publisher colophon
  • Acquiring Written Communication Skills as the Vernacular Standardizes: A Case Study of an English Family’s Letters 1560–1700

Carole Shammas examines the correspondence of five generations of an elite English family to understand how the standardization of vernacular writing in this period was reflected in practice. Shammas looks specifically at whether family members’ script, spelling, and punctuation matched that prescribed and modeled in copybooks, spellers, and printed books. She documents when men rejected secretary hand and women moved from printing to cursive, showing that gender differences in writing narrowed but persisted through 1700. Most importantly, she demonstrates that, even in an elite family, only those who went to secondary school reliably wrote a fluid script with orthodox spelling and basic punctuation. The pedagogy of the time was thus ill-suited to achieve standardized written literacy among the general population.


teaching of handwriting, Temple family, written literacy, punctuation, spelling norms

literate european societies switched to the vernacular for most written communications during the course of the sixteenth century. Peter Burke and others have described the decline in Latin usage and the battles over which regional vernacular would prevail for printed and handwritten communications.1 But that struggle constituted only the first step. Consensus needed to be reached on at least three basic features of the written language—script, spelling, and punctuation. Church, state, the legal profession, and merchants did not all favor the same script, complicating the learning of penmanship and the reading of cursive.2 Academicians in certain [End Page 429] countries wrestled with whether the Roman alphabet should be retained, because it so poorly represented the speech sounds of their vernacular. Punctuation, necessary for syntactical clarity, would need to be overhauled to suit languages that relied more upon the placement of a word in a sentence to indicate function than, as in Latin, word endings. The appropriateness and efficiency of the rules developed to sort out these problems with most written vernaculars have not been analyzed to any extent. All we know is that heavy reliance on scribal professionals of one sort or another continued throughout the early modern period.3 The document might be dictated by the customer or employer, but the execution depended on the scribe. Holograph communications, those actually penned by the sender, only gradually became more common, increasing the overall volume of missives. Significant proportions of Europeans, probably at least half of the adult population, still could not sign their names as late as the mid-nineteenth century.4

England has been the site of more research on the history of early modern vernacular print and handwriting than any other place on earth. Consequently, a fair amount is known about the professional battles over the standardization of English. Educators at the time expressed ambivalence about the transition to writing in the vernacular. The prime institutions for educating boys, Latin grammar schools, disdained the teaching of handwriting, which they considered an artisanal skill, and the lack of desks in their classrooms underscored their preference for a pedagogy of recitation.5 However, scribes saw an opportunity.6 They opened specialized writing schools to teach their trade to nonprofessionals. Judging by the copybooks that writing masters produced, though, they did not change their curriculum in accommodating the new expanded market. A variety of scripts—secretary, bastard secretary, [End Page 430] roman, Italian, court, and chancery—with full calligraphic flourishes were presented in the short examples that filled their books rather than a thorough treatment of one serviceable script. Printers took the lead in standardizing spelling, while academicians fought over the alphabet.7 Probably much to the printers’ relief, those scholars who advocated changing to more phonetically friendly letterforms lost out in the end to educators like Richard Mulcaster, who favored the retention of the roman alphabet. Linguists have studied spelling in early modern English printed books to understand the pace of standardizing present-day English. This research indicates a steady decline in the percentage of variant words in English printed texts from about 1550 to 1650, with a very low percentage of variants, 10 percent or less, throughout the last fifty years of the seventeenth century. If the computer eliminates as variants y for i, i for j, v for u, or ie for y, as well as silent e endings, then the decline is spread over the entire seventeenth century. This research suggests phonetic spellings, the variants that so distressed grammar-school masters, had reached a relatively low level in print as early as 1600.8

Those who ended up dictating how a standardized English language should be taught to beginning students, ironically, were these Latin grammar-school teachers. They developed a pedagogy that began with children learning “proper” pronunciation through the memorization of syllables and then learning spelling through the memorization of numerous rules that alerted them to conflicts between phonemes and graphemes, before they actually read texts. This procedure differed from the more common method whereby parish priests or others read sentences aloud from a primer that children would first memorize and then read orally, in order to associate the spoken word with its written form.

Edmund Coote’s The English Schoole-maister emerged as the most popular of the rule books, known as spellers, created by grammar-school teachers. Coote, who taught Latin grammar school in Bury St. Edmunds, first published it in 1596. “Ignorant”9 country teachers constituted the target audience for the publication, and [End Page 431] the marginal notes were directed to them. Coote included no entertaining stories in his handbook but packed in lesson plan material that benighted instructors could transmit to their students. He commenced with pages of syllables and words in nonsense phrases; next came directives for syllable breaks “to divide truely the longest and hardest English word that you shall finde” (17). Then followed a lengthy description, also to be committed to memory by the students, of the various sounds or silences represented by each letter or diphthong, and the special problems presented by Latin or Greek cognates and homophones. The only material to practice reading surfaced later in the book. It consisted of the catechism, prayers, psalms, a chronology of mainly biblical events, and a list of difficult words found in print. Coote and his colleagues took as their mission not simply to put an end to the “barbarous speech” of “countrie people” (30) but also to eliminate phonetic writing that ignored their rules.10 Printers continually reissued his not-quite-100-page book. It retained its popularity through the eighteenth century, and the rules changed very little over that entire time period.11 It has been suggested that “teaching manuals and spelling books of this type had a direct impact on how English orthography was taught and learned.”12

Interestingly, punctuation took up only about a page in Coote. He associated the marks with rhetorical uses: commas with short pauses, colons with slightly longer pauses, and periods with full stops or ends. Capitals were to begin all sentences and be used for proper names. Coote’s brief treatment of these matters points up the practice of delaying instruction on the syntactical aspects of punctuation until Latin grammar school, when students used classical writings as models to study the subject.13 Some grammar-school teachers argued that all boys should go on to study Latin.14 Where girls fit into this whole sequence did not seem to trouble Coote or his colleagues.

So theoretically, by about 1600 the authors of copybooks, printed books, and spellers had gone a long way toward standardizing the spoken and written vernacular, hoping that it would enable the English population to dispense with scribes for their everyday communications and record keeping. But literacy studies tell us that nothing like that happened for a very, very long time. The principal measure used to track written skills in a population is signatory ability on government documents. For England, the most authoritative numbers come from a 1642 royal [End Page 432] oath, which an estimated 30 percent of adult males signed, with the other 70 percent marking. For females, who were not required to give oaths, signatory ability has been approximated from ecclesiastical court documents and reaches about 10 percent by the mid-seventeenth century.15 The proportion of the population that could draft a full document, one suspects, fell well below these levels. Also to be remembered: the statistics focus on that part of the British archipelago with the least contestation over which vernacular should rule. It does not cover Wales, Scotland, or Ireland.

So what were the obstacles to learning how to pen letters and other everyday documents? Was it simply a matter of economics—households could not afford the expense of writing instruction and supplies? Certainly costs presented a barrier to many families. But was that the only difficulty? How well did the affluent meet the standards of script, spelling, and punctuation laid out in copybooks and spellers and displayed in printed books? How efficient was the pedagogy, how was it delivered to youth, and what changed over time?

At this point, a case study based on family correspondence is one of the few ways to examine these issues, because writing instruction often began and even ended in the household, and the rather ephemeral petty and writing schools of the era have not left much in the way of records. Also, in contrast to household accounts and other financial records, letters are more likely to be holograph. Scholarship on English epistolary culture before 1700 using manuscript material offers some guidance on the timing of elite handwriting activity by gender. Very little letter writing in the vernacular by nonprofessionals appeared until the late fifteenth century, and it consisted largely of holographs by a limited number of aristocratic and gentry males and the overseas merchant community. A greater proportion of gentlemen put pen to paper during the sixteenth century concurrent with more resort to higher education. Girls, even from wealthy families, we are told, had few opportunities to attend schools of any kind, so their facility with the pen would depend heavily on the vibrancy of household instruction.16 [End Page 433]

I have chosen to look at the letters of the Temple family of Stowe deposited at the Huntington Library to investigate further the degree of proficiency among male and female elites and the effectiveness of the prescribed pedagogy.17 This vast correspondence offers several advantages for this exercise. It covers the period from the later sixteenth century to 1700, and the family, an exceptionally fecund group with good survival rates to adulthood, allows comparisons to be made of the handwriting characteristics of male and female cohorts living in the same household over time.

After briefly introducing the Temple family and noting the two-century changes in script in letters from and to the Temples, I analyze the penmanship, spelling, and punctuation of five generations of Temple men and women, chart changes over time, and compare their abilities with what we know about the investment made in their education. The availability of a database, Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership Phase 1 [hereafter TCP], allows me to measure how a letter writer’s spelling compared to what appeared in thousands of printed pages at the time.18 The TCP reveals the degree of consensus that had been reached at any point between 1450 and 1700 as to how a word should be spelled. Gauging proficiency on the basis of present-day English standards would obviously not be appropriate.

An objection might be raised that the epistolary output of the Temples, who were near the top of the socioeconomic pyramid, cannot tell us about handwriting skills among the population generally. That is true. We probably can assume, however, that any obstacles standing in the way of the men and women of Stowe attaining proficiency (as defined at the time) in script, spelling, and punctuation would have been even greater for those with more limited resources and less access to instruction. And needless to say, pre-1700, very little family correspondence that could answer questions about the acquisition of writing skills and the writers’ educational background exists for those below gentry status. [End Page 434]

The Temple Family Correspondence

I will start with a few words about the Temples and their holograph letters. The family had modest beginnings, but over time, as Rosemary O’Day’s beautifully researched book reveals, this Tudor nouveau riche dynasty relentlessly climbed up the social ladder from husbandry and trade origins into the rentier aristocracy. While successive generations managed to accumulate large estates in Warwickshire and Buckinghamshire, culminating in the construction of Stowe, one of the great stately homes in Britain, land purchases came at a cost. Economic historian Edwin Gay, more than seventy years ago, detailed their financial woes in a series of articles.19 The founder, Peter Temple (1516–1578), began the upward trek, obtaining a good education before taking up the grazier trade and making land acquisitions. Son John Temple (1542– 1603) continued the engagement with the wool market, while enlarging his real estate holdings.20 Ten of John’s offspring survived to adulthood, his eldest son being Sir Thomas Temple, baronet (1567–1637), who entered the family business after finishing his schooling. Thomas’s wife, Lady Hester Sandys Temple, contributed not only thirteen surviving children but also skills in how to manage both estate and children. By the time their son and heir Sir Peter (1592–1653), also a baronet, took over, the Temples had more or less exited livestock raising but had added more land and more debt, the fecundity of two generations taking their toll. Sir Peter had to contend with the troublesome responsibilities of sheriff and MP during the Civil War period, while managing a heavily encumbered estate. His son Sir Richard (1634–1697) proved more adept than his father in reaching accords with creditors and also derived some money from court patronage in a way his ancestors had not. It was he who began construction of Stowe. The Temple correspondence almost exclusively concerns estate management, financial transactions, and litigation. Even letters among family members chronicle demands, often of an angry or whiny nature, for money. Neither gossip nor intellectual musings surface much at all. Judging by a study of literary content in early modern letters, such preoccupation with mundane concerns was not that unusual.21 As in most family collections, the bulk of the correspondence consists of incoming letters. Holograph missives by Temple heirs, wives, and children survive either because they were sent to other family members or they were drafts. [End Page 435]

