I am currently reading Emma, by Jane Austen. The version I am reading is the digitized ebook version and in chapter 12 the word choose is spelled chuse:

"My dear Isabella," exclaimed he, hastily, "pray do not concern yourself about my looks. Be satisfied with doctoring and coddling yourself and the children, and let me look as I chuse."

Since I don't have the physical book, I am unable to determine if this spelling is an error introduced during the digitization process, which is sometimes the case. If it is part of the original, is this spelling correct for the time period or is it a spelling mistake?

  • 3
    If "the original" means "the first edition", it's worth pointing out that the first edition of "Emma" had an initial print run of only twelve copies, and nobody knows what happened to eleven of the twelve. The known surviving copy was sold at auction in 2012 (the price was £180,000), but the seller and buyer are both anonymous. So strictly speaking, the question is unanswerable!
    – alephzero
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 4:24
  • 3
    @alephzero in the context of digitization, the original I'm referring to is the print from which the digital copy was made. I suppose I'd be happy with any printed copy.
    – user77261
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 10:27

4 Answers 4


'Chuse' was actually a variant spelling which went out-of-style around 1840, after enjoying singnificant popularity in the 1700s.

Since your novel was published in 1815, I'd say it's not an error.

enter image description here

Link for some example usages from Google Books.

  • 25
    "Chuse" is the spelling used in the original 1787 Constitution of the United States.
    – bof
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 11:45
  • 7
    That's a very interesting google tool. It's also interesting to set the scale back to 1700 and see how much more popular 'chuse' was before 1800.
    – user77261
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 12:26
  • @stanri: Edited the post to reflect that. Good catch.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 12:30
  • I did a bit more counting and 'chuse' occurs 28 times in Emma. ('Choose' occurs once).
    – user77261
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 10:33
  • That's what I was thinking!! Will need to get my hands on a hard-copy at the library to see! I will accept shortly.
    – user77261
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 11:00

"Chuse" was a common alternative spelling. Today, it's obsolete, but many authors from the 19th century and earlier (ch)use it. For example,

I would the Colledge of the Cardinalls Would chuse him Pope. – William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Pt. 2 i. iii. 65 (1616/1623)

Chuse an Author as you chuse a Friend. – Wentworth Dillon, 4th Earl of Roscommon, An Essay on Translated Verse (1684)

At Liberty to chuse their Business. – Samuel Johnson, The Idler (2nd February, 1760)

Sing another song, or chuse another tree. – William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads II.77 (1800)

Would not Mr. Waverley chuse some refreshment after his journey? – Sir Walter Scott, Waverley I. ix. 121 (1814)

  • Also 'I know very well my Bible, and shall chuse for myself': G.F. Handel, on writing (I think) Messiah, 1741.
    – user207421
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 15:25
  • @Kevin "Chuse" has indeed been essentially nonexistent for 150 years. However, the OED attempts to give the entire history of the language, and it lists obsolete spellings as well as current ones. In fact, it does include "chuse" in its list of obsolete spellings of "choose" but that list is so complex that I missed it. I'll edit that part of my answer in a second. Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 19:24

https://books.google.ie/books?id=HySf4w0fBZgC&pg=PA34&lpg=PA34#v=onepage&q&f=false is a scanned version of the 2008 edition of the 1896 version that had illustrations by Hugh Thomson, and the use of chuse is quite clearly not a digitalisation error.

Some editions have choose but editors generally consider it their prerogative to change spelling.

More generally, Austen did indeed prefer chuse, but not consistently. Likewise scissars for scissors is rarely found now, but the form Austen preferred. Shew for show is perhaps a better-known example, having been the more common spelling until a few years after Austen's death.


In his A Dictionary of the English Language published in 1755, Dr. Samuel Johnson opted for "choose". (I'm looking at an online version http://www.whichenglish.com/Johnsons-Dictionary/1755-Letter-C.html)

It's interesting to see that the popularity of "chuse" starts declining a few years after 1750 according to the Google Books Ngram Viewer image in an earlier answer. Coincidence or cause?

  • 1
    This is a worthwhile contribution that adds to the other answers. One slight flaw: it doesn't explicitly answer the question asked... although it very easily could, with some slight editing... if you so chuse.
    – tmgr
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 21:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.