1

''The present book is designed differently from any previous collection of Pound's essays; so I believe there is justification for its having been entrusted to another hand than that of the author.''

I've happened about this sentence in a preface by Eliot to a collection of Pound essays. What does it want to say? That the fact that it had been entrusted to another hand than that of the author is justified? How is this kind of construction called? Where is it used? I must confess, it sounds so fancy!

  • The entire introduction is fancy. – Xanne Apr 28 '17 at 0:18
4

T.S. Eliot, the author of this book, was an American from St. Louis. He was a noted Anglophile who lived many years in England. The construction is in passive voice, which is sometimes considered to be more elegant than active voice. In your words, "it sounds fancy".

"The author" was Pound, Eliot himself is the "other hand". Eliot is introducing a paragraph in which he justifies his organization of Pound's essays. In particular, Eliot included some of Pound's material that Pound preferred to ignore.

Passive voice is indirect. It is a useful device for concealing the identity of the actor. By using the passive voice and referring to himself as "the other hand", Eliot is attempting to be modest about making a judgment contrary to Pound's. Eliot is also deflecting potential criticism by implying that someone entrusted this job to him. At the risk of seeming arrogant, he could have re-phrased as:

I have good reasons for arranging this material differently than Pound would have. Pound's work was given to me in trust for use this book.

I agree that it is an odd construction.

Here is an example of the way "having been entrusted" is usually expressed, from a Lutheran Hymn:

"We Give Thee But Thine Own"

by William W. How, 1823-1897 We give Thee but Thine own, Whate'er the gift may be; All that we have is Thine alone, A trust, O Lord, from Thee.

link to passage in book

2

The basic meaning of that part of the sentence is "there's a reason for [something]". In this case, the [something] is its having been entrusted (to someone else).

So, when you said What does it want to say? That the fact that it had been entrusted [ . . . ] is justified?, you are absolutely correct.

I don't think it's a word, but if it were, one could replace that bit with "its entrustment" or something like that. Consider if the writer were talking about the collection being sold (perhaps to a publisher) -- the same phrase would be there is justification for its having been sold to another and the phrase in question could be replaced by there is justification for its sale to another. The thing is, I don't think there's a noun that means "entrustment".

Perhaps the more important issue is the focus. The justification is really about the act, not so much the resulting condition. So by phrasing it the way they did, the author focused on the act of entrusting, rather than the result.

Hope this helps.

  • There is a noun that means something that has been entrusted. Not "entrustment", but simply "trust". It is a legal term that is often used in ordinary speech. – Theresa Apr 28 '17 at 0:13
  • 1
    There's also "entrusting". – Xanne Apr 28 '17 at 0:32
  • @ Xanne 'Entrusting' would work, as in '...There is justification for entrusting it to another hand, etc' but somehow I cannot imagine an eminent writer of that era using such a 'simple' construction! It is well documented that simple language was frowned upon for literary matters and roundabout usage was considered elegant in that day and age! – English Student Apr 28 '17 at 1:03
  • 1
    I also thought there is no such noun as entrustment but when I googled it, I found that it does exist, mainly in legal language; it is found defined in certain online dictionaries as 'to entrust' -- please google 'entrustment' for details. Now the question is, did this word exist in TS Eliot's time, and if it did, would he have used it in the above sentence? – English Student Apr 28 '17 at 1:17
2

''The present book is designed differently from any previous collection of Pound's essays; so I believe there is justification for its having been entrusted to another hand than that of the author.''

its refers back to the book. Start with "it [the book] has been entrusted"--a collection of essays entrusted to someone other than the author of those essays himself [Ezra Pound]. Then we have "justification for the book's having been entrusted" . . . Eliot could have said "justification for entrusting it".

Interesting question: the book was entrusted to Eliot, but who did so? Did Pound entrust it to Eliot? Eliot selected and arranged these essays; in fact, as he says in the introduction, Pound objected to the selection--there's an essay he didn't want included and another that he did. Probably someone knows who selected Eliot and whether Pound agreed or wasn't consulted; but the essential point is that Eliot chose to definitely obscure this matter and to argue its justification on the grounds of a different arrangement of the material.

  • Thank you for providing this valuable background information which puts the sentence in context. Is there a word in English called disambiguation, which is possibly highly relevant in modern times as well! – English Student Apr 28 '17 at 1:40
0

Two members have already given good answers to your question, but I will try to give another simple reply.

You have rightly interpreted its meaning that (in your own words) "the fact that it had been entrusted to another hand than that of the author is justified", but there can only be 'justification for' a noun, and what is the noun form of 'entrust?'

Sometimes we can unknowingly choose a verb for which there is no suitable noun form (or one that is not commonly known.) 'Entrust' seems to be one such verb.

If we should indeed use a form of 'entrust', then there is no one word to describe 'the state of having been entrusted' as a noun (while retaining a form of 'entrust' in the sentence) -- that is why the author has gone roundabout and 'justified' (the 'state or situation' of) its having been entrusted.

A whole lot of English has been written like this over the years, and may even be considered elegant by some people, including myself, but it is indeed roundabout and traps 'many an unwary reader' in its coils -- it is the main reason I have spectacularly failed at reading the Victorian classics, and many modern teachers of style (including the great Hemingway) would consider it old-fashioned, 'ponderous', cumbersome or just plain 'stuffy!'

Those who like plain and simple English could rewrite the sentence as follows (which you will then clearly understand without the roundabout 'fancy' constructions):

The present book is designed differently from any previous collection of Pound's essays; so I believe there is justification for the fact that it was entrusted to a hand other than that of the author.''

EDITED after 1 hour:

Like others, I also thought there is no such noun as 'entrustment' but when I googled it, I found that it does exist, mainly in legal language; it is found defined in certain online dictionaries as meaning 'to entrust' -- please google 'entrustment' for details.

  • The state of having been entrusted is "in trust". Example: "My father entrusted his Jaguar to me. I hold it "in trust". It means that the Jaguar still belongs to my father, and I have the duty to keep it in good condition if I use it. – Theresa Apr 28 '17 at 0:43
  • @Theresa That is indeed a good choice of word; how best could it be used in the sentence in question? Let us also rack our brains for a suitable single word synonym for "having been entrusted" such as 'entrustment' which somehow doesn't seem to exist - can somebody suggest single word noun synonyms for "having been entrusted"? – English Student Apr 28 '17 at 1:05
  • I am influenced by how "trust" is used in my profession. I am a lawyer. The noun form of something having been entrusted is "trust" or even "corpus of the trust". There is another example in a hymn: "All that we have is Thine alone, a trust O Lord from thee." – Theresa Apr 28 '17 at 1:10
  • @Theresa I stand immediately corrected, because the noun entrustment does seem to exist! It is used in certain legal constructions very much in the meaning of 'to entrust' and is found defined in certain online dictionaries. Kindly google 'entrustment' for more details. – English Student Apr 28 '17 at 1:11
  • I am opposed to using three syllables when I can express the same meaning in one. "Entrustment" is right up there with "preventative" instead of "preventive". T.S. Eliot was my cousin and I don't care for his writing style. I find it pretentious. – Theresa Apr 28 '17 at 1:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.