One does not gain an entirely favourable impression of Georgian London and the language of its inhabitants from Monsieur Pierre-Jean Grosley's 1770 account of his brief sojourn in the city. For one thing, he never did manage to see the Apothecaries' Garden (or the Physics Garden) in Chelsea owing to the fact that none could understand his pronounciation of Apothecary (he found later that it was incongruously pronounced 'Potticary'). As a result, he wrote the following scathing attack on the English language:
The English Language as generally spoken seems to consist entirely of monosyllables...the first [syllable] is pronounced with emphasis and the rest, being half suppossed, dies away with the teeth...it may be easier here to speak to a horse than a fellow human being.He noted also the idiosyncratic discrepancy between written and spoken English using as his example that surgeon, whilst pronounced as it is today, was written 'chirurgeon'.
The most admired speaker of the Georgian age was most probably the actor David Garrick (pictured above with his wife), but the fact even he also was guilty of obscure pronounciation (he was said to pronounce 'firm' and 'girth' as 'gurd' and 'furm' and apparently "his example was followed by many of his imitators on the stage...who could do well to correct this impropriety") is evidence that there was a comparable variety in the way in which words were pronounced in London alone as there is today with the regional variations of the British accent.
Dr Samuel Johnson remarked that in London, 'gold' was pronounced 'goold' and 'Rome', 'room' and that 'Ea' in combination with two or more consonants (such as in the world 'earth') should be pronounced as in 'realm', similarily, 'Au' in words should be pronounced as a sharp 'a' as in 'cat'. Dr Johnson seemed to concur though with M. Grosley, asserting:
Our speech [is] copious without order, and energetick without rules...[our vowels] are so capriciously pronounced and so differently modified by accident or affection.In 'The Complete Letter-Writer' of 1768, it is noted that many words contain letters which are not pronounced 'but must be wrote'. It uses as its examples 'devil' and 'venison' which both omitted an 'i' in pronounciation and 'Bristol' which apparently then was pronounced without an 'l' - indeed it appears in some Georgian maps as 'Bristow'.
|Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire|