or nativi of the Norman manorial system, of the aboriginal palolithic cave man, and have far less in common with the Anglo-Saxon, the Celt, or any other white man than they have with the Hottentot, the Esquimaux, the Lapp, or the Australian blackfellow. This is particularly the case in what was once the forest-covered district of middle England. There, no doubt, when there was any fighting to be done, the aboriginal hid in the woods until it was all over, and only then came out to share in the spoil and the glory and the drinks; while the white man, whether Briton, Saxon, or Norman, went out to fight, and not infrequently to be killed. A survival, perhaps, of the unfittest was the result, which may account for some of the peculiar characteristics of the Midland lower classes. That the successive changes of masters were matters of little or no importance to the enslaved aboriginal, while a life of servitude was intolerable to the free white man, may account for the fact that the labouring classes of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Wales, and the Welsh border are of a type infinitely superior in manners, morals, and physique to the same class in the Midlands, because they now consist almost entirely of the descendants of the free Britons who were driven westward rather than submit to the overwhelming invasion of the Teutonic tribes. Thus it is that probably, except for a certain Silurian (or Iberian) element in South Wales, which descends from the higher or fighting sort of pre-Aryan, and a surviving aboriginal element in parts of Ireland, the natives of what are known as the Celtic parts of these islands are more purely Aryan than any except the upper and upper middle classes of the so-called Anglo-Saxon districts of Britain. And of the Celtic parts of Britain, the Highlanders of Scotland and the Cornish are probably of the most unmixed Aryan or white race.

The Celtic languages are subdivided into two branches, representing two separate immigrations, about which little is known for certain, except that they happened a very long time ago. These are:

1. The Goidelic (or Gaelic), consisting of the three languages, or properly the three dialects, known as the Gaelic of Ireland, of the Scottish Highlands, and of the Isle of Man. It has been said, with some truth, that these three are as far apart as three dialects of the same language can well be, but are not sufficiently far apart to be counted as three distinct languages. Until the first half of the eighteenth century the written Gaelic of the Scottish Highlands differed from that of Ireland scarcely more than the written English of London differs from that of New York. Even now, though the use of the sixth and seventh century Latin minuscules, which people choose to call Irish letters, has been dropped in Scotland, any one who can read the one dialect will have little difficulty in reading the other. Manx adopted in the seventeenth century an attempted, but not very successful, phonetic spelling, based partly on Welsh and partly on English, and therefore looks on paper very different from its sister languages; but it takes a Gaelic-speaking Highlander of intelligence a very short time to get to understand spoken Manx, though spoken Irish (except the Ulster dialect) is more difficult to him. Possibly Pictish, if it was Celtic at all, which is uncertain, was of the Gaelic branch, for we find but little of any language difficulty when St. Columba and his fellow-missionaries, whose own speech certainly was Gaelic, were evangelising among the Picts. But the absence of such mention proves very little, for Christian missionaries, from Pentecost onwards, have not infrequently made light of the linguistic barrier, and we really know next to nothing about Pictish.

2. The Brythonic (or British), consisting of Welsh, Cornish, and Breton. These may be said to be as near together as three separate languages can well be, but to have drifted too far apart to be accounted three dialects of the same language. The place of Cornish, linguistically as well as geographically, is between Welsh and Breton, but though in some points in which Welsh differs from Breton, Cornish resembles the former, on the whole it approaches more nearly to the latter. Probably Cornish and Breton are both derived from the language of the more southern, while Welsh represents that of the more northern Britons. {6} Of course Cornish, like Welsh, has been influenced to some extent by English, while the foreign influence on Breton has been French. It is probable that the ancient Gaulish, certainly a Celtic language, belongs to this branch.

The seven Celtic languages, then, are Irish, Albanic (or Scottish), and Manx Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Breton, and Gaulish, and it is possible that Pictish must be added to these.

Though a philologist has much to say on the points of resemblance between the Goidelic and Brythonic branches, and though no one who studies both can fail to be struck by their affinity in vocabulary, in grammar, and even in idiom, the speakers of different branchesa Welshman and a Highlander, for instanceare no more mutually intelligible than an Englishman and a German would be, if as much so. The three sets of Gaels, however, can understand one another with considerable difficulty, and Irish priests have been known to preach sermons (with but moderate success) in the Catholic parts of the Highlands. But though there has been for some time a Welsh mission of some sort of Nonconformists in Brittany (with doubtless a very limited following), it is said that the missionaries, though they learnt Breton easily, were greatly disappointed with the extent to which at first they could understand the Bretons or make themselves understood. Simple things of everyday life might be asked for in Welsh, and a Breton might average what was said, but no sort of conversation could be held, though any one who knew both Welsh and Breton might make himself understood at some length by a mixed audience, if he very carefully picked his phrases; it would not, however, be good Welsh or good Breton. But the same would only apply in a far less degree to Cornish, for Cornish is very much nearer to Breton than Welsh is. {7} The divergence is increased by the tendency of all the Celtic languages, or, indeed, of all languages, to subdivide into local dialects. Thus the Irish of Munster, of Connaught, and of Ulster must be mutually intelligible only with great difficulty; the dialect of Munster, by reason of the difference of the stress accent, being especially divergent. There is growing up now, with the Irish revival, what may be called a Leinster dialect, founded on the literary language, with peculiarities of its own. The Scottish Gaelic has at least four marked dialects: Northern, spoken in Sutherland, part of Caithness, and Ross; Western, spoken in Inverness-shire and Argyle and in the Islands; and the rather broken-down dialects of Arran and of Perthshire, but the speakers of these are not very unintelligible to one another. Even Manx has a tendency to a north side and a south side dialect. Welsh has two fairly well marked dialects, of North Wales and South Wales, and the Welsh of Glamorgan, once the classical form of the language, before the Cardiganshire Welsh of the translation of the Bible superseded it, is now tending to be a broken-down form of South Welsh. But all these spoken dialects of Welsh are kept together and their tendency to divergence is greatly checked by the existence of a very clearly defined spelling, grammar, and standard of style in the book language of what is far and away the most cultivated and literary of all the Celtic tongues. Breton has four well-defined dialects, those of Leon, Treguier, Cornouailles, and Vannes, besides the broken-down Breton of the Croisic district, the Vannes dialect differing from the others as much as Cornish does, and curiously resembling Cornish in some of its peculiarities. Here there is no one literary standard, but each of the four dialects has its own, though it is generally held, rightly or wrongly, that the Leonais dialect is the best, and the Vannetais the worst. An examination of the names of places in West Cornwall gives some indication that there was a slight difference of dialect between the Hundred of Kerrier, or perhaps one should rather say the peninsula of Meneage, and the Hundred of Penwith, but it amounted to very little, and the evidence is very scanty.

The difference between Cornish and its two sisters is not very easy to define in a few words. There are differences of phonology, vocabulary, and grammatical forms. In phonology the most marked difference from both is the substitution of s or z, with a tendency, intensified in later Cornish, to the sound of j or ch, for d or t of Welsh and Breton. Cornish agrees with Breton in not prefixing a vowel (y in Welsh) to words beginning with s followed by a consonant, and its vowel sounds are generally simpler and less diphthongalised than those of Welsh. It agrees with Welsh in changing what one may call the French u sound into (English ee), going apparently further than Welsh in that direction, while Breton still retains the u. Like Welsh, it retained the th and dh sounds which Breton, in nearly all its dialects, has changed into z, though these in Cornish, like the guttural gh, and v or f, showed a tendency to drop off and become silent, especially as finals. In vocabulary Cornish follows Breton more closely than Welsh, though there are cases where in its choice of words it agrees with the latter, and cases in which it is curiously impartial. An instance of the last is the common adjective good. The ordinary Welsh word is da, though mad (Gaelic math) does exist. In Breton mad is the regular word, though da is used as a noun in the sense of satisfaction or contentment (da eo gant-han, good is with him=he is pleased). In Cornish da and mas are used about equally. As an instance of the first, bras, which in Welsh means fat, gross, is the more common Cornish and Breton word for large or great, though mr (mur, meur) in Cornish, and meur in Breton, the equivalents of the Welsh mawr, are also used. In grammatical forms Cornish almost invariably in cases where Welsh and Breton differ follows the latter, but, as in vocabulary, it sometimes has also ways of its own.

* * * * *

Except for the existence of Cornish names in the Bodmin Gospels, and in Domesday Book and one or two early charters, and of the Cornish vocabulary in the Cottonian Library, the earliest mention of the Cornish as differentiated from any other British language that has been as yet discovered occurs in Cott. MS. Vesp. A. xiv., in the British Museum (the volume in which the said vocabulary is included), in a Latin life of St. Cadoc. This speaks of St. Michaels Mount being called, in the idiom of that province, Dinsol (or the Mount of the Sun).

