20th. I continued to transcribe, from loose papers, into my Indian lexicon. A large proportion of the words are derivatives. All are, more or less, compounded in their oral forms, and they appear to be glued, as it were, to objects of sense. This is not, however, peculiar to this language. The author of “Hermes” says—“The first words of men, like their first ideas, had an immediate reference to sensible objects, and that in after days, when they began to discern with their intellect, they took those words which they found already made, and transferred them, by metaphor, to intellectual conceptions.”
On going to dinner, I found a party of officers and their ladies. “Mine host,” Mr. Johnston, with his fine and frank Belfast hospitality, does the honors of his table with grace and ease. Nothing appears to give him half so much delight as to see others happy around him. I read, in the evening, the lives of Akenside, Gray, and Littleton. What a perfect crab old Dr. Johnson was! But is there any sound criticism without sternness?
21st. I finished the reading of Mungo Parke, the most enterprising traveler of modern times. He appears to me to have committed two errors in his last expedition, and I think his death is fairly attributable to impatience to reach the mouth of the Niger. He should not have attempted to pass from the Gambia to the Niger during the rainy season. By this, he lost thirty-five out of forty men. He should not have tried to force a passage through the kingdom of Houssa, without making presents to the local petty chiefs. By this, he lost his life. When will geographers cease to talk about the mouth of the Niger? England has been as indefatigable in solving this problem as she has been in finding out the North West Passage, and, at present, as unsuccessful. We see no abatement, however, in her spirit of heroic enterprise. America has sent but one explorer to this field—Ledyard.
Novel reading—Greenough’s “Geology”—The cariboo—Spiteful plunder of private property on a large scale—Marshall’s Washington—St. Clair’s “Narrative of his Campaign”—Etymology of the word totem—A trait of transpositive languages—Polynesian languages—A meteoric explosion at the maximum height of the winter’s temperature—Spafford’s “Gazetteer”—Holmes on the Prophecies—Foreign politics—Mythology—Gnomes—The Odjibwa based on monosyllables—No auxiliary verbs—Pronouns declined for tense—Esprella’s letters—Valerius—Gospel of St. Luke—Chippewayan group of languages—Home politics—Prospect of being appointed superintendent of the lead mines of Missouri.
1823. Jan. 22d. A pinching cold winter wears away slowly. The whole village seems to me like so many prescient beavers, in a vast snow-bank, who cut away the snow and make paths, every morning, from one lodge to another. In this reticulation of snow paths the drum is sounded and the flag raised. Most dignified bipeds we are. Hurrah for progress, and the extension of the Anglo-Saxon race!