Confessions of a Spelling Reformer

IT was my fortune to be wandering in lands where English is not spoken, when the President issued his famous order in regard to spelling. Little, therefore, of the comment it occasioned met my eyes, either at the time or long after; little of the clamor it excited reached my ears. But since my return to my own country I have had the opportunity to look over no small number of the productions which came out in opposition to it or in criticism of it, whether they appeared in the form of reported interviews with prominent persons, of leaders in newspapers or letters to them, or of elaborate articles in periodicals. Most of these written pieces were anonymous; but some of them came avowedly from men of recognized eminence in various fields of intellectual activity.

It is with no intention of conveying the slightest suggestion of disparagement of the authors of these various articles that I say that not one of them contains a single argument which every person who has paid even a superficial attention to the history of English orthography has not been familiar with from the time of his first entering upon the study. Even the jokes and sarcastic remarks of the newspapers are hoary with the rime of age. It is only the fact that the writers of the more elaborate articles seem to regard the reasons they put forth as novel, if not startling, contributions to thought, which imparts, in the mind of the veteran of orthographical wars, a certain languid interest to what they say. One comes, in truth, to feel a sort of respect for the continuous incapacity to comprehend the exact nature of the problem presented, which year after year of discussion does not impair, nor affluence of argument disturb.

As in a number of the pieces I have been privileged to see, I find my own name mentioned, I trust it will not be deemed a mark of offensive egotism — egotism of one sort it assuredly is — if I take the occasion of its appearance in these articles to state my views exactly on various points connected with the subject instead of having them stated for me inexactly by others. As confessions seem now to be the literary fashion, it has seemed best to put what I have to say in that form. The method of personal statement enables me also to bring out more distinctly not merely the views held by many, but also the reasons by which their course has been influenced. This consequently may serve as an excuse for a mode of utterance which in the case of one so obscure as myself would be otherwise out of place. Still, while the sentiments indicated may be entertained by numbers, they are here to be considered as nothing more than my own individual opinions. I do not pretend to speak with authority for any person but myself, least of all for any organization which has started out to carry on the work of spelling reform. Some, indeed, of the particular views I express may possibly, or, it may be, will probably meet with the dissent of those who hold in general the same beliefs.

Now that the storm and stress which followed the President’s order is over, now that every one seems to have regained for the time being his equanimity, the fitting moment has apparently arrived to consider not merely the action of the Committee on Simplified Spelling, but the whole subject itself, without reference to their particular proposals. This can be done at present with a certain detachment from the feelings which attended the heated controversy that prevailed — at least with as much detachment. as is consistent with the possession of personal convictions. As this article, however, is avowedly egotistical, I may be permitted, before entering into the general discussion, to refer to a specific charge which has been brought again and again against me as well as others. It is all the more desirable to do so because the consideration of it leads directly to the comprehension of what is really the great mainstay of the existing orthography. The charge is that in what I publish I do not use myself the new spellings, save, at least, on the most limited scale. I am inconsistent. My practice does not conform to my pretended belief.

Now it is very easy to retort the charge of inconsistency. No one can use our present. spelling without being inconsistent ; for English orthography is nothing but a mass of inconsistencies. But it is no real justification for one’s own conduct to prove that similar conduct is pursued by those who criticise him for it. Let me bring forward a few reasons which have influenced my own action, as doubtless they have more or less that of others. There is first the publisher to be considered. He is apt to have views of his own, together with the means of enforcing them. There is further the printing-office to be consulted. This has generally an orthography of its own and does not. like to have it deviated from. But above all there is the public itself. To many men a strange spelling is offensive; by the ill-informed it is regarded as portending ruin to the language. Necessarily no writer desires to limit his possible audience by running counter to its feelings in a matter which has no direct bearing upon the subject of which he treats. In my own case the public — most unwisely, as it naturally strikes me — is none too anxious under any circumstances to read what I write. Why, therefore, should I convert what is in my eyes a culpable lack of interest into absolute indifference or active hostility by rousing the prejudices of readers in consequence of insisting upon a point which has only a remote concern with the actual topic under consideration ?

These are reasons which I could fairly and honestly give. But after all the main one is something entirely different, something altogether independent of the feelings of others. With advancing years knowledge may or may not come; but altruism distinctly lingers. As we get along in life most of us lose the inclination to be constantly engaged in fighting strenuously for the progress of even the most praiseworthy causes. The desire wanes of benefiting your fellow man, while encountering in so doing not merely his indifference, but his active hostility; of urging him to show himself rational while his proclivities are violently asinine. Even the far keener enjoyment of rendering him miserable by making evident to his reluctant but slowly dawning intelligence how much of an ignoramus, not to say idiot, he has shown himself in his acts and utterances, — even this most poignant of pleasures loses its relish if indulgence in it can be secured only at the cost of much personal trouble. This is just as true of spelling reform as of any other movement. In fact, indifference to the propagation of the truth about it may be regarded as a species of that very altruism of which I have just disclaimed the practice. If a man seriously believes that it is essential, to the purity and perfection of the English language that tenour should be spelled with a “ and terror without it; that honourable should be spelled with a “ and honorary without it; that metre should have its final syllable in re and diameter in er; that deign should terminate in eign and its allied compound form disdain in ain; why not leave him in the undisturbed enjoyment of this mild form of imbecility ? He will not be made happier by being made wiser.

It is natural, therefore, that the position of the man who has got along in years should tend to be rather that of a lookeron than of a participant in the strife. He feels more and more disposed to content himself with approving and applauding the work of the younger and better soldiers. My own attitude is, indeed, very much the same as that once described to me as his by my dear and honored friend, the late Professor Child of Harvard. He sometimes did and sometimes did not employ in his correspondence the reformed spellings which were recommended by the English and American philological societies. It may be added, in passing, that these changes, with the weight of the greatest scholars of both countries behind them, were in general treated with almost absolute indifference; or, if considered at all, met usually with the same unintelligent opposition as has the list put forth by the Committee on Simplified Spelling. “If I am writing,” said Professor Child, “to one of these educated ignoramuses who think there is something sacred about the present orthography, I always take care to use the changed forms; but when writing to a man who really knows something about the subject, I am apt not to take the extra trouble required to conform to the recommendations made by the two Philological Societies.”

In not following my faith by my practice, I am perfectly willing to concede that my course is not merely inconsistent, but unmanly. I shall not quarrel with any one who calls it. pusillanimous, and even mean. Intimations to that effect have been made to me more than once in private letters. These reproaches I recognize as deserved, and therefore receive them with meekness. But one of the reasons given above for my action, or rather inaction,—the hostility of readers to new spellings, — points directly to the one mighty obstacle which stands in the way of reforming our orthography. It is, in truth, all-potent; but singularly enough it is so far from receiving consideration that it hardly ever receives much more than mere mention.

