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The Story of Lancashire Dialect
[Note: References, in square brackets, are quoted at the end. You can go to the reference by pressing ' ctrl+f ' and input the reference you want e.g. [2] then pressing 'Enter', and return to your place in the text by simply pressing 'Enter' again].
In a previous section we looked at the development of Modern English. This section now turns to the story of Lancashire dialect.

The Roots of Lancashire Dialect
One author makes the remarkable claim that nearly all the words an English child learns before school age are from Anglo-Saxon, and I am inclined to believe that there is a lot of truth in this[1] .

Essentially the basic structure of English is Anglo-Saxon. This includes the personal and possessive pronouns (I, you, my, mine, etc.), the basic verbs (such as to be, have, do, make, get, ‘can’, go, come, run, walk, talk, see, hear, sing, laugh, etc.), all the questioning words, so beloved by children anxious for information (who, what, where, when, why, how), the members of the family circle (mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle), the parts of the body (mouth, nose, ear, eye, hair, finger, hand, foot, etc), the articles (the, a), demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, those, them) adverbs of place (here, there), words to describe the weather (hot, cold, rain, snow, cloud, wind, sun, moon), the numbers, the days of the week, many other basic words (but, and, also), large numbers of common nouns (house, wood, stone, stick, etc) and many basic adjectives (small, tall, fat, thin, weak, strong). As discussed in the previous article, all such words come through to us from the early Germanic languages into Old, Middle and then Modern English. There is a terseness in words derived from Anglo-Saxon that marks Lancashire and other northern dialects.[1a]

But it is not only the vocabulary of English that derives from Anglo-Saxon – much of its grammatical structure does too. For example the Anglo-Saxon ic giefe / ic geaf becomes in English I give / I gave, and ic libbe / ic lifde becomes I live / I lived. Anyone who has had the opportunity to study modern Dutch or German cannot fail to be impressed by the structural parallelism of these languages with English. We take for granted the Anglo-Saxon word order such as ‘a black horse’, which would be ‘een zwart paard’ in Dutch, and only stop to think when we realize that in Latin-derived languages this becomes ‘un caballo negro’ (Spanish).

However the simplicity of the English verb endings (I run, you run, he/she/it runs, we run, you run, they run) does not derive from their Anglo-Saxon origins. In both modern German and the Romance languages the verb endings are very much more complex and the simplification of English may have come about during the mixing of the Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Norman languages when people simply cut off word endings while speaking, because they were uncertain of them.

The Enlightenment
The Vernacular
We previously traced the development of Modern English from its roots in the spoken tongues of Anglo-Saxon and concluded that written English departed markedly from the contemporaneous language spoken in many parts of the country.

The spoken language of the common people, often referred to as the ‘vernacular’, continued to develop alongside the increasingly standardised written and spoken English of the literate classes, but at a much slower pace. It was passed down from generation to generation by mostly illiterate people[2] and was the language in which they were ‘brought up’. Their rights, duties and obligations, the traditions associated with the land, work, crafts, nature, family, buying and selling, social customs, folklore, pastimes and superstitions were all communicated in the vernacular. It changed only slowly unless the user became exposed to the influence of travel. Most of the common people, however, had little opportunity either to travel, or to come into contact with those who did, so that, particularly in the more isolated areas of the country – which certainly included most of Lancashire at that time – the local language gave rise to a sense of community and identity. The vernacular, however, was almost never recorded and was normally despised by the literati. An epigram written by Johanthan Swift (1667-1745) illustrates the prevailing attitudes:

Great folks are of a finer mould;

Lord! How politely they can scold!
While a coarse English tongue will itch,
For whore and rogue, and dog and bitch.
From about the time of the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 a new spirit began to make its presence felt in England. On the one hand there was much interest and progress in science, as epitomized by the founding of The Royal Society, of which Sir Isaac Newton became one of the first Presidents. On the other hand there were commercial and trading developments, as indicated by the founding of The Bank of England in 1694 and the appearance of Joint Stock Companies that were able to fund foreign ventures intended for profit. The new spirit, based on reason and knowledge, is usually referred to as 'the Enlightenment’.

The earliest known reference to cotton in the Manchester area relates to Bury in 1570[3] and by 1630 cotton was being worked in Bolton, Blackburn and Oldham[4]. The industry gradually expanded over the succeeding years before growing more significantly from the start of the eighteenth century. It was initially a cottage industry based on the spinning wheel and handloom and most participants, in these early years, were part-time agriculturalists / part-time textile workers. These people lived in small settlements, generally called ‘folds’, which appear to have been rather stable and therefore were able to develop a sense of cohesion and tradition.

It seems that during this period literacy of the common people began slowly to rise. One of the main reasons was probably due to the increasing spread of Protestantism, especially the later developments such as Methodism from the 1740s[5], which held it important that adherents should be able to access the biblical texts[5a]. It was essential that ministers of religion should be literate, and they were, of course, then able to teach members of their family and other members of the community to read.

John Collier – ‘The Father of the Lancashire Dialect’
One man who learned to read and write in this way was John Collier (1710-1786) – who took the nom de plume of ‘Tim Bobbin[6]. His father was a curate from Urmston in south Manchester but he became blind and thus unable to bring up his son to the ministry. After working for a short time as a Dutch-loom weaver, Collier became an itinerant schoolmaster in Oldham and the surrounding villages. Eventually he was offered the position of schoolmaster at Milnrow, near Rochdale. But Collier was multi-talented; he earned his living by teaching reading, writing and accounts but he also played the hautboy and the flute and and could draw, paint, engrave and carve (see image)[6a]. He had a great sense of playfulness and wrote anonymous verses poking fun (or worse) at local characters. He also drew caricatures, painted altar pieces and pub signs. He was compelled to work hard to support his wife and a quite numerous family and since he also liked to drink a glass of ale reported that ‘Tim remained poor’.

Collier was fascinated by the local language and over many years made a collection of all the ‘awkward, vulgar and obsolete words, and local expressions which ever occurred to him in conversation amongst the lower classes’. Clearly he heard plenty of Swift's 'whore and rogue, and dog and bitch'. Collier eventually published many of the words he heard in a glossary[6b].

In 1756 he published ‘A View of the Lancashire Dialect’ in the form of a humorous dialogue between ‘Tummas an’ Meary’ (Thomas and Mary). Collier himself explained the main motive for his writing:

'Some write to please, some do't for spite,

But want of money makes me write.' [6c]

The idea that his writing might earn him some money was proved right by events, for he was soon forced to take measures to protect his work from piracy. His dialogue of Tummas an' Meary was the first writing ever published in Lancashire dialect and opened the eyes of later writers to a market interested in reading the voices of the common people. Many followed in his steps, thus earning for him the epithet ‘the Father of Lancashire Dialect[6d].

