Friday, August 12, 2011


C. S. Lewis resolved his adolescent struggles with theodicy through the conservative Christianity of Chesterton, Belloc and so on. With a convert's zeal, he then promoted an unalloyed form, which Chesterton called Orthodoxy and Lewis Mere Christianity. He has his demon, Screwtape, write in letter #25:

What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call 'Christianity And'. You know — Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference.

The last two are within the purview of this blog and this short post (unfortunately time does not permit one of the longer, more standard, ones) will touch on their intersection. Religion is not within it, at least primarily, so they will be taken with or without, though more often without, the Christianity.

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A few letters back, in #22, Screwtape, having turned himself into centipede, dictates through his amanuensis Toadpipe:

A more modern writer — someone with a name like Pshaw — has, however, grasped the truth. Transformation proceeds from within and is a glorious manifestation of that Life Force which Our Father would worship if he worshipped anything but himself.

This is an allusion to George Bernard Shaw's mystical version of Bergson's Creative Evolution. Clause 4 of Shaw's will begins:

As my religious convictions and scientific views cannot at present be more specifically defined than as those of a believer in Creative Evolution ...

Due to a typo by a reporter or telegraph operator, contemporary accounts in Time and The New York Times (Nov. 24, 1950; Nov. 25) reported that Shaw believed in “Creative Revolution.” And someone has dutifully copied this into his Wikipedia entry! The Times issued a correction on Nov. 29:

An error of transmission in a dispatch from London led to an error in an editorial on this page last Saturday commenting on a passage from the will of George Bernard Shaw. Shaw wrote: “My religious convictions and sci­entific views cannot at present be more specifically defined than as those of a believer in creative evolution.” The final word came through the ether as “revolution” instead of the “evolution” made famous in the preface to “Back to Methuselah” and elsewhere.

Lewis's Space Trilogy is influenced by Back to Methuselah while intended as a critique of Shaw's religion. (See, for instance, “Shaw and C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy.”)

But what is a main concern here is Clause 35:

I devise and bequeath all my real and personal estate not otherwise specifically disposed of by this my Will or any Codicial hereto and all property over which I have general power of appointment unto my Trustee Upon trust that my Trustee shall (subject to the power of postponing the sale and conversion thereof hereinafter contained) sell my real estate and sell call in or otherwise convert into money as much as may be needed of my personal estate (other than any copyrights which as provided by Clause 7 of this my Will are not to be sold) to increase the ready monies of which I may be possessed at my death to an amount sufficient to pay my funeral and testamentary expenses and debts estate duty legacy duty and all the duties payable on my death in respect of my estate or the bequests hereby made free of duty (other than testamentary expenses) and the legacies bequeathed by this my Will or any Codicil hereto or to make such other payments or investments or change of investments as in his opinion shall be advisable in the interest of my estate and shall invest the residue of such monies in manner hereinafter authorised And shall stand possessed of the said residuary trust moneys and the investments for the time being representing the same and all other investments for the time being forming part of my residuary estate (herein called my Residuary Trust Funds) and the annual income thereof Upon the trusts hereby declared of and concerning the same.

(1) To institute and finance a series of inquiries to ascertain or estimate as far as possible the following statistics (a) the number of extant persons who speak the English language and write it by the established and official alphabet of 26 letters (hereinafter called Dr. Johnson's Alphabet); (b) how much time could be saved per individual scribe by the substitution for the said Alphabet of an Alphabet containing at least 40 letters (hereinafter called the Proposed British Alphabet) enabling the said language to be written without indicating single sounds by groups of letters or by diacritical marks, instead of by one symbol for each sound; (c) how many of these persons are engaged in writing or printing English at any and every moment in the world; (d) on these factors to estimate the time and labour wasted by our lack of at least 14 unequivocal single symbols; (e) to add where possible to the estimates of time lost or saved by the difference between Dr. Johnson's Alphabet and the Proposed British Alphabet estimates of the loss of income in British and American currency. The enquiry must be confined strictly to the statistical and mathematical problems to be solved without regard to the views of professional and amateur phoneticians, etymologists, Spelling Reformers, patentees of universal languages, inventors of shorthand codes for verbatim reporting or rival alphabets, teachers of the established orthography, disputants about pronunciation, or any of the irreconcilables whose wranglings have overlooked and confused the single issue of labour saving and made change impossible during the last hundred years. The inquiry must not imply any approval of or disapproval of the Proposed British Alphabet by the inquirers or by my Trustee.

