Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Esperanto’s One Advantage

Harsh words from a small paper
At least, according to the County Record of Kingstree, South Carolina. There were certainly more advantages to Esperanto than as determined by the Record, but they found only one. We can probably attribute the short editorial statement to Louis J. Bristow, the Editor and Proprietor of the County Record. According to a contemporary American newspaper directory, the circulation of the Record was estimated at fewer than a thousand subscribers.

At the time that Mr. Bristow was writing about Esperanto, it was still fairly new. This was printed not long before the tenth anniversary of the publication of the Unua Libro. Unlike Volapük, the first decade of Esperanto was fairly quiet. In the course of a decade, Volapük had managed to go from publication to the total splintering of the movement. Esperanto took things slowly.

This is a nineteenth-century item about Esperanto, taken from the July 22, 1897 County Record. There would be no Esperanto groups formed in the United States for another eight years. The first Universala Kongreso was also eight years away. The Esperanto Association of North America was eleven years away. This item does not seem to have lead to early interest about Esperanto in South Carolina. Just to put this in perspective, the New York Times had only first written about Esperanto a few months prior.
A Russian philologist has invented a new language, which he fondly images will fill the bill universally. He names it “Esperanto,” but it is safe to predict that it will go the same route as “Volapuk.” It has only one thing to commend it. The name seems smoother than the effort of the Volapuk crank.
Whenever I see something nasty written about Esperanto, I just think of the abuse the poor Volapukians had heaped on them. People were unkind.

It was true, however, that by 1897 the Volapük movement had largely flamed out. The last of its three congresses had been eight years previous. As noted above, the Esperanto movement hadn’t even managed its first congress by that point. Judging from the history of Volapük, some probably decided that Esperanto would do worse, and be over even before it began. Esperanto was already considered doomed, at least by the County Record. (The County Record ceased publication in 1975. So there.)

Mr. Bristow would only be the Editor and Proprietor of the County Record for a short time. The newspaper was founded in 1885 by R. C. Logan, who managed it for ten years. According to a history of Williamsburg County, Mr. Logan sold it E. G. Chandler, who sold it to W. E. Cooke, who sold it to Mr. Bristow, who in turn sold it Charles W. Wolfe in 1898, just the year after Mr. Bristow was predicting the end of Esperanto.
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