Caxton's Blanchardyn and Eglantine, c. 1489 : from Lord Spencer's unique imperfect copy, completed by the original French and the second English version of 1595
edited by Leon Kellner
§ 5. The Genitive Case.

(a) The genitive in connection with nouns (and pronouns).

The applicability of this genitive, which was nearly unlimited in Old English, especially in poetry, is rather restricted in Caxton's time.

1. The first function of this case, viz., that denoting birth and relationship (whence the name genetivus), shares its dominion with the dative:—

'My lady Margarete . . Moder unto our naturel & souerayn lorde.'—Blanchardyn, 1/3. 'Blanchardyn, sone unto the kynge of Fryse.'—ibid. 1/27. 'Blanchardyn ansuered that he was of the lande of Grece, and sone to a kynge,' 100/1; 'and sayde to the kynge, fader unto Blanchardyn,' 174/18; 'daughter to Kyng Alymodes,' 83/9; 'quene Morgause of Orkeney, moder to Sire Gawayne.'—Morte Darthur, 357/25; 'kynge Lots wyf and moder of sir Gawayne and to sire Gaheris,' ibid. 425/12.

2. The objective genitive is not very frequent:—

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'She bereth in her herte care ynough and dyspleysure for the loue of him.'—Blanchardyn, 73/33, 76/5, 77/25; 'for right moche he desyred to shewe hymself, for his ladyes loue,' 83/8.

3. The genitive denoting quality is used in the same way as in Modern English; only it is noteworthy that Malory treats it quite as if it were an adjective, so as to use it in the comparative and superlative degree. 'She is the fairest lady and most of beautie in the world,' Morte Darthur, 357/23; more of beautie, 358/13, 358/18, 360/33, 450/13, and frequently. Instead of of, a sometimes appears:—

'yf he had been yet man alyue, I wolde haue gyuen you tyl his wyff.'—Blanchardyn, 93/22. alyue = of life; cf. liues = alife.—Rob. of Gloucester, 301/376; Owl and Nightingale, 1632; Morris, note to l. 250 of Story of Genesis and Exodus. 'I am not a power to reward the after thy merite.'—Blanchardyn, 109/9.

4. The genitive of the personal pronoun instead of the possessive pronoun occurs very frequently:—

(I) 'knewe wel that the story of hit was honeste.'—Blanchardyn, 1/11. 'the sowle of the (thee),' 17/21; 'for pryde of her,' 39/14; 'the herte of hym,' 39/33, 64/17, 86/20, 87/31, 92/7, 106/17, 114/32, etc.

This use is especially worth noting, when it occurs in sentences like the following:—

'ye haue exposed the body of you and of your men,' 171/20. In Modern English we should say: 'your body and those of your men.' Malory once says: 'I pray you hertely to be my good frende and to my sones,' Morte Darthur, 406/28.

5. The partitive genitive was not a great favourite with the English of the 14th and 15th centuries. After comparing the use of this case in that time with what it was in Old English, we cannot but conclude that the idea of partition attached to such phrases as MÁÐMA FELA (many treasures), Beówulf 36, in Old English was about to be supplanted by that of the simple apposition. Apart from the fact that the numerals, as well as many indefinite adverbs and pronouns, no longer governed the genitive, compare the following expressions:—

  • Robert of Gloucester (quoted by Koch, II2, p. 169): 'þe þryddePage  xvii del my kingdom, y geue þe,' 285; 'þe þrydde del ys londe,' 711; 'From þe on ende Cornewayle,' 178.

  • Chaucer (Einenkel, p. 93): 'A busshel venym,' IV. 267; 'no morsel bred,' III. 215; 'the beste galoun wyn,' III. 249.

  • E. E. Wills (ed. Furnivall): 'a peyre schetys,' 4/16, 5/8, 41/24, 76/16, 101/18; 'a peyre bedes,' 5/3.

  • Bury Wills (Camden Society): 'a pece medowe,' 47; 'a peyre spectaclys,' 15; 'a quart wyne,' 16; 'a galon wine,' 30.

