“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Somehow, this makes me sad
that I didn’t write this in September, back to school time. But I did
know that penmanship was dropped out of the “Common Core.”
State standards, or school curriculum requirements, no longer require
students to be taught handwriting, cursive or what we called
“penmanship.” I liked to write in my nice blocked off letters in my early
primary school years. Making sure the circles that were made for the “d”
and the “b” didn’t “roll off the page!
I remember watching teachers letters forming on the board while
trying to copy their letters to the “T!” I was a little mimic, Mom said I
imitated the teacher’s moves in ballet class with some humorous
flourishes. I tended to want to add flourishes to my cursive once we
learned how to do that form of writing. I liked my “writing handbooks”
and our journals that we would write our thoughts or follow an
assignment. As a sixth grade Language Arts teacher, I liked taking those
precious journals filled with my students’ thoughts and reflections.
There was a lot of “angst” expressed in their writings. Somehow, if
they had been simply written on a computer and then, printed off, the
impact and power of their words, may not have been driven home.
Of course, schools have not immediately stopped these procedures. I
just can see the day happening, now that it is not “required.” There will
be no tests and no answering to anybody about this area of expertise!
Mom found a really nice article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about
a man who still makes lovely designed pens. HIs name is Brian Gray,
he has a “machine shop” where he makes custom pens. He is a “pen
maker.” There are still a wide variety of people who are interested
in purchasing the hand designed fountain pens with a variety of “nibs.”
There are still beautiful Pelikan pens that have a pelican engraved on
it. I think Cross pens are wonderful tools, this article mentioned by
Joe Crea, a reporter, that he considers them, “reliable tools for everyday
use and inexpensive enough” that he wouldn’t “flip out if they’re lost.”
Joe Crea mentions that he still has in his possession, a “vintage Schaeffer,”
a wedding gift to his parents in the late 1940’s. He has a Mont-blanc
Meisterstuck Classique, a gift from his wife on his 40th birthday.
As writers, how many of you jot your thoughts on note cards or paper
in a notebook, before proceeding to the computer to write your posts
as you blog? I still write notes, since I carry them in my purse, they are
on small slips of paper, either stapled together if I am at home, or
clipped together with a bobby pin or paper clip. I go to the library, spill
the words onto the computer, trying to “beat the clock” before the
next person needs to use the computer. I feel blessed that so far, my
“well has not dried.” (Reference to the days when I would use an ink
well. I no longer use in my pen and ink drawings that form of artistic
usage of ink. I used thin point or extra fine point “Sharpies.” They still
resist the watercolors I apply in some of my drawings and children’s
I do like Joe Crea’s line thtaz summed up the downfall of pen and ink
“Sure, there were issues that drove many users to abandon their
fountain pens: leaking, smudging, staining. Scratchy nibs. Uneven,
stop-start ink flow. The agony of losing a pricey pen.”
How often in your life have you treasured a special pen? Has one come
to you in a gift box, laid on a bed of black felt, maybe in a set? It was
common in my “old days” to receive them, once you graduated from a
level of school, if you had a boss who wanted to reward you or as a special
The sadness for me is that I can see the days when we won’t appreciate
those scrolling letters. Nor the artistic and creative ways that people write.
There would not need to be writing analysis books and experts who could
tell your personality, simply through the way you wrote.
History of the words “the pen is mightier than the sword:”
George Whetstone (1582)
Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (1602)
Robert Burton (1621)
Thomas Jefferson 1796) to Thomas Paine, “Go on doing with your pen
what in other times was done with the sword.”
The person attributed to “coining the actual phrase” was Edward Bulwer-
Lytton, (1839), in his play, “Richelieu, Or the Conspiracy.”
His words in the play were:
Beneath the rules of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword.
Behold the arch-enchanters wand! Itself a nothing.
But taking the master-hand
To paralyse the Caesars and to strike
the loud earth breathless-
Take away the sword- states can be saved.”