194 APPENDIX. so three hundred years ago, although half of the letters are absolutely unmeaning now. As a matter of fact, these differences, which hardly ever cause the slightest difficulty even in the most rapid speech, and, indeed, generally pass quite unheeded, cannot possi¬ bly cause any difficulty to the reader, who has time to consider deliberately the meaning of any passage, if neces¬ sary, When divergences of pronunciation increase to such a degree as to make a faithful phonetic representa¬ tion of them unintelligible, or nearly so, to those acquainted only with the standard form of speech, it is certain that the spoken pronunciation itself will prove still more difficult. In fact, one of the worst features of a fixed orthography is that it loses all control of pronunciation, and thus in¬ directly proves the cause of such changes as have com¬ pletely changed the character of English in the last few centuries. If those careless speakers of the seventeenth century who used to drop the initial consonants in such words as write and know had been obliged to omit them in writing as well as in speech, it is probable that the change would have been nipped in the bud, and people would have seen that uniformity of spelling is a delusion, unless based on a corresponding uniformity of pronun¬ ciation. The history of h and r in modern times is an instructive instance of how pronunciation may be controlled by a changing spelling. It is certain that if English had been left to itself the sound h would have been as completely lost in the standard language as it has been in most of the dialects. But the distinction between house and ’ouse, although in itself a comparatively slight one, being easily marked in writing, such spellings as ’ouse came to be used