7 Writing Tips from Charles Spurgeon


Charles Haddon Spurgeon is the most prolific Christian author of all-time.

Prior to the standardization of typewriters—let alone the development of computers—Charles Spurgeon literally penned a boatload of content. He’s considered to be the most widely read preacher and he produced more written material than any other Christian in history. Here’s a sampling of his production:

  • Wrote over 140 books
  • Penned up to 500 personal letters per week
  • Published a monthly magazine called The Sword and the Trowel
  • Transcribed his weekly sermons that today fill 63 volumes and total between 20–25 million words

Charles Spurgeon’s work has been translated into multiple languages and has sold millions of copies worldwide.

He can make you laugh, cry, and become awestruck with God with the stroke of his pen and eloquent prose. Here are seven writing tips taken from his life for aspiring writers.

1. Write to Help others

“We are very mistaken, if our work does not prove to be of the utmost value to purchasers of books…no object in view but the benefit of our brethren…it will be remuneration enough to have aided the ministers of God in the study of his word” (Sword & Trowel, March 1876).

2. Write Short

“Long visits, long stories, long essays, long exhortations, and long prayers, seldom profit those who have to do with them. Life is short. Time is short.…Moments are precious. Learn to condense, abridge, and intensify…In making a statement, lop off branches; stick to the main facts in your case. If you pray, ask for what you believe you will receive, and get through; if you speak, tell your message and hold your peace; if you write, boil down two sentences into one, and three words into two. Always when practicable avoid lengthiness — learn to be short” (Sword & Trowel, September 1871).

3. Write for God

“Courteous reader, throughout another year we have endeavored, month by month, to provide for your entertainment and edification. For both, because the first is to the most of men needful to produce the second, and also because God hath joined them together, and no man should put them asunder” (Sword & Trowel, Preface, 1875).

4. Write Clearly

“So I gathered that my sermons were clear enough to be understood by anybody who was not so conceited as to darken his own mind with pride. Now, if boys read The Sword and the Trowel it cannot be said to shoot over people’s heads, nor can it be said to be very dull and dreary” (Sword & Trowell, November 1874).

5. Write to Compel

“It was an ill day when religion became so decorous as to call dullness her companion, and mirth became so frivolous as to demand the divorce of instruction from amusement. It is not needful that magazines for Christian reading should be made up of pious platitudes, heavy discourses, and dreary biographies of nobodies: the Sabbath literature of our families might be as vivacious and attractive as the best of amusing serials, and yet as deeply earnest and profitable as the soundest of divines would desire” (Sword & Trowel, Preface, 1875).

“If the writer had possessed genius and literary ability, this might have been a highly interesting work; but as the writers’ sole qualification is his honesty of purpose, the work is most reliable and dull” (Sword & Trowel, November 1882).

6. Write, Write, & Write

“Many of our hours of pain and weakness have been lightened by preparing the first volume of our book on the Psalms for the press. If we could not preach we could write, and we pray that this form of service may be accepted of the Lord” (Sword & Trowel, January 1870).

7. Read to Write

“Read good authors, that you may know what English is, you will find it to be a language very rarely written nowadays, and yet the grandest of all human tongues” (Sword & Trowel, August 1871).

Posted: February 16, 2016
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Dear Christian Leaders, You’re Playing a Very Dangerous Game By Steve Deace


Wedding ceremony at church


DISCLAIMER: I am grateful for the opportunity I have here at Conservative Review to reach those on the broad spectrum of conservatism on several issues, some of which conservatives don’t always agree on. But in this case I’m writing to you, Christian leaders, as a very specific target audience. Since it’s arguable no one faces more of a dilemma with this election than you do, for you represent the sacredness of the Gospel even more than conservatism. 

Dear Christian Leaders,

I hope this letter finds you well, and I thank you for the time, talent, and treasure you have given to the cause of Christ and its resulting American exceptionalism. Thank you for putting these words from the Scriptures into practice: “Now the Lord is that spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.”

