James Merrick: poet, scholar, and linguist?

Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade

University ofLeiden


In the preface to the first edition of his grammar, Robert Lowth asked for comments from his readers, as a result of which he hoped that the grammar would be “improved into something really useful”. A number of people appear to have responded, and one of them was James Merrick (1720-1769), classical scholar and author of a metrical version of the Psalms (1765). Merrick asked Lowth, who had been Professor of Poetry in Oxford  from 1741 to 1750, to read his translations critically, and in the course of their resulting correspondence they had several discussion about questions of grammatical correctness. In my article I will analyse these discussion, and I will show that by modern criteria Merrick can be considered to have been the better linguist of the two.