Table 1 displays the percentage of letters in secretary hand as well as the proportion sent by men over the period 1500–1699. The correspondence amounts to about 1,700 items, many of which were the product of scribes. The correspondents mainly lived in the southern half of England, with most having constant connections with London. Ninety-nine percent of the letters are in English. The one Latin letter I came across from a Temple was to Sir Thomas from his son Thomas, a doctor of civil law and the only college degree holder among all of the Temples. Very little correspondence in the first box predates 1580, accounting for the dominance of the vernacular. Table 1 also shows that males, decade after decade, constituted the bulk of senders, with little clear variation over time. The most interesting trend documented in table 1 is the decline in the use of secretary hand by the Temple males and their male correspondents. No letters by women that can be identified as holograph used secretary hand, but Temple males born prior to 1590 wrote in that script (see figs. 13,) as did most of their stewards, attorneys, and other financial and legal correspondents. Contemporaries considered secretary hand more difficult to learn and to read, but it had the virtue of being more quickly executed. Writing masters recommended that women be taught a form of italic print often referred to as roman hand.22

Males in the following generation, those born from 1590 through the 1620s, wrote in an italic or a mixed cursive hand of secretary and italic characters (examples appear in figs. 46). With a few exceptions, those who wrote in secretary stayed with it until the end, and those that wrote a mixed hand or italic cursive did the same. It was these later hands that began to be standardized as round hand at midcentury. During this period it is often difficult to put a label—italic cursive, mixed hand, or evolving round hand—on the script. All that can be said is that it is not secretary and not print.23 In table 1 the secretary hand being written in the 1630s to mid-1650s reflects the aging population of writers, frequently professional scribes, stewards, and lawyers. After 1655 most had passed from the scene, at least among the Temple correspondents. Because the writing masters only slowly took up round hand in their manuals, the timing for the move away from secretary hand is often associated with the last couple of decades of the seventeenth century, but the Temple correspondence suggests an earlier shift.24 It also shows that the writing masters’ hope that youth would acquire multiple hands did not materialize to any extent, at least in this cache of letters. [End Page 436]

Table 1. Percentage of Temple Correspondence Signed by Men and in Secretary Hand 1500–1699
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Table 1.

Percentage of Temple Correspondence Signed by Men and in Secretary Hand 1500–1699

[End Page 437]

Script, Spelling, and Punctuation in the Temple Men’s Letters

This description of Temple family letter characteristics will be divided by gender, because even among elites the trend in acquisition of written communication skills between men and women differed so greatly over the course of the early modern period that a coherent record of change needs to be recounted separately. The considerable attention paid to outstanding female correspondents and writers in the Tudor-Stuart period has had the salutary effect of demonstrating that women, with limited assistance, could indeed master a standardized written vernacular. On the other hand, it has to a certain extent obscured what table 1, for example, reminds us of—that males by societal design overwhelmingly dominated handwritten correspondence, as they did the printed record.

Table 2 presents five generations of the Temples of Stowe male line, their dates of birth, what is known about their formal education, including merchant apprenticeships, and the characteristics of a typical letter written in their hand. As the Temple Papers have not been converted to typescript and OCR [optical character recognition] script programs are in a very early stage of development, readers have to take my word that the choice is representative or check the collection themselves. In successive columns, one finds for each sample letter: year written; script; the time period searched in the TCP database to identify the variants; the number of all words (no stop word list used) in the first page of the main body of the letter; the percentage of words showing variant spelling; the percentage of words of more than two syllables or in Latin, providing a gauge of vocabulary; the percentage of those words spelled in an unorthodox manner; the number of periods; and whether a capital letter began the first word of a sentence. Spellers like Coote’s set these last two baseline criteria for the use of punctuation.

Discerning whether a letter is scribal is not always easy, especially in the cases of those who authored only a letter or two in the collection and could be using a nonprofessional friend or servant as scribe. For most of the men, enough letters exist to indicate that indeed the example chosen is holograph. The evenness of the script, its type, and the degree of phonetic-appearing spelling provides further evidence of a nonprofessional hand.

Table 2 indicates that those born before the 1590s—as were the first Peter Temple, John Temple, and Sir Thomas Temple—chose secretary hand (figs. 1, 2, and 3), as table 1 revealed about their cohort. (So did Sir Thomas’s four brothers, whose letters are described in the table but not illustrated here.) The three generations wrote fluidly, albeit sometimes sloppily, as their letters were often drafts to be tidied up by a scribe or by their own fair copy. The only letter we have of the first Peter Temple is his additional lines to a scribal letter, but we know his handwriting from his account book, which matches his script here.25 [End Page 438]

Figure 1. Peter Temple to son John Temple, ca. 1560 (secretary hand; only the portion after the virgule six lines from the bottom is holograph). Temple Family Papers: Correspondence [hereafter STT Corresp.], box 1, folder 2021, Stowe Papers, Huntington Library.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 1.

Peter Temple to son John Temple, ca. 1560 (secretary hand; only the portion after the virgule six lines from the bottom is holograph). Temple Family Papers: Correspondence [hereafter STT Corresp.], box 1, folder 2021, Stowe Papers, Huntington Library.

[End Page 439]

Table 2. Five Generations of Male Temple Family Letter Writers
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Table 2.

Five Generations of Male Temple Family Letter Writers

[End Page 441]

Figure 2. John Temple to Sir John Fortescue, October 15, 1588 (secretary hand). STT Corresp., box 3, folder 1934.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 2.

John Temple to Sir John Fortescue, October 15, 1588 (secretary hand). STT Corresp., box 3, folder 1934.

The three younger sons of Sir Thomas Temple, baronet, who came of age in the early seventeenth century—Sir John of Stantonbury, Dr. Thomas, and Miles— departed from the reliance on secretary hand, writing in italic cursive (figs. 46). The doctor also occasionally wrote in secretary, being one of the few who had mastered two scripts. Sir Thomas Temple’s eldest son and heir, Sir Peter, deserves special attention and will be addressed separately below.

Learning to write during the 1640s, Sir Peter’s heir, Sir Richard, produced a hand very near to the round hand, which became the accepted norm in lettering through the eighteenth century and beyond (fig. 7), save his retention of earlier scripts’ reversed e. His slightly younger brother, John Temple (fig. 8), wrote with less flair than his older sibling and with the retention of a couple of secretary hand characters, but fully in cursive. Basically, the sample from the Temple males reflects the early abandonment of secretary hand observed in table 1, which shows the correspondence as a whole.

The columns on spelling outliers in table 2 raise the obvious question: how can one determine what falls outside of the norm in a predictionary era? English is [End Page 442] well known for its irregular orthography, and knowing how to pronounce a word will not tell you how to spell it and vice versa. The gap between the English phoneme and the grapheme has been attributed to several causes, most notably the early standardization of spelling in print around late middle English speech, while a consensus was still not reached regarding vowel sounds; second, the pressure from grammar-school masters, who wanted Latin etymologies to trump English ones resulted in the appearance of a lot of silent letters in words.26 This situation presented significant challenges to the nonprofessional writer whose first impulse was to choose letters phonetically when writing out a word.

Figure 3. Sir Thomas Temple to his father, John Temple, April 17, 1585 (secretary hand), STT Corresp., box 1, folder 2317.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 3.

Sir Thomas Temple to his father, John Temple, April 17, 1585 (secretary hand), STT Corresp., box 1, folder 2317.

[End Page 443]

Figure 4. Sir John Temple of Stantonbury to his mother, Lady Hester Temple, ca. 1620 (italic cursive). STT Corresp., box 5, folder 1986.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 4.

Sir John Temple of Stantonbury to his mother, Lady Hester Temple, ca. 1620 (italic cursive). STT Corresp., box 5, folder 1986.

[End Page 444]

Figure 5. Dr. Thomas Temple to his mother, Lady Hester Temple, October 16, 1628 (italic cursive). STT Corresp., box 7, folder 2207.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 5.

Dr. Thomas Temple to his mother, Lady Hester Temple, October 16, 1628 (italic cursive). STT Corresp., box 7, folder 2207.

[End Page 445]

Figure 6. Miles Temple to his mother, Lady Hester Temple, December 4, 1639 (italic cursive). STT Corresp., box 11, folder 2006.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 6.

Miles Temple to his mother, Lady Hester Temple, December 4, 1639 (italic cursive). STT Corresp., box 11, folder 2006.

[End Page 446]

The most comprehensive effort to analyze spelling variation in letters to date uses the Corpus of Early English Correspondence (CEEC), a database compiled from edited collections of letters in print.27 Using changes in the spelling of a few selected words, the authors identify the seventeenth century as the period of greatest convergence with present-day English (PDE). As the researchers note, though, the CEEC severely limits the questions that can be asked about spelling and punctuation because editors often “clean up” the texts for modern readers.

What we want to know here is not convergence with PDE but the degree to which the Temples departed from contemporary spelling as documented in print, as well as the relationship between that departure and their schooling levels. The printed works in TCP can be searched by word, enabling the investigator to ascertain which variants cropped up often and which did not. The fact that almost all printed material originated in London and emanated from printers belonging to the Stationers’ Company probably sped up the standardization process, eliminating most phonetic variants. Of course, variation continued to exist in the database, for the above-mentioned lack of unanimity on character choice (e.g., y for i, u for v, etc.), as well as the incorporation of colloquial language from plays, poems, and stories. I counted as an “outlier” any spelling of a word in a letter that appeared less than one-tenth as often as the most common spelling. That is, if the most common spelling occurred in the database 1,000 times and the spelling of the word in the letter cropped up in the database under 100 times, it was marked as an outlier. The bar was not set particularly high. Letter writers had to show a fair amount of originality to write outliers. Also I filtered the search for variant spellings to cover only the decades around the letter writer’s era. Those decades are shown in the table. Senders of letters born in the mid-sixteenth century, for example, are not being judged by the common spelling of words in the mid-seventeenth century.