Collier was faced with the need to find a way to express in the written form the sounds and phrasing of the local dialect and did not succeed as well as might have suited some of his critics. There is, however, some evidence that he copied his spellings from the badly-written examples of the barely literate with whom he came into contact. In any case, his contribution to knowledge of the Lancashire vernacular is immense.

By way of illustration of Collier’s style there follows an example of his writing, and a very necessary translation of the same by Elijah Ridings (1802-1872). The extract is from ‘Tummas an’ Meary’, the story told by the former to the latter of the adventures that befell him when he went to sell a cow and calf for his master at Rochdale [6e]. Another of Tim Bobbin's amusing tales can be found here.
Mary. Well, on heaw went’n ye on ith’ Mourning when eh wack’nt?

Thomas. Whau, as I’r donning meh thwooanish Clooas, I thowt I’ll know heaw meh shot stons ofore I’ll wear moor o meh brass o meh brekfust: So I cawd, on th’ londledey coom, on kestit up to Throtteenpence: So; thowt I t’ meh seln, o weawnded Deeol! Whot strushon hav I mede here! I cou’d ha fund meh seln o how Wick weh hus for that Money. Ist naw hav one Boadle t’ spere o meh hoyde Silver: On neaw I’r in os ill o Kele os meetshad! Wur eh naw!

M. Now marry naw yo: In idd’n mede strushon, on Bezzilt owey moor Brass inney hadd’n, yo met’n ha tawkt.

T. I find teaw con tell true to o Hure, into will Meary; for byth’ Miss, when ot eh coom’t grope eh meh Slop t’ pey ‘ur, I’r weawnedly glopp’nt for the Dule o hawpunny had eh! On whether eh lost it ith’ Bruck, or weh scrawming o’er th’ Doytch-backs; I no moor know in th’ Mon ith Moon: But gone it wur! I steart like o Wilcat, on wur welly gawmless: On ot last I towd hur I’d lost meh Money. Sed hoo, whot dunneh meeon Mon: Youast naw put Yorshar o me; that Tele winnaw fit me; for yoar like’t pey o sumheaw. Sed I, boh its true, on you meh grope eh meh Breeches in eh win. Theaw’rt some mismannert Jackonapes I’ll uphowd tey sed hoo; Ney, ney, I’st naw grope eh the Breeches not I. Whau sed I your lik’t ha nowt, beawt yean tey meh Woollen Mittins, and meh Sawt Cleawt: Thoos’n naw doo, sed hoo, they’re naw booath worth oboon two Groats. – I nowt else, said I, beawt yean ha meh Sneeze hurn, on I’m loath t’ part weet; becose Seroh o’Rutchots gaight me th’ last Kersmuss. Let’s see um, sed hoo, for theaw’rt some arron Rascot I’ll uphowd teh, So I gen um hur; on still this broddling Fussock lookt feaw os Tunor when id done.

M. Good-Lorjus-o-me! I think idd’n th warst Luck ot ewer Kersun Soul had!
M. Well, and how went you on in the morning, when you awoke?

T. Why, as I was donning my damp clothes, I thought I’ll know how my shot [account] stands before I’ll order my breakfast: so I called, and the landlady came, and cast up my shot to thirteen-pence: So; thought I; a wonderful deal! What destruction have I made here? I could have found [funded] myself a whole week with us for that sum. I shall not have one bodle to spare of my hide-silver [the proceeds from selling the skin of the calf]. And now I was in as ill a turn as anybody – was I not?

M. No, Marry, not you: if you had made destruction and embezzled away more money than you had, you might have talked.

T. I find thou canst tell true to a hair, if thou wilt, Mary: for by the Mass! when, that, I came to grope in my slop [loose outer clothes] to pay her, I was astounded, for the de’il a halfpenny had I: and whether I lost it in the brook, or with scrambling over the ditch-banks, I no more know than the man in the moon: but gone it was. I stared like a wild-cat, and was nearly senseless. At the last I told her I had lost my money! Said she, "What do you mean, man? You shall not put Yorkshire on me [try not to pay]: that tale will not fit me: for you are like to pay in some way." Said I, "But it is true, and you may grope in my pockets if you will." "Thou art some mismannered Jack-an-apes, I will be bound," said she. "Fie! Nay! I shall not grope in thy breeches pocket – not I." "Why," said I, "then you are like to have nothing, except you will take my woollen mittens, and my salt-cloth [a bag that had contained salt, washed away when he fell in a river]." "Those will not do," said she; "they are not worth above two groats." "I have nothing else, except you will have my sneeze-horn [snuff horn]; and I am loth to part with it, because Sarah O’ Richard’s gave it to me, th’ last Christmas." "Let’s see them," said she, "for thou art some arrant rascal, I will be bound." So, I gave them to her; and still this broadling fussock looked as foul as thunder, when I had done all I could.

M. Good Lord! I think you had the worst luck that ever christened soul had.
One of the interesting things about this passage of Lancashire dialect is the extreme rarity of anything other than words of Anglo-Saxon origin. The only ones I can find are ‘destruction’, ‘money’, ‘mass’ and ‘rascal’. This, indeed, is a characteristic of Lancashire dialect in general and supports, I think, the idea of faithful transmission of the vernacular from generation to generation since the time, at least, of Middle English. This was also the conclusion of Edwin Waugh, who wrote: The language in which the commanding genius of Chaucer wrought five hundred years ago … is even in its most idiomatic part, very much the same as that used in the country parts of Lancashire at this hour[7].

Had Collier been writing in more recent times he would, no doubt, have used sound recording or standard phonetic conventions to capture the common speech. As it was he had to hear it, remember it and then find a way to represent what he had heard on paper. It was a novel way to use language – almost a deliberate de-standardisation[7a]. Other Lancashire dialect writers were faced with a similar dilemma, although their task was perhaps easier than that of the remarkable John Collier in that they were generally writing the sounds of their own communities; Collier’s Urmston speech would have been quite different to that of Milnrow, Oldham and Rochdale, a point later noted by Samel Bamford.

In fact, the dialect varied from town to town, and it is fascinating to see how the local poets expressed in writing the sounds as they heard them. For example Ben Brierley wrote as he heard it in Failsworth, John Trafford Clegg (1857-1895) as he heard it in Rochdale, and Joseph Baron (1859-1924) the sounds of Blackburn. Pronunciation, vocabulary and idioms changed over quite short distances – further evidence of faithful transmission of the vernacular down the ages but tight retention in local communities where people travelled comparatively little. Waugh knew well from first hand experience the communities of the areas around Rochdale and Oldham in the first half of the nineteenth century and said: ‘In the country parts … temptations to change of settlement are [few], the difficulties in the way of change are greater there than in the towns. Country people stick to their sod, with hereditary love, as long as they can keep body and soul together upon it in any honest way[8].