Giraldus Cambrensis, writing in the latter part of the twelfth century, says: Cornubia vero et Armorica Britannia lingua utuntur fere persimili, Cambris tamen propter originalem convenientiam in multis adhuc et fere cunctis intelligibili. Qu, quanto delicata minus et incomposita magis, tanto antiquo lingu Britanni idiomati, ut arbitror, est appropriata. {10a}

In the fifteenth-century cartulary of Glasney College, belonging to Mr. Jonathan Rashleigh of Menabilly, an old prophecy is quoted: In Polsethow ywhylyr anethow, in Polsethow habitaciones seu mirabilia videbuntur. This is supposed to date before the foundation of the college in 1265.

In a letter of 1328-9 from John de Grandisson, Bishop of Exeter, 1327-1369, to Pope John XXII., the writer speaks of Cornwall as looking on the south upon Vasconia [Gascony] and Minor Britannia [Brittany] {10b}; Cujus lingua ipsi utuntur Cornubici. And in another letter in the same year to certain cardinals he says: Lingua, eciam, in extremis Cornubie non Anglicis set Britonibus extat nota. With this comes another passage in the Register of Bishop Grandisson, quoted by Dr. Oliver in his Monasticon Dicesis Exoniensis (p. 11), which, in an account of the submission of the parish of St. Buryan to the bishop, after a certain quarrel between them, states that a formal submission was made by the principal parishioners in French and English (the names are given, thirteen in number), and by the rest in Cornish, interpreted by Henry Marseley, the rector of St. Just, and that after this the bishop preached a sermon, which was interpreted by the same priest for the benefit of those members of the congregation who could only speak Cornish. These records are to be found in Mr. Hingeston Randolphs edition of the Grandisson Registers, and in these and other fourteenth-century Exeter registers there are several allusions to the obligations of hearing confessions and propounding the Word of God in Cornish.

But until the time of Henry VIII. we have no trustworthy information about the state or extent of the language. It is highly probable, from the number of places still retaining undoubtedly Celtic names, and retaining them in an undoubtedly Cornish form, that until at least the fifteenth century the Tamar was the general boundary of English and Cornish; though there is said to be some evidence that even as late as the reign of Elizabeth, Cornish was spoken in a few places to the east of the Tamar, notably in the South Hams. Polwhele, however, limits the South Hams use of Cornish to the time of Edward I., and we know from the English Chronicle that when Athelstan drove the Welsh out of Exeter in 936, he set the Tamar for their boundary. In the reign of Henry VIII. we have an account given by Andrew Borde in his Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge, written in 1542. He says, In Cornwall is two speches, the one is naughty Englysshe, and the other is Cornysshe speche. And there be many men and women the which cannot speake one worde of Englysshe, but all Cornyshe. He then gives the Cornish numerals and a few sentences of ordinary conversation. These are much mixed with English, and were, no doubt, such as might have been heard on the borders of Devon, for he probably did not penetrate very far, being doubtless deterred by the impossibility of obtaining drinkable beera circumstance which seems to have much exercised his mind in describing Cornwall. These numerals and sentences are, as far as is known, the earliest specimens of printed Cornish, earlier by a hundred and sixty-five years than Lhuyds Grammar, though Dr. Jago, quoting from Drew and Hutchins, who had evidently never seen this book, Dr. Daviess Llyfr y Resolusion of 1632, or Gibsons edition of Camdens Britannia of 1695, says that there is no evidence that anything was ever printed in Cornish before Lhuyd.

The Reformation did much to kill Cornish. Had the Book of Common Prayer been translated into Cornish and used in that tongue, two things might have happened which did notthe whole language might have been preserved to us, and the Cornish as a body might have been of the Church of England, instead of remaining (more or less) of the old religion until the perhaps unavoidable neglect of its authorities caused them to drift into the outward irreligion from which John Wesley rescued them. {12} But it is said by Scawen and by Bishop Gibson in his continuation of Camdens Britannia, that they desired that the Prayer-book might not be translated, and, though the statement is disputed, it is quite possible that the upper classes, who spoke English, did make some such representation, and that the bulk of the population in Cornwall, as elsewhere, had no wish for the Reformed Service-book in any language; for there were churches in Cornwall in which the old Mass according to the Use of Salisbury was celebrated as late as the seventeenth century, notably in the Arundel Chapel in St. Columb Church, as may clearly be inferred from the inscription on the tomb of John Arundel and his wife, the latter of whom died in 1602.

It is asserted by Carew, Polwhele, Davies Gilbert, Borlase, and others, that in the time of Henry VIII. Dr. John Moreman, the parson of Menheniot, was the first to teach his parishioners the Creed, Lords Prayer, and Commandments in English, these having been used in Cornish beyond all remembrance. This same Dr. Moreman is mentioned in the petition (or rather demand) presented to Edward VI. by the Cornwall and Devon insurgents, in favour of the old form of worship. One paragraph of this is as follows:We will not receive the new service, because it is but like a Christmas game. We will have our old service of Matins, Mass, Evensong, and Procession as it was before; and we the Cornish, whereof certain of us understand no English, do utterly refuse the new service.

In the early part of the reign of Elizabeth, during the course of the many discussions on church matters, a number of articles were drawn up, to judge by their general tone, by the extreme Protestant party, and a copy of these, taken from a MS. in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, occurs in Egerton MS. 2350, f. 54, in the British Museum. They are entitled Articles drawn out by some certaine, and were exhibited to be admitted by authority, but not so admitted, and their date, to judge by accompanying letters, etc., is about 1560. The last article is A punishment for such as cannot say the Catechisme, and in it there occurs the following sentence: Item that it may be lawfull for such Welch or Cornish children as can speake no English to learne the Prmises in the Welch tongue or Cornish language.

In the same reign, but somewhat later, a report on England, addressed to Philip II. of Spain by an Italian agent, speaks thus of Cornwall: Li hauitanti sono del tutto differenti di parlare, di costume et di leggi alli Inglesi; usano le leggi imperiali cosi como fa ancola li Walsche loro vicini; quali sono in prospettiva alli Irlanda et sono similmente tenuti la maggior parte Cattolici. However, since the agent insists that the Severn divides Cornwall from England, he can hardly have known much about the country. The report occurs among a number of Spanish state papers in Add. MS. 28,420, in the British Museum.

In Carews Survey of Cornwall, written about 1600, we read, however, that the language had been driven into the uttermost parts of the Duchy, and that very few were ignorant of English, though many affected to know only their own tongue. It seems, however, from what he says further on, that the guaries, or miracle plays, were then commonly acted in Cornish, and that the people flocked to them in large numbers, and evidently understood them. Carew adds that the principal love and knowledge of the language died with one Dr. Kennall, the civilian, probably John Kennall, D.C.L., Archdeacon of Oxford. Carew gives the numerals and a few other specimens of the language.

In a survey of Cornwall, by John Norden, entitled Speculum Magn Britanni, pars Cornwall, addressed to James I., the following account of the language is given.

The Cornish people for the moste parte are descended of British stocke, though muche mixed since with the Saxon and Norman bloude, but untill of late years retayned the British speache uncorrupted as theirs of Wales is. For the South Wales man understandeth not perfectly the North Wales man, and the North Wales man little of the Cornish, but the South Wales man much. The pronunciation of the tongue differs in all, but the Cornish is far the easier to be pronounced. Here he goes on to compare the sound of it with the Welsh, to the disadvantage of the latter. . . . But of late the Cornishmen have much conformed themselves to the use of the English tongue, and their English is equal to the best, especially in the Eastern partes; even from Truro eastward is in a manner wholly Englishe. In the west parte of the county, as in the Hundreds of Penwith and Kerrier, the Cornishe tongue is mostly in use, and yet it is to be marvelled that though husband and wife, parents and children, master and servauntes, doe mutually communicate in their native language, yet there is none of them but in manner is able to converse with a stranger in the English tongue, unless it be some obscure persons that seldom converse with the better sort.

In 1630 Sir John Dodridge in his History of the Ancient and Modern estate of the Principality of Wales, Duchy of Cornwall, and Earldom of Chester, says: The people inhabiting the same [i.e. Cornwall] are calld Cornishmen, and are also reputed a remanent of the Britaines . . . they have a particular language called Cornish (although now much worn out of use), differing but little from the Welsh and the language of the Britaines of France.

In 1632, Dr. John Davies, the well-known Welsh lexicographer, published a Welsh translation of the Booke of Christian Exercise of Robert Parsons the Jesuit, under the title of Llyfr y Resolusion. In it he gives a Cornish version of the Lords Prayer and Creed, the earliest extant, and evidently translated from Latin, not from English.

