Des Grieux : The Prelude to "Teleny"

Des Grieux : The Prelude to “Teleny”

It’s been exciting times here at Rare Books and Collections! With the help of PhD candidate Justin O’Hearn, RBSC has scored a coup by acquiring two exceptional examples of early gay literature, Teleny, or, The Reverse of the Medal and Des Grieux: The Prelude to “Teleny,” that share a connection with famed Victorian author Oscar Wilde. We’ve been very lucky that a number of media outlets have picked up the story of this amazing acquisition. Here’s a little media roundup for your reading, watching, and listening pleasure:

Charles Spring

Charles Spring

Last summer, we processed a very interesting new fonds here at RBSC. The Charles E. Spring (1859-1938) fonds provides great insight into the sealing industry of British Columbia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as the on-going campaign of one man to receive restitution for the loss of his business. The son of a pioneering sealer and trader in British Columbia, Spring was educated in Victoria and worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company before taking over the family sealing business at the age of 24 upon the death of his father. Spring’s business suffered when, in 1885, United States cutters began seizing vessels caught sealing in the North Pacific in order to protect their sealing interests in Alaska. Later, in order to ease tensions between the United States and Great Britain over the Bering Sea controversy, a temporary agreement (the “Modus Vivendi”) prohibiting pelagic sealing in the Bering Sea was put in place for the 1891-1892 and 1892-1893 seasons. The resulting loss of revenue financially ruined Spring. Although Spring received a settlement for financial losses caused by the seizure of one of his ships and the “Modus Vivendi” during the 1891-1892 season, he continued to pursue claims for losses suffered due to the extension of the “Modus Vivendi” during the 1892-1893 season. He also became an active spokesman for other sealers in their claims.

Coasting license for the S.S. Mist

Coasting license for the S.S. Mist

The Charles E. Spring fonds contains records spanning the period 1888-1937 relating to the sealing industry and Spring’s claims for financial losses. A number of items from the Charles E. Spring fonds have been digitized and are now available through the Adam Matthew research database “China, America and the Pacific: Trade and Cultural Exchange”. The database is available to UBC students and faculty with a campus-wide login, or to the larger community by visiting a UBC Library and logging on to a UBC networked computer. Database users will be able to view high-resolution scans of a number of items from the Charles E. Spring fonds, including the ledgers of several schooners, crew agreements, petitions, memoranda and memorials, correspondence, court papers, log books, photographs, and more. We’re so happy to be able to share these materials and this fascinating look into B.C.’s sealing industry with all of you.

Happy holidays from everyone here at Rare Books and Special Collections! As an early Christmas gift, we offer the final student dictionary report from the course English 320: History of the English Language. As I mentioned in last week’s post, the exhibition, The Road to the OED, has been extended until the end of January, so please feel free to stop by to see it when we open on January 2 after the winter break. Hope to see you then!

Walker, John. A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language. London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1791. PE25 .R62 V. 315

A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language

A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language

Written by elocutionist / lexicographer John Walker and released in 1791, A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor became renowned as the ‘statute book of English ortheopy’ that ‘settled all doubts’ on issues of English pronunciation (Beal). Born in 1732, Walker was an actor who performed in Bristol, Dublin and London with various acting companies. He married a fellow actress, Sybilla Minors, and after his marriage he converted to Catholicism. After 1768 he retired from acting and became a successful teacher of elocution. He became a popular lecturer frequently invited to give private lectures at various Universities including Oxford and Dublin. He wrote many books on elocution but it is his dictionary for which he is most famous. Walker continued to publish books on the English language until his death in 1807.

What makes his dictionary unique is that it features a section tailored for different speakers on proper pronunciation. There are articles dedicated to rules that Irish and Scottish people should observe for correct pronunciation of English, an article for foreigners in learning English, and an article pointing out the faults of pronunciation of London speakers. There is also a section entitled “Principle of English Language,” containing over 558 rules on proper English pronunciation. In the dictionary proper, some words contain numbered parenthesis which refer to different rules of the “Principles.” Each word in the dictionary contains a definition, a pronunciation guide and sometimes a note which addresses controversies on the pronunciation of the word. Unlike modern dictionaries which employ the IPA system of writing pronunciation, this dictionary follows Thomas Sheridan’s 1780 dictionary system. This system syllabifies words and indicates variations of vowel pronunciation with a superscripted number.

