Dalgarno, George (DNB00)

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DALGARNO, GEORGE (1626?–1687), writer on pasigraphy, was born, according to Wood, ‘at Old Aberdeen, and bred in the university at New Aberdeen; taught a private grammar school with good success for about thirty years together, in the parishes of St. Michael and St. Mary Mag. in Oxford … and dying of a fever on 28 Aug. 1687, aged sixty or more, was buried in the north body of the church of St. Mary Magdalen’ (Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 970). Dalgarno was master of Elizabeth School, Guernsey, on 12 March 1661–2; but having some disputes with the royal court about the repairs of the school-house, he returned to Oxford in the summer of 1672, and sent in his resignation on 30 Sept. of that year. He was married and had a family. Among other eminent men he knew Ward, bishop of Sarum, Wilkins, bishop of Chester, and Wallis, Savilian professor. Yet not the slightest notice of him is taken in the works either of Wilkins or of Wallis, both of whom must have derived some very important aids from his speculations. To Dalgarno has been erroneously ascribed the merit of having anticipated some of the most refined conclusions of the present age respecting the education of the deaf and dumb. His work upon this subject is entitled ‘Didascalocophus, or the Deaf and Dumb Man's Tutor. To which is added a Discourse of the Nature and Number of Double Consonants,’ &c., 8vo, printed at the theater in Oxford, 1680. He states the design of it to be ‘to bring the way of teaching a deaf man to read and write, as near as possible, to that of teaching young ones to speak and understand their mother tongue.’ ‘In prosecution of this general idea,’ says Dugald Stewart, who was the first to call attention to Dalgarno, ‘he has treated, in one very short chapter, of “A Deaf Man's Dictionary;” and in another of “A Grammar for Deaf Persons;” both of them containing (under the disadvantages of a style uncommonly pedantic and quaint) a variety of precious hints, from which useful, practical lights might be derived by all who have any concern in the tuition of children during the first stage of their education.’ Dalgarno may also claim the distinction of having first exhibited, and that in its most perfect form, a finger alphabet. He makes no pretensions, however, to the original conception of such a medium of communication. In Wallis's letter to Thomas Beverley (published in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ for October 1698, no mention is made of Dalgarno, whom he and John Bulwer [q. v.] had anticipated. A long controversy had taken place upon this subject between Wallis [see Wallis, John] and William Holder [q. v.], whose investigations had preceded those of Dalgarno by twenty years. Nearly twenty years before the appearance of his ‘Didascalocophus’ Dalgarno had published another curious treatise entitled ‘Ars Signorum, vulgo Character Universalis et Lingua Philosophica,’ &c., 8vo, London, 1661, from which it appears that he was the precursor of Bishop Wilkins in his speculations concerning ‘A Real Character and a Philosophical Language’ (1668). Dalgarno's treatise exhibits a methodical classification of all possible ideas, and a selection of characters adapted to this arrangement, so as to represent each idea by a specific character, without reference to the words of any language. He admits only seventeen classes of ideas, and uses the letters of the Latin alphabet, with two Greek characters, to denote them. The treatise is dedicated to Charles II in this philosophical character, ‘which,’ observes Hallam, ‘must have been as great a mystery to the sovereign as to his subjects.’ Dalgarno here anticipated the famous discovery of the Dutch philologers, namely, that the parts of speech are all reducible to the noun and verb, or to the noun alone. Leibnitz, in a letter to Thomas Burnet of Kemney, dated in 1697, alludes to the ‘Ars Signorum.’ Both works were reprinted by Lord Cockburn and Mr. Thomas Maitland for the Maitland Club of Glasgow in 1834. A notice by Sir William Hamilton of this edition was reprinted from the ‘Edinburgh Review’ for July 1835 in his ‘Discussions,’ pp. 174 et seq. In MS. Sloane 4377, ff. 139–46, are the following printed tracts by Dalgarno, explaining his system of shorthand: 1. A pamphlet in Latin, commencing ‘Omnibus Omnino Hominibus,’ signed ‘Geo. Dalgarno,’ on universal language, 4to, 8 pp., in print. 2. ‘News to the Whole World of the Discovery of an Universal Character, and a New Rational Language, &c., by Geo. Dalgarno,’ then dwelling at Mr. Samuel Hartlib's house, near Charing Cross, fol., 1 p., in print. 3. ‘Character Universalis, per Geo. Dalgarno. … A New Discovery of the Universal Character, containing also a more readie and approved way of Shorthand Writing than any heretofore practised in this nation, by Geo. Dalgarno,’ in print, Latin and English, 4to, 1 p. 4. ‘Tables of the Universal Character, so contrived that the practice of them exceeds all former wayes of Shorthand Writing, and are applicable to all languages.’ Tables of particles, radicall verbs and adjectives, and radicall substantives, with their contraries. With a preface to Doctors Wilkins and Ward of Oxford, grammatical observations, &c., large fol., 4pp., in print. In the same volume are the following manuscript pieces by Dalgarno (ff. 147, &c.): (1) A letter in Latin from Faustus Morsteyn, ‘a nobleman of the Greater Poland,’ residing at Oxford, 11 April 1657, in praise of Dalgarno's scheme, manuscript. (2) A copy of Mr. Dalgarno's letter written to Mr. Hartlib, Oxford, 20 April 1657, describing the merits of his universal language, and writing surpassing ‘all inventions of tachygraphy,’ manuscript. (3) Letter of Hartlib, ‘Tiguri, 1657, July 18, 28,’ stating that the whole Bible can be written in nine or ten sheets with Dalgarno's shorthand. At the top is a specimen, St. John's gospel, xvi. 1–13, v., manuscript. (4) Letter of Dalgarno, ‘Zurich, 26 Dec. (old style) 1657,’ to Monsieur Pell, in English, descriptive of his universal shorthand character, with specimens, fol., 5 pp., manuscript. (5) Letter of Dalgarno, London, 17 Feb. 1658, to Honorable Mr. William Brereton, afterwards Lord Brereton, on his characters, with specimens, manuscript. (6) Testimonial of Dalgarno's scheme from Richard Love, professor of divinity, Cambridge, 1658, print and manuscript. (7 and 8) Other papers in manuscript on the application of the scheme to arithmetical numbers.

[Tupper's Hist. of Guernsey, 2nd edit. p. 161; Chambers's Em. Scotsmen (Thomson), i. 425; Introd. to Dalgarno's Works (Maitland Club); Penny Cyclopædia, viii. 290; Stewart's Works (Hamilton), i. 602–3, ii. 197, 486–7, iii. 339, 341, 342; Hallam's Introd. to Literature of Europe (4th edit.), iii. 362, 363; Edinburgh Review, lxi. 407–17; Leibnitz's Opera Omnia (Geneva, 1768), vol. vi. pt. i. p. 262; Dr. J. Westby-Gibson's Bibliography of Shorthand, pp. 50–1; Irving's Scottish Writers, ii. 107–10; Add. MSS. 29553 ff. 445, 453, 29554 f. 39.]

G. G.