An orderly Q

Every morning I get out of bed, put a load of washing on, make my breakfast and retire with it for my daily dose of blogland. My favourites are saved on tabs in my web browser and are abbreviated to: DGR, HD, RJ, SiaB, AH and LWD. Two of those are little-known private interests but I’m sure that you can all guess the identities of the first four. It was over on Stuck-in-a-Book that I came across reference to a Roman writer, Quintilian. Recently, in blogland, there has been a smattering of alphabetic lists of favourite authors. This was started by SiaB as an Alphabet Meme and then picked up by other bloggers. SiaB provides us with a handy list of those who picked up the meme.

This morning Siab wrote about a book he has just finished. It is non-fiction and references other writings, including those of Quintilian. What a prize for someone doing the alpha meme and who only has Arthur Quiller-Couch so far for the Q entry. Quintilian is writing about education, more precisely about the education of an orator but he does seem to exude an amazing amount of common sense. He begins in Book One by talking about those who have a hand in the education of an individual, beginning with the nurse and the parents. He moves on to write of learning the alphabet, and of writing:

The accomplishment of writing well and expeditiously, which is commonly disregarded by people of quality, is by no means an indifferent matter. Writing itself is the principal thing in our studies, and by it alone sure proficiency, resting on the deepest roots, is secured. A too slow way of writing retards thought, and a rude and confused hand cannot be read; and hence follows another task, that of reading off what is to be copied from the writing. 29. At all times, therefore, and in all places, and especially in writing private and familiar letters, it will be a source of pleasure to us not to have neglected even this acquirement.

This is all very pertinent to the moment for me. I have just been encouraged to start writing real letters to a friend again. This is something that I haven’t done for quite a while and most people I need to correspond with have an email address and as long as your communication is welcome you are usually guaranteed a speedy response that doesn’t involve relying on the uncertain services of the Royal Mail. Please don’t get me started on that topic or I will join Elaine, of Random Jottings, in what she calls GOW (Grumpy Old Woman) mode. So far I have received the first epistle from my friend and after having to reply to her using my daughter’s chewed old school fountain pen I dragged myself away from desk in my lunch break and bought myself an ink converter for my lovely black and gold Waterman’s pen and a bottle of Havana Brown. She should have received my letter by now but I am not quite sure how many days it will take her to decipher my squiggles. Perhaps if I had been given ivory letters to play with as a toddler, as Quintilian advises in his Institutes of Oratory, so that I could learn their shapes as I learnt their sounds then my writing would now be more legible?


3 Responses to “An orderly Q”

  1. Simon T Says:


    I love writing letters. Much nicer to keep than emails. And very impressed by Q-research…

  2. Simon T Says:

    And love the post title!

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