The previous post quoted an example from Lindley Murray’s English Grammar to illustrate that restrictive relative clauses are not separated from the antecedent by a comma: A man who is of a detractory spirit, will misconstrue … (1795:164). Lyda Fens-de Zeeuw, a specialist on the subject of Murray and his grammar, pointed out that the comma that we do find in this sentence deserves a comment, too: it separates a so-called compound subject from a predicate. This use of the comma, she points out, was fully acceptable according to Murray (1795:160), but “is nowadays frowned upon”. Not to allow a comma between subject and predicate was indeed one of the first editorial rules I learnt from my colleague when we co-edited a collection of articles (my first) in 1991.
What gave rise to this proscription, and when did it arise? Do editors regularly encounter this usage? Are readers of this blog aware of this stricture?