Modern Chivalry (Revisited)

What ruined the federal administration, but the intemperance of driving.


The love of science; and the love of the public, is at variance with attention to private emolument.


That institution is not wholly useless, which supplies amusement.

Yes, here's another e-book project.

A number of years ago, I came across a reference to Modern Chivalry, by H. H. Brackenridge, and purchased a used copy online. While I found it amusing, I didn't think at the time that I would read it again, and traded the book in at the local used bookstore. I don't remember what edition it was, save that it was a hardcover volume1, and contained (I would later discover) only the first half of the complete work.

The years passed, and after recently reading several works by Washington Irving, my mind turned once again to Modern Chivalry, and I searched for a Kindle edition to download. It was not available at Project Gutenberg, and the only versions available at Amazon (just as with Krylov's Fables and Finnegan's Wake) were shoddy OCR conversions with no effort made at proof-reading. Advice to the would-be buyer: Look inside!

Hence my desire to provide a superior version.

At first, I started with the 1846 edition [published by Carey and Hart of Philadelphia], which was very close, if not identical, to the version which I'd originally read. Although correcting the OCR text was labor intensive, I found myself appreciating the book much more than I had the first time. However, upon examining the 1857 edition2 of the second half of the work [published by T. B. Peterson of Philadelphia], I discovered, to my chagrin, an editorial admission to softening the language and expunging parts of the original, not to mention a revelation of less than exemplary performance by the typesetters.

This would not do!

Upon doing more research, I came across the web text hosted by the University of Virginia (hereinafter UV), as well as some more information on the complex history of Modern Chivalry. Arriving at the conclusion that the 1819 edition [published by R. Patterson & Lambdin of Pittsburgh] was the closest to definitive, I decided to scrap my existing work and start over from scratch, using the UV text as a starting point, which allowed me to focus less on correcting OCR errors and more on proof-reading.

In preparing Modern Chivalry for Kindle format, I compared the UV text to scans of the 1819 edition, Volumes I and II. I consulted other editions on occasion, especially if I came upon a passage that was illegible or obliterated. My aim was not to "correct" or modernize but, on the contrary, to restore the greatest fidelity to the original text, while nonetheless fixing any obvious typographical errors. I felt my role should not be that of Procrustes, but of an appreciator of a product of its time.

It is to be understood that the printed language had undergone various mutations over time, during the publication of the various editions. For example, compare this sentence from three editions:


Julius Ceſar made a humane generous maſter; but he would have made a very intriguing, troubleſome valet de chambre.


Julius Cesar made a humane generous master; but he would have made a very intriguing, troublesome valet de chambre.


Julius Cæsar made a humane generous master; but he would have made a very intriguing, troublesome valet de chambre.

In the 1819 edition, some spellings that would be considered archaic were retained in print. In general, my practice was to retain these spellings as well. For example, throughout most of the work, "choose" and "style" and "show" are consistently spelled as "chuse" and "stile" and "shew" save in a few sections that most likely are late additions by the author. Similarly, while the spelling "Cæsar" is consistent throughout most of the work, there are multiple instances of "Cesar," which I chose to keep.

Occasionally, I encountered a variant spelling that was unique, or at least very much in the minority. Treatment of such cases depended on my mood at the time. Usually, I would alter the variant spelling to match the others, but sometimes I found myself preserving it, especially if it struck my fancy. One notable example is the preservation of "Canabalism." While I admit this is not necessarily a scholastic approach, I might argue that it is artistic!

One rule which I followed steadfastly, however, regards italics. Where italics occur in the original text, I preserved them. Where italics do not occur in the original text, I removed them from the UV text. This was my one rule written in stone, and if any deviations are to be found in my text, they may absolutely be attributed to an error on my part.

Also, I replaced curly quotes and apostrophes with standard ones for greater simplicity of HTML code3. Regarding other punctuation, I leaned more towards that which is in the original text, although at times I made alterations, or abided by the UV text. As to the correction of hyphenation, more specifically the healing of words broken across lines by such means, I found the UV text to be done so excellently in that regard that it was only on very rare occasions that I deviated from their pattern.

While I have done my best overall, I acknowledge that my proof-reading is not perfect. It is as easy to miss a slight transcription error, as it is to misread or overlook a type that fails to make full impression. Nonetheless, I feel my version to be as good as it is likely to get. Having said that, here are links to the master HTML document, a home-brew Kindle version, and the Kindle version published through Amazon, as an alternative to the other versions there. Enjoy!

November 27, 2018


1Probably the 1926 edition [published by Greenberg of New York].

2Not 1835, as given in the Open Library catalog.

3I compose my HTML manually, rather than relying on editor software, which (in my mind) tends to produce clutter.

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