Archive for September 2015

Early Modern English: The Seventeenth Century: Part Two   Leave a comment


Aubrey, Cooper, Dryden and Meriton

John Aubrey (1626-97) was an antiquary, archaeologist and biographer, but only one book of stories and folklore, Miscellanies, was published in his lifetime in 1696. None of his many other books were finished when he deposited all his manuscripts in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 1693. These included a collection of ‘lives’ of notable sixteenth century men and women entitled Brief Lives. The 426 ‘lives’ range in length from two to twenty-three thousand words, so any published version is an edited selection. Some of them are in no more than note-form, but the longer ones are examples of writing that give the impression of spoken narrative, a record of his unselfconscious gossip with his friends. Consequently, they provide examples of standard educated English of the seventeenth century in informal and colloquial styles:

Mr Gore. He is a fidling peevish fellow.

Thomas Willis, M.D. was middle stature: darke brindle haire (like a red pig)… stammered much.

William Sanderson dyed at Whitehall (I was then there): went out like a spent candle before Dr Holder could come to him with the Sacrament.

William Outram was a tall spare leane pale consumptive man; wasted himself much, I presume, by frequent preaching.

Mrs. Abigail Sloper borne at Broad Chalke, near Salisbury, A.D. 1648. Pride; lechery; ungratefull to her father; married, runne distracted; recovered.

Richard Stokes, M.D. His father was Fellow of Eaton College… Scholar to Mr. Oughtred for Mathematics (Algebra). Made himselfe mad with it, but became sober again, but I feare like a crackt-glasse. Became a Roman-catholique; married unhappily at Liege, dog and catt, etc. Became a Scott. Dyed in Newgate, Prisoner for debt… April 1681.

Thomas Fuller was of middle stature; strong sett; curled haire… walking and meditating before dinner, he would eate-up a penny loafe, not knowing that he did it. His natural memory was very great, to which he added the Art of Memorie: he would repeat you forwards and backwards all the signes from Ludgate to Charing-crosse.

The ‘lives’ were anecdotal, each one a collection of facts and stories that Aubrey had gathered about his subject – he was sometimes inaccurate, it is true, but he was never untruthful. The following example is from his Life of Richard Corbet (1582-1635), who became first Bishop of Oxford and then of Norwich, and is typical of the amusing stories that Aubrey liked to collect and record about his subjects:

… His conversation was extreme pleasant. Dr Stubbins was one of his cronies; he was a jolly fatt Dr and a very good house-keeper; parson in Oxfordshire. As Dr Stubbins and he were riding in Lob Lane in wett weather… the coach fell; and Dr Corbet sayd that Dr Stubbins was up to the elbowes in mud, and he was up to the elbowes in Stubbins.

… The Bishop sometimes would take the key of the wine-cellar, and he and his Chaplaine (Dr Lushington) would go and lock themselves in, and be merry. Then first he lazes downe his Episcopall hat – There lyes the Doctor. Then he putts off his gowne – There lyes the Bishop. Then ‘twas ‘Here’s to thee, Corbet, and Here’s to thee, Lushington…

Christopher Cooper, Master of the Grammar School of Bishop-Stortford in Hertfordshire, published The English Teacher or The Discovery of the Art of Teaching and Learning the English Tongue in 1687. In his English Pronunciation 1500-1700 (1968), E J Dobson described him as the best phonetician and one of the fullest recorders of pronunciation that England (and indeed modern Europe) produced before the nineteenth century, the obscure schoolmaster of a country town. Cooper’s book provides us with good evidence of the pronunciation of English at his time, although there was no phonetic alphabet at that time to provide a reference for the sounds. This was complicated by the Great Vowel Shift, which had taken place in the South of England, but not in the North, and was not complete until the end of the century. Therefore, the educated speech of London and the Home Counties, the emerging standard language, was changing, which meant that the same vowel letter now represented different sounds. Cooper distinguished as different the vowels in certain pairs of words which today are identical homophones in RP and other dialects in different parts of the North of England and East Anglia, for example pane with a pure vowel and pain with a diphthong. Cooper differentiated diphthongs in pronunciation from digraphs in writing. He did not, however, use the word digraph but the phrase improper diphthong for pairs of letters that represented only one sound. From Cooper’s work, we know that the words boil, oil, loin, moil had exactly the same pronunciation as bile, isle, line and mile. This can be checked in the poetry of the seventeenth century, such as that of John Dryden, in which many similar pairs of words consistently rhyme together. The following extracts from Cooper’s 1687 book, The English Teacher, show his attempts to reconcile vowel sounds to letters:


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John Dryden (1631-1700) was one of the greatest writers in the English literary tradition, a poet, dramatist and critic. He was largely responsible for the cherished superstition that prepositions must, in spite of the incurable English instinct for putting them late, … be kept true their name and place before the word they govern (H. W. Fowler, 1926). Dryden went through all his prefaces, contriving away the final prepositions that he had been guilty of in his first editions (ibid.) This is incidental to his recognised eminence as a prose writer, so that it has been said that Modern English prose began with him.

Dryden admired Chaucer’s poetry, but some aspects of his assessment of Chaucer throw as clear a light on Dryden himself, and the way his contemporaries thought about language and writing, as they do on Chaucer. His summary of Chaucer’s achievement is well-known:

‘Tis sufficient to say according to the Proverb, that here is God’s Plenty.

Dryden’s remarks on Chaucer’s language are relevant to our understanding of the development of Standard English, and of the attitudes to acceptable usage. He was concerned with the idea of the ‘purity’ of English and the notion that it had reached a state of perfection in his day. He wrote that, from Chaucer the Purity of the English tongue began… Chaucer lived in the Dawning of our Language. However, Dryden also felt that Chaucer’s diction stands not on an equal Foot with our present English. He therefore tried to ‘polish’ Chaucer by reversifying some of the Canterbury Tales, making his choice from those as savour nothing of Immodesty. In his preface to the fables, he quotes from Chaucer’s prologue, where the narrator thus excuses the Ribaldry, which is very gross… Dryden then goes on to discuss Chaucer’s language:

You have here a ‘Specimen of Chaucer’s’ Language, which is so obsolete, that his Sense is scarce to be understood; and you have likewise more than one Example of his unequal Numbers, which were mention’d before. Yet many   of his verses consist of Ten Syllables, and the Words not much behind our present ‘English’.