As a post-script to John Collier it seems only fair to note that not all later Lancashire dialect writers were in his thrall. Ben Brierley expressed his disapproval of 'Tim Bobbin' on more than one occasion. In his 'Ab-O'th-Yates Dictionary, under the heading 'Clown' he wrote[9]:
CLOWN. A coarse, ill-bred man. Accordin' to thoose forriners ut liven i' th' back part o' England, it meeans a Lancashire mon. An' I'm nobbut soory ut some of eaur writers han helped to mak it eaut ut we are a breed o' yorneys. Tim Bobbin started it, by makkin it seem as if 'Tummas o' William's' wur abeaut th' biggest leatheryead upo' th' face o' this clod. An' if it hadno' bin for sich as Edwin Waugh, th' wo'ld mit ha' gone comfortably t' sleep, wi' its mind made up ut this corner o' th' lond wur throng packed wi' foos. But Ned hissel, an' Sam Baimfort, an' Sam Laycock, an' one or two lesser leets, han shown that eaur bit o' greaund con raise summat elze beside folk ut hardly known when they're th' reet end up. When Tim made Tum what he wur, he mit justa ha' towd us ut some o' th' finest men ut ever hondled figures, an' some o' th' deepest thinkers, wur then knockin at their looms. Owd Billy Shakspere had th' same faut. O his workin folk are cleawns. English history has very little nobility eautside a palace."

Translation: "CLOWN. A coarse, ill-bred man. According to those foreigners who live in other parts of England, it means a Lancashire man. And I'm only sorry that some of our writers have helped to make it out that we are a breed of bumpkins. Tim Bobbin started it, by making it seem as if Thomas of William's was about the biggest idiot on the face of the earth. And if it hadn't been for such as Edwin Waugh, the world might have gone comfortably to sleep with it's mind made up that this corner of the land was packed full of fools. But Ned [Waugh] himself, and Sam Bamford, and Sam Laycock, and one or two lesser lights, have shown us that our bit of ground can raise something else besides folk that hardly know when they're the right way up. When Tim made Tom what he was, he might just have told us that some of the finest men that ever handled figures [mathematicians], and some of the deepest thinkers, were then working at their looms. William Shakespeare had the same fault. All his working folk are clowns. English history has very little nobility outside a palace.
So, though John Collier might have been the father of the Lancashire dialect, his work was not necessarily to the liking of all his sons. My feeling is that Brierley's criticism of Collier stems from the fact that the two men were writing in different traditions. Collier's approach was perhaps a satirization of the tradition of bawdy and uncouth stories already well-established in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales that continued always to be popluar down the years, especially among the lower ranks of society (as can be inferred from Swift's comments, q.v.). Clearly such tales would tend not to be published in book form, and would have attracted the severe opprobrium of the church. They were tales of debauchery, lechery, drunkeness and often violence - and probably considered to be very entertaining! Collier lampooned their protagonists. Brierley, writing a century later, inhabited a rapidly industrialising world that had seen the fruits of the Enlightenment and the influence of a whole new literary and cultural movement - Romanticsm. He was a man of a different age to Collier and he wrote with irony of folk that made up in common sense what they lacked in formal education, but who were well aware that they were beginning to wield some real political power. Collier and Brierley were simply men of different times.

Romanticism and the Industrial Revolution
Although Collier was stimulated to write about the common people of Lancashire more for financial than artistic reasons, broader currents were stirring. In his autobiographical account, Confessions published in 1782, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) described the sudden insight that he gained while walking away from Paris[10]. He had been taught to assume that progress consisted of a journey from nature (the countryside) to civilization (the city), when in fact that had been a terrible fall. There was much wrong with the city, much poverty, injustice and inhumanity and in the countryside one could learn from a simpler community and homely values in close proximity to the wonders of nature.

In England, meanwhile, there had been the loss of the American colonies in 1776 and soon after came the upheavals caused by the French Revolution of 1789, and its aftermath. It became fashionable for those who had previously interested themselves in the Grand Tour to see the Classical sights of Europe to manifest more interest in the isolated parts of their own country and the people who lived there.

Thus some people began to question the certainties of the thinking of the Enlightenment and to place more value on a simpler way of life and the emotions. This led to the emergence of different values and a movement that came to be called Romanticism[11]. Enlightenment thinking believed that the world could be understood by reason; Romanticism attributed greater value to personal feelings and contrasted the artificiality of city life and high culture with the authenticity of nature and simple people ('the Noble Savage') and attributed to them a value not hitherto recognized.

John Collier might have been the first to put the common speech of Lancashire into print, but he was not the first to think the vernacular worthy of record. From as far back as the late fifteenth century single-sheets of paper had been hawked round the country by chapmen or sold at markets and fairs. They were illustrated with images made from woodcuts, and by the sixteenth century songs with well-known tunes were being published in this form as ‘broadsheets’ or ‘broadsides’. They would be pasted upon a wall in some public place where someone able to read could teach the illiterate the words, and in this way many songs became popular.

In England much of this material disappeared during the Puritan crackdown on frivolity in the mid seventeenth century, but the tradition persisted more successfully in Scotland[11a]. Early in the eighteenth century Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) of Edinburgh was publishing the songs of Lowland Scotland (whose language is quite closely related to Lancashire dialect) in broadsheet and book form and had taken to collecting such songs, some of which were in the vernacular[11b]. Some, indeed, such as the following first verse from ‘I’ll Never Leave Thee’, he wrote himself:
Though for seven years and mair honour should reave me
To fields were cannons rair, thou needsna grieve thee;
For deep in my spirit they sweets are indented,
And love shall preserve aye what love has imprented.
Leave thee, leave thee! I’ll never leave thee,
Gang the warld as it will, dearest, believe me.

1. Reave, from ‘rove’ – ‘though I should rove’ 2. Were, 'where' 3. Rair, 'roar' 4. Gang, 'go' 5. Warld, ‘world’
Robert Fergusson (1750-1774) was another Scot who wrote in the vernacular, and Robert Burns (1759-1796) acknowledged a debt to him. The following is the first verse from one of Ferguson's vernaculars poems, 'The Daft Days', showing a great sensitivity to nature[12]:
Now mirk December's dowie face
Glours our the rigs wi' sour grimace,
While, thro' his minimum of space,
The bleer-ey'd sun
Wi' blinkin light and stealing pace,
His race doth run

