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Whether a King, or God, he will be fear'd,
If royal thrones, or altars, shall be rear'd.” The Author of the “ Observations on Shall and Will,” formerly mentioned, has extracted the following paragraph, from the Spectator, which, he says, points to no " particular time, past, present, or to come.”
“There is indeed something very barbarous and inhuman in the ordinary scribblers of lampoons. An innocent young lady shall be exposed for an unhappy feature. A father of a family turned to ridicule, for some domestic calamity. A wife be made uneasy all her life, for a misinterpreted word or action. Nay, a good, a temperate and a just man, shall be put out of countenance by the representation of these qualities, &c.”
These are all suppositions, and were we to preface each of them by the words, “ Let us suppose that,” or others of a similar import, they would be so many necessary futures,-necessary in consequence of the supposition.
Actions, or results, that are unknown, are equally contingent, in the mind of the speaker, whether they are imagined to exist in the past, the present, or the future; and, hence, he often makes use of the same forms of expression. Thus we say of a ship that “ she will have completed her voyage before now;" or, of an absent friend, “ He will perhaps, at this moment, be reading my letter.” “You will have seen my last publication." “ You will, no doubt, be surprized that I have not written to you."
We have said that errors in the use of shall and will are more generally found among the Scotch and Irish; and, in fact, the influence of early habits is so powerful that their most correct writers have occasional slips of this kind. The following are prominent examples :
“ Without having attended to this, we will [shall] be at a loss in understanding several passages of the Classics, which relate to the public speaking, and the theatrical entertainments, of the ancients." Blair's Lectures.
“In the Latin language, there are no two words we would [should] more readily take to be synonymous, than amare and deligere.” Ibid.
“ This we know well, that, in every period of life, the path of happiness shall [will] be found steep and arduous; but swift and easy the decent to ruin." Blair's Sermons.
“If they act well, they know, that in such a parliament, they will [shall] be supported against any intrigue; if they act ill, they know that no intrigue can protect them.” Burke.
“ If I draw a catgut, or any other cord, to a
great length between my fingers, I will [shall] make it smaller than it was before.”—Goldsmith.
There is a species of future which we may mention in this place. It links itself more intimately with the present; but, often, leads to expressions that are ungrammatical, and seldom to such as are elegant. It is a sort of translation of the Latin participle futurus (going to be,) usually rendered by the Gallicism about to be ;-the notification of what metaphysicians would call an incipient existence. “I am about to marry” denotes that I am on the very point (aủ bout, French,) of the act of marrying “ I am going to marry” asserts that I have proceeded so far on my journey to commit that action. These modifications of the verb may be made through all its tenses, and, thereby, constitute an addition to the forms of Conjugation that are usually exhibited in Gram
It may be termed the “ Immediate Future.” The French have a similar link between the past and the present by means of the verb venir, to come, as,—Je vièns de le quiter, I have just left him; literally “I come from quitting him."
The English conjugation is as follows:
I am going to marry,
I am about to marry, Thou art going to marry, Thou art about to marry, He is going to marry,
He is about to marry,
are going to
are about to Ye
It were useless to dwell upon the import of these several phrases. Their meaning will be obvious to an Englishman; and a foreigner, in order to understand them, would require to have them translated into his native tongue.
We noticed, in the outset, the abuse to which these expressions are peculiarly liable.
It arises, chiefly, from considering the words about and going as superfluous, and, in consequence, dismissing them from the sentences to which they necessarily belong. “ I am to marry” is neither future nor present. To marry
is the name of the action, and we might as well say “ I am marriage.” “I am to be married to-morrow” is a confused junction of the future with the present, and would be much more clearly expressed by the words “ I shall be married to-morrow.” It may be said that good writers never fall into such mistakes; but the following sentence is evidence to the contrary:
Of the geneneral characters of style, I am afterwards to discourse; but it will be necessary to begin with examining the more simple qualities of it; from the assemblage of which, its more complex denominations, in a great measure, result.” Blair's Lectures.
Once for all, we request that the Reader will not accuse us of the futile design to depreciate the merits of the Writers whose mistakes we quote. Those vessels that float unhurt along the stream of time are best fitted to mark the rock to which they have approached too near. Scotticisms are very venial faults in the court of Apollo; and the etiquette, usually observed towards living authors, has alone prevented us from lighting our beacon at a luminary which still gladdens the nation, by continually adding to the stock of its harmless enjoyments.