I’m writing this as a 42-year old believer who has been blessed by the works of so many of you. Some of you I am proud to call friends, or know as acquaintances. Some of you I hope to meet someday to share how God used you to take this son of a 15-year old girl raised in a home of abuse, and give him the strength and courage to break generational cycles of dysfunction. If not for your testimonies and willingness to stand for Christ against the prevailing winds of the culture, odds are I would’ve succumbed to them.

I say these things because I want you to know this letter is coming from a place of concern more so than criticism. I struggle with a critical spirit, which is why I’ve waited several weeks before penning this letter that I have started and stopped several times. I needed to make sure I was in a place I could remove as much of myself as possible, and address these concerns in the spirit rather than with my own haughty one.

With that long disclaimer out of the way, allow me to cut right to the chase.

If you are supporting Donald Trump, or flirting with doing so, you are playing a very dangerous game. There is simply no moral, biblical, or even strategic case for doing so, near as I can tell. And if I’m wrong, then let us come now and reason together.

First of all, holiness and character is of more value in the kingdom than ideological correctness. That is not to say ideological correctness isn’t important, because it is, and it’s where I make my living for the most part. But God has often worked through strange ideological bedfellows to accomplish His will. For example, three of the greatest minds in church history were Augustine, Calvin, and Wesley. Yet they vehemently disagreed with one another, even on vitally important doctrines. However, the fruit of their callings remains impactful to this very day.Some of you will say, “But wasn’t David a man of poor character and morality and God used him in a mighty way?” Yes, that is true, but others paid dearly for David’s sins. His own nation was plunged into civil war. His daughter was raped by her brother. He had a man killed so he could have his wife.

The point of David’s life is not that he’s the hero, but God is. That God so wants to be known He is willing to even use the worst of us to reach us.

So what made David a man after God’s own heart? That despite all his documented shortcomings, David in the end sought God’s forgiveness and repentance when confronted with “Thou art the man.” Trump, by his own admission, does not have a repentant heart. He has not sought God’s forgiveness, because he doesn’t think he needs it. Thus, the King David-Trump comparisons are flawed exegesis and should cease here.

Furthermore, the Scriptures make clear the qualifications for public office:

Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.

There is simply no way to avoid the conclusion that Trump violates every syllable of these requirements.

Now that we’ve addressed the biblical case, what about the moral one?

Other than that, Trump seems like a righteous dude.

Of course, Paul writes all of us were these things, because all of us were sinners, too. However, we live differently now – or at least should – because we are new creations in Christ. Unfortunately, this campaign has revealed this is who Trump remains to this day.

Finally, let’s look at the strategic argument. Generally, there are three archetypes of politicians in the Scriptures: 

  1. Josiah – The true statesman. The man who does the hard thing, no matter how hard it may be, because it is the right thing. A man sold out to the cause of righteousness. Sadly, there are very few of these.
  2. Hezekiah – The typical politician. The man who does the principled thing when it’s easy or it suits him. As in when the Scriptures say one of the holiest celebrations of the Passover since Moses came at the time of his ascendancy. However, when it gets hard, or his ego gets in the way, he will serve himself/mammon instead. So that same Hezekiah is relieved that at the end of his reign the judgment to come, which he contributed to with his own arrogance, won’t take place until he’s dead and buried. Rather than humbly repent and seek God’s mercy as a David might have done. Like most politicians, Hezekiah was principled at first, but less so the longer he was in power. Eventually principle gave way to political expediency.
  3. Ahab – A pure megalomaniac whose only motivation is his own ego, elevation, and experiences. A hedonist/narcissist/tyrant whose only ethos is the golden rule: he who has the gold gets to make all the rules. Thankfully, there are very few of these as well, mainly because they’re like the Lords of the Sith in Star Wars. If there are too many of them, they tend go after one other.

Trump is an Ahab. He is not like anything we have ever dealt with before. He is not a RINO, Republicrat, or any other kind of Hezekiah type. He won’t even pander to you on the bathroom issue when it would help him. Why? Because you’re all nothing but marks to him. He is utterly and undeniably shameless.

Trump is merely a conqueror convinced that if he’s calling all the shots the world would be a better place. He is a law unto himself.