When reading poetry from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, we often find pairs of words that should rhyme, but do not do so in present-day pronunciation. Rhymes therefore not only provide good evidence of changes in the pronunciation and structure of words up to the end of the fourteenth century, but they can also provide some evidence of such changes to the end of the seventeenth century and, by extension, into standard MnE. The following rhymes from Dryden’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneis occur frequently throughout the translation, so cannot be mistaken for false-, eye-, or half-rhymes:


At length, in dead of Night, the Ghost appears

Of her unhappy Lord: the Spectre stares,

And with the erected Eyes his bloody bosom bares.

When rising Vapours choak the wholsom Air,

And blasts of noisom Winds corrupt the Year.


His Pow’r to hollow Caverns is confin’d,

There let him reign, the jailor of the wind.


 Did I or Iris give this mad Advice,

Or made the Fool himself the fatal Choice?


Yet one remain’d, the Messenger of Fate;

High on a craggy cliff Celaeno sate,

And thus her dismall errand did relate.


O more than Madmen! You your selves shall bear,

The guilt of Blood and Sacrilegious War…


…The Brambles drink his Blood;


The  Pastor pleas’d with his dire Victory,

Beholds the satiate Flames in Sheets ascend the Sky.

However, many of these words, like blood (also rhymed with God) appear to have at least two pronunciations by this time, evidence that the Great vowel shift was nearing its completion. It seems odd at first sight that enemy could apparently rhyme with both free ( /fri:/ in MnE pronunciation) and high ( /hai/ ). The vowel of high was still in the process of shifting, in Dryden’s time, from /i:/ to /ai/ and the vowel of free from /e:/ to /i:/, so that pronunciation could vary. This explains the following rhymes:

… the coast was free

From Foreign or Domestick Enemy: 

He heav’d it at a Lift: and poiz’d on high,

Ran stagg’ring on, against his Enemy.

For researchers into language variety, it becomes increasingly rare to find texts from the late fifteenth century onwards which provide continuing evidence of surviving regional variations after the educated London dialect became the standard written form. Once the grammar and vocabulary of written English were standardised, other dialects were recorded only in texts written for the purpose of presenting dialects as different.

However, during the seventeenth century, there was a revival of interest in antiquarian studies and of language variety in written forms, two of the topics discussed by members of The Royal Society. Writings on language included descriptions of the Saxon language of the past and contemporary dialects. Many of the latter had found fresh expression in the Leveller writings of the relatively uncensored pamphlets of the Commonwealth period.

One form that this interest in dialect took can be found in George Meriton’s A Yorkshire Dialogue, published in York in 1683. Meriton was a lawyer, practising in the North Riding town of Northallerton. Meriton’s dialogue is a lively representation of a Yorkshire farming family, written in verse couplets, and is deliberately full of proverbial sayings. It is only indirect evidence of the authentic North Riding English of the time, but it does provide plenty of examples of dialectal and colloquial vocabulary and grammar.

The spelling of written English in the seventeenth century remained virtually unchanged, and took little account of the shifts in pronunciation that had taken place since the fourteenth century. Consequently, the spelling of Standard English did not accurately indicate the genteel accent of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. However, when writing in dialect, it was (as now) usual to spell many of the words as they were spoken, so that features of dialectal pronunciation and colloquial idioms were shown, as is demonstrated in the following short extract from Meriton’s A Yorkshire Dialogue (1683):

Niece: How duz my Cozen Tibb Naunt I mun nut stay,

I hard she gat a Cawd the other day.

(How does my Cousin Tibb Aunt, I must not stay,

I heard she got a Cold the other day)

Mother: Ey wallaneerin, wilta gang and see,

Shee’s aboun ’ith Chawmber,

Thou may clim upth Stee.

Shee’s on a dovening now gang deftly Nan,

And mack as little din as ee’r Thou can.

(Ey, alas, will thou go and see,

She’s above in the Chamber,

Thou may climb up the Ladder.

She’s in a doze now go gently Nan,

And make as little din as ever thou can.)

Source: Dennis Freeborn (1992), From Old English to Standard English. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

These Weeks in World War One: 25 September – 14 October 1915: The Battle of Loos and the Execution of Norfolk Nurse, Edith Cavell   1 comment

It will cost us dearly and we shall not get far

General Rawlinson, commander-in-chief, IV Corps, British Army.

This British offensive was to be in support of the French, who were keen to have a quick and successful offensive before winter, and to help the beleaguered Russians, bearing the brunt of the German attacks in the east.

British General, Douglas Haig was well aware of the difficulties facing his men: the battlefield was full of slag heaps and mine works, affording the Germans excellent defensive positions. Despite their reluctance French commander General Joffre was adamant that the British attack. Forced to act before his New Army was ready, Haig still optimistically thought a breakthrough possible. The Allies had a five to one advantage in troop numbers.

The attack of 75,000 troops made some progress; however, it slowed due to lack of artillery support, confusion over navigation and the heavy fire of the German defenders. Six thousand British soldiers were killed on the first day of the battle. On the second day some German machine-gunners stopped firing to allow their opponents to retreat to their lines. By the end of the offensive in October British casualties were over sixty thousand, three times as many as the German losses.

On 25 September, poison gas, referred to as ‘the accessory’ in order to maintain a level of secrecy, was used by the British for the first time. One of those watching its use was General Rawlinson:

I witnessed the sight from the top of a fosse some three miles distant from the front line and the view before me was one I shall never forget. Gradually a huge cloud of white and yellow gas rose from our trenches to a height of between two hundred and three hundred feet, and floated quietly away towards the German trenches. Amidst the cloud could be seen shrapnel bursting on the enemy’s front line trenches.  

However, the plan backfired when the wind changed direction and the gas blew back into the British trenches, causing havoc among the troops. By the end of the war, the British had used gas cylinders 150 times, compared with eleven attacks by the Germans. Despite the terror it induced, poison gas caused a relatively low number of British Army deaths during the war. Loos was part of the Artois-Champagne offensive, which became a dogged war of attrition in which Allied commanders were always hopeful of achieving a breakthrough. British and French losses totaled 310,000; the Germans lost 140,000. One of the British officers was John Kipling, the son of the poet Rudyard Kipling, killed in action on 27 September. His father wrote the following short poem about his death:


My son was killed while laughing at some jest. I would

I knew

What it was, and it might serve me in a time when jests

are few.

