... , and which it would have been well if he had never heard.

joannaz

Member
Chinese-Mandarin
Hi everyone here.

I don't get the last clause in this sentence. Can anybody help?

He never had heard of God or Christ, except in words which you never have heard, and which it would have been well if he had never heard.

--Charles Kingsley, The Water Babies, Chapter 1.

What does 'which' and 'it' represent here respectively? It sounds a little odd for me to see 'which it', but it seems neither of them can be omitted.

Thanks.
 
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  • sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "Which" refers to the previously-mentioned "words."

    The use of "well" seems unusual; perhaps it was more usual in Kingsley's time. The meaning appears to be that it would have been better if he had never heard these words.
     

    Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    Sound shift, don't you think the bolded "which" probably refers to the whole scenario/instance of hearing rather than the words themselves? In that case, "the words" would be elided after the "heard" at the end (or the "heard" would be intransitive).

    Thanks.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In short, Emp, no, I don't.:) There's a parallelism here: the first "which" clearly refers to "words" and because we then have "and which" I am sure that the second "which" does so too.
     

    joannaz

    Member
    Chinese-Mandarin
    Thank you Shift, but I think in that case, 'it' can be omitted, like what has appeared in 'words which you never have heard'. But 'it would have been' is a structure so we can not omit 'it'.


    "Which" refers to the previously-mentioned "words."

    The use of "well" seems unusual; perhaps it was more usual in Kingsley's time. The meaning appears to be that it would have been better if he had never heard these words.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The sentence is fine as it stands, and the "it" is necessary. In effect there is a dummy "it" here, because we could re-write the piece as: "He never had heard of God or Christ, except in words which you never have heard. It would have been well if he had never heard these words."
     
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    joannaz

    Member
    Chinese-Mandarin
    Thank you so much SS! Now it is clear:)

    The sentence is fine as it stands, and the "it" is necessary. In effect there is a dummy "it" here, because we could re-write the piece as: "He never had heard of God or Christ, except in words which you never had heard. It would have been well if he had never heard these words."
     
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