A comment by the proprietor of BARISTA in a previous post brought to my mind this wonderful passage from Pound’s Canto 80:

” forloyn ” said Mr Bridges (Robert)
” we’ll get ’em all back ”
meaning archaic words and there had been a fine old fellow
named Furnivall and Dr Weir Mitchell collected

Robert Bridges was a poet who became laureate in 1913; Pound said: “Anecdote: years ago when I was just trying to find and use modern speech, old Bridges carefully went through Personae and Exultations and commended every archaism (to my horror), exclaiming ‘We’ll git em all back; we’ll git em all back’.” Frederick Furnivall was instrumental in the creation of the OED and one of the dramatis personae of The Meaning of Everything (a Christmas present I am very much looking forward to reading); S. Weir Mitchell was a Philadelphia neurologist and writer (known especially for his historical novels, perhaps the reason he appears here); and forloyn (normatively spelled forloin) is an old hunting term meaning ‘To leave (the pack) far behind’ or (as a noun) ‘The action of forloining’ (according to—what else?—the OED): “When a Hound meeteth a Chase, and goeth away with it far before the rest, then say, he Foreloyneth.” Alas, despite Bridges’ antiquarian hopes, “the Cantos is very likely the one modern work in which the word forloyn can be found” (Kenner, The Pound Era, 94).

Weir Mitchell was quite a character; this medical-eponym site has an extensive biography and bibliography (and even quotes a couple of his poems), and includes this striking passage:

Weir Mitchell was a legendary character whose portraits show him as a handsome man. His rather gaunt features and bearded face make one readily understand why he was likened by many people at the time to «Uncle Sam». He was a superb conversationalist and his personality and humour gave him a wide range of friends. He actively promoted young people who he thought were outstanding, most notably John Shaw Billings (1838-1913) and Hydeio Noguchi (1876-1928).

Mitchell was famous for his sometimes eccentric approach to patients with functional illnesses. He was asked to see a patient who was thought to be dying, and soon sent all the attendants and assistants from the room, emerging a little later. Asked whether she had any chance of recovery, he said «Yes she will be coming out in a few minutes, I have set her sheets on fire. A clear-cut case of hysteria!»

Another story is that he was confronted with a lady who had a similar problem and having tried all the tricks he knew to induce her to leave her bed, threatened her with rape and commenced to undress. He got to his undergarments when the woman fled the room screaming! These stories may have grown with the years since in many ways he was rather prim, and Freud’s writing shocked him. He is said to have thrown a book on psychoanalysis into his fire, exclaiming, «Where did this filthy thing come from?»


  1. I am touched. Thank you. I do so love an archaism. And the description of Mitchell is a delight.

  2. Very OF, that word. In modern French, it survives (tenuously) as “forlonger”, out of “forsloignier”.

  3. Okay, I really meant it was very Norman. Eek!

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