The story of father and son was recently dramatised by the BBC in ‘My Boy Jack’, a powerful  film starring David Suchet and Daniel Ratcliffe.

Meanwhile, a ‘mock’ trench section was dug in Blackpool, to help troops train for trench life and warfare. During the ‘illuminations’ and throughout the war, for a penny a time, visitors to the ‘Loos Trenches’ were shown around by recovering soldiers from a nearby hospital.

In a Munitions Tribunal held in Glasgow in September, twelve apprentices aged between fifteen and eighteen were admonished for demanding higher wages. Although they were working 103 hours a week, the sheriff told them, no boy could be allowed to put his private wage-earning capacity in front of the national need.

Born in December 1915, French singer Édith ‘Piaf’ Gassion was named after British nurse Edith Cavell, who had been executed two months earlier for helping Allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium. Over twenty places in France, Belgium, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Portugal and Mauritius bear her name, including a pub in Norwich, her home city, where she was laid to rest outside the cathedral…


Early Modern English: The Seventeenth Century, Part One   Leave a comment

The Progress of the Language from John Donne to John Bunyan:


Although all varieties of seventeenth century writing are clearly different in style from those of the twentieth century, the underlying grammatical structures do not contrast so greatly and there are few recorded developments in the grammar of English overall. The spelling of individual words also became more regular, so that the look of the seventeenth century printed page is far more familiar to the late modern reader than that of the previous century. Nevertheless, there was still a lack of conformity in spelling and punctuation in handwriting. In addition, vocabulary was always shifting and changing in meanings, as well as losing and gaining words according to the needs of communication. A greater range of texts provide us with a wealth of evidence about the uses of the language, from ordinary uses in letters and diaries, to examples from literary prose, both colloquial and rhetorical.

Of course, all living languages are in a constant state of evolution in grammar and vocabulary. A standard language, however, changes more slowly, because new forms tend to be resisted, and the very fact of it being ‘standard’ means that it is, or was, often regarded as being fixed and unchangeable. At the same time, social standards of pronunciation were also established, and the speech of those with prestige or authority was imitated by others. In these ways, there was a polarisation of opinion in attitudes to language use, which was derived from differences in social class. In the seventeenth century, the speech of rural artisans was often referred to as barbarous, meaning uncultured or unpolished as contrasted with polite, civilised and genteel language. The evidence for pronunciation is not as easy to interpret as that for vocabulary, spelling and grammar, in spite of the publication of a series of books on spelling and pronunciation in the century itself, because, unlike today, there were no phonetic symbols to provide agreed points of reference for the relationship of sounds to letters. Other evidence comes from a study of rhyming couplets in poetry and prose drama, from Chaucer to Shakespeare and then on to Dryden’s verse, written in the latter part of the century.

A further source of evidence of changing pronunciation patterns is in the spelling of handwritten documents. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, printers tended to regularise more and more the spellings as they set up their presses, even though there were still variations and no fixed standard of spelling had yet been established. However, in letters even educated writers still used ‘phonetic’ spellings, providing us with clues as to their pronunciation. The range of differences in dialectal pronunciation were far greater than now since people moved from all parts of the country into London and their varieties of dialectal accent were in competition with each other for wider acceptance. Sometimes, as in East London, it was the ‘vulgar’ speech of East Anglia which eventually became the social standard, as distinct both from the ‘genteel’ English of the West end and the ‘cockney’ of the East end, both of which were eighteenth century developments. For example, the Middle English word ‘lernen’ becomes ‘learn’ in Modern English standardised spelling, but in seventeenth century manuscripts it can often be seen written as ‘larne’. Similarly, but with varying consonants, ‘instruccion’ in Middle English was often written as ‘instrochshen’ in written form, whereas standardised spelling would have it as ‘instruction’.

Hundreds of lines of verse were written in Elizabethan and Jacobean English by Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare and Ben Johnson, among other dramatists, using lines in iambic pentameter. A line consisted of ten syllables, alternating unstressed and stressed. From reading these lines in the intended rhythm, we can tell that words like passion, division and proportion were once pronounced ‘pass/i/on‘, ‘di/vi/si/onand ‘pro/por/ti/on‘.

After studying medicine on the Continent, Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82), practised as a physician in Norwich for the rest of his life, but he is remembered today as a writer. His first book Religio Medici (‘the faith of a doctor’) had been written as ‘a private exercise directed to myself’, but a pirated edition had been published ‘in a most depraved Copy’, so he decided to publish his own version. The book explores the tension that then existed between religious faith and new scientific ideas. This conflict had been expressed earlier by John Donne in 1611 in An Anatomy of the World:

And new Philosophy calls all in doubt,

The Element of fire is quite put out;

The sun is lost, and th’earth, and no mans wit

Can well direct him where to looke for it…

‘Tis all in peeces, all coherence gone;

All just supply, and all Relation.

Thomas Browne expressed his religious faith in his book Religio Medici as follows:

As for those wingy Mysteries in Divinity, and airy subtelties in Religion, which have unhing’d the brains of better heads, they never stretched the ‘Pia Mater’ (= a membrane in the brain) of mine. Methinks there be not impossibilities enough in Religion for an active faith; the deepest Mysteries ours contains have not only been illustrated, by Syllogism (= a logical argument consisting of two propositions plus a conclusion) and the rule of Reason. I love to lose my self in a mystery, to pursue my Reason to an ‘O altitudo’! ‘Tis my solitary recreation to pose my apprehension with those involved Enigma’s and riddles of the Trinity, with Incarnations, and Resurrection. I can answer all the Objections of Satan and my rebellious reason with that odd resolution I learned of ‘Tertullian, Certum est quia impossibile est’ (= Latin for ‘it is certain because it is impossible’).

Students of both language and literature value Browne’s writings for their style rather than their content, in showing how an author exploits and expands the discourse features of his time. Although the ‘educated classes’ that Donne and Browne came from continued to write in Latin, and to use Latinate words and forms in the vernacular, by 1618 the classical language was no longer used for communication, even in London. A Hungarian sojourner in London in that year, Márton Szepsi Csombor, who knew no English, was amazed above all at the people’s ignorance of Latin, something that Miklós Bethlen also complained about with reference even to the professors at Oxford whom he met during his 1664 visit. No doubt the publication of the King James Bible in 1611 was a major factor in the decline of Latin among the ‘middling sort’ of English people. Csombor went along three whole streets among merchants, furriers, tailors etc. and nowhere found a single person that could speak to him in Latin, eventually finding an Italian from whom he could get directions. Without knowledge of English, Scots or Gaelic, Csombor could only make one valid comment on the use of the vernacular, which is nonetheless of interest with regard to pronunciation:

The language of the inhabitants… is a mixture of those of such adjacent lands as Hybernia, Gallia and Germany, and their pronunciation is extremely bad, for every ‘u’ they pronounce ‘ü’ (the Hungarian letter for the weakened vowel in English, known in MnE phonetics as the ‘schwa’).

