In The Manner Now Lost

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Upon reading a tweet yesterday by our incumbent president of the United States, much known already for his sharp and unapologetic debasement of our language, it became widely discussed that our late vice president, one too known always for his directness and at times fumbling inability to make himself as clear as we believe he wishes he might, had declared of his recollection of his youth and that had they shared that youth in the same school that he our former vice president would have accosted our current holder of our highest executive office and pummeled him unceasingly behind the school building constructed mostly to accommodate athletic endeavors. After reading of their heated communication and momentarily fearing a meeting of honor with pistols might result from it, although quickly recovering my full knowledge any duel would not result from such threats and mutual questionings of the public honor of each gentleman as such is now illegal and no longer in our tradition as it was in earlier days, I could not also but think on how our English has changed. This post next jumped to the forefront of my mind also, after sharing this photograph below to our social media Instagram:

[John Marshall, Writings, Library of America. Photo by me, 2018.]

That letter there is from a Mr. John Marshall, a gentleman who of course as we know now would be the future Chief Justice of the United States from 1801-1835, and would in that position through his determination of personality and strength of intellectual capacities, steer the judiciary into an equality of governance alongside the legislative and the executive. He was then at The Hague, having successfully endured the hazards of an Atlantic voyage, and en route to Paris. Sir is writing there to our then late President General Washington at his home in Virginia, sharing of how he hopes Mr. Washington would welcome any of his insights into the affairs of Europe while he is in residence on that distant continent.

>Washington's Mount Vernon, seen looking at the rear of the house. [Photo by me, 2011.]
[Washington’s Mount Vernon, seen looking at the rear of the house. Photo by me, 2011.]

In our 21st century, such style and form is not our usual wont, as we employ not such longish paragraphs, nor so many commas and elongated and complex sentences from which one might well find oneself tied so deeply into reading knots in attempting at following as to realize that the mind had drifted from the earliest point before finally reaching its necessary conclusion. We tend now more towards brevity and sharpness of word, avoiding extended passivity and a spirit of delivery we would deem one of deep affectation, and are instead at times much more forthright in our communications. With the passing of these centuries our directness and even rudeness in our writings has only but increased greatly as well, particularly it seems in recent decades, and the lover of our English language may but lament the diminishing and loss of those previously far more civilized forms.

As myself one now imagining he offers some literary value and having of late engaged in dramatic and romantic storytelling of lives and happenings common to that era, but having as you may know previously written of more modern lives and happenings, that may on occasion lead one even to a confused temper of mind. One may find that one adopts that ancient approach to our language with all too much ease, to be drawn to its art and beauty, seizing upon the rhythm and style which is all too lacking in our current writings and finding even that one prefers the ancient. It is a matter much as for conversation as well, from what we do know, although there are of course no recordings of any of such which we may reference to confirm this, as with ourselves conversation of that era was by accounts of which we have read regularly undertaken in manners not dissimilar to the employment of the then written word, and as a modern writer tasked with recreating such ancient times, it falls upon one to attempt to recreate it as faithfully as our limited skills may allow:

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

In our times, the native English speaker would likely have perhaps little problem in comprehending such ancient English as written on this page, but the newly learned of foreign birth especially who did not experience such English in their schooling or in having heard it from us, and had been instructed in that mostly of our times, would likely find encountering such older forms rather more frustrating and challenging, and forced into devoting a far greater effort to navigating the paragraphs before coming to a proper understanding of the meanings. If you be one on a far continent, unacquainted with such, and discovering even that our Google translator is inadequate in the face of this English such as I am employing now, you have my most sincerest of apologies. I seek here but only to make a necessary and perhaps much exaggerated point and not deliberately to befuddle or terrify you, for our English today is most certainly of course NOT written or spoken in this manner regularly, so please you need not seek out your English teacher at your late school and exclaim to he or she in anger as to how you found their instruction to have been entirely unsatisfactory.

Such is more than enough of that. I wish you the safest and most prosperous of week-ends and please accept my wishes as always for your profound and fullest of happiness. I stop here until my next post, which I promise shall be conducted in our modern English. πŸ™‚

7 comments

        1. Yes, they were more relaxed then with capitalization, and also often used shortened versions in spelling as they were writing long-hand of course. So seeing “receivd” or “europe” and, perhaps, “&” instead of “and,” was not uncommon.

          Liked by 1 person

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