The Charge of the Light Apostrophe, or "their's" in Tennyson

Mark A. Mandel mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU
Sat Jul 10 12:53:23 UTC 2004

I have just had the following exchange with Ian Lancashire, the General
Editor of Representative Poetry Online, of the University of Toronto Press
and the University's English Department.

        I wrote:

#> In looking for the text of "The Charge of the Light Brigade" online I found
#> your page ( among
#> others.  Many of these pages, unfortunately including yours, have the same
#> error: "their's" for "theirs" in the second stanza.  It is not in the
#> manuscript (
#> It looks as if somebody typed up the poem and put it on the Internet and a
#> lot of other people copied it without credit and without examination.  It
#> happens all the time, but it's no less regrettable for that.

        He replied:

#All I can say is that Tennyson published the poem as it stands in RPO. I
#took my text from the original printed edition. He decided not to use the
#manuscript reading you favour. Are you sure that he did not change his

        I answered:

I am surprised. I am not a Tennyson scholar. I have only known "their's" as
a very common error. I can only conclude that either
  a. Tennyson made the same error, or
  b. His editor or a proofreader or typesetter did, or
  b. It was considered correct in his time.

Thank you for your reply and further information. I am going to forward this
correspondence to the discussion list of the American Dialect Society.

-- Mark A. Mandel, Research Administrator
   Information Extraction from the Biomedical Literature
   University of Pennsylvania

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