The copy editor fudges

January 03, 2013|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

In its obituary of William Rees-Mogg, sometime editor of The Times, Britain's Independent included this passage:

Fraser Nelson, the editor of The Spectator, yesterday recalled the advice Lord Rees-Mogg gave him in 2001: "He said he took inspiration from Ben Johnson's essays: the originals, he said, were still the best."

It seems unlikely, highly unlikely, that Lord Rees-Mogg looked for inspiration to Timber, the collection of miscellaneous notes and observations by Ben Jonson, published posthumously. It seems far more likely that a Tory-leaning Estabishment pillar would look to Samuel Johnson's Rambler and Idler essays for a model.

So what would a copy editor do, faced with a necessary quote that contains a clinker? Fudge it:

Fraser Nelson, the editor of The Spectator, yesterday recalled the advice Lord Rees-Mogg gave him in 2001: that his inspiration was Johnson's essays: "the originals, he said, were still the best."


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