In the same year appeared a play called The Northern Lass, by Richard Brome. In this occurs an opprobrious sentence of Cornish, put into the mouth of a Cornishman bearing the absurd name of Nonsence, and addressed to a Spaniard who had no English, on the argument that Cornwall being the nearest point of Britain to Spain, Cornish might possibly approach nearer to Spanish than English did.

The next mention of Cornish we find in a diary of the Civil War, written by Richard Symonds, one of the Royalist army in Cornwall in 1644 (Brit. Mus., Add. MS. 17,052). He gives a short vocabulary of common words, together with four short sentences. To these he appends the following note:

The language is spoken altogether at Goonhilly, and about Pendennis and the Lands End they speak no English. All beyond Truro they speak the Cornish language.

Much about the same time William Jackman, the vicar of St. Feock, near Falmouth, chaplain of Pendennis Castle during its siege by the rebel troops, was in the habit of using Cornish for the words of administration of Holy Communion, because the old people did not understand English. The Cornish words asserted to have been used by him were printed in Halss History of Cornwall in 1750, though they do not occur in all copies of that scarce book.

In 1662 and 1667 John Ray, in his Itinerary, mentions one Dickon Gwyn (his real name was Dick Angwin), of St. Just, as the only man who could write Cornish. Ray adds that few of the children could speak it, so that the language is like in a short time to be quite lost.

This is probably the Sieur Angwin mentioned in a valuable little treatise on the Cornish language by John Boson of Newlyn, of which more later. This little tract, entitled Nebbaz Gerriau dro tho Carnoack (or A few words about Cornish), is only known from a copy which formerly belonged to the late Mr. W. C. Borlase. It was written about the year 1700, and according to it the Cornish-speaking district was then from the Lands End to the Mount and towards St. Ives and Redruth, and again from the Lizard to Helston and towards Falmouth, but the language had decreased very much within the writers memory.

It is recorded by Dr. Borlase that Cheston Marchant, who died at Gwithian in 1676 aged 164 (!), could speak nothing but Cornish.

Writing in the latter part of the reign of Charles II., William Scawen, a Cornish antiquary, gives a long account of the state of the language in his time, in a treatise in which he laments the decline thereof, accounting for it by no less than sixteen elaborate reasons. This treatise, Antiquities Cornu-Britannick, was abridged by Thomas Tonkin, the Cornish historian, and the abridgment was printed in 1777, and again by Davies Gilbert at the end of his history. A copy of the full form of it in Tonkins beautiful handwriting, a much more elaborate work, is in Add. MS. 33,420 in the British Museum. According to this, the inhabitants of the western promontories of Meneage and Penwith were in the habit of speaking the language, so much so that the parson of Landewednack, Mr. Francis Robinson, used to preach in Cornish down to the year 1678, that being the only tongue well understood by his parishioners. Scawen mentions the MSS. of the aforesaid Anguin, as he spells him, and laments their destruction. He also speaks of a Matins (possibly a Primer, or Hours of our Lady) in Cornish, which had belonged to Mr. Maynard. {17}

In Bishop Gibsons edition of Camdens Britannia, published in 1695, there is a short account of the Cornish Language, and the Lords Prayer and Creed, the same versions as those given by Scawen, are given as specimens. According to Gibson the language was confined to two or three western parishes, and was likely to last a very little longer. He mentions the Poem of the Passion, the Ordinalia, and the Creation as the only books existing in the language.

The next authority is that excellent Celtic scholar, Dr. Edward Lhuyd, who published his Archologia Britannica in the year 1707. He gives the following list of the parishes in which the language was spoken:St. Just, Paul, Buryan, Sennen, St. Levan, Morva, Sancreed, Madron, Zennor, Towednack, St. Ives, Lelant, Ludgvan, and Gulval, and along the coast from the Lands End to St. Keverne (this would also include St. Hillary, Perran Uthno, Breage, Germoe, Mullion, Gunwalloe, Ruan Major and Minor, Landewednack, Grade, and St. Keverne), adding that many of the inhabitants of these parishes, especially the gentry, do not understand it, there being no need, as every Cornishman speaks English. There is a letter of Lhuyds to Henry Rowlands, author of Mono Antiqua Restaurata (1723), printed at the end of that work, in which similar information, dated 1701, is given. Lhuyd in this letter relates his adventures in Brittany, and remarks on the closeness of Cornish to Breton.

Then the language quickly receded, until, in 1735, there were left only a few people at Mousehole, Paul, Newlyn, St. Just, and other parishes along the coast between Penzance and the Lands End who understood it. It was about this time that Gwavas and Tonkin finished their collections on the subject, and the language they found seemed to them a most irregular jargona peculiarity of which was a striking uncertainty of the speakers as to where one word left off and another began.

In the early part of the eighteenth century there was a little coterie of antiquaries at Penzance and the neighbourhood, who had busied themselves much with the remains of the old language. The patriarch of these was old John Keigwin of Mousehole, the translator of the Poem of the Passion and the play of The Creation. He was born in 1641, and died in 1710, and, according to Lhuyd and Borlase, his knowledge of Cornish was profound and complete. However, that did not prevent him from making some extraordinary mistakes in his translations, which should perhaps be set down to the archaic form of the language with which he had to deal. He seems to have been a considerable if rather pedantic linguist, being accredited with an acquaintance with Latin, Greek, French, and even Hebrew, and in a translation into Cornish of the letter of King Charles to the people of Cornwall, he made use of his Hebrew knowledge when he failed to remember the exact Cornish word, writing milcamath for war. Among the other members of this little party may be mentioned William Gwavas, John Boson and his brother Thomas, Thomas Tonkin the historian, Oliver Pender, and last (as probably the youngest) Dr. William Borlase, the author of the well-known History of Cornwall. It does not seem that any of these, except Keigwin, troubled themselves much about Cornish literature, but they did good service in the way of preserving words, proverbs, colloquial sentences, etc., and seem to have found great enjoyment in translating various passages of Scripture, songs, etc., into the Cornish that was current in their own day. These being spelt more or less phonetically (as far as the writers knew how to do so), and therefore varying a good deal in orthography, are now of great value in determining the sound of the latest Cornish.

When Lhuyd was at work upon his Cornish Grammar, he received considerable assistance from Keigwin, Gwavas, and Tonkin, and a vocabulary and collection of Cornish fragments compiled by the last two under the title of Archologia Cornu-Britannica were afterwards printed by Dr. William Pryce in 1790, with Lhuyds Grammar, under his own name, with the same title. {19} This fraud, if it really deserves so harsh a name, was exposed by Prince L. L. Bonaparte, into whose hands the original MS. of some of it fell; but though it certainly was not right of Pryce to act in this manner, he does deserve some credit for having published the vocabulary at all, and the service that he did in so doing may be the better estimated by a knowledge of the fact that it was very considerably through the medium of Pryces publication that Dr. Edwin Norris obtained the acquaintance with Cornish necessary to enable him to bring out his valuable edition of the early Cornish dramas. It is strange that so much abuse has been heaped upon Pryce, while Davies Gilbert has escaped with comparative freedom, in spite of a villainously careless edition of a number of scraps of Cornish (printed at the end of his edition of the play of The Creation), gathered entirely from Tonkins MS., the Gwavas MS., or the Borlase MS., and inserted, with notes and all, without a word of acknowledgment, and in such a manner as to lead one to think that the translation and notes at any rate were his own doing. Pryce certainly took the trouble to correct his proofs, and Davies Gilbert could hardly have attempted to do so. Moreover, if Pryces preface be read carefully, it will be seen that he by no means claims the whole credit for himself, but gives plenty of it, though perhaps not enough, to Gwavas, Tonkin, Lhuyd, and Borlase. The impression left by the preface is that Pryce was a more or less intelligent editor who added a little of his own, the amount of which he exaggerated.

In 1746 Captain (afterwards Admiral) the Hon. Samuel Barrington, brother of Daines Barrington the antiquary, took a sailor from Mounts Bay, who spoke Cornish, to the opposite coast of Brittany, and found him fairly able to make himself understood. In 1768 Daines Barrington himself writes an account of an interview with the celebrated Mrs. Dolly Pentreath, popularly, but erroneously, supposed to have been the last person who spoke the language. He also contributed to Archologia, in 1779, a letter received in 1776, written in Cornish and English, from William Bodenor, a fisherman of Mousehole, who according to Polwhele died in 1794. The writer states that not more than four or five people in his town, and these old folk of eighty years of age, could speak Cornish. But Barrington says that he received information that John Nancarrow of Market-Jew, aged only forty in 1779, could speak it. Dolly Pentreath died in 1777; but Pryce, in the preface to his book of 1790, part of which is his own, though one knows not how much of it to believe, and Whitaker, vicar of Ruan-Lanihorne, in his Supplement to Polwheles History of Cornwall (1799), mention that two or three people were still living who were able to speak Cornish, though this was only hearsay evidence.

