February 22, 2012

In vain have I struggled...

It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.
Sounds like a good start to a marriage proposal, no? Many will recognize these lines as belonging to a much loved, yet unsuccessful marriage proposal, that of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. The proposal is so well known, in fact, that it has inspired a line of products, such as this mug, sold on etsy.com.

Alas, the creator of the mug doesn't seem to approve of Austen's use of negative inversion ("In vain HAVE I struggled...").  Negative expressions, such as "in vain" or "hardly" or "never in my life," when proposed, trigger what some call subject-auxiliary inversion (even though it is really just the auxiliary, here "have," that moves) in English. On no account should one mess with a quote by Mr. Darcy!

Edited to add: It seems that the shop owner agrees. The description of the mug includes the following PS: The photo depicts it written as 'I have' rather than the correct way, of 'have I'. The mug you will receive will say 'have I'. 

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