Wednesday, October 17, 2012


The Excitement of the Subjunctive Mood

John Henry Cardinal Newman, letter to John Pollen (May 6, 1885), in Wilfred Ward, The Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman, Based on his Private Journals and Correspondence, Vol. II (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912), pp. 524-525:
Well, and I sympathise with you in the strange feeling of coming on deck of a morning and seeing before you Cadiz, Algiers, Palermo or Ithaca, like the rounds in a Magic Lantern, though the middies and the crew take it as a matter of course.

One thing I confess lies outside my sympathy, though it touches me much, and all the more, viz. your having recourse to "The Grammar of Assent" as a refuge from the palm trees and apes. My imagination will not take it in, except as a pendant to that great Ch. Ch. Greek scholar who to relieve himself of the excitement of the subjunctive mood, used to take up a volume of the Tracts for the Times. I think he told me so himself.
"Ch. Ch." is Christ Church, and the "great scholar" is presumably Thomas Gaisford (1779-1855), as Ian Jackson (to whom I owe the quotation) pointed out to me.

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