Characteristic of the conservative critics is a wish to preserve the status quo: underlying the conservative critics' arguments is the theory that by creating stability in the unstable world of language, they will also succeed in imposing political stability upon an unstable world. In A Proposal... , Swift harks back to when "the Court [was] the Standard of Propriety and Correctness of Speech". Since then (the days of Elizabeth) "the Corruptions in our Language have, at least, equaled the Refinements of it". Swift puts standardization as a requisite for language before all other considerations, even those that might improve it: "it is better a language should not be wholly perfect, than that it should be perpetually changing". Both Johnson's and Swift's arguments beg the question, however, which Leith highlights in "A Social History of English", that the acceptance of Standard English must be accepted by someone - who should they address themselves to? As Leith states "acceptance by government functionaries [who Swift is addressing in his Proposal which is addressed to the Prime Minister] and small groups of literati [Johnson is addressing the Earl of Chesterfield in his Plan - an MP and a patron of the arts] is not the same as acceptance by the aristocracy and the shires; still less is it acceptance by the vast majority of ordinary people who worked in the fields". As a further example of the Standard English debate being used as a platform for the conservative establishment, Prince Charles felt moved to comment upon the degeneration of the language in a style which could have come straight from Swift:

"Looking at the way English is used in our popular newspapers, our radio and television programmes, even in our schools and theatres, they [a great many people] wonder what it is about our country and our society that our language has become so impoverished, so sloppy and so limited - that we have arrived at such a dismal wasteland of banality, cliché and casual obscenity."

Again, the conservative institution is harking back to a former age of linguistic purity which has been soiled by the touch of the common man. Crowley quotes a similar statement by Charles about the revised New English Bible, which he compares unfavourably with the speeches of Cranmer (again harking back to an age of linguistic glory now past). The New English Bible was written precisely because the common man (whoever he is) could no longer readily understand the language of the King James Bible. Thus Charles castigates the 'popularisation' of the principal religious text of the religion of which he is soon to be head. Consistently, it is this sense of literature no longer being the preserve of the educated establishment which is at the root of the conservative critics' arguments for the ascertaining of the English language.

Wordsworth wrote convincingly against this conservative focus upon 'proper' English in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, where he claimed that his poetry, far from trying to achieve the ideal of Standard English, instead should deal in "the real language of men". This was because he felt that Standard English imposed rules on language which prevented it from accurately representing emotion. Since, as Wordsworth claimed, poetry was "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings", this was necessarily a serious hindrance in the work of a poet. Instead, he said, rustic life was portrayed in his poetry, because it was there that "the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language". It is this language which he believes should be the language of poetry. His argument then goes further than just poetry in its definition. Wordsworth made a self-inquiry: if "the language of a large portion of every good poem" does not differ from "that of a good prose", where can we set the line of demarcation for poetry? He had already said that the simple language of men was more "durable" than the language of "writers who separate themselves from the sympathies of men". He claims: "some of the most interesting parts of the best poems will be found to be strictly the language of prose". Therefore, we must presume that the best prose must contain some of the "plain uncomplicated language" of his poetry. It is noteworthy, however, that Wordsworth too retreats back to a "golden age" of literature, before the days when "a multitude of causes unknown to former times are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind... Reduc[ing] it to a state of almost savage torpor." Wordsworth instead blames industrialization for the lack of substance in the literature of the time: it being due to "the encreasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident". Therefore, Wordsworth goes on, men read "frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies" instead of "Shakespear and Milton". Here again we find the names of the writers who broadly parenthesize Swift and Johnson's "golden age": from Elizabeth to the Revolution.

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