In terms of the spelling of the Temple men, no more than 3 percent of the words in their letters deviated sufficiently from the norms of printed texts at the time to earn the label outlier, except for the two elder sons of Sir Thomas Temple, writing in the first half of the seventeenth century. Given the assumptions about the lack of standardization, the low percentage for 11 out of the 13 Temple men seems noteworthy. But the performance of Sir Peter and Sir John of Stantonbury is an anomaly that deserves some attention. Eighteen percent and 9 percent of their words, respectively, fell into the outlier category, even though nearly all consisted of 1–2 syllables. [End Page 447]

Figure 7. Sir Richard Temple to his mother, Lady Christian Temple, December 20, 1654 (round hand). STT Corresp., box 14, folder 2168.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 7.

Sir Richard Temple to his mother, Lady Christian Temple, December 20, 1654 (round hand). STT Corresp., box 14, folder 2168.

[End Page 448]

Figure 8. John Temple to his brother Richard Temple, November 1657 (round hand). STT Corresp., box 15, folder 1968.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 8.

John Temple to his brother Richard Temple, November 1657 (round hand). STT Corresp., box 15, folder 1968.

[End Page 449]

In the rare instance they used words of three syllables or more, all fell into the outlier bucket. Their syntax, moreover, left the meaning of a line unclear, and both lacked the concept of a full stop: that is, a period to end a sentence. With haphazard punctuation, however, they had some company.

Figure 4 shows that Sir John wrote in a cursive italic script that was similar to many gentlemen of the first half of the seventeenth century, but the orthography had peculiarities. “Chare” for care and “chan” for can never appeared in the printed texts. “Thanckeſe” for thanks and “cauld” for called also are unusual. He writes, without punctuation, sentences such as “I doe not thincke but that in this few yeareſe mony will be in a greadedell more in request then land thare fore I pray tacke reſon and I will performe what soeuer you shall doe.” While the sad message relayed in the middle of the letter, that his infant son had died, could possibly have played into the unorthodox spelling and syntax, other letters of his also exhibit phonetic versions of common words such as “thoes” for those and “rede” for read that suggest a pattern of irregularity.

His elder brother Sir Peter Temple, baronet, born in 1592 and dead by 1653, took “outlier” up a notch. Figures 911 show holograph documents he penned as a mature adult. Nothing in the script he used or his spelling looks much like how his male forebears, his male contemporaries, or his sons wrote. Most often, he “wrote like a girl,” which in this period meant roman printing with what appears to be phonetic spelling.28 To the modern eye, his script is easier to read, but it requires some sounding out to get the meaning. And even that process does not always demystify the text due to the outlier spelling, complex syntax, and lack of punctuation. For example, the first part of his 1627 letter to his mother in figure 9 reads:

my A Belities are neuer beable, to Requitte you, but in the acknoligement, of itt, in my lines, and wordes, truly louinge, of you, thinke my Hartte doth Retorne, as much in the doinge of this, that I Ritte as your loue, doth a ford me faueres undesarued, contrary to youre Reselucion, but goodneys, & good nature, will shone itt selfe, where merette, cane not clame itt, but only be Leue, I cañot DegenerRatte, from you, you beinge so welle ashured, that I ame youre one, & so I be shech you still, to account me, in not letinge the true child be Defamed, or deuided by wolfs, Thoth I Potte your Dafter, to flotte in a marchent shipp: att see, you be Leuinge you, haue left hur wth me, one the Drie Land, but I hope I shall make, a fare & good Retorne of my Aduenteres herein, [End Page 450]

Figure 9. Sir Peter Temple to his mother, Lady Hester Temple, May 16, 1627 (roman, partially print). STT Corresp., box 6, folder 2056.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 9.

Sir Peter Temple to his mother, Lady Hester Temple, May 16, 1627 (roman, partially print). STT Corresp., box 6, folder 2056.

[End Page 451]

Figure 10. Sir Peter Temple to his mother, Lady Hester Temple, June 1636, (roman, partially print). STT Corresp., box 10, folder 2059.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 10.

Sir Peter Temple to his mother, Lady Hester Temple, June 1636, (roman, partially print). STT Corresp., box 10, folder 2059.

[End Page 452]

Figure 11. Sir Peter Temple, list of marriage settlements and leases, post-1637 (roman, partially print). Temple Family Papers: Accounts and Financial Papers, box 58c, folder 31, Stowe Papers, Huntington Library.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 11.

Sir Peter Temple, list of marriage settlements and leases, post-1637 (roman, partially print). Temple Family Papers: Accounts and Financial Papers, box 58c, folder 31, Stowe Papers, Huntington Library.

[End Page 453]

The reliance on printing for so many of the words rather than joining letters as in cursive, the misshapen capital Ds that look like lowercase bs, as in “DegenerRatte,” “Defamed” and “Dafter,” the capital letters and commas seemingly randomly placed, and odd spacing of words normally joined (e.g., “A Belities”) or separated (e.g., “beable”), not to mention unorthodox versions of almost every fifth word, correspond neither to the writer’s social status nor his gender.

His son, Sir Richard, born in 1634 and the heir to the precarious Temple fortune, stands as a representative of the fifth generation. In the first page of his 1654 letter to his mother (fig. 7), he displays at the age of twenty a fluid round hand, by-the-book spelling, a sophisticated vocabulary, and solid composition skills, including periods and capitals. Richard’s sole surviving brother, John, despite dissolute behavior that eventually landed him in prison, likewise spelled and composed his letters with some skill, although with less fluidity and polish than his older brother.

In terms of punctuation, speller books specified, from at least the 1580s on, that sentences should end with a period and begin with a capital letter.29 Printed works observed these rules, but table 2 indicates that the Temple men, generally, did not. Most used no periods, choosing commas, colons, conjunctions, and spaces instead. In earlier times, scribes often used the slash (/), or virgule, to indicate the end of a clause, and in Peter Temple’s 1560 letter, most of which was written by a scribe, it functions both as a period and a comma,30 usually being followed by a capital letter. His son John used spaces and capitals but no punctuation to separate sentences. John’s son Sir Thomas did employ periods followed by capital letters as well as commas for clauses. Most of Sir Thomas’s brothers also used periods, although less regularly than their elder brother. Sir Thomas’s sons, though, added more confusion to the situation, as Miles was the only one to employ a period, and he used only two in a 147-word text. His university-trained brother Dr. Thomas preferred conjunctions with commas to periods, using ten in his 152-word letter. Their older brother and highly original speller Sir Peter employed the same number in his 178-word note, many lacking a syntactical purpose. The other brother, Sir John, hardly bothered with punctuation at all. Periods appear according to the rules in the letter by the fifth-generation Sir Richard and also in his brother John’s, although the latter’s two periods were insufficient for a 171-word text. No sure trend emerges, as Sir Richard’s standardized punctuation showed the most similarity to his grandfather’s.

The Relationship between Temple Men’s Schooling and Writing Abilities

A household member or a tutor instructed the Temple boys enough that they could pick up a pen, attach salutations and valedictions, and use a macron or a looped p to [End Page 454] indicate omitted letters. The question is what happened after that. The third column of table 2 provides the known instructional history of the Temple men. Their educational trajectory follows closely what has been written about the experiences of Tudor-Stuart aspiring gentry, both in Lawrence Stone’s pioneering work and more recent revisions.31 For most of these boys, attendance at university and/or Inns of Court provided an opportunity to mingle with their peers rather than be trained as clerics or lawyers.32 The first Peter Temple attended Oriel College, Oxford, and registered at Lincoln’s Inn. His son John served an apprenticeship with an overseas merchant company and went on to Lincoln’s Inn, as did John’s son Sir Thomas Temple, after matriculating at University College, Oxford.33 Of Sir Thomas’s four brothers, evidence of formal schooling or merchant apprenticeship exists for all: John went to New College, Oxford; Sir Alexander Temple attended Lincoln’s Inn, later holding public offices, including a seat in the Commons; his brother William apprenticed with the Merchant Taylor livery company in London, becoming a merchant himself; and his youngest and most troubled brother, Peter, enrolled in Winchester College and then joined the household of Lord Howard before succumbing to mental illness.34

Of all the sons of Sir Thomas, Dr. Thomas Temple, his third son, had the best documented and most extensive education: he apparently went to Winchester, after which he attended Hart Hall at Oxford, then Lincoln’s Inn, and later took a Doctor of Civil Laws degree at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford. He eventually received an appointment as a rector. Brother Miles also appears to have gone to Winchester and then apprenticed with the Merchant Adventurer Company abroad.35 Sir John [End Page 455] of Stantonbury, Sir Thomas’s second son, registered at Lincoln’s Inn but at the very young age of twelve (twenty being the average age) and seems not to have stayed long. His father married him off to one of his wards, an heiress, the next year.36

The eldest son, Sir Peter, remains the outlier: the sole Temple boy for whom we have no record of his being enrolled in a school, which is particularly odd by this period for an heir.37 The only hint of interest in learning on his part comes from a Privy Council passport issued to him at the end of February 1611/12, at age nineteen, for travel abroad “to study languages.”38 The educational benefit he realized from this sojourn could not have been great: at some point he left, getting as far as France before returning that September. At most, he spent six months abroad.39

Sir Peter’s son, Sir Richard, returned to the pattern of the heir matriculating at university and registering at the Inns of Court, after which he began a very active political career. His wayward brother, John, caused his family endless worry over his refusal to go into a profession, his dissolute lifestyle, and his bigamy conviction. However, even he, according to a payment in his mother’s accounts, managed to attend grammar school in his early teens and also was sent abroad to apprentice with an overseas merchant.40

Universities and Inns of Court did not offer handwriting instruction, and merchants expected their apprentices to know how to write. Even Latin grammar schools, as mentioned above, eschewed such instruction, or at least so they said. Often, though, they had petty schools attached to them for the purpose of remedial work. The same pertained to spelling. The nudge given to elite boys to learn these skills came first from the Latin schools’ requirement that applicants should be able to read and write a legible hand in English or “at least be willing to learn to write.”41 Little lingering over English texts was allowed, however. Grammar schoolmasters preferred [End Page 456] to switch their readers to Latin authors as soon as possible. After that switch, they would learn grammar and punctuation through studying the parts of speech, sentence construction, and punctuation in Latin passages, translating them into English and then back into Latin.42 Penmanship would improve from this practice as well. Maneuvering the quill, keeping the flow of ink consistent, avoiding blots, spacing words evenly, and placing them on a straight line might prove a challenge without such drills.43 For those entering apprenticeships with overseas merchants, the keeping of voyage accounts and engaging in commercial correspondence furnished them with plenty of opportunities to perfect their handwriting.