A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language

A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language

To situate this work within the history of English lexicography, Walker’s preface gives credit to predecessor dictionaries of Johnson (1747), Kenrick (1773), and Sheridan (1780) among others. According to Walker, each dictionary is “greatly superior to every other that preceded it” (Walker, iii). However, he is critical of the all the various inconsistencies in these dictionaries. Therefore the purpose of Walker’s dictionary was to provide an authoritative and elaborative work that addresses these inconsistencies. On the spectrum of linguistic prescriptivism and descriptivism, Walker is unabashedly prescriptive. He points out that Sheridan is Irish, and that his dictionary pronunciations lean towards an Irish accent which is incorrect in Walker’s view. His “Principles of the English Language” and various guides for “Just Pronunciation” effectively demonstrate his inclinations towards linguistic prescriptivism.

—        Anthony Bigornia (English 320: History of the English Language, 2012-2013)

With the holidays just around the corner, I know you are all worried about making time (in between shopping, baking, wrapping, packing, cleaning, etc.) to visit The Road to the OED exhibition at Rare Books and Special Collections before it closes on December 24. Well, worry no longer! The exhibition has been extended until the end of January, so we look forward to seeing you all in the New Year!

In this week’s student dictionary report from the course English 320: History of the English Language, we learn about etymologist George Lemon and his study of the roots of the English language.

Lemon, George William. English Etymology; or, A Derivative Dictionary of the English Language. London: Printed for G. Robinson, 1783. PE25 .R62 V. 215

English Etymology

English Etymology

Born in Middlesex in 1726, George William Lemon led a life of various interests; he graduated from Queen’s College Cambridge with a BA, became an ordained priest in East Walton, and was high master at Norwich grammar school, until he resigned after controversy over his management of the school. His scholarly publications included a new Greek grammar to be put into use at the Norwich school, as well as a history of the War of the Roses. English Etymology; or a Derivative Dictionary of the English Language: in Two Alphabets was Lemon’s main lexicographical work, a 12,000 entry-long endeavour to chronicle the etymological roots of words in the English language, printed in 1783.

Whereas most modern dictionaries include a succinct account of each entry’s etymological background, Lemon’s etymological dictionary is formatted with a wider organizational scheme in mind. His dictionary is in two major parts, the first and larger section an alphabetized dictionary of words he determines as having Greek or Latin roots. The second, much smaller section, is a list of those words he considers as having been derived from Saxon and other “Northern dialects”. This division by etymological background functions to demonstrate what Lemon thought was “the whole force and power of the English language [to] know how much the greater part of it has been constructed on the Southern than on the Northern tongues”; that is, his belief that the English language’s apparent familial connections to the languages of antiquity, especially Classical Greek and Latin, was an expression of the language’s refinement and status as an internationally superior language.

English Etymology

English Etymology

As a dictionary whose focus is mainly on the etymological aspects of words, English Etymology does not include several of the features of modern monolingual dictionaries now considered standard; none of his entries include pronunciation or other basic information like part of speech, and most entries also do not provide a definition of the word beyond what can be understood from the forms he cites as etymological evidence. Also notable is his dependence on other etymologists, whose work Lemon compiled, edited, and disputed within many of the entries in his dictionary.
“Who shall be able to account for the origin of language; or who shall say which was the original of all? Such an attempt would be a task too difficult for mortal man to accomplish”, says Lemon in his preface. His etymological dictionary, however, does attempt to draw connections between English and the languages of antiquity as it endeavours to support the English language as one worthy of extensive study and appreciation. As such, it certainly works within a tradition of lexicographical curiosity that continues to characterize the writing of dictionaries today.

—        Kai Ying Chieh (English 320: History of the English Language, 2012-2013)

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