But there was a sudden stop in the development towards apposition instead of the genitive; and at the end of the 15th century there was a sort of reaction in favour of the Old English use. Expressions like those quoted above are not to be met with in Caxton; only a few traces of the Middle English tendency remained.

Maner without of occurs in Blanchardyn three times: 'by al manere wayes,' 50/19; 'all manere noureture,' 74/8; 'al manere poyntes,' 109/16; while there are 18 instances of maner + of viz., 28/20, 53/17, 55/27, 58/19, 60/31, 73/34, 93/32, 111/28, 117/27, 119/2, 119/11, 159/34, 174/12, 177/4, 186/8, 188/26, 197/28, 200/18.

Other is used for 'others of.' 'Other her gentyll women,' 76/31; 'other his prysoners,' 121/25.

Also any occurs for 'any of':—

'Affermyng that I oughte rather tenprynte his actes and noble feates than of Godefroy of boloyne or ony the eight.'—Caxton's Preface to Morte Darthur, 2/1.

In Aymon is a curious remnant of what must have been rather common in the 14th century, as Chaucer offers several instances of it. The passage runs as follows: 'but of all Fraunce I am one of the best & truest knyght that be in it,' 272/23. These are the parallels in Chaucer:—

'Oon of the grettest auctour that men rede' (5 MSS., one has 'auctours'), III. 234; 'On of the best farynge man on lyue,' III. 8; 'On of the best enteched creature,' V. 35 (cf. Einenkel, p. 87).

This odd expression is made up of two constructions: I. 'One the best knyght.' II. 'One of the best knyghtes.' The former, which was at last supplanted by the second, crops up many times in Middle English, and has its parallel in other numerals:—

'Oute of þilke hilles springeþ þre þe noblest ryueres of al Europe.'—Trevisa, I. 199. 'I deuyse to Iohane my doughter ... III. thePage  xviii best pilwes after choys of the forseyde Thomas my sone.'—E. E. Wills, 5/9. 'I wyll that Richard my sone haue tweyne my best hors.'—ibid. 23/23. 'II. the best yren broches.'—ibid. 46/17. 'too the best sanapes,' 101/24, Guy of Warwick (ed. Zupitza), 8095; 'at two the firste strokes,' Morte Darthur, 343/29; 'two the best knyghtes that euer were in Arthurs dayes,' ibid. 419/31.

This free use of apposition (instead of the modern genitive) did not die out before the time of James I.:—

  • 'Enough is, that thy foe doth vanquisht stand
    Now at thy mercy: Mercy not withstand:
    For he is one the truest knight aliue.'

    Faerie Q., I. iii. 37.

  • 'Or who shall not great Nightes children scorne,
    When two of three her Nephewes are so foule forlorne?'

    Ibid. I. v. 23.

  • 'His living like sawe never living eye,
    Ne durst behold; his stature did exceed
    The hight three the tallest sonnes of mortall seed.'

    Ibid. I. vii. 8.

  • 'Was reckoned one the wisest prince that there had reigned.'

    Shakspere, Henry VIII., II. ii. 48.

Apart from this liberty, we have to state a few other noteworthy points respecting Caxton's use of the partitive genitive.

(a) There are numerous instances of the independent, or, as it is sometimes called, the elliptic genitive partitive, which is so often met with in Chaucer; cf. 'Of smale houndes hadde sche, that she fedde,' II. 5. Before Chaucer the instances are rare. Perhaps the following passages may be looked upon as approaching that use:—

'hwa se euer wule habbe lot wið þe of þi blisse: he mot dea'e wið þe of þine pine on eorþe.'—O. E. Hom. I. 187. 'man eggeð his negebure to done oðer to speken him harm, oðer s(c)ame, and haueð uið elch wið oðer, and makeð him to forlese his aihte, oðer of his rihte.'—O. E. Hom. II. 13. 'þe priue þyeues byeþ þo þet ue steleð naȝt of oncouþe ac of priueþ. And of zuichen þer byeð of greate and of smale. þe greate byeð of þe kneade and þe ontrewe reuen.'. .—Ayenbite, 37.

