Allan Kardec

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A serious grammatical error was found in The Spirits’ Book by a knowledgeable critic who sent us the following note:

“I read on page 384, § 911, line 23 in The Spirits’ Book: ‘There are many people who say: I want; but their wish only shows on their lips; they (masculine form in French-Ils) say they wish but they are very happy that it is otherwise.’ Had you written: ‘They (feminine form in French-Elles) want and are very happy that it is otherwise’, don’t you think that the French language would have benefited from that? I am led to believe that your writing spirit is a fraud, inducing language mistakes. Do promptly punish him and in particular correct him.”

We regret the fact that we cannot acknowledge the author of such observation. No doubt it is out of modesty and to avoid our recognition that he forgot to provide his name and address, just signing: A spirit, protector of the French language. Since it seems that this gentleman, or spirit, takes the time to read our work, we beg the good spirits to have him reading our response.

It is obvious that the gentleman knows that the noun person in French is feminine and that the adjective and pronouns agree in gender and number with the nouns to which they refer. Unfortunately one cannot learn everything in school, particularly referring to matters of the French language. If the gentleman who declares to be the protector of our language had transposed the limits of Lhomond’s Grammar he would know that we find the following in Regnard’s: ‘Although those three persons had very different interests they (masculine form in French) were tormented by the same passion, after all.’ He would also find this in Vaugelas: ‘Persons (feminine form in French) consumed by virtues have such a righteous spirit in all things and such a judicious attention that precludes them from being slanderous (masculine form in French).’ Therefore the rule found in the Grammaire Normale des Examens, by Mr. Lévi Alvarès and Mr. Rivail, Boniface edition, etc. ‘Sometimes one may employ the masculine pronoun ‘il’ (he in French) by syllepsis and thus replace it by the feminine noun personne (person). Such substitution may only occur when the thought involving the word ‘personne’ is not exclusively related to women, and also when the pronoun ‘il’ is so distant that it will not hurt the ears.’

Regarding the pronoun personne (which can also mean nobody in French), Boniface makes the following observation: ‘However, when the pronoun personne specifically designates a woman the adjective that refers to her may occur in the feminine. It can be said: Personne n’est plus jolie que Rosine (Nobody is more beautiful than Rosina – the word jolie in French is feminine – translator note).

Hence, the spirits that wrote the statement discussed above are not as ignorant as intended by the gentleman. We even believe that they know better than he does, although in general the spirits are not too worried about grammatical accuracy, like some of our scholars who are not always first rank at spelling. Moral of the story: It is better to know before criticizing.

In any case and to calm the scruples of those who don’t know much and may think that the whole Doctrine is jeopardized by a spelling mistake, real or imaginary, we have revised the fifth edition of The Spirits’ Book that has just been released because:

‘... Sans peine, aux rimeurs hasardeux

L’usage encor, je-crois, laisse le choix des deux’

… Without any harm, the use still allows the daring poets, I believe, to choose between the two.

It is really interesting to see the extent to which the adversaries of Spiritism will go to attack it with every weapon that they can get their hands on. It is really amazing that despite the multitude of darts propelled, despite the stones thrown on its path, and despite the traps laid down in its course, nobody has found a way of stopping its progress and Spiritism conquers a frightening space to those who believe for it to be possible to knock it down by a simple snap of the fingers. After the snaps, the series of athletes have tried with their blows; Spiritism has not been shaken but only ran faster.

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