In his History of Cornwall, vol. v. (1806), the Rev. R. Polwhele speaks of one Tompson, an engineer of Truro, whom he met in 1789, the author of the well-known epitaph on Dolly Pentreath, and says that he knew more Cornish than ever Dolly Pentreath did. But Polwhele did not think that at the time he wrote there were two persons living who could really converse in Cornish for any length of time. Some years ago the present writer came upon a letter in the British Museum addressed to Sir Joseph Banks, and dated 1791, the author of which mentions his own father as the only living man who could speak Cornish. Unluckily the reference to the letter has been lost, and there is so much Banks correspondence in the British Museum that it is almost impossible to find it again. But the statement is by no means conclusive, and there were probably several other last living men going on at once, and certainly John Tremethack, who died in 1852 at the age of eighty-seven, must have known a good deal of Cornish, some words of which he taught to his daughter, Mrs. Kelynack of Newlyn, who was living in 1875. There was also George Badcock, the grandfather of Bernard Victor of Mousehole, who taught a certain amount of Cornish to his grandson, who was living in 1875, when the present writer saw him.

Then it is considered that Cornish, as a spoken language, died out. The process was gradual, though perhaps rather rapid at the last, and, as far as is generally known, the old tongue finally disappeared in the earlier half of the nineteenth century. Words and sentences, and even such things as the Creed and Lords Prayer were handed on, some of them to our own day. The mother-in-law of the present writer, Mrs. W. J. Rawlings (ne Hambly) of Hayle, who died in 1879 at the age of fifty-seven, had learnt to repeat the Lords Prayer and Creed in Cornish when she was a child at school at Penzance, but unluckily had quite forgotten them in later life. In 1875 Mr. and Mrs. John Kelynack, Mrs. Soady, Mrs. Tregarthen, and Captain Stephen Richards, all of Newlyn, and Mr. Bernard Victor of Mousehole handed on to the Rev. W. S. Lach Szyrma, then vicar of Newlyn, and to the present writer the tradition of the numerals and a few words and sentences, which may be found in a paper contributed by the present writer to the Transactions of the Philological Society in 1876, and a few years later Dr. Jago received some of the same tradition. Thus it may be said that so long as any of these three are alive, a faint flicker of living Cornish remains, even if there is no verity in the weird legends of the survival of more as an esoteric language among the peasantry and the mining and fishing folk of the West. But even if the spoken Cornish be dead, its ghost still haunts its old dwelling, for the modern English speech of West Cornwall is full of Celtic words, and nine-tenths of the places and people from the Tamar to the Lands End bear Cornish names.

Mr. Hobson Matthews in his History of St. Ives, Lelant, Towednack, and Zennor, has an interesting chapter on Cornish. He gives reasons for supposing that the language survived in St. Ives, Zennor, and Towednack even longer than in Mounts Bay, and states that the families of Stevens and Trewhella were among the last to keep it up in Towednack. He also mentions one John Davy, who was living in 1890 at Boswednack in Zennor (a hamlet between the Gurnards Head and Zennor Churchtown), who had some traditional knowledge of Cornish, knew the meanings of the place-names in the neighbourhood, and could converse on a few simple topics in the ancient language. Unless Mr. Matthews, whose judgment one would trust in such a matter, actually heard him do so, the last statement is not easy to believe.


The following is a list, in order of date, of the known remains of Cornish from the earliest times to the end of the eighteenth century. There may be others of very early date, which have been hitherto classified as old Welsh or Breton, such as the Lament for Geraint, King of Devon, generally attributed to Llywarch Hen, and certain glosses in Latin MSS.

1. The Manumissions in the Bodmin Gospels (Add. MS. 9381, in the British Museum). The MS. is of the tenth century, and belonged to St. Petrocks Priory of Black Canons, originally Benedictine, at Bodmin. At the beginning and end are manumissions of serfs from whose names about two hundred Cornish words may be gathered. These have been printed in the Revue Celtique (vol. i. p. 332), with notes by Dr. Whitley Stokes.

2. _The Cottonian Vocabulary_ (Cott. MS. Vesp. A. xiv., in the British Museum). This forms part of a MS. of the end of the twelfth century, and consists of about seven pages, preceded by a calendar containing many Celtic names, and followed by lives of Welsh and Cornish saints. The words are classified under various headings such as heaven and earth, different parts of the human body, birds, beasts, fishes, trees, herbs, ecclesiastical and liturgical terms, and at the end occur a number of adjectives. It has been printed by Zeuss in his _Grammatica Celtica_, by Dr. Norris with the _Ordinalia_, and has been incorporated into Canon Williamss Cornish Lexicon. Many of the words in it were incorporated by Dr. John Davies in his Welsh Dictionary, as coming from what he calls the _Liber Landavensis_, and a quotation from the Life of St. Cadoc in the same MS. is spoken of in Camdens _Britannia_ as coming from the Book of Llandaff. The MS. evidently bore that name for a time. It is probable, from certain mistakes in it, that the vocabulary is a copy of an earlier one, in which the letters _ and of the Saxon alphabet were used.

Of about the same date as this manuscript was a composition in Cornish, of which the original is lost, except a few words. This was a Prophecy of Merlin, which only exists in a translation into Latin hexameters by John of Cornwall, who in his notes gives a few words of the original, which are certainly Cornish. Like many of the so-called Merlin prophecies, this relates to the struggle between Stephen and the Empress Matilda, but it contains local Cornish allusions of great interest. The only known MS. is one of the fourteenth century, in the Vatican.

3. The single sentence, In Polsethow ywhylyr anetkow, in the Cartulary of Glasney College. If the writer of the history of the foundation of the college is correct, this prophecy, In Polsethow [the Pool of Arrows, the old name of Glasney] shall be seen habitations, is older than the foundation in 1265. It is therefore the oldest known complete sentence of Cornish, and is interesting as containing the inflected passive whylyr. There is an abstract of the cartulary, by Mr. J. A. C. Vincent, in the 1879 volume of the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, and this sentence is given there, with an explanatory note by the late Mr. W. C. Borlase. The original belongs to Mr. Jonathan Rashleigh of Menabilly.

4. On the back of a charter in the British Museum (Add. Charter 19,491) the present writer discovered in 1877 a fragment of forty-one lines of Cornish verse. The writing was very faint, indeed the MS. had passed through other and by no means incompetent hands without this precious endorsement being noticed, and the finder might have missed it too had he not been deliberately looking for possible Cornish words on the backs of a number of charters relating to St. Stephen-in-Brannel, after he had finished the necessary revision of the cataloguing of these documents. The date of the document is 1340, but the Cornish writing on the back is somewhat later, perhaps about 1400. The language and spelling agree with those of the Poem of the Passion and the Ordinalia, and the exact metre is not found anywhere else. The speaker (it may be a part in some play) offers a lady to some other person as a wife, praises her virtues, and then gives the lady some rather amusing advice as to her behaviour to her future husband, and how to acquire the position attributed in Cornish folklore to the influence of the Well of St. Keyne and St. Michaels Chair. A copy of these verses was printed in the Athenum in 1877, but, as the writer admits, his readings were not at all good, for the writing was very faint. Dr. Whitley Stokes, who had the advantage of working on a photograph, which brought out many letters which were invisible in the original, published an amended version in the Revue Celtique.

5. The Poem of Mount Calvary, or The Passion.There are five MSS. of this in existence. One is in the British Museum (Harl. 1782), and is probably the original, said to have been found in the church of Sancreed. It is a small quarto, on rough vellum, written very badly in a mid-fifteenth-century hand, and embellished with very rude pictures. Of the other copies, two are in the Bodleian, an incomplete and much amended one in the Gwavas collection of Cornish writings in the British Museum, with an illiterate translation by William Hals, the Cornish historian, and one is in private hands. It has been twice printed, once with a translation by John Keigwin of Mousehole, edited by Davies Gilbert in 1826, and by Dr. Whitley Stokes for the Philological Society in 1862. There is very little in this poem beyond a versified narrative of the events of the Passion, from Palm Sunday to Easter morning, taken directly from the four Gospels, with some legendary additions from the Gospel of Nicodemus and elsewhere, preceded by an account of our Lords fasting and temptation. The metre consists of eight-lined stanzas (written as four lines) of seven-syllabled lines. There are two hundred and fifty-nine of these stanzas.