George Fox (1624-91) was the son of a Leicestershire weaver, and the earliest of vernacular writers to demonstrate the influence of what the historian Christopher Hill described as the heady egalitarian wine of the New Testament in English. He experienced an intense spiritual conversion or conviction of ‘the Inner Light of Christ’, so that he left home in 1643 to become a preacher and founder of the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends). Failure to conform to the doctrines and practices of the Church meant civil penalties and often persecution, at least until 1651. He was imprisoned many times, and it was after the Restoration, between 1673 and 1674, during a long stay in Worcester jail, that he dictated an account of his experiences to his fellow prisoner Thomas Lower, who was also his son-in-law. This account is not only a moving account of his life but also, for students of the language, an insight into colloquial English of the second half of the seventeenth century, as transcribed from his spoken narrative. The name ‘Quaker’ was originally a term of abuse, but was quickly adopted by Friends themselves because of their natural tendency to shake with a combination of nervousness and inspiration when speaking to large congregations. Fox and his followers also called themselves ‘Children of the Light’ and ‘Friends of Truth’ as well as, simply, ‘Friends’. In his Journal, Fox explained how they first gained the nickname:

… this was Justice Bennett of Darby yt first called us Quakers because wee bid ym tremble att ye Word of God… this was in ye year 1650.

For Fox, the word ‘Church’ meant the people of God; he refused to use the word for the building in which religious worship took place, which he referred to as steeplehouses. This, much like much of Fox’s preaching, his use of thee and thou, and his principled refusal to remove his hat before a magistrate, caused much offence. In one of the many references to this in his Journal, Fox turns the meaning of the word professor into a description of one who ‘professes’ or ‘pretends’ to be religious, but is not truly so:

And when I was at Oram before ye steeplehouse there came a professor and gave me a push in ye brest in ye steeplehouse and bid me get out of ye Church: alack poore man saide I dost thou call ye steeplehouse ye Church: ye Church is ye people whome God has purchased with his bloode: and not ye house.

George Fox gave offence to the religious and civil authorities both during the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s and the Restoration of Charles II after 1660. John Milton (1608-74), on the other hand, devoted years of political activity to the Puritan cause in the 1640s and 1650s, writing books and pamphlets on behalf of, religious, domestic and civil liberty. One of his best-known pamphlets was Areopagetica (the Areopagus was the highest civil court of Ancient Athens), ‘A Speech of Mr John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenced Printing, to the Parliament of England, Printed in the Yeare 1644’. It is called a speech although in fact it was printed, and uses the rhetorical model of Greek and Latin oratory – as if it were written to be spoken. Its style, as seen in the facsimile below, is in complete contrast to the artless narrative of George Fox:



The letters of Dorothy Osborne (1625-95) give a lively and personal picture of the manners of the times, and contain a moving portrait of her constancy at a time when other suitors than William Temple (1628-99, whom she met in 1648 and married in 1654) were urged upon her by her family. Most of her letters to William that have survived date from 1652-54 (see facsimile below, 25 March 1653). It was not fashionable, even by the mid-seventeenth century, to marry for love, and marriages for men and women in landed gentry families were more often than not arranged for them. Dorothy believed that letters should be ‘as free and easy as one’s discourse’, so they provide us with an authentic account of mid-seventeenth century informal, yet genteel, speech, as if we were overhearing her turns in a conversation.


John Evelyn (1620-1706) travelled widely on the continent and had a great variety of interests, publishing books on engraving, tree-growing, gardening, navigation, commerce and architecture, but he is best known for his diary, covering most of his life. During the Civil Wars of 1642-1648, Evelyn was royalist in sympathy. After the execution of Charles I in 1649, a Commonwealth was established, with Oliver Cromwell later named as Lord Protector. One of the many ordinances or regulations imposed by the Parliamentary regime was the abolition of Church festivals, including Christmas. On Christmas Day, 1657, Evelyn recorded in his diary a raid on the celebration of the day by Parliamentary soldiers. The object of such raids was political as well as religious, as the authorities were afraid of royalist plots against the government. Evelyn’s diary entry for 25 December contrasts sharply with that published in The Public Intelligencer, the ‘Roundhead’ newspaper, on 28 December:


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After the restoration of the Stuart monarchy, The Royal Society was founded under the patronage of Charles II. Evelyn was a founder member of the society, whose members met regularly to present and discuss scientific papers. The poet John Dryden was also a member, and two verses of a poem, Annus Mirabilis (The Year of Wonders, 1666) contain what he called an ‘Apostrophe to the Royal Society’ (an apostrophe in rhetoric is a term meaning a figure in which a writer suddenly stops in his discourse, and turns to address some other person or thing):

This I fore-tel, from your auspicious care,

Who great in search of God and nature grow:

Who best your wise Creator’s praise declare,

Since best to praise his works is best to know.

O truly Royal! Who behold the Law,

And rule of beings in your Makers mind,

And thence, like Limbecks, rich Ideas draw,

To fit the levell’d use of humane kind.