He is the sort of figure we read about in history books. Not a raving madman Hitler type, and those making such comparisons are intellectually lazy and should be dismissed. Nor is Trump even the kind of megalomaniac Obama is, with his Soviet-era style ruthless pursuit of Marxism.

Rather, Trump is merely a conqueror convinced that if he’s calling all the shots the world would be a better place. He is a law unto himself.

In our day and age, Alpha Males are few and far between. So much so that many believe Trump is an Alpha, but he is not. Like most tyrants he is deeply insecure. How many 70-year old men are still defensive about their penis size? And it is those very insecurities that cause him to lash out so maliciously. Think of the damaged Commodus in the movie “Gladiator.”

It is the Alpha Male that is required to confront and take down the tyrant. Men willing to storm the beaches of Normandy, proclaim we have “no king but Jesus,” or face down Commodus in front of a full crowd at the Coliseum. Where are the Alpha Males in our day willing to do so? I pray God will raise some up among our ranks.

The tyrant cannot be negotiated with. He cannot be befriended. Nor can he show empathy. For all is weakness to him. Therefore, everything is transactional. You are there for as long as you’re useful, and then gone when you are not.

Like what just happened to Ben Carson, and pretty much everyone else that comes into Trump’s orbit once he’s used them for what he needed at the time. Like how my friend Bob Vander Plaats was a great guy when Trump thought he needed his endorsement, and then Trump called him a crook when he didn’t get it.

Like his spirit animal, Ahab, who came home to whine to his wife about how he couldn’t buy this one property he wanted, Trump takes to Twitter and friendly media enclaves to do the same. And then his Twitter following, and adorning media throng, acts as his Jezebel when she told Ahab just to go take what he wants because he’s the king.

Tyrants cannot be loved on. They must be broken. You will only know if they have been broken if you see the fruit of the spirit in their lives. Do they practice altruism, as in the right thing expecting nothing in return? Is there a public repentance, or a repentance of convenience? Meaning they tell you what you want to hear now just so they can get from you what they want.

When you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change. He changes you.

Anything short of that and I can promise you, as God Almighty is my witness, you are being played. And once that is revealed it will not be the tyrant that is exposed for scorn and mockery, but you.

Every. Single. Time.

In short, this is a dangerous game. This is not dining with sinners. This is attempting to evangelize Herod’s Court, where even Christ himself kept silent among such godlessness and darkness. You have never been this way before. He is unlike anything you have encountered. He would arguably be the most personally damaged and feckless individual ever to occupy the Oval Office.

He is beyond the milquetoast pabulum the system usually serves up, which is why he was able to crush the system. When you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change. He changes you.

He will see your willingness to love on him as weakness. He is laughing at you now, even as we speak, for wanting to meet with him. He sees it as the groveling of the already defeated. There’s a reason he attracts heretical Paula White types who are only in this for personal gain, too. Because real recognize real.

Such a man can be brought to Christ, because nothing is beyond the power of Christ. However, he must be broken like any wild stallion, or a prodigal son. He must hit rock bottom, such as when Nebuchadnezzar was sent to live as a wild animal. He must be shown there is a power greater than he, otherwise he will believe he is that power.

Just as you wouldn’t reward a petulant, rebellious teenager with more power and pleasure, the absolute worst thing that you can do is reward such a man just the same. You will not pierce his heart, but he will break yours.

In conclusion, I urge you to consider these two final questions:

  1. Do you really believe you could look Jesus in the eye at your judgment and justify supporting such a man for the most powerful office in the world?
  2. If you do support him, must we then apologize to the Clintons for the stones we threw at their immorality, as well as to others whose sin we have rightly lobbied against in the past since we’re now excusing it from Trump?

I know what the alternative appears to be, and I do not wish it. If she becomes president, I will oppose her Leftist schemes as I always have (unlike Trump, who lavished praise and financial contributions upon her). But I am not afraid of Hillary Clinton. Let me tell you what I am afraid of.

