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and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city, which opened to them of his own accord" (Acts xii. 10); “His throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire" (Dan. vii. 9); and others. The word Its does not occur in the authorized translation of the Bible; its place is always supplied either by His or by Thereof. So again, in the present Play, in 523, we have "That every nice offence should bear his comment;" and in Antony and Cleopatra, v. 1, "The heart where mine his thoughts did kindle." One of the most curious and decisive examples of the neuter his occurs in Coriolanus, i. 1:—
"it [the belly] tauntingly replied
To the discontented members, the mutinous parts
Its, however, is found in Shakespeare. There is one instance in Measure for Measure, i. 2, where Lucio's remark about coming to a composition with the King of Hungary draws the reply, "Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of Hungary's." The its here, it may be observed, has the emphasis. It is printed without the apostrophe both in the First and in the Second Folio. But the most remarkable of the Plays in regard to this particular is probably The Winter's Tale. Here, in i. 2, we have so many as three instances in a single speech of Leontes :
"How sometimes Nature will betray it's folly?
So stands the passage in the First Folio. Nor does the new pronoun here appear to be a peculiarity of expression
characteristic of the excited Sicilian king; a little while after in the same scene we have the same form from the mouth of Camillo :
"Be plainer with me, let me know my Trespas
By it's owne visage.”
And again, in iii. 3, we have Antigonus, when about to lay down the child in Bohemia, observing that he believes it to be the wish of Apollo that
"it should heere be laide
(Either for life, or death) vpon the earth
Nor is this all. There are two other passages of the same Play in which the modern editors also give us its ; but in these the original text has it. The first is in ii. 3, where Leontes, in directing Antigonus to carry away the "female bastard" to some foreign land, enjoins him that he there leave it
“(Without more mercy) to it owne protection."
The other is in iii. 2, where Hermione's words stand in both the First and Second Folio,
"The innocent milke in it most innocent mouth."
It is a mistake to assume, as the modern editors do, that it in these instances is a misprint for its: Dr Guest (Phil. Pro. i. 280) has observed that in the dialects of the North-Western Counties formerly it was sometimes used for its; and that, accordingly, we have not only in Shakespeare's King John, ii. 1, “Goe to yt grandame, child . . . . and it grandame will give yt a plumb,” but in Ben Jonson's Silent Woman, ii. 3, "It knighthood and it friends." So in Lear, i. 4, we have in a speech of the Fool, "For you know, Nunckle, the Hedge-Sparrow fed the Cuckoo so long, that it's had it head bit off by it young" (that is, that it has had its head,-not that it had its head, as the modern editors give the passage, after
the Second Folio, in which it stands, "that it had its head bit off by it young"). This use of it is still familiar in the popular speech of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and even in the English of some parts of Ireland. So, long before its was generally received, we have it self commonly printed in two words, evidently under the impression that it was a possessive, of the same syntactical force with the pronouns in my self, your self, her self. And even now we do not write itsself. Formerly, too, according to Dr Guest, they often said even "The King wife," etc., for "The King's wife." So he holds that in such modern phrases as "The idea of a thing being abstracted," or "of it being abstracted," thing and it are genitives, for thing's and its.
We have also either it or its in another passage of Lear, where Albany, in iv. 2, speaks of "that nature which condemns its origin." The passage is not in the Folios ; but, if we may trust to Jennens, the First Quarto has ith, the Second it, for the its of the modern text. Both those Quartos are of 1608; and there is also a third of the same year, but the reading in that is not noted by the commentators.
I am indebted to Dr Trench, the Dean of Westminster, for calling my attention to one passage in our English Bible, Levit. xxv. 5, in which, although the modern reprints give us "that which groweth of its own accord," the reading in the original edition is "of it own accord." In Luther's German version the phrase here is the same that is employed in Acts xii. 10, quoted above, where we have "of his own accord:"'—von ihm selber in the one case, von ihr selbst in the other.
Dr Guest asserts that its was used generally by the dramatists of the age to which the authorized version of the Bible belongs, and also by many of their contemporaries. Dr Trench, in his English, Past and Present, doubts whether Milton has once admitted it into Paradise
Lost," although, when that was composed, others frequently allowed it." The common authorities give us no help in such matters as this; no notice is taken of the word Its either in Todd's Verbal Index to Milton, or in Mrs Clarke's elaborate Concordance to Shakespeare. But Milton does use Its occasionally; as, e. g. (P. L. i. 254), "The mind is its own place, and in itself;" and (P. L. iv. 813), No falsehood can endure Touch of celestial temper, but returns Of force to its own likeness." Generally, however, he avoids the word, and easily manages to do so by personifying most of his substantives; it is only when this cannot be done, as in the above examples, that he reluctantly accepts the services of the little parvenu monosyllable.
Mr Singer, in a note to his edition of the Essays and Wisdom of the Ancients, p. 200, seems to intimate that its is nowhere used by Bacon. Like Shakespeare and other writers of the time, he has frequently his in the
Dr Trench notices the fact of the occurrence of its in Rowley's Poems as decisive against their genuineness. He observes, also, that "Dryden, when, in one of his fault-finding moods with the great men of the preceding generation, he is taking Ben Jonson to task for general inaccuracy in his English diction, among other counts of his indictment, quotes this line of Catiline, "Though heaven should speak with all his wrath at once;' and proceeds, ' Heaven is ill syntax with his.” This is a curious evidence of how completely the former humble condition and recent rise of the now fully established vocable had come to be generally forgotten in a single generation.
The need of it, indeed, must have been much felt. If it was convenient to have the two forms He and It in the nominative, and Him and It in the other cases, a similar distinction between the Masculine and the Neuter of the genitive must have been equally required for perspicuous
expression. Even the personifying power of his was impaired by its being applied to both genders. Milton, consequently, it may be noticed, prefers wherever it is possible the feminine to the masculine personification, as if he felt that the latter was always obscure from the risk of the his being taken for the neuter pronoun. Thus we have (P. L. i. 723) "The ascending pile Stood fixed her stately height;" (ii. 4) "The gorgeous East with richest hand Showers on her kings;" (ii. 175) "What if all Her stores were opened, and this firmament Of hell should spout her cataracts of fire;" (ii. 271) "This desert soil Wants not her hidden lustre ; (ii. 584) "Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls Her watery labyrinth;" (ix. 1103) "The fig-tree spreads her arms;" (Com. 396) Beauty had need
To save her blossoms and defend her fruit;" (Com. 468) "The soul grows clotted till she quite lose The divine property of her first being;" and so on, continually and habitually, or upon system. His masculine personifications are comparatively rare, and are only ventured upon either where he does not require to use the pronoun, or where its gender cannot be mistaken.
Milton himself, however, nowhere, I believe, uses his in a neuter sense. * He felt too keenly the annoyance of such a sense of it always coming in the way to spoil or prevent any other use he might have made of it. The modern practice is the last of three distinct stages through which the language passed as to this matter in the course of less than a century. First, we have his serving for
* Unless the following were to be considered as an instance:—
A spacious plain, outstretched in circuit wide,
Par. Reg. iii. 255.
But the feet, instead of foot, would seem to intimate that we are to regard the mountain as personified here.