In one way or another—from a parent, tutor, petty-school instructor, or writing master—all the Temple men, aside from the outlier, Sir Peter, managed to learn a cursive script appropriate to their cohort, even the three for whom we have no record of their ultimately registering at a university or law school, or apprenticing. Thirteen of the fifteen, Sir Peter and his brother Sir John being the exceptions, showed little sign of the phonetic spelling abhorred by the schoolmasters. Instead their departures from what was becoming standardized spelling in print largely consisted of repeating consonants and adding a silent vowel after a sounded one. The scribal portion of the founder of the dynasty’s 1560 letter (fig. 1) to his son describing an important land deal with the last five lines appended in holograph certainly bear out these generalizations about the Temple men. The punctuation differed, with the medieval slash, or virgule, in place of a comma and no periods, but the document observed most of the rules for vernacular spelling laid out in Coote, who would have given him and his scribe a pass, as the grammar-school teacher admitted these widely observed usages stemmed from “custom” or “beauty” rather than ignorance.44 Peter’s son John Temple, in his secretary hand draft (fig. 2) from the 1580s, exhibits similar proclivities. Write was “wryte,” for example, and what appears to be a scribal letter he sent shortly before spells it “wrighte,” each adding a silent letter e, which Coote seemingly blessed in his tome.45 He uses spaces followed by capital letters to separate thoughts but no periods. While still studying at Lincoln’s Inn, his son Sir Thomas penned a fair copy of secretary hand (fig. 3) around the same time that would have gotten high marks from Coote. Well aware of the silent gh’s, distinguishing between -cion and -tion endings, abandoning y’s for i’s and peppering his letter with commas and periods, he even threw in a Latin phrase from Terence to impress his father. Commas, five periods, and capitalization to begin sentences grace the page. Three of his four brothers also used periods, though rather sparingly, given the number of words in their letters. [End Page 457]

In the next generation, the younger sons of Sir Thomas, born in the first decade of the seventeenth century (see figs. 56) less often substitute y for i and cut down on the use of extra e’s, but the difference between their level of variation from the printed norm in spelling and that of their predecessors was not that great. Dr. Thomas, the longest schooled, displayed superior composition skills to his siblings and a wider vocabulary. His older brother, Sir John of Stantonbury, who had decent italic cursive script but consistently confused c, ch, and k, as seen in “chare” and “chan” and “tacke,” provides a good example of a little knowledge being, if not a dangerous thing, at least one that promotes mistakes. As discussed above, some of Sir John’s spelling reflected phonetic renderings, but the ones just mentioned can be traced to getting the numerous speller rules governing the orthography around the letter c mixed up. He was the brother who married at age thirteen.

But then there is Sir Peter. His spelling suggests little exposure to books like The English Schoole-maister or its equivalents. He departs from the norm in his use of e endings. As Coote indicated, e usually decorated the end of a word to signal a long vowel, and that practice can be seen in the letters of his male relatives, as in “doe” or “soe” or “goe.” But Sir Peter regularly put it on short vowels—“one” for on, “Potte” for put. Other renderings of his are simple phonetics—“A Belities,” “Ritte,” “Reselucion,” “hur,” “ashured,” or (in fig. 9) “afexcion,” “nabores,” “bisnes,” “ponisment,” or (in fig. 10) “Bargen” and “Leyes”—that do not conform to the usual spellings in print or even the usual variants among educated writers of the time or his own brothers. Even “Dafter” turns out to have been a product of sounding out, or so Suffolk schoolmaster Simon Daines reveals in his 1640 grammar book, where he claimed that “most of us pronounce dafter” for daughter.46

Figure 12 reproduces a 1615 note from Peter’s mother, the formidable Lady Hester, to her husband. It is one of the earliest letters from her in the collection, and it provides a clue to the source of Peter’s form of writing. Edwin Gay in his work on the Temples noted the similarity between Peter’s “singularly crude” writing and spelling and that of his mother but did not go further.47 Comparing figures 10 and 12 suggests she played an important role in the early teaching of writing to her son, and when he had to pen a letter himself rather than using a scribe, her influence can be seen.

Unlike most other males in his family, no evidence exists that Peter ever set foot in a grammar school, university, law school, or merchant’s countinghouse. His absence from these venues suggests he was not burdened by much preparatory academic work. Sir Peter’s main strategy for making his way in the world seems to have been through contracting a splendid marriage, as the records show a long string of early courtships with the intention of making an advantageous match.48 His [End Page 458]

Figure 12. Lady Hester Temple to her husband, Sir Thomas Temple, May 9, 1615 (roman print). STT Corresp., box 4, folder 1925.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 12.

Lady Hester Temple to her husband, Sir Thomas Temple, May 9, 1615 (roman print). STT Corresp., box 4, folder 1925.

[End Page 459]

knighthood and later his inheritance of a baronetcy gave him a certain social status, and he served as a sheriff and a member of Parliament. But his poor command of the English language, at least in its written form, would seemingly have limited his political career, and it may also have hampered him in trying to extricate himself from the dismal financial situation he had inherited. Hounded by creditors and family members, he died with his estate more or less in receivership. Not that beautiful penmanship and perfect orthography would have saved him from this fate, but these short comings may have limited his ability to defend his interests.

Script, Spelling, and Punctuation in Temple Women’s Letters

Scholars have disagreed on the extent of gender differences in elite writing skills in early modern England. Some point out that, at least in the sixteenth and early seven teenth century, elite males also often lacked good penmanship and that, in the absence of universal dictionaries, spelling irregularities meant little.49 Others, who have compared the handwriting of husbands and wives, find much greater facility among the former.50

The contents of table 3, which offer the same information for women as table 2 provided for men, indicate a substantial gap between the sexes in script and spelling. Holograph letters written by Temple women do not surface until the third generation. Susan Spencer Temple (1547–1614), the wife of the second-generation John Temple, has a couple of letters in the collection in secretary hand, but they appear to be scribal. As she marked rather than signed her will, most likely she could not write herself.51 With each generation thereafter, the proportion of Temple females sending holograph letters increases: from two out of five in the third generation (those born between the late 1560s and the early 1580s and writing letters in the first decades of the seventeenth century) to five out of nine in the fourth generation (those born between 1591 and 1611), and finally—in the fifth generation—to six out of the six girls born between 1619 and the mid-1640s.

As far as script is concerned, none of the women who grew up in the successive Temple households wrote in secretary hand, although the scribes writing on their behalf sometimes did. These findings are consistent with other research.52 An often-quoted recommendation in the 1618 edition of writing master Martin Billingsley’s copybook that women should be taught roman print, as it was the easiest to learn and [End Page 460] execute, appears to have been followed by the teachers of the Temple women. Thirteen out of fifteen conducted their correspondence largely in print, not cursive. The two who generally joined their letters wrote after 1650. Both were sisters of Sir Richard: Anna Temple Roper, Countess Baltinglasse (fig. 18) used an italic cursive, and her younger half-sister Frances, the Countess of Londonderry, wrote a script (see fig. 19a) very like the round hand of her brother. Some of the other sisters, Hester Dodington and Christian Risley, joined more letters than in previous generations but still had not adopted a full cursive script.

While it may have taken longer to learn a cursive such as secretary hand or even round hand, once mastered, such scripts cut down on the time it took to pen a letter. Hester Dodington complained in a long, largely print missive that she had “bine aboue aweeke of writing this and almost killed myself.”53 Penning italic print letters such as Ann Throckmorton’s in 1613 (fig. 16) would require the writer to lift the quill after each letter, making it clear why those in business, having lost secretary hand, championed cursive round hand. The fifth generation of Temple women were moving in the cursive direction but not there yet. The two youngest, Martha and Penelope, twentysomethings writing letters in the 1660s, scrawled their messages in large print with blots, deletions, and words that spilled onto the edge of the paper (figs. 19d, 19e). The assumption that elite women had transitioned to cursive by the mid-seventeenth century, then, is not supported by the examples of most Temple females.54

Improvement in spelling and syntax as measured against print norms does eventually occur among these elite women but not quickly. With one exception, the women of the third generation and all of Hester Temple’s daughters in the fourth had double digit percentages of outlier spellings and shaky sentence structure. Lady Hester, not raised in a Temple household but in a very erudite one, and her husband’s sister, Elizabeth Temple Fiennes, Countess Saye and Sele, wrote outliers about every sixth word. Lady Hester’s daughters demonstrated even greater problems in replicating the orthography in books. Almost one in three of Lady Margaret Longueville’s spelling choices lacked support from contemporary printed sources. Her four sisters fared only a little better, with about one in four words outliers by print standards of the time.

One anomaly exists among the women, and it merits some discussion. Mary Temple Farmer, born 1578, earns that distinction due to her spelling and phrasing being more typical of print exemplars, not merely compared with her own cohort but also with the performance of her nieces and grandnieces. Little is known about this sister of Sir Thomas aside from her unhappy marriage.55 She left two letters in [End Page 461]

Table 3. Five Generations of Female Temple Family Letter Writers
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Table 3.

Five Generations of Female Temple Family Letter Writers

[End Page 463]

the Temple collection, both in roman print and lacking an indication as to year, but probably composed around 1610. In the letter described in table 3 (fig. 13), she requests that her brother send her a milk cow as part of her quarter payment. Did Mary write the letter herself? The script and ordinary vocabulary appear appropriate. Usually with women in this period, the use of roman print constitutes the best indicator of a holograph letter, with high percentages of variant spellings the next best clue. But when compared with contemporary printed works, she has few outliers. Moreover, her punctuation—the use of periods in some appropriate places—stands out. The orthography, for a woman born in the late sixteenth century, in a minor gentry situation, and whose own mother could not write, appears exceptional. Add to that her marriage at age thirteen, which indicates little time for any special educational experiences. The letter features vocabulary such as “benefit,” “desire,” “receive,” and “remembrance” spelled in the most accepted print version. Words such as “young,” “heard,” and “doubt” with silent letters appear in their common form, not phonetically, as do tricky e and i words such as “desire,” and “receive.” Speller books devoted much attention to sorting out the spelling of words like these, which plagued the writing of both boys and girls. Also the sentence structure is simple but accords with the pedagogy of the time. Four periods appropriately placed, as in this letter, do not occur among any of the other women’s holographs. While a signature in the same handwriting, in this case print, as the text, may suggest holograph; in fact many scribal letters also adhere to this practice. The sender of a holograph letter often signed his or her name in a different script than the text for authenticity purposes, as that is the autograph used by him or her in all cases regardless of who wrote the text. The address of the letter, moreover, raises questions. It is sent not to “my” but “her very louing brother” in the same script as the text. My guess is that Mary dictated this letter to a local clergyman or attorney who wrote it in a script she could more easily read. But I cannot be sure, so this outlier is noted and kept in with the rest.

