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FEBRUARY 1918 part 2.



The contentions of Sir Isaac Pitman, Dr. Ellis, and others, that the phonetic principle employed in script was capable of being applied with considerable advantage to print, convinced me; and I am of the same opinion to-day. When I have looked at the famous "Phonetic News," and the various books printed phonotypically, I have failed to understand the opposition which this type of printing created in the forties and fifties. As to the practicability of the project for immediate or general adoption, I am less sanguine now than then. Mankind is terribly sluggish. It believes as well as sings, "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be." Would that we could ring out this inertia! Pitman's mind was cast in a different mould. Just as Nature abhors a vacuum, he abhorred everything that was illogical or unjust. His reason and conscience were highly attuned, and he allowed them to be his guide following whithersoever they led him, often at the cost of friends, time, labour, and money. Perhaps he did not sufficiently allow for the diversities of mind and conscience in others, or make wide enough margin for corporate action with those of a slower type than his own. Later in life, especially with regard to spelling reform, he modified his conception of the situation, as in the adoption of less drastic changes, comprised in his "Five Rules" for spelling. No one will ever know the price Pitman paid for his ideals and projects, and how little personal reward he received or desired for most of the many long and laborious years of his noble life. He humorously expressed his desire to exchange his knighthood for an improvement in phonography or phonotypy.


I was twenty-one when I wrote my first letter on "Spelling Reform." It was for the "Newcastle Weekly Chronicle." From my notes sprang a prolonged discussion, revealing Mr. Tim Healy, M.P., then a clerk in Newcastle, as a redoubtable spelling reformer, whose children were first taught to read phonetically. I have been writing to its columns ever since, and have written thousands of letters, notes, essays, and articles during the past thirtyeight years. I hope to continue to do so until the end of the chapter. If such an evil thing as an irregular orthography is permitted in the regions beyond I shall undertake a similar course of action, without being told that my letters could not be printed for lack of space; this editorial excuse will be inadmissible in mansions fair. The "Leeds Mercury" and "Durham Weekly Chronicle" also accorded me space for many letters, expanding often into discussions. The most likely and protracted debate with which I had to do was conducted in the "Yorkshire Post." One summer, when on my holidays, I sent a short letter to that most excellent journal. The editor honoured it with a "note." I replied to the note after breakfast, and dispatched my second letter by the first post. My reply appeared the next morning, and again a "note" was appended to my second letter. I returned to the fray as before. This warfare between the editor and myself was kept up for about six days. By this time the atmosphere became warm, and for six weeks the discussion was carried on under considerable pressure, and in peculiar circumstances as far as I was concerned. Part of the work was done when I was travelling and staying at hotels. Mr. Phillips, the editor, although not in favour of reform, was good enough to say that the correspondence hid been interesting to him. Subsequent contests of a less prolonged character have been engaged in the "Yorkshire Post," while the "Schoolmaster," "Christian World," "Manchester Guardian," "The British and Colonial Printer," "Academy," "Phonetic journal," and many other journals - some in Canada and America - "The Herald," and "Jurnal ov Orthoepi and Orthografi" - have allowed me to ventilate the subject of spelling reform. Perhaps there were few newspaper discussions on the question in which I did not take part.


In my private correspondence I employ more or less modified forms of spelling. My notepaper proclaims the testimony of Sir James Murray and Prof. Skeat. For many years up to my retirement from active, commercial life I used abbreviated spelling, even to my superiors, without any rebuff; although one of them was fastidious about the spelling of proper names. I still send out certain half-yearly announcements and draw cheques bearing modified forms. No one has said that they could not read the notices, and not a single cheque has been refused. I have issued public announcements adorned with sensible spelling; no one has been misled or suffered any harm, although the circulation of these has not always met with the approval of a few friends.

Mr. Alexander Paterson and I were the means of establishing the "Speling Leeg" in honour of Sir Isaac Pitman's eightieth birthday. I endeavoured to continue it after his death, but did not succeed. By an incidental remark of a friend in a railway carriage, disparaging the status of spelling reform, I was led to compile "The Case for Spelling Reform." It received the approval of Sir Isaac Pitman, Dr. Harris, late Commissioner for Education in America, and Dr. Hamilton, editor of the "Herald," Toronto. I sent a copy to my friend, the instigator of the pamphlet, and he was candid enough to express his amazement at the strength of the case for reform; but he had no desire to continue the argument. "The Case" was too strong for him.

I did not make a fortune by its compilation, but just escaped writer's cramp. I have done a little lecturing for the Simplified Spelling Society, chiefly before teachers. They are practically unanimous in favour of reform, although they have little idea of the full indictment that can be made against their greatest bugbear in the school.


