Return to Quill-driver (person)

"I used... to do all of my writing standing; and I strongly recommend the practice to bother the quill-drivers."
-- [What I Remember] by [Thomas Adolphus Trollope], 1887.

During the [Georgian era] and on through the [Victorian era], the term quill-driver was used in the same way that we today would use the term [pen-pusher|pen-pusher]. It was a well-ingrained bit of [slang], as evidenced by its use on into the 1880s, well after [quill|quills] were on their way out.

The meaning was quite straightforward, and did not change over the nearly two centuries that it was in use. A quill-driver was someone who worked endlessly over a [ledger], a common drudge of the most common sort. Obviously, a quill-driver was educated and most likely middle-class, so it was not too strong a term of condemnation, but it certainly wasn't flattering. The first recorded usage of the phrase was actually in the form of 'quill-driving', in [1719]:

When Inns of Court-Rakes,
And Quill-driving Prigs,
Flock'd to St. James's,
To shew their long Whiggs.
-- [Pills to Purge Melancholy] by [Thomas d'Urfey], 1719.

With the slow death of quills in the mid-1800s, the term slowly died out. But by the 1880s those crazy Americans had started using the term [pencil pusher], and by 1910, [pen pusher]. We are now in the age of [button pusher|button pushers], and it looks like the appellation 'driver' has faded entirely out of use. Pity.