6. The Ordinalia.These consist of three dramas collectively known under this title. The first play, called Origo Mundi, begins with the Creation of the World, the Fall of Man, Cain and Abel, etc.; this being followed by the building of the Ark and the Flood, the story of the temptation of Abraham closing the first act. The second act gives us the history of Moses, and the third represents the story of David and of the building of Solomons Temple, curiously ending with a description of the martyrdom of St. Maximilla as a Christian (!) by the bishop placed in charge of the temple by Solomon. The second play, Passio Domini, represents the Temptation of Christ, and the events from the entry into Jerusalem to the Crucifixion; and this goes on without interruption into the third play, Resurrectio Domini, which gives an account of the Harrowing of Hell, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, with the Legend of St. Veronica and Tiberius, and the death of Pilate. As in the Poem of the Passion, the pseudo-Gospel of Nicodemus and other legendary sources are drawn upon.

But running through the whole and interwoven with the Scriptural narrative comes the beautiful and curious Legend of the Cross. The legend, most of which is in the dramas, is this. When Adam found himself dying, he sent his son Seth to the Gates of Paradise to beg of the angel that guarded them the oil of mercy, that his father might live. The angel let him look into Paradise, where he saw many strange and beautiful foreshadowings of things that should be upon the earth; and the angel gave him three seeds from the Tree of Life, and he departed. When he came to where his father was, he found that he was already dead, and he laid the three seeds in his mouth, and buried him therewith on Mount Moriah; and in process of time the three seeds grew into three small trees, and Abraham took of the wood thereof for the sacrifice of Isaac his son; and afterwards Moses rod, wherewith he smote the rock, was made from one of their branches. And soon the three trees grew together into one tree, whereby was symbolised the mystery of the Trinity; and under its branches sat King David when Nathan the Prophet came to him, and there he bewailed his sin, and made the Miserere Psalm. And Solomon, when he would build the Temple on Mount Sion, cut down the tree, which was then as one of the chiefest of the cedars of Lebanon, and bid men make a beam thereof; but it would in no wise fit into its place, howsoever much they cut it to its shape. Therefore Solomon was wroth, and bid them cast it over the brook Cedron as a bridge, so that all might tread upon it that went that way. But after a while he buried it, and over where it lay there came the Pool Bethesda with its healing powers; and when our Lord came on earth the beam floated up to the surface of the pool, and the Jews found it, and made thereof the Cross whereon Christ died on Calvary.

The metres of these plays are various arrangements of seven and four-syllabled lines, of which more anon in the chapter on prosody. There are three MSS. of this Trilogy in existence, 1. The Oxford MS. of the fifteenth century, from which the others were copied, and from which Dr. Edwin Norris edited the plays in 1859. 2. Another Oxford MS., presented to the Bodleian by Edwin Ley of Bosahan about 1859, with a translation by John Keigwin. The copy of the text is older by a century than the translation. 3. A copy in the library of Sir John Williams, Bart., of Llanstephan, Carmarthenshire, with an autograph translation by Keigwin. This was Lhuyds copy.

7. The Life of St. Meriasek.This play, the MS. of which was written by Dominus Hadton in the year 1504, as appears by the colophon, was discovered by Dr. Whitley Stokes some thirty-two years ago among the MSS. of the Peniarth Library, near Towyn in Merioneth. It represents the life and death of Meriasek, called in Breton Meriadec, the son of a Duke of Brittany, and interwoven with it is the legend of St. Sylvester the Pope and the Emperor Constantine, quite regardless of the circumstance that St. Sylvester lived in the fourth century, and St. Meriasek in the seventh. The play contains several references to Camborne, of which St. Meriasek was patron, and to the Well of St. Meriasek there. It is probable that it was written for performance at that town. The language of the play is later than that of the Ordinalia, the admixture of English being greater, while a few of the literal changes, such as the more frequent substitution of g (soft) for s, and in one instance (bednath for bennath) the change of nn to dn, begin to appear. The grammar has not changed much, but the use of the compound and impersonal forms is more frequent, and the verb menny has begun to be more commonly used as a simple future auxiliary. The metres are much the same as those of the Ordinalia. The spelling is rather more grotesque and varied. But, since this play (or combination of plays) is to a large extent on local Cornish and Breton, rather than on conventional Scriptural lines, it has an interest, full of mad anachronisms as it is, which is not to be found in the Biblical plays. Some passages are of considerable literary merit, and a good deal of early Cornish and Breton history is jumbled up in it, and yet remains to be worked out, for Dr. Whitley Stokess excellent edition of 1872 does not go very much into historical side questions. It is unlucky that this play was not discovered until after the publication of Canon Williamss Lexicon, but his own interleaved copy of the Lexicon, with words and quotations from St. Meriasek, is in the possession of Mr. Quaritch of Piccadilly, and Dr. Stokes has published forty pages of new words and forms from the same play in Archiv fr Celtische Lexicographie.

8. The Cornish conversations in Andrew Bordes Booke of the Introduction of Knowledge, printed in 1542.These consist of the numerals and twenty-four sentences useful to travellers. They were evidently taken down by ear, and appear in a corrupted form. Restored texts, agreeing in almost every detail, were published by Dr. Whitley Stokes in the Revue Celtique, vol. iv., and by Prof. Loth in the Archiv fur Celtische Lexicographie in 1898.

9. In Carews Survey of Cornwall, 1602, are the numerals up to twenty, with a hundred, a thousand, and what is meant for ten thousand, but is really something else. There are also ten words compared with Greek, a dozen phrases, some more words, and the Cornish equivalents of twelve common Christian names.

10. The Creation of the World, with Noahs Flood, by William Jordan of Helston, A.D. 1611. The construction of this play is very like that of the first act of the Origo Mundi (the metres are substantially the same), and the author has borrowed whole passages from it; but as a whole Jordans play possesses greater literary merit, and there are many additions to the story in it, and much amplification of the ideas and dialogue. Occasionally sentences of several lines in English are introduced, and it is curious to note that whenever this is the case, they are given to Lucifer or one of his angels, and in such a manner as to seem as if the author meant to imply that English was the natural language of such beings, and that they only spoke Cornish when on their good behaviour, relapsing into their own tongue whenever they became more than ordinarily excited or vicious. Five complete copies of this play are known, two of which are in the Bodleian, one in the British Museum (Harl. MS. 1867), and two are in private hands (one bound up with the MS. of The Passion already mentioned). Besides these there is a fragment in a similar hand to that of the complete Museum copy (certainly not that of John Keigwin, who translated the play in 1693 at the request of Sir Jonathan Trelawny, then Bishop of Exeter, though it has his translation on the opposite pages to the text) in the Gwavas collection in the British Museum. In a list of books published in Welsh (as it is expressed), given in one of Bagfords collections for a History of Printing (Lansdowne MS. 808, in the British Museum), mention is made of this play. No date is given, but the names of the books are arranged chronologically, and this comes between one of 1642 and one of 1662. The play has been printed (with Keigwins translation) by Davies Gilbert in 1827, and with a translation by Dr. Whitley Stokes in the Philological Societys volume for 1864. Of William Jordan, the writer, nothing is known whatever. He may have been merely the transcriber, and it is possible that the transcription may be connected with that revival of Cornish patriotism which seems to have happened in the early seventeenth century.

11. Nebbaz Gerriau dro tho Carnoack (A few words about Cornish), by John Boson of Newlyn. The only known MS. of this little tract in Cornish and English was formerly among the MSS. of Dr. William Borlase in the possession of his descendant, Mr. W. C. Borlase. The present writer had it in his possession for a short time in 1877 or 1878, and copied about half of it, but returned it to Mr. Borlase, who wanted it back, and it was then printed in the 1879 volume of the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall. At the time of the sale of Mr. Borlases library, this tract, which when the present writer last saw it used to live between the pages of Dr. Borlases MS. Collections on Cornish, did not appear, and its present ownership is unknown. It is in the handwriting of the Rev. Henry Usticke, Vicar of Breage (died 1769), and in the Gwavas MS. in the British Museum there are several pieces in the same hand. As a copy of Bosons original it is rather inaccurate, but Boson wrote by no means a clear hand. It is of great interest as the composition of one who, though he was brought up to speak English, as he himself says, had acquired a thorough knowledge of Cornish as it was spoken in his day, without having even looked at any of the literary remains of the language. He was also a man of general education, and in this tract and in his letters is rather fond of airing his Latin. Very little is known of him except that he was the son of Nicholas Boson and was born at Newlyn in 1655 and died some time between 1720, the date of his last letter to Gwavas, and 1741, the date of the death of the latter, who is recorded to have received a copy of verses in Cornish found among Bosons papers after his death. The date of the Nebbaz Gerriau is unknown, but it mentions a little book called The Duchess of Cornwalls Progress, which the author says that he wrote some years past for his children, refers (though not by name) to John Keigwin, who died in 1710, as being still alive, and does not mention Lhuyds Grammar, published in 1707, so that we may infer that the date is somewhere about 1700. The Duchess of Cornwalls Progress, which had at least thirty pages (for he refers to the thirtieth page), was probably in English, with a few passages in Cornish, which Dr. Borlase, who had seen two copies of it, transcribed into his Cornish Collections. Judging from his letters and from this tract, John Boson was a man of considerable intelligence, and one about whom one would like to know more, and his Cornish writings are of more value than those of the somewhat pedantic Keigwin.

