Lindley Murray: The Father of English Grammar

The English we speak today is a result of the several influences of cultures and individuals. English grammar – most importantly has seen different changes over the centuries (Learn about outdated grammar rules). One of the most iconic figures associated with English grammar is Lindley Murray, a Quaker lawyer, writer, and grammarian. Today, Lindley Murray is referred to as the father of English grammar by several scholars.

He was born in 1745 to a leading New York Merchant, who had 11 other children – who unfortunately did not survive into adulthood. Even though his father had wanted him to be raised in the ways of business and marketing, the interests of a young Lindley lied in literature and science. Due to his writing prowess at a young age, his father’s lawyer advised that the young lad be allowed to study law. After 4 years, he was called to the bar, where he practiced as counsel, and also an attorney in New York. By the age of 22, he married and moved to England, where he stayed until 1771. By 1783, he retired and left for England again in 1784.

It was after this period that he began taking his literary career seriously. By 1787, he released his first book, titled: Power of Religion on the Mind. This book focused on spirituality, and other topics like death. Today, the original copy is considered an artifact as it contains marks from that point in history. After this, he wrote the 1795’s Grammar of the English Language, which immediately became a worldwide sensation.

Sentence Structure

Today, it is no mistake that Lindley Murray is considered as the Father of English Grammar. Why is this so? This is because he was the first person who took an initiative to write grammar books, and this was in 1795 as earlier mentioned. After the release of that, he released other analogous works, English Exercises, and the English Reader. Because of his understanding of the dynamism of language, Lindley released several editions of this book, updating them with the times. The book, Grammar of the English Language, for several years, was a standard English grammar textbook, and it was used in England and America.

Also, his grammar books became one of the first best-selling books in history, selling more than 15 million copies worldwide.

Majorly, he has four books on grammar, which include:

  1. English Grammar: Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners. With an Appendix, Containing Rules and Observations, for Assisting the More Advanced Students to Write with Perspicuity and Accuracy. By Lindley Murray. 1795.
  2. The English Reader: Or, Pieces in Prose and Poetry, Selected from the Best Writers Designed to Assist Young Persons to Read with Propriety and Effect; to Improve Their Language and Sentiments, and to Inculcate Some of the Most Important Principles of Piety and Virtue. : With a Few Preliminary Observations on the Principles of Good Reading. 1799.
  3. Sequel to The English Reader, or, Elegant Selections in Prose and Poetry: Designed to Improve the Highest Class of Learners in Reading; By Lindley Murray. 1800
  4. English Exercises: Adapted to the Grammar Lately Published by L. Murray: Consisting of Exemplifications of the Parts of Speech, Instances of False Orthography, Violations of the Rules of Syntax, Defects in Punctuation, and Violations of the Rules Respecting Perspicuity and Accuracy: Designed for the Benefit of Private Learners, As Well As for the Use of Schools. 1797

Most of the revenue from his books went into charity. 16 years before his death, Lindley refused to step out of the house until his death in January 1826. He was 80.

Lindley Murray: The Father Of English Grammar

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By David Adewusi

David is a blog writer who likes writing about literature, English grammar, and editing methods. He has also worked as a copy editor and proofreader. He has written excellent blog posts for Scientific Editing.

2 thoughts on “Lindley Murray: The Father of English Grammar”

  1. It is true that Lindley Murray is known as the father of English grammar. But about 2 centuries before him, in 1586, William Bullokar wrote a book called “Pamphlet for Grammar” to demonstrate that English was as rule-bound as Latin. Bullokar’s grammar proceeds the work by Lindley Murray (1795).

    • Yes, you information is correct. There are works before Murray’s books. They also deserve credits. But Murray’s books became the most widely used grammars books that shaped our knowledge of the English grammar. For some reason, perhaps the lack of print press, the grammar books that proceeded Lindley Murray’s books were not widely known to the scholars and the public. Development of the print press/publishing industry in the 18th century enabled Murray to get his books distributed among a wider audience. The publishing industry definitely helped Murray establish himself as the father of English grammar.


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