In contrast, Mary’s younger sister, the Viscountess Saye and Sele, composed sentences such as “Iunderstand that you are like to com to daſset shortly I would intret you,” and consistently spelled phonetically, as with “protectcion of the allmiti” (fig. 14).56 She also was a complete stranger to punctuation. Her writing style reminds one of her sister-in-law and contemporary Lady Hester. Born in 1570 to a gentry family whose males received university and Inns of Court education, Hester’s correspondence shows her to be an extremely active, smart, and competent manager of the [End Page 464]

Figure 13. Mary Temple Farmer to brother Sir Thomas Temple, May 27, ca. 1610 (roman print). STT Corresp., box 4, folder 756.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 13.

Mary Temple Farmer to brother Sir Thomas Temple, May 27, ca. 1610 (roman print). STT Corresp., box 4, folder 756.

[End Page 465]

factionalized Temple family and possessor of the patience of a saint in regard to her emotionally and financially needy offspring. It also reveals someone who wrote right up to her death in a crude roman print, spelled words phonetically, and inserted almost no punctuation (see fig. 12). She gave birth to ten daughters between 1586 and 1611, nine of whom survived, six of whom have left letters of their own in the collection. Out of the six girls with letters, five wrote at least one letter in what appears to be their own hand. Judging by these letters, their mother played a major role in their handwriting instruction, as she likely did with her eldest son, Sir Peter.

Figure 15 reproduces portions of letters, one for each daughter, written to their mother in the 1620s or 1630s when all had reached adulthood. They exhibit many similarities with those of the previous generation of women. All the women mainly printed, with larger lettering than their male counterparts, and seldom included the full date or much punctuation. A bit more attention to writing skills appear in these lines than normally found in their mother’s missives, hinting at more instruction. Four out of the five indulge in the deferential salutation at the beginning of their letters as a show of epistolary politeness, and flourishes more often decorated their italic lettering. That having been said, the spelling continued to reflect the triumph of the phoneme over the grapheme, and ignorance of such grammatical matters as subject-verb agreement, tense, and possessives remained quite obvious . For example, Bridget Lenthall, born in 1591 (fig. 15a), relied primarily on her politician husband to communicate with her parents. Only one letter from her appears in the collection and none from her two older sisters born in the 1580s. In the excerpt, featuring an oddly placed colon, she writes: “I rit to shoo that my hart and mynd dose: bisy it selfe of you thoo to Letel porpos.” Out of seven letters from daughter Elizabeth Gibbes, three appear to be holograph. She had worked on her script. Periods do appear but sometimes placed in what might be regarded as the middle of a sentence. We learn in the excerpt (fig. 15b) how she pronounced Whitsuntide, town, and suit, and that regarding the latter her husband had “bed me rit to knoo” whether it had been sent, as a lack of horses prevented her from getting the item herself. Daughter Katherine Ashcombe (fig. 15c), with only one holograph letter, adopted the same excuse as her sister Elizabeth as to why she could not visit her mother: “sens his [her husband’s] coming my hors is fele lame but as soone as pasibel I can I will com.”

One of Lady Hester’s two daughters born in the first decade of the seventeenth century, Margaret produced more holograph letters in the collection than any of her female siblings: her first when she was still unmarried and the last not long before her death in 1665. These letters, while mostly occasioned by a need for money or goods, also reveal a love of “news,” meaning gossip, that is more characteristic of letters from the next generation than those of her female cohort. Despite her constant resort to the pen, however, she (fig. 15d) did not adopt a cursive script or depart from her phonetic spelling. “[T]hankfollnes,” “anacknoelegment,” “comepany,” “reſpckt,” and “tech” for teach constitute the most obvious examples from the whopping 29 percent of words in her sample letter tagged by the standard employed as highly unusual [End Page 466]

Figure 14. Elizabeth Temple Fiennes, Viscountess Saye and Sele, to her sister-in-law Lady Hester Sandys Temple, 1620s (roman print). Temple Family Addenda, box 2, HM 46375, Huntington Library.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 14.

Elizabeth Temple Fiennes, Viscountess Saye and Sele, to her sister-in-law Lady Hester Sandys Temple, 1620s (roman print). Temple Family Addenda, box 2, HM 46375, Huntington Library.

[End Page 467]

Figure 15A–E

Portions of letters to Lady Hester Sandys Temple from five of her daughters, 1620s–30s. All roman print; all from STT Corresp.

Figure 15A. Bridget Temple Lenthall (b. 1591), n.d. [ca. 1620–36], box 10, folder 1252.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 15A.

Bridget Temple Lenthall (b. 1591), n.d. [ca. 1620–36], box 10, folder 1252.

Figure 15B. Elizabeth Temple Gibbes (b. 1596), n.d. [ca. 1627–36], box 10, folder 825.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 15B.

Elizabeth Temple Gibbes (b. 1596), n.d. [ca. 1627–36], box 10, folder 825.

Figure 15C. Katherine Temple Ashcombe (b. 1599), n.d. [1620s], box 15, folder 53.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 15C.

Katherine Temple Ashcombe (b. 1599), n.d. [1620s], box 15, folder 53.

Figure 15D. Margaret Temple Longueville (b. 1606), n.d. [1630–36], box 8, folder 1410.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 15D.

Margaret Temple Longueville (b. 1606), n.d. [1630–36], box 8, folder 1410.

Figure 15E. Millicent Temple Ogle (b. 1611), n.d. [ca. 1631], box 8, folder 1523.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 15E.

Millicent Temple Ogle (b. 1611), n.d. [ca. 1631], box 8, folder 1523.

[End Page 469]

spelling variants. She lacked familiarity with the spelling of words in print and the circumstances under which silent letters surface. Even simple words are missed: “shuch” for such is a choice that is outvoted in the Early English Books Online texts 459,964 to 1. Her letters also hint at dyslexia, shown in this example with “ves” for use and “richses” for riches. In other letters one sees “ti” for it, “ni” for in, and “kinghting” for knighting. For punctuation she employs colons, sometimes in the place of commas and other times in place of a period.

Millicent, Lady Hester’s youngest daughter, born in 1611, did not show a greater command of what printers and grammarians had decided about the English language than her sister Bridget, born twenty years earlier. The portion reproduced (fig. 15e) from one of the two letters of hers that appear in the collection with its “make me ſo hapy as toſee you her att my pouer house this ſomer. Whine youev ocaeſons will parmit” does not suggest a big leap forward.

The watershed in spelling and syntax by print standards comes with the fifth generation of women. Table 3 and the reproduced sections from their post-1650 letters in figures 19a–e indicate that the spelling of the granddaughters of Lady Hester born after 1630 to Lady Christian Leveson Temple, Sir Peter’s second wife, conformed with the 1620–60 printed literature over 90 percent of the time. That still compared un favorably with the performance of their male cohort, especially with words exceeding two syllables, but it clearly showed greater consistency with the printed word than demonstrated by earlier cohorts of Temple women. Interestingly, Martha Temple (fig. 19d), who had the highest percentage (9.8 percent) of outliers, also had the most ambitious vocabulary of the group. While the first sentence in her letter, “Time and a dere bought experiance hath conuinced me of the Auertion of olde Mr Broughton to comply with his soone desires,” contains many spelling variants, it also exhibits a sophisticated choice of words. This sophistication crops up in other letters from the fourth and fifth generation as well. These women displayed greater ambition in their vocabulary, even if spelling continued to be a challenge.

Few Temple women ended sentences with a period or began one with a capital: they seemed to fear employment of the full stop, and no trend appears over time. Only Lady Hester had both, and that was because after each of the two periods in her sample letter, she began the next sentence with “I.” All Temple women capitalized that letter. Needless to add, Lady Hester’s eighty-nine word text required more than two full stops to separate her thoughts. Three other women used periods but no capitalization. Mary Farmer’s letter, which as discussed above may not be holograph, is the only one in which periods were the most common punctuation. Lady Ann Throckmorton Temple had two colons to her one full stop. Countess Baltinglasse’s two periods seem lost among the fourteen commas that graced her missive, while her half-sister, the Countess of Londonderry, favored the promiscuous use of colons. Three women had no punctuation in their documents. [End Page 470]

Figure 16. Lady Ann Throckmorton to Sir Thomas Temple, December 16, 1613 (roman print). STT Corresp., box 4, folder 1910.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 16.

Lady Ann Throckmorton to Sir Thomas Temple, December 16, 1613 (roman print). STT Corresp., box 4, folder 1910.

[End Page 471]

Figure 17. Lady Christian Leveson Temple to her mother-in-law, Lady Hester Temple, 1630–36 (roman print). Temple Family Addenda, HM 46492, Huntington Library.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 17.

Lady Christian Leveson Temple to her mother-in-law, Lady Hester Temple, 1630–36 (roman print). Temple Family Addenda, HM 46492, Huntington Library.

[End Page 472]

Figure 18. Anna Temple Roper, Countess Baltinglasse, to her half-brother Sir Richard Temple, April 2, 1656 (italic cursive). STT Corresp., box 15, folder 1728.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 18.

Anna Temple Roper, Countess Baltinglasse, to her half-brother Sir Richard Temple, April 2, 1656 (italic cursive). STT Corresp., box 15, folder 1728.

[End Page 473]

Figure 19A-E

Excerpts from letters by Lady Christian Leveson Temple’s five daughters to their brother Sir Richard Temple, 1658–82. All STT Corresp.

Figure 19A. Frances Temple Ridgeway, Countess Londonderry, August 13, 1658 (round hand cursive), box 16, folder 1670.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 19A.

Frances Temple Ridgeway, Countess Londonderry, August 13, 1658 (round hand cursive), box 16, folder 1670.

Figure 19B. Hester Temple Dodington, August 23, 1663 (roman print), box 17, folder 618.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 19B.

Hester Temple Dodington, August 23, 1663 (roman print), box 17, folder 618.

Figure 19C. Christian Temple Risley, May 1, 1682 (roman print), box 24, folder 1693.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 19C.

Christian Temple Risley, May 1, 1682 (roman print), box 24, folder 1693.

Figure 19D. Martha Temple [later Broughton], December 13, [ca. 1665] (roman print), box 19, folder 151.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 19D.