12. The Story of John of Chy-an-Hur.This is a popular tale of some length, of a labouring man who lived at Chy-an-Hur, or the Rams House, in St. Levan, and went east seeking work, and of what befell him. It is the Tale of the Three Advices, found in many forms. It appears first in Lhuyds Grammar, printed in 1707, where it has a Welsh translation. Lhuyd says that it was written about forty years since, which dates it circ. 1667. Part of it, undated, but in the hand of John Boson, occurs with an English translation in the Gwavas MS. (Brit. Mus., Add. MS. 28,554). This, as appears by a note on the back of the first leaf, was written out for Gwavass instruction in Cornish. The spelling is altogether different from Lhuyds. Another copy in Cornish of Lhuyds spelling, with an English translation, is in the Borlase MS., copied from the lost MS. of Thomas Tonkin, with some corrections by Dr. Borlase. It was printed with Lhuyds Welsh and an English version, in Pryces Archologia Cornu-Britannica in 1790, and by Davies Gilbert at the end of his edition of Jordans Creation, 1827, in Cornish and English. The English versions of Borlase, Pryce, and Davies Gilbert are substantially the same, and are probably Tonkins. An English version, translated from Lhuyds Welsh, but pretended to be from Cornish, was printed in Blackwoods Magazine in 1818, and again in an abridged and expurgated form in Mr. J. Jacobs collection of Celtic Fairy Tales in 1891. There is a much amplified version of the story in English in William Botterells Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, published at Penzance in 1870, and a short and rather foolish one in Hunts Popular Romances of the West of England, 1865, 1871, 1881. The language is a good specimen of the latest Cornish. The same story is given as an Irish folk-tale in an early volume of Chamberss Journal.

13. The Preface to the Cornish Grammar in Lhuyds Archologia Britannica. This consists of two and a quarter folio pages of close print, and is written in the Cornish of his own day. It is the work of a foreigner, but is nevertheless very well done. A not very good translation, probably the work of Tonkin and Gwavas, is given by Pryce, and reprinted by Polwhele in the fifth volume of his History.

14. The rest of the remains of Cornish consist of a few songs, verses, proverbs, epigrams, epitaphs, maxims, letters, conversations, mottoes, and translations of chapters and passages of Scripture, the Lords Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, King Charless Letter, etc. They are found in the Gwavas MS. (Brit. Mus., Add. MS. 28,554), a collection made by William Gwavas, barrister-at-law, and ranging in date from 1709 to 1736; in the Borlase MS. of the date of about 1750, in the handwriting of Dr. William Borlase, Rector of Ludgvan, formerly in the possession of his descendant, the late W. C. Borlase, F.S.A., M.P., but now belonging to Mr. J. D. Enys, of Enys; in Pryces Archologia Cornu-Britannica, 1790, and in Davies Gilberts editions of the Poem of the Passion and Jordans play of The Creation, published respectively in 1826 and 1827. Those in the Borlase MS. (except a few from a work of John Boson), and those printed by Pryce and Davies Gilbert, were probably taken from the Gwavas MS. and from Tonkins MSS. There is also one epitaph dated 1709 in Paul Church, an epitaph on Dolly Pentreath, which does not appear ever to have been inscribed on her tomb, and the letter of William Bodenor in 1776.

These fragments may be classified as follows:

Songs and Poems.

1. Lhuyds Elegy on William of Orange, 1702. Sixty-three lines of verse in rhyming triplets, in modern Cornish, with occasional archaic turns. A copy occurs in the Gwavas MS.; it was printed by Pryce, with a Latin version, as part of a correspondence between Lhuyd and Tonkin, and by Polwhele in his fifth volume, with the same correspondence. There is a copy with an English version by John Keigwin in the library of Sir John Williams, Bart., of Llanstephan.

2. A song beginning Ma leeas gwreage, lacka vel zeage, a series of moral platitudes on married life and the bringing up of children, by James Jenkins of Alverton, near Penzance (died 1710). This consists of five stanzas of five or six lines each. There is a complete copy in the Gwavas MS., and a copy wanting one line in the Borlase MS., and this in complete version, with a translation, has been printed by Pryce and Davies Gilbert. A note in Pryce says that Tonkin had it from Lhuyd and again from Gwavas, whose is the translation. It is in idiomatic late Cornish, in rather wild spelling.

3. Song on James II. and William of Orange, by John Tonkin of St. Just, a tailor, who appears to have been a solitary Whig in a nation of Jacobites, as with very few exceptions the Cornish certainly were. It begins, Menja tiz Kernuak buz galowas, and consists of fourteen four-lined stanzas of modern Cornish, probably composed in 1695, to judge by the historical allusions. It is in the Gwavas MS. only, and has never been printed.

4. A song of moral advice by the same writer, beginning Ni venja pea a munna seer, and consisting of seven four-lined stanzas, only one of which, beginning An Prounter ni ez en Plew East, has been printed (from the Borlase MS.) in the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall for 1866. The complete song is in the Gwavas MS., and has never been published.

5. A song beginning Pelea era why moaz, moz, fettow, teag (Where are you going, fair maid? he said). This consists of six four-lined stanzas, the second and fourth lines of each stanza being the burthen:

Gen agaz bedgeth gwin (or according to Borlase, Tonkin, and Gwavas, pedn du) ha agaz blew mellyn

(With your white face, or black head, and your yellow hair)


Rag delkiow sevi gwra muzi teag

(For strawberry leaves make maidens fair).

The song was sung by one Edward Chirgwin or Chygwin, brother-in-law to Mr. John Groze of Penzance, at Carclew, in 1698, as a note by T. Tonkin says. Whether it was translated from English or whether the Cornish is the original does not appear. The story is not quite the same (or quite so scrupulously proper) as the English nursery version. There is a copy in the handwriting of Chirgwin in the Gwavas MS., and one copied from Tonkins MS. in the Borlase MS. It was printed by Pryce in an amended form, and by Polwhele.

6. A song on the curing of pilchards (not a very poetical subject) by John Boson. Twenty-six lines of rhyming couplets beginning Me canna ve war hern gen cock ha ruz (I will sing, or my song is, of pilchards with boat and net), and describing the process of bringing the fish ashore and putting them into bulks and making fairmaids of them. There is a copy with a translation in the Borlase MS., which was printed in the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall for 1866, and Davies Gilbert printed it at the end of his edition of Jordans Creation in 1827, but without any translation.

Verses and Epigrams.

1. Nine short sayings in verse, printed in Pryce and Davies Gilbert, and copied by Borlase from Tonkin. The first, An lavar goth ewe lavar gwir, etc., occurs also in Lhuyd.

2. Epigram on the verdict in the suit of Gwavas v. Kelynack, respecting tithes of fish. Eight lines by W. Gwavas. It occurs in the Gwavas and Borlase MSS., and in Pryce and Polwhele.

3. To Neighbour Nicholas Pentreath, by Gwavas. Six lines. In the Borlase MS., and in Pryce and Polwhele.

4. Advice from a friend in the country to his neighbour who went up to receive 16,000 in London, by John Boson. In the Borlase MS., and in Pryce and Polwhele. Eight lines.

5. On a lazy, idle weaver. In the Gwavas and Borlase MSS., and in Pryce and Polwhele. Six lines.

6. Verses on the Marazion Bowling-Green. In the Gwavas and Borlase MSS., and in Pryce and Polwhele. Six lines by Gwavas.

7. Advice to Drunkards. Four lines, by Gwavas. In the Gwavas and Borlase MSS., and in Pryce and Polwhele.

8. A Cornish riddle. Five lines. In the Gwavas and Borlase MSS., and in Pryce, Gilbert, and Polwhele.

9. Advice to all men. Written by Gwavas to form part of his own epitaph. Four lines.

10. Another [of the same sort], three lines, also by Gwavas.

11. A concluding one, four lines, also by Gwavas. These last three, copied from the same page of the Gwavas MS., all occur also in the Borlase MS., and in Pryce, Gilbert, and Polwhele.

12. A Fishermans Catch, given by Capt. Noel Cator of St. Agnes to T. Tonkin, 1698. In the Borlase MS., and printed in the R. I. C. Journal, 1866, and in Mr. Hobson Matthewss History of St. Ives, Lelant, Towednack, and Zennor.