The regard for our present orthography is not based at all upon knowledge, nor upon reason. It owes its existence and its strength almost entirely to sentiment. We give it other names, indeed, and describe in big phrases the motives which animate us. We talk of our devotion to the language of our fathers, while displaying the amplest possible ignorance of what that language was. We please ourselves with the notion that in denouncing any change we are nobly maintaining the historic continuity of the speech. As a matter of fact, we are governed by the cheap but all-powerful sentiment of association. We like the present orthography because we are used to it. When once the point of intimate familiarity with the form of a word has been reached, it makes thenceforward no difference to us how wide is the divergence between the pronunciation and the spelling which is ostensibly designed to represent the pronunciation. Indeed, many of us feel a secret pride that in some given case there is the slightest possible connection between the two. As little difference does it make if the form with which we have become familiar not merely fails to indicate the origin of the word, but on the contrary suggests and even imposes upon the mind a belief in an utterly false derivation. Such considerations do not affect us in the slightest. We simply like the spelling to which we are accustomed; we dislike the spelling to which we are not accustomed.

Because hostility to change springs not from knowledge, not from reason, but almost entirely from sentiment, it must not be inferred that the obstacle it presents to reform is a slight one. On the contrary, it is peculiarly formidable. So far from being a feeble barrier to overcome, it is of the very strongest, if not the very strongest. The fact that in numerous instances it is based upon foundations demonstrably irrational does not. in the least impair its influence. In any matter of controversy we can fight with assurance of success against beliefs which the holder has honestly, even if mistakenly, adopted, because he deems them to be in accordance with reason. Appeal can then be made to his intelligence. But not so in the case of a belief based primarily upon sentiment. This is constantly exemplified in controversies about politics or religion. But nowhere is the fact more conspicuous than in the matter of English orthography. To spell differently from the way in which we have been trained to spell irritates many of us almost beyond the point of endurance. We can manage to put up with variations from the present orthography prevailing in past centuries, when we come to learn enough about the subject to be aware that such variations existed. The writers of those times had not reached that exalted plane of perfect propriety on which it is our good fortune to live and move. But no contemporary must venture to free himself from the cast-iron shackles in which we have inclosed the form of our words without subjecting himself to our indignant protest.

It is vain to deny the strength of the feeling of association. Even to those who have ascended out of the atmosphere of serene ignorance in which it flourishes most luxuriantly, a new spelling is always apt to come with something of a sense of shock. No matter how fully we recognize the impropriety and even absurdity of the old form, none the less does the sentiment of association cling to it and affect our attitude toward it. As this article sets out to deal somewhat with my own impressions, I may be pardoned the employment of a personal exemplification of the point under discussion. German is for all practical purposes a phonetic tongue. In modern times the few anomalies which once existed have been largely swept away; for, Germany being a nation of scholars, scholars have there some influence. In studying the language as a boy I learned some spellings now rarely used. For instance, thun and todt appeared then in the forms here given. Now I see the one without the h, the other without the d. I recognize the propriety of the action taken in dropping the unpronounced letters. But while my judgment is perfectly convinced of its correctness, for the life of me I cannot get over a certain sense of strangeness when I come across the words in their new form,

It is because I look upon the sentiment of association as the main bulwark of our present orthography that I have all along taken the ground that it is only through a rising generation that any thoroughgoing reform of English orthography can ever be accomplished. It is asking too much of human nature to expect a generation already risen to go a second time through the fiery ordeal of learning to spell. Individuals belonging to it will adopt proposed changes, especially those in whom conviction is reinforced by the energy of youth or of personal character. Of these there will be a regularly increasing number with the enlightenment which is sure to follow discussion of the subject. But the action of the great mass of even highly educated men will not be affected. This state of things would probably be true of the spelling of any language; but in one so defiant of all law as our own the aversion to change would increase in proportion to the lawlessness. We are not disposed to give up what with so much toil we have acquired. Furthermore , there comes to be in the minds of many a certain fondness for the existing orthography for its very irrationality, its constant unfitness to fulfill its professed aim of representing pronunciation. Its uncouthness inspires them with the same sort of devotion with which the lower order of savage tribes regard their gods. The uglier they are, the more fervently they are adored.

In the case of a rising generation there are no such feelings to be encountered. The soil is virgin. No prejudices are to be overcome, no sentiments shocked, no customs changed. The reasoning powers have not been so blunted by association that the mind looks with favor upon what is defiant of reason. Furthermore, about the changed and correct forms would speedily gather the same sentiment which has caused the previous forms to be cherished by their elders. The younger generation will in time do more than look upon the new spellings as the only conceivably rational ones. They will wonder by what perversity their fathers came to tolerate the old ones in defiance of reason. If a child has been accustomed from his earliest years to use exclusively the forms vext, and mixt, not only will the present spellings vexed and mixed seem offensive to him when he becomes a man, but it will be difficult for him to comprehend the precise nature of the irrationality which could ever have insisted upon it as a virtue that the combination -ed should have the sound of t.

A risen generation, accordingly, cannot reasonably be expected to adopt a new spelling. The most that can be asked of it is that it shall not put itself in active opposition, that it shall let the task of improving our present barbarous orthography go on unimpeded. This, however, is the very last thing it is inclined to do. The fathers have eaten sour grapes; they have no intention of keeping their children ’s children’s teeth from being set on edge. Yet there is plainly to be recognized now the existence of a steadily increasing number of persons who are disposed to consider this whole question carefully. In the case of such men — upon whose cooperation the success of any movement must ultimately depend — it is all-essential that the changes proposed should recommend themselves by their manifest propriety or by the probability of their general acceptance. They may be unwilling to take the trouble to use these new forms in their own practice. even if convinced of their desirableness; but they will be ready to cast their influence in favor of their adoption by the members of that rising generation to whom the spelling of certain words in certain ways has not yet become almost a second nature.

The permanent success of any spelling reform, according to this view, depends upon its adoption by a rising generation. To have it so adopted, it must recommend itself to the risen generation as being both desirable and feasible. Unreasoning ignorance, intrenched behind a rampart of prejudice, can be ignored. Not so the honest ignorance of those whose training naturally inclines them to favor what has been long received, but who are not averse to consider the questions in dispute fully and fairly. In any case the changes proposed, in order to succeed, must follow the line of least resistance; for they have to encounter that peculiarly formidable of hostile forces,— the unintelligent opposition of the intelligent. The altered forms recommended for adoption must therefore have at the outset some support either in present or past usage, or they must be in accord with the operation of some law modifying orthography, which has always been steadily, even if imperceptibly, at work in the language.

