Thursday, September 10, 2015

Esperanto Becomes Popular

Popular is good.
I would think when a newspaper describes and article as “special” to that newspaper, that they’ve got some sort of exclusive on it, and not that it was written by a stringer and not a staff reporter. But for an article that appeared on September 10, 1905 in both Washington, D.C. Evening Star and the Omaha Daily Bee, the second meaning was clearly the correct one. Someone in London cabled off to the two newspapers (and doubtless others) news Esperanto activity in London following the excitement generated by the first World Esperanto Congress, the 1905 Universala Kongreso.

The tale told by the cablegram correspondent seems a little fanciful, but on the other hand, it was clear that there was a real surge of interest in Esperanto after the first congress. Certainly, not long after the New York Esperanto Society had to take measures to exclude those who wanted the prestige of being a member of an Esperanto society without the actual bother of learning the language.

The headline in the Bee warned that that Esperanto “may become a fad,” which probably would have been a bad thing, since fads tend to be short lived. Those who organized and attended the first congress hoping for some flash in the pan.


New Language Can be Easily Learned and May Become a Fad.
LONDON, Sept. 9.—(Special Cablegram to The Bee.)—“Do you esperant?” or more properly rendered, “Ĉu vi parolas internacie?” is becoming quite a common question in London since the conclusion of the International Esperanto congress at Boulogne.

The congress has caused qute a boom in the baby language and the esperantists are taking every advantage of it.

Hawkers in the streets are briskly selling a little red book entitled, “How to Speak Esperanto the Auxiliary Language of the Nations.” It costs a penny and contains the full grammar and quite an imposing vocabulary. It predicts that the student will be able to learn the grammar in an hour, read the language with facility in a month, write it with facility in two months and speak it with facility in three months.

The elevator boy, Freckleton, of the Law Land company in Surrey street, who, owing to this fluency in esperanto, was taken to the Boulogne congress, is now the envy of all of the other elevator boys of London, many of whom are enthusiastically studying the language.

Mr. Sexauer, the secretary of the British Esperanto association, is in daily receipt of hundreds of letters, which come from all parts of Great Britain and Ireland, written by persons anxious to learn the language. A large proportion of the applications are from teachers, but the letters are written by people in all walks of life.

It is now computed that there are 250,000 persons in the world who can speak the language, and many thousands more who are studying it at the present time.

The only difference in the article in the Evening Star was that it was titled “Do You Esperant?” On the same day, the Washington Times had an article corroborating the account of the Star and the Bee.

To Speak “Esperanto.”
Walking up Ludgate Hill today I was invited by a large placard to “Try it.” and with ready obedience I gave my penny in return for a coup of a little book entitled “How to Speak Esperanto.”

This is one of the direct results of the first international congress of the international key language, and Dr. Zamenhof—a Russian by birth—is truly king of a wider “entente cordiale” than any the world has welcomed. According to expert witness of various nationalities the whole of this auxiliary language can be grasped in a few lessons.

Certainly the little primer that my penny commanded is simple and clear in the extreme, and it seems quite evident on the face of it that “Johano estas agrabla” must mean that John is agreeable. There is something so refreshingly vague about the virtues of a John one need not know.

“La somero estas varma” can only mean that the summer is warm, a truism only permissible to compilers of a grammar. The delightful novelty about this grammar is, however, that in it there is nothing “irregular” and “exceptions” do not exist.
Did two separate London newspaper reporters apply a penny for an Esperanto pamphlet? The details on the two seem to overlap so well, yet at the same time, it certainly could be two different people. On the other hand, it was probably just one representative of the British Esperanto Association selling the penny pamphlets in the street. It’s hard to imagine that the streets of London were filled with dealers in Esperanto literature in September 1905.

The secretary of the British Esperanto Association wasn’t a native of Britain. Hermann Sexauer was German by birth. He didn’t stay long in London. Within a few years, he had moved to the United States, where he eventually married and where he lived for the rest of his life.

Since the articles are unsigned, it’s impossible to tell if either of the reporters (if there were indeed two) followed their own statements on the ease of learning Esperanto and learned the language themselves.
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