1. Mirk, 'murky, dark' 2. Our, 'over' 3. Dowie, 'worn with grief, tired' 4. Rig, 'ridges'
But if John Collier was the father of Lancashire dialect, it was Robert Burns (1759-1796), who started his working life in humble circumstances as the son of a tenant farmer, who inspired many of the Lancashire dialect writers[13]. Burns' father was enlightened enough to help his son obtain a reasonable formal education, and Burns added to this by his own efforts. He could write in Standard English, but his output of poems and songs is largely in the vernacular. His work was first published in 1786 and was instantly successful. It received favourable reviews in London and was widely read by English poets of the time, including William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Acceptance of Burns in London, in spite of the fact that he wrote in broad Scots vernacular, is a quite remarkable fact. His dialect, however, would have been much more readily intelligible in Lancashire.
Tam O’ Shanter (written in 1790) is perhaps the crowning glory of Burns' poetical work; this is how it begins:
When chapman billies leave the street
And drouthy neibors neibors meet,
As market days are warin’ late,
And folk begin to tak the gate,
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
And getting’ fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps, and stiles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Whare sits our sulky sullen dame,
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

1. Billies, 'fellows' 2. Drouthy, 'thirsty' 3. Gate, 'road' 4. Bousing at the nappy, 'drinking ale' 5. Fou and unco happy, 'full, tipsy and uncommonly (unusually)' 6. Hame, 'home'
Given Burns’ background it is perhaps not surprising that he also wrote with sympathy about nature – for instance To a Mountain Daisy or To a Mouse – and as we have seen nature was one of the main Romantic themes. So, referring to Romanticism, we can see why 'many would claim him as it's godfather, if not it's progenitor..."[14]. However I have included the material from Fergusson and Ramsay because, as Burns himself made clear, he was following in a tradition that stretched back at least to them and further through popular songs published in broadsides. I do not know if Collier had any knowledge of the Scottish traditions, and he was writing too early to be affected either by Burns or by the notions of Romanticism.

Romanticism became a major force in the arts and certainly affected the thinking of many of the later authors of Lancashire dialect. Perhaps as pertinently, it affected the thinking of many of the Society patrons of the arts. It became fashionable to associate with ‘the struggling artist’, and, if possible, to be on terms of intimacy with a tame one.

Such novelty perhaps helped both the solvency and the acceptance into polite society of Burns, and certainly helped another famous early vernacular poet John Clare (1793-1864), who had been inspired by reading The Seasons[15], written by another Scottish poet, James Thomson (1700-1748). Clare, rather like Burns, started as a humble rural worker. He was a lover of nature, about which he wrote extensively, and was to become incensed by the enclosure of the land around his home at Helpston, then in Northamptonshire[15a]. There are echoes of Oliver Goldsmith (ca 1730-1774) and his hugely famous poem The Deserted Village[16]. Here is the first part of one of Clare’s nature poems, The Badger[17]:
The badger grunting on his woodland track
With shaggy hide and sharp nose scrowed with black
Roots in the bushes and the woods and makes
A great high burrow in the ferns and brakes
With nose on ground he runs a awkard pace
And anything will beat him in the race
The shepherds dog will run him to his den
Followed and hooted by the dogs and men
The woodman when the hunting comes about
Go round at night to stop the foxes out
And hurrying through the bushes ferns and brakes
Nor sees the many holes the badger makes
And often through the bushes to the chin
Breaks the old holes and tumbles headlong in.
Notwithstanding the antecedents explained above, to the English intellectual poets the idea that the language and speech of the simple folk had any poetic value was, to say the least, novel. William Wordsworth (1770-1835) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) were two of the doyens of the early-Romantic period and in 1798 they collaborated in the production of a book of poems under the title of Lyrical Ballads[18], which they prefaced with an explanation that included the following comments:
The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society [my italics] is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure.
Readers of superior judgment may disapprove of the style in which many of these pieces are executed. It must be expected that many lines and phrases will not exactly suit their taste. It will perhaps appear to them, that wishing to avoid the prevalent fault of the day, the author has sometimes descended too low, and that many of his expressions are too familiar, and not of sufficient dignity.
After such careful qualification of the possible value of the conversation in the middle and lower classes of society it is surprising to find that the material presented is very far from a representation of the spoken word of the common people, in the sense of Ramsay, Ferguson, Collier or Burns. Here is a remarkable example of what now looks like pretentiousness that only goes to emphasize how groundbreaking were the early vernacular poets. Clare is perhaps the finest English descriptive poet of the countryside, certainly surpassing the more famous Romantic poets. Enjoy The Nightingale's Nest and a perceptive appraisal of him here.

The idea that a knowledge of the old ways of the common people was worth deliberately preserving in prose as well as verse began to make an impact in Lancashire, a process that was given impetus by the rapid rate of change affecting rural communities as industrialisation began to draw the cottage dwellers into burgeoning towns. Samuel Bamford realized this when he wrote his autobiographical Early Days in about 1843 and took care to explain the way of life, customs and traditions that he had known in his youth at Middleton, near Oldham, in the 1790s. However most of the poems that Bamford wrote largely avoided the vernacular although Tim Bobbin's Grave is a delightful exception.

Fortunately, other Lancashire writers realised the value and importance of recording the speech and expressions of a lifestyle that was undergoing rapid change and would soon be lost. John Collier’s work could not show any more clearly the gulf that existed between the spoken and the written word. It is clear that he, like Bamford and Ridings, was perfectly able to write competent Standard English. Indeed this seems to have been the case with all dialect writers, even when, as with Robert Burns, John Clare, Elijah Ridings and Ben Brierley (1825-1896), they came from humble backgrounds and were to a considerable extent self-taught. The following is an extract from Ridings’ poem Village Festival, which though in Standard English yet serves to record one of the traditions of his village which even then was beginning to disappear – the rush-cart festival. The full poem also betrays a debt to Romanticism:
Behold the rush-car, and the throng
Of lads and lasses pass along;
Now, view the nimble morris-dancers,
The blithe, fantastic, antic prancers,
Bedeck’d in gaudiest profusion,
With ribbons in a sweet confusion
Of brilliant colours, richest dyes,
Like wings of moths and butterflies-
Waving white kerchiefs in the air,
And crossing here, re-crossing there…
Yet Ridings also wrote in the dialect, as shown by the following immensely enjoyable poem, Ale Versus Physic [Medicine], which describes a stroke:
Aw’re gooin’ by a docthher’s shop        [doctor’s house]
Ut th’ top o’ Newton Yeth                         [Newton Heath, a place near Manchester]
Un theer aw gan a sudden stop.             gave a sudden stop]
Un begun t’ be feeort o’ deoth.                frightened of death]

My honds shak’d loike an aspen leaf;    [shook like]
Aw dithert i’ my shoon;                             [trembled in my shoes]
It seemt as dark as twelve at neet,         [as dark as midnight]
Though ‘twur but twelve at noon.             [midday]

Aw thowt aw see’d the gallows-tree,
Wheer th’ yorn-croft thief wur swung,      [thief was hung]
Un ut’ owd Nick wur takkin’ me,              [the Devil was taking me]
Un theer he’d ha’ me hung.

Aw grop’d my way to th’ docthur’s heawse,
Un then aw tumbl’t deawn;                       [fell down – stroke]
The floor, it gan me such a seawse,       [blow]
Aw welly broke my creawn.                      [nearly cracked my skull]

Neaw what wur th’ docthur thinkin’ on,
For t’bring me to mysel,
Un save a sick an deein’ mon,                [dying man]
So feeort o’ deoth, an’ hell!

He used no lance – he used no drug,     [no blood-letting]
Ut strenghthens or ut soothes,
Bur he browt some strong ale in a jug,    [brought]
Ut ‘ud come fro’ Willy Booth’s.

He put it in my wackerin’ hont,                  [trembling hand]
Ut wur so pale an’ thin;
Aw swoipt it o off at a woint,                     [knocked it back in one]
Un aw never ailt nowt sin’!                        [never been ill since]
It is interesting that in this example of Lancashire dialect I can find nothing but words derived from Anglo-Saxon, yet in the preceding ten lines of Standard English there are at least seven words of Latin origin.

Edwin Waugh (1817-1890), who always wrote in the Romantic idiom, could write in Standard English and indeed wrote vast amounts of exquisite bucolic and eventually tedious Romantic prose, and much poetry of a similar type, but he is much better remembered for his dialect poems such as Come Whoam To Thi Childer An' Me, and deserves to be remembered, too, for some of his short stories about local Lancashire characters. A fine example is The Old Fiddler's Tale.

Some Constructions of Lancashire Dialect
We have already seen that the basic structure of English is Anglo-Saxon and that it is the structure and vocabulary of Anglo-Saxon and Old English that appear in Lancashire dialect.

When we first come across the Lancashire dialect it strikes us as strange for a number of reasons. We quickly learn to cope well with one of the most obvious features – the abbreviation of words and expressions that simply reflect local usage and pronunciation. For example th’ owd cobbler, or ther’s nob’dy can tell what abeawt. Pretty soon we work out what th’art a foo’ means, and begin to feel quite clever. But there are many devices we also begin to note that are more interesting when we learn their origins. Thus we find that the plural of 'shoe' is shoon, of ‘eye’ is een (as the plural of ‘ox’ is oxen and ‘child’ is children, although in Lancashire dialect, curiously, ‘children’ becomes childer). Then we find the word hoo and with luck work out that it means ‘she’, but wonder where on earth it came from. Well, the Old English for ‘she’ was ‘heo’, or ‘ho' so we can see that Lancashire dialect is once again preserving something that has come from Anglo-Saxon origins.

Another peculiarity – or series of peculiarities – relates to the plural form for many verbs. We find expressions such as we lik’n, which means ‘we like’, a structure that applies to many other verbs in the first and third persons plural. In Dutch 'we like' is wij lijken and we are again surprised by the fact that Lancashire dialect preserves its ancient roots so clearly.

Perhaps next we begin to pick up on some surprising pronunciations that are indicated by peculiar spellings. Why, for example, should the writer use mak instead of ‘make’, choilt instead of ‘child’, cleaut instead of ‘clout’, goo instead of ‘go’, beigh instead of ‘buy’ (and why put in a gh?), dacent instead of ‘decent’, or hoyle instead of ‘hole’? The answer to this set of peculiarities is that the Great Vowel Shift, described here, which began about 1500 evidently never really affected the dialect spoken in Lancashire.

Beyond the changes described above we also start to realise that Lancashire dialect uses words we have never seen before; some do not even occur in the Concise Oxford Dictionary and we find ourselves looking for a Lancashire dialect glossary for help. Examples of such words are addle (to earn), brawsen (gorged, overfull), clemmed (starved for want of food), deet (to mark or sign), eccles (icicles), fain (pleased), and so on through the rest of the alphabet.

There are phrases or sayings too that are delightful but not used today: I’re as gawmless as a goose (I was as daft as a goose). He lippens o’ swappin’ is cowt for gowd (He expects to swap his coat for gold – he has unreasonable expectations), Aw think there’s a bit o’ seawnd sleep comin’ on (I think I’ll have a quick nap), or He’d noather strap nor brass for t’ pay (He’d neither credit nor cash to pay with).

Post-Romantic Tendencies
'Post-romanticism brings passion back to earth, finding beauty, sensuality and meaning in the daily human life'[19].

Social Aspects of Lancashire Dialect
Riding’s poem, quoted above, is essentially telling a funny story, and humour, often mildly self-deprecating, characterizes much of the Lancashire dialect writers’ output. Ben Brierley’s work was perhaps less Romantic than Waugh’s, beginning to reflect a post-Romantic, more modern and more self-confidently realistic assessment of working-class society. Though Brierley has a significant output in Standard English his work has a much greater dialect component – often amusing – in both prose (see Deficient Records) and poetry(see The Wayver of Wellbrook). Poems such as Cuttin Id Teeth by Joseph Baron or Eawr Sarah’s Getten [got] a Chap by Sam Fitton (1868-1923) are fine examples of Lancashire humour in post-Romantic style.

As explained above in relation to broadsheets, there is clearly a connection between vernacular speech and folk music – indeed another name for dialect might be folk speech. The common people had relatively few amusements compared to today, and little money to spend, and were therefore obliged to depend on their own resources for their entertainment. Much therefore came from conversation, gossip, story-telling (including folk tales of the supernatural), music-making, singing and folk dancing. A marvellous example of what reads as a poem but in fact was a song is Jone o' Grinfilt. Interest by the higher social classes in vernacular poets such as Burns and Clare is paralleled by interest of the so-called classical musicians such as Schubert (1797-1828) and Liszt (1811-1886) in folk themes as the basis for their works. Unfortunately we know much less than we would like about the tunes to which the old songs were set, although some musicians, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), did tour the country districts to record what they could at the time.

That Lancashire dialect is the spoken rather than the written idiom is clearly evident from the works of several local writers. For example, when Edwin Waugh wrote about his visits to the towns of West Lancashire during the Cotton Famine of 1862[20] he used Standard English until he came to record the dialogue of the poor and starving that he met, when he invariably changed to the vernacular. He even did this when describing conversation with Irish immigrants, substituting his version of Irish talk at this point. Ben Brierley similarly depicted Irish talk.

At least in the early decades of its existence, written Lancashire dialect was, like much else at the time, a male thing. Women did have a voice, but it seems to have been foisted upon them by men. As examples, we can think of Waugh’s famous Come whoam to thi’ childer an’ me, What could aw say? by William Baron (1865-1927), or An owd maid’s lament by Joseph Burgess (1853-1934). Women writers did exist – but were rare. Perhaps the best-known early example is Margaret Lahee (1831-1895) of Rochdale (but born in Ireland).

Society poets’ work presupposed a degree of sophistication on the part of the reader, but the writers no doubt hoped they would find a wider market among the aspiring, and a place in universities and libraries wherever English was spoken. Lancashire dialect writers’ aims were more modest. Their work was based on local themes and images such as work, home, the family, food and drink, common pleasures and pastimes, courting and nature, and they could never have hoped for any extensive distribution away from the areas of which they wrote and the people whose lives they recorded. Fortunately Manchester and its cotton-working satellite towns provided a sufficiently large market to support their work although finding a publisher was often not easy. Some poets paid their own costs, some, such as Thomas Brierley, found a sponser, others, such as Jospeh Burgess or Ammon Wrigley, collected money from subscribers whose names they then listed in the back of their books, some later poets found an outlet in regional newspapers. Ben Brierley published his own journal for twenty-two years, but was usually hard up. Some of the poets relied on charitable collections to help them in old age. It may not be too much to suggest that without the market of the Manchester region Lancashire dialect would never have appeared in print in any quantity.

Lancashire writers did not shy away from the wider social issues. Indeed in the tradition of some of the broadsheets a part of their output could be labelled as protest or political. Collier himself took plenty of digs at the Quality; Bamford wrote radical poems, but in Standard English; Ben Brierley asserted his independence of the landowning classes in The Wayver of Wellbrook; and Joseph Burgess was socialist politician as much as poet and wrote some dialect poetry in that vein. However in spite of the desperate times experienced across the cotton districts of Lancashire for much of the period from about 1800 to 1840 there is surprisingly little Lancashire dialect poetry, at least as known to me, that talks of protest, strikes and revolution. Perhaps it was too dangerous to admit authorship of such a genre - as suggested by Factory Workers' Song - an interesting example in the style of a broadsheet. Other examples, also in song form (to rollicking good tunes), areThe Miner’s Lockout and With Henry Hunt We’ll Go!

The second period of hardship, known as the Cotton Famine, was much shorter – for two or three years during the American Civil War, and especially in 1862 when no American cotton reached England. Many post-Romantic Lancashire dialect poems of great stoicism and dignity were written at that time and became justly famous. Those affected wanted work, not charity, and had a dread of having to rely on ‘the parish’. After exhausting whatever little savings they had they would sell their belongings item by item – into heaven knows what kind of a market – and then put up with cold and hunger in the grim hope that trade might pick up again[20].

Samuel Laycock is generally acknowledged as the pre-eminent poet of the Cotton Famine and his Welcome, Bonny Brid is perhaps the best-known of his poems of the time, but It’s hard to ceawer [sit] i’ th’ chimney nook and Aw’ve hard wark to howd up mi yed [head] deserve more notice. Others moving poems of the time were Sam Fitton’s Mi owd case clock, Joseph Ramsbottom’s What weary toimes, H. B. Whitehead’s Hard times and William Billington’s (1827-1884) Th’ surat weyver’s song.

There are, of course, Lancashire dialect poems about all the topics under the sun, and the categories I have highlighted are merely some that I have enjoyed. However I will mention two more.

The first deals movingly with the end of life, reflecting the way many Lancashire folk lived. Examples are My piece is o’ but woven out by Richard Rome Bealey (1828-1887), ‘Th’ edge o’ dark’ by Samuel Hill (1864-1910), William Axon’s Owd Jone and the wonderful prose passage An orderment by Ammon Wrigley. The second provides a philosophy to live life by, and here I will mention Some fooak by Joseph Baron, A lift on the way by Edwin Waugh and A Gradely Prayer by C. A. Clarke.
It is too easy to immerse oneself in the Lancashire dialect that is available in libraries, second-hand bookshops and on the internet and comment on it without realising what this available dialect frequently is not. It is not really the voice of the common people - in the tradition of John Collier. Perhaps without exception all the well-known Lancashire dialect writers are voices of dignity and respectability - had they not been so they would not have been published. In effect the availability of the financial resources to publish amounted, by default, to censhorship.

Concluding Remarks
I hope I have demonstrated in this essay that Lancashire dialect is the folk-speak that must have persisted from Anglo-Saxon times until the late eighteenth century, when John Collier began to record it, with relatively little change. The fact that it came to be recorded was due to a coming-together of several vital factors. One of these was that a growing number of artisans and others were becoming literate and so able to put into writing something of the speech they heard about them. Another was the accelerating rate of change as industrialisation and migration to the towns began to take hold, producing awareness that a traditional way of life was disappearing and needed describing. A third factor was that Romanticism made it fashionable for the well-to-do to take a greater interest in the common people and their way of life. However a fourth factor that began to thrust the dialect into the consciousness of society was the growing impact that the throng of folk accumulating in the industrial towns, and their increasing economic relevance to the nation, was beginning to make on the politics of the country. The new industrial towns were without precedent and no-one knew if they would ‘work’. As the straitened economic circumstances of the Napoleonic Wars and their aftermath in the 1820s began to mean un-employment, hunger and cold, particularly for the handloom weavers, so the concentrated population could easily turn into violent mobs and disrupt the status quo. This greatly concerned the ruling classes, particularly as they were not keen that the ‘peasants’ should ape their French counterparts and consign them to the muck-heaps of history. Inevitably in this process the Voices of the People – voices speaking the dialect – were heard, in broadsheets, in books and newspapers, as poems and songs of protest and in the courts of the land.

But another series of factors also began to come into play towards the end of the eighteenth and into the nineteenth century that would inevitably mean that Lancashire dialect would, after many hundreds of years, begin to disappear.

The people who spoke Standard English tended to be those who ran the country, those who were literate, and therefore often those who had money, or access to money. So, learning to speak Standard English was attractive for those who were ambitious, who wanted an education, who wanted to ‘get on in life’. We can all relate to stories of a younger generation that succeeded in ‘making something of themselves’ and who became ashamed of parents who might advertise too readily the humble background that they had escaped from.

So, one factor that sapped the vigour of Lancashire dialect was the spread of education, at first privately, then via the Sunday Schools, and finally through the State education system. The teachers in all these institutions were keen, or rather determined, to knock the dialect and its associated ‘incorrect’ spelling and pronunciation out of their young charges and inculcate in them the Standard English. This is nicely illustrated by Joseph Cronsahw's poem in standard English 'Lost in London, or The Dialect in Distress', published in 1908:
But at last came Mr. Board School, who said that it was wrong,
To read, or write, sing or recite, in our own mother tongue;
The teaching in the Board School now was rather circumspect
And they had made a solemn vow to kill the dialect.
(The Board Schools were founded by the Education Act of 1870 and ended by the corresponding act of 1902 and were for children of from five to ten years of age.)
The unfortunate but natural tendency to think ill of non-standard speech continues today, for we instinctively look down on someone interviewed on radio or television if they speak in a local vernacular. ‘I ain’t got none of them’ might be a good enough example to illustrate the point. Such people are ‘ignorant’, ‘quaint’, ‘uneducated’ and of the ilk of Eliza Doolitte who was 'condemned by every syllable she utters' ; in fact such phrases may be about all that is left of the traditional language. I well remember a family member expressing admiration at my father’s ability to make puns: "Ee, ’e can mek owt out o’ nowt!" It was memorable because it was musical and because it was funny, but also because that kind of talk had become rare. It would certainly not have been permitted in school, unless it was written to represent the local speech that it was.