Evelyn’s diary entries show his interest in the detailed scientific observation of natural phenomena, expressed obliquely in Dryden’s poem as the Law and rule of beings in your Makers mind’. Members of The Royal Society like John Evelyn and John Dryden were dedicated to new ways of scientific thinking and experiment, and the style of writing that they began to adopt in the 1660s also changed. The following statement, written by Thomas Sprat, Secretary of the Royal Society, in 1667, concerned the prose style being developed by members of the Society in their scientific papers:


John Bunyan (1628-88) was the son of a Bedfordshire brass-worker, who followed his father’s trade after learning to read and write in the village school at Elstow. He served in the parliamentary army during the Civil War in the 1640s, and joined a nonconformist church in Bedford in 1653, where he preached. His first writings were against George Fox and the Quakers, but he too came into conflict with the authorities in 1660 for preaching without a licence, and spent twelve years in Bedford jail, during which time he wrote nine books. In 1672, he returned to the same church and was again imprisoned for a short time in 1676, when he wrote the first part of The Pilgrim’s Progress. It was published in 1678, with a second part following in 1684. The book is an allegory, in which the characters are fhe personifications of abstract qualities. The narrative is in the form of a dream, in which the narrator tells of Christian’s progress ‘from this world into a world which is to come’. The following extract, in facsimile, is from the first edition of the book. Bunyan’s use of the language brings us closer to hearing the colloquial, everyday speech of the 1670s. It is ‘the language of artisans, countrymen and merchants’, not of ‘wits and scholars’ that Thomas Sprat commended. The text also shows that spelling in printed books was by then standardised in a form that has hardly changed since. There are only a few unfamiliar conventions, like the capitalising of some nouns and adjectives and the use of italics to highlight certain words:



Bunyan was not a scholar of the universities in Latin or Greek. His own use of the language was heavily influenced by his reading of the King James Bible of 1611, while also revealing popular, everyday usage. We can therefore use The Pilgrim’s Progress, with reasonable confidence, as evidence of the language of ‘ordinary’ people in the 1670s. Although there has been little change in the basic grammatical patterns of the language since the seventeenth century, there are many superficial features, part of the idiom and usage of that period, that date it. Some of these are listed in the appendix below, together with a number of everyday phrases from the times.

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Appendix – Colloquial Variations in Seventeenth Century English:

  • Third person singular present tense inflections…

… by reason of a burden that lieth hard upon me;

Why came you not in at the Gate which standeth at the beginning of the Way?

  • Perfective aspect…

… but the ground is good when they are once got in at the Gate;

… I thought so; and it is happened unto thee as to other weak men;

… So when he was come in, and set down, they gave him something to drink;

…There was great talk presently after you was gone out…

  • Negatives…

Nay, methinks I care not what I meet with in the way…

Why came you not in at the Gate which standeth at the beginning of the way?

Have you not always done so?

I saw him not.

  • Interrogatives…

… dost thou see this narrow way?

Wherefore dost thou cry?

… how many, think you, must there be?

Know you not that it is written…?

Whence came you, and whither do you go?

Why lurk you here? = What are you doing waiting/ hanging around here (for)?

  • Punctuation…

The hearing of this is enough to ravish ones heart;

A Lot that often falls from bad mens mouths upon good mens Names.

  • Colloquial phrases…

Oh, did he light upon you? = did he find you?

Know him? Yes, he dwelt in Graceless… = yes, he lived in (a state/ condition of…)

I thought I should a been killed there…

If this meadow lieth along by our way side, lets go over into it;

But did you tell them of your own sorrow? Yes, over and over and over;

… the remembrance of which will stick by me as long as I live;

Joseph was hard put to it by her…

… but it is ordinary for those… to give him the slip, and return again to me;

He said it was a pitiful low sneaking business for a Man to mind Religion;

… let us lie down here and take one Nap;

… and he wot not what to do;

Who can tell how joyful this Man was, when he had gotten his Roll again!

The shepherds had them to another place, in a bottom, where there was a door in the side of an Hill;

He went on thus, even untill he came at a bottom…

But is there no hopes for such a Man as this?

They was then asked, If they knew the Prisoner at the Bar?

… but get it off myself I cannot;

… abhor thyself for hearkening unto him.

Have with you = I agree

I thank you for your pains.

I have had a confidence (a talk) with her.

… Fight a fray (duel).

He affects her greatly = he fancies her.

Go to!/ Out upon’t! = you are talking nonsense.

Come hither, sirrah! = come here, boy (servant)!

Ere long = before long; soon.

By my troth = As I pledge/ promise…

We will meet Anon = … sometime later.

Prithee (I pray thee) = I beg you.

Tarry a while = Stay…

Pray come within = please come inside.

… sore frit = (very) frightened.

How long since? = How long ago?

Bid them hasten = Tell them to hurry (up).

I will come directly, sir = … straight away.

Has she lost her wits? = … gone crazy?

Gawping like a bumpkin = staring like an idiot.

Draw him a mug of ale = pull/give him a pint of beer.

Babble of fury = furious behaviour.

You’ll be sore missed = We’ll miss you a lot.

Is it truly so?

You had best be on your way…

Where are you bound? = … going (to)?

We are bidden to dine = … invited to eat.

Chizzly as old grit = bad-tempered.

How’s a plain man to fare? = … an ordinary person to live/ cope?

By keeping his own counsel = By remaining silent.

… gospel true and no gainsaying = … truth which can’t be denied/ contradicted.

I would I could go with you…

It fortuned me to meet… = I happened to meet…

Thank you for coming to my aid = … for helping me.

I am of Norwich = I come from…

Have a care! = Take care/ Be careful.

In sample = for example.

Purpose to go = intend to go.

It will serve = it will (have to) do.

I shall bear thee company.

Your heart’s desire be with you!

Yonder he is coming! = He’s over there!

What is your will? = What do you want?

Hard by = nearby.

Trouble not yourself/ Be not dismayed = don’t worry/ be worried!

Thou art a blab! = you are a gossip/ a tell-tale.

Easy to say, sir, but difficult to accomplish.

I have a favour to beg of you.

An ingrate = an ungrateful person

Whither away? = Where are you going?

It may perchance interest you… = It might…

I pray you, think well what you do = Think very carefully…

I cannot comprehend it…

Plague take the man…

He is fortunate indeed…

  • Greetings and farewells…

Good morrow, master/ (gentle) mistress…

I give you good day/ good day to ‘ee, master!

I trust I find you well, and your mother also?

Well enough!

How is it with you?

Good/ God’s speed!

There is one at the door would speak with you…

How goes my father?

The fever is upon him.

Peace be with you… and also with you.

Fare thee/ you well!

God be wi’you, goodman/ goodwife

You be early abroad


Dennis Freeborn (1992), From Old English to Standard English.

Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Liz Smith (ed.) (1986), The King’s English: C17 Words and Phrases.

Leigh-on-Sea: Partizan Press.

Posted September 26, 2015 by AngloMagyarMedia in Uncategorized

Early Modern English: The Sixteenth Century   1 comment

Tudor Styles and Spellings       

Just as the private letters of the Pastons and the Celys written in the fifteenth century give us some idea of everyday speech among the merchant families of the time, so the letters of the Lisle family, from the early sixteenth century, give us some idea of colloquial language fifty years later.

