That Goodness inspires a confidence, which, by divesting respect of terror, ...

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siares

Senior Member
Slovak
Madam,
That goodness inspires a confidence, which, by divesting respect of terror, excites attachment to Greatness, the presentation of this little Work to Your Majesty must truly, however humbly evince; and though a public manifestation of duty and regard from an obscure Individual may betray a proud ambition, it is, I trust, but a venial - I am sure it is a natural one. (Fanny Burney, Camilla dedication)

Hi all,
why is there an 'a' in front of confidence? What exactly is 'a confidence' doing to 'respect of'?
Thank you
 
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    That goodness inspires a confidence, which, by divesting respect of terror, excites attachment to Greatness, the presentation of this little Work to Your Majesty must truly, however humbly evince; and though a public manifestation of duty and regard from an obscure Individual may betray a proud ambition, it is, I trust, but a venial - I am sure it is a natural one.

    Goodness inspires a confidence that excites attachment to Greatness - Goodness inspires [a particular kind of confidence] that excites attachment to Greatness...

    This confidence allows the writer to respect His/Her Majesty without being terrified of such Greatness. This confidence removes terror from respect (divests respect of terror).
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    What a complicated sentence. They really knew how to dedicate books then, didn't they? 'A' can be used with non-count nouns like 'confidence' when there is some sort of a modifier, like an adjective or a relative clause: 'a comforting confidence', 'a confidence which will surprise you', etc. So this is a confidence which excites attachment to Greatness (= makes people get fond of great people, like the Queen). Great people like queens can be terrifying, and you respect them for that, but if they show goodness, that divests (removes) the terror from the respect, and you can just respect them without being terrified.

    cross-posted

    In case it's not clear, the overall structure of this sentence is that a 'that'-clause that is the complement of 'evince' (=show) has been brought to the front for emphasis. So:

    The presentation (of this work . . .) must evince that goodness inspires confidence . . .
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Thank you both!
    I originally thought that one 'has a respect of terror' but now I see it is about stripping respect of the aspect of terror

    That Goodness etc. is evidenced by the fact of dedication of the novel to the Queen - Is there not a semicolon before 'the presentation' necessary?

    (crosspost and edit)
     
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    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    I realised I don't understand this:
    Why there is an 'a' rather than 'the' before confidence? Since the kind of confidence we are talking about is specified by 'which etc.'?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    If we rearrange the first part of the sentence it becomes clear that it shouldn't be divided by a semi-colon:

    The presentation of this little Work to Your Majesty must truly, however humbly, evince that goodness inspires a confidence which, by divesting respect of terror, excites attachment to Greatness


    Goodness inspires a confidence which excites attachment to Greatness -
    Fanny Burney is introducing us to the concept of this kind of confidence.
    Goodness inspires the confidence which excites attachment to Greatness - this would suggest that there already exists in the reader's mind a concept of this special kind of confidence.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Thank you Velisarius!

    I understand the 'a' now.:)

    I may also be getting it with the semicolon now - it would only be necessary if, without it, the sentence could have had a different meaning, right?
    This way, it would only have allowed me to make a pause between two ideas 'excites attachment' and 'the presentation evinces'.

    Commas:
    Why is there a comma before which?
    I would have read it easier if the phrase went:
    ...a confidence which...phrase qualifying confidence...excites attachment.

    Why is there 2 commas setting off , by divesting respect of terror,? That makes me feel like I can take the whole chunk out without affecting the sentence significantly; which is not true.
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    As for the comma before "which", I'm assuming that is the original punctuation, which may differ from modern conventions of punctuation.

    "a confidence which, by divesting respect from terror, excites attachment"
    "a confidence which (by divesting respect of terror) excites attachment" - the words between commas are parenthetic, explaining in what way it excites attachment.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Uhm, I see..

    One more thing about 'a confidence':
    is introducing us to the concept of this kind of confidence
    Would it turn into a 'the' if the structure were to be altered somehow? For example
    That goodness inspires the confidence of a kind which divests respect of terror,
    I am asking cause I remembered this post:
    "Moore escaped by a cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass"
    should be
    "Moore escaped by the cunning trick of lying down in a clump of grass
    or
    "Moore escaped by doing a cunning trick: lying down in a clump of grass.
    Here (in the 'the' version) the trick I think alike the 'a confidence' was being introduced to reader's mind - no?
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Thanks velisarius, PaulQ.
    Goodness inspires a confidence which excites attachment to Greatness - Fanny Burney is introducing us to the concept of this kind of confidence.
    Goodness inspires the confidence which excites attachment to Greatness - this would suggest that there already exists in the reader's mind a concept of this special kind of confidence.
    I found this:
    I had told Traddles of the terrible event, and it had greatly shocked him; but there could be no doubt of the kindness of keeping it a secret, and he had come to help me in this last service. (David Copperfield)
    I didn't have any concept of this special kind of kindness before reading the sentence!
    introducing us to the concept of this kind of confidence.
    A confidence = a type of confidence.
    I just can't tell when to think of something as 'a kind of' or 'introduced to reader', and when not.. Kindness and confidence are similar nouns, and they are both 'a type' above.
    The only difference I see between them is that after the nouns appear, qualification of kindness is launched into whereas description of confidence dilly dallies. (I hope I'm not being too technical).

    Which difference have I missed?
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I'm not sure I'll be much help, but here goes...

    I think it's quite rare today to find the indefinite article with these two words, as they are normally uncountable. I might talk about "doing someone a kindness", but not about "inspiring a confidence". If someone is making a speech, i.e. using rather grand language, they might say something like: "The new government inspires in us a confidence that we trust will not prove to have been misplaced."


    That goodness inspires a confidence, which,[...], excites attachment to Greatness...


    Let's take a modern example to see how we can use the articles or zero article with the word "confidence".

    -The teacher's praise inspired in the student a confidence that enabled her to sail through her exams.

    "A confidence" = a special kind of confidence that enabled her to sail through her exams. I think that this usage "inspired in her a confidence" with the indefinite article is quite formal. At least, I can't think of an example where I would easily use it in informal speech.

    These are the forms that we would more normally use:
    -The teacher's praise inspired in the student the confidence that enabled her to sail through her exams. The student had confidence - it was the confidence that enabled her to sail through her exams.

    A version with no article:
    -The teacher's praise inspired the student with confidence, which enabled her to sail through her exams.


    I had told Traddles of the terrible event, and it had greatly shocked him; but there could be no doubt of the kindness of keeping it a secret, and he had come to help me in this last service.


    Keeping it a secret was a kindness. Keeping it a secret was a kind thing to do/an act of kindness. (One can imagine other kind things - other "kindnesses".)

    There was no doubt of the kindness of keeping it a secret.
    Only the definite article will do in this sentence.
    Compare with: There is no doubt about the truth of this statement.

    I ho
     
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