13. Six lines of moral advice, found among the papers of J. Boson after his death, and given to Gwavas. In the Borlase MS., and R. I. C. Journal, 1866.

14. Certificate of Banns from W. Drake, Rector of St. Just, to Thos. Trethyll, Vicar of Sennen. Two versions, one in the Gwavas MS. and one in Pryce, the latter being also in the Borlase MS. Drake died in 1636.

15. Verses on a silver hurling ball given to W. Gwavas. Seven lines by Thos. Boson, 1705. In the Gwavas MS. Unpublished.

16. Three couplets of verse, and a short piece of prose from J. Bosons Duchess of Cornwalls Progress. In the Borlase MS. Unpublished.

17. Prophecy, attributed to Merlin, of the burning of Paul, Penzance, and Newlyn. Two lines. In the Borlase MS., and often printed in Cornish histories and guide-books.

18. Elegy on the death of James Jenkin of Alverton. Four verses of three lines each, by John Boson, 17 Feb. 17 [11/12]. In the Gwavas MS. Unpublished.

Proverbs, Mottoes, and Maxims.

1. From Scawen. Fourteen proverbs. In the Borlase MS.; printed in the edition of Tonkins abridgment of Scawens Antiquities Cornu-Britannick, 1777, and in Davies Gilberts History, and in his edition of the Poem of the Passion. Also in R. I. C. Journal, 1866, with sixteen others from the Borlase MS.

2. Mottoes of the families of Gwavas, Harris of Hayne, {39} Glynne, Tonkin, Godolphin, Boscawen, Polwhele, Noye, and Willyams of Carnanton. All except those of Glynne, Noye, and Willyams are printed in Pryce. All but Glynne and Willyams occur in Davies Gilberts edition of Jordans Creation, and the Willyams motto, though it occurs as a Cornish phrase in Pryces preface and in the Gwavas and Tonkin MSS., is only found as a motto in pedigree books and on the sign-board of the inn in Mawgan Churchtown. The Glynne motto, Dre weres agan Dew (Through the help of our God), is given, with an incorrect translation, in Mr. Hobson Matthewss History.

3. Mottoes for bowls, occurring in the Gwavas MS., and some in Davies Gilberts edition of The Creation.

4. Maxims, proverbs, etc., about thirty in number, in the Borlase MS., in Pryce, and in Davies Gilberts edition of The Creation, under the title of Sentences in vulgar Cornish. Some of them are also in the Gwavas MS.

Conversations and Phrases.

1. About seventy sentences, in the Borlase MS., in Pryce, and in Davies Gilberts edition of The Creation, under the title of Things occurring in common discourse. There are some additional ones in the Borlase MS.

2. About a hundred and fifty phrases, sentences, and idioms, copied by Dr. Borlase from Lhuyds MSS. Some, but by no means all, are in Lhuyds Grammar.

3. A considerable number of similar phrases scattered throughout Borlases Cornish Vocabulary at the end of his History of Cornwall. These are to be found, evidently copied from the Vocabulary, in a manuscript which belonged in 1777 to Henry Brush of Carnaquidn Stamps (on the road from Penzance to Zennor), which place belonged to William Veale of Trevaylor, who married the daughter of Gwavas. The MS. is now in the possession of a descendant of Henry Brush.

4. A few expressions and phrases scattered through the Gwavas MS., in the letters of Boson, and in letters and notes of Gwavas.


1. On James Jenkins, by John Boson, 17[11/12], in the Gwavas MS. Four lines. The Borlase MS., quoting the very letter in which it occurs, says that it is on John Keigwin, which is a mistake.

2. On John Keigwin, by John Boson, 1715. In the Gwavas MS. Four lines.

3. On Capt. Stephen Hutchens, in Paul Church, 1709. The only Cornish inscription in any church. Probably by John Boson. Two lines. Frequently printed in guide-books, etc.

4. On William Gwavas, by himself. In the Gwavas MS., and in Pryce, Polwhele, and Davies Gilbert. Partly in English.

These four are also in the Borlase MS., and are printed in the R. I. C. Journal, 1866.

5. On Dolly Pentreath, by —- Tompson of Truro, engineer. Printed by Polwhele, and later in Blights Week at the Lands End, and other guide-books. A variant occurs in John Skinners Journal of a Tour in Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall, 1797, in Add. MS. 28,793, f. 62, in the British Museum.


1. William Gwavas to Oliver Pender, 11th August 1711. Partly in Cornish.

2. Oliver Pender to W. Gwavas, 22nd August 1711. Mostly in Cornish.

3. John Boson to W. Gwavas, 5th April 1710. Nearly all in Cornish.

4. An unsigned letter, including a version of the Old Hundredth. Partly in rhyme.

5. Note, addressed apparently to one going to America, by William Gwavas, 1710, on the back of a copy of the Creed in Cornish.

These five are in the Gwavas MS., and have never been printed.

6. Letter of William Bodenor to the Honble. Daines Barrington, 3rd July 1776. Printed in Archologia (vol. v., 1779), in Uncle Jan Treenoodles Specimens of Cornish Provincial Dialects, 1846; in a paper on the Cornish Language by the present writer in the Transactions of the Philological Society, 1873, and in Archiv fr Celtische Lexicographic, with notes and emendations by Prof. Loth, in 1898.


Passages of Scripture.

Genesis i. Two versions, one by John Boson and one probably by John Keigwin. Both are in the Gwavas MS. One, Bosons, with his name to it, is in the Borlase MS. Bosons was printed by D. Gilbert at the end of his edition of the Poem of the Passion, and in a much revised form by Canon Williams at the end of his Lexicon. Keigwins version was printed by D. Gilbert at the end of his edition of Jordans Creation. There are many verbal variations from the Gwavas copies in the printed editions.

Genesis iii., translated by William Kerew, in the Gwavas MS. Published by Prof. Loth in the Revue Celtique, April 1902.

St. Matthew ii. 1-20, translated by W. Kerew, in the Gwavas MS. Published in the Revue Celtique, April 1902.

St. Matthew iv., also by W. Kerew, in the Gwavas MS. Published in the Revue Celtique, April 1902.

The last three were copied from a MS. of Matthew Rowe of Hendra in Sancreed, by H. Usticke.

Proverbs xxx. 5, 6.

Psalms ii. 11; vii. 11; xxxv. 1, 2.

These are in the Gwavas MS., probably translated by W. Gwavas himself. Unpublished.

The Hundredth Psalm, of the Sternhold and Hopkins version, literally translated line for line, followed by an unsigned letter partly in rhyme. In the Gwavas MS. Unpublished.

The Lords Prayer.

There are ten versions extant besides the modern one of Canon Williams.

1. In John Daviess Llyfr y Resolusion (a translation of Robert Parsonss Book of Christian Exercise), printed in 1632, and again in 1684. Translated from the Latin.

2. In Scawens Antiquities Cornu-Brittanick, circ. 1680. Printed in Tonkins abridgment in 1777. The same version is given in Bishop Gibsons additions to Camdens Britannia in 1695, and by Polwhele.

3, 4. Two versions in John Chamberlaynes Oratio Dominica in diversas linguas versa, 1715, one of which is evidently meant for the version in Scawen and Camden.

5, 6. Two versions by John Keigwin, one said to be in Ancient Cornish and the other in Modern. Both are in the Gwavas and Borlase MSS., and were printed by Pryce and D. Gilbert.

7, 8. Two versions, one by John and one by Thomas Boson, in the Gwavas MS. Unpublished.

9, 10. Two versions by W. Gwavas, in the Gwavas MS. Unpublished. One of these, nearly identical with Keigwins Modern, is said in a note to have been collected from J. Keigwin, Thomas Boson, Captain Thomas Tonkin, Oliver Pender, James Schollar, and T. Tonkin.

The first four are without the at the end. All except the first are from the English.

The Apostles Creed.

1. In the Llyfr y Resolusion, 1632, 1684.

2. In Scawen and in Gibsons Camden.

3. In Halss History of Cornwall.

4, 5. By John Keigwin, one in the Gwavas MS. and both m the Borlase MS., and printed by Pryce and D. Gilbert.

6. By Thomas Boson, in the Gwavas MS. Unpublished.

7, 8. By William Gwavas, in the Gwavas MS. Unpublished.

There is a modern revised version in Williamss Lexicon.

The Ten Commandments.

1, 2. By John Keigwin, one in the Gwavas MS., and both in the Borlase MS., and in Pryce and D. Gilbert. One of these in a revised form is in Williamss Lexicon.