I am afraid of the message we will be sending this culture by compromising everything we claim to believe in, by supporting a man who embodies everything we supposedly oppose. And I’m afraid the cost for that message could transcend generations, as the culture declares we are the emperor who has no clothes. That when push comes to shove we offer them nothing not already of this world. The same fear-mongering and situational ethics they can get anywhere else. Just minus all that annoyingly sanctimonious moralizing. We will confirm for them they were right to tune us out. That we are who they thought we were. We will write the God-haters’ material for them.

That will have consequences for our fellow countrymen that will last long past the next four years.

I urge you, as a representative of the next generation who will someday take your place, please do not put us any further behind the eight ball with this culture than we already are. They already don’t trust us, nor do they take us seriously, and that’s if they don’t ignore us altogether.

Give us a real chance to reach the next generation, rather than spending years defending the indefensible simply because there is an “R” after its name.

The scriptures say we are not Christians because of our hermeneutically sound systematic theology. Or because we follow creeds. But because we testify to the fact that God supernaturally reached down into history to raise His Son from the dead. The Son who God gave to pay the penalty we deserve because He loved us so. To demonstrate that love, God was willing to lose something of tremendous value to Him, as testimony of His love for us.

His only Son.

We came to Christ because of that testimony. We bowed at the knee to Jesus and chose to follow him because he showed what he was willing to lose for us. Love knows no greater man than Jesus, who laid down his life for his friends.

Perhaps we have lost this culture because we haven’t shown it similar sacrificial love. We haven’t shown them we’re willing to lose anything for what we believe, except the same things of this world they value.

Not to mention maybe, just maybe, God would providentially award such faithfulness in the sort of supernatural ways He has for His people in the past? Perhaps we do not see God move in such ways in our day because we prefer our ways to His?

And where has that gotten us? An election between Hillary and her donor.

This is our rendezvous with destiny. Except this time it isn’t wrestling with existential threats outside of us, but the brokenness inside of us.

We don’t need Barabbas the zealot. We need Jesus. And we have the means to give them Jesus, if only we have the faith and courage of conviction. When we came to Christ did we know for sure how it would turn out, or did we have faith? Let us stop trying to manipulate outcomes as our adversaries do, and instead show real faith that while we do not know what the future holds, we know who holds the future.

Duty is ours, but outcomes belong to God.

Thank you for reading my letter and at least considering these words. I pray you will fight the good fight, keep the faith, and finish the race.

Posted: May 23, 2016
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God’s Two Incompatible Tasks By Peter Leavell

Her hands shake. Black, swollen eyes are covered by hurried strokes of makeup, and I worry she’s been beaten. I ask. She says, ‘God told me to write. Then He gives me four kids and a husband who doesn’t earn enough for me to stay home. I’ve no time to write.’ It rips her heart into six pieces.

At the same conference, I discuss the problem with a man. His arms are crossed, and his fingers work as if squeezing a stress ball. ‘If I don’t write, I die. But I can’t get a moment to myself.’ He hunches over and his face contorts. He cries.

These are writers. They care little for being published, for fame, for perceived money. They must write. But there is no time to set aside.


We’re in trenches. This is war.

We can’t be normal writers. No one will give us time to write, so we take it from the day’s hands like an open knife from a toddler. When we do, fifteen minutes opens like sunshine through a misty morning. We snatch our laptop and write. Five sentences, and it carries us through to our next fix.

Our families are our life. They are the few humans who try to understand us. So we bask in the love of our people. Quality minutes. Quality hours. And when they lay their heads down on pillows, we write as if Satan were on our heels and the click of the keyboard is the shield that keeps the devil from ripping our hearts out.

While other writers suffer from writer’s block and low energy and broken self-esteem, we suffer from fits of jealousy that someday we might have battles so time consuming ourselves. God reminds us it’s all wasted emotion, and we wonder what our characters would do when as depressed and frustrated as we are, because our characters are heroes. We listen to our imaginary friends and we take their advice, because it is good advice. They read their Bibles more than we do, so they know…

And our phones are connected to social media 100% of the time, because publishers and God want us to talk about our adventures, and we do, and we answer our fans and their questions, but we do it in the bathroom (don’t judge), or walking across the street (walk around us, please), but never driving, because we’re not stupid.

