Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30



I do not know if you observed it—but whether you did or not, in the Contents page of Part I. the word Ephemeral is spelt wrong. I may as well say at once I can't spell. The ences and the ances, and the ents and ants were heads and tails with me until I resolved to be consistent, and say all words ending in ence mean completion, all words ending in ance page 24 a non-completion. So I should say a man of competence had enough, and a man of competance wanted more. As you might say a man of considerable competance, but not competence. Say Ether evolved the Ethereal, would this Ethereal be Etheriance or Etherience. I should say Etheriance was our perception of the Etherience. Let us say the Ether is an apple tree, the Etherience is a full sack, the Etheriance a pocketful from the sack. But I cannot spell across country, so to speak, though I now get from memory decently enough along the ordinary road of writing. It will therefore be understood I never gained a prize at a Spelling Bee. I am nervously anxious for the spotlessness of New Ideas, so I have engaged a retired editor, and supervise him by a reader. The one holds by Johnson, the other by Webster. Who shall decide when even Dictionaries disagree? Comprehensionism cannot teach spelling; nobody can. It is an art, like trouffle hunting; the person must have a speciality for spelling, and they who have that gift are generally devoid of ideas; in fact, their delight is tripping up ideas, and biting the heel of aspiration. They always remind me of those who paid tithe of Mint, Anise, and Cummin, and so the weightier matters of the law as the weightier matters of life pass unheeded above them. But this unfortunate car of frozen mutton* got into my show after it had started. My City Marshall (the Editor) had punctuated to irritation. The Master of the Ceremonies (the revisionist) had passed the programme, and yet I could not escape Fate. When I was born, the 12th Fairy said, he will always fail in the requisites. The 13th Fairy came and said, but these failings shall be the stepping-stones to "New Ideas," and so it has been. The frozen mutton sidled in at an off moment. There was a blank page, and as it struck me that it was not unusual for a magazine to have a table of Contents—for even a cruet-stand in the middle of the dinner page 25 table is a dinner a la Russe, if only of potatoes—so I thought I would spread out the four articles as a make-believe of magnitude. The printer had already printed them, so he could not make a mistake, but to distinguish the transitory, I headed it Ephemeral, which, on seeing, I said "All right," and did not discover the misspelling until it was "Late, too late, you cannot alter now," and the frozen mutton remains for ever and for ever, as long as the New Ideas flow. The mistake is the point for the long-nailed finger of fate as the decree of my 12th Fairy. A certain Prince was predicted to die within 40 days; his parents shut him up in a tower, with a faithful attendant, whose watchfulness was the ebullition of unceasing anxiety. The 40th day arrived; the blast from the bugle at the Portcullis notified to the attendant that a coach and six was waiting for the Prince at the outer drawbridge. The Prince was therefore duly apparelled as a Mediaeval Masher, who for complement of titivation, asked his attendant to reach him down a bottle of the Extract of Pomegranate to scent his handkerchief. Standing open-mouthed to get his request, a tenpenny nail that lay in front of the bottle was accidentally pushed off the shelf, shot down the Prince's open-mouthed throat, and he died on the spot; and in the over-exhilarating slipshodity of saying "All right" to the printer, I swallowed my tenpenny nail.

B.—Well it is done. "That which," as Macbeth says, "is done cannot be undone," is a fact as that it has been done. Even stony Arabia, with all its pumice stone, cannot rub out that "little (Spot!) o," and put an e in its place. The only hope is to realize the expectancy as a second edition to restore, but not obliterate; but just look at other publications. Why I was reading a series of papers by a literateur who is a scientist and a lecturer; if it had been bad spelling I should not have minded, but his logical slipshodity was the acrostic of the unthinkable. In one paper he advocates an argument, and supports it by precedents the exactly opposite. In another, the numerous examples of what it is not, are so inter- page 26 spersed with the expressions of approval of the objections that it really comes at last to a question of "which is Daniel and which is the Lions."

C.—Ah! but it is there; it may escape notice; if it does not the reader will say the Author could not spell, and the reader would only speak the truth. In the body of the work it may be revised before printing; hut sooner or later I should slip in something and kill myself, so I may as well swallow my tenpenny nail at once.

B.—Well, it is certainly a new idea for an Editor to assert he cannot spell, but nearly the whole world is in the same boat with you, though the public will see your confession, and disregarding your new ideas, will answer you as the complainant of the trespassing pig was answered, "Sir, I shall be obliged if you would sty your pigg, who overruns my garden," and who received the reply—" Sir, I beg to acknowledge your letter, and to inform you that pig is spelt with one g."