Ann Fisher (grammarian)

Ann Fisher (c. 9 December 1719 – 2 May 1778) was an English author and grammarian. A New Grammar, which appeared in 1745, made her the earliest published female author on modern English grammar, although Elizabeth Elstob had published a grammar of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) in 1715.

LifeEdit

Fisher was born in Lorton, Cumberland, England, the daughter of Henry Fisher, yeoman, of Oldscale (in Wythop). Not much more is known of her life until her marriage to Thomas Slack, a publisher and bookseller from Newcastle upon Tyne, in December 1751. Together they had nine daughters (eight of whom survived) and conducted a number of businesses, including a ladies' school which Ann ran. Fisher had several books published by her husband. She died in 1778.[1]

WorksEdit

Early copies of her highly popular works are rare. The earliest of A New Grammar: Being the Most Easy Guide to Speaking and Writing the English Language Properly and Correctly is a copy of the second, 1750 edition, published in Newcastle. It was followed by at least 30 other editions by 1800. (It was entitled A Practical New Grammar... from 1759 and refers to an earlier Child's Christian Education.)[1]

Her book took examples of poor English as a way to teach grammar. It also attacked the use of Latin rules in the vernacular, and was the first to suggest the he might be used for both sexes.[2] Her work was often plagiarized and quoted outright by many subsequent authors. Among those it influenced were the language reformers Thomas Sheridan and Thomas Spence. Her other, now rare, books included The New English Tutor (1762, but no surviving copy before 1764) and The Young Scholar's Delight, and New English Exercise Book (both 1770).[1]

An Accurate New Spelling Dictionary, and Expositor of the English LanguageEdit

Fisher attempted to add a student's dictionary to her catalogue of school books in 1771. However, the 1st edition of her An Accurate New Spelling Dictionary, and Expositor of the English Language was so close in appearance to John Entick's New Spelling Dictionary[3] that the Dilly brothers, who published Entick's dictionaries, entered a lawsuit against her publisher, whom they accused of piracy. As a consequence of this suit, her dictionary was suppressed.[4] In 1773, the year Entick died, she reprinted her first edition as, according to her title page, the second edition of that work. Entick's New Spelling Dictionary of 1767 and Fisher’s dictionary of 1773 are nearly indistinguishable in shape, layout, font, and running heads. Copies of this so-called 2nd edition of 1773 (Alston v.325);[5] the 3rd edition of 1777 (not reported by Alston);[6] and a 6th edition in 1788 (not reported by Alston)[7] can be readily discovered. Alston notes a 4th edition in 1781 (Alston v.327),[8] but this edition, like her genuine first edition, may be lost forever.[9]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Virginia Blain, Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy: The Feminist Companion to Literature in English (London: Batsford, 1990), p. 375–380.
  2. ^ John, McWhorter. "The Royal They: Fighting against the tyranny of pronouns". The New Republic. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  3. ^ Entick, John (1767). The New Spelling Dictionary. London: Edward & Charles Dilly. This edition is apparently the edition of Entick's Dictionary that Fisher consulted.
  4. ^ Rodríguez-Álvarez, Alicia; Rodríguez-Gil, María Esther (2006). "John Entick's and Ann Fisher's Dictionaries: An Eighteenth-Century Case of (Cons)piracy?". International Journal of Lexicography. 19 (3): 287–319. doi:10.1093/ijl/ecl015.
  5. ^ Fisher, Anne (1773). An Accurate New Spelling Dictionary, and Expositor of the English Language (2 ed.). London: for the author. Data from title page.
  6. ^ Fisher, Anne (1777). An Accurate New Spelling Dictionary, and Expositor of the English Language (3 ed.). London: for the author. Data from title page.
  7. ^ Fisher, Anne (1788). An Accurate New Spelling Dictionary, and Expositor of the English Language (6 ed.). London: for the author. Data from title page.
  8. ^ Fisher, Anne (1781). An Accurate New Spelling Dictionary, and Expositor of the English Language (4 ed.). Newcastle: Thomas Slack. Data from Alston.
  9. ^ Alston, Robin Carfrae (1974). A Bibliography of the English Language from the Invention of Printing to the Year 1800 (2 ed.). Ilkley: Janus Press. p. v.60.

External linksEdit