Within the past few weeks and infants' mistress, Miss Davison, in Hetton-le-Hole, has undertaken to experiment with Simplified Spelling. In four weeks she was able to report favourably of the interest on the part of the children and teacher. The work covered in the month was about equal to twelve months' experience in the old spelling. It has been a joy to me to find the experiment so enthusiastically taken up in my native place, and meeting with such gratifying success. Mr Jackson and Mr Sykes will deal more particularly with this excellent enterprise of the Simplified Spelling Society, backed by the Board of Education.


I have circulated much literature. I seldom send a letter to a new correspondent without enclosing a leaflet or something bearing on spelling reform, and when on a journey some trace of the subject is left behind. You will remember Dr. Macan saying that he became a spelling reformer by reading Max Müller's article on "Spelling."

Why have I done this work? Because the present system of spelling is not correct. Orthography is said to be the correct method of spelling words. Was there ever a more incorrect definition? To what language does it apply? One of the languages to which it does not apply is our own, for it is, as Mr. Gladstone said, "without method, rule, or system." The only spelling that can be described as being correct is phonetic spelling, a spelling that records the spoken word. This is the mission of spelling. If it does not do so, as English spelling fails to do, then spelling is arbitrary and incorrect. Tried by any conceivable standard of correctness, English orthography is lawless, erratic, illogical, and antiquated.

What does "incorrect spelling" mean, especially as regards English spelling? At the very gateway of knowledge and all along its pathway it impedes the legitimate progress of students, entails needless labour upon teachers, and imposes an unwarrantable financial burden on the nation. This triple imposition is not creditable to a civilised community. Years ago the country cancelled the taxes upon knowledge, but it permits as great an obstacle to stand in the path of education as its present method of the adorning written speech. The taxes have gone, so ought the spelling embargo to go. After many tinkerings and failures over Education Bills for the education of the masses, we have left untouched one of the chief hindrances - our spelling - to the mental development and intelligence of the nation.

During the discussion in the "Yorkshire Post" Mr. Phillips made certain proposals to me. He assumed that I did not make a religion of phonetic spelling; I must confess I do, believing that everything is, or ought to be, touched and moulded by the Divine economy; else what are reason and conscience for? It was these characteristics, so highly developed in Sir Isaac Pitman, quite apart from his boundless energy, that drew me to him, and served to retain my deep affection for him. Upon what nobler sphere can we enter than the emancipation of the slave? It is great to break the shackles of the tyrant, greater to free the mind, and greater still to give scope and freedom to the soul and spirit of man. In all these phases of emancipation the regeneration of the nation's orthography plays a subtle and important part. Even if we were an insignificant nation, we could not with credit ignore our idiotic and cumbrous spelling; but, being what we are, and our enemies being judges, we cannot afford to be indifferent to the immense blessings which a rational orthography would contribute to the unfolding of our glorious literature, system of Government, and gigantic trade: to our mighty Empire to our numerous Allies - and, indeed, to the world. Our history in the past has been unique; its future should - or shall we say shall? - be more glorious when peace has been restored. No needless or wasteful obstacles should be allowed to impede its beneficent sway, so that the soul within us shall not die, but fill a fuller, fairer, and nobler sphere by putting an end to the thraldom of ignorance, vice, and selfishness.

The invention of phonetic alphabets by Ellis and Pitman, and the use to which the brothers Pitman and the early phonographers applied them for teaching children to read, showed the immense advantages the new systems had over the ordinary alphabet. The pages of the early "Phonetic journals" testify to this. By the Simplified Spelling Society's alphabet, as we have seen it applied in various parts of the kingdom, much saving of time is effected. You will hear more of this anon.


We are indebted to a noble roll of men who have gone before us. I should like to pay my tribute to the self-sacrificing and gifted services of Dr. A. J. Ellis, particularly for his book, A Plea for Phonetic Spelling, the most exhaustive treatise on the subject; to Max Müller for early recognition in his lectures of Pitman's labours, and his remarkable article on "Spelling"; to Sir James Murray for his addresses on and firm adherence to and furtherance of spelling reform; to Prof. Skeat for his courageous and outspoken testimony in favour of reform, for his great work, Principles of English Etymology - a mine of rich ore for advocates of phonetic spelling - and to Prof. Furnivall for his practical testimony to reform by daring to use modified forms. To Prof. Sayce, Dr. Sweet, Dr. Latham, Dr. Morris, Dr. Angus, and Dr. Abbott, happily still alive, we owe much. Among workers of another type were Dr. Gladstone, Sir Charles Reed, Sir John Bennett, Sir Walter Trevelyan and Sir Charles Trevelyan. Their work and worth should ever be had in adoration. I cannot omit naming old friends - Mr. Edwin Jones for his untiring efforts in the "Schoolmaster" and numberless other periodicals, and as Secretary to the Spelling Reform Conference of forty years ago; Mr. Thomas Allen Reed, a pioneer phonographer of renowned fame; Mr. Henry Pitman, who faithfully aided all phonetic propaganda; Mr. J. B. Randell, ever active in his day in official circles; Dr. Larison, editor of the "Jurnal ov Orthoepi and Orthografi" and Dr. Hamilton, editor of "The Herald," Toronto, happily still in active service. I recall their memory and pay my homage to them. There are many more, but I leave my friend Mr. Burch's forthcoming History of the Spelling Reform Movement to proclaim their labours and work.


