At the end of the eighteenth century, which is commonly considered as a key
period for the standardisation of the English language, the American-born
Quaker Lindley Murray (1745–1826) compiled his English Grammar (1795).
The book was widely used for decades since, was translated into many
languages, and became the best-selling grammar of all times, with sales
figures that even according to today’s standards are considered highly
impressive. The present study first and foremost investigates who Murray
was, and what led him to compile this grammar and many other textbooks. In
the process, several previous misconceptions have been set straight by the
author. Murray’s life as a Quaker is painted in great detail, together with
the effect his religious outlook had on his writings. To this end, a corpus
of 262 of his autograph letters was compiled and analysed for his usage.
This has additionally resulted in insight into several features of typical
Quaker usage that were prescribed at the time, and to which Murray adhered.
As the second part of this study, Murray’s language use as found in these
letters is compared to a selection of the rules laid down in the English
Grammar. Here we see that Murray, although he was language conscious, did
not always follow these rules. The findings in this book will be of
interest to scholars in various fields, such as social history, and book
and publishing studies, but they will be especially important for
sociohistorical linguists with an interest in language use in England, in
the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.