Alexander Gill the Elder

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Alexander Gill the Elder (7 February 1565 – 17 November 1635), also spelled Gil, was an English scholar, spelling reformer, and high-master of St Paul's School, where his pupils included John Milton. He was the author of an English grammar, written though in Latin.


He was born in Lincolnshire 7 February 1565, was admitted scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in September 1583, and proceeded B.A. 1586 and M. A. 1589. Wood believed that he was a schoolmaster at Norwich, where he was living in 1597. On 10 March 1607-8 he was appointed high-master of St. Paul's School in succession to Richard Mulcaster. Milton was among his pupils from 1620 to 1625.[1]

In 1628, his son Alexander Gill the younger was overheard drinking to the health of John Felton, who had stabbed George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham was a favorite of King Charles I, but hated by the public. Felton was awidely cclaimed as a hero for assassinating him.[2]

Gil the Younger was sentenced to have both ears removed and was fined £2000. However, his father intervened directly with William Laud. This effort managed a remission of the punishment inflicted by the Star-chamber.[3] He died at his house in St. Paul's Churchyard 17 November 1635, and was buried 20 November in Mercers' Chapel.[1]



Logonomia Anglica, qua gentis sermo facilius addiscitur, London, by John Beale, 1619, 2nd edit. 1621, was his English grammar dedicated to James I. Gill's book, written in Latin, opens with suggestions for a phonetic system of English spelling (see below). In his section on grammatical and rhetorical figures Gill quotes freely from Edmund Spenser, George Wither, Samuel Daniel, and other English poets.[1] It was more comprehensive than earlier works, and devoted attention to syntax and prosody.[4] An edition was produced in 1903 by Otto Luitpold Jiriczek;[5] a facsimile of the 1619 edition was published in 1972.

Phonetic change suggestions[edit]

Among the suggested changes to make English more phonetic were the following :

  • Revive the Anglo-Saxon signs ð () and þ (þorn) for the two sounds of th
  • Use of the letter ŋ ()[6]

Theological works[edit]

He also published two theological works

  • A Treatise concerning the Trinitie of Persons in Unitie of the Deitie (written at Norwich in 1597), London, 1601; reprinted 1635. This was an addressed to Thomas Mannering, described as an Anabaptist.
  • Sacred Philosophie of the Holy Scripture, London, 1635, a commentary on the Apostles' Creed.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d  "Gill, Alexander, the elder". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ Bellany, Alastair (2004). "Felton, John (d. 1628), assassin". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9273. 
  3. ^ David Masson (1859). The life of John Milton: narrated in connexion with the political, ecclesiastical, and literary history of his time. Macmillan and co. pp. 151–. 
  4. ^ Ute Dons, Descriptive Adequacy of Early Modern English Grammars (2004), p. 10.
  5. ^ Alexander Gill's Logonomia Anglica nach der Ausgabe von 1621
  6. ^ The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, David Crystal


External links[edit]