A 1607 Spelling Lesson

Spotted this link today on Twitter, courtesy of Folger Research.  “When you ask a powerful woman to be your child’s godmother & the queen intervenes: a 1607 letter”.

What’s most fascinating to me is the very real example of spelling.  Sure, we have plenty of examples from Shakespeare’s work, but it would be easy to put him on a separate shelf and say, sure, that’s how *he* wrote.  For the stage.  That’s not how normal people wrote.

Want to bet?

I only wish that I could read more of it.  There are several spots where odd abbreviations are used (something that looks like La with a ps, an m with a tie above it, etc…) and plenty of places where I just can’t read the writing — there’s a word that looks like it could be “sefte” but given the giant descenders they used for S I thought maybe it was a”juste” when I first saw it, so who knows.

Anyway, neat stuff indeed.  I wonder if there’s anybody reading who does indeed study this stuff and can tell us what it says?  I get the general idea, mostly from the title — the person writing the letter had asked the recipient to be the godmother to his child, but the queen stepped in.  Whether she stepped in because she doesn’t like her countesses to do such things, I didn’t quite get.  It does seem to end along the lines of “If something happens to make the queen change her mind, we’ll let you know.”

Anybody got a better reading than that?

9 thoughts on “A 1607 Spelling Lesson

  1. I've done a quick decipher, and here's what it says:

    'Madam, as soon as ever God, out of his greate goodness, had blessed us with a son; wee all resolved, to have bin sutors unto your ladyship, that you would vouchsafe, to have bin his godmother; but it hath pleased the Queenes majesty (out of her especial favour) to interpose her self, farre contrary to oure expectations, Seeing it hath never till this time been seen or known that the Kinges Majestie and the Queene have christened any childe together; which must at this time, stay the proceeding in oure first desire, unless, either the unjustness in like cases, or some other accident, may divert the Queene from her intent, which, if it doe happen, then wee will advertise your ladyship thereof by poast, and will earnestly, goe forward in our humble suite. In the meantime, my wife and my self beseech your ladyship that you will make us both, with your little one, happy, by the continuance of your ladyships good wishes, and daily blessing; and ease not our continuall prayers to God, for your ladyships long health and happiness' (etc etc)

  2. Looks like Dainty Ballerina beat me to it, but here is my quick transcription (with modernized spelling):

    Madam, as soon as ever God, out of his great goodness, had blessed us with a son, we all rejoiced to have been suitors unto your Lord, that you would vouchsafe to have been his godmother, but it hath pleased the Queen's majesty (out of her especial favor) to interpose her selfe, far contrary to our expectation, (seeing it hath never till this time been seen or known that the King's majesty and the Queen have christened any child together,) which must at this time stay the proceedings in our first desire, unless either the unusualness in like cases, or some other accident, may divert the Queen from her intent, which if it do happen, then we will advertise your Lordship thereof by post, and will earnestly go forward in our humble suit. In the meantime, my wife & my self beseech your Lordship that you will make us both, with your little one, happy, by the continuance of your Lordship's good wishes and daily blessings, and cease not our continual prayers to God for your Lordship's long health and happiness and so rest.

    Your Lordship's loving and dutiful for to command,

    Arundell's house this 27th of June

  3. Yes, both common abbreviations. and Wch often for which etc. Basically they're telling the recipient they'd LOVE to have her as godmother, but the Queen has stuck her oar in for some reason they don't understand. Either a genuine letter of frustration, or a clever attempt to wiggle out of a commitment…

  4. Comparing the two, I see that I misread "resolved" as "rejoiced," and clearly everywhere that I have Lord, it should be Lady (boneheaded mistake).

    I couldn't quite figure out the last few words after "health and happiness" that I have transcribed as "so rest".

    I initially thought it said "for rest", but I realized that what I thought was a cross stroke on the first letter was actually the descender from the "G" on the line above. There also seems to be a random "s" between the words. My best guess at a transcription is "and soe s rest", but that doesn't mean anything to me.

  5. Would it be too snarky of me to pull out a bit of Emily Post circa 1607 and postulate a theory as to the confusing nature of the letter and its purpose?

    I do not know the difference between the descender and the linguistic specifics, however, it appears to be perhaps a practice in not just spelling but also, in tutoring a young nobleman to properly write a letter of this nature?

    Your ever inquisitive and curious, Gidgie

    ps. You can yell at me and tell me to do my homework. I remember the Dewey Decimal code from writing analytical papers at the age of 11.

  6. Great stuff, thanks! So that "m+tie" thing I saw must have been "majesty", and "Lap" or "laps" was "ladyship(s)"? Neat.

    Oh, and for those trying to match up, the word that looked like "sefte" to me appears to be "selfe" – she has chosen to interpose her selfe.

  7. I agree as it mysteriously contained corrections which only an Elizabethan scholar would be aware of. I think it is interestingly indicative of a young man, whose mother or tutor may have been correcting his errors in spelling. Especially to, if you consider where the pen ink is different and seems to be correctly identifying where the author was in error as far as the proper and formal manner of addressing a person of rank.

    I found the 'S' and the extra uses of 'e' especially interesting. Also, wouldn't the penmanship demand a stronger calligraphy?

    I sense that this young Avalon, is young and inexperienced, perhaps too much so. I doubt the Folger Library would post a fabricated document but it has been known to happen….

    Wonder if it's a test…. If we fail? Screw our search engines to the sticking place and we'll not fail!

  8. I'm not an expert by any means or measure; just found this interesting. But here's my interpretation of the very end of the letter:

    "… long health and happiness and so I rest, Your Ladyship's loving and dutiful son to command, Arundell."

    Also, for whatever it's worth, I think "Your Ladyship" is the author's wife's grandmother, who was quite wealthy, and thus it makes sense that he would be trying to stay on her good side, i.e. apologizing for not making her his son's godmother.



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