William Columbus Ferril.

The Connecticut quarterly (Volume 2) online

. (page 41 of 46)
Online LibraryWilliam Columbus FerrilThe Connecticut quarterly (Volume 2) → online text (page 41 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The storm beat reed can only show the stress
Of outward force — its drenched leaves express,
Only a mute, dumb nothingness.

How can we hope to so judge circumstance.
That we may see the sad flood of mischance,
And read a soul by guilt that may enhance ?

What moisture lingers in that cold cliff, so

The moss can cling there, feed — and feeding grow ?

We mortals guess and guessing cannot know.

Could we but see the brighter self within
The form we loathe as being one of sin —
Could we but know where that dark soul had been I

"Here in the mire rolled that soul," we say.
Throwing a curse upon our brother clay —
Unknowing what pure deed was done that way.

We read of One, whom we have never seen.

Touching and healing the low and mean.

Deem we, their presence made His self less clean?

Look in the mire where you have said "he rolled,"

Perchance the very prints it still may hold

Of one who knelt and prayed there in the cold.

Sure as a man contain a germ of soul.

His deeds will, to the sceptic world, unroll

A broken life that might have been made whole.



THE DECIPHERING OF ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS.



BY EDWIN STANLEY WELLK.S.



The greatest danger attending genealogical investigations is that of
inaccuracy. For some it would be astonishing to know how many errors exist
in many of the printed historical and genealogical works.

One is apt to think he is on pretty safe ground when he cites a statement
from some well-known authority, but even such an authority may sometimes
be quickly confuted by comparing his dates with those of some ancient
manuscript.

Written records are undoubtedly the basis of sound genealogical work.
And whenever they are to be had, they should be closely scanned. While in
some instances such manuscripts are not allowed to be examined, because of
their fragile condition, as a general rule, public manuscript records are open
to the public for their inspection.

But oftentimes these records, particularly the most ancient, are a "sealed
book " to the investigator. For example, let us glance a moment or two at
the first page of the " Hartford Town Votes," with the heading, " Hartforde
1635." A fac-simile of this page which was undoubtedly written a few years
later than its date, is given in the latest published volume of the Connecticut
Historical Society's Collections, and illustrates some of the nice questions
which perplex the student of records. For some persons, indeed, a page of
Xenophon's Anabasis would be much easier reading. Not only is the spelling
diverse, and as arbitrary as the ingenuity of men can devise who follow no es-
tablished rules of orthography, but the capitalization and punctuation are
quite as unsettled.

In fact, one who makes it a business to examine ancient documents finds
himself sometimes actually hesitating as to the spelling of some simple and
familiar word. He catches himself writing some archaic form that would
make him an object of ridicule at a modern grammar school. But he has
weightier difficulties yet to surmount. Many of the ancient characters and
abbreviations are strangely peculiar and have long been obsolete. Among
the first votes of the little settlement at Hartford, here is this wise regulation :
" Itis ordrd that euery howse shall haue a Ladder or tre at Most w'^'^ shall
reach [ ] Two ffoote of the Topp of his howse," etc. The word

" that " looks as much like " qat " as anything else. A combination somewhat
resembling the letter "q" stands for, or is a hurried "th," while "h" in
these earliest records is written very generally with the loop under instead of
above the line. So the article " the" in places appears with this combination
character and "e." Later it simplified into a " y," and "the" is ordinarily
"y" though it was pronounced "the" as we pronounce it, and not "ye" as
many people fancy.

"V" was frequently written as " u," and "u" as "v." "J" as a small
letter was often identical with "i." Some of the ancient " e's " at first are



392 THE DECIPHERING OE ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS.

puzzling. They look to one acquainted with the Greek alphabet very much
like secondary form of small theta (^) while " c " as a capital resembles
a large theta ( H), and as a small letter, little tau ( r ). " S " as an intermediate
letter was often written with a loop under the line, and "f " was as often double
"f." Yet it should not be forgotten that even these forms were more or less
variant in the oldest records. Mr. Edward Hopkins, first Secretary of the
Connecticut Colony ( 1639-40 ), writing about the time the earliest Hartford
votes were entered, makes no abbreviation of " the " and " that " nor does his
successor in office, Mr. Thomas Welles ( 1640-48 ) in the fac-simile specimens
of their handwriting, as shown in the first volume of the Colonial Records of
Connecticut. Moreover, many of these archaic forms, to a large extent disap-
peared in a generation or so.

A few of the more common abbreviations should be indicated. "Y' " as
already mentioned, stood for " the " " y'' " for " that ; " " w'^^ " for "which"
" w'th " for " with " and " s'



Online LibraryWilliam Columbus FerrilThe Connecticut quarterly (Volume 2) → online text (page 41 of 46)