Saturday, 19 September 2015

"Accidentally, on purpose"

This useful and expressive phrase goes back several centuries, and is particularly pertinent when faced with entrenched bureaucracy.  Thus, Sylvester Brounower writes to John Locke with news from London in 1697.

John Locke , plumbago drawing by Sylvester Brounower (Locke's amanuensis) c. 1685
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Whitehall April the 24th: 1697   

"Mrs Smithsby…presents her service to you and would be glad to see you [Locke] in Town again, as some in our Office [the Dept of Trade and Plantations] do, she has been served just as we are, for her Petition and the King's reference upon it; and Our Establishment with the King's reference upon it, are both, accidentally, on purpose, lost in the Treasury."

(Mrs Smithsby had petitioned for 12 years' arrears of a pension originally granted to her father and her petition was referred to the Surveyor-General of Crown Lands in July 1696.  See Correspondence footnote.)

The Correspondence of John Locke  ed. E. S. de Beer   © Oxford University Press

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