(2) To employ a phonetic expert to transliterate my play entitled “Androcles and the Lion” into the Proposed British Alphabet assuming the pronunciation to resemble that recorded of His Majesty our late King George V. and sometimes described as Northern English.

(3) To employ an artist-calligrapher to fair-copy the transliteration for reproduction by lithography photography or any other method that may serve in the absence of printers' types.

(4) To advertise and publish the transliteration with the original Dr. Johnson's lettering opposite the transliteration page by page and a glossary of the two alphabets at the end and to present copies to public libraries in the British Isles, the British Commonwealth, the American States North and South and to national libraries everywhere in that order.

After some legal battles (“increase of knowledge is not a charitable purpose”), a Shavian alphabet was chosen and Penguin published The Shaw Alphabet Edition of Androcles and the Lion in 1962.

The Shavian alphabet is encoded in Unicode, though I have never seen anyone make use of it.

Joseph Ritson, on the other hand, aimed not to simplify spelling, but to restore its etymological purity. This meant, for instance, writing -yed, adding extra e's and putting back the k in -ic words that had recently lost it. He intended to publish an “orthographico-etymological dictionary” following his principles, but it survives only in manuscript; some representative entries are given here. But he did follow those principles in some of his published works. Here is his description of his diet from An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food: As a Moral Duty (1802):

[T]he compileër himſelf, induce'd to ſerious reflection, by the peruſal of Mandevilles Fable of the bees, in the year 1772, being the 19th year of his age, has ever ſince, to the reviſeal of this ſheet, firmly adhere'd to a milk. and vegetable diet, haveing, at leaſt, never taſteëd, dureing the whole courſe of thoſe thirty years, a morſel of fleſh, fiſh, or fowl, or any thing, to his knowlege, prepare'd in or with thoſe ſubſtanceës or any extract thereof, unleſs, on one occaſion, when tempted by wet, cold and hunger, in the ſouth of Scotland, he venture'd to eat a few potatos, dreſs'd under the roaſt; nothing, leſs repugnant to his feelings, being to be had; or except by ignorance or impoſition; unleſs, it may be, in eating egs, which, however, deprives no animal of life, though it may prevent ſome from comeing into the world to be murder'd and devour'd by others.

So too in his letters, saying in one from 1791, “You observe, by the way, i am teaching you how to spell.” His only converts to either of his reforms were his widowed sister, Ann Frank, and her son Joseph.

Ritson was an atheist and a Jacobin. For a time after the French Revolution, he referred to his peers, such as William Godwin the proto-anarchist, as “citizen.” Godwin was no vegetarian — according to Hogg, he “always ate meat, and rather sparingly, and little else besides.” But his future son-in-law, Percy Bysshe Shelly, was, and consequently his daughter Mary, and so the Monster, for whom, “acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment.”

All of these feature in a satire of a report, “Dinner by the Amateurs of Vegetable Diet,” inspired by a note to Queen Mab, which first appeared in the London Magazine and Theatrical Inquisitor for July 1821 and was reprinted several times in various forms elsewhere:

At five o'clock the tables were spread, and the guests assembled on Hampstead Heath. Mr. N. was in the chair; near him sat Dr. L., Mr. R. (the antiquarian), Sir J. S., the Rev. P., and Mr. T., the Pythagorean philosopher. Mr. P. B. S. was vice-president; near him was Mr. G., Mr. H., and Mr. L. H., with many others whom it would be tedious to enumerate.

White proposes Peacock as the author, or perhaps a collaboration between Hunt (prose) and Horace Smith (poem). Diet aside, today we need only click to find what Godwin actually did that day.