It is because it does not conform to either of these principles that, had I had anything to say about it, I should have objected to the recommendation of the spelling thru. My reasons for taking such ground would have had nothing to do with the abstract propriety or impropriety of the new form. Nor could exception be taken to it on the score of derivation. The original word, indeed, from which it came was thurh, later at times thruh. I should have objected to it. simply on the ground that it is a violent break with the literary past. Therefore, instead of following the line of least resistance, it would follow the line of greatest. It would be sure in consequence to excite bitter hostility and to drive support from the other recommendations made. Its adoption into the list would therefore not have seemed to me good policy. This is a view of the matter entirely independent of my personal indisposition to favor vowel changes in the spelling until a settled plan for the representation of the vowel sounds has been agreed upon and accepted.

The unintelligent opposition of the intelligent! This is an obstacle hard to surmount, because it rests upon the combination of the maximum of prejudice with the minimum of knowledge. These characteristics frequently meet, too, in those who in other matters have the right to demand respectful attention to all they choose to say. To this class belong many men of letters— not all of them, and far more of them in England than in America. Some of these have made themselves conspicuous by the violence of their utterances, some by the extent of their misapprehension of the question at issue, and some by the display of a store of misinformation so vast and varied that one gets the impression that no small share of their lives must have been spent in accumulating it. To many persons it does not seem to occur that before discussing English orthography it is desirable to equip one’s self with at least an elementary knowledge of its character and history. As the acquisition of this preliminary information is not deemed essential, there is little limit to the surprising statements made upon this subject and the more surprising facts by which they are fortified. The annals of fatuity will in truth be searched in vain for utterances more fatuous than some of those produced in the course of this controversy. There is a strong temptation to substantiate this assertion by illustrating it from recent sayings and writings of those opposed to spelling reform. But it is not desirable to impart to the discussion of the subject a personal character by selecting such examples from the utterances of living persons. That the statement of the ignorance of men of letters is not unwarranted, however, can be shown as well by bringing in the testimony of the dead. In this instance it will be taken from an author of the past generation, of highest literary eminence.

Many will remember an essay of Matthew Arnold on the influence of academies, that panacea for all literary and linguistic ills so constantly held before our eyes. According to him they raised the general standard of knowledge so high that no one could wantonly run counter to its requirements and escape with impunity. The force of critical opinion would control the vagaries and correct the extravagant assertions of the most learned. In the case of our own tongue he adduced an illustration of the injury wrought to the language by the lack of such a central authority. It was taken from what he told us was one of those eccentric violations of correct orthography in which men of our race willfully indulge. The offender was the London Times. That paper for a good part of the nineteenth century was addicted—and for aught I know may be so still—to printing the word diocese as diocess.

This act aroused Arnold’s indignation. It is clear from his words that resentment at the course of the London Times in this matter had long been rankling in his bosom. A lawless practice of such a sort could not have been possible, he felt, in a country where speech had been subjected to the beneficial sway of an academy. Only in a land where no restraining influence was exerted upon the performances of the educated class could such a violation of linguistic knowledge and literary good taste be permitted. Here are his words: —

“So, again, with freaks in dealing with language; certainly all such freaks tend to impair the power and beauty of language ; and how far more common they are with us than with the French! To take a very familiar instance. Every one has noticed the way in which the Times chooses to spell the word ‘diocese;’ it always spells it diocess, deriving it, I suppose, from Zeus and census. The Journal des Débats might just as well write ‘diocess’ instead of ‘diocese,’ but imagine the Journal des Debats doing so! Imagine an educated Frenchman indulging himself in an orthographical antic of this sort, in face of the grave respect with which the Academy and its dictionary invest the French language! Some people will say these are little things; they are not; they are of bad example. They tend to spread the baneful notion that there is no such thing as a high correct standard in intellectual matters; that every one may as well take his own way; they are at variance with the severe discipline necessary for all real culture; they confirm us in habits of wilfulness and eccentricity which hurt our minds and damage our credit with serious people.”

No one will question the earnestness with which these words are spoken. The difficulty with them is that they are at variance with the severe discipline necessary for all real culture,—the discipline which forbids us to discuss magisterially matters we know nothing about. What are the actual facts in regard to the history of this word which Arnold supposed the London Times may have fancied to be derived from Zeus and census? Students of Chaucer are well aware that his spelling of it was diocise. Later, under Latin influence and for phonetic reasons, it became regularly diocess. There were other forms; but this was the standard one. Such it remained for hundreds of years. Dr. Johnson, the great lexical authority of the eighteenth century, is ignorant of any other way of spelling the word. Nor was Ids predecessor, Bailey, any better informed, or his successor, Walker. The fifth edition of this last lexicographer’s dictionary — long regarded by our fathers as a sort of linguistic statute-book — was published in 1809, two years after his death, but with his final revision and improvements. In it diocess was the only form recognized. But the present method of spelling the word was then already making its way into general use, probably under French influence. It gradually supplanted the older form, though even as late as 1835 that was the only one to which Knowles gave a place in his dictionary. As always happens, indeed, there was a certain body of conservatives who refused to accept what was in their eyes the new-fangled monstrosity. The ancient usage was good enough for them. Among these the London Times, owing to its position in the newspaper world, occupied a specially prominent place. It not impossibly felt that in standing by the time-honored diocess it was resisting an insidious attempt to ruin the language.

There are circumstances in which no amount of genius can make up for the lack of a little accurate knowledge. It is not often given to an essayist to exemplify himself a practice he vehemently condemns in the very paragraph containing the condemnation. If academies really exerted the power with which Arnold credited them; if they could exercise a controlling influence over public opinion; if they could establish so broad a basis of intelligence that men would be prevented from giving utterance to crude and hasty dicta, would be prevented from palming off upon the public the results of imperfect knowledge acting through the medium of perfect prejudice, —if these things were so, it is quite clear that in this particular instance it would have been the utterances of Matthew Arnold that would have been suppressed, and not the assumed orthographical vagaries of the London Times. In Germany, where there is no academy, but where there is a broad and lofty level of linguistic intelligence, observations of a similar character would have met with immediate and crushing exposure and censure. In England and America, where there is a broad and deep level of linguistic ignorance, this blundering statement has long been hailed by many as a proper rebuke to the miscreants who are seeking to defile the sacred altar of English orthography.

