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that quadrille is now out of fashion here, and English whist all the mode at Paris and the court.
And pray look upon it as no small matter that, surrounded as I am by the glories of the world and amusements of all sorts, I remember you and Dolly and all the dear, good folks at Bromley. 'Tis true I can't help it, but must and ever shall remember you all with pleasure.
Need I add that I am particularly, my dear, good friend, Yours most affectionately,
TO MISS STEVENSON.
CRAVEN STREET, 28th September, 1768. DEAR POLLY : The objection you make to rectifying our alphabet, that “it will be attended with inconveniences and difficulties,” is a natural one; for it always occurs when any reformation is proposed, whether in religion, government, la vs, and even down as low as roads and wheel-carriages. The true question, then, is, not whether there will be any difficulties or inconveniences, but whether the difficulties may not be surmounted and whether the conveniences will not, on the whole, be greater than the inconveniences. In this case the difficulties are only in the beginning of the practice. When they are overcome the advantages are lasting. To either you or me, who spell well in the present mode, I imagine the difficulty of chang. ing that mode for the new is not so great but that we might perfectly get over it in a week's time.
As to those who do not spell well, if the two difficulties are compared-namely, that of teaching them true spelling in the present mode, and that of teaching them the new alphabet and the new spelling according to it-I am confident that the latter would be by far the least. They naturally fall into the new method already, as much as the imperfection of their alphabet will admit of. Their present bad spelling is only bad because contrary to the present bad rules. The difficulty of learning to spell well in the old way is so great that few attain it, thousands and thousands writing on to old age without ever being able to acquire it. It is, besides, a difficulty continually increasing, as the sound gradually varies more and more from the spelling; and to foreigners it makes the learning to pronounce our language as written in our books almost impossible.
Now, as to the inconveniences you mention : the first is that “all our etymologies would be lost, and consequently we could not ascertain the meaning of many words.” Etymologies are at present very uncertain ; but, such as they are, the old books would still preserve them and etymologists would there find them. Words in the course of time change their meanings, as well as their spelling and pronunciation, and we do not look to etymology for their present meanings. If I should call a man a knave and a villain, he would hardly be satisfied with my telling him that one of the words originally signified only a lad or servant, and the other an under-plowman, or the inhabitant of a village. It is from present usage only that the meaning of words is to be determined.
Your second inconvenience is that “the distinction between words of different meaning and similar sound would be destroyed.” That distinction is already destroyed in pronouncing them, and you rely on the sense alone of the sentence to ascertain which of the several words similar in sound we intend. If this is sufficient in the rapidity of discourse it will be much more so in written sentences, which may be read leisurely and attended to more particularly in case of difficulty than you can attend to a past sentence while a speaker is hurrying you along with new ones.
Your third inconvenience is that “all the books already written would be useless.” This inconvenience would only come on gradually in a course of ages. You and I and other now living readers would hardly forget the use of them. People would long learn to read the old writing, though they practiced the new; and the inconvenience is not greater than what has actually happened in a similar case in Italy. Formerly its inhabitants all spoke and wrote Latin ; as the language changed the spelling followed it. It is true that at present a mere unlearned Italian cannot read the Latin books, though they are still read and understood by many. But if the spelling had never been changed he would now have found it much more difficult to read and write his own language, for written words would have no relation to sounds; they would only have stood for things; so that if he would express in writing the idea he has when he sounds the word Vescovo, he must use the letters Episcopus. In short, whatever the difficulties and inconveniences now are, they will be more easily surmounted now than hereafter; and some time or other it must be done, or our writing will become the same with the Chinese as to the difficulty of learning and using it, and it would already have been such if we had continued the Saxon spelling and writing used by our forefathers. I am, my dear friend, Yours affectionately,
TO MI88 STEVENSON.
OCTOBER, 1768. I SEE very clearly the unhappiness of your situation, and that it does not arise from any fault in you. I pity you most sincerely. I should not, however, have thought of giving you advice on this occasion if you had not requested it, believing, as I do, that your own good sense is more than sufficient to direct you in every point of duty to others and yourself. If, then, I should advise you to anything that may be contrary to your own opinion, do not imagine that I shall condemn you if you do not follow such advice. I shall only think that, from a better acquaintance with the circumstances, you form a better judgment of what is fit for you to do.
. Now I conceive with you that both from her affection to you and from the long habit of having you with her, would really be miserable without you. Her temper, perhaps, was never of the best, and when that is the case age seldom mends it. Much of her unhappiness must arise from thence; and since wrong turns of mind, when confirmed by time, are almost as little in our power to cure as those of the body, I think with you that her case is a compassionable
If she had, though by her own imprudence, brought on herself any grievous sickness, I know you would think it your duty to attend and nurse her with filial tenderness, even were your own health to be endangered by it. Your apprehension, therefore, is right, that it may be your duty to live with her, though inconsistent with your happiness and your interest: but this can only mean present interest and present happiness; for I think your future greater and more lasting interest and happiness will arise from the reflection that you have done your duty, and from the high rank
will ever hold in the esteem of all that know you for having persevered in doing that duty under so many and great discouragements.
My advice, then, must be that you return to her as soon as the time proposed for your visit is expired; and that you continue, by every means in your power, to make the remainder of her days as comfortable to her as possible. Invent amusements for her; be pleased when she accepts of them and patient when she, perhaps peevishly, rejects them. I know this is hard, but I think you are equal to it; not from any servility of temper, but from abundant goodness. In the mean time all your friends, sensible of your present uncomfortable situation, should endeavor to ease your burden by acting in concert with you, and to give her as many opportunities as possible of enjoying the pleasures of society for your sake.
Nothing is more apt to sour the temper of aged people than the apprehension that they are neglected,