Caxton has several instances of this use:—

'(She) tolde hym that she was right wel content of his seruyce, and wolde reteyne hym in wages, and gyue hym of her goodes, for he was worthy therof.'—Blanchardyn, 75/5. 'wherof the kynge was right wele content, and reseyued hym of his hous.'—ibid. 99/21; = as one of his house, or court. (Cf. Huon, I. 13/20: 'the two sonnesPage  xix of Duke Senyn of burdeux shal come to the courte, and, as I haue harde say, the kynge hath sayde that, at there comynge, they shal be made of hys pryuey counsell.') 'And wyte, that Guynon hadde wyth hym of the beste knyghtes of Charlemagne.'—Aymon, 91/18. 'and therefore lete us set upon hym or day, and we shalle slee doune of his knyghtes: ther shal none escape.'—Morte Darthur, 121/10. '(He) charged hym that he shold gyue hym of al maner of metes.'—ibid. 214/20. (Cf. Gesta Romanorum, 197: 'þe knyghte of baldak sent to the knite of lumbardye of al maner thinges.')

This use too was continued in the time of Henry VIII.:—

'I wyll ye take of your best frendys.'—Huon, 5/25. 'this that I haue shewid you is of truth.'—ibid. 61/26. 'I requyre you, shewe me of your newes and adventures that ye haue had.'—ibid. 566/12. 'Englysh marchauntes do fetch of the erth of Irlonde to caste in their gardens.'—Andrew Borde, p. 133; cf. p. 170.

From an alteration of the 1601 edition of Huon we may perhaps conclude that the English of that time did not relish this use in prose. The original edition has: 'for incontinent they wyll sende of theyr shyppes, and take thys shyp,' 212/29; the edition of 1601 alters of into 'some of.'

(b) Here and there indefinite pronouns like 'much, many (other)' are followed by of + noun: 'for he hath doon to us this day so moche of euyl.'—Blanchardyn, 169/22. 'wherof soo many of children (were) faderles, and soo many churches wasted.'—Aymon, 27/19. 'a grete many of prysoners.'—ibid. 87/4. But, as a rule, the modern use prevails.

(c) There is another sort of Genitive, which we may, perhaps, not improperly term pseudo-partitive, viz. that which appears in sentences like 'a castle of hers, a knight of Arthur's.' It is true, that in many cases we might translate these phrases by 'one of her castles, one of Arthur's knights'; but there are many examples in Middle English which do not admit of such an explanation, and the Modern English use ('that beautiful face of hers!') proves that no idea of partition is included in such expressions. After a close examination of the oldest instances as met with in the 14th century (second half?), we see that they are brought into existence by another necessity.

In Old English the possessive pronoun, or, as the French say, 'pronominal adjective,' expresses only the conception of belongingPage  xx and possession; it is a real adjective, and does not convey, as at present, the idea of determination. If, therefore, Old English authors want to make such nouns determinative, they add the definite article:

hæleð mín se leofa, Elene, 511; þú eart dóhtor mín séo dýreste, Juliana, 166; þæt tacnede Leoniða on his þæm nihstan gefeohte and Persa, Orosius, 84/31; Mammea his sio gode modor, ibid. 270/26; mid hire þære yfelan scéonnesse, Blickling Homilies, 5/1; openige nu þin se fægresta fæþm, ibid. 7/24; þonne bið drihten ure se trumesta staðol, ibid. 13/10; hé wolde oferswíðan úrne ðone écan déað, Ælfric's Homilies, I. 168/1; úre se ælmihtiga scyppend, ibid. I. 192/6; þurh his þæs mran forryneles and fulluhteres ðingunge, ibid. I. 364/5. The article preceding the possessive pronoun: se heora cyning, Orosius, 56/31; seo heora iugoð, Blickling Homilies, 163/3; seo hire gebyrd, 163/9, etc.

