Abstract The English poet-critic John Dryden (1631–1700) took a keen interest in refining the mother tongue. As a literary critic, he was particularly concerned with the contrast between the sound of the vernacular and that of Latin. This study establishes a connection between Dryden's observations on sound and the recommendations concerning elocution found in such seventeenth-century rhetorics as Some Instructions Concerning the Art of Oratory (1659) by Obadiah Walker. In order to appreciate Dryden's use of sound in his own poems, I argue that one should also take into account the phonetic theory provided by contemporary grammars. The study thus pays tribute to the fact that in the age of Dryden the concerns of rhetoric and grammar were closely interwoven.

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