3. In the Gwavas MS., but without name. Unpublished.

4. By John Boson, in the Gwavas MS. Printed with notes by Prof. Loth in vol. xxiv. of the Revue Celtique.

5. By William Kerew, in the Gwavas MS. Printed with the preceding.

6. By T. Boson, in the Gwavas MS. Unpublished.

7. By W. Gwavas, in the Gwavas MS. Unpublished.

The Words of Administration of Holy Communion.

These are stated to be the words used by William Jackman, Vicar of St. Feock. They occur in Halss History.

King Charles I.s Letter to the People of Cornwall.

This is a translation by John Keigwin of the Letter of Thanks from the Martyr King to the People of Cornwall for their loyalty in 1643, still to be seen in many churches in the Duchy. It occurs in the handwriting of Keigwin in the Gwavas MS., and in Dr. Borlases hand in the Borlase MS. It has been misprinted, with notes by the present writer (who had no opportunity of revising the proofs), in the Rev. A. Cummingss History of Cury and Gunwalloe, 1875, and Mrs. Dents Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley (the place from which the original Letter is dated), 1877.

* * * * *

The following grammatical and lexicographical pieces belong more or less to the living period of Cornish:

1. Lhuyds Cornish Grammar, printed in his Archologia Britannica in 1707, and reprinted by Pryce in 1790.

2. Lhuyds Cornish Vocabulary. The unpublished MS. belongs to Sir John Williams, Bart., of Llanstephan, Carmarthenshire. Most of the words in it are to be found in Borlases and Pryces Vocabularies (see below). They were collected partly from the Dramas, partly from the Cottonian Vocabulary, and partly from living people.

3. The Gwavas Vocabulary. This is a short vocabulary of the latest Cornish (extending from A to O) in the Gwavas MS. The words were incorporated into Borlases Vocabulary.

4. The Hals Vocabulary. This is a fragment (A to C) in the Gwavas MS. It is fantastic and of little value.

5. The Borlase Vocabulary, compiled from the MSS. of Lhuyd, Gwavas, and Tonkin, from Lhuyds Archologia, from oral tradition, and from other sources. The original MS. is in the Borlase Collection, now belonging to Mr. J. D. Enys, and it was printed at the end of Dr. Borlases Antiquities Historical and Monumental of Cornwall in 1754, and again, revised, in 1769. It is a copious vocabulary, but is rendered rather less valuable by the inclusion of a large number of Welsh and Breton words, gathered chiefly from other parts of Lhuyds Archologia, or from John Daviess Welsh Dictionary.

6. Pryces Vocabulary, or rather that of Gwavas, Tonkin, and Pryce. Printed, with Pryces edition of Lhuyds Grammar, at Sherborne in 1790. Some of this vocabulary was collected from the literary remains of Cornish, but a very large part was compiled from living tradition, not much by Pryce himself, but by Gwavas and Tonkin.

Though some of these have been used by Canon Williams in his Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum, by Dr. Whitley Stokes in his Supplementary Cornish Glossary (Transactions of the Philological Society, 1868-9), and still more in Dr. Jagos English-Cornish Dictionary, they have not been thoroughly exhausted yet, and a good many more words may be collected from them, as also from the attempted interpretations of place-names in Pryces book and in the Gwavas MS.



The Cornish language divides very naturally into three periods, (1) Ancient, (2) Middle, (3) Modern.

1. The Ancient period is only represented by the Cottonian Vocabulary, which, though a MS. of the twelfth century, is probably a copy of a much earlier one, by perhaps a few glosses, and by the names in the Bodmin Gospels. It has no extant literature.

2. The Middle period is that of the Add. Charter fragment, the Ordinalia, the Poem of the Passion (fifteenth century), the Life of St. Meriasek (1504), and to some extent of the play of The Creation (1611), though the last is partly transitional. Judging from the few words preserved in John of Cornwalls twelfth-century translation of a prophecy of Merlin, the lost original of that was perhaps in an early form of Middle Cornish.

3. The Modern period begins with the few sentences in Andrew Bordes book (1542), and continues to the end.

As the whole of the extant literature of Middle Cornish is in verse, it gives us little help as regards the colloquial Cornish even of its own period, and judging from Andrew Bordes sentences, only some forty years later than the St. Meriasek and seventy years earlier than Jordans play, Middle and Modern Cornish must have overlapped one another a good deal. It is probable that those who wrote verse would continue to use archaic forms long after they had been dropped in prose and in conversation. But the difference between Middle and Modern Cornish is not really very great, and comes to very little more than a difference of spelling, an uncertainty about the final letters of certain words, and a tendency to contractions, elisions, and apocopations in words, which, though recognised in their fuller form in the spelling of Middle Cornish verse, may have been nearly as much contracted, elided, and apocopated in Middle Cornish conversation. Dr. Whitley Stokes points out in his edition of Jordans Creation certain changes, and though the language of that play is substantially Middle Cornish, the spelling is largely of the pre-Lhuydian popular Modern Cornish sort. Among these changes are the following:

1. The final e becomes a. [This is perhaps only a question of spelling, and need not imply a difference of sound. Probably a sound as of the German final e is intended. {50}]

2. th and gh have become mute, and are often interchanged. [In Modern Cornish th is often omitted, or represented by h.]

3. m, n, become respectively bm, dn. [Probably the sounds existed long before they were recognised in spelling.]

4. s becomes frequently a soft g (j). [This j sound also may have existed long before it was written as a g or j. The s of the earlier MSS. was probably never intended to represent in these cases a true s. Dr. Stokes might also have mentioned the similar cases of she being used where the older MSS. write sy for the second person singular.]

The apparent changes of vowel sounds in the still later Cornish, more fully discussed further on, are mostly these:

1. a long sometimes becomes aw, especially before l, n, or r, and occasionally as a final; a short, under similar circumstances, becomes o short.

2. u, with (approximately) the French sound of that letter, becomes ee (), or else ew, as in the English word dew.

3. eu, ue, with the French sound of eu, or the German o, becomes (=ay in may).

4. _y_ of Middle Cornish, perhaps pronounced as _, but sometimes obscurely, like the primary sound of the Welsh _y_, often became short _e_.

5. An open long y, which may have been sounded ee () in Middle Cornish, often later became ei (or as i in mine), though there are inconsistencies in this respect, showing that the change was not universal.

6. In a considerable number of cases short o became the obscure vowel, o of London or u of until.

It does not follow that these were very distinct changes between Middle and Modern Cornish. Possibly the change in sound was a good deal less than on paper, and consisted in intensifying earlier changes. The Middle Cornish system of spelling looks very like an inheritance from an earlier time still.

The grammatical changes were few, and, except for a diminishing use of pronominal suffixes, those, like the new preterite of gwl, to do, were chiefly false analogies, or else imitations of English. But it is to be remembered that a great proportion of the remains of Modern Cornish consists of translations and a few original compositions by persons whose own language was English, who had in some cases learnt Cornish very imperfectly. This would apply to most of the translations of passages of Scripture, to Lhuyds Preface (though, of course, his own language was Welsh), and to Gwavass attempts. The really valuable specimens are the writings of Boson, Bodenors Letter to Daines Barrington, some of the Gwavas MS. letters and songs, and the story of John of Chy-an-Hur. These, written by men who spoke Cornish fluently and had no theories and often no knowledge of philology, probably represent what people really spoke in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. That faintness and even silence of final letters, which seems to have been a characteristic of Cornish as it is of French, was the cause that, in writing as phonetically as they knew how, these practical speakers of Cornish often omitted the ends of words, and made it seem as though their verbs had largely lost their inflections. Words were spelt alike which should have been differentiatedit was as though one should spell avais, avait, avez, and avaient all alike, and words were run together that should have had at least apostrophes between them; but the grammar was not always as broken-down as it looks, and by a comparison with the older remains of Cornish it is not difficult to restore approximately the proper spelling. The Cornish represented in Lhuyds writings has tended to confuse some things. Lhuyd was a Welshman, and is constantly trying to run off into Welsh, and he had for his teacher John Keigwin, who thought that he understood the Cornish of the medival dramas, but was often mistaken. Probably had a resuscitated medival Cornishman read the dramas aloud to Keigwin, he would have understood them quite as well as the ordinary English board-school boy would understand St. Pauls Epistles in the Authorised Version, read by a revived Jacobean divine; but the spelling and the medival handwriting, which he could not always read, put him out terribly, and some very weird forms and words are the result. Also Keigwin had, or thought he had, a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, which he uses on occasions with dire results. Far be it from any Cornish student to undervalue the usefulness of Keigwin. But for him, and for Gwavas and Tonkin, the work of reconstruction would have been much more difficult than it is, and these writers undoubtedly preserved a great deal of most valuable matter that otherwise would have been lost, but their work needs to be used with great caution, and the translations and original compositions which they produced do not always represent quite fairly the late forms of the language.

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