Martha Temple [later Broughton], December 13, [ca. 1665] (roman print), box 19, folder 151.

Figure 19E. Penelope Temple, September 23, 1663 (roman print), box 17, folder 2013.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 19E.

Penelope Temple, September 23, 1663 (roman print), box 17, folder 2013.

[End Page 475]

Education and Script, Spelling, and Punctuation of Temple Women

Of all those researching early modern English women’s education, Caroline Bowden has probably focused the most intently on writing skills and how women acquired them. She finds little firm quantitative evidence that girls during the seventeenth century had heightened access to schools that taught writing. Convent schools in England had disappeared in the previous century, and grammar-school masters seemed to view the exclusion of females from their establishments as a mark of their academic seriousness. For the affluent, boarding establishments in Hackney and other London suburbs sprang up during the seventeenth century, and schools opened up in provincial capitals.57 Some seem to have been founded in the 1630s, although many more citations come post-1660. Bowden is correct, however, in pointing out the lack of solid documentation as to places, dates, numbers of students, and curriculum, as the ecclesiastical registers tended to ignore female teachers at all levels, and Margaret Spufford’s study of dame school teaching found no evidence that any girls schools during the seventeenth century offered handwriting instruction.58 Bowden concludes, therefore, that most females depended largely upon household instruction to learn their letters, and that this lack of access seriously curtailed their acquisition of good reading and writing skills.59 Girls from elite households, of course, might fare better than the rest, although the most thorough analysis of expenditures on children’s education of an early Stuart-era gentry family tracked copious references to tuition payments for sons and nothing more than an entry for singing lessons for the one daughter.60

Evidence in the Temple Papers of formal schooling for any of the women in table 3 exists only for the youngest girl, Penelope Temple, born in 1644. She boarded in 1658–59, while in her midteens, with one Katherine Finnes. At that point, Penelope’s father, Sir Peter, and her mother, Lady Christian, had been dead five and three years, respectively. Accounts for Lady Christian exist between 1649 and the beginning of 1652, but they contain little information about her three girls of school age: Penelope, age five in 1649, is not mentioned at all, and the two entries for Martha, age ten, and Christian, age fourteen, involve small amounts with no reference to education, unlike those for their brother John. The later bills Finnes sent to the Temple steward for payment indicate she charged £4 per quarter for Penelope’s diet and teaching. We can infer the instruction included writing, as Finnes asked for reimbursement for paper and an inkhorn, although many more charges related to sewing purchases. And while she requested money for dancing and lute masters, no entry for [End Page 476]

Figure 20. Katherine Finnes to Cosen Barack Tustian, May 26, 1659 (roman partial print). STT Corresp., box 16, folder 783.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 20.

Katherine Finnes to Cosen Barack Tustian, May 26, 1659 (roman partial print). STT Corresp., box 16, folder 783.

a writing master appeared.61 The samples that we have of Finnes’s own handwriting, including accounts and one letter (fig. 20), lead one to believe that her skills with the needle may have exceeded those with the pen. Her script alternated between roman print and cursive. The teacher exhibited some of the same shortcomings vis-à-vis standard print spelling, syntax, and punctuation displayed by her student. Finnes’s letter of ninety-four words of main text had sixteen outlier spellings, a higher percentage than that for the Temple cohort of girls. The rate more closely resembled their aunts’ generation. Only two words longer than two syllables surfaced, with both spelled phonetically—“perticelers” for particulars and “acasun” for occasion. Interestingly, she used no other form of punctuation than the virgule, sometimes in place of a period and other times in place of a comma. Martha Temple may have [End Page 477] studied with her as well, but the script of their older sister Frances suggests instruction from a more knowledgeable calligrapher with better spelling and composition abilities than Finnes. It may be that the death of Lady Christian in 1655 removed her oversight in the selection of teachers. Finnes appears to have been a kinswoman of the Tustian family, who acted as stewards for several generations of Temples. The improvement of the fifth generation in terms of orthodox spelling and use of cursive does suggest that all of them had outside writing instruction, and thus increased investment in their writing skills probably occurred by the middle decades of the seventeenth century.


This examination of the written communications of five generations of Temple family men and women indicates (1) a resistance to the writing-master approach to script; (2) a significant gender divide encompassing all facets of written communication, although the gap narrowed by the end of the seventeenth century; and (3) an adoption of a pedagogy for learning to write a legible script with orthodox spelling and basic punctuation that required not just primary instruction but also secondary-level work.

With script, the experts—both scribes and writing masters—get overthrown: first by men, then by women. With men, one sees something of a rebellion among consumers, perhaps led by the London mercantile community, in terms of the type of script.62 The evidence comes not just from males in the Temple family but all their correspondents, and it signals the demise of the scribal secretary hand happening earlier than is often recognized. Writing masters certainly pushed mastery of italic cursive in their copybooks, but mostly they promoted for as long as possible elaborate calligraphic renderings of multiple scripts, both “gothic”-like secretary hand and continental hands.63 Dating of the decline of secretary hand and the coalescence around round hand has been based largely on the testimony of later writing masters, who considered the switch to have begun in the third quarter of the seventeenth century.64 The Temple archive suggests secretary hand had just about disappeared by then. The exit commenced with boys born after 1590, who appear to have jumped at the opportunity to cast secretary hand aside. It may be this exit, rather than the triumph of the round hand form of italic cursive, that contributed the most to increasing [End Page 478] the numbers who picked up the pen. From a practical viewpoint, the varieties of italic cursive, even those that combined some secretary letters, do not appear that different, either to read or to write. Thus, a certain standardization had occurred already. The demise of secretary hand eased communications with European correspondents and vice versa. The lack of secretary hand’s generality beyond the British Isles and its greater difficulty to learn, rather than the Cromwellian commercial boom or the influence of roman and italic in printed books, both of which have been offered up as explanations, may better explain the fate of this gothic-derived script.65

For Temple family women, the first challenge was not to experiment with a new type of script but to learn to write rather than dictate their letters. Generations one through three mainly used scribes. In the fourth generation, five out of Lady Hester Temple’s nine daughters left holograph letters in the collection, and in the last generation, all of Sir Peter’s daughters produced letters, mostly in a print roman. However, two daughters wrote in cursive, as round hand gained in acceptance. A change appeared to be underway, and the writing masters who had declared print to be the appropriate hand for women ultimately would be rebuked.

In the case of spelling, only modest deviation from contemporary print standards occurred among most Temple males—3 percent or fewer of the words in the letters studied from the late sixteenth to the late seventeenth century were outliers. Those who matriculated at university had an increased tendency to use Latin words or longer English words. The question is whether these results can be attributed to constant reading, the effectiveness of speller pedagogy, long-term preparatory work to qualify for higher education or an overseas apprenticeship, or some combination of the above. The rather stunning exception to the low rate of deviation from print standards by one Temple family member helps sort out some of what went on. Sir Peter demonstrated just how far a baronet could stray from the print standard. Attributing his lack of handwriting skills to some mental disability requires us to ignore the fact that no mention of such a condition surfaces in the record and that his mother Lady Hester and the brother nearest to him in age, Sir John, shared some of the same outlier characteristics. What seems a more likely explanation for Sir Peter’s weak performance is that he never appeared to undertake any preparatory work, being satisfied only with tutoring within the household.

In earlier periods, men of the upper classes could aspire to a military role that did not require much skill in letters. Interestingly David Cressy found that the group of gentry and lords slowest to exhibit universal signatory ability were those in the borderlands, where the traditional military function of the aristocracy lasted the longest.66 That time had passed in the rest of England, and it was the necessity for developing writing skills, one suspects, rather than any great dedication to liberal studies [End Page 479] among most of the gentry that sparked Stone’s “educational revolution” in higher education for elite males. Going to Oxford, Cambridge, or London was the payoff for youthful aristocrats who had suffered through dreary speller tutorials and the copying of texts in the provinces in order to justify being sent away.67

Sir Peter, in terms of his writing abilities, had more in common with Temple women and probably for some of the same reasons—limited instruction and practice. A noticeable change, though, occurs with the Temple girls in the two decades around 1650, when deviation from spelling norms in print narrowed, and it appears a bit more attention was being paid to their schooling. The script and spelling of the one schoolmistress whose letters appear in the Temple collection reveal a further problem females faced in closing the gap with their male counterparts. Their teachers, who often had to offer needlework as well, may have had limited abilities in script, orthography, and grammar themselves. An erudite mother or extensive reading might have filled in the gap, but a literature aimed at girls did not emerge in the same way as it did in the eighteenth century, and no clear evidence of bookishness by either males or females can be found in the Temple Papers, aside from Sir Thomas in his retirement years and Sir Richard’s book collection.68 Not coincidentally, both had enrolled at university and wrote quite well.

Periods and capitalization are the real puzzlers, as it proves difficult to identify a trend in their use over time among the Temples or a consistent correlation with education. Both men and women failed to adhere to the two basic tenets specified in the speller books—periods ending sentences and capital letters beginning them— despite their appearance in printed books from the late sixteenth century onward.69 While everyone used a capital to form the word I, few did so to commence a new thought. Possibly the more challenged writers had only learned well the miniscule version of the script and thus avoided capitals? It was easier to rely on spaces or conjunctions than to figure out if the pause merited a full stop. Only Sir Thomas and Sir Richard, trained sixty-five years apart, might be described as inserting periods and capitals in appropriate places.

The nature of the era’s pedagogy may offer some further clues as to the reasons those putting pen to paper ignored the spellers’ counsel on punctuation, especially [End Page 480] the use of periods and capitals to mark off sentences. Their tutors or the schoolmasters who taught them English may not have gone beyond the spellers that were their guides to correct instruction. The typical statements in the spellers about perfect sentences and the need for a capital to grace the first word of every sentence as well as a period to come at the end indicating a full stop might not have had much meaning, because the definition of a sentence only came in Latin grammar-school and was taught in conjunction with that language. William Lily, the co-author of the foundational Latin grammar text Accidence, made it clear that the subject of sentence construction should take place after instruction shifted from English to Latin.70 The confusion that might arise from such an arrangement is obvious. Endings identify the function of Latin words, while placement in the sentence mainly provides that service in English. Consequently, not all of the punctuation marks used to assist readers in English would be necessary in Latin. Generally, it takes more words and/or more punctuation to convey the same thought in English.

