Archive:The Descendants of John Whitney, page 489

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The Descendants of John Whitney, Who Came from London, England, to Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1635, by Frederick Clifton Pierce (Chicago: 1895)

Transcribed by the Whitney Research Group, 1999.


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WHITNEY GENEALOGY. 489

adequate, without any foreign alloys, to the production of the very highest intellectual results. Of what he accomplished as a philologist is impossible to speak in detail. He was first of all a specialist, and a specialist in a field-the study of Sanskrit- which lies quite apart from the knowledge and interest of the general public. His great achievements here can be understood only by his fellow scientists. He did not, however, confine himself to these special labors, but in two directions rendered notable public services, the importance of which has been abundantly recognized- namely, the popularization of his science and in the recording and explaining of our mother tongue. In these labors he has come close to thousands and has won not only their admiration but their gratitude; and by them, perhaps more than by his work as a Sanskritist, he will live in the general memory. As a master of clear exposition he has opened to the layman, as no one else has done, the way to a sound understanding of the structure and growth of language, and by the charm of his style has made the path a delightful one to follow. In this field he was easily first, and it would be difficult to estimate the debt which those who are interested in such studies owe to him. The same may be said of his work as an English lexicographer. In "The Century Dictionary," of which he was the editor-in-chief, the public has been enabled to find for the first time the English language, as a whole, set forth in accordance with the principles of sound philology, under the guidance of a master of the science. To this labor he devoted much of his time for nearly ten years; and while it would be unjust to others to emphasize unduly his part in the great com- posite structure, it may safely be said that in its guiding principles the book is distinctly his contribution to the study and development of our language. The service thus rendered to all English speakers is one the influence of which must con- tinue to widen as the years pass, and is of a kind which the public can appreciate and will not readily forget. To the culture and attainments of the scholar he added the grace of the true hearted, unpretending, kindly man. No human interest was foreign to him, and nothing that was genuine failed to arouse his sympathy. He was, moreover, essentially a man of peace, and although-as all the world knows- he not infrequently went forth to battle against the Philistines, giving and receiving many sounding blows, it seemed to the onlooker that he always fought only for the justice of the cause and without the fervor, and, perhaps, the skill of one who fights for the pleasure of the conflict. Taken for all in all, as a scholar and a man, he has occupied a place in our national life which will not soon again be filed. He d. June, 1894: res. New Haven, Conn. Personal Tributes. The death of William Dwight WHITNEY, professor of Sandkrit in Yale university, marks the end of a distinct epoch in the history of American philology. For more than a generation he has been the foremost figure among us in the department of science. In many foreign lands he was of all native American scholars by far the best known; and at home, his personality and his achievements were, and will long remain, a source of loftiest inspiration to his fellow-workers. His popular fame will doubtless rest chiefly upon his connection with "The Century Dictionary;" but his works upon the antiquities of India, especialy its language and religion, although read by the fewest, are destined to affect profoundly-albeit indirectly- certain ele- ments of the new education which are to be of prime and practical influence in shaping our conceptions of human history and of religion. His great breadth of learning was coupled with extreme thoroughness. His insight and originality were tempered with the utmost self-restraint. And, altogether, for power of intellect, con- joined with purity of soul and absolute genuineness of character, we shall not soon look upon his like again. C.R. LANMAN, Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass., June 12, 1894. America and the world have lost by the death of William D. WHITNEY one of the foremost scholars in any domain of human science. WHITNEY'S great originality lay in the power of collecting and arraying vast quatities of facts, and judging them with rare inerrancy and the severest self-correcting criticism. In this respect he resembles DARWIN. The influence of his method will never perish. In close corre- spondence with the quality of his work is the extraordinary range and quantity of his accomplishment. He is best known for the cultured public by his classical works on the science of language, and his essays on a great variety of Oriental and linguis- tic subjects. But his massive works on the Vedas and on Sanskrit grammar would 32

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