Writers at that time were still not using a nationally standardised form of spelling, but this does not mean that their spelling was haphazard or that they simply ‘wrote as they spoke’. There were inconsistencies, particularly in the use of the now redundant final ‘e’ in many words, but the authors of letters had clearly learnt a system of spelling. Variations were the result of the lack of dictionaries until the latter part of the century.

The Lisle letters were written to and by Lord Lisle, his family, friends and staff, when he was Governor of Calais, then still an English possession under Henry VIII, from 1533 to 1540. The letters reveal a wide range of styles of correspondence, both formal and informal, therefore providing important primary evidence of the state of the language in the first half of the century before the Anglican Reformation.

A letter of 1539, written by George Bassett, Lady Lisle’s fourteen-year-old son by her first marriage, reveals the use of purely formal family correspondence. George has no news to convey, being a servant in the household of Sir Francis Bryan in order to further his education, but he addresses his mother in the approved Tudor manner, according to Muriel St Clare Byrne, the editor of The Lisle Letters:


Ryht honorable and my most dere and singler goode lorde and ladye/ in my most humble man(ner) I recomaunde me unto yow besechynge to have yor dailye blessynge/ and to here of yor goode and prospus helth/ fore the conservatione of whiche/ I praye dailye unto almyghty godde… ffurthermore I beseche yor lordship and ladishipe to have me heartilye recomendyde unto my Brother and Systers. And thus I praye godde to conserve yor ladyshipe ever in goode/ longe/ and prosperus helthe wt honor. ffrom Woburn the firste daye of Julye

By yor humble and

owne Son George


So, George’s formal ‘duty letter’ to his parents does not tell us much about him, except that he can write very competently and in beautiful handwriting (see the facsimile above). He uses the ‘strike’ or ‘virgule’ (/) as a mark of punctuation, and the occasional full-stop, then called a ‘prick’.

Sir William Kingston’s letter of September 1533 to Lord Lisle (see facsimile below) is an interesting example of an educated man’s style, since Kingston was not only a member of the King’s Privy Council, but also Constable of the Tower of London. The presentation of the letter would be unacceptable to modern readers, since there is no punctuation. The content, however, refers to the gentlemanly pursuit of hawking, or falconry, and gives the names of several birds used in the activity.


In January 1536, Sir Thomas Audley wrote to Lord Lisle as Governor of Calais to request a post of ‘Spear’ in the Retinue on behalf of Robert Whethill, whose father had been Mayor of Calais and was still resident there. He had been constantly at loggerheads with Lisle, who nevertheless replied affirmatively, though with obvious reluctance, to the request:


Rhyt honorabyll after my most hymbylyst wyse I commend me unto you & have reseyvyd yor yentyll letter in the favour of R whethyll cosrnyng the next speris rome within myn offyce her hit shall plesse yor good lordshype that ther is not the trustit srvat in yor house nother in yngland that shall gladlyer do yor commandment & plessur then I wold w owght desemylassion as evr deuryng my lyffe shall aper toward you & yors thys whethill & his father orderyd me opynly at lantern gate w word & countenans that I nevr sofferyd so muche of no degre sens I whas xvj yer old notwstandyng I woll at yor comandement forget all.


An example of formal written language contemporary with the Lisle letters is Sir Thomas Elyot’s The boke named the Governour, printed in London in 1531. It was dedicated unto the most victorious prince King Henry VIIIth, King of England and France, Defender of the True Faith and Lord of Ireland. Elyot’s purpose was to to describe in our vulgare tunge/ the fourme of a just publike weal (= welfare/ prosperity/ (common)wealth)… for as much as this present boke treateth of the education of them that hereafter may be demed worthy to be governors of the publike weal. He wrote it in English, but – in common with all educated men – regarded Latin and Greek as the essential languages of learning. He refers to the insufficience of our own langage when defining the words publike and commune which he borrowed from Latin. His ‘commune’ is the equivalent of the modern ‘common’, used in the sense of ‘commoner’ as compared with ‘noble’ or ‘lord’. Both words were taken from Old French during the Middle English period, but their sources were the Latin publicus and communis. Elyot, like many other scholarly writers of the period, anglicised many Latin and Greek words in order to express his meaning.


Sir Thomas Elyot set out a programme of education for young noblemen, beginning with the learning of Latin from the age of six. Strong feelings were aroused over accents and dialects, and Elyot directed that a young nobleman of this age should only be placed in the care of a nurse or serving woman who spoke none Englisshe but that which is cleane, polite, perfectly and articulately pronounced. The texts from The Governour, one of which is shown in facsimile below,  reveal not only matters of substance and style, but also features of grammar and lexis, which mark out Elyot’s language as being in transition from archaic forms to standard English. He expressed a scholar’s view on the superiority of Latin and Greek, from which hundreds of words were borrowed into English in anglicised forms. These words were referred to, somewhat disparagingly, as ‘inkhorn terms’, words coming from the scholar’s horn of ink and therefore often pedantic in use. George Puttenham called this development a ‘corruption’ of the English language, the result of the peevish affectation of clerks and scholars, introducing unnecessarily long, polysyllabic words.


There were some who went even further in their rejection of not just the ‘inkhorn terms’ but of any borrowings from other languages:


Above: Richard Verstagen’s

A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, 1605

During the latter half of the sixteenth century, the first dictionaries, spelling books and grammars of English began to be published. The writers of them were responding to a growing sense that the language needed agreed forms. They noticed that there were too few letters in the alphabet to match the sounds in English, and that the spelling of many words did not match their pronunciation. The common view was that the language had become ‘corrupted’. One of the earliest books to advocate a reform of English spelling was John Hart’s Orthographie, published in 1569 (see facsimile below). Hart pointed out two spelling conventions which are still part of the modern English system, but which he did not use in his reformed spelling. The first was the use of a final ‘e’ to mark a preceding ‘long’ vowel, as in hate/hat. The second was the use of double consonants to mark a preceding ‘short’ vowel, as in matting/ mating and robbing/ robing.


