7 November. One lesson with Lenin

The topic suggests itself. Just for a little diversity i won't stigmatize the bolsheviks. I'll write something about Lenin without exposing his guile and wile.

Many years ago i had a wonderful book, called "Friendly encounters with the English language", written by Maria Kolpakchi. When speaking about English pronouns, she quoted a book "Four lessons with Lenin" by Marietta Shaginyan. What's the link between Lenin and English pronouns?

We know that in 1902-1903 Lenin lived in London under the name of Jacob Richter. Lenin studied the British workers' movement and English language, wrote articles for "Iskra" newspaper, which was published in London those years, and visited the attractions of London, including the Speakers' Corner and the British Library. On 21 April, Lenin sent an application, asking the director of the British Library to allow him studies in the reading room of the Library. The text of the application is:

30. Holford Square. Pentonville W. C.


I beg to apply for a ticket of admission to the Reading Room of the British Museum. I came from Russia in order to study the land question, I enclose the reference letter of Mr. Mitchell.

Believe me, Sir, to be Yours faithfully.

Jacob Richter.

April 21. 1902.

To the Director of the British Museum.

A recommendation from I.H.Mitchell, the General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions was enclosed in the letter:

April, 20

Dear Sir,

I have pleasure in recommending Mr. Jacob Richter LLD. St. Retersburg for admission to the Reading Room. My friend's purpose in desiring admission is to study the Land Question.

I trust you will be able to comply with this request. Yours truly

I. H. Mitchell

Gen. Secretary General Federation of Trade Unions

168, Temple Chambers

Three days later, when Lenin did not receive a reply from the Library, he sent another recommendation. Written by the same Mitchell, it was typed on an official blank:

General Federation of Trade Unions

Chief Office: 168 - 170,

Temple Chambers Temple Avenue

London, April 23d 1902


With reference to my recommendation of Mr. Richter for admission to the Reading Room, the difficulty no doubt arises through the street where I reside (Voltaire Street Clipham) being only recently buitl, and may not yet be in the Directory. I now desire to repeat the recommendation from the above address. Here again however you may not find it correct: in the Directory as prior to December 1901 the address was 40 Bridge House, 181 Queen Victoria Str. E. C.: that address will be found in the Directory.

Trust this may be satisfactory.

Yours truly

I. H. Mitchell

Lenin added his own little letter to this recommendation:


In addition to my letter and with reference to Your information N 4332 I enclose the new recommendation of Mr. Mitchell.

Yours faithfully

Jacob Richter

24. April 1902.

On 29 April Lenin for the first time entered the British Library and wrote his pseudonym in the journal. Marietta Shaginyan looked a bit closer to the original letters that i quoted above and noted one little detail of the Lenin's writing. Every time he had to write a capital `I', he pedantically put a dot above the letter. Shaginyan writes:

...The proud single letter `I' is a personal pronoun in English. And this `I' is always written by English speakers as a capital letter, while `you', the second person pronoun, which we usually politely capitalize as `You', Englishmen write in lower-case. The obtrusive pole of `I' is not only capitalized in English, but it cannot be omitted and replaced by a single verb, as in Russian: `ask' instead of `I ask', `speak' instead of `I speak', and so on; and in a story told in first person this `I' always sticks out as a fence. To omit it would be an illiterate English, and Lenin could not decrease the number of `I's in his letters. In the very first letter he had to write it thrice, and not in the middle of the sentences, but right from the start: "I beg", "I came", "I enclose".

And now we come to this little peculiarity of the Lenin's writing style. The capital `I' has no dot above, only lower-case `i' may be dotted. The Englishmen write the `I' in various ways, it may look like a large horn, a whip, a semi-circle, but, from my experience, nobody ever puts a dot above. And Lenin in his applications always puts a tiny neat dot. And I begin to think that the English suddenly grown up `I' made him uneasy, especially when he had to write `you' in lower-case? And by dotting the large `I' Lenin wanted to equal this pronoun to the other words?

If you think it is a total fantasy, then why, why did Lenin, who knew perfectly the rules of the English orthography, in his second application write `Your' with capital Y, in the Russian way?

Frankly speaking, i also felt some uneasyness for a long time before i learned to write huge I's and small you's. So, here's my little tribute to Lenin, the modest tyrant: in this article i capitalized You instead of i. Hope, You liked it, dear readers. And as for You, comrade Lenin, sleep well. Don't wake up, i beg You.

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