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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Nov 8 06:18:12 UTC 2014

Thanks to Bonnie and ECCO Eighteenth Century Collections Online I've
finally finished and posted three new entries on the QI website.

Despite the claims in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (2012), The
Times Book of Quotations (2000), and other references I learned that
the 1799 compilation of biographical sketches by William Seward was
titled Biographiana and not Biographia.

Easy Writing's Vile Hard Reading

Easy Reading Is Hard Writing

What Is Written Without Effort Is In General Read Without Pleasure


On Sun, Nov 2, 2014 at 2:30 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> List members: With considerable kindness and alacrity Bonnie sent me
> "The Rival Beauties; A Poetical Contest" which included "Clio's
> Protest; Or, The Picture Varnished". The date of the introductory
> letter was January 26, 1772.
> Many thanks,
> Garson
> On Sun, Nov 2, 2014 at 12:22 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
> <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>> 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
>> composition:
>> [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
>> poem.
>> 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]
>> http://books.google.com/books?id=migJAAAAQAAJ&q=%22vile+hard%22#v=snippet&
>> [Begin excerpt]
>> You write with ease, to shew your breeding;
>> But easy writing's vile hard reading.
>> [End excerpt]
>> Your help is appreciated,
>> Garson

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

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