An extravagant outburst like the one just cited,— it could easily be paralleled from recent utterances,— coming from a man occupying a far higher position than any literary defender of the present spelling, reveals what a fathomless abyss of ignorance and prejudice must be filled up or bridged over before there can be even a calm discussion of the subject by the mass of educated men. The process of enlightenment will have to go on slowly. Not the slightest preliminary knowledge can be assumed. To any student of our speech the Committee on Simplified Spelling would seem to have adopted —with a single exception— the most conservative of courses in their acts, as they certainly have in their utterances. They have not only made no attempt to introduce phonetic spelling, but they have distinctly disclaimed any such intention. Yet it is a charge from which they have been unable to escape. One of the most striking as well as most entertaining features of the controversy was the persistent assertion of the committee that they had no design or desire to introduce anything of the sort ; and the equally persistent assertion of their assailants that it was the very thing they were aiming to introduce. One side laid down precisely what it sought to do. The other side denounced it for doing the very thing it disclaimed doing. One side declared that it purposely limited its efforts to the removal of some few of the anomalies in our present orthography. The other employed two methods of attack: on the one hand it inveighed against the committee for going as far as it did; on the other it reproached it for its inconsistency in not going farther.

Any one who has the slightest conception of what a reform of our spelling on pure phonetic principles means will absolve the committee from any design of that sort. It requires, indeed, a singular innocence of all knowledge of this particular subject to make such a charge. Certain changes recommended would, indeed, have brought particular words nearer a phonetic standard. But if everything proposed were to be universally adopted, — and even ten times more,— the real disease which afflicts our orthography would be but partially alleviated. It would do little more than set. us on the road to reform. No one, indeed, who comprehends what is required, in a language so lawless as ours, to bring about a perfect accordance between orthography and orthoepy, is ever likely to underrate the difficulties which stand in the way of the establishment of phonetic spelling, even were men as eager for its adoption as they are now hostile to it. In the present state of feeling, therefore, no one need distress himself about its immediate coming.

But why should any one distress himself at all ? Little is there more extraordinary to witness in these days of assumed general enlightenment than the horror which many estimable persons seem to feel at the danger of being devoured by this dreadful ogre which they call phonetic spelling. They have no idea what it is, but they know from its name that it must be something frightful. Now written language was designed to be phonetic. To have the spelling represent pronunciation was the ideal aimed at by those who first formed the conception of the alphabet, which, imperfect as it is, still remains the greatest and most useful invention to which the mind of man has given birth. So long as written speech deviates from the phonetic standard, it fails to fulfill the object for which it was created. It shows how far the English race has wandered away in feeling and opinion from the original motives which led men to seek the representation of the spoken word by written characters, that its members have come to look upon the perfect accordance of orthography and orthoepy as a result, not merely impracticable,— which is a thoroughly defensible proposition,— but as something in itself undesirable, as something fraught with ruin to the speech itself. The written word was devised to reproduce as closely as possible the sound of the spoken word. Yet this ideal is more than discredited with us; it is treated as if it were in some way peculiarly monstrous. Yet all there is of value in our existing orthography is due to what still survives of the phonetic element. Had that wholly disappeared, the acquisition of English spelling would no longer be the task of the years of childhood, but the work of a lifetime. With us the consonants have as a rule clung pretty closely to their proper sounds in all situations where they are sounded at all. Hence when uncombined they generally indicate their own pronunciation. Had they fallen into the chaos in which the vowel system is floundering, we should hardly be able to tell, in any given case, from the form of a word, not how it ought to be, but how it is, pronounced.

The real life of a language consists in its sounds, not in the signs intended to represent them. The one is the soul of speech; the other can hardly be considered a necessary bodily framework, for the former could and does exist without the latter. In earlier times, when language was learned almost exclusively by the ear, this fact would naturally force itself upon the attention of every reflecting man. But with the spread of education, when acquaintance with a tongue is acquired largely through the eye, the knowledge of the symbolic representation of sounds has come to predominate in the minds of the men of our race over the knowledge of the sounds themselves. While all of us are familiar with the one, but few are with the other. Ask any person of ordinary attainments the number of letters in the English alphabet. He will unhesitatingly answer twenty-six; though the chances are that, he will be ignorant of the fact that some of the twenty-six are really supernumerary. But extend the inquiry further, and go with it to the vast body of educated men, excluding those whose pursuits require of them more or less the study of phonetics. These being excepted, ask any single person belonging to the most highly cultivated class — opponents of spelling reform to be preferred — how many are the sounds which the letters of the alphabet and their combinations are called upon to represent. Ask him how many are the sounds which he is in the habit of employing himself in his own utterance. The chances are fifty to one that he will be utterly at a loss what to reply. He has learned the symbols of things; he has not learned the things themselves.

That this should be so in the case of our own tongue is not particularly surprising. It is, perhaps, inevitable. The attention of the men of our race has been more than distracted from any consideration of the subject by the character of our orthography. Their minds have been thrown into a state of bewilderment. As a single illustration take the representation of the sound usually called “long i.” This third so-called vowel of our alphabet is not really a vowel, but a diphthong. Its sound is most commonly represented by the single letter itself, seen, for instance, in such a word as mind. But some idea of the uncertainty and range attending its use, with the consequent perplexity to its users, can be gathered from a few selected examples. It is represented by ai in aisle; by ay in aye; by ei in height; by ey in eye; by ie in lie; by oi in choir; by uy in buy; by y in try; and by ye in dye. Or, reverse the operation, and see how many sounds the same sign can represent. Take the combination ou, and observe the differences of its pronunciation in the words about, young, youth, four, fought, would, and cough. Of course similar illustrations of other vowel sounds could be multiplied abundantly. But the two which have been given are sufficient to show the confusion which exists with us in the written speech, and which naturally extends to the minds of its users.

It is because of the havoc which the present spelling has wrought in our conceptions of the proper representation of sounds that the English race, as a race, has lost largely the phonetic sense. Dictate to a dozen educated Germans or Italians a passage containing a large proportion of words they have never heard before. If the pronunciation has been clearly conveyed, they will all spell them the same way, and will all spell them correctly. Try a similar experiment with a dozen English-speaking persons of the very highest cultivation— in the number it would be desirable to have certain presidents of our leading universities included. Not only would they all be fairly certain to spell the same words differently, but the same man would represent. the same sound in different instances by different signs. The reason is obvious enough. In German or Italian the same sound is invariably conveyed by the same letter or by the same combination of letters. In English the writer would have an indefinite number of letters or combinations to select from, with no exclusive value attached to any of them.

