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Michael Wallerstein
with a Preface by
Ian Robinson

ISBN 978 0 9567048 3 2
50 pp. paperback
demy 8vo £4.80

Spell is the third and last of a series of short books in which Mr Wallerstein defends English against a “loss of linguistic resource” inseparable from the cultural collapse of the last thirty or so years.
     English prose has become much less expressive and coherent, as he demonstrated in Dear Mr Howard. Lexical and grammatical incorrectness in speech is shown, in The Liza Doolittle Syndrome, to be a failure to make sense.
     Now Spell takes on the spelling reformers who say that English spelling is chaotic and needs to be made more simply phonetic. Wallerstein demonstrates that this view comes from a drastically simplified idea of what spelling and punctuation do, and ignores the graphically informative nature of the system—another way of missing linguistic resource.
     The three booklets together constitute a defence of English in our time, that is, of whatever possibility we may have of making sense in our own language.
     They may be had for £4.80 each post free or the set of three post free only from this website for £10.00: to order go to
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  • “He has a sharp eye for orthographic patterns
    . . . and impressive convictions concerning the underlying rules of the written language.”—TLS


    Who Killed the Bible?
    Ian Robinson

    second edition, with a new concluding chapter
    “The English Bible and the Idea of a Christian Society”

    ISBN 978 0 907839 87 3
    xii + 136 pp A5 paperback £9.60

    Mr Robinson’s argument, that all recent English translations of the Bible go wrong because they put into practice both mistaken theories and a mistaken notion of theory, needs to be followed in detail. This much-revised second edition concludes with a new chapter about the relation of the English Bible to the nation. It should be read in conjunction with the downloadable essay “Is the Bible a Book?” listed in the third column on this page.


    Paperback editions of Christopher Morgan's two collections

    The Fire Jump
    and Other Poems


    Stalking the A4

    From the cover of the latter:

    Especially in the twenty-first century it is not faint praise to call a writer a supreme master of the iambic pentameter, and Morgan's fluency in other forms is amazing. But Christopher Morgan should not be offered as a poets' poet, to be relished only by connoisseurs of verse: these poems are moving and funny as well as immediatey appealing.

    For the new edition of The Fire Jump Morgan has included one new poem, discarded the French and Spanish poems, and revised and re-ordered the whole collection.

    Stalking the A4
    978 0 9567048 1 8
    60 pp. demy 8vo £6.00

    The Fire Jump & Other Poems
    978 0 9559996 6 6
    85 pp. demy 8vo £6.00

    To order one or both go to
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  • *

    The St Peter’s
    Chant Book

    compiled and arranged by
    David Wulstan

    This handy-sized volume, made for the choir of St Peter’s College, Oxford, has settings for all the chants of the Matins and Evensong of the Book of Common Prayer. The Psalms are organised by days, as in that Book, and there is a range of alternatives for the Te Deum, Benedictus, Benedicite, Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis and Easter Anthems / Venite. Composers come from all the centuries of Anglican chant and include no less than four Purcells.
         Professor Wulstan is perhaps the only living scholar distinguished both as a Hebraist, a musicologist and a conductor—he founded and for many years conducted the Clerkes of Oxenford, the pioneers of authentic performance of Tudor church music—but is also an experienced church organist and has a good idea of what choirs and congregations are likely to be able to sing well. His advice about phrasing and pointing is practical as well as authoritative.
         The Introduction gives a succinct account of the development of Anglican chant and its relation to the original Hebrew of the Psalms, together with some useful Notes for Musical Directors. A version of this Intro-duction appeared in Faith & Worship 69, Michaelmas 2011, and can be read on the Prayer Book Society website.
         Any musically literate person following the Prayer Book custom of reading through the Psalms once a month could for a change enjoy using this book to sing them, but its most likely users are church and college choirs or choir-led congregations. Any choirmaster or church-warden ordering ten or more copies may have a discount on the already low price: please email us to inquire or to request a specimen copy.
    pp. x + 36
    ISBN 978 0 9567048 2 5
    10.2 x 7.2 inches ringbound, £8.00 post free

    to order go to
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    Directors Brian Lee (chairman)
    Ian Robinson (secretary)
    Michael DiSanto      Duke Maskell

    Since 1970 we have been publishing criticism, fiction, poetry, theology, politics. Our list shows that what Matthew Arnold called criticism of life can still flourish.

