“I recently uploaded The Queen of Hearts (a collection of novels written in the 1850s) by Wilkie Collins to the MR library. As well as changing ‘gayety’ to ‘gaiety’ and ‘gayly’ to ‘gaily’ I also changed ‘gay’ to ‘light-hearted’. I did this because the English language has changed in the last 150 odd years. In our day ‘a gay man’ would almost certainly be read as ‘a homosexual man,’ and this is simply not what Collins meant – he would have used a different term if he had dared to mention a character’s sexual orientation at all. I did add a note to the posting that I had updated spelling and hyphenation – I also changed ‘to-day’ to ‘today’ for example.”
I am still unsure how I feel about this. ~ eP
Wtf? Why would someone change the original text?? Anyone with half a brain/education knows that until less than 100 years ago, “gay” meant “happy”. Are we supposed to cut up every other classic work and replace their “outdated” words with modern ones? Language evolves, and people who read books written a long time ago are perfectly aware of this. If it’s a 160+ year old book that people are still reading, I’d imagine that the author was very intentional with his/her word choice, and for someone to alter them later on when converting the text to a format that may be widely disseminated is a travesty.
This made me really angry.
Not to be overly promotional or self-aggrandizing, but here’s something worthy of a comment. The article says, “There are no gatekeepers, no one to make the judgement call if this is best practice.” In truth, we like to think of ourselves a bit as gatekeepers here. Project Gutenberg and other free services for getting public domain books serve a fantastic role and vital role, but at the end of the day when you pay for a Penguin Classic (or Oxford, or Modern Library, etc. etc.), you pay for the services of an editor at Penguin and an academic editor who has taken the time to ensure that you’re getting an authentic text, whether it’s in print or eBook. That why you’ll almost always find a “Note on the Text” in our books explaining all the sources and editorial decisions. Turn back to our “Joan Eyre” situation a few months back if there are any doubts about how seriously both we and our scholars take this—we live and breathe this stuff here!
The last comment are my thoughts exactly. That is why I am willing to spend the money on Oxford or Norton edition and know that what I’m getting is legit text.