The Great Vowel Shift  

Between the time of Chaucer in the late fourteenth century and Shakespeare two centuries later, all the long vowels in English spoken in the Midlands and South of England shifted their pronunciation in what has been called the Great Vowel Shift. John Hart’s reference to the ‘i’ vowel in exercise – that it was being pronounced as a diphthong by some speakers – is contemporary evidence of this shift. It was not complete by 1569, and there were both regional and social variations in dialect, but in time all the vowels were either raised or became diphthongs. However, right up until the present day, the spelling system in English has never been altered to fit these changed pronunciations. As a consequence, there are still only five letters corresponding to the fifteen vowels and diphthongs in Modern English.

Just as in Middle English there was no standard language, but a number of interrelated dialects, English today also consists of these dialects, spread throughout the world. However, in England people now tend to regard the Standard English dialect, with its ‘received pronunciation’ as ‘good’ or ‘correct’ English, looking down on the other regional and social dialects of English as substandard or inferior. This tendency is not new. Concern over differences in dialect dates back to the fourteenth century, with both Chaucer and Caxton referring to the ‘diversity’ of the English language. A written standard was the first form to develop. Educated men and women wrote in this standard form but continued to speak in the dialects of their regions. John Aubrey, writing in the seventeenth century, commented on Sir Walter Raleigh’s enduring dialect:

Old Sir Thomas Malett, one of the Justices of the King’s bench… knew Sir Walter, and I have heard him say, that notwithstanding his so great Mastership in Style and his conversation with the learnedest and politest persons, yet he spake broad Devonshire to his dying day.


Aubrey implies that this was somewhat unusual, and that gentlemen in his time did not speak in regional dialects at the Stuart Court, hinting that this would have been considered unfitting for learned and polite society. We also know, from surviving documents, that Raleigh often signed his name Rawley, clear evidence of how he himself must have pronounced it. Standard vocabulary and grammar eventually spread to spoken English as well as to written forms. By the end of the fifteenth century, there is less evidence in both printed and manuscript documents of the range of dialects in English. Regional and social varieties still flourished, but evidence for them is much more difficult to find. The language of informal letters or the dialogue of characters in prose drama is probably the nearest we can get to everyday speech in Elizabethan and Jacobean times. George Puttenham, writing in 1589 in The Arte of English Poesie, illustrates his awareness of the range of available regional and social varieties available before Standard English became a fully defined and accepted written variety (see the facsimile below):


Puttenham was expressing a concern that was common to many sixteenth century scholars and writers, that there was too great a ‘diversity’ in the language. These were not simply social and regional, but also national in their characteristics. The dialogue of characters in plays cannot be taken as completely authentic evidence of the spoken language, but may indicate some of the more obvious dialectical features of speech. In Shakespeare’s The Life of Henry the Fift, there is a comic episode involving four captains – Gower (an Englishman), ‘Fluellen’ (Llewelyn – Welsh), Mackmorrice (Scottish) and Iamy (Irish):


In general, reading texts from Shakespeare’s time onwards into the seventeenth century, we find fewer and fewer features of vocabulary and grammar that are archaic and unfamiliar, and it becomes more difficult to specify exactly what differences there are between older and contemporary English. Facsimiles or exact reproductions make the language of the 1620s look more unfamiliar than it really is. There were some obvious differences in spelling and punctuation, but commas, colons, full stops (‘pricks’) were all in use, as were exclamation and question marks. In pronunciation, the raising or diphthongisation of long vowels in the South and Midlands (the ‘Great Vowel Shift’) had taken place, but was not yet complete. In vocabulary, the adoption of a large number of Latin words into written language had been made easy by the previous adoption of hundreds of French words. At the same time, a number of prefixes and suffixes were also adopted and used with English words. In general terms, the grammar of English at the end of the sixteenth century was the same as English today, except for the use of personal pronouns such as thou, thee, thy, thine and ye. The relative pronoun ‘which’ was still common, but ‘who’ and ‘whom’ had also come into regular usage. With verbs, the third person, the ending ‘-eth’ (southern) as well as ‘-s’ (northern) was still in use, as in ‘he maketh’ and ‘she makes’. The inversion of subject and verb in the simple present and past interrogative forms was also still in use, as in ‘knowest thou?’ and ‘came he?’, but the use of the auxiliary ‘do’ had also become common, as in ‘dost thou know?’ or ‘did he come?’.

Source: Dennis Freeborn (1992), From Old English to Standard English. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Early Modern English: The Fifteenth Century   Leave a comment

Above: The Pastons’ House in Norwich (photo rights: A J Chandler, 2015)

The East Midland Dialect:

It is usually possible to make sense of late Medieval documents written in the east Midland and London dialects because they provide the basis for Standard English as written today. The fifteenth century was a period of transition to modern English (MnE), so we talk of the period from about 1450 as marking the development of ‘Early Modern English’ (EMnE).

In reality, the transition has its identifiable origins in the East Midlands dialect of the early fifteenth century. Margery Kempe (c. 1373-1439) was from King’s Lynn in Norfolk, who gave up on married life as a result of her mystical experiences in order to devote herself to pilgrimage. In the 1420s, she dictated a book describing her visions, temptations and journeys. As the text was dictated, it provides reliable evidence of ordinary speech at that time. The dialect is east Midland, but we cannot tell how accurate the scribe’s reproduction of Margery’s speech actually was, especially as the only surviving manuscript was copied in mid-century. Here is her description of her marriage in verbatim translation:

When this creature was twenty years of age or something more she was married to a worshipful burgess of Lynn and was with child within short time as nature wills. And after that she had conceived she was in labour with great fevers till the child was born and then what for labour she had in childbirth and for sickness going before she despaired of her life, thinking she might not live…

The opening of the book is shown in facsimile below, and given in transcription here:


Here begynnyth a schort tretys and a comfortabyl for sinful wrecchys, wher in thei may haue gret solas and comfort to hem, and vryndyrstonyn the hy and vnspe cabyl mercy of ower soueryn Sauyowr cryst Ihesu whoe name be worschept and magnyfyed wythowten ende. That now in ower days to vs unworthy deyneth to exercysen hys nobeley and hys goodnesse.

