|Ĉu lil parolas esperante?|
Perhaps the Los Angeles Herald expected its reader to instantly grasp who Prof. R. B. Maitland (or Maltland) was, but to use the reference has dropped below the obscure all the way to the opaque. If I had to make a bet, I’d say they garbled the name, but my skills at name de-garbling haven’t been of any help here. Or maybe the person identified himself as “Prof. R. B. Maitland” with no further checking from the Herald. The item appeared in a column “Talks with Travelers,” which was presumably a reporter talking with recent arrivals to Los Angeles.
This item is one of the rare references to Esperanto in the nineteenth century. As the years progressed, there would be articles on Esperanto made with the assumption that the reader had never heard of it, and that it was something new. On February 6, 1896, Esperanto still was very new.
The first item in the column notes that Los Angeles hotels are filling up with people trying to get away from the harsh winter weather of the north and northwest, with residents of Montana, Idaho, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Dakota (yeah, there was just one, as it was still the Dakota Territory. Our correspondent on Esperanto hadn’t come that far.
Prof. R. B. Maitland of San Francisco said: I do not think that the new artificial language Esperanto will, any more than Volapuk, supplant the chief languages now spoken in the world, or that as long as human conditions remain as they are, that any one language become universal at least for some centuries. D’Eyssautier, a Frenchman is the chief advocate of Esperanto, whose author is a Russian-Pole named Dr. Zamenhoff of Warsaw. The grammar of the language may be learned in an hour, and all its vocabulary in a few days.The references to d’Eyssautier, Max Muller, and Tolstoy are all in the New York World article, as is the brief, and wholly correct description of Esperanto. D’Eyssautier is a name that doesn’t spring to mind even if you’re an enthusiastic Esperantist, but Edmond d’Eyssautier was one of the founders of the Grupo Esperantista Parizo (the Paris Esperanto Group). D’Eyssautier had recounted the story of a Russian Esperantist who had come to his home (rue de Grenelle 123, Paris) and they were able to converse, despite not knowing each other’s language.
Max Muller and Tolstoi write and speak it with ease, but at present it is said to be only known to about 10,000 people in various parts of the world. The roots of Esperanto are from the best known of modern tongues—English, French and German—these offering the least difficulty to students. As a root, indicative of the action of loving, the syllable “am” has been adopted. Now should one wish to make a substantive and obtain the word “love,” in French “amour,” one has but to add the letter “o,” thus obtaining the word “amo.” This is an absolute rule—to obtain a substantive from given root add the letter “o.” Nothing is easier. The present, past, and future tenses of very are made by placing after the root the terminations “as,” “is” and “os,” respectively. My own opinion is that a universal language is not chimerical, and that when that era comes the language will be Anglo-Saxon.
It’s not completely clear whose opinion the bit at the end is, but I’m leading toward it being that of Maitland, and not the journalist. Leaving out the material that seems to have been rewritten from the World article, we have:
Prof. R. B. Maitland of San Francisco said: I do not think that the new artificial language Esperanto will, any more than Volapuk, supplant the chief languages now spoken in the world, or that as long as human conditions remain as they are, that any one language become universal at least for some centuries. My own opinion is that a universal language is not chimerical, and that when that era comes the language will be Anglo-Saxon.There’s a bit of amusement for me in seeing the term “Anglo-Saxon.” Currently, the term is used to describe the inhabitants of England of the fifth through eleventh centuries, when various Germanic tribes settled in England, forcing the Celtic tribes to the west, although Wikipedia does reference its earlier use to refer to the language, which we would now call “Old English.” I mean hwæt a minute here, we’re not going to start talking in Old English, are we?
In 1896, Esperanto had barely begun. Although Zamenhof had published the language in 1887, in those nine years, the language had barely gotten off the ground. The first Esperanto congress was still nearly a decade away. Growth was slow, and it probably made sense to assume that it would be withering away in another decade. It hasn’t made its goal of being a shared world language, though I don’t think we can blame Esperanto or Esperantists for that. But as pervasive as English is throughout the world, I still can’t agree with Professor Maitland (whoever he may have been). There’s a lot of bad and confused English spoken in various quarters of the world by people who could have mastered Esperanto with less trouble than it took to mutilate the defenseless English language. Besides, the plan for Esperanto was never to supplant the world’s languages, only to offer people who spoke different languages to communicate, just like the Russian visitor talking with d’Eyssautier.
- One that I actually haven’t covered here, since I don’t have access to the World online. At some point, I have to find out if my local university library has the World on microfilm or microfiche, and then read through it, working backwards from December 1895 until I find it. I should have done it last year for the 120th anniversary of the publication of the article, but December 2015 was a tough time for me.
- There doesn’t seem to be much information about Sr0. d’Eyssautier. He really seems to be a forgotten Esperantist.
- Not only does the building still stand, but I’ve even walked past it. When I looked it up on Google Maps, I instantly recognized it as a street I had been down. The plaque on the building commemorates that a member of the Resistance lived there. No mention that it was earlier the home of an early Esperantist.
- But on my own shelves I have An Anglo-Saxon Reader (Bright) and A Second Anglo-Saxon Reader (Sweet). Neither Bright nor Sweet intended their readers for Anglo-Saxons, but instead for students of Old English (that’s why I have them, at least).
- Hwæt actually means (and is the ancestor form of) “what,” but its pronunciation is pretty close to “wait.” The opening line of Beowulf is “Hwæt we gar-dena in gear dagum” (he types from memory).
- Take in comparison Volapük, which had gone from publication to the movement falling apart in just nine years (1880–1889). ↩
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