Ritson was a respected antiquary. (For instance, Godwin consulted him for his Life of Geoffrey Chaucer.) But even more he was known as a truculent critic, driving home minor points in a way that was entirely out of proportion. Thomas Lounsbury writes thus of Ritson in his history of English Spelling and Spelling Reform:

To scholars Ritson is well known as the fiercest of antiquaries, who loved accuracy with the same passion with which other men love persons, and who hated a mistake, whether arising from ignorance or inadvertence, as a saint might hate a deliberate lie. He is equally well known for his devotion to a vegetable diet, and also for the manifestation, noticeable in others so addicted, of a bloodthirstiness of disposition in his criticism which the most savage of carnivorous feeders might have contemplated with envy.

In 1782, Ritson wrote Observations on the Three First Volumes of The History of English Poetry, critiquing Thomas Warton's The History of English Poetry, from the close of the Eleventh to the Commencement of the Eighteenth Century and attacking its author personally. (“my libel upon Warton,” he called it in a letter to his friend Robert Harrison. Apparently he later repented and tried to destroy copies. I cannot find it online except in ECCO; frustratingly, it's bound into Columbia's copy of Warton, but Google didn't scan that volume. Many of Ritson's corrections were included as footnotes in a later edition of Warton.) The following year, in his Remarks, Critical and Illustrative, on the Text and Notes of the Last Edition of Shakspeare, Ritson took on Johnson and Steevens (“I will turn the world upside down,” he again wrote in a letter to Harrison, recalling at the same time his “scurrilous libel against Tom Warton.”). A satirical verse was published in St. James's Chronicle (Jun. 3, 1793):

The Pythagorean Critick

By wise Pythagoras taught, young R—s—n's Meals
    With bloody Viands never are defil'd;
For Quadruped, for Bird, for Fish he feels;
    His Board ne'er smoaks with roast Meat, or with boil'd.

In this one Instance pious, mild, and tame,
    He's surely in another a great Sinner,
For Man, cries R—s—n, Man's alone my Game!
    On him I make a most delicious Dinner!

To Ven'son and to Partridge I've no Goût;
    For W—rt—n Tom such Dainties I resign:
Give me plump St—v—ns, and large J—hns—n too,
    And take your Turkey and your savoury Chine.

In Ritson's DNB entry, Sidney Lee also attributes his acerbic personality to his diet: “To this depressing diet he adhered, in the face of much ridicule, until death, and it was doubtless in part responsible for the moroseness of temper which characterised his later years.” Ironically, Ritson is certain that it has the opposite effect, quoting Arbuthnot:

“I have known,” ſays doctor Arbuthnot, “more than one inſtance of iraſcible pasſions being much ſubdue'd by a vegetable diet.” (Esſay, p. 186)

De Quincey included Ritson among his “Orthographic Mutineers.” F. J. Furnivall, vegetarian, teetotaller and non-smoker, was the second editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. His principles for spelling reform were more of the usual sort; Alfred W. Pollard recalled:

I remember at an early meeting of the Simplified Spelling Society, only a couple of years ago, after I had advocated simplification on an historical basis, the uncompromising firmness with which he told me that the majority of the council were committed to a phonetic basis, and that if I didn't like it I had better go!

The Oxford Magazine gently mocked, “why two l's Orthographer Royal?” Samuel Schoenbaum is harsher (and in full support of the topic of this post):

An abstainer from flesh, alcohol, and tobacco, Furnivall obtained solace from spelling reform: a Shavian cause irresistibly alluring to teetotaling vegetarians.

In America, Benjamin Franklin had briefly promoted a Scheme for a New Alphabet and a Reformed Mode of Spelling to the point of having type made for the new letters and getting Noah Webster to take over the project. But by this time he was no longer a strict vegetarian.

