Press Reviews

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Book review of Gwynne’s Grammar in the Wall Street Journal. Joseph Epstein.

Why everyone should learn the ancient languages. “Mr. Gwynne is an evangelist for the classics, especially for his chosen métier, Latin. Why learn Latin? Mr. Gwynne lists nearly twenty reasons, many of which will be familiar to anyone who has ever sat through an introductory Latin class.”


An article by a retired headmaster of great distinction recently appeared in this newspaper. An important part of its message was that “modernisation” and “profound innovations” were much needed in schools today.
Dread thought, was my reaction. Fifty years of such policies, instituted in the teeth of denials, by people best qualified to know, that these policies were either needed or desirable, have done nothing but huge damage.

We take the story about J. Paul Getty from the opening pages of Gwynne’s Latin, a new introductory Latin textbook by N. M. Gwynne, author of Gwynne’s Grammar, “The Ultimate Introduction to Grammar and the Writing of Good English,” which was a surprise bestseller in England last year and has been making some headway in America since its release here a couple of months ago.

Good grammar is essential to a happy life.
That’s the simple but revolutionary premise behind “Gwynne’s Grammar: The Ultimate Introduction to Grammar and the Writing of Good English,” a surprise bestseller in Great Britain that has just been published in America.

Traditional teaching is effective teaching.
Child-centred teaching has had its destructive way for the last 50 years, says educationist and grammarian, Nevile Gwynne – time to return to traditional methods.

Harry Mount writes :
As Gwynne’s Latin — an uplifting throwback to the good old days — reveals, many schools now don’t teach the vocative case. In the Cambridge Latin Course, used in 85 per cent of schools, you learn the nominative, accusative and dative cases in the first volume. Two more cases appear in the second, and you only learn the ablative at the end of the fourth. O tempora, o mores, as no schoolboy says any more.

Nevile Gwynne writes :
Latin: the most ‘practical’ subject of all?
Educationist and grammarian, Nevile Gwynne, says it’s not enough to restore Latin to the heart of the curriculum – we must revert to traditional ways of teaching it.

Christina Odone writes:
‘I blame the Telegraph.” Nevile Gwynne’s bright blue eyes twinkle mischievously: “It has turned my life upside down.”
The 71-year-old has a point. Earlier in the year, this paper interviewed Gwynne about his “little bomb” – his back-to-basics grammar textbook, Gwynne’s Grammar.
The book blew current teaching practices sky high, debunking myths about rota learning, phonics, and the role of the syllabus; the Telegraph interview sent the book onto the bestseller list, where it stayed among the top 10 for five months. The publisher Alfred A Knopf bought the American rights to bring it out next year.

Charles Moore writes :
I am, of course, thrilled that my biography of Mrs Thatcher came out top in the bestseller lists of hardback non-fiction for May. I am scarcely less pleased that its nearest competitor was not yet another cookery book, but Gwynne’s Grammar. This curious and brilliant production is by my friend N.M. Gwynne.
Its success is a proper reward for courage.

Elizabeth Grice writes :
It’s Sunday morning in Notting Hill and there is something conspiratorial in the air, as if a cell of political activists were mustering. Groups of muffled-up people are tentatively entering a café-bookshop in Westbourne Park Road and being funnelled down to its basement, where they find a man in a three-piece suit with startling white hair. He is distributing seditious literature: a small blue book called Gwynne’s Grammar.

Dr Mark Dooley writes:
Mr N. M. Gwynne, the corrective to claptrap.
The most rewarding aspect of writing this column is the extraordinary people I get to meet. Few, however, have managed to astonish me more than the reader who recently burst into my life. It soon became clear that Mr Gwynne was no amateur. His new work is based on a booklet, Gwynne’s Grammar, which he recently showcased in a series of lectures at Selfridges department store in London. These two-hour sessions in the store’s Ultralounge were a sensation.

Charles Moore writes:
Soft furnishings and split infinitives. Last Wednesday afternoon, I pushed open the heavy main doors of Selfridges, Oxford Street, hurried through the pong of the scent department, down the escalator, past the café, and into the Ultralounge. So, I was impressed to note, did Alannah Weston, the famous shop’s creative director. There was even a rumour that the Prince of Wales had sent a spy.

Michael Rosen writes:
Sorry, there’s no such thing as “correct grammar”. Martin Gwynne may have fun telling people the rules of grammar, but language is owned and controlled by everybody.
Attracting 657 comments, his considerable readership totally disagree, resulting in a very interesting debate.
A must read.

Vanessa Feltz writes: “you done good.” and “He shouldn’t of told her.” Two phrases we hear all the time. Do we understand them ? Of course we do. Are they grammatically flawed? Most certainly they are. Many of us can’t tell our pronouns from our split infinitives. It isn’t our fault. Our teachers weren’t taught grammar so they sure as heck can’t give us the lowdown on gerunds, past participles and the conditional tense.Department store Selfridges is offering free grammar lessons, conducted by an Old Etonian septuagenarian named Mr Gwynne. Customers are riveted.

Harry Mount writes:
There’s a tremendous demand for old-fashioned, rigorous teaching, and that demand is no longer being met in schools or universities. Only last week, Oxford dons were saying how woefully underprepared their undergraduates were for serious academic study. “Grown-ups too, are hungry for seriousness,” as Philip Larkin put it. And, given our decreased modern attention spans, we particularly like it if, paradoxically, that seriousness is delivered in entertaining, bite-sized chunks. You can see manifestations of this desire for easily-accessible but highbrow learning in the success of Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves, in the popularity of QI, even in the ubiquity of pub quizzes.

Tom Hodgkinson writes: Selfridges were particularly keen on the grammar lessons offered by Mr Gwynne, a septuagenarian old Etonian and retired businessman, and booked him in for six.
They are now stocking our booklet “Gwynne’s Grammar”, written by Mr N. M. Gwynne and published by The Idler. To its surprise, the grammars sold out in two days.

Michael Crawford writes: What to make of this claim that grammar lacks “encoded rules” ?
First, the trivial logic point. It does not follow that because a language evolves and is necessarily always changing, there is not at any one time a coherent and identifiable set of rules.