There is, therefore, an irony. The factors that brought the dialect to the attention of wider society were also those that were destined to consign it largely to history. In the time of Samuel Bamford the dialect was clearly used widely by the common people, but those like him who were ‘lettered’ would speak Standard English when away from their own area, or when talking to the better educated – probably they found it made communication easier, but they were also anxious not to appear inferior. These tendencies can be traced in Bamford’s autobiographical writings.

A nice example of the misunderstandings that could arise if one did not speak ‘properly’ in public comes from a story my father used to enjoy telling: A famous lady came to address a local meeting in Lancashire and when she appeared on the platform one man in the front row shouted "Give her a cheer!" There duly followed the chorus of "Hip, hip, hooray", but as it finished the voice of the man in the front row was heard again, with exasperation: "Naw, I mean a cheer to sit down on!" Thus, people speaking in the vernacular felt something of a fear of ridicule, of being considered as ‘uneducated’, as being ‘unworthy’ and of being 'looked down on'. No doubt Bamford, Waugh, Brierley and some others were esteemed because not only could they speak (and write) for their ‘own’ people, but they could hold their own in more polished society, and even merit respect. Bamford enjoyed corresponding with various members of the aristocracy and no doubt felt flattered by their attentions.

We can contrast the concern for ‘respectability’ that I think can be perceived in some of the dialect writers with the indifference shown by Ammon Wrigley (1861-1946) of Saddleworth (see Friezland Ale). Wrigley was simply unpretentious. Feted in his lifetime, he would fail to turn up at meetings where he had been persuaded to speak, yet to the end of his days he enjoyed a beer with his friends, and to talk of the villages and Saddleworth countryside that he so loved. On one occasion he wanted to buy a copy of one of his own books at a second-hand shop in Manchester, but on enquiring the price he told the bookseller that it was too expensive and walked away without even explaining that he was the author. By then, though, the sun was going down on Lancashire dialect.

We should not grumble at the poets who spoke ‘posh’ in public – we do it too. Even now most of us avoid using words and expressions that those around us might think strange, and that might make us perhaps seem uncouth. We are more likely to say the Latin ‘Be quiet!’, rather than the Anglo-Saxon ‘Shut up!’ (and certainly not ‘Shurrup!’) We can easily become condescending of those we hear on radio or television who have strong regional accents and vocabularies, or use poor grammar – unless, of course, they are someone famous such as was Fred Dibnah, the actress Jane Horrocks, or the comedian Peter Kay. Fred Dibnah was a wonderfully interesting but, I thought, a profoundly melancholy figure. He loved the industrial landscape, but was responsible for demolishing a large number of factory chimneys and thus actively participated in destroying what he cherished in order to earn a living. He spoke with a broad Bolton accent and would not compromise his working-man's dress, diet or mannerisms; it was part of the character, but Fred was also a genuine working chap. If you listened carefully you could hear him say ‘the hwole thing’ instead of ‘the whole thing’; it isn’t acceptable to talk like that in the media now.

So when did Lancashire dialect disappear from the common speech? I am pretty confident that my paternal grandfather spoke the dialect at home and with his friends, but in any public situation he spoke Standard English. My maternal grandmother enjoyed a good natter with her sisters in dialect, but her children could not understand it. My father never spoke the dialect, but he was very interested in it and gave public talks with readings of dialect poetry to local interest groups in and around Manchester (link here). I too am interested in it – but there is less of an audience and I think it is fair to say that it is now merely a curiosity; a curiosity of minority interest groups.

Published dialect briefly became for many people a pleasure, but as Burns wrote in Tam O’ Shanter:
… pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed!
Or like the snowfall in the river,
A moment white then gone forever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form,
Evanishing amid the storm[21].
Perhaps the whole process of the development of Standard English can be considered simply as inevitable linguistic evolution and development into more sophisticated forms, driven by the technology of the printing press and more recently the media. And yet, today we have a vibrant creativity of new language, conspicuous in minority ethnic groups, or related to technology, and particularly among the young. Examples are the inventiveness of text messaging and the slang of rap – which is almost more verse than music. Today the linguistic circle is wider. The old localisms are eliminated and the new crest-of-the-wave terms and expressions are spreading; text messaging and rap are ‘cool’ – the old dialects are not[22].

Lancashire dialect related to a way of life that has become obsolete. The language has pretty much died with the lifestyles, the old technologies and the old ways. As enthusiasts it is easy to be merely nostalgic for it, instead of looking into what it is saying. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the old Lancashire dialect poems and prose is the insights, values and wisdom that they contain, not the words they are made up of. But we can also appreciate the art of the words themselves, the metre, the rhyming, the analogies, the tales that they tell and the visions they paint. These things demonstrate that many of the common people who came to public notice during the upheavals of the industrial revolution that changed the world for ever were not brutes.

There is one modern development, however, that may now help to preserve dialect language into an uncertain future – the internet. At least here minority groups can publish their interests easily and cheaply, and the power of modern search-engines allows convenient access for those who develop a curiosity in language as it was, in the speech of their forbears, or in the origins of the society of which we are all part.

Philip Dunkerley

First posted: 08 December 2006
This page was last modified on Thursday, June 23, 2011


[1] Jenkins, Clive, 1980, Language Links – The European Family of Languages, Harrap, London, ISBN 0-245-53422-9. I have used material from the marvelous little book at several points in this essay and highly recommend it.
[1a] In his book 'Notes of a Tour in the Manufacturing Districts of Lancashire' written in1842 and available on Google Books, W. Cooke Taylor, an Irish academic, referred to those who lived in the north as 'pure Saxons' while he regarded those of the southern counties as 'mixed races'! He also noted: The Clergyman cannot get at the people; there is no community of taste, habit, or language between the parties; he cannot understand them, and they cannot understand him; and hence, when they come in contact, they too often part in mutual vexation.

[2] Spoken language has to be one of the strongest meme groups. The term meme was proposed by Richard Dawkin and is now defined in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.

[3] Winterbotham, Diana, 1998, p. 24, in Roberts, Elizabeth, A History of Linen in the North West, University of Lancaster, ISBN 1-86220-064-5
[4] Timmins, Geoffrey, 1996; Four Centuries of Lancashire Cotton, Lancashire County Books, 1996, ISBN 1-871236-41-X.

