At that time I had a much-petted, much-abused doll, which I afterward named Nancy. She was, alas, the helpless victim of my outbursts of temper and of affection, so that she became much the worse for wear. I had dolls which talked, and cried, and opened and shut their eyes; yet I never loved one of them as I loved poor Nancy. She had a cradle, and I often spent an hour or more rocking her. I guarded both doll and cradle with the most jealous care; but once I discovered my little sister sleeping peacefully in the cradle. At this presumption on the part of one to whom as yet no tie of love bound me I grew angry. I rushed upon the cradle and over-turned it, and the baby might have been killed had my mother not caught her as she fell. Thus it is that when we walk in the valley of twofold solitude we know little of the tender affections that grow out of endearing words and actions and companionship. But afterward, when I was restored to my human heritage, Mildred and I grew into each other's hearts, so that we were content to go hand-in-hand wherever caprice led us, although she could not understand my finger language, nor I her childish prattle.

The above paragraph comes from The Story of My Life by Helen Keller in Chapter II. As for the bold sentence, I cannot really understand the italic part. It seems to be the adverbial of the whole sentence. I know the main idea of the sentence is that Helen became angry, but I can't figure out what is the actual meaning and grammar structure of the italic part, especially the meaning and function of 'on the part of...bound me'. And what's the relation between 'At this presumption' and 'on the part of...bound me'? Is bound here a predicate?

  • A minor correction: it's bound, not bund. I would assume it was only a typo, but you typed "bund" several times.
    – stangdon
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 16:08
  • Are you familiar with constructions like a car in which I had not ridden and a person to whom I had not spoken and A chair on which I had not sat and A cup from which I had not drunk?
    – TimR
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 20:28
  • We say "the ties of love bind us to one another". A tie is like a shoelace or a rope or a cord or a sash or anything that can be looped around something and fastened with knots. bound is the past tense of bind.
    – TimR
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 20:33
  • Thank you@stangdon for your kind correction, and it's a typo.
    – Henry Wang
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 1:09
  • Thank you @Tᴚoɯɐuo for your answer. It works well to me, and now I got it.
    – Henry Wang
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 1:10

4 Answers 4


At this presumption on the part of one to whom as yet no tie of love bound me I grew angry.

Very odd sentence indeed. Let's add some commas to make:

"At this presumption, on the part of one to whom as yet no tie of love bound me, I grew angry."

And now break it in to two separate clauses, A "At this presumption [...] I grew angry", intersected by B "on the part of one to whom as yet no tie of love bound me". Now A is fairly clear, though it's worth mentioning that presumption in this case means "behavior that is rude or shows that you expect too much". [1]

Now we can see that this is some type of complex sentence [2], with B being the dependent clause that modifies clause A. Let's look at B:

on the part of one to whom as yet no tie of love bound me

We can also break this up, and though I'm not really sure how the grammar works here, lets just take it it chunks: "on the part of" modifies the object of A, the presumption at which Helen grew angry, and is just an idiomatic way of saying "caused by". The next word "one" is English's rarely used 3rd-person impersonal pronoun, and is referring to Helen's sister. So now we can rewrite the first bit of B as "caused by my sister...".

Next we have "to whom", telling us that Helen's sister is the object of the final clause, "no tie of love bound me", which is just an idiomatic way of saying that Helen did not feel a bond of love with her sister. The "as yet" tells us that Helen wasn't bound by love when the even was taking place and implies that she later would come to love her sister.

By today's standards this sentence is nearly unintelligible , and is definitely missing more than a few punctuations. I would rewrite it as:

I became angry at this presumption by my sister, who I had not yet grown to love.

Hope that helps.


On the part of following a verb-derived noun means approximately "performed by".

The "one to whom as yet no tie of love bound me" is her baby sister, who (we may presume) is so young that Helen has not yet been able to overcome her sensory isolation and develop any love for her.

Thus, Helen grew angry at her little sister for presuming to sleep in her beloved Nancy's cradle.

  • you mean 'one to whom as yet no tie of love bound me' is a verb-derived noun? What is the meaning of it? I can understand the meaning of the sentence a little bit, but I am still not very clear of its grammatical facts. What is the meaning of ' on the part of one to whom' and 'bund me'
    – Henry Wang
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 14:29
  • 'to whom as yet no tie of love bund me‘ is an Attributive Clause, right?
    – Henry Wang
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 14:43
  • 1
    @HenryWang I'm sorry - that should have been 'following' not 'followed by'. On the part of modifies presumption <- presume. To whom &c is a relative clause modifying one. Commented May 7, 2018 at 21:52

Try unwrapping the somewhat German-like layout into modern English syntax, adding punctuation and clarifying pronouns:

'At this presumption on the part of one to whom as yet no tie of love bound me I grew angry.'

'I grew angry, reacting to this presumptuous action by my sister; anger that would have been limited by my binding love for my sister, if such love had existed at that time.'

[It was more common in Victorian times to use German word-order, as our countries were then closer in fashions and social manners.]

I leave parsing the original sentence to the experts ;-)


I grew angry at the presumption (the idea of the observed situation). I grew angry at the part of (on behalf of) someone, who is someone that, as yet (as of now), no tie of love bound me (there is no significant bond of love between the speaker and whomever she is referring to).

Regardless of whom the speaker is referring to, the sentence can be broken up into the above segments to better understand the sentence structure.

My assumption about who she is referring to: I assume the speaker is angry on behalf of the doll. She did not previously feel bound by the tie of love, but in her current situation, she is moved to take action because she does, in fact, now feel the ties of love between herself and her doll since she had previously not had to take action on their love. Note that the speaker is not saying that the love never existed between herself and the doll, but instead that she was not bound until this point, meaning that, up until now, she was never before moved by her feeling of love to take action.

  • Maybe you can read more about the article. I'm sure that what you have understood is not very correct though I myself don't even know the exact meaning of the sentence. the love here should between the speaker, Helen Keller, and her sister or her mother.
    – Henry Wang
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 14:15
  • on the part of one to whom is not really clear to me.
    – Henry Wang
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 14:23
  • Love between the speaker and her sister or her mother? But, in that sentence, no tie of love bound the speaker with whomever she is referring to. If the love were in reference to her sister or mother, Helen would be saying that there is no love between herself and either her mother or her sister.
    – LyricWulf
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 14:27
  • "on the part of one to whom..." means equivalently "on the behalf of someone whom..." (it could also mean "because of someone whom" which I believe is less appropriate for this context).
    – LyricWulf
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 14:29
  • you can read the whole chapter first.
    – Henry Wang
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 14:33

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