Some of the most compelling books on any subject, are those born out of a deep love for the subject matter. James Harris, writer and grammarian, had two main goals in mind when publishing Hermes Or a Philosophical Inquiry Concerning Universal Grammar: his primary goal was to "excite his Readers to curiosity and inquiry" and if that goal was successfully achieved then his secondary goal was to captivate his readers to the point that they would willingly become teachers of grammar themselves. While these objectives may seem lofty, strange, or even inconceivable by today's readers; for someone living in the turn of the eighteenth century, with the freedom to do as they wished, these goals are no more or less worthy than those of scientists, peacekeepers, or philosophers of the time. Harris believed that the pursuit of grammatical purity was second to none, and the evidence of this passion is visible throughout his work.
Defying expectations as a grammatical primer, Hermes Or a Philosophical Inquiry Concerning Universal Grammar is a comprehensive read, covering every aspect of grammar from the formation of words and sentences to the use of verbs, times, tenses, participles, conjunctions, prepositions and to the history of language and grammar. Harris spends a tremendous amount of time lovingly describing the ancient Greek language and its modern English variants. It is impossible to walk away from this text without learning something more than you already knew about grammar.
Independently wealthy, Harris had the time and the drive to devote much of his life to the study of grammar. How one wrote or spoke often belied their refinement or education, and Harris believed that any man could learn to be a scholar, thus bettering himself and his station, ultimately inspiring him to write Hermes Or a Philosophical Inquiry Concerning Universal Grammar and charge his readers with the mission to study and teach grammar. The charm, confidence, and relative naiveté of the author makes this an enchanting book for the reader. Grammar may not be the most exciting topic, but Harris' passion for the subject comes through on each page and the reader is quickly swept up in his enthusiasm.