Wednesday, February 07, 2007



Jonathan Bate, John Clare: A Biography (2003), chap. 15:
The draft essays are also very funny, especially at the expense of those who have pretensions to social status. One piece consists of a series of letters written in the style of a greengrocer's wife telling her daughter how important it is to master the art of correct spelling: 'to be wyse is to be larneyd our Paa paa yur furthor wishes mee yur maa maa to introduct you into the hart off sphellin correctedly as that is the rutt end of the tree of nowlege'. Given this mockery of bad spelling, it is difficult to imagine that Clare would have wanted his own deficiencies in that art to have been reproduced in print as they have in various modern editions of his works.
Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son, CXXXIV (Nov. 19, 1750, Old Style):
You spell induce, enduce; and grandeur, you spell grandure; two faults of which few of my housemaids would have been guilty. I must tell you that orthography, in the true sense of the word, is so absolutely necessary for a man of letters, or a gentleman, that one false spelling may fix ridicule upon him for the rest of his life; and I know a man of quality, who never recovered the ridicule of having spelled wholesome without the w.
Mary Boykin Chesnut, Diary (August 27, 1861):
Today I saw a letter from a girl crossed in love. Her parents object to the social position of her fiancé; in point of fact, they forbid the banns. She writes: "I am misserable." Her sister she calls a "mean retch." For such a speller, a man of any social status would do. They ought not to expect so much for her. If she wrote her "pah" a note I am sure that "stern parient" would give in.
Artemus Ward, The London Punch Letters, 4 (At the Tomb of Shakespeare):
Some kind person has sent me Chawcer's "poems." Mr. C. had talent, but he couldn't spel. No man has a right to be a lit'rary man onless he knows how to spel. It is a pity that Chawcer, who had geneyus, was so unedicated. He's the wuss speller I know of.

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