We’re not locked away in a study typing all day, and we’re doing all we can to not destroy our family’s lives by writing—but we know this is God’s calling. And we’re learning that God has not abandoned us by giving us two incompatible tasks—life and writing—but we’re learning our writing reflects life. Because we’re living our lives to the fullest. And one day, despite swollen eyes and stressed bodies and fragile minds, we wake up, look at our lives, and realize we have become a spokesperson for our God.



Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. www.peterleavell.com.
Posted: March 24, 2016
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The Bible Project: Numbers

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When God Makes You Wait By Anna Bachinsky


Jesus could have come and healed Lazarus when he was still alive.

Instead, He waited to raise him from the dead when he was already in his grave.

God could have made David become king the day after he was anointed.

Instead, He waited 15 years to rise to the throne, many of those years spent fearing for his life, hiding out and running away from his own father-in-law.

God could have spoken to Moses in the desert about sending him to help free His people from slavery 40 days after he ran away from Egypt.

Instead, He made him wait for 40 long years.

God could have gotten Joseph out of prison one year after he was sentenced there.

Instead, he was stuck in that dungeon for 10 years before he was finally set free.

God could have given Abraham the son He promised him when he was still a young man.

Instead, He waited until he was 100 years old and because of physical reasons would have a more difficult time conceiving at that age.

God could have answered prayers and met the needs of these men of God much quicker, but He didn’t.

He made them wait instead.

And He often makes us do the same.

He makes us wait for healing to come after we’ve been praying for years and there is no sign of recovery.

He makes us wait to fulfill His call in our lives after He puts the desire and passion in our hearts to serve Him in a certain way.

He makes us wait to give us the desires of our hearts, whether it’s a baby, a spouse, or a new job.

He makes us wait for direction when we are stuck at a dead end and we don’t know where to go or what to do.

He could answer that same prayer that you’ve been praying for years every night in a millisecond.

That same prayer that has been bringing you to tears.

That same prayer that the longer that it goes unanswered, the more it makes you question whether He even hears.

He kept Moses in a desert for 40 years.

Joseph in a prison cell for 10 years.

Abraham without a child for 100 years.

David on the run for 15 years.

And maybe He is keeping you right where you’re at for the same reason He kept these men for so many years: to build your faith.

To build your faith in a dungeon cell, during the valley in your life where it’s too dark to see and too hard to believe.

To build your dependence on Him when you are barren and empty to see if He is truly all you desire and all you need.

To see how well you will trust and serve Him when you are still stuck in the background somewhere, doing seemingly nothing too significant for Him.

To build your trust in Him when the storm keeps raging, the battle keeps going and breakthrough and victory doesn’t seem near.

That we grow in faith.

That we learn to only depend on Him.

What are you waiting for today?

What longing do you have that seems so far from ever being fulfilled?

What prayer do you keep on praying that seems to never reach God’s ears?

I want to remind you that God is not deaf to your prayers.

He is not blind to your constant tears, to your desires, and to your needs.

IF He is making you wait, there is a very good reason for it.

If He is telling you “no” today, maybe it’s because He has a better “yes” waiting for you tomorrow.

If He is keeping you in the same place you’ve always been today, maybe it’s because He’s helping build your faith before you enter your Promised Land tomorrow.

If He is not healing you or bringing you victory today, maybe it’s because you will have a greater testimony when He waits to help you be an overcomer tomorrow.

Wherever you are at today know that God is right beside you and that there is a purpose for you. Even if that purpose is to wait.

Don’t give up just because you don’t see anything happening today.

Maybe there is nothing physically happening that your eyes can see but there is definitely something happening in the spiritual realm as you learn to rely on Christ.

Don’t allow your waiting period to make you hopeless about what tomorrow will bring.

Instead, let it build your faith and give you even greater hope for what God has prepared for you.

He made some of the greatest men of faith wait.

Don’t be discouraged if He makes you wait as well.

