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It's from a page of "Our Mutual Friend". The specific phrases/vocabulary I didn't understand are in bold, while the general gists which are lost on me are in italics:

'I merely referred', Mr Podsnap explained, with a sense of meritorious proprietorship, 'to Our Constitution, Sir. We Englishmen are Very Proud of our Constitution, Sir. It Was Bestowed Upon Us By Providence. No Other Country is so Favoured as This Country. [...]

'And other countries?', said the foreign gentleman. 'They do how?'

'They do, Sir,' returned Mr Podsnap, gravely shaking his head; 'they do - I am sorry to be obliged to say it - as they do.'

'It was a little particular of Providence,' said the foreign gentleman laughing; 'for the frontier is not large'

'Undoubtedly,' assented Mr Podsnap; 'But So it is. It was the Charter of the Land. This island was Blest, Sir, to the Direct Exclusion of Other Countries as - as there may happen to be. And if we were all Englishmen present, I would say, 'added Mr Podsnap, looking round upon his compatriots, and sounding solemnly with this theme, 'that there is in the Englishman a combination of qualities, a modesty, an independence, a responsibility, a repose, combined with an absence of everything calculated to call a blush into the cheek of a young person, which one would seek in vain among the Nations of the Earth.'

Having delivered this little summary, Mr Podsnap's face flushed, as he thought of the remote possibility of its being at all qualified by any prejudiced citizen of any other country; and, with his favourite right-arm flourish, he put the rest of Europe and the whole of Asia, Africa and America nowhere.

(*Is the capitalisation of certain words meant to signify irony?)

Thanks very much.

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closed as not a real question by MετάEd, FumbleFingers, JSBձոգչ, StoneyB, tchrist Nov 10 '12 at 20:45

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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There seem to be several questions here, without an actual question being asked, except for the one in brackets at the end. Have you actually looked up "meritorious" and "proprietorship" for example? Please show your own research so that the community doesn't waste its time repeating what you have already done (or should have done). –  Andrew Leach Nov 10 '12 at 9:41
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@janexlane: Sorry, but Andrew's response is neither patronising, nor cantankerous. It's a reasonable inquiry. Think about it from the answerer's perspective: if we don't know what you already know, and you say, "I don't understand what this means," then we need to start with basic definitions (which is something frowned upon on a site like this one). Yet, when you say, "I already understand that the words mean X, but I'm still confused because of Y," then it becomes a better question, and regulars here will more readily work on it, without asking you that very standard query first. –  J.R. Nov 10 '12 at 10:10
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As an addendum, I'll say that we have one user who regularly asks confused-about-the-meaning-of questions, and I think he does an exemplary job of framing his questions such that it's obvious what is already understood, what has been checked in general reference sources, and where the confusion still lies. (This is meant to be helpful, not patronizing, but you can look at a couple of examples here or here). Challenging questions about Dickens in that format would be welcomed here, I think. –  J.R. Nov 10 '12 at 10:20
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Here "a sense of meritorious proprietorship" means that he is speaking (about the Constitution) like someone who takes pride in something that he owns. If your objection is that nobody can own a constitution, you're missing the whole thrust of Dickens' passage here. Dickens knows that, and he is poking fun at a type of overly patriotic Englishmen. –  Peter Shor Nov 10 '12 at 11:21
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Podsnappery has reached the dictionaries (good ones, at least) to describe this sort of patronising, self-satisfied jingoism. –  TimLymington Nov 10 '12 at 17:56
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1 Answer 1

Peter Shor has already provided an excellent interpretation of “meritorious proprietorship”.

The profusion of capitalisations is intended to characterize Mr. Podsnap’s speech as highly oratorical, investing the concepts he invokes with a pompous and inflated importance.

“I am sorry to be obliged to say it” —Mr. Podsnap affects distress at being required, in order to provide a frank answer to his interlocutor’s question, to reveal a fact highly discreditable to Other Nations, viz. they pronounce things differently!

“call a blush into the cheek of” —This means “cause [someone] to blush”; that is, offend someone's modesty. The entire phrase is explained by Dickens himself in a passage toward the beginning of the same chapter from which your excerpt is drawn:

A certain institution in Mr Podsnap's mind which he called 'the young person' may be considered to have been embodied in Miss Podsnap, his daughter. It was an inconvenient and exacting institution, as requiring everything in the universe to be filed down and fitted to it. The question about everything was, would it bring a blush into the cheek of the young person? And the inconvenience of the young person was, that, according to Mr Podsnap, she seemed always liable to burst into blushes when there was no need at all. There appeared to be no line of demarcation between the young person's excessive innocence, and another person's guiltiest knowledge. Take Mr Podsnap's word for it, and the soberest tints of drab, white, lilac, and grey, were all flaming red to this troublesome Bull of a young person.

“one would seek in vain among the Nations of the Earth” — If one sought this (a proponderance of X + an absence of Y) throughout the world (outside of England) one would find it nowhere. “Nations of the Earth” is a recurrent Biblical phrase denoting “everybody in the world except the people of Israel”.

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