society, where even your very fragments are enough to enrich any man that has the honour to approach you." He calls heaven the Royal Society above, "where those whose refined and excellent natures make them capable of the sublimest mysteries, and aspire after experimental knowledge, truly so called, shall be fill'd; and there without danger taste of the fruit of the tree which cost our unhappy parents so dear, shall meet with no prohibition of what is desirable, no serpent to deceive, none to be deceived."
Many of the members of the Royal Society, while distinguished for their patient industry, could not philosophize on the facts they had collected, and their grammar and literary style were open to criticism. Their published works were consequently ridiculed by their ever-watchful opponents. One chief victim of the wits was Sir Hans Sloane, noted, like Ashmole, for his museum. The brilliant Dr. King produced a parody or travesty on Sloane's valuable history of Jamaica (quoting verbatim his bulls and blunders), which is "one of the severest and merriest satires that was ever written in prose." Yet we find the society, as early as 1665, appointing a committee to consider the improvement of the English language. And in Evelyn's correspondence appears a long letter addressed to Sir Peter Wyche, Knt., chairman of the committee, in which he says that they ought to prepare manuals of grammar, orthography, and punctuation, and a lexicon of current, obsolete, and technical words. Out of this grew a project for the establishment of an institution similar to the French Academy.
"And, indeed," writes Evelyn to Pepys, in 1689, "such was once designed since the Restauration of Charles II (1665), and in order to it three or four meetings were begun at Gray's Inn by Mr. Cowley, Dr. Spratt, Mr. Waller, the Duke of Buckingham, Matt Clifford, Mr. Dryden, and some other promoters of it. But by the death of the incomparable Mr. Cowley, distance and inconvenience of the place, the contagion and other circumstances intervening, it crumbled away and came to nothing; what straw I had gathered towards the bricks of that intended pyramid (having the honor to be admitted an inferior laborer) you may command and dispose of, if you can suffer my impertinences; and that which I have not shew'd you, the plan I drew and was laying before them for that designe, which was, I say'd, the polishing of the English tongue, and to be one of the first intentions and chiefest subjects of the Academists."