‘Out in Left Field’: Spelling Reformers of the Eighteenth Century

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Abstract

This paper examines the works of the small number of English writers who advocated schemes for spelling reform in the eighteenth century, a period dismissed by Dobson (1957) and more generally associated with fixing than reforming the orthography of English. Two ‘clusters’ of spelling reformers are identified: one represented by the author of The Needful Attempt (1711) and John Wild, who, it is suggested, may also be WG, the author of Magazine (1703); the other consisting of Abraham Tucker, Thomas Spence and James Elphinston. The ideas, motivation and social networks of each of these writers are examined in order to determine whether any common denominators exist.

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