Page images

“In Florence was it from a casement thrown me, Wrapt in a paper which contained the name Of HER that threw it —” “PLUTUs himself That knows the tinct and multiplying medicine, Hath not in Nature's mystery more science Than I have in that ring—” “A man is an ill husband of his honor that entereth into any action the failing wherein may disgrace him more than the carrying of it through can honor him.”f


1. Article.

The proper place of the article in English, as in Greek, is immediately before the adjective, if there be one, if not, before the noun; but, as in the Greek, it is often prefixed to a whole phrase, which, taken together, forms the nominative to a verb, as, “The speaking to the people was well timed.” It does not, however, like the Greek, transform the participle into an active agent, or an individual; but makes the participle present into a neuter substantive, as, the winning is easier than THE PRESERVING a conquest.

2. Substantive.

The common Latin rule, that when two substantives of different signification come together, the last will be in the genitive case, is reversed in English; for the substantive in the genitive case stands first, as, “I have to-night wooed Margaret, the lady Hero's gentlewoman, by the name of Hero; she leans me out of her mistress's chamber window,” &c.;

“In all debates where virtues bear a part,
Not one but nods and talks of Jomson's art,
Of Shakspeare's nature, and of Cowley's wit,
How Beaumont's judgment checked what Fletcher writ.”$

[ocr errors]

This arrangement of the genitive case is derived from the Anglo-Saxon, where we find commonly such phrases as Isober geleapan, God’s belief, or the belief in God; Irober pillan, God's will, &c.; and it is still to be found also in the German, as, Ich will Pharaons herz erhärten—I will harden Pharaoh's heart, though in that language, as in the Anglo-Saxon, the Latin arrangement of the second noun in the genitive case is also used. In English, where the repetition of sibilants becomes unpleasant to the ear, the preposition of is substituted, and we say, the will of God instead of God’s will. In the construction of a sentence these two modes of expression form a pleasing variety, and the writer will do well to avail himself of both. The following passage owes half its beauty and pathos to the skilful use of the genitive case. “We went once more to the bed, and there by his master's face, sate the poor dog. He had crept softly up from his usual resting-place, and when he saw us draw aside the curtain, he looked at us so wistfully, that —No, I cannot go on!—There is a religion in a good man's death that we cannot babble to all the world.” Sometimes the genitive is used alone, the second substantive being understood, as I have been staying at your friend's—i.e., at your friend's house. That is Charles's hat, but I thought it had been Henry's—i.e., Henry's hat. According to the Latin rule, also, two or more substantives relating to the same thing will be in the same case; but the English has this peculiarity, that the genitive termination is only appended to the last of them, as the Archbishop of Canterbury's opinion— King William and Queen Mary’s reign. It would seem that in these cases the whole phrase is considered as amalgamated into a single word, in the fashion of some German compounds, and then the termination peculiar to the case is added at the end of it, as it would be to any other word.

3. Adjective. The usual place of the adjective in English is after the

[ocr errors]

article, and before the noun; but if two or three be predicated of the same substantive, it is sometimes allowed to place them after it for the sake of strengthening the expression by some addition to the phrase, as, A man gentle, peaceable and benevolent in no ordinary degree. It is, however, a somewhat forced arrangement, and is unpleasing to the ear if often repeated. With the prefixed, an adjective frequently changes into a noun of number, as, THE wise are cautious.

4. Pronoun.

The pronoun being distinguished by the inflections of the different cases, admits of more transposition than the substantive which it represents; and sometimes, in rhetorical speech and poetry, the accusative may be placed first with considerable effect: as in the speech of Paul to the Athenians, where the translators have availed themselves with much skill of this power, “Whom ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you.” Milton too has used this construction; but still, though the liberty may be permitted, it is not to be repeated too often, for it is not the natural arrangement of the words: the English language is of easy march, each word taking as nearly as possible the place which the sense requires, and our ears do not easily tolerate inversions of the sentence, which, excepting on any particular occasions, make a harsh and labored style.

The neuter pronoun it plays a large part in the idiom of the language: it forms the impersonal verbs, as they are, perhaps improperly, termed, as, it rains, it freezes, &c., and is joined with other verbs where the word thing might be substituted for it, as, it affords me pleasure—that is, this thing affords me pleasure.

It is frequently used in the room of that or this, even when it relates to masculine or feminine names, and this preference of the neuter is a peculiarity of the English, for example,

[ocr errors]


“What kind of woman is t?” It is also used for distinction, as, Which is It? your brother John or Charles & IT is John. It enters also into phrases such as, how is It? how fares It with you? where it applies to the whole state of things. It is sad, IT is strange, &c. seems to express only that the thing is sad, strange, &c.

5. Verb.

The English follows the universal rule as to the verb substantive, and has the same case before and after it; “It is I, be not afraid.” The infinitive, however, of this, as of other verbs, never admits of a nominative, and is joined with an accusative, governed by the preceding verb transitive, as, I knew HIM to be a man of honor. Verbs of giving, lending, promising, obtaining, and the like,f govern a dative of the person and an accusative of the thing, as, I gave him a book,+I lent him a horse,_I promised thee forgiveness, He afforded them protection. In these examples it is evident that, though him, thee, them, are the same in form as the accusative, yet that the substantives book, horse, &c., are in fact the patients or things given, lent, &c., and therefore in the accusative case, whilst the last-mentioned pronoun or person is the receiver of the thing thus given, &c. The two persons therefore stand in the relation of giving and receiving, and the person to whom a thing is given (datum) is said to be in the dative CaSe. All other verbs transitive govern, that is, are followed by an accusative, as, I called HIM; they fought THEM ; thou hast heard M.E. Verbs intransitive are not followed by any case; for their action stops short in itself, and does not extend to any other object. Such are to sleep, to recline, &c. The verb to be, when it signifies possession, will have

* Shakspeare.

t The principal verbs which may be said to govern a dative, are to give, lend, read, fetch, get, send, bring, afford, promise, tell, reach, leave, with their derivatives.

a genitive case after it, as That Is his; the grapes were the gardener's. The participle present, when preceded by an article, becomes in some sort a substantive, and conveys, like the infinitive mode, an abstract idea of the action; as, THE writing so much fatigues me;—which is the same in sense as, To write so much, &c.; and this may be considered as one of the peculiarities of the English; for in most other languages the infinitive would be employed in phrases of this kind: in the English, the use of the infinitive would give a stiff and foreign air to the sentence. When a noun or pronoun personal precedes a participle present standing thus in the place of a substantive, the article is omitted, and the first noun is in the genitive case, according to the rule already given, as Who would have thought of Alexander's conquering the world?—i.e., of the conquering the world by Alexander. It might be rendered by a verb personal with the conjunction that—i.e., that Alexander would conquer, &c.; but it would be less idiomatic. When a participle is connected with a noun or pronoun personal, the noun, being the agent, will be in the nominative case, and the phrase becomes what is called by grammarians a nominative case absolute, as, “And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days.” “He descending will himself, In thunder, lightning, and loud trumpet's sound Ordain them laws—”f “But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife,” &c.f “Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell

Why thy canonized bones hearsed in death
Have burst their cearments.”$

6. Adverb. *

The adverb has its place most frequently after the verb and before the adjective whose sense it modifies; but it not

* Acts. t Milton. J Luke. § Shakspeare.

« PreviousContinue »