I'm reading A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde. Below is from Mrs. Arbuthnot to her son, Gerald:

[...] Gerald, when you were naked I clothed you, when you were hungry I gave you food. Night and day all that long winter I tended you. No office is too mean, no care too lowly for the thing we women love- and oh! how I loved you. Not Hannah Samuel more. And you needed love, for you were weakly, and only love could have kept you alive. Only love can keep any one alive. [...]

Really, I couldn't understand "Not Hannah Samuel more", from a grammar point of view. What does it mean actually?

Are some parts omitted? What is the complete form of this sentence?


I suppose Hannah and Samuel are from Bible, below is quoted from Wikipedia:

In the biblical narrative, Hannah is one of two wives of Elkanah; the other, Peninnah, who bore children to Elkanah, but Hannah remained childless.

Nevertheless, Elkanah preferred Hannah. Every year Elkanah would offer a sacrifice at the Shiloh sanctuary, and give Penninah and her children a portion but he gave Hannah a double portion "because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb" (NIV). One day Hannah went up to the temple, and prayed with great weeping (I Samuel 1:10), while Eli the High Priest was sitting on a chair near the doorpost. In her prayer she asked God for a son and in return she vowed to give the son back to God for the service of the Shiloh priests. She promised he would remain a Nazarite all the days of his life.

Eli thought she was drunk and questioned her. When she explained herself, he sent her away and effectively said that her prayer would be heard and her desire granted. As promised, she conceived and bore a son. She called his name Samuel, "since she had asked the Lord for him" (1 Samuel 1:20 NAB). She raised him until he was weaned and brought him to the temple along with a sacrifice. The first 10 verses of 1 Samuel 2 record her song of praise to the Lord for answering her petition. Eli announced another blessing on Hannah, and she conceived 3 more sons and 2 daughters, making six in total.

1 Answer 1


In isolation, Not Hannah Samuel more is an ungrammatical utterance. In the context of the paragraph, though, we can make out that this is a highly elliptical way of saying:

Hannah did not love Samuel more.

This sort of ellipsis is very rarely found in modern speech or writing.

  • I'm not convinced. Most citation have a comma between "Hannah" and "Samuel", which doesn't fit this reading. Aug 26, 2012 at 14:30
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    @FumbleFingers I can assure you that in Victorian/Edwardian literary English this use of the comma is not unusual. "John loved Mary, and Mary, John" is something I just made up, but is typical; if you need an exemplar I'll try to find you one, but it'll take me a while. Aug 26, 2012 at 16:33
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    @StoneyB: I'm perfectly well aware of the comma usage in your example - it's a little stiff and formal today, but unexceptional. My point is that if we accept JSBձոգչ's interpretation here, the comma is definitely not valid. If the comma is supposed to be there, the only feasible interpretation is the one I've given. To that extent, both interpretations are valid - the "correct" choice being entirely dependent on whether one accepts the comma or not. Aug 26, 2012 at 16:39
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    @FumbleFingers On the contrary: Victorian usage is not so circumscribed. It does not require the elliptical comma, but it permits it. "How I loved you. Not Hannah [loved] Samuel more!" not only makes allusive sense, it is reinforced by what follows. It is the same usage (with a full stop rather than a semi-colon) as that prescribed in the NASA handbook cited here. Aug 26, 2012 at 17:02
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    @FumbleFingers It may imply a pause, or it may imply an ellipsis. In any case, the earliest editions do omit the comma - that privately printed in Paris in 1903 and the commercial edition in 1904. We may suppose that these were based on the version which premiered on 19 April 1893, and the comma crept into later editions to make the syntax clearer. Aug 26, 2012 at 17:36

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