[Ads-l] Adages: Easy writing's vile hard reading & Easy reading is damn hard writing

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 2 17:22:38 UTC 2014

I've have received two requests to examine the provenance of the
following saying:

Easy reading is damn hard writing.

During the exploration I've found another statement with a different
meaning that historically has caused some confusion:

Easy writing's vile hard reading.

Now, I hope to create entries for both sayings. The Yale Book of
Quotations and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations have entries for a
couplet written by Sheridan. Both claim 1771 as the date of

[Begin excerpt]
    You write with ease, to show your breeding,
    But easy writing's vile hard reading.
      "Clio's Protest" (written 1771)
[End excerpt]

Google Books has a 1786 collection titled "The New Foundling Hospital
for Wit" which included "Clio's Protest", but earlier evidence would
be desirable.

Perhaps someone with access to one of the early English databases
would be willing to look for the couplet above. The goal is to
construct a complete and accurate citation for the couplet or the full

Below is the earliest citation I've located so far:

[ref] 1786, The New Foundling Hospital for Wit: Being a Collection of
Fugitive Pieces, in Prose and Verse, Not in Any Other Collection,
Poem: Clio's Protest or, the Picture Varnished, Addressed to the
Honourable Lady M-rg-r-t F-rd-ce, By Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Start
Page 117, Quote Page 130, Printed for J. Debrett, Opposite Burlington
House in Piccadilly, London. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]


[Begin excerpt]
You write with ease, to shew your breeding;
But easy writing's vile hard reading.
[End excerpt]

Your help is appreciated,

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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