restricted access “What we want in Elegance, we gain in Copiousness”: Eighteenth-Century English and Its Empire of Tongues

Recognizing the simultaneous rise of the English standardization movement and the British Empire, this article addresses how eighteenth-century attempts at “correcting, improving, and ascertaining the English tongue” can be read as political and social allegories offering insight into the expanding empire’s emerging self-image. With close readings of Daniel Defoe, Samuel Johnson, and Hugh Blair, this article focuses in particular on the many contentious resonances of English as a “copious” language, one whose hybridity seemed capable at times of both worsening and alleviating the empire’s fissures. By using language theory to locate the original articulation of copiousness as problem and solution, this article continues with a reading of a poem by Sir William Jones, a writer who saw a specific form of cultural and linguistic syncretism as a way to advance both literature and empire.