Words: Espy, v.

Christopher Hawtree
Saturday 22 October 2011 23:36

SHAKESPEARE IN love was one thing, William Espy quite another. The American wordsmith has died at 88, seven decades after marrying Ann Hathaway: he thought the name would inspire his poetry. Alas, she was soon back in an earlier boyfriend's arms. Espy must certainly have known Leigh Hunt's call for magnaminity: "we all, like Moses, should espy, / Ev'n in a bush, the radiant Deity".

Espy lived up to his name, in time. A varied career and wives led to a first book in 1971, some about words, such as a "bobtailed, generally chronological" one on proper nouns, and much punning light verse. "I love the girls who don't. / I love the girls who do; / But best, the girls who say, `I don't . . . / But maybe just for you'." Seek out his memoirs, Oysterville.

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