bear witness for me what a heavy heart I carried to it

park sang joon

Senior Member
The protagonist recalls his childhood.
He and Peggotty, the only maid of his house came to Yarmouth, her hometown and visited her brother, Mr. Peggotty's house.
They stayed there several days.
Now they comes back home, and he knows his mother was remarried, and that his bedroom was removed to another place.

If the room to which my bed was removed were a sentient thing that could give evidence, I might appeal to it at this dayㅡwho sleeps there now, I wonder!ㅡto bear witness for me what a heavy heart I carried to it.
[David Copperfield by Charles Dickens]
I'd like to know why it is "witness for me what a heavy heart I carried to it," not "witness for me of what a heavy heart I carried to it."
Thank you in advance for your help.
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    The phrase being used here is to bear witness meaning "to testify as a witness in a court of law". In the imagined courtroom, (the room where my old bed is now) is a person that I might ask ("appeal", see separate thread) to help me.

    The help is to bear witness for me (testify to the court, as an independent witness who saw me today) what a heavy heart I carried as I moved to it, the room.

    If you wanted to add either about or of before the word what, I would agree: it would make it clearer. Dickens chose not to.


    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Thank you, dojibear, for another very kind answer from you. :)
    I didn't know "bear witness" is a transitive.:(
    I suppose that is the question that made you create this thread: can it be transitive? It seems to be in the book you quote. But I think the same as you do. To me "bear witness" acts as a verb but cannot take an object. Looking online I see examples like "bear witness to" and "bear witness of" and "bear witness against", but not "bear witness <something>".

    The book is from 1850. I cannot explain or justify it's usage. Do not use it as a guide to 2016 English grammar.

    Hmmm....technically, in this phrase bear is a transitive verb (meaning "carry") and witness is a noun, its object. So we already have
    verb+object. Perhaps (gramatically) all the "to" and "of" and "against" clauses are just part of the noun we bear:

    - witness to the crime
    - witness against a criminal
    - witness of false dealing
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