Examples of the prevalent lack of any conception of the distinction of sounds and of their proper representation are brought constantly to the attention of those engaged in the work of instruction. But the comments and communications which appeared in the course of this controversy, especially those intended to be satirical, furnished the most striking illustrations of this all-prevailing, all-pervading ignorance. There has rarely been a more edifying spectacle than the attempt made, in some cases by men of very genuine ability, to write what they called phonetically. In one of the squibs designed to show by example the folly of the proposed changes, the word see was represented by C; in another the verb are by r. It is perfectly clear that neither one of the writers of these had the slightest conception of what was essential to convey the representation of a given sound. Any arbitrary symbol, pronounced in a particular way, seemed to them all-sufficient. Their action evinced hardly higher intelligence than would have been shown by considering the word five as phonetically represented by the Arabic numeral 5, which in all languages conveys the same meaning, and in all languages has a different pronunciation. One characteristic there is which denotes most distinctly the infantile state of knowledge that still continues to prevail on the whole subject. By most men any bad spelling is invariably termed phonetic spelling. That is all the idea of the latter they have. The spelling of Chaucer would in their eyes be indistinguishable in character from that of Josh Billings.

It shows, indeed, how much the written word has come to predominate in our minds over the spoken that we have been told in all seriousness that a new spelling would mean a new language. Fancy a man refusing to repair his clothes or to put on a new suit on the ground that by so doing he could never be again what he was before; that the integrity of his character and the continuity of his traditions would be destroyed; that he would no longer be the same man to those who had known him and loved him. This is not a travesty of the argument which has been advanced. It is the argument itself, applied not to the dress of the body, but to that of the speech. The men who hold such opinions are really in the same grade of intellectual development as regards language, as in literature are those who fancy that beginning a line with a capital letter is the one essential thing which constitutes poetry. Yet this argument has been put forth by some from whom we have a right, to expect better things. It was one of the glaring but melancholy concomitants of the late controversy, that able men who knew absolutely nothing about the subject should so often have missed opportunities which were fairly obtrusive of remaining silent.

This controversy, indeed, has brought out more sharply than ever before the existence of the singular situation which prevails in regard to spelling reform. The highly trained expert opinion is practically all on one side; the vast preponderance of educated lay opinion is on the other. Several eminent men have taken part in the discussion in opposition to change. But in all their ranks cannot be found a single one who would be recognized by special students of English as entitled to speak with authority. Not a single one of the latter class has come forward in opposition. Some of them are very possibly indifferent; but so far as they have spoken — and many have spoken — they have pronounced in its favor. If there is among them one who entertains hostility, he is sufficiently in awe of his professional brethren to deem it his wisest course to keep his opinion to the sanctity of private intercourse. No applause of the multitude could make up to him for the condemnation that would be his from his peers. By ranging himself among the opponents of spelling reform he would be well aware that he would distinctly lose caste. He would be placed in a dilemma on one of whose two horns he would be impaled. He would be looked upon as guilty either of lack of knowledge or of lack of judgment.

This is a state of things that could not well exist in the case of any other subject than language. Nor, indeed, could it well happen with any other race than the English, where on both sides of the Atlantic ignorance of the tongue and of its history has been sedulously cultivated for centuries. Accordingly the raggedest of penny-a-liners or the callowest of storytellers considers himself as much entitled to speak with authority on the subject as he who has devoted years of study to its consideration. Of course this is a state of things that can not continue permanently. In the long run the opinions of the few who know will triumph over the clamors of the many who do not know. Indeed, a distinct advance has already been achieved. The subject is no longer treated with indifference. It calls forth hostile criticism, ridicule, vituperation. Furthermore, certain things can no more be said which were once said with smug satisfaction. We are now a long way beyond that provincial faith in Worcester which permitted, fifty years ago, so eminent a man of letters as Oliver Wendell Holmes to remark that Boston had for one of its distinctions “its correct habit of spelling the English language.” In these days an author of his high grade would be saved by his inevitable association with English scholars from perpetrating an observation so singularly crude. Views of such a sort now find their home only in the congenial clime of the remote rural districts. For slow as has been the progress in this matter, it has been steady. In the immediate future it is destined to advance at a much more rapid rate. The leading universities of America — it is unfortunately not yet true of England — are regularly sending out a small body of trained special students of our speech. In the face of this steadily increasing number of experts whose opinions are based upon adequate investigation and full knowledge, sciolists will in time conclude for their own safety to learn a little before they talk much.

Furthermore, neither now nor in the past has the advocacy of spelling reform been confined to the specialists in English study. It has embraced scholars of all lands who paid attention to our language or to some form of its literature. Long ago Grimm pointed out that the greatest obstacle to the predominating influence of the English tongue was the character of its orthography. But without going so far back, let us select as types of advocates of reform three representative men of the generation which has just passed away. They are Professor Max Müller of Oxford, Professor Child of Harvard, and Professor Whitney of Yale. Of course these scholars were cranks, “crazy cranks,” if you will. Much learning had made them mad,— insanity from that cause being something from which the critics of their orthographical views feel the sense of absolute immunity. Of course we know further that professors are a simple, guileless folk— constantly imposed upon by arguments whose speciousness is at once seen by the clearer vision of the men engaged in the struggle and turmoil of practical life. To them unhappily has never been given the easy omniscience which is enabled to understand the whole of a subject without mastering a single one of its details. Still, as a member of this unpractical fraternity, and sharing in its intellectual limitations, I cannot get over the impression that there are difficulties connected with English orthography which even the very youngest newspaper writer cannot settle summarily, and questions which he cannot answer satisfactorily offhand. Let me endeavor to state some of the reasons by which the actions are influenced of those who advocate change in the spelling.

It is conceded that in the present state of public opinion there is little prospect of even so much as a calm, dispassionate consideration of any thorough-going scientific reform of our orthography. While phonetic spelling is an ideal to be aimed at,— every alteration made should be an alteration in that direction,— no one supposes that its realization can take place in our day. Compared with the effort to reach such a result , the difficulty experienced in introducing the metric system, encountering as it did the prejudices and revolutionizing the practices of centuries, would be but slight. Even were all men agreed upon its desirability, were all men clamoring for its introduction, its establishment in a language like ours — with half a dozen signs representing the same sound and half a dozen sounds represented by the same sign — would be a work of time and toil and patience. But while this is so, there is no reason why a beginning towards it should not be made by removing some of the anomalies that make our present spelling so peculiarly lawless. There is no reason why in certain classes of words order should not be made to exist where disorder now reigns. Most of the arguments advanced against such a course are nothing but the expression of personal likes or dislikes which have their origin in the sentiment of association. Still there are a few which have the semblance of reason though not its substance; and, as they weigh with many, it is only fair to give them consideration.