The Pastons were a prosperous family who also lived in Norfolk (see photo above). A large collection of their letters written between the 1420s and 1500s have survived. The letters cover three generations of the family and are a valuable source of evidence for historians as well as students of language development. Much of the period was troubled by the political upheavals of the Wars of the Roses, reflected in the letters. As well as letters from Agnes Paston to her husband William, the collection includes a valentine letter from Margery Brews to the third generation John Paston, written in 1477, partly in rhyme. They were married later that year:

…and if ye commande me to kepe me true where euer I go

iwyse I will do all my might zowe to love and neuer no mo

and yf my freendys say that I do amys thei thei shall not me let for to do

myn herte me byddys euer more to love zowe truly ouer all erthely thing

and yf thei be neuer so wroth I tryst it schall be bettur in tyme commyng

no more to yowe at this tyme but the holy trinite hafe yowe in kepyng and I besech zowe that this bill be not seyn of non erthely creature safe only zour selfe…

…be zour own MB

(Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifteenth Century, Norman Davis (ed.), OUP, 1971)


The London Dialect:

William Caxton was the first English printer, setting up his printing press in London in 1476. It began a revolution in the production of books, which no longer had to be copied individually by hand. Of course, copying did not die out completely, and Caxton was more than just a printer of other people’s writing. He also translated and edited many of the books printed, providing a large number of prefaces and commentaries.

In 1482, Caxton printed a revised text of Trevisa’s 1385 translation of Higden’s Polychronicon. This provides an excellent example of some of the changes in the language which had taken place over the hundred years between the two editions. Caxton found Trevisa’s language old-fashioned and out of date, as he said in an epilogue:

William Caxton a symple persone have endeuoyred me to wryte fyrst overall the sayd book of ’Proloconycon’ and somewhat have chaunged the rude and old Englyssh, that is to wete certayn wordes which in these dayes be neither vsyd ne vnderstanden.

Caxton’s modernised version of John of Trevisa’s description of the languages of Britain shows some interesting differences with the original texts. It illustrates the lack of standardisation in Middle English and the way in which differences in the dialects of ME were reflected in writing.

A standard form of a language develops in a nation or society only when the need becomes evident and pressing. The invention of printing was one factor in the complex of political and economic changes in England by the end of the fifteenth century, which led in time to acceptance of the educated London dialect as the basis of Standard English.

One of Caxton’s problems as printer and translator is clearly illustrated in a famous story that he tells in the preface to his translation of a French version of Virgil’s Latin poem The Aeneid, called Eneydos. A revolution in communications was brought about by the printing of books. A book might be bought and sold anywhere in the country, but which dialect of English should the printer use? For example, there were at least two words for egg, the one in OE and the other from ON. The story is about the difficulty of asking for eggs for breakfast, but for Caxton it illustrates the problem of choosing a language in translation:

Loo what sholde a man in thyse dayes nowe write, egges or eyren?

This was just one of the problems that needed to be resolved in the agreement of a standard literary form of English over the next two centuries. If you examine Caxton’s language in detail, you notice that he did not devise a regular spelling system, and that many of his decisions about spelling and grammar were already out of date by the 1480s. Below is a very short example of Caxton’s printing. It is an advertisement, dating from about 1478, from Caxton’s edition of the Sarum Ordinal, the book of church services for Salisbury:   


If it plese ony man spirituel or temporal to bye ony pyes of two and thre comemoracios of salisburi use enpryntid after the forme of this preset letter whiche ben wel and truly correct, late hym come to westmo nester in to the almonesrye at the reed pale and he shal haue them good chepe

Supplico stet cedula

In 1485, Caxton published a noble and joyous book, entytled ‘Le Morte Darthur’. He described it in these words:

… a book of the noble hystoryes of the sayd Kynge Arthur and of certeyn of his knyghtes after a copy unto me delivered. Whyche copye Syr Thomas Malorye dyd take oute of certeyn books of frensshe ad reduced it into Englysshe.

Malory made his translations and adaptations from French while in prison. He wrote the following at the end of one of the books making up the collection:

And I pray you all that redyth this tale to pray for hym that this wrote, that God sende hym good delyveraunce sone and hastely. Amen

Malory died in prison in 1471. Caxton’s printed book was the only known version of Malory’s legends of King Arthur until 1934, when a manuscript was found in the Fellows’ Library of Winchester College. It was not in Malory’s own hand, but more authentic than Caxton’s book, which has many alterations and omissions. Below is a facsimile of the opening of the fourth story, The War with the Five Kings, in the first of the manuscript books, The Tale of King Arthur:


The first six lines of the facsimile were written by the principal scribe, while the rest was written by a second scribe. Not only is the handwriting clearly different, but so too is the spelling.

A collection of letters and memoranda of the Cely family, written in the 1470s and 1480s, gives us authentic handwritten evidence of London English a century after that of Thomas Usk’s, and contemporary with the Paston letters. The Celys were wool merchants, or staplers. They bought fleeces in and sold them to merchants in Calais and Bruges. The letters and accounts provide historians with primary evidence about the workings of a medieval English business, and give students of language examples of late medieval commercial English, as well as evidence of the speech and writing habits of the London merchant classes of the period.

The collection contains letters written by forty different people. Most are from two generations of the Cely family, father and sons. Like the Paston letters, they show that there was as yet no standardised written English. The spelling is not good evidence for the pronunciation of spoken English, partly because we do not know the sounds given to each letter, but also because the spelling of each of the authors was so irregular. Individual writers show many inconsistencies of spelling. The following text is not a letter, but a note of political events and rumours in the troubled times leading to the deposition of Edward V and the accession of the Duke of Gloucester as Richard III. The first five items are written as facts; the rest, beginning with if are rumours. As jotted down notes, they are not always grammatically clear:

There is great romber* in the realm, The Scots has done great in England. (The Lord) Chamberlain is deceased in trouble. The Chancellor is disproved* and not content. The Bishop of Ely is dead.

If the King, God save his life, were deceased. (If) the Duke of Gloucester were in any peril. If my Lord Prince were, God defend, were troubled*. If my Lord of Northumberland were ded or greatly troubled. If my Lord Howard were slain.

From monsieur Saint John

(*romber = disturbance/ upheaval; disproved = proved false; troubled = molested.)

Lord Hastings, the Lord Chamberlain, had been executed in June 1483. The Chancellor was Thomas Rotherham, Archbishop of York. ‘My lord prinsse’ was the Duke of York, Edward V’s brother. The Earl of Northumberland and John Howard were supporters of the Duke of Gloucester; ‘movnsewr sent jonys’ is a pseudonym, to disguise the name of Sir John Weston, from whom George Cely got the rumours.


Dennis Freeborn  (1992), From Old English to Standard English. Basingstoke: MacMillan.

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