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IRREGULARITIES. Transposition of article

Transposition of Article. In Early English we sometimes find "a so new robe." The Elizabethan authors, like ourselves, transposed the a and placed it after the adjective: "so new a robe." But when a participle is added as an epithet of the noun, e.g. "fashioned," and the participle itself is qualified by an adjective used as an adverb, e.g. "new," we treat the whole as one adjective, thus, "so new-fashioned a robe." Shakespeare on the contrary writes--

“So new a fashion'd robe.

“So fair an offer'd chain.

“Or having sworn too hard a keeping oath.

“So rare a wonder'd father and a wife.

“I would have been much more a fresher man.

We still say, "too great a wit," but not with Chaucer, C. T.:

For when a man hath overgret a wit,
possibly because we regard "overgreat" as an adjective, and "too great" as a quasi-adverb. Somewhat similar is: “On once-a-flock-bed, but repair'd with straw,
With tape-ty'd curtains never meant to draw.” POPE, Moral E. iii. 301.

So we can say "how poor an instrument," regarding "how" as an adverb, and "how poor" as an adverbialized expression, but not

“What poor an instrument,

because "what" has almost lost with us its adverbial force. “So brave(ly) a mingled temper saw I never.” B. and F. (Walker). “Chaucer, who was so great(ly) a learned scholar.” KINASTON (Walker)

The a is used even after the comparative adjective in

“If you should need a pin,
You could not with more tame a tongue desire it.

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