He will come through for you, just like He came through for them.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” – Psalm 27:14



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The Hidden Messages of Colonial Handwriting By Cara Giaimo

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris's rendering of the signing of the Mayflower Compact. Each person to hold this quill would have done so in a way suited to their gender, occupation, and hometown.
In colonial times, penmanship was basically secret code.

Each person to hold this quill would have done so in a way suited to their gender, occupation, and hometown.

Each person to hold this quill would have done so in a way suited to their gender, occupation, and maybe even their hometown.

Imagine a world in which the font you use is chosen for you, based entirely on your demographic affiliations. All doctors write in Garamond, while designers are mandated Futura Bold. Middle-aged men get Arial; women, Helvetica. Goofy aunts must use Comic Sans.

Seem strange? A few centuries ago, that was just how things worked. In colonial America, “the very style in which one formed letters was determined by one’s place in society,” writes historian Tamara Thornton in Handwriting in America: A Cultural History. Thanks to the rigorous teachings of professionals called “penmen,” merchants wrote strong, loopy logbooks, women’s words were intricate and shaded, and upper-class men did whatever they felt like. So different were the results, says Thornton, that “a fully literate stranger could evaluate the social significance of a letter… simply by noting what hand it had been written in.”

Understanding how colonists put pen to paper means understanding why they wanted to write in the first place. As E. Jennifer Monaghan explains in “Literacy Instruction and Gender in Colonial New England”, Puritans and other early colonists considered reading and writing to be largely separate endeavors. For your average Thaddeus, Miles or Hiram, reading was generally valued not as a skill in itself, but as a direct route to the era’s most popular book: the Bible. Starting around age six, children were taught reading by their mothers, aunts, or grandmothers, with the aid of what John Locke called the “ordinary road” of educational materials—religious texts of varying difficulty, starting with a one-page “Horn Book” and ending with a complete Bible.

A page from the 1602 copybook, A Work Containing Divers Sorts of Hands.

Even if you could motor through the whole Bible, though, there was no guarantee you could copy any of it. If “reading was taught first, as a universal spiritual need,” Thornton writes, “writing was taught second, and then only to some.” The practice of writing in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries was considered less of a creative or analytical endeavor than a kind of rote physical one.

“Just as ‘good’ reading was considered to be accurate oral reading, so ‘good’ writing seemed to be viewed entirely in terms of fine letter formation,” writes Monaghan. Any art involved was concentrated not in what the words said, but in what they looked like.

Because of this, writing was considered a kind of craft—a skill one needed in order to properly carry out his or her other professional and social duties. As these duties differed, so did the type of writing required: loopy or straight, thin or bold, embellished or simple. These different styles were called “hands.”

As with reading’s trajectory, the existence of different hands can be traced back to the relationship between words and religion. In the Middle Ages, church authorities mandated a particular type of dense, blocky script—now known as “Gothic” script—for religious documents. To differentiate themselves, legal and court scribes developed their own, slightly different hands, and readers became accustomed to the symbolic coexistence of different styles. As literacy increased, and more people began writing, a new, thin, flowing style—called the Italian or italic hand—came into vogue, imported from Florence. This new style was meant to be “both pleasing to the eye and easy to read,” writes Laetitia Yeandle in “The Evolution of Handwriting in English-Speaking Colonies in America.”
Colonial currency, featuring a mix of old and new-style hands.


Colonial currency, featuring a mix of old and new-style hands.

Colonial currency, featuring a mix of old and new-style hands. (Image: National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution/Public Domain)

For a brief period in the 17th century, the two hands flourished in America—people sometimes switched between both in a single sentence—but soon, the hierarchy shook out: by the end of the 1600s, the Gothic hand was old-fashioned; the newer Italian hand trendy and on the rise. Though Gothic script was still required for legal documents, everyone else kept away from it—indeed, Thornton writes, its increasing impenetrability may have added to people’s distrust of lawyers.

Those who did want to be trusted made sure to learn the hand that was right for them. To do so, they often employed a penman—an expert quill-wielder who had mastered what was then, as Monaghan puts it, “a fairly arcane skill.” Many penmen were former scribes or secretaries, who had been routed from their old jobs by the development and proliferation of the printing press. All were trained in multiple scripts—”all the most modish as well as necessary Hands,” as one advertisement, dug up by Thornton, read.