Spellers encouraged writers to choose punctuation marks on the basis of pauses in speech, implying a rhetorical not a syntactical need. Scribes and the print industry, along with Sir Thomas and his grandson Sir Richard, had fathomed at least the periods and capitalization system of marking sentences. A solid Latin background or habitual reading would have cemented this knowledge. But even a well-schooled albeit idiosyncratic-in-punctuation man, like Dr. Thomas, may have thought of a letter as being read aloud: essentially, a one-sided conversation with pauses, the duration of which one could choose. The definition of punctuation marks would lead such correspondents to believe that their use should follow the voice.71 Scholars associate the spread of silent reading with the eighteenth century, so the Temples would not be out of step with the times if they thought of letters as being spoken.72 Not until 1675 does one see put into English, in a five-page pamphlet, examples of using punctuation for syntactical purposes.73 The pedagogy laid out in spellers and copybooks was intended to be a surefire guide to the standardization of written communication in English, yet even among the wealthy, only a long preparatory regime of tutoring and schooling seemed to provide much mastery. Few nonelite boys and almost no girls of whatever class would have the opportunity to spend years in school learning cursive scripts and memorizing rules of English [End Page 481] pronunciation and spelling, not to mention a stint in Latin grammar school to be instructed in the syntactical reasons for punctuation. Yet this pedagogy remained the recommended method of achieving vernacular written literacy through the following century. Why? [End Page 482]

Carole Shammas

carole shammas is the John R. Hubbard Chair in History Emerita at the University of Southern California. This essay comes out of her current research project, “The Triumph of Text and the Three Rs.”

I wish to thank Mary L. Robertson, Rosemary O’Day, and the anonymous referees, as well as the editor, Sara K. Austin, for their very helpful comments on this essay.


1. Peter Burke, Language and Communities in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 2004); and R. A. Houston, Literacy in Early Modern Europe: Culture and Education 1500–1800, 2nd ed. (London, 2013), chap. 2.

2. Martin Davies, “Humanism in Script and Print in the Fifteenth Century,” in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism, ed. Jill Kraye (New York, 2004), 47–62.

3. Martyn Lyon, A History of Reading and Writing in the Western World (New York, 2010), refers to the democratization of writing as being from 1800 to the present. On the survival of copyists and scriveners, see Harold Love, The Culture and Commerce of Texts: Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford, 1993); and Peter Beal, In Praise of Scribes: Manuscripts and Their Makers in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford, 1998). On the occasional scribe, see Steven W. May, “The Search for the Scribe of the ‘Stanhope’ Manuscript,” Huntington Library Quarterly [HLQ] 76 (2013): 345–75.

4. Houston, Literacy, 166–67.

5. See David Cressy, Literacy and the Social Order: Reading and Writing in Tudor and Stuart England (Cambridge, 1980), 164–74; Kenneth Charlton and Margaret Spufford, “Literacy, Society and Education,” in The Cambridge History of Early Modern English Literature, ed. David Loewenstein and Janel Mueller (Cambridge, 2003), 20–26; and Rosemary O’Day, Education and Society 1500–1800: The Social Foundations of Education in Early Modern England (London, 1982), 25–42, 59–70.

6. For discussions of the diversity of hands, see Ambrose Heal, The English Writing-Masters and Their Copy-Books 1570–1800 (Cambridge, 1931); L. C. Hector, The Handwriting of English Documents (London, 1958), chap. 6; Jonathan Goldberg, Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance (Stanford, Calif., 1990); and Love, Culture and Commerce. Richard S. Christen recounts the place of writing masters in “Boundaries between Liberal and Technical Learning: Images of Seventeenth-Century English Writing Masters,” History of Education Quarterly 39 (1999): 31–50.

7. D. G. Scragg, A History of English Spelling (Manchester, 1974), 68; Terttu Nevalainen, “Variable Focusing in English Spelling between 1400 and 1600,” in Orthographies in Early Modern Europe, ed. Susan Baddeley and Anja Voeste (Berlin, 2012), 127–65 at 155–56; and T. H. Howard-Hill, “Early Modern Printers and the Standardization of English Spelling,” Modern Language Review 101 (2006): 16–29.

8. See Alistair Baron, “Dealing with Spelling Variation in Early Modern English Texts” (PhD thesis, Lancaster University, 2011), 54, 67, 77–78. The percentages are based on using Early English Books Online ( and counting word tokens. Computer programs identify the most frequent variants and then “correct” the variations in order to analyze language structures and vocabulary changes without missing words because of different spellings. Using more traditional means, other scholars suggest midcentury as the watershed; see Scragg, History of English Spelling, 68; Vivian Salmon, “Orthography and Punctuation,” in The Cambridge History of the English Language, vol. 3, 1476–1776, ed. Roger Lass (Cambridge, 1999), 44; and Nevalainen, “English Spelling,” 151.

9. Edward [Edmund] Coote, The English Schoole-maister (London, 1596), preface. Cited hereafter in the text.

10. Coote’s rules are in line with Richard Mulcaster’s concerns (see The First Part of the Elementarie [London, 1582]; reprinted as The First Part of the Elementary, 1582, ed. R. C. Alston [Menston, U.K., 1970]). On consistency in speller lists of the time, see Margaret Sönmez, “The Influence of Early Mono lingual Dictionaries and Word Lists on the Standardisation of English Spelling,” Anglia: Zeitschrift für englische Philologie 119 (2001): 207–31. Ian Michael covers the pedagogy in The Teaching of English: From the Sixteenth Century to 1870 (Cambridge, 1987).

11. E. Jennifer Monaghan, Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America (Amherst, Mass., 2005), 214.

12. Nevalainen, “English Spelling,” 154.

13. On teaching English grammar using Latin taxonomy, see Michael, Teaching of English, 317–19; Francis Clement, The Petie Schoole (London, 1587), 27–30; and John Brinsley, Ludus Literarius or the Grammar Schoole (London, 1612), chaps. 6–8.

14. Charles Hoole, The Petty-School (London, 1659), 24.

15. Cressy, Literacy and the Social Order, 73, 177; Roger S. Schofield, “Dimensions of Illiteracy in England, 1750–1850,” in Literacy and Historical Development: A Reader, ed. Harvey J. Graff (Carbondale, Ill., 2007), 301–2; R. A. Houston, “The Development of Literacy in Northern England 1640–1750,” Economic History Review, n.s., 35 (1982): 199–216. Higher rates among women later in the century seem tied to increases in the greater London area: Peter Earle, “The Female Labour Market in London in the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries,” Economic History Review, n.s., 42 (1989): 328–53. Keith Thomas discusses those who could read print but not handwriting and also the disadvantages of not being able to write; “The Meaning of Literacy in Early Modern England,” in The Written Word: Literacy in Transition, ed. Gerd Baumann (Oxford, 1986), 97–132.

16. Malcolm Richardson, Middle-Class Writing in Late Medieval London (London, 2011), chap. 3 and the bibliography; and James Daybell, The Material Letter in Early Modern England: Manuscript Letters and the Culture and Practices of Letter-Writing, 1512–1635 (Basingstoke, U.K., 2012), chap. 2. For later in the seventeenth century, see Lindsay O’Neill, The Opened Letter: Networking in the Early Modern British World (Philadelphia, 2015). On women’s hand writing specifically, see Alison Wiggins et al., Bess of Hardwick’s Letters: The Complete Correspondence c.1550–1608,; James Daybell, Women Letter-Writers in Tudor England (Oxford, 2006); Kenneth Charlton, Women, Religion and Education in Early Modern England (London, 1999); and Caroline Bowden, “Women in Educational Spaces,” in The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing, ed. Laura Lunger Knoppers (New York, 2009), 85–96.

17. Temple Family Papers: Correspondence [hereafter STT Corresp.], Stowe Papers, 1175–1919, Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.

18. For examples of other work looking at the issue of standardization of script and spelling in holograph letters, see Alison Wiggins, Bess of Hardwick’s Letters: Letters, Language, Materiality, and Early Modern Epistolary Culture (Abington, U.K., 2017), 111–18, which stresses the lack of standardized spelling in sixteenth-century letters; and, on the seventeenth century, Carol L. Winkelmann, who cites increases in standardization in “A Case Study of Women’s Literacy in the Early Seventeenth Century: The Oxinden Family Letters,” Women and Language 19, no. 2 (Fall 1996): 14–20. Susan Whyman, The Pen and the People: English Letter Writers 1660–1800 (Oxford, 2009), mainly treats the eighteenth century. Elspeth Jajdelska lists, reviews, and critiques scholarly work on early modern punctuation, including that of Malcolm Parkes, in Silent Reading and the Birth of the Narrator (Toronto, 2007), 44–49.

19. Rosemary O’Day, An Elite Family in Early Modern England: The Temples of Stowe and Burton Dassett 1570–1656 (Rochester, N.Y., 2018). Edwin F. Gay, “The Rise of an English Country Family: Peter and John Temple, to 1603,” HLQ 1 (1938): 367–90; “The Temples of Stowe and Their Debts: Sir Thomas Temple and Sir Peter Temple, 1603–1653,” HLQ 2 (1939): 399–438; and “Sir Richard Temple: The Debt Settlement and Estate Litigation, 1653–1675,” HLQ 6 (1943): 255–91.

20. Warwickshire Grazier and London Skinner, 1532–1555: The Account Book of Peter Temple and Thomas Heritage, ed. N. W. Alcock (Oxford, 1981), 22,

21. Paul Trolander, Literary Sociability in Early Modern England: The Epistolary Record (Newark, Del., 2014), 4. For a contrasting examination of a few elites who did center their efforts on the intellectual, see Vanessa Wilkie, “ ‘Such Daughters and Such a Mother’: The Countess of Derby and Her Three Daughters, 1560–1647” (PhD diss., University of California, Riverside, 2009).

22. Martin Billingsley, The Pens Excellencie (London, 1618), sigs. C3v–C4r.

23. Both secretary hand and round hand were completely running hands, or cursive, meaning letters in a word were all joined, which made the document quicker to write but not necessarily quicker to learn or to read. The letters that most distinguish secretary hand from italic forms are the h with a looped descender, the c resembling a print r, the r resembling an inverted modern cursive r, and the d with a strongly left-slanted ascender. Round hand mainly adopted italic lettering, but writers joined all the letters in a slight right slant, which altered their look. Also, the reverse e seen in round hand continued as an option for a time. Italic cursive typically did not join all the letters, giving the appearance of being partially printed. Mixed cursive joined all the letters, but some of the secretary-hand characters remained.

24. Hilary Jenkinson, “The Teaching and Practice of Handwriting,” History 11 (1926): 216; Heal, English Writing-Masters, xxxii–xxxiv; Hector, “Handwriting of English Documents,” 60; Goldberg, Writing Matter, 53; and Love, Culture and Commerce, 113–15.