[5]. Waugh, Edwin, 1881, p. 83, Lancashire Sketches, Volume I of the Complete Works, published by John Heywood, Manchester. On page 84 Waugh makes an interesting comment about the books most often read during his time: "I could almost venture to prophesy, before going into any substantial farmhouse, or any humble cottage in this quarter, that some of the following books might be found there: the Bible, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the Book of Common Prayer, Baxter's Saint's Rest, and often Wesley's Hymn-Book, Barclay's Dictionary, Culpepper's Herbal, and sometimes, Thomas a Kempis, or a few old Puritan sermons."
[5a]. Altick said: 'The largest single group of lower-class readers was the Wesleyans, who numbered over 56,000 by 1789. Among them, reading had the same importance that it had among the Presbyterians north of the border. All Wesleyans were expected to read as much as their leisure allowed.' (Altick, Richard D., The English Common Reader - A social history of the mass reading public, 1800-1900; Phoenix Books, The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
[6] For John Collier see, for example here. Waugh (op. cit) also allocates the first 92 pages of his Volume I to a sometimes rambling account of John Collier in Urmston and Milnrow. For a copy of Collier's work on the internet see here. For copies of a series of John Collier's engravings link here.
[6a] Collier wrote his own epitaph, in which he calls himself a 'Jack of-all-Trades' but master of none. This is clearly a calculated understatement of his talents. A reading of his 'Dialect of South Lancashire' shows him to have had a keen satirical eye that he used especially against the local Justices and Priests. Surely Ben Brierley must have approved of this aspect of Collier's work. The epitaph is:

'A yard beneath this heavy stone,

Lies Jack of-all-Trades, good at none,

A Weaver first, and then School Master;

A Scrivener next: then Poetaster,

A Painter, Graver, and a Fluter,

And Fame doth whisper, a C――r;

An Author, Carver, and Hedge Clark:

E Whoo-who-whoo, whot whofoo wark!

He's laft um aw, to lie ith dark!'

A reading of Collier's work suggests that he had at least some familiarity with Classical work, including, quite possibly, some knowlege of Latin.


[6b] The glossary, as republished by Samuel Bamford, can be accessed here, and I have also incorporated it into my own Glossary, which can be found here.


[6c] From the introduction to 'Tummas an' Meary'. The full text of Collier's explanation of his writing is:

Some write to shew their wit and parts,

Some shew you Whig, some Tory hearts,

Some flatter Knaves, some Fops, some Fools,

And some are M――st――l tools.

Some few in Virtue's cause do write,

But these alas! get little by't.

Some turn out maggots from their head,

Which die, before their Author's dead.

Some write such sense in prose and rhime,

Their works will wrestle hard with time.

Some few print truth, but many lies,

On spirits—down to butterflies.

Some write to please, some do't for spite,

But want of money makes me write.

It is fascinating to compare this with Robert Burn's alleged motivation for writing poetry:

Some rhyme a neebor's name to lash;

Some rhyme (vain thought!) for needfu' cash;

Some rhyme to court the country clash,

An' raise a din;

For me, an aim I never fash;

I rhyme for fun

[6d]. It is interesting to note that publishing of books other than by erudite writers was barely in its infancy in 1756. Lackington, the first agressive book-seller in London, did not start his business until 1774 (Altick, op. cit., p. 37).


[6e] Taken from A Lancashire Garland of Dialect Prose and Verse, selected and edited by G. Halstead Whittaker, pages 112-113,1936, published by George Whittaker & Sons, Eclipse Works, Stalybridge, 2nd edition.


[7] Waugh, op. cit., p. 44. I would, to some extent, disagree with Waugh here. Chaucer had travelled widely in Europe, spoke both French and Italian, and was familiar with a great deal of European literature. This is evident in many parts of The CanterburyTales, where Latin-derived words are often used. A good number of Chaucer's tales, especially those of the tradesman class, are bawdy and this chimes with Swift's epigram and Collier's somewhat scathing observations about the vulgarity of what he heard about him. It may be that Waugh, and Brierley after him (see later comments), were seeing the common people through somewhat rose-tinted - [Romantic] - glasses.


[7a]. It has been suggested that some of Collier's orthography was copied from the efforts of those around him who, barely literate, wrote as they spoke. I have seen similar efforts in letters written by barely literate adults in Brazil.

[8] Waugh, op. cit. p. 50.


[9] Brierley, Ben; 1881, Ab-O'Th-Yate's Dictionary, Manchester, Abel Heywood & Son, London, Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., p. 46.


[10] As explained in Schama, S., 2003, A History of Britain 3, p. 19, BBC Worldwide Ltd., ISBN 0 563 48719 4.


[11] See Wu, D. editor, 2006, Romanticism An Anthology, 3rd. ed., Blackwell Publishing, ISBN-13:978-1-4051-2085-2.


[11a] "...not even the Reformation, which in England had the effect of consigning to oblivion or to popular hatred many ancient songs and tunes, could damp in Scotland the musical ardour of the people". Songs of Scotland. The Book of Scottish Songs from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century, Ed. Charles Mackay, London: Houlston and Wright, no date of publication, but may be pre-1866, pp 10-11.


[11b]. Ramsay was something of a controversial figure who upset a part of the Establishment. He began to rent books from his shop in Edinburgh in 1725 and induced one commentator to rage about '... this profannes is come to a great hight, all the villanous profane and obscene books and playes ... are gote doun from London by Allen Ramsay, and lent out, for an easy price, to young boyes, servant weemin of the better sort, and gentlemen, and vice and obscenity dreadfully propagated.... and by these, wickedness of all kinds are dreadfully propagat among the youth of all sorts.' (Altick, op cit., p. 63.


[12] For Robert Fergusson click here.


[13] See Brierley, B., Home Memories, p. 32 'It was not until I joined the companionship of Burns and Byron that I felt the "god within me".' Manchester, Abel Heywood & Son, London, Simpkin, Marshall, & Co.


[14] See Wu, op. cit., p. 260-261.


[15] For The Seasons click here and also here.


[15a] Since writing about John Clare I have learned that, like probably all 'dialect' writers, he was perfectly capable of expressing himself in exquisite standard English, as can be seen in the example accessible here.


[16] For The Deserted Village click here.


[17] From The Faber Book of Vernacular Verse, 1990, edited by Tom Paulin, ISBN 0 571 170609. In this short extract there is not a word that derives from other than Anglo-Saxon.


[18] For Lyrical Ballads click here. Note that these two short paragraphs are stuffed with words of Latin origin.

Wu (op. cit) regards the publication of Lyrical Ballads in 1798 as so important that he actually dates it as the start of the Romantic movement. This was, however, done with hindsight. Discussion of Romanticism versus Classicalism was current about 1820 (see Wu).
[19] For an explanation of Post-romanticism click here.
[20] Waugh, Edwin, 1881, Factory Folk, published by John Heywood, Manchester
[21] This passage from Tam O’ Shanter nicely illustrates how much of Burns’ poetry was written in an English that was close to Standard.
[22] An interesting, and intelligible, discussion of dialect can be found here.