Are there historical references to a concept of "Pure English"?

Treatise on Pure English

An interesting book, Pure English : a treatise on words and phrases, or practical lessons in the use of language, by Fred H. Hackett and Ernest A. Girvin, was published in 1886 but is still relevant today. It is available for reading online.

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The Society for Pure English

The following is an extract from an article in the New York Times that talks about the Society for Pure English in early 20th century England.

A Campaign for Pure English by Brander Matthews

The Society for Pure English came into being in England in 1913 at the suggestion of Robert Bridges, the Poet Laureate, Henry Bradley, the successor of Sir James Murray as editor of the still unfinished Oxford Dictionary; Sir Walter Raleigh, the Oxford Professor of English Literature, and L. Pearsall Smith, author of a useful little book on the history of the English language. Among those who joined it immediately were Arthur J. Balfour, A. C. Bradley, Austin Dobson, Thomas Hardy, J. W. Mackaif, Gilbert Murray, Mrs Humphry Ward and Mrs Wharton – this last being the only American adherent, unless L. Pearsall Smith can be reckoned as another. The rallying of these men and women of letters was not more significant than the prompt adhesion of the professors of English in the various British universities: W. M. Dixon, Oliver Elton, E. S. Gordon, C. H. Herford, W. P. Ker, G. C. Moore-Smith, F. W. Moorman, A. Quiller-Couch, George Saintsbury and H. C. K. Wyld.

Read the complete article.

Published in The New York Times, 26 September 1920.
Copyright © The New York Times