But, no, it’s not the “Shakespearean” spelling of “guild.” In Shakespeare’s day, the English language was growing by leaps and bounds, and spelling was inconsistent. “Gild” does appear as an alternate to “guild,” but it’s not a peculiarly Elizabethan or even British spelling. So why g-i-l-d? The late Holley Webster, community theater activist and founder of Stage Monthly, once told me that early Ardenites chose “gild” because they were following George Bernard Shaw’s efforts to reform spelling of the English language.
While I haven’t searched the Arden Archives for Arden Club documents to confirm this, it’s a likely explanation. Spelling reform was a hot topic in the early 1900s. Mark Twain and Theodore Roosevelt were also notable supporters of spelling reform. Along with linguistic arguments for reform were concerns for social welfare: simpler spelling would eliminate barriers to literacy, especially for an immigrant population. I can easily imagine that, when they created a guild structure for their new Arden Club, Arden folk chose the reformed spelling for “gild,” just as they embraced so many other intellectual, political and artistic trends of the time (Esperanto, housework co-operatives, organic schooling). — Cecilia Vore, May 2009
Explore Arden’s history
and the Arden-Shakespeare connection
The Arden Craft Shop Museum is a small, charming museum that preserves the history of Delaware’s utopian villages — Arden, Ardentown and Ardencroft. The collection features photos, theater costumes and examples of furniture, pottery, ironwork, and other arts and crafts that have been produced in the villages since Arden’s founding in 1900. The museum is open Wednesday evenings 7:30-9 pm and Sunday afternoons 1-3 pm. The Arden Craft Shop Museum often has additional hours before and after Shakespeare performances. To read more about the museum, see the Arden Craft Shop Museum website.