25. The draft-quality secretary hand here corresponds to that in his account book at the Huntington Library, which offers the largest sample of his holographic writing. See Warwick-shire Grazier, ed. Alcock, for a transcript. Note that the editor, for readability, puts in periods after certain numbers and substitutes capitals for some lowercase letters that are not in the original manuscript.

26. See “Early Modern Pronunciation and Spelling,” in Oxford English Dictionary,; and Scragg, History of English Spelling, 53–55.

27. Samuli Kaislaniemi, Mel Evans, Teo Juvonen, and Anni Sairio, “‘A Graphic System Which Leads Its Own Linguistic Life’? : Epistolary Spelling in English, 1400–1800,” in Exploring Future Paths for Historical Sociolinguistics, ed. Tanja Säily et al. (Amsterdam, 2017), 187–216. For more on the CEEC, see the VARIENG website at the University of Helsinki, N. E. Osselton first drew attention to the variation between letters and print in “Informal Spelling Systems in Early Modern English: 1500–1800,” in English Historical Linguistics, ed. N. F. Blake and Charles Jones (Sheffield, U.K., 1984), 123–37.

28. The only example of what appears to be a phrase in secretary hand by Peter Temple is a less than fluid endorsement to a letter from his grandmother when he was twenty; Susan Spencer Temple to Peter Temple, October 1, 1612, STT Corresp., box 4, folder 2202.

29. Clement, Petie Schoole, 25–26; and Coote, English Schoole-maister, 30.

30. M. B. Parkes equates the virgule with a comma in Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West (Berkeley, Calif., 1992), 50–51. Parkes’s is the standard study on the subject.

31. Lawrence Stone, “The Educational Revolution in England 1560–1640,” Past and Present, no. 28 (1964): 41–80, esp. 54–68. Stone built upon the observations of J. H. Hexter, Reappraisals in History (New York, 1961), chap. 4. O’Day modifies the argument in Education and Society, 81–99; and most recently Patrick Wallis and Cliff Webb provide new information in “The Education and Training of Gentry Sons in Early Modern England,” Social History 36 (2011): 36–53. Also see Jane Whittle and Elizabeth Griffiths, Consumption and Gender in the Early Seventeenth-Century Household: The World of Alice Le Strange (Oxford, 2012), 174–81.

32. See, for example, Wilfrid Prest, “Legal Education of the Gentry at the Inns of Court, 1560–1640,” Past and Present, no. 38 (1967): 20–39.

33. For Peter, John, and Thomas, see Warwickshire Grazier, ed. Alcock, 22–24; Gay, “Rise of an English Country Family,” 383, and “Temples of Stowe,” 401–2; and O’Day, Elite Family.

34. For William, see Gay, “Temples of Stowe,” 402; for Sir Alexander, see his entry in The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1604–1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris (Cambridge, 2010); and for John of Frankton and Peter Temple, see O’Day, Elite Family, 57.

35. On Winchester, see letter of headmaster Hugh Robinson to Sir Thomas Temple, October 13, 1619, STT Corresp., box 5, folder 1715. Lady Hester (Sandys) Temple Accounts, 1623, Temple Family Papers: Accounts and Financial Papers [hereafter STTF], box 11, folder 41, Stowe Papers, Huntington Library, has Will Hart[te] entry “your boys teching and bord for half yer £10,” presumably for Miles Temple, who was fourteen or fifteen at that point. The year after he was apprenticed in Hamburg; Miles Temple to Lady Hester Temple, August 27, 1624, STT Corresp., box 5, folder 2000. The earliest mention of Hartte in service with the Temples is in William Hartte to Thomas Temple, May 10, 1614, STT Corresp., box 4, folder 1005. On Dr. Thomas also see Christopher Haigh, “Dr. Temple’s Pew: Sex and Clerical Status in the 1630s,” HLQ 68, no. 3 (2005): 497.

36. Records of the Honorable Society of Lincoln’s Inn v.1 (London, 1896), 154. On average age, see Wallis and Webb, “Education and Training of Gentry Sons,” 48. On the marriage, see O’Day, Elite Family, 300–316.

37. Wallis and Webb, “Education and Training of Gentry Sons,” 50–51, finds that about half of greater gentry’s eldest sons went to university or law school and were much more likely to do so than younger sons.

38. Privy Council Passport to Peter Temple, February 28, 1611/12, STT Corresp., box 4, folder 924.

39. On his trip to France, see Lady Hester (Sandys) Temple, List of Payments, 1612, STTF, box 8, folder 11.

40. See Richard Temple’s letter in fig. 7. Staffordshire’s William Salt Library online catalogue has short abstracts of letters showing the family’s unsuccessful attempt to get him to become a cleric or a lawyer: Also on brother John, see Gay, “Sir Richard Temple,” 290. On grammar school, see “William Proctor’s Accompts for Christian Temple 1649–1651,” Warren C. Shearman Collection, box 2, folder 2, Special Collections, Young Library, UCLA. O’Day, Elite Family, 174–75, notes his departure abroad.

41. Herbert C. Schulz, “The Teaching of Handwriting in Tudor and Stuart Times,” HLQ 6 (1943): 381–425 at 392.

42. Brinsley, Ludus Literarius, recounts the assumed drill in grammar school. Also see Joan Simon, Education and Society in Tudor England (Cambridge, 1967), 186, 313, 353–68; O’Day, Education and Society 1500–1800, chap. 4; and Daybell, The Material Letter, 54–63.

43. See O’Day, Education and Society 1500–1800, 60 (quoting Brinsley).

44. Coote, English Schoole-maister, 22.

45. Coote, English Schoole-maister, 24.

46. Simon Daines, Orthoepia Anglicana (London, 1640), 13.

47. Gay, “Temples of Stowe,” 409.

48. O’Day, Elite Family, passim.

49. For example, Wiggins, Bess of Hardwick’s Letters, 106–18.

50. Caroline Mary Kynaston Bowden, “Female Education in the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries in England and Wales: A Study in Attitude and Practice” (PhD thesis, University of London, 1996), 161–66.

51. See Temple Prime, Some Account of the Temple Family (Huntington, N.Y., 1899), appendix, 38.

52. Bowden, “Female Education,” 162. Bowden in her breakdown does not distinguish between italic cursive and italic print. The secretary hand example she provides on page 164 is not a letter but an excerpt from an exercise.

53. STT Corresp., box 20, folder 624, dated January 17 at the top of the letter but not sent until later, as she continued to work on it until at least the 25th.

54. Heather Wolfe, “Women’s Handwriting,” in The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing, ed. Laura Lunger Knoppers (Cambridge, 2009), 21–39.

55. See O’Day, Elite Family, 200–211, on the marital dispute.

56. Two additional letters in the Temple correspondence come from the viscountess, both addressed to her brother Thomas: one is a secretary hand, clearly scribal letter (April 1629, STT Corresp., box 7, folder 778), and the other is holograph and written at the behest of her husband and son (1637, STT Corresp., box 10, folder 779). The spelling of longer words is more orthodox than that discussed above, as if she had received some advice, but with the shorter words the same irregularities surface. And there is no punctuation. Two other letters to Hester Temple appear in the Temple Family Addenda [hereafter TFA], Huntington Library: HM 46374 and HM 46376.

57. O’Day, Education and Society, 185–90; and Charlton, Women, Religion, and Education, 136–49.

58. Margaret Spufford, “Women Teaching Reading to Poor Children in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” in Opening the Nursery Door: Reading, Writing and Childhood 1600–1900, ed. Mary Hilton et al. (London, 1997), 48, 61.

59. Bowden, “Women in Educational Spaces,” 85–96.

60. See Whittle and Griffiths, Consumption and Gender, 178.

61. “Layed out for Mrs Penelope Temple Since the 19th of January 1658,” TFA, box 3, HM 46379. For information about Penelope’s stay with Finnes, see also TFA, box 3, HM 46378, 46380, 46381; and STT Corresp., box 16, folder 783.

62. See my “The Standardization of Alphabetic and Numeric Notation 1500–1700” (unpublished manuscript, 2017).

63. On this point, see Jenkinson, “The Teaching and Practice of Handwriting,” 215.

64. Frequently quoted in this regard is William Markham, A General Introduction to Trade and Business (London, 1738), 52–53. See, for example, Heal, English Writing-Masters, xxxiii; and Stanley Morison, Selected Essays on the History of Letter-Forms in Manuscript and Print, ed. David McKitterick (Cambridge, 1981), 166–70. Also see Schulz, “Teaching of Handwriting,” 415, quoting Humphrey Wanley in Philosophical Transactions 24, no. 300 (June 1705): 2000. Susan Whyman follows this chronology but places round hand usage in the middle decades of the eighteenth century; Pen and People, 21.

65. Reasons are offered in Heal, English Writing-Masters, xxxii; and Love, Culture and Commerce, 111.

66. Cressy, Literacy and Social Order, 142–34.

67. O’Day, Education and Society, 98–99.

68. Books listed in TFA, box 2, HM 46533, have been identified as being for the use of Lady Hester in Rosemary O’Day, Women’s Agency in Early Modern Britain and the American Colonies (Edinburgh, 2007), 266–67 and in Lindsay R. Moore, “Women, Power and Litigation in the English Atlantic World, 1630–1700” (PhD diss., George Washington University, 2011), 157–59. Because almost every identifiable title listed was published after her death in 1656, it seems more likely to have been purchased for her son Richard. Interestingly, the only instances of interest in books for Sir Peter and Christian Temple surface in the 1649–51 accounts William Proctor maintained for them, Shearman Collection, box 2, folder 2. The titles all concerned the political crisis, one that especially affected Sir Peter due to his precarious financial situation.

69. Only capitalization at the start of a sentence is being referenced here. No consensus existed on proper nouns.

70. William Lily, A Shorte Introduction to Latin Grammar (London, 1584), which was much reprinted.

71. For example, Coote, English Schoole-Maister, 30–31; and Jeremiah Wharton, The English-Grammar (London, 1654), 85–88.

72. Parkes argues that by the end of the sixteenth century, the written word had become associated in the minds of readers with the printed word; Pause and Effect, 56. Jajdelska questions whether the gap between rhetoric and syntax was that great; Silent Reading, 45–46. Imogen Marcus concentrates on sixteenth-century differences in speaking and writing in The Linguistics of Spoken Communication in Early Modern English Writing: Exploring Bess of Hard-wick’s Manuscript Letters (Cham, Switzerland, 2018).

73. M. Lewis, Plain, and Short Rules for Pointing Periods (London, 1674).

Additional Information

Print ISSN
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.