I may be addressing phonographers. Will they allow me to appeal to them to use and propagate the twofold phonetic principle in script and in printing, especially for the benefit of the young? They could not pay a greater tribute to their illustrious chief than by becoming practical and active spelling reformers, for Sir Isaac Pitman cared more for phonetic spelling than phonography. Is it not possible for printers and journalists to break away from the trammels of the "Rules of the Office" and adopt a few sensible forms gradually? They have a mighty weapon in their hands which could be made very effective in advancing modified forms, as many are doing in America, where hundreds of journals freely use certain forms of abbreviated spelling. Commercial men have seen great changes in the clerical work which increased trade and rapidity of movement have brought into use, but, in the writing, typing, and printing of correspondence and other documents, they adhere to the cumbrous methods of the old spelling. They have gained much by the use of phonography; a further saving of time and labour would be effected by the employment of amended spelling. Why write and type so many useless symbols in words when a less number would answer the purpose? Will they not cast aside this lumber and free clerkdom from a needless burden? The following forms suggested by the Simplified Spelling Society might form a first instalment:- "Tho, altho, thru, thruout, thoro, hav, shoud, woud, program, catalog."


The general community has an interest in this question, and its power should be exercised on behalf of a rational system of spelling, both in its own interest and in that of the young. Unless the bulk of the people are able to read and take an interest in reading, there is no prospect of the intelligence of the nation reaching that pinnacle of safety and wellbeing which is required of us. Ignorance is a greater factor for evil than we have as yet realized, and anything that retards the progress of knowledge and mental development should be removed. It is generally admitted that our orthography impedes children learning to read by one or two years. Mr. Mais made this statement in "The Journal of Education":- "Boys leave us ignorant of how to spell the commonest words; unable to express themselves coherently or adequately on any subject; with a vocabulary as meagre as that of a bricklayer; with little sense of citizenship, and a vague sort of patriotism that makes of that most precious possession only too often a resounding, empty name; lamentably deficient in breadth of view, and without any sense of vision." This is a frightful waste of precious and unredeemable time, and is a premium on ignorance which the children of the working classes should not be called upon to endure. Let us cease to worship this goddess - English orthography - by seeking to obtain what Prof. Skeat desired - the "smashing of our common spelling." This can be done by adopting certain modified forms and supporting teachers in the use of simplified spelling. To teachers I beg to make my strongest appeal to adopt sensible spelling in all they write, type, or print, and to leave no stone unturned for the introduction of simplified or phonetic spelling into every infant school and the early standards in adult schools. They need the best instruments for their important duties in the education of the young; blunted and obsolete tools should be discarded. Every assistance which reason and science can render, to make the work of teachers more efficient for the strenuous times ahead, must be brought into play. If they secure this emancipation for themselves and for the childhood of the present and the future, they will be worthy of a blessing akin to that paid of old: "Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of the British Empire, ye did it unto mankind."

The CHAIRMAN: I am sure we have listened with the completest interest to Mr. Drummond's reminiscences of his experiences, and to the tribute he has paid to the pioneers of spelling reform. His experiences are an encouraging example to all those who are already convinced believers in the cause, but there is nothing alarming evidently about his experiences. The spelling reformer has not got to fear rotten eggs, or tar and feathers, or anything of that sort. What we are up against is rather apathy and indifference, and to dispel that we require enthusiasm, such enthusiasm as Mr. Drummond has shown through his life - which seems to me to have been very much longer than I should judge from his appearance. Now we are to listen to something which will also, I think, be very encouraging to us, because really we have won the argument long ago, and the other side has not got a leg to stand on. Mr. Drummond's remarks have shown what an immense body of authority there is on our side. It is almost true to say that there is not a single expert who is not a spelling reformer. But we are up against a great mass of indifference and apathy; and what is necessary to convince the British public is successful experiment. The two gentlemen who are next to address us are to bring before us what have proved to be practical and successful experiments, and I feel sure they are doing the great work of the present moment.

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