Thursday, 5 January 2012

More on Lindley Murray

Lindley Murray - frontispiece,
Memoirs of the life and writings

Further to the previous post, Comic Grammars, here's a bit more about the 18th-19th century grammarian Lindley Murray. He's an interesting character: an American Quaker who left the USA, due to illness, after the Revolution and settled in York, which had a large Quaker community, where he stayed for the rest of his life.

It has, historically, been a slight puzzle why his massively influential English Grammar became so completely eclipsed by the late 19th century. Francis Austin's essay Whatever happened to Lindley Murray? a study of some of the grammar textbooks used in the early teacher training colleges (Paradigm, Vol 2 (7), December, 2003) argues that he simply wasn't influential in the right places: that while his book was well known to the literati, it didn't get a foothold in the early teacher training colleges at the beginning of the 19th century - they wrote their own grammar texts - and had become obsolete by the time the state school system was established in the 1870s.

The latest biography of Murray - Lindley Murray (1745–1826), Quaker and Grammarian (Lyda Fens-de Zeeuw, Utrecht: Lot Dissertation Series, 2011) is extremely good, and findable online: PDF here. It looks at Murray's life in general, the debilitating illness that left him unable to walk more than a few paces (the author argues post-polio syndrome), Murray as a Quaker, his letters, and his English Grammar (with a particular look at how his grammatical prescriptions often differed from his own usage in his letters).

Murray's own memoirs are also online: Memoirs of the life and writings of Lindley Murray, in a series of letters (1827, Internet Archive memoirsoflifewri00murrrich) along with his other works.

Upgraded from a comment to the previous post:
"Hydatius" writes:

I used to live close to the house in which Lindley Murray lived and wrote his Grammar. It has been, I think, turned into flats but close by there is a Lindley Street and a Murray Street, named in his honour. I believe a school nearby, a Quaker foundation, took custody of some of his furniture and personal effects after his death. In Bishophill the burial ground where he and other prominent Quakers were interred now has flats built upon it but there is a small adjacent garden where some grave markers sit with a prominent plaque outside.

Thanks! I just checked out the places connected with Murray. According to the listed building site, Holgate House, where Murray lived, is at what is now 163 Holgate Road. Murray Street and Lindley Street are nearby (here), as is the school Hydatius mentions: now Mount School, Dalton Terrace. The school has his writing desk and wheeled armchair, and the summerhouse where he wrote his Grammar now stands in the school grounds and can be visited by arrangement; see Name That Shed: Lindley Murray summerhouse and British Listed Buildings.

The Bishophill burial ground is on Cromwell Road, York, in the grounds of a residential development called Tuke House, named after the Quaker family who owned the original house on the site, and you can see the plaque from Google Maps Street View here. It reads:

In the gardens of this house,
a former Quaker burial ground,
are the graves of many Friends,
Friends who wish may visit them.

- Ray

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