Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 30/03/15


F.R. Leavis was a notorious figure in the study of English literature in the last century, a man whose narrow sensibilities - and the force with which he pursued and promoted them - managed to drive a large proportion of his students away from any joy from, or interest in, literature for its own sake.

Many have pondered down the years as to what formative experience in his life may have led him to become such an irascible and implacable proponent of the sense of his own rightness on the topic. The fact that he was privately educated was indubitably a factor, as those who have passed through the portals of such exclusive establishments seldom emerge from them without their feelings of entitlement meteorically enhanced.

But someone - I think it was Robert Robinson - pointed to another influential event.

Young Frank Leavis' pater ran a shop in Oxford - one which sold musical instruments. In the style of the time, the emporium had a snappy slogan adorning its main window. It said:


Since it is obvious - even to a product of English gentrymen's schooling - that the letters L-E-A-V-I-S do not, can not, spell 'PIANOS', then it must have been the childhood trauma of realising this which led Leavis later in life to examine any and every text placed before him with the utmost suspicion and mistrust.

I thought of this today whilst I was shopping and found this, which would surely have given F.R. the vapours:

Picture of a packet of pasta described as 'Wholegrain spelt spaghetti'

My education was, of course, rudimentary compared to that of Leavis, but I think I may not be giving myself undue airs and graces by asserting that 'wholegrain' has never been spelt 's-p-a-g-h-e-t-t-i'; and that, moreover, 'made with' has never been spelt 's-e-m-o-l-i-n-a' either.

I worry about educational standards today. Don't you?