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At the bottom of my garden

TinkOh, I owe some of you fantasy writers an apology. Over on Twitter, I’ve been pretty hard on your  Capital Letters and apostrophes and archaisms and spelling. Mostly spelling, like “magick,” or, gilding the lily, “enmagick.”

And then there’s faery. That’s a spelling that has been the fingernails on my personal chalkboard ever since chalkboards were still a thing. I have entertained and rejected all the arguments from people who say faery is different from faerie is different from fairy. For me, it’s just a shortcut to making your fantasy novel–which is most likely too long, also, but that’s another rant–read like a fantasy novel. And if your fantasy novel reads like a fantasy novel, well, there goes my willing suspension of disbelief, because what’s not to disbelieve in a book that reads like a book?

But late in life I have discovered a new passion for  that trio of Lyrical treats and in reading the Penguin edition of Keats I came across this point by editor John Barnard: “Spelling [in this edition] is normally regularized, though in the case of Keats’s inconsistent spelling of ‘fairy’/’faery’ I follow whichever seems the preferred spelling in an individual poem, since the latter spelling seems to have held a deliberately archaic flavour for him.” Thus:

Ye tight little fairy, just fresh from the dairy

Will ye give me some cream if I ask it?


Love me, blue-eyed Faery true,

Soothly I am sick for you.

I can’t say I’m completely convinced by Barnard’s argument, but if Keats could do it, so can you. What you fantasy writers might refer to as my Great Bending.




Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Karen Breen says:

    I love you Roger and I love that you love Keats.

  2. Keats was my undergraduate, well, person. So was Botticelli. I had a double major in English lit and art history and they were the folk I on whom I centered my undergraduate research, such as it was. To my fellow Keatsians, do watch BRIGHT STAR, with Ben Wishaw. It is so very lovely.
    Ope the casement wide
    To let the warm Love in.

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