The first of these is connected with the subject of derivation. There goes on, we are told, an irrepressible conflict between phonetic and etymological spelling. If the former come to occupy the foremost place, the latter, it is asserted, will disappear. Incalculable harm would thereby be wrought both to the speech and to its speakers. According to some, life would become a burden to the individual, and the language would be ruined beyond redemption, if the spelling of a word should hide from our eyes the source from which it came. The mystic tie that binds the speech of the past to that of the present would be severed. This is an argument which comes not infrequently from members of the educated, and sometimes of the scholarly class, though not from that section of it which deals with English scholarship.

Now, in the first place, were the charge true, the objection would not be a valid one. The well-being of the many is always to be preferred to the satisfaction of the few. A language does not exist for the sake of imparting joyful emotions to the members of a particular group who are familiar with its sources. When committed to writing it is so committed for the purpose of conveying clearly to the eye the sounds heard by the ear. Anything in the form of the printed word which stands in the way of the speediest arrival at such a result is to that extent objectionable. But even this so-called advantage of suggesting origins is distinctly limited. What educated men know of the sources of words is almost entirely confined to Latin and Greek. Of the earlier forms of the more common native words, and of their meanings, the immense majority of even the most highly cultivated are ignorant. Their ignorance, however, does not seem to impair their happiness any more than it does their comprehension.

But the objection, further, is a purely artificial one. The happiness conferred is a happiness assumed to be confined to the words in their present form. The example of other tongues shows there is no justification for this belief. The Italian is a phonetic language. Does any one believe that an Italian scholar experiences any less satisfaction in finding the GræcoLatin philosophia converted in his speech into filosofia than an English one does in seeing it in the form philosophy? Has his language suffered any material injury in consequence ? Were I not myself inconsistent and lazy and several other disreputable adjectives, I should write fonetic instead of phonetic. This I cheerfully admit, But were not the strictly virtuous defenders of spelling according to derivation equally lacking in consistency, and absolutely unfaithful to the high etymological ideals they hold up for our admiration, they would be writing phansy, at least, instead of fancy. In one of the sporadic attacks of common-sense which have sometimes overtaken the users of our speech, ⨏ has displaced ph in this word, though to prevent the result from being wholly rational, it has substituted c for s. The Greek phantasia has come down to us through phantasy, fantasy, finally subsiding into the present form. To the believer in etymological spelling fancy ought to be as objectionable as fonetic.

In the second place, the hollowness of this pretended regard for etymology is not merely detected, but emphasized, by the fact that the opposition to change is equally pronounced in the case of words where the present form is the result of blundering ignorance which gives an utterly erroneous idea of their origin. Can any antagonist of simplification be induced by his devotion to derivation to abandon comptroller, which not merely defies pronunciation, but gives the false impression that the first part of the word comes from the French compter, instead of the Latin contra ? Could any upholder of etymological spelling be induced to drop the c of scent, though nobody ever pronounced the intruding letter ? Yet as it comes from the Latin sent-ire, the substitution of scent for the previous sent destroys in this case for the vast majority of educated men that delightful reminiscence of the classic tongues which, we are told, imparts so peculiar a charm to the present orthography. Mitford, the historian of Greece, was subjected to ceaseless ridicule and vituperation because he preferred the correct etymological form iland, and refused to adopt the s which had been inserted into the word under the blundering belief that it was either derived from or was in some way related to the Latin insula and the French isle.

In truth, the argument of derivation is invoked only to retain whatever orthoepic anomalies we chance to have. It is abjured the moment an effort is made to root out any etymological anomalies which have been introduced into the speech. The fact is that if spelling according to derivation were heeded it would result in changes to which those proposed by the Committee on Simplified Spelling would seem absurdly trivial. This would be particularly noticeable in the case of words derived from native sources. Out, for instance, would go the ɭ of could and the h of ghost and ghastly. Or take,for illustration, the whole class of words ending in k. The letter was as little known to the Anglo-Saxon alphabet as it was to the Roman. Hence, were spelling according to derivation strictly enforced, k would have to disappear from no small number ol words where it is not merely superfluous as regards pronunciation, but is actually defiant of derivation. The original of back in Anglo-Saxon, for instance, was bœc, of quick was civic, of stock was stoc, of thick was thic. Imagine the indignant feelings of the assumed ardent devotee of spelling according to derivation, if he were asked to drop the final letter from these words, though from his own point of view it has no business there at all.

As a matter of fact this particular brand of ruin had already overtaken the language to some extent. From the native words no one had ever thought of dropping the final k, because scarcely any one knew of the forms these originally had. But knowledge of Latin was widespread. Regard for derivation succeeded, therefore, in banishing it from whole classes of words derived from that language. The struggle, however, was long. The authority of Dr. Johnson was in vain invoked for its retention. One must be familiar with the history of orthography to appreciate what dissensions sprang up in once happy homes, what prognostics were indulged in of the ruin that would betide the speech, were men ever to be induced to spell musick and hisiorick and prosaick, and a host of similar words, without their final k, Boswell, who could not help reproaching Johnson for dropping the vowel “ from authour, praised him for standing up for the retention of this final consonant. He represents him as saying that he spelled Imlac in Rassclas with a c at. the end because by so doing it was made less like English, which, he continued, “ should always have the Saxon k added to the c.” The Saxon k was the lexicographer’s personal contribution to the original English alphabet. “I hope,” continued Boswell, “the authority of the great master of our language will stop this curtailing innovation by which we see critic, public, etc., frequently written instead of critick, publick, etc.”

The biographer’s hopes were doomed, however, to disappointment. Walker, the favorite lexicographer of a hundred years ago, bowed to the storm, while he deplored the havoc it had wrought. “It has been a custom within these twenty years,” he wrote, “to omit the k at the end of words when preceded by c. This has introduced a novelty into the language, which is that of ending a word with an unusual letter, and is not only a blemish on the face of it, but may possibly produce some irregularity in future formations.”

The language has apparently survived both the blemish and the injury wrought by the final c. So powerful, indeed, is the sentiment of association that now to end these words in k would seem as offensive as once it was to end them without it. But the former method died out slowly. In our country, in truth, there was a Virginia editor, who, faithful among the faithless, clung to the letter long after its English friends had abandoned it. Let us not be unjust to his memory. In that perfect sincerity which springs from pure and undefiled ignorance he honestly believed that he was standing up for English pure and undefiled.

