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The truth is that the minds of the great mass of writers are not stored with ideas, but with phrases; and these, right or wrong, sense or nonsense, are written down in succession; and, with a due intermixture of points, are formed into the shape of sentences. The order of that succession of phrases has nothing to do with judgment: they follow one another as incongruously as the phantoms of a dream.
Legal Deeds, in this country, are written wholly without points, and this, say the conveyancers, accounts for the tautologies with which they abound. There are other writings, too, in which punctuation may be dispensed with: where the meaning is unintelligible, we gain no advantage by dividing it into portions. Besides, whether it arises from that whirlpool of the mind which “blunders round about a meaning,” or is the consequence of the total want of the “ Organ of Constructiveness” in the pericranium, we shall not determine; but there are sentences which are not absolute nonsense, and yet place all the Rules of Punctuation at defiance.
The following is from the Preface to a recently published English Grammar; and, as the author seems neither deficient in industry nor in judgment, he will probably improve the arrangement iņ a subsequent Edition:
“ An early predilection for grammatical studies having led me, to pay particular attention to the subject, during a course of multifarious reading for many years, in which I noted down for my own use many particulars that occurred to me; I had long been dissatisfied with every grammar of the English language, that came in my way, and still continued so; when I was induced to avail myself of the materials I had collected, and employ them in an attempt to supply the deficiencies I had observed and regretted."
Having ventured so far with this Gentleman, we shall make no apology for extracting an example which he has, himself, given of (faulty punctuation in another writer.
“ The following might seem a caricature, drawn purposely to ridicule the practice, did I not quote the work.
Here, the malignant huntress, sought repose,
Perfidious fate! to lead her steps, that way,
At thy, return, shall virgin's eyes, run o'er,
Mrs. Gunning, Virginius and Virginia.”
Whoever proposes to instruct others takes it for granted that he, himself, is acquainted with the subject which he professes to teach; and, therefore, we trust that we shall not be reckoned too presumptuous, for closing this chapter in the words of the author of a work, on “the craft of poynting,” printed three hundred years ago :
“ Sethyn we (as we wolde to god euery precher wolde do) haue kept owre rulis, bothe in owre englisshe and latyn, what nede we, sethyn owre own be sufficient ynoch, to put any other exemplis.”
OF THE CONSTRUCTION, OR ARRANGEMENT,
Hitherto we have been employed about the choice of words; we now come to what is more properly termed Construction,--the arrangement of those words into sentences. A simple sentence (Latin sententia, from sentire, to feel, or think,) is an indication of a detached feeling of the mind, or of a single action, which, in grammar, is expressed by two or more words. Thus, “I think,' I stand,' 'I am beloved,' He will walk,' &c. are simple sentences. There are then two words indispensable in an assertion,-a Noun (or a Pronoun) and a Verb; and if the Verb be transitive, there must be three,-the Nominative, or Agent; the Verb; and its Accusative, or Object. Thus, * Peter loves Mary,' in which Peter is the Nominative, loves the Verb, and Mary is the Accusative, or Object of the love.
In some languages the accusative has a different termination to distinguish it from the nominative; as in the Latin · Petrus amat Mariam,' Peter loves Mary; or. Maria amat Petrum,' Mary
loves Peter. Petrus and Maria are nominatives, and Petrum and Mariam are accusatives. In that language, the arrangement of the three words is of no consequence to the sense, the agent and object being known from their terminations. Thus, whether we write Petrus amat Mariam, Mariam Petrus amat, Petrus Mariam amat, Amat Petrus Mariam, or, Mariam amat Petrus, Amat Mariam Petrus, the meaning, Peter loves Mary' would be still equally well understood; but whether or not they would have been all equally agreeable to a Roman ear we cannot now determine. Cicero writes indifferently, Accepi litteras tuas; Tuas accepi litteras," and Litteras accepi tuas,” “ I have received your letter.” In English, the circumstance of Peter being placed before and Mary after the verb loves is the only means of distinguishing the lover from the beloved. The cases of the Pronouns enable us to give some variety to our arrangements; for instance we may say, with equal propriety, Mary loves him, or, Him Mary loves:' the one is the language of prose and the other of verse. We should not, however, venture the counterpart 'Her Peter loves;' because, the pronoun her being a Genitive as well as an Accusative, the phrase would be ambiguous. It asserts that Her Peter is in love, but does not fix