Robert Browning and “the full stop”

Punctuation marks had to be acquired and properly applied in writing as long as the writer is acquainted with their rules.  On the basis that treatises on punctuation were scarce and grammars used to deal with this “art” briefly, punctuation was not in the limelight.  As I have just remarked, punctuation was an ‘Art’ since authors like Monteith (1704) highlighted this status in the very title of his treatise:


Despite the shortage of public attention, I am glad to have come across a short albeit noteworthy comment in a letter written by Robert Browning to Elizabeth Browning dated from April 1845 wherewith I can survey his concern about the proper use of punctuation marks.  Not only does he mention the name of the punctuation mark (the ‘full stop’) but also expounds his reasoning through its correct usage in such a brief phrase: “Wednesday Morning.” at the beginning of the letter. Browning is in doubt as to whether or not he should use the full stop after “morning” while focusing on its: “wisdom” or “folly” (30 April 1845: 1)

In light of the relevance that punctuation marks have for renowned authors like Robert Browning even in informal conversations, private letters prove to be a great source of information so as to test their knowledge of normative rules on the topic, especially when these authors explicitly acknowledge the importance of it. Therefore, punctuation calls the attention it deserves.


Browning, Robert (30 April 1845)

MONTEITH, Robert M.A. (1704) The true and genuine art, of exact pointing. Edinburgh, printed by John Reid Junior. ( ECCO: Eighteenth Century Collections Online)

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