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    The third Peter Toon Memorial Lecture

    Pusey House, St Giles, Oxford
    6.00 p.m. Wednesday 10 June

    The Revd Dr George Westhaver
    Principal of Pusey House

    “The Converting Word:
    The Contemporary Import of
    Tractarian Biblical Scholarship”

    preceded by
    4.00 p.m. Afternoon Tea
    5.00 p.m. Evensong
    for the Eve of St Barnabas, Apostle
    preacher Rev. Simon Vibert
    Vice Principal, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford

    Column 115
    copyright © 2015 Michael Wallerstein

    The Educated Illiterate

    Dear Mr Kamm,

    I think your remarks in The Times of 17th January [2015] require some critical comment. First of all, you are mistaken in one of your points: Neither the columnist nor his colleagues had a clue is not an example of a double negative; the structure consists of two clauses in apposition, viz.

            The columnist hadn’t a clue.
            His colleagues hadn’t a clue.

    The negation is moved forward to the head of the clauses and the redundant repetition is deleted: Neither . . . nor had a clue. This device has to do with what is called textual cohesion and it is a mark of maturity in the production and comprehension of language. The uneducated—and the less intelligent—are likely to find this impossible to produce and likelier still to misinterpret upon hearing or reading. Mick Jagger’s double negative is indeed readily comprehensible, not least as the remark of an illiterate. Social and educational standing are revealed in and judged by, amongst other things, one’s grammar—which is not to say that the judgement so formed is necessarily correct. I, myself, construct sentences which I know to be formally correct but which I know my auditor(s) will be “shocked” by, for example the ending of a clause with a preposition, which many imagine to count as a grammatical, not to say social, black mark. On the other hand, when I see and hear, all too frequently nowadays, such a construction as they drive like it was the motorway, I mentally file the utterer in my category of the educated illiterate, which category now has a very sizeable and growing population.
            You are right to say that grammar is not a branch of logic; what it is, though, is an essential component of conceptual thought and the imparting of that to others. What is happening to English at the present time is indicative of a reduction in the capacity for the kind of even mild conceptualisation that was, formerly, part of the small-change of everyday intercourse. This is especially apparent in the narrowing in the range of past tenses in common use, in the decreasing ability to cast utterances in the “recorded” mode (oratio obliqua), in the displacement of the third person by the first and second, by the contraction of the spectrum of prepositions to no more than three (to, for, on, the greatest obliteration being of*) and by an atrophying of pronominal substitution to produce a succession of what the Americans call “citation sentences” where the topic common or proper noun is repeated and repeated from sentence to sentence. This last phenomenon is especially rife in scientific, PR and commercial writing, where it gives the impression that the writer (or speaker) is continually forgetting what the subject matter is and has, therefore, to repeat it.
            The greatest damage to the language resides, perhaps above all, in the matter of the inability to situate matters in space-time. It has long been a characteristic of American English to be largely innocent of the past perfect and future perfect tenses and this absence has now infected British English; indeed, the next phase, namely the elimination of the present perfect, is now well-established here so that it is impossible to tell from newspaper reports whether So-and-So, who was arrested, is still under arrest or has been released or has escaped. This reduction has (sic) happened within the last three years or so and it afflicted (sic) every one of the national newspapers simultaneously, which implies a collective collapse in the journalistic mind.
            Note the characteristic American use of the past simple in such contexts as:

    Family member or friend enters the house after an outing—
            N (in the house) Did you have a good time?