In Middle English the possessive pronoun apparently has a determinative meaning (as in Modern English, Modern German, and Modern French); therefore its connection with the definite article is made superfluous, while the indefinite article is quite impossible. Hence arises a certain embarrassment with regard to one case which the language cannot do without. Suppose we want to say 'she is in a castle belonging to her,' where it is of no importance whatever, either to the speaker or hearer, to know whether 'she' has got more than one castle—how could the English of the Middle period put it? The French of the same age said still 'un sien castel'; but that was no longer possible in English. There's only one instance of indefinite article + possessive pronoun that has come to my knowledge, and that is of the early period of Middle English: Sawles Warde (O. E. H., I. p. 265): 'for euch an is al mihti to don al þat he wule, ȝe, makie to cwakien heouene ba ant eorþe wið his an finger' (for one is mighty enough to do all that he desires, yea, to make heaven and earth quake with one of his fingers. Translation by R. Morris).*. [ Other instances, however, may have escaped my notice, and it is worth while to search Middle English literature for evidence on this hitherto puzzling point.]

We should expect the genitive of the personal pronoun (of me, etc., as in Modern German),—and there may have been a time when this use prevailed,—but, so far as I know, the language decided in Page  xxi favour of the more complicated and rather absurd construction 'of mine, of thine,' etc.

This was, in all probability, brought about by the analogy of the very numerous cases in which the indeterminative noun connected with mine, etc., had a really partitive sense (cf. the examples below), and, moreover, by the remembrance of the old construction with the possessive pronoun.

There is a good deal of guesswork in this explanation, of course; but one thing is sure—it was the impossibility of connecting the indefinite article with the possessive pronoun which suggested the new construction. This is proved by indisputable chronological facts.

I. First, we find the indefinite article (or the equally indefinite words any, every, no) in connection with of mine, of thine, etc. This construction is met with in the 14th century.

II. Next, analogy introduces the indefinite article in connection with the double genitive of a noun, 'a knyght of king Arthur's.'

III. Last, we come across definite pronouns (this, that) in connection with of mine; and exceptionally the definite article occurs there also in connection with the double genitive of a noun (the knight of kyng Arthur's).

  • CHAUCER:A friend of his, IV. 130, IV. 257, IV. 356; an hors of his, II. 271; an old felaw of youres, III. 97; eny neghebour of myne, III. 198; every knight of his, II. 239; no maner lym of his, V. 170.—Cf. that ilke proverbe of Ecclesiaste, II. 226; this my sentence heere, III. 40; oure wreche is this, oure owen wo to drynke, IV. 184 (Einenkel, pp. 86, 87).

  • Early E. Wills: I will that William . . . be paied of their billes for making off a liuery of myn, 53/20; ȝif any servaunt of myn haue labord for me . . . 53/23 (both instances ab. 1420 A.D.); I will that Chace haue a habirion of myne, 54/7; he may haue such a good honest booke of his owne, 59/9; every child of hires lyuynge at the day of my decesse haue xx ƚi to their mariage, 107/1.

  • Bury Wills (A.D. 1434): and more stuff I haue not occupied of hers, p. 23; such goodes of myn as shall be sold, 24; such tyme as money may be reysid of goodes as shal be sold of myn, 36.

In neither of these 'Wills' volumes is there any instance of the second or third stage of the development of our construction. Cf. E. E. Wills: this my present testament, 49/4; similar cases are in 51/5, 79/26, 119/15.

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Gesta Romanorum offers instances of II, but not of III: I am forrester of the Emperours, 206; a noþere knyȝt of the Emperours, 241.

In CAXTON the I. group is represented by numerous instances: And for this cause departeth now my sayd lady from a castell of hers, Blanchardyn 38/6. (Original: dun sien chastel.) He toke also a grete spere from the hande of a knyght of his, ibid. 107/32; for the kyng Alymodes hath a daughter of his owne . . . ibid. 125/4; a yeoman of his owne, ibid. 201/18; a town of his, Aymon 69/15; a gentylman of his, 412/29; a neuewe of his, 527/22. Cf. Malory's Morte Darthur, 35/35, 38/28, 365/12, 366/2, 369/17, etc.