So much for an objection which, if not serious in itself, has to many a serious look. There has been another brought forward, which is so baseless, not to call it comic, that nothing but the sincerity of those adducing it would justify its consideration at all. It is to the effect that, were there any thorough reform of the spelling, all existing books would be rendered valueless. Owners of great libraries built up at the cost of no end of time and toil and money would see their great collections brought to nought. The rich and varied literature of the past could no longer be easily read; it would have to wait for the slow work of presses to transmit it to the new generation in its modern form. Such is the horrible prospect which has been held before our eves. The view would be absurd enough if directed against, genuine phonetic forms; as against the petty changes advocated by the Committee on Simplified Spelling, language is not sufficiently vituperative to describe its fatuousness. But as in the discussion of this question we have to deal largely with orthographical babes, it is desirable to pay it some slight attention.

For the purpose of quieting the fears which have been expressed, it is necessary to observe that change of anything established, even when generally recognized as for the better, is not accomplished easily, and therefore is not accomplished quickly. It never partakes of the nature of a cataclysm. For its reception and establishment it requires regular effort, not impulsive effort; it requires labor prolonged as well as patient. It took, for instance, many scores of years to establish the metric system wherever it now prevails, with all the power of governments behind it. When the change made depends upon the voluntary action of individuals it must inevitably be far slower. Any reform of spelling which is ever proposed must stretch over a long period of time before it is universally adopted. There will consequently be ample time for both publishers and bookowners to set their houses in order before the actual arrival of the impending calamity.

This is on the supposition that it can be deemed a calamity to either. There is actually about it nothing of that nature. The process deplored is a process which is going on every day before our eyes. There is not an author of repute in our literature, of whose works new editions are not constantly appearing in order to satisfy a demand which the stock on hand does not supply. But the appearance of the new book does not lower the value of the old, if it be really valuable. If it be not, if the edition supplanted is of an inferior character or has been merely a trade speculation, it has already served its purpose when it has paid for itself. Under any conditions it can be trusted to meet the fate it deserves.

So much for the point of view of booksellers and book-owners. As regards bookreaders the fear is just as fatuous. Valuable works printed in an orthography different from that which now prevails do not decrease in price at all. On the contrary, they steadily rise. This is a fact which the impecunious student, in search of early editions, learned long ago, not to his heart’s content, but to its discontent. The increase in value renders them difficult for him to procure. Does the difference of spelling render them difficult to decipher? A single example will suffice to settle that point. At the present moment there lies before me the first edition of the greatest English satire to which the strife of political parties has given birth — the Absalom and Achitophel of John Dryden. To purchase it now would under ordinary circumstances take far more money than it would to buy the best and completest edition of the whole of Dryden’s poems. It consists of ten hundred and twenty lines of rymed heroic verse. The number of different words it contains may be guessed at from that fact; it has never, to my knowledge, been determined. But the words in it which are spelled differently from what they are now are slightly under two hundred. But the poem presents certain orthographical characteristics which are calculated to shock the susceptibilities of those who believe that our present spelling has been divinely inspired. Two will serve for examples. Though, which occurs precisely six times, invariably appears as tho. The past participle, when its termination has the sound of t, ends in t, as banisht, impoverisht, opprest, laught, snatcht, and others. Yet with all these differences of orthography the most unintelligent opponent of spelling reform would experience no difficulty whatever in reading the poem.

There is still another objection to be considered. We are given to understand that difference of spelling is quite essential to the recognition of the meaning of words pronounced alike. Otherwise there would be danger of misapprehension. This is what comes to men from learning to look at language from the side of the eye and not of the ear. Here is my old friend. Dr. Everett, who, I find, specifies me personally as one setting out to destroy what he calls sound English by arranging letters in a totally different way, and thereby seeking to reconstruct the language to its destruction. Naturally he is indignant at the nefarious attempt, though when he considers the disproportion between the pettiness of the puny agent and the massiveness of the mighty fabric, there would appear little reason for much excitement. Personally, so far from feeling resentment at his words, I read them with even more amazement than sorrow. The argument he uses is of the sort which I expect to find communicated to the press by that noble army of the ill-informed who are always rushing to the rescue of the English language from the reckless practices of those who do not use it with their assumed accuracy, or spell it according to their ideas of propriety. But Dr. Everett is a scholar through and through. His words are therefore a convincing argument of the necessity of reform, for they show the bewildering effect our orthography exercises over the reasoning powers. He wants to know what the phonetists — they deserve that name, he tells us — are going to do with words alike in sound but different in sense. He begins with ale and ail. One might infer from his argument that, unless ail and ale were spelled differently, one could never be quite certain whether he were suffering from the one or partaking of the other. We are asked to believe that something which presents no difficulty in the hurry of conversation is to prove a formidable obstacle to the apprehension in the ample leisure of reading. Another of his instances is bear and bare. Does anybody, on hearing one of these words, hesitate about its meaning ? Why should he, then, when he sees it, even if both were spelled the same way? Or again, take the noun bear by itself. If any one comes across it, does he suffer much perplexity in ascertaining whether it is the bear of the wilderness or the bear of Wall Street that is meant ?

This last example, indeed, exposes of itself the utter futility of this argument. There is an indefinite number of words in the language which have precisely the same form as nouns or verbs. The fact that they belong to different parts of speech never creates the slightest confusion. Furthermore, there are but few common words in the language which are not used in different senses, often in many different senses, sometimes in widely different senses. Does that fact cause any perceptible perplexity in the comprehension of their meaning ? Do reporters, who must arrive at the sense through the medium of the ear, experience any difficulty in ascertaining what the speaker is trying to say ? Does any one in any relation of life whatever? When a man is returning from a voyage across the Atlantic, is he bothered by the different senses of the same word when he is trying to ascertain whether it is his duty to pay a duty ? When one meets the word piece, does he suffer from much embarrassment in determining whether it means a part of something, or a firearm, or a chessman, or a coin, or a portion of bread, or an article of baggage, or a painting, or a play, or a musical or literary composition? Illustrations of this sort could be given by the hundred.