William Torrey Harris was a founding member of the Simplified Spelling Board. Here is his description of meeting Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May; cousin of William Alcott, the author of Vegetable Diet: As Sanctioned by Medical Men, and by Experience in All Ages — vegetarians all):

I First saw Mr. Alcott in New Haven, Conn., in the winter of 1856-1857, when I had completed the first term of my junior year at Yale College. An acquaintance of mine who was interested in a series of conversations that had been arranged for Mr. Alcott invited me to attend, and I did so. I found something quite congenial to me. I had begun to inquire after the foundations of customary belief, and, as a natural consequence, was in a state of protest against many of the habits and practices that existed around me. I had been attracted to phrenology; had adopted the diet of the vegetarians; was an ardent advocate of the spelling reform; looked at gymnastics, water-cure, dress reform, mesmerism, and spiritualism as promising a new and better order of things. I was, in short, in that stage of “clearing-up” which the Germans call Die Aufklärung.

Harris went on to be associated with Alcott's Concord School of Philosophy.

Easily the best example is Isaac Pitman, inventor of shorthand and vice president of the Vegetarian Society. As the most famous vegetarian in England, he licensed his name for use in a Pitman Vegetarian Hotel.

Pitman first published his shorthand system in 1837. In 1842, he began publishing a series of experimental alphabets following a principle he called phonotypy, that each sound should have a separate symbol and, as much as possible, the shape of the symbol should reflect the sound. About this time he was contacted by Alexander John Ellis, with whom he began collaborating. Intermediate phonotypic alphabet numbers 8 and 10 are in Google Books. In June, 1845, he announced the “Completion of the Phonotypic Alphabet.” In January, 1847, he published the “English Phonotypic Alphabet,” which is therefore known as the 1847 alphabet. Here is a detailed explanation from 1848. (Note the marks for a question as opposed to doubt and for tone of voice.) Pitman continued to tweak the system, and Ellis developed his own innovations as well. There were also offshoots in America, in particular in Cincinatti. From his Fonetik Institut, Pitman began producing books and periodicals explaining and using this new phonetic alphabet and reporting on the movement to get it adopted, which were published by this brother Frederick. Pitman also published phonetic editions of various classics, including The Vicar of Wakefield and Macbeth. And new works: The Squire ov Ingleburn, and What he did with the “Lawson Armz,” apparently a temperance story, met with approval from both dietetic and spelling reformers.

Inevitably, there are vegetarian-related reports in Pitman's publications. The following list has some representative material from Google Books. (I have had to use Unicode characters that are only close to the 1847 alphabet. There is a proposal from the earlier this year for an official encoding of the various generations of the English Phonotypic Alphabet.)

  • The Phonetic Journal, 3 Jul. 1852:  ad (in regular spelling) for a vegetarian cookbook
  • 10 Jan. 1852: Henri Stiven Club, ɛj 24, vejetɛrian (who would shortly emigrate to the States, where he was president of the Vegetarian Society of America)
  • 27 Aug 1852: Siksɉ anyųal baŋkwet ov ƌe Vejetɛrian Sơseieti
  • 26 Sep. 1874: Dįetari reform
  • 4 Dec. 1875: Dįet disʝz and helɉ
  • 9 Sep. 1876: ɷtơbįografi ov a vejetɛrian, reported bį C. O. Grɯm Nɛpier
  • 29 Oct. 1881: Fųd reform
  • 4 Feb. 1882: Moraliti in deiet
  • A letter to the Times, printed Feb. 6, 1879, advocating a “vejetabel deiet,” and signed “Eizak Pitman.”
  • Which occasioned a cartoon in Punch on Feb. 15, captioned “An Evergreen Vegetarian,” with a satire feigning surprise that Pitman and his Fonetik Nuz were still alive.

Consequently, an essay “On Spelling” by Max Muller in The Fortnightly Review in 1876 had to caution:

Let facts have some weight, and let it not be supposed by men of the world that those who defend the principles of the Fonetic Nuz are only teetotalers and vegetarians, who have never learned how to spell.

Here is the same essay in phonetic spelling.

Thomas Lang, founding Secretary of the Australian Vegetarian Society, was a Scottish immigrant who ran a seed import and nursery business in the gold rush town of Ballarat and so was directly responsible for a variety of vegetables and fruits being available to Australians. And according to this history, among the views he shared with Pitman was spelling reform. Isaac Pitman's grandson, James, continued the advocacy for spelling reform; he also edited and contributed to the collection George Bernard Shaw On Language and the The Shaw Alphabet Edition of Androcles and the Lion was dedicated to him. He was a Tory MP and I don't think he was a vegetarian.

