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Document number: 5781
Date: 03 Dec 1846
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: MACAULAY Thomas Babbington
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA46-130
Last updated: 6th August 2013

Albany London
Decr 3. 1846

Dear Talbot,

Many thanks for your volume. <1> It is not to be read in an hour. But I have looked at it sufficiently to see that it is, like all you have written, eminently ingenious and interesting. Some objections and doubts have occurred to me. In page 19 for example – is not the word clove evidently derived from clou? The shape of a clove is as like that of a nail as possible. I remember, when, in my boyish days, I first tasted bishop, and fished up a clove, I thought that a wooden nail had fallen into my cup. In page 25 – I think that you are wrong about the etymology of Marquess. The title seems to have been common in Italy before it was much used beyond the Alps. Now marca in Italian signifies merely a district and is used without any reference to a frontier position. In page 31, I differ from you about the word alarm. Surely it comes from the Italian All’ arme. Toccare all’ arme is to beat to arms. It is easy to conceive that, at the time of the Crusades, when the Italians played so important a part, the Italian military phrase may have been adopted by other nations. I am not quite sure that I understand your derivation of the word Devil (page 68). You seem to forget that in the New Testament the word [Greek text] is repeatedly used as synonymous with [Greek text]. Compare, for example Matthew 4.1 with Mark 1.13. "Hunc" says Lactantius Lib ii de origine erroris, "ex bono per se malum effectum Græci [Greek text] appellant; nos criminatorem vocamus, quod crimina, in quæ ipse illicit, ad Deum deferat". I cannot conceive how an etymology can be more clearly traced than this – Devil – Diable – Diavolo – Diabolus – [Greek text] – One word about your derivation of the word interest in page 74. Remember that the word in the same sense is found in all the Western languages, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese. Interesse for usury is as old as Boccaccio. Nor do I see any difficulty in accounting for that use of the word. The usury is the difference id quod interest –between what is borrowed and what is repaid – I have mentioned only points in which you have not satisfied me. I should never have done if I mentioned all those [on?] which I readily adopt your derivations.

Very truly yours
T B Macaulay


1. This must have been an advance copy of WHFT's English Etymologies (London: John Murray, 1847) - p. 19 is about cloves.

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