“Round hand,” as demonstrated by penman George Bickham in his 1740 instruction book, The Universal Penman. (Image: George Bickham/Public Domain)

A client could hire a penman to teach him whichever script he needed. A merchant, banker or tradesman might learn “round text,” a skinny hand with a slight lean, or “round hand,” a loopier variant—both forms of stripped-down Italian script, good for people who needed to be both quick and legible. Some who wished to differentiate themselves from more prosaic farmers or artisans might learn to add slight embellishments, or ornate capital letters—though penmen cautioned them against compromising their speed or assuredness.

“Among Men of Business, wrote one expert, “all affected Flourishes and quant Devices… are as much avoided as Capering and Cutting in Ordinary Walking.”

While merchants and businessmen worked hard to perfect their round hand, those who leaned on their titles rather than their occupations took the opposite tack. The best way for upper-class colonial men to prove their aristocratic status was to make their work appear effortless. Such people often refused to hire penmen on principal, in order to prove they didn’t need to learn a trade—the on-paper equivalent of growing your nails long, or wearing fancy clothes.

“It is much to be regretted that it has become of late years in a degree fashionable to write a scrawling and almost unintelligible way,” fumed penman John Jenkins in 1813.
A sample of George Washington’s devil-may-care handwriting. Even decades after his death, Thomas Jefferson praised Washington’s hand, writing to a friend that he “wrote readily, rather diffusely, in an easy & correct style.”

A sample of George Washington's devil-may-care handwriting. Even decades after his death, Thomas Jefferson praised Washington's hand, writing to a friend that he "wrote readily, rather diffusely, in an easy & correct style."

A sample of George Washington’s devil-may-care handwriting. Even decades after his death, Thomas Jefferson praised Washington’s hand, writing to a friend that he “wrote readily, rather diffusely, in an easy & correct style.” (Image: Moverton/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Indeed, sometimes it seemed like the only ones who cared for what one penman called “Owls, Apes, Monsters and Spring’d Letters” were the penmen themselves. Constantly striving to be considered artists rather than mere craftsmen, they used what platforms they had to emphasize handwriting’s beauty and importance.

Though their advertisements used practical promises to draw in specific audiences, the copybooks they used to teach their lessons often betrayed their inner romanticism. A seaside penman, fishing for customers in Boston, offered to teach “Gauging, Navigation, and Astronomy” alongside writing, while a Southern one promised two-in-one writing and dance lessons.

Handwriting was not only “useful in Business,” wrote George Bickham in his 1740 work The Universal Penman—done well, it could be imbued with “Masterly Beauty.” Clients, though, preferred to focus on the useful aspects—as Thomas Tompkins, a penman who spent his whole life angling for an invitation to a particular artist’s academy, found out the hard way. After years of talking up his medium, a friend later related, “the luckless calligrapher went down to his grave—without dining at the Academy.

The 17th-century copybook of Sarah Cole, featuring simple arithmetic and complicated doodles.

The 17th-century copybook of Sarah Cole, featuring simple arithmetic and complicated doodles. (Image: Folger Shakespeare Library/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Penmen got to cut a little looser while teaching ladies. While working women also learned the round hand, aristocratic women—who, as penman John Davies once wrote, could never “bruise a letter as men could do”—were privy to a whole different set of scripts. One favorite was the “roman,” a flowing hand which, with its light touch and varying thicknesses, was easy on the eyes and the wrist (as a bonus, it supposedly could not be managed well by men’s fingers, which were “hardened by the sword-hilt”). Certain forms of it even required decorative shading, indicating that the writer had time enough to go back over all her letters—an unmistakeable sign of a leisurely lifestyle.

As Thornton points out, the fact that these hands revealed what their writers did as a profession—or lack of one—kept people in their place. The same thing that enabled people to play letter detective doubled as a subtle form of social control, “guaranteeing that the writing produced by different categories of writers would be accorded culturally appropriate, socially innocuous degrees of authority,” she writes, ensuring that just because literacy was spreading didn’t mean everyone was on an equal footing.