Another objection remains to be considered. It is not really directed against any proposals made by the Committee on Simplified Spelling, but against the far wider-reaching reform which would aim to render the spelling phonetic. It is regarded by some as so crushing that I have deferred its consideration to the last. It may be summed up in a few words. It is impossible, we are told, to have our tongue spelled phonetically, because it is pronounced differently by different persons equally well educated. Whose pronunciation, therefore, will you adopt? That is the point which has first to be determined, and it is safe to say that it is one which can never be determined satisfactorily. That fact is of itself decisive. This view of the question at issue is triumphantly put forward as one which can never be successfully met.

Assuming for the sake of the argument that it is a genuine objection, let us look at what it involves. The very result of the lawlessness of our present orthography is given as the reason why no attempt should be made to bring it under the reign of law. It is a real maxim in morals, and a theoretical one in jurisprudence, that an offender has no right to take advantage of his own wrong. This is the very course, however, which opponents of change recommend for adoption. Our orthography has rendered the pronunciation varying and doubtful. There should accordingly be no attempt to reduce the former to order, because the uncertainty which has been fastened upon it by the latter has rendered it impossible to ascertain what is really ought to be.

But it never seems to occur to those who advance this argument that difficulties of the sort here indicated are not experienced in languages which for all practical purposes are phonetically spelled, such as German and Italian and Spanish. Take, for example, the firstmentioned of these tongues. Its pronunciation differs in different parts of the country. In some cases the variation is very distinctly marked. Yet, while the spelling remains the same, no embarrassment follows of the kind indicated. If this simple fact had been taken into consideration, it would at once have disclosed the nature of the imaginary strength and actual weakness of this supposedly crushing argument.

For no phonetically spelled tongue ever has or ever would set out to record the varying shades of the pronunciation of any country, still less the varying shades of the pronunciation of individuals, A system which indicates the delicate distinction of sounds characterizing the speech of different regions resembles the chemist’s scales, which detect the variation in weight of filaments of hair to all appearance precisely the same. Such phoneticians may need in order to represent the slightest diversities of pronunciation. But they are not needed for the ordinary purposes of life. All any working phonetic system would set out to do is to give those broad and easily recognizable characteristics of educated utterance which are sufficient to indicate to the hearer what the speaker is aiming to say. It would represent a norm sufficiently narrow of limit to make understood what is said, and sufficiently broad to offer within justifiable bounds ample opportunity for the play of individual or territorial peculiarities. Its principal effect would be to set up a standard which would be ever before the eyes of men.

For it must be kept in mind that phonetic spelling is not a destructive, but a conservative agency. Once established, it holds the pronunciation of a speech fast to its moorings. Had it existed with us, the wide degradation of the sounds of a, as seen, for illustration, in father and far, could not have gone on at the rapid rate it has done in this country. There are districts in the United States where even the following l does not protect it, and calm, for instance, is made to rhyme with clam. Did phonetic spelling exist in the mother country, the Cockney pronunciation of a almost like long i,—as, for example, late, which by American ears is apt to be mistaken for light, — now so prevalent in London and apparently extending over England, could never have held its ground, even if it had originated at all. Such degradations are always liable to occur, because with our orthography we can have no easily recognizable standard of correct usage. In the clumsy effort made in the newspapers to reproduce what they call phonetic spelling, there was more than one instance in which new was to be found represented by noo. It is clear that the writers of these effusions were utterly ignorant how this common word should be properly pronounced. The lawlessness distinguishing spelling had succeeded in perverting the pronunciation. Had this not been the case, they would no more have represented new by noo than few by foo. Were a phonetic system in vogue. New Yorkers could be trusted universally to learn to pronounce correctly the name of their own city.

Finally, it is not because of the waste of time in education — harmful as it is — that our present orthography seems to me peculiarly objectionable. It is the direct influence its acquisition exerts in putting the intellectual faculties to sleep at the most active period of life. We can get a glimpse of the havoc wrought by it when we consider a single one of scores of illustrations that could be cited. At the very outset of his study the child is given, for example, the words bed and red to spell. If he has been properly trained up to this point, the limited acquaintance he has made with the values of letters leads him to say b-e-d and r-e-d. These are pure phonetic spellings. They satisfy all the conditions. Then he is introduced to the word head. Reasoning from analogy, he proceeds to spell it h-e-d. But here authority steps in and directs him to insert another letter for which neither he nor his instructor can see the use. Then the word bead is shown him. Following the analogy of head, he naturally pronounces it bed. Once more authority steps in and directs him to give the combination ea another and quite distinct sound. Next, he is presented with the infinitives and presents, read and hear. Conforming to the example just given, and perceiving it to be satisfactory, he fancies that he has reached at last a secure haven. He finds his error when he meets the preterites of these two verbs. Both have the same vowel combinations as the present. One of them has precisely the same form. But he discovers that read of the preterite has quite a distinct pronunciation from read of the present, and that the ea of heard has another, distinct from either sound, to which he has not yet been introduced.

Is it any wonder that in circumstances like these the child should speedily infer that it is of no benefit to him to make use of what little reasoning power he has been enabled to acquire ? He must force himself to submit blindly to authority, which compels him to accept as true what he feels to be false. Now authority in education is a good as well as a necessary thing when its dictates are based upon reason. But when they are not, when in truth they are defiant of reason, no more pernicious element can well enter into the training of the young. Doubtless the rational processes employed in other studies correct in time for most of us the mental twist thus imparted in childhood. But it is not always corrected. We have only to read certain of the arguments advanced against spelling reform to become aware that the faculty of reasoning on this subject which has been muddled in childhood is apt to remain muddled the rest of one’s life.

There has been much discussion of the wisdom or unwisdom of the President’s order. It was called an impulsive act by that body of men who are disposed to confound mental torpor with profound deliberation, and look upon the inability to come to a decision in any given case as evidence of prolonged reflection. To me its wisdom and its timeliness have been justified by the result. It has done more to call general attention to the character of our spelling than all other agencies combined. The views expressed in it have been proclaimed again and again by scholars, both English and American, for at least a third of a century. They have scarcely raised a ripple on the current of public opinion. But the course taken by the most prominent personality among the executives of the earth awakened the whole English-speaking world from its indifference. Both here and abroad the action invited and aroused discussion, the one thing above all others spelling reform needs for its success. That the President ceased to enforce his order is a matter of comparatively little consequence. The effect wrought by it had been produced. Public documents reach but a limited number, and from the nature of things can rarely be made familiar by frequency of reading. There are, indeed, men so lost to all that is true and high and ennobling as to turn almost disdainfully from the perusal of the Congressional Record. From this time on they may be induced to scan its pages, since it is now authoritatively proclaimed that henceforth we are to find in it “normal" spelling, — a sort of spelling which scholars everywhere have sought for long, but have hitherto failed to find.