Adventuring myself into the diaries

Does that title strike you as odd? It does me, but one of the many fun things in reading Caroline Crane Marsh’s diaries is coming across older, now obsolete (or virtually) aspects of English, as is this use of adventure.

Here’s what CCM actually said. (Before you click on the link, beware that she uses language in the surrounding text that is moderately anti-semitic, a disturbing, and disappointing, aspect of her personality.)

[the row] became so serious that I was forced to adventure myself into [emphasis added] the very small space that separated the high contending parties …

CCM diaries, October 29, 1861

This use of adventure, meaning something like “venture”, caught my eye at once, and of course I wanted to explore (adventure!) further, and especially to see how that usage changed over time. I’ll have more to say below to what the usage is/was, but my first attempt was to use my go-to tool for such things, Google Ngram Viewer, which is generally pretty good for a simple and quick (and sometimes not so quick) look at language change. However, this time it let me down. It does not find any uses of “adventure” (or “adventures”) as a verb, though it does find “adventured” and “adventuring”:

Darn! I’m guessing that the part of speech tool that Google uses has been developed (“trained”) on contemporary English, where the noun uses are overwhelming and the verb uses vanished rare to non-existent. So then when that tool is applied to older usage, it can’t cope with “adventure” and “adventures” as verbs.

All is not lost, since we can get some examples by closely following CCM’s example and looking for “adventure(s) PRONOUN into”:

Now this raises another issue: it looks like adventure is not used very often in simple tensed forms. We can see this in a couple ways. First, “adventures” and “adventured” are very uncommon. Furthermore, with himself, we mainly get “adventure”, while the third person singular “adventures” is much less common. If we expand the preceding context for “adventure himself into”, we find only “would not adventure himself into” and “to adventure himself into”. (FWIW, expanding “adventure itself into” from the chart above gives no results, which makes no sense, given that we can see it above.)

Another interesting thing about adventure as a verb in CCM’s sense is that it can be used with or without a reflexive pronoun, perhaps similar to behave (“Behave! Behave yourself!”). For example:

adventured into [emphasis added] the observation-car, of which institution I had so often heard Americans speak with pride …

Arnold Bennett. “Your United States”. Harpers Monthly Magazine. Vol. 125, No. 747. August 1912. p. 380

In fact, Google Ngrams reports that the usage of “adventured” without a reflexive pronoun is more common than the usage with one:

There’s much more to explore, including a related true transitive sense (the usage with the reflexive pronoun seems to be limited to the reflexives as objects), like:

Marking well the spot, I once more adventured the hunter’s leap, [emphasis added] and, untrammeled by his dogs, regained the promontory. [CuC: active clause]

Michael Rafter. 1858. The Rifleman; or, Adventures of Percy Blake. London: G. Routledge & Co. p. 156. Via the Internet Archive

A half-crown cane may be applied to an offender’s head on a very moderate provocation; but a six-and-twenty shilling silk is a possession too precious to be adventured [emphasis added] in the shock of war.

Robert Louis Stevenson. 1894. “The Philosophy of Umbrellas”. via Project Gutenberg

However, I think I’ve had enough adventuring for today, so those explorations are left to the reader.