A matter of words

I have been learning about Richmal Crompton’s love of words and her careful phrasing as I burrow away in her archive at the University of Roehampton. In a handwritten article, she shares part of her life as a wordsmith. She believes that each word has “a life & personality & character of its own quite apart from its meaning – some friendly, some unfriendly, some gloomy, some cheerful, some beautiful, some ugly”. She is interested in the feeling and meaning that words evoke and how this is connected to their sound:

“COSY You can’t say the word without being drawn into an atmosphere of closed curtains, a heaped up fire, the right book, the right person & the sound of rain on the window.

SUCCULENT You have to roll your tongue around the word. Just to say it makes the mouth water.

Say FRIGID aloud and the temperature will drop several degrees.”

You can hear some of her attention to tone in audio recordings of her interviews. In 1966 Richmal is responding to a criticism about the effect that William has allegedly had on many unsuspecting families:

“I did once get a message that William ‘has wrecked our home’ – I sent a message back that original sin was created long before I put pen to paper.”

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