« ÖncekiDevam »
and categorically denounces him as some grammatical pretender.' ‘But,' replies Mr. White, that it is the work of any grammarian is more than doubtful. Grammarians, with all their faults, do not deform language with fantastic solecisms, or even seek to enrich it with new and startling verbal combinations. They rather resist novelty, and devote themselves to formulating that which use has already established. In the same page with this, Mr. White compliments the great unknown as 'some precise and feebleminded soul,' and elsewhere calls him some pedantic writer of the last generation. To add even one word toward a solution of the knotty point here indicated transcends, I confess, my utmost competence. It is painful to picture to one's self the agonizing emotions with which certain philologists would contemplate an authentic effigy of the Attila of speech who, by his is being built or is being done, first offered violence to the whole circle of the proprieties. So far as I have observed, the first grammar that exhibits them is that of Mr. R. S. Skillern, M. A., the first edition of which was published at Gloucester in 1802. Robert Southey had not, on the oth of October, 1795, been 'out of his minority quite two months when, evidently delivering himself in a way that had already become familiar enough, he wrote of a fellow whose uttermost upper grinder is being torn out by the roots by a mutton-fisted barber.'* This is in a letter. But repeated instances of the same kind of expression are seen in Southey's graver writings. Thus, in his Colloquies, etc., † we read of such [nunneries] as at this time are being re-established.'
*“ The Life and Correspondence of the late Robert Southey, vol. i, p. 249."
"Vol. i, p. 338. 'A student who is being crammed'; 'that verb is eternally being declined.'— The Doctor, pp. 38 and 40 (monotome ed.).”
“While my hand was being drest by Mr. Young, I spoke for the first time,' wrote Coleridge, in March, 1797.
"Charles Lamb speaks of realities which are being acted before us,' and of 'a man who is being strangled.'
“Walter Savage Landor, in an imaginary conversation, represents Pitt as saying: 'The man who possesses them may read Swederborg and Kant while he is being tossed in a blanket.' Again : 'I have seen nobles, men and women, kneeling in the street before these bishops, when no ceremony of the Catholic Church was being performed.' Also, in a translation from Catullus: 'Some criminal is being tried for murder.'
“Nor does Mr. De Quincey scruple at such English as 'made and being made,''the bride that was being married to him,' and 'the shafts of heaven were even now being forged.' On one occasion he writes, ‘Not done, not even (according to modern purism) being done'; as if purism' meant exactness rather than the avoidance of neoterism.
“I need surely name no more, among the dead, who found is being built, or the like, acceptable. *Simpleminded common people and those of culture were alike protected against it by their attachment to the idiom of their mother tongue, with which they felt it to be directly at variance.' So Mr. White informs us. But the writers whom I have quoted are formidable exceptions. Even Mr. White will scarcely deny to them the title of people of culture.'
“So much for offenders past repentance; and we all know that the sort of phraseology under consideration is daily becoming more and more common. The best written of the English reviews, magazines, and journals are perpetually marked by it, and some of the choicest of living English writers employ it freely. Among these, it is enough if I specify Bishop Wilberforce and Mr. Charles Reade. *
“Extracts from Bishop Jewel downward being also given, Lord Macaulay, Mr. Dickens, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Brooklyn Eagle are alleged by Mr. White in proof that people still use such phrases as 'Chelsea Hospital was building,' and 'the train was preparing.' 'Hence we see,' he adds, t'that the form is being done, is being made, is being built, lacks the support of authoritative usage from the period of the earliest classical English to the present day.' I fully concur with Mr. White in regarding 'neither The Brooklyn Eagle nor Mr. Dickens as a very high authority in the use of language'; yet, when he has renounced the aid of these contemned straws, what has he to rest his inference on, as to the present day, but the practice of Lord Macaulay and The Atlantic Monthly? Those who think fit will bow to the dictatorship here prescribed to them ; but there may be those with whom the classic sanction of Southey, Coleridge, and Landor will not be wholly void of weight. All scholars are aware that, to convey the sense of the imperfects passive, our ancestors centuries ago prefixed with is, etc., in, afterward corrupted into a, to a verbal substantive. The house is in building' could be taken to mean nothing but ædes ædificantur ; and when the in gave place to a, 1 it was still manifest enough, from the context, that building was governed by a preposition. The second stage of change, however-namely,
* " In Put Yourself in his Place, chap. x, he writes : 'She basked in the present delight, and looked as if she was being taken to heaven by an angel.'"
+“Words, etc., p. 340."
$" Thomas Fuller writes: 'At his arrival, the last stake of the Christians was on losing.'-The Historie of the Holy Warre, p. 218 (ed. 1647).”
when the a was omitted—entailed in many cases great danger of confusion. In the early part of the last century, when English was undergoing what was then thought to be purification, the polite world substantially resigned is a-building to the vulgar. Toward the close of the same century, when, under the influence of free thought, it began to be felt that even ideas had a right to faithful and unequivocal representation, a just resentment of ambiguity was evidenced in the creation of is being built. The lament is too late that the instinct of reformation did not restore the old form. It has gone forever, and we are now to make the best of its successors. The brass is forging, in the opinion of Dr. Johnson, is 'a vicious expression, probably corrupted from a phrase more pure but now somewhat obsolete, . “the brass is a-forg ing." Yet, with a true Tory's timidity and aversion to change, it is not surprising that he went on preferring what he found established, vicious as it confessedly was, to the end. But was the expression 'vicious' solely because it was a corruption? In 1787 William Beckford wrote as follows of the fortune-tellers of Lisbon : 'I saw one dragging into light, as I passed by the ruins of a palace thrown down by
I the earthquake. Whether a familiar of the Inquisition was griping her in his clutches, or whether she was taking to account by some disappointed votary, I will not pretend to answer.' Are the expressions here italicized either perspicuous or graceful ? Whatever we are to have in their place, we should be thankful to get quit of them.
“Inasmuch as, concurrently with building for the active participle, and being built for the corresponding passive participle, we possessed the former, with is prefixed, as the active present imperfect, it is in rigid accordance with the symmetry of our verb that, to construct the passive present
imperfect, we prefix is to the latter, producing the form is being built. Such, in its greatest simplicity, is the procedure which, as will be seen, has provoked a very levanter of ire and vilification. But anything that is new will be excepted to by minds of a certain order. Their tremulous and impatient dread of removing ancient landmarks even disqualifies them for thoroughly investigating its character and pretensions. In has built and will build, we find the active participle perfect and the active infinitive subjoined to auxiliaries; and so, in has been built and will be built, the passive participle perfect and the passive infinitive are subjoined to auxiliaries. In is building and is being built, we have, in strict harmony with the constitution of the perfect and future tenses, an auxiliary followed by the active participle present and the passive participle present. Built is determined as active or passive by the verbs which qualify it, have and be ; and the grammarians are right in considering it, when embodied in has built, as active, since its analogue, embodied in has been built, is the exclusively passive been built. Besides this, has been + built would signify something like has existed, built, * which is plainly neuter. We are debarred, therefore, from such an analysis ; and, by parity of reasoning, we may not resolve is being built into is being + built. It must have been an inspiration of analogy, felt or unfelt, that suggested the form I am discussing. Is being + built, as it can mean, pretty nearly, only exists, built, would never have been proposed as adequate to convey any but a neuter sense ; whereas it was perfectly natural for a person aiming to express a passive sense to prefix is to the passive concretion being built. +
*“I express myself in this manner because I distinguish between be and exist."
+"Samuel Richardson writes : ‘Jenny, who attends me here, has