even though it be the heart of the desert=subjunctive?

thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
“We are of those who believe in those sacred writings, drawn in Egyptian letters on plates of beaten gold, which were handed unto the holy Joseph Smith11 at Palmyra. We have come from Nauvoo, in the state of Illinois, where we had founded our temple. We have come to seek a refuge from the violent man and from the godless, even though it be the heart of the desert.”

Excerpt From
The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
Arthur Conan Doyle
This material may be protected by copyright.

Hi. Is the bold part subjunctive? And does it mean the same thing as “even though it was the heart of the desert”?
Thank you.
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes. that “be” is present subjunctive. It seems to mean “a refuge … even if it is (in this case, has to be) the heart of the desert”.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you, lb. So is subjunctive mood required in an “even though” clause generally in Victorian times?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The speaker is a Mormon from America. The mode of speech is very stylised and not typical of British English.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    The speaker is a Mormon from America. The mode of speech is very stylised and not typical of British English.
    Well, there was this from the BE fable, Jack the Giant Killer: :rolleyes:
    Fee-fi-fo-fum​
    I smell the blood of an Englishman.​
    Be he alive or be he dead​
    I'll grind his bones to make my bread.​
    :)
    Seriously, the Mormons were one of a number of American groups that stuck to old manner of speech longer than the rest of us.:)
    "A Study in Scarlet" was published in 1887. Mormons, except, perhaps, for some sects, don't talk that way anymore as far as I know.
     

    bennymix

    Senior Member
    Well, there was this from the BE fable, Jack the Giant Killer: :rolleyes:
    Fee-fi-fo-fum:thumbsup:
    I smell the blood of an Englishman.​
    Be he alive or be he dead​
    I'll grind his bones to make my bread.​

    Seriously, the Mormons were one of a number of American groups that stuck to old manner of speech longer than the rest of us.:)
    "A Study in Scarlet" was published in 1887. Mormons, except, perhaps, for some sects, don't talk that way anymore as far as I know.
    So be it.:)
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I’m very familiar with the fee-fi-fo-fum verse (and not just because of its current use in a British TV ad for Weetabix! ;)) and its be he alive or be he dead line, which is a very typical use of the present subjunctive. But I’m not convinced that “even though it be” is authentic – it’s the word “even” that makes it sound odd. The quote is from Conan Doyle’s very first Sherlock Holmes novel and he presumably had little or no idea how Mormons actually spoke. According to Wikipedia: Conan Doyle’s daughter has stated: “You know, father would be the first to admit that his first Sherlock Holmes novel was full of errors about the Mormons.”
     

    bennymix

    Senior Member
    On the issue of a possible 'revival' of present subjunctive in British English.

    Johansson, Stig and Else Helene Norheim. 1988. „The subjunctive in British and American English.‟

    For whom the bell tolls, or: Why we predicted the death of the mandative subjunctive

    Tanja Rütten
    University of Cologne

    ==
    The Subjunctive in Spoken British English ICAME, Lancaster, 28th May 2009

    Jo Close & Bas Aarts, UCL

    https://www.ucl.ac.uk/english-usage/projects/verb-phrase/CloseAartsICAME30.pdf

    {Example} Peter came and begged that he be allowed to accept a job at the bottom of the scale. (DCPSE:DL-A02 #0259:2:A)

    Current change in the mandative subjunctive
    •Increasing in written English (see Johansson and Norheim 1988, Övergaard 1995, Leech et al. forthcoming),
    although British English lagging behind American English (Hundt 1998)
     
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