    This sentence is unanchored in space-time: where? when? British English has:

    Have you had a good time? implying just now, up to the present time;


    Did you have a good time yesterday / in Cornwall?

    situating the matter in time and/or place.
            Another mortal blow to the language is apparent (but not, of course, to those trapped in it) in the near elimination of the modal system: may, might, will, would, shall, should, can, could, must, need to, ought to and the negative form of these (when did you last hear or see mayn’t, mightn’t, shan’t, mustn’t, needn’t, oughtn’t to?) to the primitive residual could. It is an instructive exercise to count the occurrence of could in any one newspaper article or, indeed, in the programmes on the television and radio. Everything from public affairs to weather, from morality to sport, is now presented in a fog of could.
            It is current dogma to dismiss all this as, in the words of the late Philip Howard, Neanderthal tosh and, possibly, an attack on the human right to freedom of speech.

    yours sincerely

                                            Michael Wallerstein

    * In connexion with of, observe the following:
    “oblivious of” now commonly “oblivious to
    “The Ministry of Transport” now “The Minstry for Transport”
            (Is the MoT now the MfT?)
    “The Ministry of Defence” now “The Ministry for Defence”
    “The Department of Education and Science” now “The Dep. for etc.”
    “love of one’s country” now “love for your (sic) country”
    “X has been convicted of a large number of offences” now “X was convicted for a lot of (sic) offences.”
    “The leaning tower of Pisa” now “Pisa’s leaning tower”

    Note also how book dedications are no longer to So-and-so but for, which has quite an other connotation. Again, eponymous appellations are now, increasingly, rendered as for instead of after, e.g. “Pennsylvania named for William Penn”, which is, in any case, untrue; the state is named after him.

            What one sees, here, and in much else in recent changes in the language, is the influence of foreign tongues, especially German, filtered through American English and picked up by the British in acknowledgement of their humble station where they crouch in submission before the marvel of all that is American—not excluding its brands of English.

    *  *  *  *  *

    A revised version of column 114, Ian Robinson’s
    Lenten Pleynte to the English Bishops, commenting on the advice of the Church of England about the forthcoming general election, is now available as a printed pamphlet: £1.00 delivered free anywhere in the world! Order from
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    Web Texts


    The new edition of Who Killed the Bible?, re-ordered, substantially revised and with a new concluding chapter “The English Bible and the Idea of a Christian Society”, can be had now as an e-book for £4.00.

    The reset editions of Wittgenstein on Frazer and Roger Elliott's “Discourses that Persuade . . .” can both be had as e-texts.


    Is the Bible a Book?
    Ian Robinson

    Modern scholarship tends to ignore the whole by concentrating on the parts and their origins. This essay shows that the Bible can be one book only if the New Testament is allowed to read the Old Testament.


    F. R. Leavis
    the Cambridge Don

    Ian Robinson

    An extensively revised talk previously published in an abridged form in
    The Use of English


    Every Literature Helps
    Presidential Address
    to the Leicester Theological Society
    Duncan Campbell OP

    How literature does good is one of the great questions raised by all serious readers and unlikely to receive a definitive answer. Also, the world’s literature is very extensive. So to survey it in an hour’s lecture, organised around the question (asked from the point of view of a Christian priest) how literature helps, is to undertake at least two daunting tasks at once. Fr Campbell does so jauntily and as a critic with fresh responses to some wonderful works. Because this is genuine criticism it invites replies of the form “yes, but”. The memorable remark on the damnation of the leading characters in Wuthering Heights would be even better if extended to include the self-righteous Nelly Dean. The deepest insight in Bleak House is surely not about renunciation of the beloved but about forgiveness. (On which theme see John Haddon’s book The Comedy of Forgiveness.) And so on. Here, that is, is a treatment of real questions that deserves attention and discussion—as a new demonstration that literary criticism is a non-scientific non-methodical form of thought.


    Poetry in the New Matrix
    The Poet Laureate
    and the Bane
    Brian Lee

    This thirty-two page pamphlet continues the series that includes Poetry and the System with some reflections on recent events and their bearing on the state of poetry and our common life.


    A. C. Capey

    Mr Capey’s long-promised criticism of twentieth-century Bible translations

    F. R. Leavis
    David Matthews

    Mr Matthews’s memories of more than sixty years, going back to the great days of Downing, are a fresh testimony to the greatest English critic of modern times.