Over the centuries, as notions of identity shifted, handwriting became less a measure of your various statuses than of your individual personality. These days, with the anonymizing veneers of computer fonts, 21st-century humans count on other aspects of self-presentation to give them away—aspects contained in the words themselves, and not their forms. Unless, that is, you send emails in Comic Sans.


Posted: May 6, 2016


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Dear Ted Cruz – Thank You By: John Gray and Brian Darling

As two liberty-minded conservatives, we want to thank you for your contributions during this presidential race. Though we were sad to see you withdraw your candidacy, your campaign has provided us with renewed hope for the conservative movement. Your involvement in this campaign provided optimism for conservatives all over the country who are still fighting for their principles. We want to highlight just a few areas where we think you’ve enhanced the conservative dialogue and made Constitutional principles a fundamental touchstone of the national debate.

A Reasonable and Realistic Foreign Policy

As Republicans, we are all too familiar with being the party of war. And as voters, conservatives often have to choose between a candidate who would like to bomb people all of the time (Republicans) – or never bomb them at all (Democrats). Our nation deserves a more cautious and intelligent foreign policy approach, and you were a leading voice in that discussion.

In fact, the foreign policy platform of all final GOP candidates was more pragmatic than it has been in years. Hawkish, neoconservative candidates, like Senator Lindsey Graham, received almost no support, while you ended up as the most serious contender with 565 delegates.

It’s difficult to remember the last time a Democrat took a more hawkish view of the world than Republicans – and yet that is where Hillary Clinton seems to be tracking. History demonstrates that you were correct to remain steadfast in your persistent challenging of Hillary’s war in Libya, and your consistent questioning of what role America should play in Syria.

Conservatives demanded a candidate that promoted a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, debated the dangers of unelected bureaucrats implementing costly regulations, and requested an audit of the Federal Reserve — and you delivered.

In the end, the foreign policy you espoused took a considerably different approach than what was offered by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. We believe our party is better for it.

 A Steadfast Belief in Smaller Government

This election required a strong voice for small government. You proposed to eliminate five federal departments, including the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Conservatives demanded a candidate that promoted a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, debated the dangers of unelected bureaucrats implementing costly regulations, and requested an audit of the Federal Reserve — and you delivered.

More so, you were the only top-tier candidate that ran on a Constitutional platform. America is now devoid of a true Constitutionalist candidate; a candidate that understands the privilege of being commander-in-chief, and the Constitutional burdens that come with it. Your expertise as a Constitutional scholar was refreshing.

Proving Conservatives Can Win

Most importantly, you were a candidate that was not anointed, nor hand-picked by the Republican establishment. Current members of Congress often dismissed and belittled you; those members often pointed to the speech you made, challenging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on his veracity regarding the Export-Import bank.

Establishment mouthpieces like Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post relentlessly bashed you, yet were shocked to see that, in doing so, they helped Donald Trump win the nomination. Rubin called you an “overly ambitious guy” and criticized you for not having the support of inside the beltway senators.

The establishment would like you to think that you lost because you alienated elite Washington politicians, when in fact, the opposite is true. You did so well because you enraged the Rubin’s and Mitch McConnell’s of the world, who have an interest in promoting establishment ideas.

They promised this would sink you. Instead, you beat them all:

The Republican establishment promised voter retribution would result from your involvement in the repeal of Obamacare that led to a government shutdown.

Instead, Republican approval ratings went up.

Time for new Senate leadership

The last laugh is on the Republican establishment — you continue to prove them wrong, time and time again.

Thank you Senator Ted Cruz for running for President. Thank you for proving that the conservative movement was and is worth fighting for.

Keep your chin up and walk into that Senate chamber next week knowing that you fought a great fight and you need to double down on fighting the Washington Cartel. The conservative movement is optimistic — and we will continue to stand with you.


Brian Darling is a former staffer for Sen. Rand Paul. Follow him on Twitter @BrianHDarling. John Gray is a Senior Editor at Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JohnW_Gray. –

Posted: May 6, 2016

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