For Lewis, diet- and spelling-reformers were stereotypes of certain kinds of modernists. Still, there was an actual overlap. But what of languages other than English, whose spelling plight is extreme but not unique?

In 1905, Gerardus Heymans and Enno Dirk Wiersma, two Groningen psychologists, sent out a questionnaire to every family physician in the Netherlands, asking for personality profiles of family members, with the aim of determining the hereditary nature of such traits. The resulting data formed the basis for the development of Heymans's Cube. One particular question is relevant here.

Vraag 77. Anarchist, socialist, spiritist, theosoof, vegetariër, geheelonthouder, aanhanger der natuurgeneeswijze, aanhanger der Kollewijnsche spelling? (here)

Frage 77. Ist die betreffende Person Anarchist, Sozialist, Spiritist, Theosoph, Vegetarier, Abstinenzler, Anhänger der Naturheilkunde, Anhänger der Kollewijnschen Rechtschreibung? (from the statistical report on the findings in German)

Question 77. [Is the person in question an] anarchist, socialist, spiritualist, theosophist, vegetarian, teetotaler, adherent of naturopathy or adherent of Kollewijn spelling?

From the accompanying explanation, this was meant “einen leidlichen Maßstab für die Neuerungssucht abzugeben” 'to yield a tolerable measure of modernism'. And from their analysis, it was the presence of two or more innovations that was a key personality factor. Nevertheless, I have not been able to find any prominent Dutch individuals advocating the two under consideration here. Feel free to suggest someone and I'll amend the post.


languagehat said...

What a delight to see you back! (We the devotees of PolyVeg will accept this "short post" as a foretaste of more Brobdingnagian ones to come.)

AJP Crown said...

I second Language's comment. A very interesting post. There is a book to be written, or maybe it has been, on modernist proposals that either haven't yet passed into the mainstream or, like shorthand, pop in and then back out.

transliterate my play entitled “Androcles and the Lion” into the Proposed British Alphabet assuming the pronunciation to resemble that recorded of His Majesty our late King George V. and sometimes described as Northern English. Described by whom? George V doesn't sound like a northerner to me, he sounds perfectly normal. "Northern English" may have a special meaning, though Wikipedia doesn't mention it.

polyglot said...

I've enjoyed reading this rather short post :)

Regarding spelling and dieting reformers I'm afraid I can't help you with that, but I can offer you an example of successful language reformer, although not English: Vuk Stefanović Karadžić

MMcM said...

Sure. The history of orthographic reform at the confluence of pan-Slavism and the rise of nationalism is fascinating. And full of bold characters. Though none of them were vegetarians, so far as I am aware.

As you probably know, the Serbian Karadžić was influenced in his thinking by the Slovene Jernej Kopitar. In a mini-autobiography written in the third person, Kopitar claimed that he learned English from “six lovely volumes of Gibbon,” which if true would have resulted in a most remarkable style, even for the early nineteenth century, and even allowing for the unsure pronunciation from a brief tutoring in Trieste. In a letter to Ignac Kristianović at the height of the Abecedna Vojna, he called háčeks, »böhmischen Fliegendreck«.

In a review of Milovan Vidaković's Љубомир у Јелисијуму, Karadžić and Kopitar parodied (unfairly) their rival's Slaveno-Serbski by giving a pair of macaronic Gotho-German Pater Nosters, blending Wulfila through Luther. (See, for instance, “Jernej Kopitar's Role in the Serbian Language Controversy.”) As I've mentioned on this blog a couple of times before, I collect polyglot Pater Nosters.

P.S. Looking forward to more profiles on your new blog. Dirty Dick Burton is, of course, a favorite.

Sandeep said...


From ""

I happened to see your comment regarding 'Oriental Jones.

Dr. Prodosh Aich in his book 'Lies with long legs' gives a good description of how William jones became Oriental Jones.
You can read it online for free from this website