, Volume 92, Issue 3, pp 545–557

A Key to the Art of Letters: An English Grammar for the Eighteenth Century


DOI: 10.1007/s11061-007-9096-2

Cite this article as:
Rix, R.W. Neophilologus (2008) 92: 545. doi:10.1007/s11061-007-9096-2


The article examines A. Lane’s grammar A Key to the Art of Letters and its contexts. Symbolically published at the threshold to the eighteenth century, Lane presents an unusually bold plan to make English a world language. Although Lane’s book holds a key position in the development of English grammatical theory, there has been no comprehensive study of its innovative methods and radical proposals for a new national curriculum. Its challenge to Latin and French is analyzed in a historical perspective, and the impact of Lane’s ideas during the eighteenth century is traced. The article shows that Lane is the first to use English as the basis for writing universal grammar, as part of his strategy to promote English as a universal code for learning and science.


GrammarNationalismEnglishEighteenth CenturyLanguage

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English, Germanic and Romance StudiesUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen SDenmark