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better not to repeat the preposition. “The prince gave " encouragement to all honest and industrious artificers “ of neighbouring nations to come and settle amongst “ bis subjects.” Here both qualities honesty and industry are required in every artificer encouraged by the prince. I shall observe lastly, on this article, that though the adjectives relate to different things, if no substantive be expressed, it is not necessary to repeat the preposition. The reason is, that in such cases the adjectives are used substantively, or, to speak more properly, are real substantives. Thus we may say either, “Death is “ the inevitable fate of good and bad, rich and poor, “ wise and foolish,” or—" of good and of bad, of rich “and of poor."—When the definite article is prefixed to the first adjective, it ought to be repeated before the second, if the adjectives are expressive of qualities belonging to different subjects; but not if they refer to the same subject. Thus we say rightly, “How immense “the difference between the pious and the profane.” " I address myself only to the intelligent and attentive." In the former, the subjects referred to are manifestly different; in the latter, they coincide, as both qualities are required in every hearer. The following passage is by consequence justly censurable. The exceptionable phrases are distinguished by the character: “'Wisdom " and folly, the virtuous and the vile, the learned and
ignorant, the temperate and debauched, all give and re“ turn the jest." For the same reason, and it is a sufficient reason, that he said " the virtuous and the vile," he ought to have said " the learned and the ignorant, the “ temperate and the debauched."
I proceed to give examples in some of the other parts of speech. The construction of substantive nouns is sometimes ambiguous. Take the following instance : “ You shall seldom find a dull fellow of good education, ““ but (if he happen to have any leisure upon his hands) “ will turn his head to one of those two amusements for “ all fools of eminence, politics or poetryt." The posi
Brown on the Characteristics, Ess. i. Sect. 5. + Spectator, No. 43.
tion of the words politics or poetry makes one at first imagine, that along with the term eminence, they are af. fected by the preposition of, and construed with fools. The repetition of the to after eminence would have totally removed the ambiguity. A frequent cause of this fault in the construction of substantives, especially in verse, is when both what we call the nominative case and the accusative are put before the verb. As in nouns those cases are not distinguished either by inflection or by prepositions, so neither can they be distinguished in such instances by arrangement.
The rising tomb a lofty column bore".
Did the tomb bear the column, or the column the tomb?
And thus the son the fervent sire addrestt.
This, though liable to the same objection, may be more easily rectified, at least in a considerable measure. As the possessive pronoun is supposed to refer to some preceding noun, which, for distinction'ssake, J. have here called the antecedent, though the term is not often used in so great latitude, it is always better to be construed with the accusative of the verb, and to refer to the nominative as its antecedent. The reason is, the nominative, to which it most naturally refers, whether actually preceding or not, is always conceived in the order of things to precede. If then it was the son who spoke, say,
And thus the son his fervent sire addrest.
If the father,
And thus his son the fervent sire addrest.
In confirmation of this, let us consider the way in which we should express ourselves in plain prose, without any transposition of words. For the first, “ Thus the son
addressed his father ;" for the second,
+ Thus the fa. “ ther addressed his son;" are undoubtedly good: whereas to say in lieu of the first, • Thus his son ad. “ dressed the father ;" and in lieu of the second, “Thus “ his father addressed the son," are not English. By the English idiom, therefore, the possessive pronoun is, in such instances, more properly joined to the regimen of the verb than to the nominative. If this practice were universal, as it is both natural and suitable to the genius of our tongue, it would always indicate the construction wherever the possessive pronoun could be properly introduced. For this reason I consider the two following lines as much clearer of the charge of ambiguity than the former quotation from the same work:
Young Itylus, his parent's darling joy,
For though the words whom and the mother are both in the accusative, the one as the regimen of the active verb misled, the other as the regimen of the active verb destroy, yet the destroyer or agent is conceived in the natural order as preceding the destroyed or patient. If, therefore, the last line had been,
Whom chance misled his mother to destroy ;
it would have more naturally imported, that the son destroyed his mother; as it stands, it more naturally imports, agreeably to the poet's design, that the mother de. stroyed her son ; there being in this last case no access for the possessive pronoun. I acknowledge, however, that uniform usage cannot, (though both analogy and utility may) be pleaded in favour of the distinction now made. I therefore submit entirely to the candid and judicious, the propriety of observing it for the future.
The following is an example of ambiguity in using conjunctions : “ At least my own private letters leave
room for a politician, well versed in matters of this na
ture, to suspect as much, as a penetrating friend of 46 mine tells me*.' The particle as, which in this sentence immediately precedes the word a penetrating friend, makes frequently a part of these compound conjunctions as much as, as well as, as far as.--It will therefore naturally appear at first to belong to the words as much, which immediately precede it. But as this is not really the case, it ought to have been otherwise situated; for it is not enough that it is separated by a comma, these small distinctions in the pointing being but too frequently overlooked. Alter the arrangement then, and the expression will be no longer ambiguous : "At least
my own private letters, as a penetrating friend of mine “ tells me, leave room for a politician well versed in mat
ters of this nature to suspect as much.” In the succeeding passage the same author gives us an example of ambiguity, in the application of an adverb and a conjunction : “ I beseech you, sir, to inform these fellows, " that they have not the spleen, because they cannot talk " without the help of a glass, or convey their meaning “ to each other without the interposition of cloudst. The ambiguity here lies in the two words not and because. What follows because appears, on the first hearing, to be the reason why the person here addressed, is desired to inform these fellows, that they are not splenetic; on the second, it appears to be the reason why people ought to conclude, that they are not; and on the third, the author seems only intending to signify, that this is not a sufficient reason to make any body conclude that they are.
This error deserves our notice the more, that it is often to be found even in our best writers.
Sometimes a particular expression is so situated, that it may be construed with more or less of another particular expression which precedes it in the sentence, and may consequently exhibit different senses : “ He has, by
some strange magic, arrived at the value of half a " plumb, as the citizens call a hundred thousand pounds."
“ * Is it a plumb, or half a plumb, which the citizens “ call a hundred thousand pounds ?" "I will spend a “ hundred or two pounds, rather than be enslaved.” † This is another error of the same sort, but rather worse Hundred cannot regularly be understood between the adjective two and its substantive pounds. Besides, the indefinite article a cannot properly express one side of the alternative, and supply the place of a numeral adjective opposed to two. The author's meaning would have been better expressed either of these ways : “ I will “spend one or two hundred pounds," or, “ I will spend
one hundred pounds or two, rather than be enslaved.” In the former case it is evident, that the words hundred pounds belong to both numeral adjectives ; in the latter, that they are understood after the second. The reference and construction of the concluding words in the next quotation, is very indefinitive ; " My christian and sur" name begin and end with the same letters I.” Doth his christian name begin with the same letter that his surname begins with, and ends with the same letter that his surname ends with ? or, Doth his christian name end with the same letter with which it begins, and his sur. name also ends with the same letter with which it begins ? or, lastly, Are all these four letters, the first and the last of each name, the same letterg ?
Sometimes a particular clause or expression is so situated, that it may be construed with different members of the sentence, and thus exhibit different meanings : " It has not a word,” says Pope,“ but what the author " religiously thinks in it |. One would at first imagine his meaning to be, that it had not a word which the author did not think to be in it. Alter a little the place of the two last words, and the ambiguity will be removed : “ It has not a word in it, but what the author re
• Tatler, No. 40.
+ Swift to Sheridan.
# Spectator, No. 505. 0. § An example of the first, is Andrew Askew, of the second, Hezekiah Thrift, and of the third Norman Neilson.
A Guardian, No. 4.