Group II. is often met with in the Morte Darthur: a knyghte of the dukes, 37/7, 9; Syre gawayne, knyghte of kynge Arthurs, 146/30; I am a knyghte of kynge Arthurs, 153/32, 263/31, 263/34, 330/22, 331/19; a trusty frende of Sir Tristrams, 363/8; and ryght so cam in knyghtes of kynge Arthurs, 386/29; and he had gotten hym ten good knyghtes of Arthurs, 459/33; and therewith foure knyghtes of kynge Markes drewe their swerdes to slee syre Sadok, 469/30, 521/24, 522/12, 635/21.—In two instances s is omitted: Thenne came forth a knyght, his name was lambegus, and he was a knyght of syr Trystrem, 318/16; there was a knyghte of kyng Arthur, 331/17.

The frequent occurrence of this genitive in connection with Arthur and his knights has often (in English Grammars, &c.;) suggested the supposition that there is a sort of ellipsis in this construction: a knyghte of kynge Arthurs = a knyghte of kynge Arthurs court.*. [Cf. two knyghtes of kynge Arthurs Courte, 297/1, 6, 16, 298/33, etc.] But first of all, such instances as 'a trusty frende of syr Tristrams,' 'I am forester of the Emperors,' do not admit of such an explanation—unless we say 'among Sir T.'s friends,' 'among the Emperor's foresters';—and secondly, there are no other examples of this elliptic construction in Caxton or Malory.

Of Group III., there are two instances in Blanchardyn with that, and a few with the definite article in Morte Darthur:

'as for to wene to haue her, thou haste that berde of thyne ouer whyte therto; thy face is so mykel wonne, and that olde skynne of thyne ys ouer mykel shronken togyder,' 186/22-25. Original: 'vous auez la barbe trop grise, la face trop usee, et le cuir trop retrait.'

Elsewhere Caxton is not afraid of using this in connection with the possessive pronoun. Cf. this my towne, Blanch. 73/18; this her werre, 90/1.

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There are two passages in Morte Darthur belonging to this group: 'Alle the knyghtes of kynge Arthurs,' 330/9; 'he sholde haue her and her landes of her faders that sholde falle to her,' 488/14;—in both instances the partitive genitive is wholly excluded.

B. The Genitive governed by adjectives and verbs is, on the whole, the same as in Modern English. But it is worth noting that the ideas of reference and cause are still expressed in Caxton by of, while, in Modern English other prepositions (in, as to, with &c.;) are preferred.

(a) Reference:—

The childe grewe and amended sore of the grete beaulte . . . Blanchardyn, 13/6; of the tables and ches playing, and of gracious and honeste talkynge, he passed them that were his elder in age, 13/9; demaunding of the batailles of Troy, 14/13, 15/8; sore troubled of wyttis, 45/8; nought dommaged of nothing, 48/31; there was no man that of prowes and worthynes coude go beyonde hym, 65/21; wele shapen of alle membres, 99/14; sore chaunged of face, 145/30; what wyl you do of me?, 146/16. Cf. 150/25, 178/21, 184/6, 193/14;—Aymon, 54/25, 64/5, 290/32;—Morte Darthur, passim.

(b) Cause:—

(They) judged hem self right happy of a successoure legytyme, 12/17; (the kyng) that of this adventure was ful sory and dolaunt, 21/4; Blanchardyn sore angry and euyll apaid of that he sawe . . . 28/13; sore passioned of one accident, 68/20;—thank of, 49/33, 60/25; pardon of, 50/9, 10.

Of is sometimes replaced by ouer: Right enamored they were ouer hym, 66/25; auenged ouer hym, 86/30. Once for of occurs: and also for of the grete dysplesure that he had . . . 111/34.

(c) For the Genitive used adverbially, see Adverb, p. lxxvii.